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John Mason Neale

By S.L. Ollard

From S.L. Ollard and Gordon Crosse, eds. A Dictionary of English Church History

London: Mowbray and Co., Ltd, 1912, page 386.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2007

NEALE, John Mason (1818-66), divine, only son of a distinguished Cambridge scholar who became an Evangelical clergyman, was educated at Sherborne, and in 1836 became scholar of Trinity, Cambridge. His dislike of mathematics prevented his gaining classical honours, which, before 1841, it was impossible to take without previous mathematical honours. He took a Pass degree, 1840. He then became assistant tutor, and after his ordination in 1841 chaplain at Downing College. He won the Seatonian prize poem in 1845, and on ten occasions afterwards. He founded the famous Cambridge Camden Society for Archaeological and Ecclesiological Studies. Evangelicals and Low Churchmen feared it, and Bishop Sumner refused to licence Neale to St. Nicholas, Guildford, in 1841. Bishop Monk of Gloucester ordained him priest, Trinity, 1842, and next day he became Vicar of Crawley, Sussex. Here his health, always delicate, failed, and he resigned the living. He married, July 1842, and, 1843-6, lived chiefly in Madeira. He then accepted the Wardenship of Sackville College, East Grinstead--a small seventeenth-century almshouse--a post worth £28 a year. He received no further offers of preferment, save the provostship (deanery) of Perth in 1850 and a small living in 1856. He declined them.

He was created D.D. by Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., 1860. At Sackville College Neale was much persecuted. He had rebuilt the chapel, and used the ordinary altar ornaments--cross, candles, and flowers. Bishop Gilbert of Chichester attacked him for this, and finally inhibited him in the diocese, 1847. The mob took up the tale. There were riots in 1848, in 1851, and later in 1856. In 1857 there was a disgraceful scene at the funeral of a Sister at Lewes. Neale was knocked down, and the Sisters with difficulty rescued. In 1866, a few months before his death, he was mobbed in the streets of Liverpool. Bishop Gilbert removed his inhibition and became reconciled to Neale in 1861.

Neale's work was manifold. He was a Church historian, theologian, controversialist, preacher, spiritual guide, poet, story-writer, and a marvellous linguist, speaking twenty languages. He founded the sisterhood of St. Margaret, East Grinstead (1854), and his hymns (chiefly translations from Greek or Latin), 'Art thou weary,' 'Jerusalem the golden,' and many more, are in all collections. His learning did much to promote a better understanding with the Eastern churches. His stories, The Farm of Aptonga, Theodora Phranza, and others had before his death been translated into the chief European languages, and are widely known. He was a traveller, and wrote on Portugal and Dalmatia. Through all the crises in the English Church, 1845-51, Neale was unshaken, and did much to steady the unsettled. In private life he was gentle and sensitive, with strong affections and a great sense of humour. He died, worn out with labours, at Sackville College, 6th August 1866.

[S. L. O.]

Memoir ; Letters ; Memoirs of a Sister of St. Saviour's Priory ; Huntingdon, Random Recollections.

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