1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Neele

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 3:587.



HENRY NEELE, son of a map and heraldic engraver, was born in London, on the 29th of January, 1798. After having received the rudiments of education at an academy at Kentish Town, he was articled to an attorney; and, previous to the expiration of his clerkship, published a volume of poems, of which Dr. Nathan Drake observes, "they cannot but be deemed very extraordinary efforts indeed, both of taste and genius; and as conferring no slight celebrity on the author, as the name next to be pronounced, perhaps, after those of Chatterton and Kirke White." In the latter end of 1826, having completed A Series of Lectures on English Poetry, from the days of Chaucer down to those of Cowper, he delivered the whole of them, first, at the Russell, and subsequently, in 1827, at the Western Literary Institution. His last work was The Romance of History, and was so well received, that the publisher, although originally intending that each period of history should be illustrated by a different author, employed Mr. Neele to commence another series, for which he had written Blanche of Bourbon, a short while previous to his death, an event which took place on the 7th of February, 1828, when he was found lifeless in his bed, having committed self-destruction with a razor. The person of Mr. Neele was so short as to be remarkable; his head singularly large, and his countenance far from handsome; his features, however, had an expression pleasingly cheerful and vivacious, and his eyes vividly denoted the active intelligence of his mind, and the ardent vigour of his feelings and imagination. The peculiar spirit of melancholy which breathes throughout his poems, and was probably the cause of his death, was known only to himself; as in society he was particularly animated; his conversation replete with mirth, wit, and gaiety; and his heart, apparently, the lightest in company. Mr. Neele had some peculiarities: one of which was that he never ate any other meat but pork. In addition to the works already enumerated, he had commenced editing a new edition of the plays of Shakspeare, an author for whom he entertained an enthusiastic reverence; but the work was given up by the publisher, after a few numbers, in consequence of its not obtaining sufficient circulation. He also wrote an admirable essay, under the title of Shakspeare's Supernatural Characters; which, with several other pieces, prose and poetical, are to be found in his Literary Remains, a work published shortly after his death.