NEWELL, EDWARD JOHN

(b. 1771, d. 1798)

Miniature Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Practised for a short time as a miniature painter in Belfast; but it is as an informer and a betrayer of his associates in the society of the United Irishmen that his name lives. "Of the band of informers," says Madden, "the worst, the most thoroughly debased, the vilest of the vile, was Edward John Newell." Born at Downpatrick on 29th June, 1771, of Scottish parentage, he, at the age of 17, left home, and after spending a year at sea was apprenticed to a painter and glazier, and afterwards for two years followed the trade of a glass-stainer. Failing in his attempts to establish himself in that business in Dublin and in Limerick, he settled in Belfast in 1796, and commenced practice as a portrait and miniature painter, "a business," he tells us in his autobiography, "I had never dared to try before, and in which I had never received the least instruction." He joined the United Irishmen, but was distrusted by its leaders, a distrust speedily justified; for offering his services to the Government he betrayed all who had to do with him, and supplied the Government with information much of which, as he himself tells us, was false. For a time he sought refuge in England, but in 1798, resolving to emigrate to America, he returned to Belfast to make arrangements for his departure, and in June of that year on the eve of his leaving he was secretly assassinated. His portrait, from a sketch of his own, was prefixed to his autobiography. It was reproduced by F. W. Huffam in Madden's "United Irishmen."

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