Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/77

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Acontius
Acontius
63

brigade fitting out at Harwich for Portugal in 1808. His brigade sailed in company with one under Brigadier-General Anstruther in May, and on reaching the Douro found orders from Sir Arthur Wellesley to proceed to Maceira Bay. Here Wellesley covered the dangerous disembarkation of Acland's brigade, and then drew up the two brigades with the rest of his army in a strong position at Vimeiro. Acland's brigade was posted on the left of the churchyard, which formed the key of the English position, and which would have been a post of much danger if Sir Arthur Wellesley had not perceived Junot's plan of turning the English left, and sent the brigades on his own right to take position on Acland's left. As it was, Acland by a flank fire helped Anstruther to drive down the main French attacking column, which was his chief important service. Ill-health made it necessary for him to leave Portugal soon after the battle, and deprived him of the glory of serving, like Anstruther, under Sir John Moore. In 1810 he was promoted major-general, and commanded a division in the expedition to the Scheldt, where, however, little glory was to be won. In 1814 he was promoted lieutenant-general, and on the extension of the order of the Bath made one of the first K.C.B.'s. In 1815 he was made colonel of the first battalion of the 60th regiment, and in 1816 died from the recurrence of the fever which had threatened his life in Portugal.

[For General Acland's services see Philippart's Royal Military Calendar, 1st edition, 1815; and for the battle of Vimeiro, Napier's Peninsular War, book ii. chap. 5.]

H. M. S.

ACONTIUS, JACOBUS, latinized from Aconzio, Aconcio, or Concio, Jacopo (1500?–1566?), jurist, philosopher, theologian, and engineer, was born at Trent in the Tyrol about the beginning of the sixteenth century. Little is known of him before his coming to this country, except what is told in the ‘Ep. ad Wolfium,’ from which we learn that he devoted many years to the study of the law, that he passed some of his time in courts, and that he applied himself to literature late in life. There is no authority for the statement that he was in orders. His attachment to ideas too liberal for his age and country made it expedient for him in 1557 to take up his abode in Bâle, at that time the home of Mino Celso, Celio Secundo Curio, and many other Italian protestants. He had been preceded two months by his friend Francesco Betti, to whom was dedicated, in the most affectionate terms, his first work ‘De Methodo’ printed at Bâle in the following year by Pietro Perna, a protestant refugee from Lucca of merit and learning, who also brought out the first Latin and French editions of the ‘Stratagemata Satanæ.’ The treatise ‘De Methodo’ is written with elegance and precision. It was the commencement of a much larger work, which had long occupied the thoughts of the writer. Its object is to urge the importance of methodising existing knowledge. If thirty years were to be devoted by a youth to purposes of study, the writer would recommend that the first twenty should be applied to investigating the principles of method.

Betti and Acontius afterwards went to Zurich, where the latter made the acquaintance of Simler, Frisius, and Jo. Wolfius. He visited Strasburg, and came to England in or before 1559. He was well received, and at once showed the practical bent of his mind in a petition addressed to Elizabeth in December of that year, stating that having discovered many useful contrivances, such as new kinds of wheel machines, furnaces for dyers, brewers, &c., he prayed for a patent to secure him against imitators using them without his consent. The request was not granted, but on 27 Feb. 1560 he was allowed an annuity of 60l., which was the cause of the subsequent dedication — Divæ Elizabethæ, the ‘inscription canonisante’ of Bayle — of his ‘Stratagemata.’ Acontius is careful to point out in the ‘Ep. ad Wolfium’ that his merits as an engineer gained for him the pension; but although he admits that it allowed him leisure for study he refers to it in terms of measured gratitude. Letters of naturalisation were issued to him on 8 Oct. 1561.

Like other foreign nonconformists he attached himself to the Dutch church in Austinfriars. In 1559 Adrian Hamstedius, the minister, was excommunicated by Bishop Grindal for favouring certain Dutch anabaptists and refusing to renounce their errors. He found a supporter in Acontius, who, having been forbidden the sacrament by the bishop, addressed a long ‘Epistola Apologetica’ to the congregation in defence of himself and Hamstedius.

The ‘Epistola ad Wolfium’ was written in December 1562, although not published until 1565. It is full of useful precepts for would-be authors, but is chiefly interesting from its autobiographical nature.

Theology and literature were not his sole occupations. Mazzuchelli styles him ‘intendente di fortificazione.’ It was represented to parliament in 5 Eliz. that Jacobus Acontyus, servant of the queen, had undertaken to recover at his own cost 2,000 acres of land