À BECKETT, Sir WILLIAM (1806–1869), chief justice of Victoria, was the eldest son of William à Beckett, and brother of Gilbert Abbott à Beckett [q. v.] He was born in London 28 July 1806, received his education at Westminster School, and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1829. Going to New South Wales, he was appointed solicitor-general of that colony in 1841, and subsequently attorney-general. In 1846 he was made a judge of the supreme court for the district of Port Phillip, and he was nominated chief justice of Victoria in 1851, when the colony received a separate organisation. On the latter occasion he was knighted by patent. He retired and returned to England in 1863, and died at his residence in Church Road, Upper Norwood, Surrey, 27 June 1869.
He wrote: 1. ‘The Siege of Dumbarton Castle and other Poems,’ 1824. 2. A large number of the biographies in the ‘Georgian Era,’ 4 vols., 1832–4. 3. ‘A Universal Biography; including scriptural, classical, and mythological memoirs, together with accounts of many eminent living characters. The whole newly compiled and composed from the most recent and authentic sources,’ 3 vols., London [1835?], 8vo, a compilation of little value. 4. ‘The Magistrates' Manual for the Colony of Victoria,’ Melbourne, 1852. 5. ‘Out of Harness,’ London, 1854, containing notes on a tour through Switzerland and Italy. 6. ‘The Earl's Choice and other Poems,’ London, 1863. 7. Legal judgments printed in collections of ‘Reports.’
[Men of the Time (1868); Dod's Peerage (1869), 83; Heaton's Australian Dict. of Dates, 1; Times, 1 July 1869, p. 10, col. 5; Catalogue of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.]
ABEL (d. 764), archbishop of Rheims, was a native of Scotland and Benedictine monk. In the early part of the eighth century he left England in company with Boniface, to aid him in his missionary work in Germany, and he did not again return to this country. Abel's missionary labours were mainly confined to the country we now know as Belgium. For many years he held an office of authority in the abbey of Lobbes, in Hainault; and in 744, through the instrumentality of Boniface, who was at the time archbishop of Mainz, Abel became archbishop of Rheims. The office was a very arduous one. All ecclesiastical suits and disputes as to monastical discipline arising in a great part of France were referred to him. His predecessor, Melo, moreover, had been forcibly removed from his post by the council of Soissons (3 March 744), and many barons declared themselves the champions of Melo, and refused to recognise Abel. Carloman, the king of the Frankish empire, favoured the new prelate; but Pope Zacharias, after much hesitation, finally joined his opponents. He declined to confer upon him the pallium, and thus Abel's election was never confirmed. Harassed by these quarrels, Abel at length withdrew from Rheims, and surrendered the see. He retired to Lobbes, and apparently became abbot of the monastery there. The last years of his life he spent in energetic missionary work in Hainault, Flanders, and neighbouring provinces, and he died at Lobbes on 5 Aug. 764. He was buried at Binche, near Jemappes. Subsequently he was canonised, and in the districts where he laboured the day of his death was consecrated to his memory.
His works, which do not seem to have ever been printed, are thus enumerated by Dempster and Tanner: 1. ‘Epistolæ ad Zachariam et Adrianum.’ 2. ‘Ad Rhemensem Ecclesiam.’ 3. ‘Ad Bonifacium Legatum.’ 4. ‘Ad Lobienses Fratres.’ 5. ‘Ad nuper Conversos.’ 6. ‘De Mysteriis Fidei.’
[Dempster's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum; Tanner's Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica; Bollandists' Acta SS. (Augustus), ii. 111–7; Ghesquière's Acta SS. Belgii, vi. 353; Breysig and Hahn's Jahrbücher des fränkischen Reichs (741–752); Allgemeine deutsche Biographie; Migne's Hagiographique, i. 20.]
ABEL, CLARKE (1780–1826), botanist, was born about 1780, educated for the medical profession, and on the occasion of Lord Macartney's mission to China was appointed physician on the staff of his lordship, but by the good offices of Sir Joseph Banks he was nominated naturalist with three assistants. He joined H.M.S. Alceste at Spithead on 8 Feb. 1816, accomplished the voyage to China, where he made large collections, and on returning home on 16 Feb. 1817 the ship struck on a reef off Pulo Leat, at the entrance of the straits of Gaspar, and became a total wreck. A portion of the crew proceeded to Batavia in a boat; the remainder were rescued from a position of great peril by H.M.S. Ternate on 6 March.
The whole of Abel's collections went down in the ship, with the exception of a small collection he had previously given to Sir George Staunton. The latter, on hearing of the collector's misfortunes, at once returned the plants, and they were described by Robert Brown in a botanical appendix to an account of the voyage written by Abel under the title of ‘Narrative of a Journey in the Interior of China, 1816–7,’ London, 1818. In this volume will be found also descriptions