Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/48

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of Music, ii. 517; H. Angelo's Reminiscences, i. 19, 58, 184, 187, 190, 457; W. T. Parke's Musical Memoirs, i. 53, 62; Gent. Mag. lvii. part i. 549; European Magazine, v. 366; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ix. 39.]

W. B. S.

ABELL, JOHN (1660?–1716?), a celebrated lutenist and alto singer, was sworn a ‘gentleman of his majesty's chapel extraordinary’ 1 May 1679. He was sent to Italy by Charles II to cultivate his voice, and returned to England in 1681–2, when John Evelyn recorded of him in his Diary (27 Jan.): ‘I never heard a more excellent voice; one would have sworn it had been a woman's, it was so high, and so well and skilfully managed.’ Between 1679 and 1688 he received from the crown large sums of ‘bounty money;’ but at the Revolution he was discharged from the Chapel Royal as a papist, and went to Holland and Germany, where he supported himself by his talents as a singer and player on the lute. In the course of his travels he went so far as Warsaw, where it is said that he refused a request of the King of Poland to sing before the court. The day after this refusal he was ordered to appear at the palace. On his arrival, Abell sat on a chair in the middle of a large hall. No sooner was he seated than the chair was drawn up into the air until it faced a gallery in which were the king and his courtiers. At the same time a number of bears were turned into the hall, and Abell was given the alternative of singing or being lowered to the wild beasts. The terrified singer promptly chose the former course, and afterwards said that he had never sung better in his life. In 1696 overtures were made to him through Daniel Purcell to return to England and sing on the stage at a salary of 500l. a year; but in 1698 he was still abroad (at Aix-la-Chapelle), though he offered to return and sing at the opera in English, Italian, Spanish, or Latin, for 400l. per annum, provided his debts were paid. In 1698 and 1699 he occupied the post of intendant at Cassel; but he seems soon after to have returned to England, for Congreve heard him sing in 1700, and in 1701 he published two collections of songs, prefixed to one of which is a poem in which he states that—

    After a twelve years' industry and toil,
    Abell, at last, has reach'd his native soil.

He published a song on Queen Anne's coronation, and a few manuscript compositions by him are to be found in contemporary collections. The date of his death is unknown; but in his later years he is said to have been at Cambridge, and in 1716 he gave a concert at Stationers' Hall. Mattheson says that Abell possessed some secret by which he preserved his pure alto voice unimpaired until old age; his extreme carefulness in matters of diet is recorded by the same author.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 5; Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal (Camden Society's Publications, 1872), pp. 17, 129; Evelyn's Diary (ed. 1850), ii. 163; Hawkins's History of Music (ed. 1853), ii. 725; Congreve's Literary Relics, p. 322; Tom Brown's Letters from the Dead to the Living (Works, 2nd ed. 1707), ii. 36; Mattheson's Der vollkommene Kapellmeister (1739); Mendel's Musikalisches Conversations-Lexicon, vol. i.; Ellis MSS. (Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 28883, 57); British Museum Catalogue; Catalogue of Library of Royal College of Music.]

W. B. S.

ABELL, THOMAS (d. 1540), catholic martyr, studied at Oxford and took the degree of M.A. in 1516. Nothing else is known of his early life, nor when it was that he entered the service of Katharine of Aragon; but it was certainly before the year 1528, when he received a new year's gift from the king as her chaplain. A year later Katharine sent him into Spain on a delicate and rather perilous mission to the emperor, Charles V. Henry VIII had then instituted his suit for a divorce before the legatine court in England, and had discovered to his surprise that his case was very seriously weakened by the fact that besides the original bull of dispensation for the marriage a brief had been also granted by Julius II, which completely met some objections he had taken to the sufficiency of the other document. This brief was in Spain, and he determined, if possible, to get it into his hands by artifice. Pressure was put upon Katharine's legal advisers, and through them she was induced to write to the emperor, earnestly requesting him to send it to England, as its production was of the most vital importance to her cause, and she was informed no transcript could be received in evidence. Abell was commissioned to carry this letter to Spain; but along with it he delivered one of his own to the emperor, stating that he had been expressly desired by the queen to explain that she had written under compulsion, and that she particularly begged he would by no means give up the brief as in her letter she requested him to do. Thus the emperor was made fully aware of the queen's position, and carefully avoided doing anything to prejudice her real interests even at her written request.

After his return from this mission, Abell was presented by the queen to the rectory of Bradwell-by-the-Sea, in Essex, to which he was instituted on 23 June 1530 (Newcourt, Repertorium, ii. 84). By this time the legatine court in England had been dissolved,