Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/79

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Becher
Becher
75

Monimia, and other characters belonging to tragedy. Stories concerning the influence of her acting — now not easy to credit — were freely told. Men are said to have been borne fainting from the theatre after witnessing her tragic performances. Through her theatrical career an unblemished reputation was maintained, and a constantly iterated charge of avarice was the worst accusation brought against her. On 18 July 1819 she made as Mrs. Haller what was announced as her last appearance before Christmas. It proved to be her last appearance on the stage. On 18 Dec. in the same year she married Mr. William Wrixon Becher, an Irish member of parliament for Mallow, where he possessed considerable estates. By the death of an uncle Mr. Becher became subsequently a baronet. Lady Becher never returned to the stage. She died 29 Oct. 1872. By the best judges she is credited with the possession of gifts all but the highest. Reynolds, the dramatist, alone ventured a word of disparagement, saying that her acting was 'of too boisterous and vehement a nature.' He owns that in this opinion he was in a minority (Life, ii. 398). Macready, speaking of her début, says: 'Her beauty, grace, simplicity, and tenderness were the theme of every tongue. ... The noble pathos of Siddons's transcendent genius no longer served as the grand commentary and living exponent of Shakespeare's text, but in the native elegance, the feminine sweetness, the unaffected earnestness and gushing passion of Miss O'Neill the stage had received a worthy successor to her' (Reminiscences, ed. Sir F. Pollock, i. 86). From this estimate of her he did not recede. Hazlitt also gave her high, if discriminating praise, saying that 'her excellence — unrivalled by any actress since Mrs. Siddons — consisted in truth of nature and force of passion' (Dramatic Essays, p. 309, ed. 1851). Her beauty appears to have been of the classical type, her features having a Grecian outline; her voice was 'deep, clear, and mellow;' her figure was middle-sized, and she had a slight stoop in the shoulders, which does not seem to have detracted from her grace and dignity. It has been maintained that with her the race of tragic actresses expired — a statement in which there is as much truth as is to be found in other similarly sweeping assertions.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Kelly's Reminiscences; London Magazine; Burke's Baronetage; Era Almanack.]

J. K.


BECHER, HENRY (fl. 1561), translator, was vicar of Mayfield, in the jurisdiction of South Malling. He translated into the English tongue and adorned with a long preface against the late Pelagians — i.e. Henry Hart and others in Kent, Essex, London, and other places — the two books of 'St. Ambrose de Vocatione Gentium.' In the preface are many things concerning this heresy which infested no small number of provinces in England in the times of Henry VIII and Queen Mary. The full title of his translation is as follows: 'Two Books of Saint Ambrose, Bysshoppe of Mytleyne, entituled Of the Vocation and Calling of all Nations: newly translated out of Latin into Englyshe, for the edifying and comfort of the single-mynded and godly, unlearned in Christes Church, agaynst the late stronge secte of the Pelagians, the maynteyners of the free wyll of men, and denyers of the grace of God,' London, 1561, 8vo.

[MS. Coll. Corp. Chr. Cantabr. Miscell.; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hibern. p. 82; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

J. M.


BECHER, JOHN THOMAS (1770–1848), clergyman and writer on social economy, was born in 1770, and received his early education at Westminster School, which he entered at fourteen. In 1788 he was elected thence to Oxford, where in 1796 he took the degree of M.A. In 1799 he was presented to the perpetual curacies of Thurgarton and Hoveringham, Nottinghamshire. He devoted himself actively to the work of local administration, and it was as one of the visiting justices for his division of Nottinghamshire that he wrote what was printed in 1806 as 'A Report concerning the House of Correction at Southwell,' in his immediate neighbourhood. In this he urged that prison discipline should be made reformatory as well as penal. About 1816 he was made chairman of the quarter sessions of the Newark division of Nottinghamshire, an office which he held for thirty years. In 1801 he had been appointed vicar of Rumpton, Nottinghamshire, and of Midsomer Norton in 1801. He became a friend of Byron when the poet was staying at Southwell during his Cambridge vacations; and at his advice Byron suppressed his first privately printed volume. In 1818 he became a prebendary of Southwell, and was vicar-general of that collegiate church, the dean and chapter of which presented him in 1830 to the rectory of Barnborough, Yorkshire. He took a warm interest in everything connected with the social condition of the people, and, whether he was its founder or not, zealously promoted the establishment of a friendly society at Southwell. In 1824 he published 'The Con-