Acton, Ralph (DNB00)

ACTON, RALPH (14th cent.), an English theologian and philosopher, is assigned by Leland and his followers to the first half of the fourteenth century. Of the details of his life nothing definite is known, for the sketch given by Bale and Pits is so vague as to suggest that it is chiefly made up of inferences. According to these writers Ralph received his early education in country schools, whence in due time he proceeded to Oxford. After taking his master's degree in philosophy and theology at this university he was appointed head of a famous church (‘rector cujusdam insignis ecclesiæ’), and henceforward devoted himself in the retirement of his parish to the study of the Scriptures and the care of his flock.

His writings consist of ‘Homiliæ in quatuor Evangelia,’ ‘Commentarii in Epistolas Paulinas,’ ‘Illustrationes in Petrum Langobardum,’ and other works of a similar kind. Two manuscripts of this author are still preserved in the library of Lincoln College, Oxford—the one written in an early fifteenth-century hand; the other the gift of Robert Flemming, a near kinsman of Richard Flemming, the founder of this college (1427). We thus get a date later than which our author cannot have flourished; and Leland, Bale, and Pits conjecturally assign him to the reign of Edward II (1320). Other manuscripts of Acton's works are said by Tanner to be in the Bodleian library and that of Peterhouse, Cambridge.

[Leland's Comment. 357; Bale, 393; Pits, 412; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Coxe's Cat. MSS. (Lincoln, 52, 53).]

T. A. A.