Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lesley, Alexander

LESLEY, ALEXANDER (1693–1758), jesuit, born in Aberdeenshire 7 Nov. 1693, was third son of Alexander Leslie, third baron of Pitcaple, by his second wife Henrietta Irvine of Drum. After having gone through a course of classics at Douay he completed his studies at Rome; entered the Society of Jesus 12 Nov. 1712, and taught literature at Sora and Ancona. He passed through his theological course at the Collegio Romano, and subsequently delivered lectures on the Greek language in that institution. In 1728 he taught philosophy in the Illyrian College of Loreto. He was professed of the four vows 2 Feb. 1728–9, and being sent to the Scottish mission, laboured in Aberdeenshire. In 1734 he returned to Italy and taught in the colleges of Ancona and Tivoli. He came back to England in 1738 at the request of Lord Petre, who desired to have the services of an ecclesiastic who was versed in antiquarian lore. He was associated with the English province of the society, and in 1751 was a missioner in the ‘College of the Holy Apostles,’ which comprised Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire. Returning to Rome in 1744 he was prefect of studies in the Scots College till 1746, was professor of moral theology for two years in the English College (1746–8), and in 1749 was associated with the learned jesuit Emanuel de Azevedo in preparing the ‘Thesaurus Liturgicus’ for publication. He fixed his residence in the Collegio Romano, where he died on 27 March 1758, after having published a mere fragment of the projected ‘Thesaurus,’ viz. ‘Missale mixtum secundum Regulam Beati Isidori dictum Mozarabes,’ with a preface, notes, and appendix, 2 vols., Rome, 1755, 4to; reprinted under the editorship of J.P. Migne, Paris, 1850, 8vo. This was a reprint of the Mozarabic Missal printed at Toledo in 1500 by order of Cardinal Ximenes. ‘Lesley's preface and notes,’ says M. Lefebre in the ‘Biographie Universelle,’ ‘are invaluable to those who desire to trace the origin of the Mozarabic rite and its variations.’ He is said to have left in manuscript:

  1. ‘Notes on the Mozarabic Breviary.’
  2. ‘Notes on a Greek Medal struck by the inhabitants of Smyrna.’
  3. ‘Iter Litterarium.’
  4. Two collections of inscriptions, viz. ‘Lapides Tiburtini’ and ‘Lapides Britannici.’
  5. ‘Refutation of Dr. Conyers Middleton's “Pagan and Modern Rome compared,”’ an uncompleted work.
  6. Notes on Father John Tempest's ‘Letters from Palestine.’
  7. ‘De præstantia veterum lapidum,’ in imitation of the work of Spanheim.
  8. ‘De præstantia numismatum.’
  9. ‘De Legionibus,’ an important work, in which he distinguished, by means of inscriptions, all the grades of the Roman army.

[Biog. Univ. xxiv. 296; Caballero's Bibl. Script. S. J. supplementa, i. 294; De Backer's Bibl. de la Compagnie de Jésus, ii. 717; Foley's Records, v. 533, vii. 452; Leslie's Records of the Family of Leslie (1869), iii. 396; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, pp. 24, 204; Stothert's Catholic Mission in Scotland, p. 571; Zaccaria's Annali letterarii d'Italia (Modena, 1764), vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 494; Zaccaria's Bibl. Ritualis, ii. 225.]

T. C.