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BECKFORD—BECKWITH

the principles for which he fought, the posthumous reputation of Becket must appear strangely exaggerated. It is evident that in the course of his long struggle with the state he fell more and more under the dominion of personal motives. At the last he fought not so much for an idea as for the humiliation of an opponent by whom he had been ungenerously treated. William of Newburgh appears to express the verdict of the most impartial contemporaries when he says that the bishop was zelo justitiae fervidus, utrum autem plene secundum scientiam novit Deus: “burning with zeal for justice, but whether altogether according to wisdom God knows.”

Authorities.—Original:—The correspondence of Becket and most of the contemporary biographies are collected by J. C. Robertson in Materials for the History of Thomas Becket (7 vols., Rolls Series, 1875-1885). See also the Vie de Saint Thomas, by Garnier de Pont Sainte Maxence (ed. Hippeau, Paris, 1859). For the chronology of the controversy see Eyton’s Itinerary of Henry II.

Modern:—Morris, Life and Martyrdom of St Thomas Becket (London, 1885); Lhuillier, Saint Thomas de Cantorbéry (2 vols., Paris, 1891-1892); J. C. Robertson, Becket (London, 1859); F. W. Maitland, Roman Canon Law in the Church of England, c. iv.; J. A. Froude in his Short Studies, vol. iv., and Freeman in his Historical Essays (1871), give noteworthy but conflicting appreciations.

 (H. W. C. D.) 


BECKFORD, WILLIAM (1760-1844), English author, son of Alderman William Beckford (1709-1770), was born on the 1st of October 1760. His father was lord mayor of London in 1762 and again in 1769; he was a famous supporter of John Wilkes, and on his monument in the Guildhall were afterwards inscribed the words of his manly and outspoken reproof to George III. on the occasion of the City of London address to the king in 1770. At the age of eleven young Beckford inherited a princely fortune from his father. He married Lady Margaret Gordon in 1783, and spent his brief married life in Switzerland. After his wife’s death (1786) he travelled in Spain and Portugal, and wrote his Portuguese Letters (published 1834, 1835), which rank with his best work. He afterwards returned to England, and after selling his old house, Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire, began to build a magnificent residence there, on which he expended in about eighteen years the sum of £273,000. His eccentricities, together with the strict seclusion in which he lived, gave rise to scandal, probably unjustified. In 1822 he sold his house, together with its splendid library and pictures, to John Farquhar, and soon after one of the towers, 260 ft. high, fell, destroying part of the villa in the ruins. Beckford erected another lofty structure on Lansdowne Hill, near Bath, where he continued to reside till his death in 1844. His first work, Biographical Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters (1780) was a slight, sarcastic jeu d’esprit. In 1782 he wrote in French his oriental romance, The History of the Caliph Vathek, which appeared in English, translated by the Rev. Samuel Henley, in 1786 and has taken its place as one of the finest productions of luxuriant imagination.

Beckford’s wealth and large expenditure, his position as a collector and patron of letters (he bought Gibbon’s library at Lausanne), his literary industry, and his reputation as author of Vathek, make him an interesting figure in literary history. He had a seat in parliament from 1784 to 1793, and again from 1806 to 1820. He left two daughters, the eldest of whom was married to the 10th duke of Hamilton.

Cyrus Redding’s Memoir (1859) is the only full biography, but prolix; see Dr R. Garnett’s introduction to his edition of Vathek (1893).


BECKINGTON (or Bekynton), THOMAS (c. 1390-1465), English statesman and prelate, was born at Beckington in Somerset, and was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford. Having entered the church he held many ecclesiastical appointments, and became dean of the Arches in 1423; then devoting his time to secular affairs he was sent on an embassy to Calais in 1439, and to John IV., count of Armagnac, in 1442. At this time Beckington was acting as secretary to Henry VI., and soon after his return in 1443 he was appointed lord privy seal and bishop of Bath and Wells. The bishop erected many buildings in Wells, and died there on the 14th of January 1465. The most important results of Beckington’s missions to France were one Latin journal, written by himself, referring to the embassy to Calais; and another, written by one of his attendants, relating to the journey to Armagnac.

Beckington’s own journal is published in the Proceedings of the Privy Council, vol. v., edited by N. H. Nicolas (1835); and the other journal in the Official Correspondence of Thomas Bekynton, edited by G. Williams for the Rolls Series (1872), which contains many interesting letters. This latter journal has been translated into English by N. H. Nicolas (1828). See G. G. Perry, “Bishop Beckington and Henry VI.,” in the English Historical Review (1894).


BECKMANN, JOHANN (1739–1811), German scientific author, was born on the 4th of June 1739 at Hoya in Hanover, where his father was postmaster and receiver of taxes. He was educated at Stade and the university of Göttingen. The death of his mother in 1762 having deprived him of his means of support, he went in 1763 on the invitation of the pastor of the Lutheran community, Anton Friedrich Büsching, the founder of the modern historic statistical method of geography, to teach natural history in the Lutheran academy, St Petersburg. This office he relinquished in 1765, and travelled in Denmark and Sweden, where he studied the methods of working the mines, and made the acquaintance of Linnaeus at Upsala. In 1766 he was appointed extraordinary professor of philosophy at Göttingen. There he lectured on political and domestic economy with such success that in 1770 he was appointed ordinary professor. He was in the habit of taking his students into the workshops, that they might acquire a practical as well as a theoretical knowledge of different processes and handicrafts. While thus engaged he determined to trace the history and describe the existing condition of each of the arts and sciences on which he was lecturing, being perhaps incited by the Bibliothecae of Albrecht von Haller. But even Beckmann’s industry and ardour were unable to overtake the amount of study necessary for this task. He therefore confined his attention to several practical arts and trades; and to these labours we owe his Beiträge zur Geschichte der Erfindungen (1780-1805), translated into English as the History of Inventions—a work in which he relates the origin, history and recent condition of the various machines, utensils, &c., employed in trade and for domestic purposes. This work entitles Beckmann to be regarded as the founder of scientific technology, a term which he was the first to use in 1772. In 1772 Beckmann was elected a member of the Royal Society of Göttingen, and he contributed valuable scientific dissertations to its proceedings until 1783, when he withdrew from all further share in its work. He died on the 3rd of February 1811. Other important works of Beckmann are Entwurf einer allgemeinen Technologie (1806); Anleitung zur Handelswissenschaft (1789); Vorbereitung zur Warenkunde (1795-1800); Beiträge zur Ökonomie, Technologie, Polizei- und, Kameralwissenschaft (1777-1791).


BECKWITH, JAMES CARROLL (1852-  ), American portrait-painter, was born at Hannibal, Missouri, on the 23rd of September 1852. He studied in the National Academy of Design, New York City, of which he afterwards became a member, and in Paris (1873-1878) under Carolus Duran. Returning to the United States in 1878, he gradually became a prominent figure in American art. He took an active part in the formation of the Fine Arts Society, and was president of the National Free Art League, which attempted to secure the repeal of the American duty on works of art. Among his portraits are those of W. M. Chase (1882), of Miss Jordan (1883), of Mark Twain, T. A. Janvier, General Schofield and William Walton. He decorated one of the domes of the Manufactures Building at the Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.


BECKWITH, SIR THOMAS SYDNEY (1772-1831), British general, was the son of Major-General John Beckwith, who was colonel of the 20th regiment (Lancashire Fusiliers) in the charge at Minden. In 1791 he entered the 71st regiment (then commanded by Colonel David Baird), in which he served in India and elsewhere until 1800, when he obtained a company in Colonel Coote Manningham’s experimental regiment of riflemen, shortly afterwards numbered as the 95th Rifles and now called the Rifle Brigade. In 1802 he was promoted major, and in the following