à BECKETT, Sir William (1806-1869)

à BECKETT, Sir William (1806-1869)
first chief justice of Victoria
son of William à Beckett and brother of Gilbert A. à Beckett of Punch, was born in London on 28 July 1806, and educated at Westminster School. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1829 and for some years was much engaged in literary work. He was responsible for A Universal Biography, a substantial work in three large volumes, published about 1835, which, however, seems to be largely based on previous compilations. He also wrote many of the biographies in The Georgian Era, published in four volumes in 1832-4. He went to New South Wales in 1837, in March 1841 was appointed acting solicitor-general, and in March 1843 solicitor-general. He became an acting judge in July 1844, in 1846 was appointed a judge of the supreme court at Port Phillip, and in January 1851 chief justice of the newly formed colony of Victoria. His health had not been good for many years, and he retired on this account early in 1857. He returned to England in 1863 and died at London on 27 June 1869. He was knighted in 1851. He was married twice and was survived by four sons by the first marriage. His eldest son, W. A. C. à Beckett, was a member of the legislative council of Victoria from 1868 to 1876. In addition to the works already mentioned à Beckett published a youthful volume of verse, The Siege of Dumbarton Castle, in 1824, The Magistrates' Manual for the Colony of Victoria (1852), Out of Harness, an account of a tour on the Continent (1854), The Earl's Choice and other Poems (1863).
à Beckett was a man of culture and refinement and an excellent judge, who, in spite of his delicate health, carried out his duties with ability.
The Times, 1 July 1869; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. XXI to XXV; British Museum Catalogue; Burke's Colonial Gentry, 1891.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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