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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Dr John Aglionby - an aquiline acumen

Early days

Dr. John Aglionby was born about 1566 to Edward Aglionby and Elizabeth Musgrave, of Crookdayke. He descended from a respectable ancient family in Cumberland with the name De Aguilon - thereafter corrupted into Aglionby. Further details of his upbringing seem lost in obscurity.

Career path

Queen's College, Oxford

In 1583, he became a student in Queen’s College, Oxford, and was made a Fellow there. After 'taking orders', he became known as an eloquent preacher, and travelled in foreign countries. He travelled abroad, and formed an acquaintance with Cardinal Bellarmine

On his return, Aglionby was made chaplain in ordinary to Queen Elizabeth. This was itself a compliment, as Elizabeth was herself highly educated and an accomplished linguist, who endured no drone or dunce in attendance on her. He took his degree of D.D. in 1600. The next year, 1601, he was made Rector of Blechindon, and was also appointed Principal of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University. About the same time, he became Rector of Islip. On the accession of James I., he continued to serve the spiritual needs of the Monarch, being appointed chaplain in ordinary to the new King. Punning on his name, his peers compared him to an eagle--"He was of aquiline acumen."

When Oxford received its new King in 1601, Aglionby was a protagonist in a debate held before the King, on the entertaining thesis: 'The saints and angels know the thoughts of men's hearts.' Against him were three other translators: Drs Holland, Giles Thomson and John Harding. The moderator was either Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester- another translator - or George Abbot, the vice-chancellor of Oxford University. The outcome of the debate is unknown.

Academic reputation

Dr. Aglionby was deeply read in the church fathers and the scholastic tradition of the middle ages. He was “an excellent linguist,” and an elegant and instructive preacher. Anthony Wood says of him in his Athanae:
What he hath published I find not; however, the reason why I set him down here is, that he had a most considerable hand in the Translation of the New Testament, appointed by King James I., in 1604.”

Aglionby may have been appointed in 1604 as a replacement for Richard Eedes, who died that same year. He became a member of the second Oxford group of translators, who worked on the Gospels, the Acts and the Apocalypse.

End of days

Dr. Aglionby died at his rectory, on the sixth day of February, 1609, aged forty-three. In the chancel of his church at Islip, is a tablet erected to his memory by his widow. He died in the prime of life, just as the Bible was in the press. Says Alexander McClure, "Thus he lived just long enough to do the best work he could have done in this world."

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