1896 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Bidlake

W. H. K. Wright, in West-Country Poets (1896) 38.



JOHN BIDLAKE was born at Plymouth in 1755, and was the son of a jeweller in that town. His education was begun at the Grammar School there, of which he afterwards became Head-master. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1774, where he took the degree of B.A. in 1778, M.A. and D.D. in 1808. He was for many years Master of the Plymouth Grammar School, and minister of the chapel of ease (now St. George's Church) in Stonehouse. Neither of these posts brought him much emolument, and his position as chaplain to the Prince Regent and Duke of Clarence did not add much to his pecuniary gains. In 1811 he was appointed Bampton lecturer, but during the delivery of the third discourse he was attacked with cerebral affection, which terminated in blindness. In consequence of this misfortune he was obliged to resign his curacy at Stonehouse, and being without the means of support, and appeal to the charitable was made on his behalf in June, 1813. He died on February 17, 1814.

Bidlake's works were very numerous. He published separately seven sermons, in addition to three volumes of collected discourses. His earliest poem was an anonymous Elegy written on revisiting the place of his former residence (1788). He published The Sea (1796); The Country Parson (1797); Summer's Eve (1800); Virginia; or the Fall of the Decemvirs (1800); Youth (1802); and The Year (1813). His poetical works were published in 1794, 1804, and 1814 respectively. He was also the author of a moral tale, Eugenio; or the Precepts of Prudentius, and and Introduction to the Study of Geography. His Bampton lectures were entitled The Truth and Consistency of Divine Revelation, and were published in 1811. In 1809 he started a periodical called The Selector, or which only five numbers were issued. (See Western Antiquary, vol. ix, pp. 182, 183.)

Bidlake was a man of varied talents and considerable acquirements, but his poetry was imitative, and the interest of his theological works was ephemeral.