Stagg, John (DNB00)
|←Stafford, William (1593-1684)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 53
STAGG, JOHN (1770–1823), Cumberland poet, known in Cumberland as the blind bard, was born in 1770 at Burg-by-Sands, near Carlisle, where his father, a tailor, possessed a small property. The boy showed unusual promise, and his parents decided to educate him for the church, but while he was still young an accident deprived him of his sight and put an end to his studies. For some time he made a livelihood by keeping a library in the little town of Wigton and playing his fiddle at local merry-makings. In his twentieth year he married, and at the same date published a volume of ‘Miscellaneous Poems.’ After leaving Wigton for a short sojourn in Carlisle, he took up his residence in Manchester, where he remained more or less till his death, but he frequently revisited his native county and spent much time among the peasantry, amusing them by performances on the fiddle, and gathering that intimate knowledge of their customs and dialect which enabled him in his poems and essays to give a graphic picture of his friends. He also went further afield selling his works, and about 1809 he visited Oxford. He died at Workington in 1823. He was father of seven children.
In Charles, duke of Norfolk, and many of the Cumberland gentry, as well as among members of both universities, he found patrons by whom he was encouraged to publish his ‘Minstrel of the North,’ London, 1810, 8vo (another edit. 1816). His other works were: ‘Miscellaneous Poems’ (Carlisle, 1804, 12mo; 2nd ed. Workington, 1805, 12mo); a further series of ‘Miscellaneous Poems’ (Wigton, 1807, 8vo; another ed., Wigton, 1808, 12mo); and ‘The Cumberland Minstrel: being a poetical miscellany of legendary, Gothic, and romantic tales … together with several essays in the Northern dialect, also a number of original pieces’ (3 vols. Manchester, 1821, 8vo). Gilpin's ‘Cumberland Poetry’ contains a small engraved portrait of Stagg by Robert Anderson from a painting by R. B. Faulkner.[Popular Poetry of Cumberland and the Lake Country, by Sidney Gilpin; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Cat. of Manchester Free Ref. Library.]