Bidlake, John (DNB00)

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BIDLAKE, JOHN (1755–1814), divine and poet, was the son of a jeweller at Plymouth, and was born in that town in 1765. His education was begun at the grammar school of that town, and he proceeded thence to Christ Church, Oxford, being entered on its books as a servitor 10 March 1774, where he took his degree of B.A. in 1778, and those of 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 at Stonehouse. Neither of these posts brought much gain to their holder, nor were his pecuniary troubles lightened by his obtaining the offices of chaplain to the prince regent and the Duke of Clarence. He was appointed Bampton lecturer in 1811, but during the delivery of the third discourse he was attacked with cerebral affection, which terminated in blindness. In consequence of this crushing misfortune he was forced to resign his curacy at Stonehouse, and as he was totally without the means of support, an appeal to the charitable was made on his behalf in June 1818. On 17 Feb. in the following year he died at Plymouth.

Bidlake's works were very numerous, both in divinity and poetry. He published separately at least seven sermons, in addition to three volumes of collected discourses on various subjects (1795, 1799, and 1808). His earliest poem was an anonymous 'Elegy written on the author's revisiting the place of his former residence' (1788). It was followed by 'The Sea' (1796), 'The Country Parson' (1797), 'Summer's Eve' (1800), 'Virginia or the Fall of the Decemvirs, a tragedy' (1800), 'Youth' (1802), and 'The Year' (1813). Three volumes of his poetical works were issued in 1794, 1804, and 1814 respectively. In 1799 he composed a moral tale entitled 'Eugenio, or the Precepts of Prudentius,' and in 1808 he issued an 'Introduction to the Study of Geography.' His Bampton lectures were entitled 'The Truth and Consistency of Divine Revelation' (1811). Three numbers of a periodical called 'The Selector ' were published by him at Plymouth in 1809, but with the third number it expired. Bidlake was a man of varied talents and considerable acquirements, but his poetry was imitative, and the interest of his theological works was ephemeral.

[Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Gent. Mag. 1813. pt. i. 560, 1814, pt. i. 410; Worth's Plymouth (2nd ed.) p. 322; Worth's Three Towns Bibliotheca (Trans. Plymouth Instit. vol. iv.]

W. P. C.