Bigg, John Stanyan (DNB00)

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BIGG, JOHN STANYAN (1828–1865), poet and journalist, was born at Ulverston 14 July 1828. He was educated at the old Town Bank School in that town, and at an early age began to exhibit strong literary predilections. It is said that the 'Arabian Nights' Entertainments' first fired him with imaginative ardour. He would recite the oriental stories to his companions, and as the latter recompensed him for so doing, young Bigg was able to indulge the love of books, and became possessed of the works of the best English poets. At thirteen he was sent bv his father to a boarding school in Warwickshire. On his return to his native town, he assisted his father in the conduct of his business. Soon afterwards the family removed to the beautiful vicinitv of Penny Bridge. His poetical enthusiasm was here stirred into action, and he penned many attractive lyrics.

Returning to Uverston, he published in 1848 his first work, 'The Sea King,' a metrical romance in six cantos, with very copious historical and illustrative notes. The romance arose out of a study of Sharon Turner's ‘History of the Anglo-Saxons.’ In conception it has something in common with Fouqué's ‘Undine,’ though Bigg states that book to have been unknown to him at the time of the composition of his own work. The ‘Sea King’ interested several men of letters, including Lord Lytton and James Montgomery. Bigg was now appointed editor of the ‘Ulverston Advertiser,’ a post which he occupied for several years. He subsequently went to Ireland, and edited for some years the ‘Downshire Protestant,’ the proprietor of which was Mr. W. Johnston, of Ballykilbeg House, the author of ‘Nightshade,’ and other works. At Downpatrick Bigg married Miss. R. A. H. Pridham. In 1859 the Burns centenary was celebrated, and his ode competing for the Crystal Palace prize was selected by the three judges as one of the six best.

Previous to his Irish experiences, Bigg had written his most important poem, ‘Night and the Soul.’ It appeared in 1854. Bigg belonged to that class of poets which acquired the name of the ‘Spasmodic School,’ a school severely travestied by Professor Aytoun in his spasmodic tragedy of ‘Firmilian.’

In 1860 Bigg left Ireland and returned to Ulverston, where he became both editor and proprietor of the ‘Advertiser,’ which position he continued to occupy until his death. In 1860 he also published a novel in one volume, entitled ‘Alfred Staunton,’ which met with a favourable reception. In 1862 appeared his last work, ‘Shifting Scenes, and other Poems.’ In the course of his brief career Bigg was a contributor to the ‘Critic,’ ‘Literary Gazette,’ ‘London Quarterly Review,’ ‘Eclectic Review,’ ‘Church of England Review,’ ‘Scottish Quarterly Review,’ ‘Dublin University Magazine,’ and ‘Hogg's Instructor.’ In all the private relations of life he was most estimable, and his premature death was widely lamented. He died 19 May 1865, in his thirty-seventh year.

[Works of Bigg; Gent. Mag. 1865; Gilfillan's Literary Portraits; Athenæum. 1854 and 1862; Ulverston Advertiser, 25 May 1865.]

G. B. S.