Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bingley, William

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BINGLEY, WILLIAM (1774–1823), miscellaneous writer, was born at Doncaster in 1774, and left an orphan at a very early age. His friends designed him for the law, but his own inclinations were for the church. In 1795 he was entered at St. Peter's College, Cambridge, and took the degree of B.A. in 1799, and of M.A. in 1803. Whilst an undergraduate he travelled in Wales, and 'A Tour round North Wales' was the subject of his first publication. For many years after his ordination he served the curacy of Christ Church in Hampshire, but in 1816 he was the minister of the proprietary chapel in London known as Fitzroy Chapel, Charlotte Street, and he was engaged in its ministry at the time of his death. He died in Charlotte Street, 11 March 1823, and was buried in a vault under the middle aisle of Bloomsbury Church. His life was devoid of incident; his days were passed in compilation. He was a prolific writer, and several of his works enjoyed great popularity. His 'Tour round North Wales,' the result of his college vacation of 1798, was published in 1800 in two volumes. He visited the same district in 1801, and in 1804 issued 'North Wales … delineated from two excursions.' A second edition appeared in 1814, and a third, with corrections and additions by his son, W. R. Bingley, in 1839. As a companion to these works there appeared a volume entitled 'Sixty of the most admired Welsh Airs, collected by W. Bingley,' arranged for the pianoforte by W. Russell, junior, in 1803, and again in 1810. One of the most popular of his compilation was 'Animal Biography' (1802), which was written with the object of creating a taste for natural history. The sixth edition appeared in 1824, and the work was translated into several European languages. A cognate volume from his pen, 'Memoirs of British Quadrupeds,' appeared in 1809. Mr. Bindley was a learned botanist and a fellow of the Linnean Society. His 'Practical Introduction to Botany was published in 1817, and republished after the author's death in 1827. In 1814 he drew up a volume on 'Animated Nature,' and two years later he compiled a work on 'Useful Knowledge, an account of the various productions of nature, mineral, vegetable, and animal.' The last of these volumes was frequently reissued, the seventh edition appearing so recently as 1862. One set of his works was composed of 'biographical conversations' on eminent characters. In this manner he narrated the lives of 'British characters,' 'eminent voyagers,' 'celebrated travellers,' and 'Roman characters.' Another consisted of condensed accounts 'from modern writers' of the various continents of the world: Africa, South America, North America, South Europe, North Europe, and Asia were consecutively described by him, the six volumes appearing separately between 1819 and 1822, and being reproduced with a general title-page of 'Modern Travels.' His dictionary of 'Musical Biography' appeared anonymously in 1814; it was reissued with his name on the title-page, but without any other alteration, in 1834. Whilst at Christ Church he published (1805), from the originals in the possession of a Wiltshire lady, three volumes of 'Correspondence between Frances, Countess of Hereford, and the Countess of Pomfret, 1738-41.' Most of the copies of the second edition were destroyed by fire, but a few were saved. He was long engaged on a history of Hampshire, and in 1817, when the manuscripts amounted to 6,000 pages, explained in an address to his subscribers the causes which retarded and finally prevented its completion. Thirty copies of a small portion of it, however, entitled 'The Topographical Account of the Hundred of Bosmere,' were printed for private circulation. In addition to these works, Bingley was the author of a sermon, the 'Economy of a Christian Life' (1822), and a handbook to the Leverian museum.

[Gent. Mag. 1823; Biog. Dictionary of 1816; Memoir prefixed to his 'Roman Characters' (1824).]

W. P. C.