Bisset, William (d.1747) (DNB00)

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BISSET, WILLIAM (d. 1747), clergyman and pamphleteer, was a native of Middlesex. His father was, he says, a royalist, but was not rewarded for his devotion to the crown. After passing some years as a scholar of Westminster, he went in 1687 to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in 1690. Having taken orders, he was for some time in charge of the parish of Iver, While there he married a wife who brought him some money. On this he set up a couch, which gave his enemies occasion to make many sneers at his foolish ostentation in the pamphlet war he afterwards engaged in. He defended himself by declaring that he bought this ‘leathern conveniency' in order to enable himself to fulfil an engagement to preach three times a week in a neighbouring parish. During this period of his life he appears to have been industrious in his clerical work. He became rector of Whiston in 1697. Having been elected elder brother of St. Catherine’s Collegiate Church in 1699, he resided much in London, leaving his wife and children at Whiston. As a low church-man and a whig he was much offended at Dr. Sacheverel1’s sermon at St. Paul's on 5 Nov. 1709, and at once reached and published a reply to it. He followed up this attack by a pamphlet entitled ‘The Modern Fanatick,’ which appeared in 1710. This pamphlet called forth many replies, and among them one by Dr. W. King. A second part of ‘The Modern Fanatick’ appeared in Feb. 1711, and a third in May 1714. Cole, in his manuscript ‘Athenæ Cantabrigienses,' says that he was ‘almost a madman:’ the character of the pamphlets put forth by both sides in this controversy is little proof of the sanity of any of the parties concerned in it. Bisset was the champion of an unpopular cause. He fought with courage, and bad as his weapons were, they were of much the same kind as those used against him. There is no reason to doubt the truth of his assertion that he was constantly mobbed and insulted, especially by Sacheverel1’s ‘female proselytes.’ He also declares that his life was attempted three times. He deserves credit for having raised an indignant protest against the cruel floggings then often inflicted on soldiers. A revolting and probably exaggerated account of the flogging of a man and his wife is given in the collective edition of the ‘Fanatick’ tracts. He was made chaplain to Queen Caroline. He died 7 Nov. 1747 (Gent. Mag.) He published: 1. ‘Verses on the Revolution,' 1689, in poems of Cambridge scholars. 2. ‘Plain English, a Sermon for the Reformation of Manners,’ 8vo, 1704, which reached a sixth edition. 3, ‘More Plain English, two more Sermons for,’ &c., 1704. 4. ‘Remarks on Dr. Sacheverell’s Sermon at St. Paul’s,’ 4to, 1709. 5. ‘Fair Warning, or a Taste of French Government at Home,’ 1710. 6. ‘The Modern Fanatick, with a Large and True Account of the Life, Actions, Endowments, &c., of Dr. S—l,’ 8vo, 1710. 7. ‘The Modern Fanatick, pt. ii., containing what is Necessary to clear all Matters of Fact, &c., with a Postscript,’ 1711. 8. ‘The Modern Fanatick, pt. iii., being a further Account of the famous Doctor and his Brother of like renown, with a Postscript,’ 1714. In the collective edition of these pamphlets part, i. is stated to be the eleventh edition: it is a reprint, with the correction of a few typographical errors, from the first edition: it was reprinted as a twelfth edition in 1715. 9. ‘A Funeral Sermon on Mrs. Catesby,’ 1727. 10. ‘Verses composed for the Birthday of Queen Caroline,’ fol., 1728.

[The Modern Fanatick, 1710-14; Vindication of the Rev. Dr. H. S. from the False, &c.; Cole's Athenæ, B. 145; Addit. MSS.; Welch's Alumni Westmon. 209; Nichol's Lit. Anecd. i. 32.]

W. H.