Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bigland, John

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BIGLAND, JOHN (1750–1832), schoolmaster and author, was born of poor parents at Skirlaugh, or Skirlaw, in Holdemess in Yorkshire, and died, at the age of eighty-two, at Aldbrough (Poulson, History of Hoiderness, ii. 19) or, according to other authorities, at Finningley near Doncaster. He began life as a village schoolmaster. At the age of fifty (1803) he published his first work, 'Reflections on the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ,' occasioned, as he tells us himself, by his religious scepticism. Having removed his own doubts, he ventured to place the reasons for his convictions in print, His work was a success, and the encouragement he received in consequence determined' him to follow a literary career. He soon developed into a professional author, and published in rapid succession a series of popular books, chiefly connected with geography and history. Towards the end of his life he resided at Finningley, and used to spend a portion of his time in his garden rearing flowers and vegetables. His long scholastic life has given to the majority of his books a distinctly practical turn.

He was the author of sundry articles in the magazines; of a continuation to April 1808 of Lord Lyttleton s 'History of England in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman to his Son ; 'and of an addition of the whole period of the third George to Dr. Goldsmith's 'History of England.' His other works are 1. 'Reflections on the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ,' 1803. 2. 'Letters on the Study and Use of Ancient and Modern History,' 1804. 3. 'Letters on the Modern History and Political Aspect of Europe,' 1804. 4. 'Essays on Various Subjects,' 2 vols. 1805. 5. 'Letters on Natural History,' 1806. 6. 'A Geographical and Historical View of the World, exhibiting a complete Delineation of the Natural and Artificial Features of each Country,' &c., 5 vols. 1810. 7. 'A History of Spain from the Earliest Period to the close of the year 1809,' (translated and continued by Le Comte Mathieu Dumas to the epoch of the Restoration, 1814), 5 vols. 1810. 8. 'A Sketch of the History of Europe from the year 1783 to the Present Time,' in a later edition continued to 1814 {translated, and augmented in the military part, and continued to 1819 by J. MacCarthy, Paris, 1819), 2 vols. 1811. 9. 'The Philosophical Wanderers, or the History of the Roman Tribune and the Priestess of Minerva, exhibiting the vicissitudes that diversify the fortunes of nations and individuals,' 1811. 10. 'Yorkshire,' being the 16th volume of the 'Beauties of England and Wales,' 1812. 11. 'A History of England from the Earliest Period to the Close of the War, 1814,' 2 vols. 1815. 12. 'A System of Geography for the Use of Schools and Private Students,' 1816. 13. 'An Historical Display of the Effects of Physical and Moral Causes on the Character and Circumstances of Nations, including a Comparison of the Ancients and Moderns in regard to their Intellectual and Social State,' 1816. 14. 'Letters on English History for the Use of Schools,' 1817. 15. 'Letters on French History for the Use of Schools,' 1818. 16. 'A Compendious History of the Jews,' 1820.

[Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Rhodes's Yorkshire Scenery; Gent. Mag. 1832; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Poulsons History of olderness, ii. 19; Annual Biography.]

J. M.