Higgons, Bevil (DNB00)

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HIGGONS, BEVIL (1670–1735), historian and poet, was born at Kezo in 1670, being the third son of Sir Thomas Higgons [q. v.], by his second wife, Bridget, daughter of Sir Bevil Grenville, and relict of Sir Simon Leach of Cadleigh, Devonshire. In Lent term 1686, when aged 16, he matriculated as a commoner at St. John's College, Oxford, but not long afterwards migrated to Trinity Hall, Cambridge. His first production in print was a set of English verses addressed ‘to the queen on the birth of the prince,’ which as a fellow-commoner of Trinity Hall he wrote for insertion in the university collection of congratulatory poems, entitled ‘Illustrissimi principis ducis Cornubiæ genethliacon.’ On leaving the university—the statement that he obtained a fellowship at Trinity Hall does not seem to be correct—he was entered as a student of the Middle Temple, but probably paid little attention to the study of law. His family was in sympathy with the exiled Stuarts. His uncle, Dean Denis Grenville [q. v.], had accompanied James II to France. Higgons followed them, and remained there for some years, keeping, as is specially noted, his wit and good humour unimpaired in adversity. After he was allowed to return to his own country he and his two brothers were suspected in 1695 of knowledge of the conspiracy against the life of William III, but Bevil was said to have dissuaded his brother Tom from joining the plot, ‘declaring it was an assassination’ (State Trials, xii. 1313–15). A proclamation for the arrest of George Higgons and his two brothers was issued by William on 23 Feb. 1695–6 (ib. xiii. 192, 607). Bevil's restraint in prison did not last long, and the rest of his life was passed in literary pursuits. He died on 1 Aug. 1735.

The main works of Higgons were historical. The most important bore the title of ‘A Short View of the English History; with Reflections on the Reigns of the Kings, their Characters and Manners, their Succession to the Throne; and all other remarkable incidents, to the Revolution, 1688,’ and was published in 1723, after he had left the papers to ‘lie cover'd with dust these twenty-six years.’ Another edition was issued at the Hague in 1727, a ‘second edition with additions’ appeared in London in 1734, and a third edition in 1748, each of the last two impressions containing a dedication to the Duchess of Buckingham and Normanby. A translation into French was also published at the Hague in 1729. A cognate treatise of ‘Historical and Critical Remarks on Bishop Burnet's History of his own Time’ was published by him in 1725, and reached a second edition in 1727, when there was ‘added a postscript in answer to the “London Journal” of the 30th of January and 6th of February 1724–5.’ Both these productions were reissued in 1736, with the title of ‘The Historical Works of Bevill Higgons. In two volumes.’ A volume styled ‘Bishop Burnet's Proofs of the Pretender's Illegitimacy … compared with the accounts given by other writers, viz. Echard, Higgons, &c.,’ and bearing the name of George Wilson, appeared in 1724, and contained on pp. 29–33 an extract from the ‘Short View of English History.’ A passage from the same work describing the character of Oliver Cromwell was inserted in ‘Enthusiasm Display'd,’ 1743, pp. 34–5. Another work purporting to be by Higgons on the ‘History of the Life and Reign of Mary Queen of Scots and Dowager of France’ bore the imprint of Dublin, 1753.

In ‘Examen Poeticum, being the Third Part of Dryden's Miscellany, 1693,’ were inserted ‘several poems by Higgons (pp. 250–266), the first of which was addressed to Dryden on his translation of Persius. The lines which Higgons prefixed to Congreve's ‘Old Bachelor’ pointed out that play-writer as the legitimate successor of Dryden. He was himself the author of ‘The Generous Conqueror, or the Timely Discovery. A Tragedy as it is acted at the Theatre Royal, 1702,’ in which he is said to have ‘illustrated the right divine and impeccability’ of James II. It was received without disfavour on the first day, but not attended afterwards, and Gildon, who published anonymously ‘A Comparison between the two Stages, with an Examen of the Generous Conqueror’ (pp. 79–139), gives as the reason that it ‘was writ after an untoward manner, and above half the Town condemn'd it as Turbulent and Factious.’ The prologue was by his relation, George Granville, lord Lansdowne [q. v.], and Higgons in turn composed the epilogue for Granville's ‘Heroick Love,’ and the prologue for his ‘Jew of Venice’ (Granville, Works, i. 136–137, ii. 103–4, iii. 109–11). He is said to have contributed to a collection by Fenton of ‘Poems on Several Occasions,’ 1717, and his panegyric in verse of the ‘Glorious Peace of Utrecht’ came out in 1731. Most of his pieces were reprinted in the collection of Nichols, i. 128–30, iii. 111–14, 312, iv. 335–6, vii. 101–2, viii. 281–2.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 714; Botfield's Stemmata Botevill. pp. 104–5, 137; Le Neve's Knights (Harl. Soc. viii.), p. 172; Doran's Her Majesty's Servants (Lowe's ed.), i. 277; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. viii. 169; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation, iv. 22–6, 54; Gent. Mag. i. 228.]

W. P. C.