Francis William Blagdon

Birth: 1778


Francis William Blagdon (1778-1819) was a journalist and author. He was born in 1778 of humble parentage, began his career as a 'horn-boy' employed to sell the 'Sun' newspaper whenever it contained any extraordinary news. He then became amanuensis to Dr. A. F. M. Willich, a medical writer, who taught him French and German; he also learnt Spanish and Italian, and subsequently described himself as 'professor' of those languages, an expression which probably implies that he endeavored to earn a living by teaching. At one time he published a 'French Interpreter,' of which no copy seems to be extant.

In 1802 he began editing a series of 'Modern Discoveries' (London, 1802-3, 8 vols. 16mo); the first two volumes comprised Vivant Denon's 'Travels in Egypt' in the train of Napoleon Bonaparte; the next two included Golberry's 'Travels in Africa,' i.e. in the north-west portion; and the remaining four were devoted to Pallas's 'Travels in the Southern Provinces of Russia.' The first two works were translated by Blagdon from the French, and the last from the German. Pallas's 'Travels' were translated for a second time by Blagdon, and a new edition published in 1812 (London, 2 vols. 4to), with numerous illustrations.

In 1803 Blagdon commenced publishing with the Rev. F. Prevost a literary miscellany entitled Flowers of Literature,' which continued to appear until 1809, and ran to seven volumes (London, 1803-9, 8vo). In 1803 Blagdon also published, in conjunction with Prevost, 'Mooriana, or Selections from the … Works … of Dr. John Moore' (London, 2 vols. 12mo). In 1805 he brought out 'A Brief History of Ancient and Modern India' (London, 3 vols, fol.), which was reissued in 1813 as an appendix to Captain Thomas Williamson's 'European in India' (London, 4to), and in 1806 he contributed the 'Memoirs' to Orme's 'Graphic History of the Life, Exploits, and Death of … Nelson' (London, 4to).

About this time Blagdon became associated with the 'Morning Post,' which he helped to edit for some years. The paper was then tory in its views, and Blagdon's literary activity took a polemical turn; he had already, it is said, been imprisoned for six months in 1805, for libelling John Jervis, earl St. Vincent [q. v.] The proposal of the whig ministry of 1806 to remove Roman catholic disabilities induced him to publish an edition of Fox's 'Book of Martyrs;' this appeared as 'An Universal History of Christian Martyrdom . . . originally composed by John Fox . . . and now entirely rewritten ... by the Rev. J. Milner, M. A.' (London, 1807, 8vo); the use of the pseudonym 'the Rev. J. Milner' was inexcusable, as a well-known Roman catholic divine, John Milner [q. v.], was then living; subsequent editions of Blagdon's work appeared in 1817, 1837, 1848, 1863, 1871, and in 1881; and in 1892 was published a version by Theodore Alois Buckley, described as 'abridged from Milner's edition.'

In 1809 Blagdon came into conflict with William Cobbett, and in October of that year he published a prospectus of 'Blagdon's Weekly Political Register,' which was 'to be printed in the same manner as Cobbett's Register;' with the first number was to commence 'The History of the Political Life and Writings of William Cobbett,' who was compared to Catiline. Blagdon's 'Weekly Register' never seems to have appeared, and the 'Phœnix,' another of his ventures, soon came to an end. In 1812, with a view to exposing French designs on England, Blagdon brought out 'The Situation of Great Britain in 1811. . . .' translated from the French of M, de Montgaillard (London, 8vo); this evoked a reply from Sir John Jervis White Jervis, who describes Blagdon as 'a gentleman well known in the walks of literary knowledge and of loyal authors.' In 1814 Blagdon published 'An Historical Memento ... of the public Rejoicings ... in celebration of the Peace of 1814, and of the Centenary of the Accession of the House of Brunswick' (London, 4to), and in 1819 a 'New Dictionary of Classical Quotations' (London, 1819, 8vo). He died in obscurity and poverty in June 1819, and a subscription was raised for his destitute widow and children (Gent. Mag. 1819, ii. 88).

Besides the works mentioned above, Blagdon was author of: 1. 'The Grand Contest ... or a View of the Causes and probable Consequences of the threatened Invasion of Great Britain,' 1803, 8vo. 2. 'Remarks on a Pamphlet entitled "Observations on the Concise Statement of Facts by Sir Home Popham," ' 1805, 8vo. 3. 'Authentic Memoirs of George Morland,' 1806, fol.; this contains many engravings of Morland's pictures. 4. 'The Modern Geographer,' 1807, 8vo. 5. 'Langhorne's Fables of Flora . . . with a Life of the Author,' 1812, 8vo. 6. 'Letters of the Princess of Wales, comprising the only true History of the celebrated "Book,"' 1813, 8vo [see Caroline Amelia Elizabeth]. He also contributed a life of Dr. Johnson with an edition of his poems to 'The Laurel' (London, 1808, 24mo), and compiled a general index to the 'British Critic,' vols, xxi-xlii.; to him is also attributed 'Paris as it was, and as it is' (London, 1803, 8vo).


[Blagdon's Works in Brit. Mus. Libr.; Gent. Mag. 1819, ii. 88; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Reuss's Repster, 1790-1803, i. 109; Edward Smith's Life of Cobbett, ii. 47-8; Watt's Bibl. Britannica.]

Albert Frederick Pollard, Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement. pg. 211-212.

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