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Stagg, Johnfree

(1770–1823)
  • Albert Nicholson
  • , revised by S. R. J. Baudry

Stagg, John (1770–1823), poet, known in Cumberland as the Blind Bard, was born at Burgh by Sands, near Carlisle, where his father, a tailor, possessed a small property. The young Stagg showed unusual promise, and his parents decided to educate him for the church, but while he was still young he was blinded in an accident, and this put an end to his studies. For some time he made a livelihood by keeping a library in the little town of Wigton and playing his fiddle at local festivities. In his twentieth year he married, and at the same date published a volume of poetry, Miscellaneous Poems. After leaving Wigton for a short stay in Carlisle, he moved to Manchester, where he remained more or less until his death, but he frequently revisited his native county and spent much time among the local people, amusing them by performances on the fiddle, and gathering that intimate knowledge of their customs and dialect which enabled him to depict them accurately in his poems and essays. He also went further afield selling his works, and about 1809 visited Oxford.

In Charles, duke of Norfolk, and many of the Cumberland gentry, as well as among members of the universities, Stagg found patrons by whom he was encouraged to publish his Minstrel of the North (1810) and two series of Miscellaneous Poems (1804 and 1807), which all went through a second edition. His other works were collected in The Cumberland minstrel: being a poetical miscellany of legendary, Gothic, and romantic tales … together with several essays in the northern dialect, also a number of original pieces (3 vols., 1821). He died at Workington in 1823. He was father of seven children.

Sources

Likenesses

  • R. B. Faulkner, oils, repro. in Gilpin, Popular poetry
[in 360 vols. with suppls., also CD-ROM and online]