Bagot, Richard, Doctor of Divinity 1782-1854, bishop successively of Oxford and of Bath and Wells, was the sixth son of William, first Lord Bagot, by Louisa St. John, daughter of the second Viscount Bolingbroke. Educated at Rugby, he entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1800, and proceeded Bachelor of Arts in 1803, M.A. in 1806 and Doctor of Divinity in 1829. In 1804 he was elected to an All Souls' fellowship, which he resigned two years later, on his marriage with Lady Harriet Villiers, daughter of the Earl of Jersey. After taking holy orders in 1806, he was presented by his father to the rectory of Leigh, Staffordshire, and in 1807 to that of Blithfield. In 1812 he became prebendary of Lichfield, in 1817 canon of Worcester, in 1822 canon of Windsor, in 1827 dean of Canterbury, and in 1829 bishop of Oxford, holding the deanery in commendam.
Bagot was bishop of Oxford at the date of the Oxford movement, and was reluctantly forced to play a part in its history. In the charge that he delivered to his clergy in 1838 he spoke of the frequency with which appeals had been made to him of late years to check breaches both of doctrine and discipline. But he declared that, so far as the authors of Tracts for the Times had recalled forgotten truths, and drawn attention to the union, discipline, and authority of the church, they had done good service. He warned them, however, against creating schisms, or reverting to practices which heretofore have ended in superstition. This mild warning was at first construed into a general censure of the Tracts by their opponents; but Dr. Pusey, in a published letter to the bishop, interpreted it otherwise, and created the impression that Bagot sanctioned his views. In 1840 the bishop was implored by a clergyman of his diocese, in a long anonymous pamphlet, to condemn Dr. Pusey's opinions, and in the following year, on the publication of Tract XC, Bagot requested the author, Newman, to bring the series to an immediate close. His request was at once complied with, and the bishop continued to treat the Tractarians with marked courtesy. Late in 1841 he defended Newman in a letter to Pusey from the charge of having broken word with himself by republishing Tract XC (Browne, Annals of the Tractarian Movement, 1861, p. 83). In 1842 Bagot rediscussed the movement at length in another charge to his clergy. He condemned the violent attacks made on the Tractarians, and spoke with respect of their leaders, although he felt no sympathy with their disciples; but he proceeded to expose, in decisive language, the lamentable want of judgment exhibited in the writings of the advocates of catholic principles. William Palmer dedicated to Bagot in admiring terms his account of the Tracts for the Times, first published in 1845.
When the see of Bath and Wells fell vacant, in 1845, Bagot, at his own desire, was translated to that diocese. The excitement of previous years had ruined his health; soon after leaving Oxford he suffered from a temporary mental derangement, and his see was for a time administered, in accordance with a special act of parliament, by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol. He had, however, recovered sufficiently before 1854 to engage in a controversy in that year with Archdeacon Denison, who, according to Bagot, had taught the real presence in the Eucharist in a sense not sanctioned by the church of England. The correspondence, which began in a conciliatory spirit, concluded, without any agreement between the writers having been reached, with a letter from the bishop dated 11 May, four days before his death. He died at Brighton from a complication of disorders on 15 May 1854. His wife, by whom he had eight sons and four daughters, survived him. He published his charges to the clergy for 1834, 1838, 1842, and 1847, and two sermons, one in 1835 and the other in 1840. The charge of 1842 passed through four editions. Archdeacon Denison published his correspondence with the bishop in 1854, shortly after Bagot's death.
Gent. Mag. for 1854
E. G. K. Browne's Annals of the Tractarian Movement, 1861
F. Oakeley's Tractarian Movement (1865), pp. 51-2
W. Palmer's Tracts for the Times (1883), pp. 80-6
Mozley's Reminiscences, i. 442
Brit. Mus. Cat.
Contributor: S. L. [Sidney Lee]