Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bennis, George Geary

BENNIS, GEORGE GEARY (1790–1866), author, was a native of Corkamore, Limerick. The date of his birth is variously stated as 1790 and 1793. After some years as a grocer in Limerick he settled for a time in Liverpool, and whilst there appears to have embraced the doctrines of quakerism. His first work was 'The Principles of the One Faith professed by all Christians,' Liverpool, 1816. He moved to London and in 1823 he settled at Paris, where a third edition of the work just named was printed in 1826. He published also the 'Traveller's Pocket Diary and Student's Journal' and a 'Treatise on Life Assurance.' Quérard also states him to have written some opuscules littéraires, of which no details are available. He travelled about over the continent: but from 1830 to 1836 he was the director of a librairie des étrangers in Paris, founded by Bossange and Renouard. Afterwards he acted as an insurance agent, and in addition was librarian to the British embassy. He was also at one time the editor of 'Galignani's Messenger.' When in France he ceased to be a member of the Society of Friends but always professed an attachment to their principles. 'At the time of the revolution,' says Smith, 'he peacefully retook the royal flag, for which he was knighted by the king.' There is apparently some error in this statement; for, according to Vapereau, he did not receive the decoration of the Légion d'Honneur until 1854. According to Smith, most of his property was lost at the time of the last revolution presumably the coup d'état of 1852, soon after which he retired into private life. He was nearly burned to death by the great fire which destroyed the government bakeries during the Crimean war, and most of his valuable library was consumed at that time. Enough was left, however, to found a free library in his native city, to which he left over 10,000 volumes.

A collection of coins which he had made was stolen between the time of his death and the arrival of his executor, Edward Bennis, of Bolton. He died 1 Jan. 1866, and was buried at Paris: but by his own desire no tombstone marks his resting-place.

[Smith's Descriptive Catalogue of Friends' Books, London. 1867: Quérard's France Littéraire, t. i., Paris. 1827; Quérard's Littérature Française Contemporaine, t. i., Paris, 1842; Vaperreau's Dictionaire des Contemporains, Paris, 1858; information of J. F. Bennis of Limerick.]

W. E. A. A.