1877 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Kennedy

James Grant Wilson, in Poetry of Scotland (1877) 2:213-14.



WILLIAM KENNEDY, the personal friend and literary partner of William Motherwell, whose biographer calls him an "Irish gentleman," was born near Paisley, Dec. 26, 1799. Before he was twenty-five years of age he published an interesting prose story called My Early Days; followed in 1827 by a volume of short poems under the name of Fitful Fancies, which met with unusual success. In 1828-29 he was associated with Motherwell in the management of the Paisley Magazine, pronounced at the time to he the best edited provincial periodical published in Great Britain. Many of Motherwell's and Kennedy's poems first appeared in its columns. The magazine was not, however, a pecuniary success, and was therefore abandoned. In 1830 there appeared from the press of a London publisher The Arrow and the Rose, and other Poems, by William Kennedy, in a handsome 8vo. volume, dedicated to Motherwell. The principal poem is founded on a traditional story of the love of Henry IV. of France, when a youth, for a gardener's daughter, by name Fleurette, and was pronounced by Christopher North to be "exceedingly graceful, elegant, and pathetic." An extract from The Arrow and the Rose appears among the following selections from Kennedy's compositions; but we find more to admire among his minor pieces, which are characterized by manly vigour and tenderness.

Having taken up his residence in London Kennedy entered upon his career there by editing, in company with Leitch Ritchie, a magazine issued monthly by Hurst & Chance, at the same time contributing numerous articles in prose and verse to other magazines and periodicals. When the Earl of Durham went to Canada Kennedy accompanied him as his private secretary, and on the return of the earl to England he received the appointment of British consul at Galveston, Texas, where he resided for many years. Before crossing the Atlantic the poet visited Scotland, and spent some happy hours with his family and his attached friend Motherwell, and wrote the spirited stanzas beginning "I love the land." When published they called forth another poem entitled "The Response," from which we take the following lines:

I love it too,—
Ay, and I love it well,
Nor, Kennedy, the muse's minion, thou
May not have felt thy bosom higher swell,
Than mine has erst, as listless verse may show;
For Albyn owns no classic lyre can tell
Like Kennedy's what tones do echo through
The bursting heart — what time the weird-like spell
Comes o'er the quiv'ring lips in 'fare thee well!'
I love it too.

In 1841 Kennedy published in London the Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas, in two 8vo vols. He returned to England in 1847, and retired on a pension, taking up his residence near London, where he died in 1849. Soon after landing in the Old World he again visited Scotland, and while there he wrote the beautiful lines inspired by a visit to Motherwell's then unmarked grave in the Necropolis of Glasgow.

Sheriff Bell of Glasgow wrote to the Editor of this Work as follows: "I was well acquainted with the late William Kennedy. He was a man of considerable genius, and died comparatively young nearly twenty years ago." Allan Cunningham, in his History of the Literature of the last Fifty Years, says, "William Kennedy has fancy and feeling, nor is he without sudden bursts of manly vigour, but he is unequal in execution and occasionally overstrained in language."