1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Kett

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 1:522-23.



HENRY KETT was born at Norwich, in 1761. He commenced his education at the grammar school of his native city, whence he was removed, in 1777, to Trinity college, Oxford, where, after having taken his degrees of B.A. and M.A., he became tutor and obtained a fellowship. In 1790, as Bampton lecturer, he delivered a series of discourses, defending the church of England against the attacks of Gibbon, Priestley, and others. In 1793, he became a candidate for the professorship of poetry, but lost the election by about twenty votes. During the same year took his first degree in divinity. In 1808, he reliquished his college offices, although he still continued to reside at the university. In 1814, Bishop Tomline presented him to the perpetual curacy of Hykeham, which, with that of Elsfield, given him by Dr. Chapman, was the only preferments he ever possessed, although it is said, many valuable college benefices fell to his turn while a fellow of Trinity, which, however, he had declined, as they respectively occurred, in favour of his juniors. Towards the close of the year 1823, he married a lady, named White, and retired to the village of Charlton, in Gloucestershire, of which she had previously been a resident. On the 30th of June, 1825, this accomplished scholar and divine was drowned, while bathing near the seat of Sir John Gibbons, of Stanwell, Baronet, with whom he was on a visit. By his will, he devised the bulk of his property, which amounted to about 25,000, after the decease of his wife, to the Radcliffe infirmary, and other charitable institutions. He appears to have commenced his literary career in 1787, during which year, he contributed five numbers to the Olla Podrida. In 1793, he published a small volume of Juvenile Poems, which, although they were not wholly destitute of merit, the author, shortly afterwards, took great pains to suppress, as they were calculated, in the opinion of his friends, to injure rather than to enhance his literary reputation. In allusion to this circumstance, his fellow collegian, Thomas Warton, wrote the following epigram, the point of which turns upon a nasal peculiarity of Kett:—

Our Kett not a poet! Why, how can you say so?

For if he's no Ovid, I'm sure he's a NASO.

The subject of our notice also published A History of the Interpretation of Prophecy; Journal of a Tour to the Lakes of Cumberland, printed in Mavor's British Tourist; Elements of General Knowledge, a book of which Johnson said, the tutor would be deficient in his duty, who neglected to put it into the hands of his pupils; Logic made Easy; Emily, a moral tale; a new edition of Headley's Beauties of English Poetry; and Flowers of Wit, or, A Collection of Bon-Mots, ancient and modern. For several years before his death, he is said to have been engaged in a translation of the Greek proverbs, collected by Lubinus, with notes, which he left in manuscript, unfinished. As a writer, he was neat and elegant; as a preacher, animated and impressive; and, in his opinions as a divine, particularly hostile to enthusiasm.