Kelly, John (1680?-1751) (DNB00)

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KELLY, JOHN (1680?–1751), journalist and author, born about 1680, was well educated at home and abroad, and became especially well versed in French. He joined the Inner Temple, but ultimately earned a livelihood by journalism and play-writing. He was a writer in a weekly paper entitled ‘The Universal Spectator, by Henry Stonecastle of Northumberland, Esq.,’ which was edited by Henry Baker, Defoe's son-in-law, and lasted from 1728 to 1739. Twenty-eight papers out of the first 149 are ascribed to Kelly in a manuscript notice affixed by the editor to a copy of the publication in the Bodleian Library. But Kelly has been credited with responsibility for the collected reprint of the ‘Universal Spectator,’ issued in 4 vols. 12mo in 1747; 3rd edit. 1756. Kelly apparently died at Hornsey on 16 July 1751, and was buried at St. Pancras. The ‘London Magazine’ in recording his death somewhat erroneously describes him as an ‘eminent counsellor in the Temple.’

Kelly published four plays: 1. ‘The Married Philosopher,’ a comedy ‘by a gentleman of the Temple’ (1732, 8vo), from the French, first performed at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 25 March 1732, and resembling in plot Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Married Man,’ produced at the Haymarket in 1780 (Genest, Stage, iii. 353). 2. ‘Timon in Love’ (1733, 8vo), a comedy in three acts, taken from the ‘Timon Misanthrope’ of De Lisle de la Drévetière, and produced at Drury Lane, with Mrs. Clive as Aspasia, 5 Dec. 1733 (ib. iii. 408). Reduced to two acts, it was revived as ‘Innocent Theft’ at Covent Garden on 23 March 1736 (ib. p. 480). 3. ‘The Fall of Bob, or the Oracle of Gin’ (1736, 12mo), not apparently acted. 4. ‘The Levee,’ a farce (1741, 8vo), published after a license for its performance at Drury Lane had been refused (ib. x. 169). Chetwood ascribes to Kelly ‘The Plot, or Pill and Drop,’ a pantomimical entertainment, London, 1735, 8vo; also described as ‘a temporary trifle interspersed with songs,’ and produced at Drury Lane, 22 Jan. 1735 (ib. iii. 446; cf. Brit. Mus. Cat.) ‘The Islanders, or Mad Orphan,’ is among the manuscripts presented by George IV to the British Museum (No. 301). The author's name is given as ‘John O'Kelly, Esq., of the Inner Temple,’ and it is dedicated to the Princess of Wales—i.e. the mother of George III. The identity of the writer with Kelly is probable.

Kelly translated part of Rapin's ‘History of England’ (1732); Pluche's ‘Spectacle de la Nature’ (3rd edit. 1743); and Fénelon's ‘Adventures of Telemachus’ (1743). He also compiled a work on French idioms ‘with the English adapted,’ London, 1736, 8vo.

[Preface to French Idioms, p. vi; Baker's Biographia Dramatica, 1812, i. 421; Thespian Dictionary, 1805; Brit. Mus. Cat.; London Magazine, July 1751, p. 332.]

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