Kennedy, William (1799-1871) (DNB00)

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KENNEDY, WILLIAM (1799–1871), poet and miscellaneous writer, was born on 26 Dec. 1799, near Dublin, where his father, an Ayrshire man, was a manufacturer. He was a student at Belfast College in 1819, and afterwards it is said studied at Dr. Lawson's seminary for dissenting students at Selkirk (History of a Man, ed. Gilfillan, 1856, p. 159). Subsequently he settled as a journalist in Paisley, assisting Motherwell [q. v.] on the ‘Paisley Magazine.’ He left Paisley in 1828, and for a short time afterwards was probably a journalist in Hull, where he married his employer's daughter. Settling in London in 1830 he engaged in literary work, and collaborated with Leitch Ritchie [q. v.] Mrs. Howitt, in her ‘Autobiography,’ writing to her sister on 27 April 1830, mentions Kennedy as one of a literary group fancifully delineated in ‘Romance and Reality.’

An acquaintanceship, begun in 1833, resulted in Kennedy's appointment as secretary to the Earl of Durham, when he went to Canada in 1838 as governor-general. After the earl's retirement at the end of the year Kennedy travelled in America, and sent to London a municipal report on Canadian institutions, which was printed for parliamentary use. He studied the question of local government in the principal cities of the United States, and settled for some months in Texas, where he formed lasting friendships with leading men and amassed materials for a history of that country. Returning to England at the end of 1839 he strenuously advocated the interests of the Texans, condemning in a published letter O'Connell's suggestion that their independence should be recognised only with the consent of Mexico. In December 1841 he went as British consul to Galveston, Texas, whence he returned in 1847 in broken health. Sojourning for a time in Glasgow, he amused himself in translating German ballads and songs along with Mr. A. J. Symington, who remembers that Kennedy frequently read to him from a manuscript volume of poems, which has disappeared. A visit to Motherwell's grave in Glasgow necropolis prompted the memorial poem given in Motherwell's ‘Works,’ p. 288, ed. 1881. In 1849 Kennedy retired on a pension, first to the neighbourhood of London, and afterwards to Paris, where he was a confirmed invalid till his death in 1871.

After an unimportant story entitled ‘My Early Days,’ Kennedy won popularity in 1827 with ‘Fitful Fancies,’ a collection of short poems, including a spirited lyric entitled ‘Ned Bolton’ (published at Edinburgh). In 1830 appeared ‘The Arrow and the Rose, and other Poems,’ his best-known work. The leading poem tells, evenly and gracefully, the love-story of the Prince of Bearn and Fleurette, the gardener's daughter. The collection also includes twelve short lyrics and nine songs. There followed ‘The Continental Annual and Romantic Cabinet for 1832,’ London, 1831, 8vo, and ‘The Siege of Antwerp, an historical play,’ London, 1838, 8vo. In 1841 Kennedy published, in two volumes 8vo, with an autobiographical preface, ‘The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas,’ which is written with ample knowledge, intelligence, and vigour. Many of Kennedy's lyrics are in ‘Whistle Binkie.’

[Information from Mrs. Kennedy Bullitt, Louisville (Kennedy's niece), Mr. A. J. Symington, Glasgow, and Mr. Robert W. Brown, Paisley; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. i. 113, 163, 183, 342, 400; R. W. Brown's Paisley Poets; Grant Wilson's Poets and Poetry of Scotland.]

T. B.