Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kay, William

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KAY, WILLIAM (1820–1886), biblical scholar, youngest of nine children of Thomas and Ann Kay of Knaresborough, was born 8 April 1820, at Pickering in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He passed two years at Giggleswick school, and, together with James Fraser (1818–1885) [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Manchester, gained an open scholarship at Lincoln College, Oxford, 15 March 1836. He already showed himself (in Mark Pattison's words) ‘a young Hercules in intellectual power,’ and graduated in 1839 with a first class in classics and a second in mathematics. He was elected a fellow of his college 22 Oct. 1840, and in 1842 was appointed one of the tutors, proceeded M.A., and was elected Pusey and Ellerton Hebrew scholar. He took holy orders in 1843, and in 1849, after proceeding B.D., he went out to India as principal of Bishop's College, Calcutta. Here he exerted much influence in the religious world, and published several pieces at the college press. Of these the most important was his translation of the Psalms, 1864 (3rd edit., enlarged and improved, London, 1877). The notes are chiefly critical and exegetical, somewhat dry in form, but suggestive and thoughtful in matter. In 1855 he paid his only visit to England while principal of Bishop's College, and proceeded D.D. at Oxford. In 1864 he resigned his post at Calcutta and returned to Oxford. In 1865 he was made select preacher before the university, and in 1866 was presented by his college to the rectory of Great Leighs, near Chelmsford, Essex, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was appointed Grinfield lecturer on the Septuagint in 1869, and one of the Old Testament revisers in 1870. He took a prominent part in their labours, but there were ‘not a few changes with which he disagreed.’ He was eminently conservative in his criticism, and contributed to the ‘Speaker's Bible’ commentaries on Isaiah (1875) and on the Epistle to the Hebrews (1881). The historical illustrations to Isaiah are hardly equal to the expectations of modern criticism. He also furnished the notes on Ezekiel in the commentary published by the Christian Knowledge Society. He was an honorary canon of St. Albans, and one of the bishop's chaplains. Kay died, after much suffering, 16 Jan. 1886. He was unmarried, and had for many years lived the life of a recluse, dividing his time between his biblical studies and the care of his parish. Besides the works mentioned above, he wrote among others:

  1. ‘Crisis Hupfeldiana; being an examination of Hupfeld's criticism on Genesis, as recently set forth in Bishop Colenso's fifth part’ [of ‘The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua critically examined’], Oxford and London, 1865.
  2. ‘A Sermon on the Unity of the Church,’ London, 1866; translated into Italian, London, 1868.
  3. ‘The Greek text of St. Paul's two Epistles to the Corinthians, with an English Commentary,’ published after his death, London, 1887, edited by the Rev. John Slatter.

He also translated and edited one of the volumes of Fleury's ‘Ecclesiastical History,’ under the superintendence of John Henry (afterwards Cardinal) Newman, Oxford, 1844.

[Preface to Burgon's Lives of Twelve Good Men; Slatter's Preface to the Commentary on the Epistles to the Corinthians; Foreign Church Chronicle and Review, vol. x. No. 37, March 1886; personal knowledge.]

W. A. G.