Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ken, Thomas
KEN or KENN, THOMAS (1637–1711), bishop of Bath and Wells, son of Thomas Ken, by his second wife Martha, daughter of John Chalkhill [q. v.], was born at Great, or at Little, Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, in July 1637. His father was an attorney, of Furnival's Inn, London, and, it is asserted, a clerk of the House of Lords, and clerk of assize for the counties of Glamorgan, Brecon, and Radnor (Webb, Memorials of the Civil War in Herefordshire, i. 189); he is said to have been connected with the family which gave its name to, or took it from, the village of Kenn or Ken, near Clevedon, Somerset (Hawkins, p. 2). His mother died in 1641, and his father apparently in 1651, after which date it is probable that his home was at the house of Isaac Walton, who married his half-sister Anne in 1646. Having been elected scholar of Winchester on 26 Sept. 1651, Ken was admitted in the January following, and his name is still to be seen cut in the cloisters of the college, with the date 1656, in which year he was elected to New College, Oxford, and, there being no vacancy, entered as a member of Hart Hall, the present Hertford College, and was admitted to New College in the following year. At Oxford he was in the habit of giving alms to the poor whom he met in his walks, and was a member of a musical society. The supposition (Plumptre) that he was fascinated even ‘in scant measure’ by the license of the Restoration is utterly unwarranted. He graduated B.A. on 3 May 1661, and M.A. on 21 Jan. 1664. In 1661 he held a tutorship at New College, lecturing on logic and mathematics, and having taken orders in that or the following year (ib.), was in 1663 presented to the rectory of Little Easton, Essex, where he acted as spiritual counsellor to the saintly Margaret, lady Maynard (d. 1682), daughter of the Earl of Dysart, and second wife of William, lord Maynard, patron of the living. He resigned the rectory in 1665, and went to Winchester, becoming domestic chaplain to Bishop George Morley, and taking gratuitous charge of the parish of St. John in the Soke, where he induced many unbaptised persons of adult age to receive baptism (Hawkins, p. 4). On 8 Dec. 1666 he was elected a fellow of Winchester, resigning in consequence his fellowship at New College, and as a parting gift contributing 100l. to the new buildings there. He was collated in 1667 to the rectory of Brightstone in the Isle of Wight, and became known in London as an eloquent preacher by sermons which he delivered in the old church at Chelsea. Resigning Brightstone in 1669, he was collated to a prebend at Winchester, and to the rectory of East Woodhay, Hampshire, which he resigned in 1672 to make room for his friend George Hooper [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Bath and Wells. He then resided at Winchester, again taking gratuitous charge of the parish of St. John in the Soke, performing his duties in the cathedral and the college, and as bishop's chaplain, and recreating himself with music, for he had an organ of his own. In 1674 he published his ‘Manual for Winchester Scholars,’ though as yet without the three hymns. In 1675 he went for a tour on the continent with his nephew, the younger Isaac Walton, and visited Rome, where he saw enough, he is reported to have afterwards said to James II, to keep him from changing his religion (Spence, Anecdotes, p. 329, where it is asserted that he acknowledged a previous inclination towards the church of Rome). On his return some people mistakenly thought that ‘he had been tinged with popery’ by his visit (Wood).
Ken continued to live at Winchester until 1679, when he took the degree of D.D., was appointed chaplain to Mary, the king's sister, wife of William II, prince of Orange, the stadtholder of Holland, and went to reside at the Hague. He had a difficult post to fill. In the spring of the next year he expressed himself ‘horribly unsatisfied’ with the prince's unkind behaviour towards his wife, and declared that he would remonstrate with him, even at the risk of being ‘kicked out of doors’ (Sidney). William's anger was excited against him, because he persuaded Count Zulestein to marry a lady whom he had seduced; he resented the prince's threats and resigned his post, but William appears to have been struck by his courage; he consented to remain, and his relations with the prince improved. Henry Compton [q. v.], bishop of London, having consulted him as to a possible union between the church of England and the Dutch protestants, he wrote that it would be better to let the scheme drop. While at the Hague he effected the conversion from Roman catholicism of Colonel Edward Fitzpatrick, brother of Richard Fitzpatrick, lord Gowran [q. v.] On his return to England in the autumn of 1680 he was commanded to preach before the king, and soon afterwards became one of the king's chaplains. He again resided at Winchester, and, perhaps in the summer of 1683, when the court was about to visit the city, refused to allow the royal harbinger to appropriate his prebendal house to the use of Eleanor Gwyn [q. v.], saying that ‘a woman of ill-repute ought not to be endured in the house of a clergyman, and especially the king's chaplain’ (Hawkins, p. 9). In August he sailed for Tangier as chaplain to Lord Dartmouth, the commander of the fleet sent to destroy the fortifications there. During the expedition he had various discussions with Samuel Pepys; he was horrified at the wickedness of the place, and preached boldly against it and against the ‘excessive liberty of swearing’ in which the English garrison and soldiers indulged (Pepys, Life, ii. 149). He returned to England in April 1684.
In November he was informed that the king had chosen him to succeed Peter Mew [q. v.], bishop of Bath and Wells, who was translated to Winchester on the death of Ken's friend, Bishop Morley. Charles is said to have declared that no one should have the see but ‘the little black fellow that refused his lodging to poor Nelly’ (Anderdon, p. 142). The king had the highest opinion of Ken, and was personally responsible for the appointment (Hawkins, p. 9). Having been elected on 16 Dec., Ken was consecrated at Lambeth on 25 Jan. 1685. On 2 Feb. he was summoned to the king's deathbed, and strove to awaken Charles's conscience, speaking, it was said, ‘like a man inspired,’ and vainly urging him to receive the sacrament. He persuaded the king to have the Duchess of Portsmouth removed from his room, and to send for the queen. Finally, he absolved the king, for which he was blamed by some, because he received no declaration of penitence (on this see Plumptre, i. 85 n.; Macaulay, i. 435). Returning to Winchester after the death of Charles, he used his influence to secure the election to parliament of the candidates for the city favoured by James II. He had taken up his residence at Wells, but was in London when Monmouth's followers desecrated his cathedral, and probably also at the time of the battle of Sedgemoor, 6 July (ib. p. 214; Macaulay, i. 636 n.) He went, together with Turner, bishop of Ely, to apprise Monmouth of his fate on the evening of 13 July, and in common with Turner, Tenison, and Hooper, he was sent by the king to attend the duke in the Tower the night before his death; he remained with him all night, and accompanied him to the place of execution on the 15th, where he took no part in the altercation on the scaffold, confining himself to his devotional duties (Hawkins, p. 38; Anderdon, ii. 48; Account, &c. Somers Tracts, ix. 261; but on the other side Burnet, iii. 49). He then went down to Wells, interceded with the king to put a stop to the cruelties of Kirke, and is said to have saved a hundred prisoners from death (Perkins, pp. 5, 7). The remaining prisoners at Wells he visited day and night, supplied their wants as far as he was able, and urged others to do the same.
Ken had to borrow money, which he punctually repaid, for the expenses of his consecration, when, instead of giving a feast and gloves, he contributed 100l. to the rebuilding of St. Paul's; his see was not a rich one, and he helped his poor relations, yet when in 1686 he came into a sum of 4,000l. by the renewal of a lease, he gave the larger part of it to the fund for the Huguenot refugees, in whose welfare he took great interest. When in London he went afoot, while other bishops drove in coaches (ib.) He was inclined to asceticism, and probably to an orthodox mysticism (see Plumptre, ii. 297, 298). The holiness and spirituality of his character impressed all who knew him. As bishop he was anxious for the good of the people of his diocese, and published for their instruction his ‘Practice of Divine Love,’ in which he afterwards altered some passages in a distinctively protestant direction, and his ‘Directions for Prayer.’ When, as his custom was, he gave alms to the poor whom he met, he would ask them if they could say the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Finding the ignorance of the grown people hopeless, he took much pains to promote the religious education of the children, set up schools where they could be taught to read and say the catechism, and furnished the clergy with the necessary books for teaching them. In the summer he often went to some large parish on a Sunday, and would preach twice, confirm, and catechise. When at Wells on Sunday he would have twelve poor persons to dine with him, and would give them religious counsel. He was much concerned at the poverty of the Wells people, and wished to get a workhouse set up, but was forced to relinquish the plan, as the gentry gave him no help (Hawkins, p. 16).
James seems to have regarded Ken with respect and favour, while the bishop was too thorough a churchman and tory not to feel and profess profound respect for the king. In 1687, however, James was engaged in an attempt to depress the church and the protestant religion, and was carrying matters with a high hand when Ken was summoned to preach in his turn at Whitehall in Lent. The Princess Anne and many nobles came to hear him. He denounced the doctrines and practices of Rome, and exhorted his hearers to persevere in the faith taught in the church of England. This sermon was held to contribute much to the discomfiture of the ‘popish party’ (Evelyn}, Diary, 10 March 1687). On 5 May he preached before the queen in Bath Abbey a sermon which was answered by a jesuit in a pamphlet dedicated to the king. When James came to Bath in the summer, he touched for the king's evil in the abbey church between the hours of service, a ritual of a Romish character being used. Ken wrote to Archbishop Sancroft that he had had no time to interfere, but on the next Sunday had declared in his sermon that the church doors might be set open ‘to a common work of charity,’ which he considered the best expedient to prevent scandal (letter of 26 Aug.; Plumptre, i. 280). On 1 April 1688, when the first Declaration of Indulgence had been put forth, he again preached at Whitehall, and, suggesting a parallel between the peoples of Judah, Edom, and Babylon, and the English church, the dissenters, and the Roman catholics, urged, in clear though guarded terms, the necessity of union between churchmen and dissenters in the face of the common foe. When James sent for him and reproached him with stirring up strife, he answered that ‘if his majesty had not neglected his own duty of being present, his enemies had missed this opportunity of accusing him.’ In May he joined the rest of the ‘seven bishops’ in a petition to the king against obliging the clergy to read the second Declaration of Indulgence. The interview between the king and the bishops took place on 18 May; on 8 June the bishops were summoned before the king in council, and were sent to the Tower for refusing, on the plea of their peerages, to enter into recognisances; on the 15th they were brought before the court of king's bench, and their plea being disallowed they entered into recognisances, and were allowed to be at large; on the 29th they were tried at the king's bench for having written or published a seditious libel, and the following morning were acquitted. In common with other bishops, Ken, by the royal command, attended the king to give him counsel on 28 Sept., 3 Oct., and some later days, and then went down to Wells, where he remained during the events of the revolution until after Christmas. He went up to London by Sancroft's request, and in the convention which met on 22 Jan. 1689 voted for the request that the Prince of Orange should continue the administration, for the declaration against government by a popish prince, for a regency, and against the declaration that the throne was vacant; he joined the protest against the declaration of William and Mary, and voted against the new oaths. For some months he was in doubt which line to adopt, and was reproached for his ‘fluctuation’ by Henry Dodwell the elder [q. v.] and other nonjuring friends. By October he declared publicly to his diocese his intention not to take the oaths, but he had no fellow-feeling with the more violent nonjurors; he thought that the question was one for each man's conscience, and decided according to the dictates of his own. In April 1691 he was deprived of his see.
Ken had no private fortune; he had been too liberal to lay by money during his episcopate, and when he left Wells had no more than 700l., raised by the sale of his goods, with the exception of his books. In exchange for this sum his friend Thomas, viscount Weymouth, guaranteed him a life annuity of 80l. From this date he lived chiefly at Lord Weymouth's house, Longleat, Wiltshire, and much at Naish House, near Portishead, Somerset, the residence of two maiden ladies named Kemeys, sometimes staying with Isaac Walton at his rectory of Polshot, Wiltshire, with Francis Cherry [q. v.] and other friends. He opposed the ‘clandestine consecration’ of nonjuring bishops in February 1694, for he was not willing that the schism should be perpetuated. But he certainly published a severe letter, dated 29 March 1695, accusing Archbishop Tenison of unfaithfulness when attending the deathbed of Queen Mary, and commenting on the archbishop's sermon for the queen's funeral. In the following April, dressed in his episcopal vestments, Ken read the burial service over the body of his friend Dr. John Kettlewell [q. v.], in Barking Church. In July he joined the other deprived bishops in putting forth a ‘charitable recommendation’ on behalf of the deprived clergy and their families. This led to his being summoned before the council in April 1696. His answers to the interrogatories proposed to him are reported by himself (Hawkins, pp. 48–56); he was courteously treated, and liberated from custody. In 1699 he received a legacy from Dr. John Fitzwilliam [q. v.], an old Oxford friend. His disapproval of the consecrations of 1694 caused a separation between him and the more violent nonjurors; he declared that he never used or would be present at public prayers containing any ‘characterisetick,’ any acknowledgment, that is, of either king, and he earnestly desired that the schism should end with the living, that the death of a deprived bishop should be held to give the intruder into his see a canonical position. In 1701 he suggested that he and Bishop Lloyd (Norwich), the only two deprived bishops then living, should hasten the termination of the schism by resigning their canonical claims. His moderate behaviour and his anxiety for the peace of the church still further offended many of the nonjurors.
In 1702 Queen Anne offered through Lord Weymouth to restore Ken to his see. He refused the offer, both because he would not take the oath of abjuration, and on the ground of age and infirmity. His health was declining (see Plumptre, ii. 123), and he suffered severely from rheumatism and colic. On 26 Nov. 1703 Richard Kidder [q. v.], who had supplanted him at Wells, died. The principles on which Kidder administered the diocese had been a cause of grief to Ken, who in speaking of him showed that he was not exempt from the feelings with which less holy men are wont to regard those supplanting them in office; to him Kidder was a ‘hireling’ who ‘ravaged the flock.’ Hearing that the see had been offered to his friend Hooper, then bishop of St. Asaph, and had been declined by him, he wrote to beg Hooper to accept it, in order to prevent the appointment of a ‘latitudinarian traditor,’ and offered to cede his right to him. Hooper accepted the see. Ken was bitterly attacked by many nonjurors for making this cession, and their reproaches not abating, he in 1704 turned to his friend Lloyd for sympathy. Lloyd, however, blamed him for acting without the consent of the heads of the party, and a short heat arose between the friends, which was ended by a letter from Ken expressing sorrow for any signs of irritation on his part. In June the queen granted Ken a treasury pension of 200l. Lloyd's death in January 1710 left Ken the only survivor of the deprived bishops, and in answer to a letter from Nelson he said that he considered that the schism ought to end, and looked forward with approval to the return of Dodwell and his friends to attendance at the services of the church. ‘Being a public person,’ he did not intend to return to church, though he should not hesitate to communicate with his successor ‘in that part of the office which is unexceptionable.’ On 21 April he intended to go to Wells and receive the sacrament with Bishop Hooper. It is unlikely that he was able to do so, for his health became worse, and he went to the Bristol Hot-well, where he remained suffering acutely until November, when he visited Lewston, near Sherborne, Dorset, the residence of the widow of Lord Weymouth's eldest son. While there he was attacked early in 1711 by paralysis and dropsy. He left Lewston, intending to try the Bath waters, and reached Longleat on 10 March. On the 12th he was unable to leave his bed, and on the 19th he died. On the 21st he was buried agreeably to his instructions at sunrise, without any manner of pomp, in the churchyard of the parish church nearest the place of his death, beneath the east window of the parish church of Frome. His tomb is merely a coffin-shaped iron grating, with a mitre and crozier. In his will Ken declared: ‘I die in the holy catholic and apostolic faith, professed by the whole church before the division of East and West; more particularly I die in the communion of the church of England, as it stands distinguished from all papal and puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the cross’ (Hawkins, p. 27).
In person Ken was short and slender, with dark eyes and hair. His expression was winning. He wore no hair on his face and no wig, allowing his thin hair to grow long at the sides of his head. In manner he was courteous, and in disposition affectionate, tender, and compassionate. Though he was learned, there is no ground for ranking him with the most learned men of the time; he was accomplished, having a knowledge of French, Italian, and Spanish, and was a musician and a poet. He was an eloquent and energetic preacher. In speech and action he was guided by conscience rather than by logical reasoning; his conscience was tender and his feelings sensitive. By nature he seems to have been quick-tempered, but was always ready to ask pardon of any whom he had offended. In the cause of right he was outspoken and courageous. Liberal, unselfish, and unostentatious, he gave largely, though his means were small. Ten portraits of Ken, painted by unknown artists, are extant, one in the palace at Wells, one at Longleat, two at Winchester College, two at New College, one at Oriel College, one in the National Portrait Gallery, one in the possession of the family of J. L. Anderdon, and one belonging to Mr. Wickham of Horsington, Somerset. Several portraits exist on medals and in engravings of the ‘Seven Bishops.’ An engraving of Ken's portrait by Vertue in the British Museum is copied in Dean Plumptre's ‘Life of Bishop Ken.’
As early as 1711 Dryden's description of the poor parson of a town, from Chaucer, was appropriated to Ken (Preface to Expostularia), and a panegyric was written on him in English and Latin verse by the laureate, Joshua Perkins. Bowles's ‘Life’ in 1830 revived the reverence felt for him, which was further heightened by the high church movement at Oxford. J. H. Newman, in No. lxxv. of ‘Tracts for the Times,’ published in June 1836, drew out a form of service for 21 March, the day of Ken's burial; Isaac Williams celebrated him in ‘Lyra Apostolica,’ No. cxiii., and his ‘Cathedral,’ p. 58; and Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton) wrote verses on his tomb. In 1848 a memorial window was set up in Frome parish church by the Marchioness of Bath; in 1867 his bust was placed in the shire-hall at Taunton; and in 1885 a window was set up to his memory in Wells Cathedral, and a commemorative service was held on 29 June, the anniversary of the trial of the ‘Seven Bishops.’
Ken's prose works were published, a few pieces only, by his nephew and executor, Hawkins, in 1713, by Round in 1838, and by the Rev. W. Benham in the ‘Ancient and Modern Library of Theological Literature’ in 1889. There have been attributed to Ken: 1. ‘The Retired Christian,’ rejected by Hawkins, Round, and others as undoubtedly spurious. 2. ‘Expostularia,’ a complaint of the church of England regarding the abuses of her system, published under the title of ‘Ichabod’ in 1663, when Ken was twenty-six, as ‘Lachrymæ Ecclesiæ’ in 1689, as ‘Expostularia’ on his death in 1711, and as the ‘Church of England's Complaint’ in 1737. As soon as the 1711 edition appeared with Ken's name, Hawkins inserted an advertisement in the ‘Post-boy’ declaring it spurious; the book excited Hearne's indignation, though he soon acknowledged the justice of its contents, and, while doubting its genuineness, did not see why it might ‘not bear so great a name;’ it is rejected by Round and Anderdon, but Dean Plumptre believes it to be Ken's work, and Mr. Benham has included it in his collection. In addition to Hawkins's rejection, which may fairly be held fatal to its pretension, it seems unlikely that ‘Ichabod’ should have been written by a man so modest as Ken at the age of twenty-six. 3. ‘The Royal Sufferer, a Manual of Meditations and Devotions,’ by T. K., D.D., 8vo, 1699; and 12mo, 1701, republished in 1725, with Ken's name, as the ‘Crown of Glory,’ addressed to James II; generally, and as far as its contents are concerned, not without fair ground, held to be spurious, though Dean Plumptre is inclined to accept it as genuine. The prose writings known to be Ken's are: 1. ‘Manual of Prayers for the use of Winchester Scholars,’ 1674, 1681, and with the ‘Hymns for Morning, Evening, and Midnight,’ 1695, and numerous editions, the hymns being also published separately in 1862, and with an introduction by Sir Roundell Palmer (Lord Selborne), 1864. ‘His elaborate works,’ says Macaulay, ‘have long been forgotten; but his morning and evening hymns (“Awake my soul,” and “Glory to Thee, my God, this night”) are still repeated daily in thousands of dwellings.’ 2. ‘Funeral Sermon’ for Lady Maynard, 1682; 3rd edit. 1688. 3. ‘Sermon preached at Whitehall,’ 1685. 4. ‘Practice of Divine Love,’ an exposition of the catechism, 1685, with ‘Directions for Prayer,’ 1686; other editions, translated into French, 1703; into Italian, 1865. 5. ‘Sermon preached at Whitehall, 1 April 1687,’ see above. 6. ‘Prayers for the use of all resorting to the Baths at Bath,’ reprinted 1692; with Life by Markland, 1848. 7. ‘Pastoral Letter,’ 1688, 1722, a ‘Letter to Clergy’ on behalf of the French protestants, articles of visitation, private letters, of which forty-eight are printed by Round, and many more by Dean Plumptre. 8. ‘A Letter to the Author [Archbishop Tenison] of a Sermon … at the Funeral of her late Majesty, Q. Mary,’ 1695; republished as ‘A dutifull Letter from a Prelate to a Prelate,’ &c., 1703, rejected by Anderdon, but conclusively proved to be genuine by Mr. Doble (see authorities), and printed by Dean Plumptre and Mr. Benham.
Ken's poetical works were published by Hawkins in four vols. in 1721, the first containing poems and hymns on the gospel narrative and the church festivals, and a series of pieces entitled ‘Christophil;’ the second ‘Edmund,’ an epic in thirteen books, and poems on the attributes of God; the third ‘Hymnothes, or the Penitent,’ an epic in thirteen books, with some autobiographical touches, and a series of pieces entitled ‘Anodynes, or Alleviations of Pain;’ the fourth ‘Preparations for Death,’ ‘Psyche,’ ‘Sion,’ ‘Urania,’ and ‘Damonet and Dorilla, or Chaste Love,’ a pastoral. With perhaps the exception of the hymn on the ‘Nativity,’ which owes something to Milton, these poems are tedious and rugged, and have nothing of the beauty and majestic simplicity of the three hymns of the ‘Manual.’[Hawkins's Short Account of Ken's Life, 1713, is entitled to rank as an original authority, and contains matter derived from personal knowledge and from Ken himself, but it is neither full nor perfectly accurate; it is reprinted in Round's edition of the Prose Works and in Cassan's Bishops of Bath and Wells, and is the basis of the life in Biog. Brit. iii. 2811. Bowles's Life, 2 vols. 1830, had its use, but may now be disregarded; it contains many irrelevant reflections. The Life by a Layman (J. L. Anderdon), 2 vols. 1851, 1854, gives all important facts and many letters, and is an admirable biography. The Life by Dean Plumptre, 2 vols. 1888, revised 1890, to which the above article is specially indebted, is exhaustive, and has several hitherto unpublished letters; it devotes too much space to imaginary details. Other Lives by Salmon, in Lives of the Bishops, 1733, by Markland, 1849, by Druyckink, New York, 1859, and by Miss Strickland, in Lives of the Seven Bishops, 1866, need not be consulted. See, however, Spence's Anecdotes, p. 329, ed. 1820; Perkins's Poem on the Death of T. K., 1711; Evelyn's Diary, ed. Bray, 1854, ii. 205, 251, 263, 272–6, 295, 312–13; Burnet's Own Times, 8vo, Oxford edit., ii. 429, 458, iii. 49, 50, which generally takes as unfavourable a view of Ken's conduct as is possible; Kennett's Hist. iii. 429, 437, 483; Life of Kettlewell, pp. 423 sqq.; Macaulay's Hist. ed. 1855. For Life at the Hague, see Diary of Times of Charles II, by H. Sydney (Earl Romney), ii. 19 sq., ed. Blencowe; for Tangier voyage, see Pepys's Life by Smith, ii. 149; for Ken at execution of Duke of Monmouth, see Somers Tracts, ix. 261, and references in text; for authorship of Expostularia besides Round's Pref. to Prose Works and Lives by Anderdon and Dean Plumptre, see Hearne's Collections, ed. Doble (Oxford Hist. Soc.), iii. 170, 171; and for letters to Tenison, see Mr. Doble's letter in Academy, 14 March 1885, p. 188, and his Hearne's Collect. u. s. i. 324, 326, 394, ii. 416, and Evelyn's Diary, u. s. iii. 345. For action with respect to healing of schism, Secretan's Life of Nelson, pp. 73–7, and Lathbury's Hist. of Nonjurors, pp. 194–214.]