Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kennedy, James (1793?-1827)

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KENNEDY, JAMES (1793?–1827), author of ‘Conversations on Religion with Lord Byron,’ was born about 1793, graduated M.D. at Edinburgh in 1813, became hospital assistant to the forces in 1814, and assistant staff-surgeon 22 June 1815. He passed much of his life in foreign parts, chiefly in Malta and the Ionian Islands. Wherever he was stationed he was zealous in promoting the circulation of the Bible, the establishment of schools, and other benevolent objects. While stationed as physician to the garrison at Cephalonia he accidentally made the acquaintance of Lord Byron, who passed a few months there on his way to Greece in 1823. Kennedy was then delivering a series of lectures on the evidences of Christianity, to which some rather sceptical friends of his were invited. Byron was at the first meeting; and although he did not attend any of the others, he had frequent conversations with Kennedy on the subject of religion, and entertained a sincere liking and respect for him. To the care of Kennedy and his wife Byron committed shortly afterwards a little girl who had fallen into his hands, with some other Turkish prisoners, and whom he intended to adopt (cf. Byron's letter to Kennedy in Moore's Life of Byron, No. 549). In December 1826 Kennedy was ordered to the West Indies, and he died in Jamaica of yellow fever, 18 Sept. 1827. After his death appeared his work entitled ‘Conversations on Religion with Lord Byron and others,’ 8vo, London, 1830, which was soon reprinted by Galignani in Paris. It contains a simple and popular summary of the chief evidences of Christianity, and gives a somewhat different and more favourable impression of Byron than was commonly entertained [see Byron, George Gordon].

[Memoir by his widow prefixed to Conversations; Moore's Life of Byron.]

W. A. G.