Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kennett, Basil

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KENNETT, BASIL (1674–1715), miscellaneous writer, born at Postling, Kent, on 21 Oct. 1674, was younger brother of White Kennett [q. v.], bishop of Peterborough, He was educated under the care of his brother at Bicester grammar school and in the family of Sir William Glynne at Ambrosden, Oxfordshire. In 1689 he entered St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, under the tuition of his brother, who was then vice-principal. In 1690 he was elected scholar of Corpus Christi College as a native of Kent, and graduated B.A. in 1693, M.A. in 1696. In 1697 he became fellow and tutor of Corpus, His learning and amiable qualities won him the regard of all parties. In 1706 he was appointed chaplain to the British factory at Leghorn, being the first to fill that office, and received the decree of B.D. by decree of convocation. He was at first much harassed by the Inquisition, and had to seek the intervention of the English government. Bad health, caused by the climate and his dislike of exercise, obliged him to resign, and he preached for the last time on 8 Jan. 1712-13. He returned home by way of Florence, Rome, and Naples, and through France, collecting books, sculpture, and curiosities. He resumed residence at Corpus Christi in 1714, became D.D., and during the same year was elected president of his college, although he was 'even then.' as Hearne says, 'very sickly,' He died of slow fever on 3 Jan. 1714-15 (Rawl. MS. C. 915), and was buried in the college chapel.

Kennett was author of: 1. 'Romae Antiquae Notitia, or the Antiquities of Rome. . . .To which are prefixed two Essays concerning the Roman Learning and the Roman Education,' 8vo, London, 1696. This work, which passed through many editions, is dedicated to the Duke of Gloucester. A Dutch translation by W. Sewel appeared in pt. ii. of Seine's' Beschryving van Oud en Niew Rome,' fol. 1704. 2. 'The Lives and Characters of the Ancient Grecian Poets,' 2 pts. 8vo, London, 1697, also dedicated to the duke. 3. 'A Brief Exposition of the Apostles' Creed, according to Bishop Pearson, in a new method,' 8vo, 1705; other editions 1721 and 1736. 4. 'An Essay towards a Paraphrase on the Psalms in Verse, with a Paraphrase on the Third Chapter of the Revelations,' 8vo, 1706. 5. 'Sermons preached ... to a Society of British Merchants in Foreign Parts,' 8vo, London, 1715; 2nd edit., as 'Twenty Sermons,' 1737.

Among the Lansdowne MSS. are the following works by Kennett: 1. 'Poem to Queen Anne' (MS. 722, f. 1). 2. 'Collections on various subjects' (MSS, 924-34), 3. 'Oratio' (MS, 927, f. 19), 4, 'Lives of the Latin Poets' (MS, 930). 5. 'Letters to S. Blackwell' (MS. 1019). 6. 'Notes on the Church Catechism' (MS. 1043). 7. 'Notes on the New Testament' (MS. 1044).

He translated from the French: 1. Bishop Godeau's 'Pastoral Instructions for an Annual Retirement of Ten Days' [anon.], 8vo, 1703; another edition in 'A Plea for Seasons of Spiritual Retirement,' 1860. 2. Pascal's 'Thoughts upon Religion' [anon.], 8vo, 1704; other editions 1727 and 1741. 3, La Placette's 'The Christian Casuist,' 8vo, 1705, 4. 'Politics in Select Discourses of Monsieur Balzac which he called his Aristippus,' 8vo, 1709, with a preface by White Kennett. 5. 'The Whole Critical Works of Monsieur Rapin,' 8vo, 1716. He also helped to translate Puffendorf's 'Of the Law of Nature and Nations.' fol. 1710 (1729 and 1749), and translated Horace's Art of Poetry' (Brit. Mus. MS. Addit. 28726, f. 173). Hearne states, on the authority of James Tyrrell, that the third volume of White Kennett's 'History of England,' fol. 1706, was in reality the work of Basil Kennett.

Kennett likewise edited Bishop Vida's 'Poetica,' 8vo, 1701.

[Biographia Britannica; Lansd. MSS. 987 f. 863, 989 f, 156; Hearne's Notes and Collections (Oxf. Hist, Soc.), i. 288. 295, 311, 332. ii. 179. 234.]

G. G.