Kennedy, Walter (DNB00)

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KENNEDY, WALTER (1460?–1508?), Scottish poet, was the third son of Gilbert, first lord Kennedy. His grandmother was Mary, a daughter of Robert III, and his uncle James Kennedy [q. v.], bishop of St. Andrews, was one of the regents during the minority of James III, and the principal adviser of that king till his death in 1466. His niece, Janet, was one of the mistresses of James IV, who created her Lady Bothwell, and granted her the castle and forest of Darnaway for life. The family to which the poet belonged was by these royal connections and the great estates it held in the west of Scotland, especially in Carrick, one of the most important of the minor noble houses of Scotland. Walter was educated at the college of Glasgow, where he matriculated in 1475, along with James Black, described as ‘famulus’ or tutor ‘nobilis viri Walteri Kennedy.’ He graduated as bachelor or determinant in 1476, and licentiate and M.A. in 1478. On 3 Nov. 1481 he was one of four masters of arts elected as examiners. Walter acted as depute of his nephew John, second lord Kennedy, in his hereditary office of bailie of Carrick in 1492 (Acta Dom. Concilii, 26 Feb. 1492). His ‘commissar,’ according to Dunbar's ‘Flyting,’ was ‘Quentyn’ more probably identical with Quintin Schaw, a poet, than with Quintin Kennedy [q. v.], abbot of Crosraguel. About 1494 a son of Gilbert, lord Kennedy, was provost of Maybole in Ayrshire, a collegiate church founded by his ancestor, Sir John Kennedy of Dunure, and it is not unlikely that this was the poet, who appears from the character of some of his poems to have been in holy orders. His name does not appear either in the ‘Treasurer's Accounts’ or in the ‘Exchequer Rolls,’ in which it would have been natural to find him enjoying a salary like so many of his poet contemporaries. Dunbar was the rival of Kennedy in the ‘Flyting,’ usually printed with Dunbar's poems, although half consists of the taunts levelled against Dunbar by Kennedy and by ‘Quentyn,’ ‘his commissar.’ In this poem, which is the chief authority for Kennedy's biography, Dunbar states that Kennedy acquired

    A laithly luge that wes the lipper mennis,

which probably refers to his purchase, on 8 Dec. 1504, of Glentigh in Ayrshire, where there had been a leper hospital. Kennedy and his kin were stauncher adherents of the old doctrines than Dunbar, and in several passages in the ‘Flyting’ he taunts Dunbar with leaning to lollardy. Elsewhere Dunbar implies that Kennedy took part in a treasonable enterprise against the king at Paisley (probably referring to the rising against James IV in 1489); was ‘air to Hillhouse,’ Sir John Sandilands, the master of artillery under James IV; played the beggar in a ‘wachemans weed’ in Galloway (perhaps in allusion to an episode in his life when he had been obliged to hide to escape a charge of treason), and had for his wife or mistress ‘a soutars wife.’ In Dunbar's eyes Kennedy was a half-barbarous Celt, who always wore highland dress, spoke the Gaelic dialect, and resembled a leper on account of his lean neck, shrivelled throat, and dry yellow skin. From one of Dunbar's remarks it appears that Kennedy, like Dunbar and other of his countrymen, had visited Denmark.

Assuming the ‘Flyting’ to have been written in 1504, as the allusion to Glentigh makes probable, the subsequent reference in Dunbar's ‘Lament for the Makaris,’ written before 1508, to

    Good Maister Walter Kennedy,
    In poynt of dede lies verraly,

gives the probable date of his death, and proves that there was no real bitterness in Dunbar's railing (cf. Irving, Scotish Poetry, ed. J. A. Carlyle, pp. 253–4).

References by other poets show that Kennedy was held in high esteem by his contemporaries. Gavin Douglas, in the ‘Palace of Honour,’ written in 1501, styles him ‘greit Kennedie as yet undeid;’ and Sir David Lindsay notes his ornate language.

Kennedy's poems, besides his parts of the ‘Flyting,’ are: 1. ‘The Praise of Age’ (in Bannatyne and Maitland MSS.) 2. ‘Ane Agit Manis Invective against Mouth Thankless,’ a palinode for one of his amours, possibly that with the soutar's wife (in Bannatyne and Maitland MSS.) 3. ‘Ane ballat in praise of our Lady’ (Asloane MS.) 4. ‘Pious Counsale’ (Bannatyne and Maitland MSS.) 5. ‘The Passion of Christ,’ a long poem (Howard MS.), from which extracts have been printed, together with all his other known works, by Laing in his edition of Dunbar. The ‘Flyting’ was printed, with other Scottish poems, by Chepman & Myllar in 1508, and was reprinted in 1828.

Most of his poetry, like the first part of the ‘Flyting,’

    Ane thing thair is compild
    In generale be Kennedy and Quintyng,

is, however, undoubtedly lost, and it would be perhaps safer to trust the verdict of contemporaries than of posterity as to its merits.

[Laing's and Scottish Text Society's editions of Dunbar; Historie of the Kennedies, written in 1613, and printed by Pitcairn, 1830.]

Æ. M.