Kelly, John

, a learned English clergyman, was born Nov. 1, 1750, at Douglas, in the Isle of Man. Descended from a line of forefathers who had from time immemorial possessed a small freehold near that town, called Aalcaer, which devolved on the doctor, he was placed under the tuiton of the rev. Philip Moore, master of the free grammar-school of Douglas, where he became speedily distinguished by quickness of intellect, and the rapidity of his classical progress. From the pupil he became the favourite and the companion of his instructor, whose regard he appears to have particularly conciliated by his skill in the vernacular dialect of the Celtic tongue, spoken in that island. When not seventeen, young Kelly attempted the difficult task of reducing to writing the grammatical rules, and proceeded to compile a dictionary of the tongue. The obvious difficulties of such an undertaking to a school- boy may be estimated by the reflection that this was the very | first attempt to embody, to arrange, or to grammaticize, this language: that it was made without any aid whatever from books, Mss or from oral communications; but merely by dint of observation on the conversation of his unlettered countrymen. It happened at this moment that Dr. Hildesley, the then bishop of Sodor and Man, had brought to maturity his benevolent plan of bestowing on the natives of the island a translation of the Holy Scriptures, of the Common Prayer book, and of some religious tracts, in their own idiom. His lordship most gladly availed himself of the talents and attainments of this young man, and prevailed on him to dedicate several years of his life to his lordship’s favourite object. The Scriptures had been distributed in portions amongst the insular clergy, for each, to translate his part: on Mr. K. the serious charge was. imposed of revising, correcting, and giving uniformity to these several translations of the Old Testament; and also that of conducting through the press the whole of these publications. In June 1768 he entered on his duties: in April 1770 he transmitted the first portion to Whitehaven, where the work was printed; but when conveying the second, he was shipwrecked, and narrowly escaped perishing. The ms. with which he was charged was held five hours above water; and was nearly the only article on board preserved. In the course of “his labours in the vineyard,” he transcribed, with his own hand, all the books of the Old Testament three several times. The whole impression was completed, under his guidance, in December 1772, speedily after the worthy bishop died.

In 1776, Mr. Kelly received an invitation from the Episcopal congregation at Air, in North Britain, to become their pastor. On this title he was ordained by the bishop of Carlisle, before whom he preached the ordination sermon. From that time lip continued to reside at Air till 1779, when he was engaged by his grace the duke of Gordon as tutor to his son the marquis of Huntley. The studies of this gallant young nobleman Mr. K. continued to direct at Eton and Cambridge; and afterwards accompanied him on a tour to the Continent. After his return, in 1791, by the interest of his noble patron, Mr. K. obtained from the chancellor the presentation to the vicarage of Ardl< igh near Colchester, which preferment he continued to hold till 1807. Being presented by the chancellor to the more valuable rectory of Copford in the same | neighbourhood, Dr. Kelly had the satisfaction of being enabled to resign his vicarage of Ardleigh in favour of his friend and brother-in-law the rev. Henry Bishop.

He was of St. John’s-college, Cambridge, where he proceeded LL. B. 1794, LL. D. 1799. In 1803 he corrected and sent to the press the grammatical notes on his native dialect, above alluded to: these were printed by Nichols and Son, with a neat Dedication to the doctor’s former pupil, under the title of “A Practical Grammar of the ancient Gaelic, or language of the Isle of Man, usually called Manks.

In 1805 he issued proposals for printing “A Triglot Dictionary of the Celtic tongue, as spoken in the Highlands of Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man;” and bestowed considerable pains in bringing to completion this useful and curious work. It has been the misfortune of Celtic literature, that those learned persons whose maternal tongue happens to have been one of these dialects, faave usually treated it with neglect: but it has been its still greater misfortune to be overlaid and made ridiculous by the reveries of many of those whose “zeal” is utterly u without knowledge" of the subject on which they descant. Dr. Kelly furnished the rare and probably solitary example of a competent skill in these three last surviving dialects of the Celtic. With every aid which could be afforded by a well-grounded knowledge of the learned languages, and of the principal tongues now spoken in Europe, and with every attention to such prior memorials of the tongue as are really useful, Dr. Kelly proceeded, con amore, with his task. As it advanced, it was transmitted to the press: in 1808, 63 sheets were printed; and the first part of the Dictionary, English turned into the three dialects, was nearly or quite completed, when the fire at Messrs. Nichols’s, which we have had such frequent occasion to lament, reduced to ashes the whole i npression. The doctor’s Mss. and some of the corrected proofs, it is understood, remain with the family; but whether the printing may ever be resumed, is doubtful. The doctor gave to the press an Assize Sermon, preached at Chelmsford; and a sermon for the benefit of a certain charitable institution preached likewise at the same place. The former was printed at the instance of chief baron Macdonald; the latter, at the earnest request of the right hon. lord Woodhouse. | In 1785 Dr. Kelly married Louisa, eldest daughter of Mr. Peter Dollond, of St. Paul’s church-yard. A short memoir was printed in 1808 of Mrs. Kelly’s grandfather, Mr. John Dollond, which we have already noticed in our account of that ingenious man. Whilst in possession of good health and spirits, with the prospect of many happy and ustful years yet to come, Dr. Kelly was seized by a typhus: after a short struggle, he expired Nov. 12, 1809, very sincerely regretted. To acuteness of intellect, sound and various learning, were added a disposition gentle, generous, and affectionate. His last remains, accompanied to the grave by his parishioners in a body, were interred on the 17th of November in his own parish-church, when an occasional discourse was delivered from the pulpit by the rev. J. G. Taylor, of Dedham near Colchester. Dr. Kelly left an only son, a fellow of St. John’s-college, Cambridge. 1


Gent Mag. vol. LXXX.—Butler’s Life of Bp. Hildesley, p. 231, 636.