Kenrick, William

, the son of a stay-maker at or near Watford in Hertfordshire, is said to have been brought up to some mechanical employment in London, most | probably that of mathematical instrument maker, or, as others have reported, that of scale-maker. Whatever it was, he seems to have early abandoned it, and devoted his talents to the cultivation of literature, by which he supported himself during the remainder of a life which, from his unhappy temper, and irritable vanity, may be said to have passed in a state of warfare, as he was seldom without an enemy to attack or defend himself from. One account informs us that he was for some time a student at Leyden, and there received a degree of LL. D.: it was, however, more generally current that he had been indebted for this honour to some of the Scotch universities. In either case, it was not unworthily bestowed, for Dr. Kenrick was really a man of talents, and deficient only in the knowledge of making a proper use of them; it was his misfortune likewise to settle upon no regular plan of study, and to fancy himself equal to any task which his necessities imposed upon him.

The first appearance he made as an author, as far as we can trace him, was in a pamphlet, entitled “The grand question debated, or an Essay to prove that the soul of man is not, neither can it be, immortal,1751, which was immediately followed by a “Reply to the grand question debated, fully proving that the soul of man is, and must be, immortal.” Both are superficial enough, and seem intended as a trial of that author-craft which he afterwards so often practised, in attacking or defending himself, under anonymous signatures, when he found no one else disposed to do either. About the same time he published a poem entitled“” Kapelion, or the poetical ordinary;“which was followed in 1753, by the first of those attacks on his brethren which kept him in perpetual warfare. It was. entitled” The Pasquinade, with notes variorum, book the first,“4to, and intended as an imitation of the Dunciad. Dr. (afterwards sir John) Hill and Christopher Smart were the chief heroes. This was immediately followed by another imitation, equally unsuccessful, of Dodsley’s” (Economy of Human Life“(which then passed for lord Chesterfield’s), entitled” The whole Duty of a Woman," 12mo.

His “Epistles, Philosophical and Moral,” or “Epistle to Lorenzo,” appeared in 1758, and may be reckoned among the best specimens of his poetry, which is not without ease and elegance. As it was rather severely handled in the Critical Review, he defended himself, in a pamphlet without his name, entitled “A Scrutiny, or the | Critics criticised.” It was not easy for him, however, in any shape, to vindicate what was too plainly a defence of infidelity, nor was it much excuse that it was written while under confinement for debt. About this time he probably obtained an engagement as a writer in the Monthly Review, which ceased in 1766, silently on the part of the proprietors of that work; but Dr. Kenrick thought the rupture of too much consequence to be concealed, and therefore announced, in the newspapers, in 1766, “that he declined to write any more in the Monthly Review; that he had been author of the Appendix to that work, consisting of a review of foreign publications, for the volumes 28 to 33 inclusive; and that he had formed connexions with several gentlemen of the first rank in the world of letters, for establishing a literary review on a new, liberal, and independent plan,

This last threat he did not carry into eJFect for some years; but, as a specimen of his “liberal and independent” style, he published about this time (1765) “A Review of Dr. Johnson’s new edition of Shakspeare,” which being answered by a young man of Oxford, of the name of Barclay, in a pamphlet called “An Examination of Mr. Kenrick’s Review,1766, he immediately published “A Defence of Mr. Kenrick’s Review,” under the name of “A Friend,” which was a very proper assumption, as he seldom had another. In this last year he produced his “Falstaff’s Wedding,” a comedy, in imitation of Shakspeare, and, as far as the language of Falstaff and his companions are concerned, not an unpleasant one, although rather approaching to the extravagant. It went through two editions, but was acted only once, for a benefit. This was followed by another comedy, “The Widowed Wife.” This, by Garrick’s assistance, ran through its nine nights with some difficulty, which the author, with a degree of gratitude peculiar to himself, attributed to the very person to whom he had been most indebted. In 1768 he published “An Epistle to George Colman,” “Poems, ludicrous, satirical and moral;” and “An Epistle to James Boswell, esq. occasioned by his having transmitted the moral writings of Dr. Johnson to Pascal Paoli.” By all these he acquired little reputation, and no enemies; for Colman, Johnson, and Boswell, disdained to notice him. In 1770 and 1771 he published two pieces connected with his discovery, or pretended discovery, of the perpetual | motion the one, “An account of the Automaton, or Perpetual Motion of Orffyreus, with additional remarks, &c. the otherA Lecture on the Perpetual Motion,“which he had delivered at a tavern. In all this, Dr. Kenrick was harmlessly, if not successfully employed, and certainly evinced a considerable knowledge of the science of mechanics. About the same time he published a translation of the abbe Milot’sElements of the History of England,“and advertised a translation of” De Lolme on the Constitution," which we presume he did not execute.

In 1772 he disgraced his character by an atrocious attack on Garrick in a poem called “Love in the Suds,” for which that gentleman commenced a prosecution in the court of king’s bench. Kenrick immediately published “A Letter to David Garrick, &c.” in which he informed the public of the cause of his quarrel with him, and the motives of his writing “Love in the Suds.A public apology also appeared in the newspapers, Nov. 26, as mean and false as the libel itself. The issue of the prosecution we have not discovered.

In 1773 he collected the works of Lloyd, 2 vols. 8vo, with a life of that unfortunate poet, remarkable for being written without any dates. In the same year, he produced “The Duellist,” a comedy, acted only one night; and published a “Dictionary” of the English language, 4to, in the preliminary parts of which are many shrewd and useful discussions and remarks. The little credit he had with the world at this time must, we think, have impeded the success of this work, in which he shews himself a philologer of no mean talents. In 1774, we find him giving lectures at the Devil tavern, which he called “A School of Shakspeare j” and about the same time addressed the artists and manufacturers of Great Britain respecting an application to parliament for ascertaining the right of property in new discoveries and inventions. Fancying that he had discovered the perpetual motion, he was at this time alarmed by the literary property bill; but we hear no more afterwards of his discovery.

In January 1775, he commenced his “London Review,” and along with his own name, placed in the title those of H. Reimarus, J. U. D. R. Williams, M D. E. Warner, A. M. and the rev. S. T. Maty. Except Reimarus, we believe it will be difficult to find these names in any list of “gentlemen of the first rank in the world of letters.| Review, however, went on for some years, and contains, from the pen of its chief author, repeated attacks upon his brethren in every profession. It continued a few months after his death, and then sunk into oblivion. In the same year 1775, he began a translation of Buffon, to be published in numbers, and in 1778 a translation of Voltaire’s works. His last dramatic attempt was “The Lady of the Manor,” a comic opera, taken from Johnson’s “Country Lasses;” and his last original publications, both of some degree of merit, were “Observations on the marriage contract;” and “Observations on Jenyns’s View of the Internal Evidence, &c.” This last had formed an article in his Review, whence other articles of equal ability might be selected, were they not all contaminated by a style vituperative and malignant. In his latter days, his constitution was so much injured by inebriety, that he generally wrote with a bottle of brandy at his elbow, which at length terminated his career June 10, 1779, less lamented than perhaps any person known in the literary world, yet possessed of talents which, under a steady and virtuous direction, might have procured him an honourable place among the authors of his time. 1


Gent. Mag. passim. Month, Review. Encyclopaedia Britan.