Ken, Thomas

, the deprived bishop of Bath and Wells, was descended from an ancient family seated at Kenplace, in Somersetshire, and born at Berkhamstead, in Hertfordshire, July 1637. At the age of thirteen he was sent to Winchester-school; and thence removed to Newcollege, in Oxford, of which he became a probationerfellow in 1657. He took his degrees regularly, and pursued his studies closely for many years; and in 1666 he removed to Winchester-college, being chosen fellow of that society. Not long after this, he was appointed domestic chaplain to Morley, bishop of that see, who presented him first to the rectory of Brixton, in the Isle of Wight, and afterwards to a prebend in the church of Westminster, 1669. In 1674 he made a tour to Rome, with his nephew Mr. Isaac Walton, then B. A. in Christchurch, in Oxford; and after his return, took his degrees in divinity, 1679. Not long after, being appointed chaplain to the princess of Orange, he went to Holland. Here his prudence and piety gained him the esteem | and confidence of his mistress; but in the course of his office, he happened to incur the displeasure of her consort, by obliging one of his favourites to perform a promise of marriage with a young lady of the princess’s train, whom he had seduced by that contract. This zeal in Ken so offended the prince, afterwards king William, that he very warmly threatened to turn him away from the service; which Ken as warmly resenting, requested leave of the princess to return home, and would* not consent to stay till intreated by the prince in person. About a year after, however, he returned to England, and was appointed in quality of chaplain, to attend lord Dartmouth with the royal commission to demolish the fortifications of Tangier. The doctor returned with this nobleman April 1684; and was immediately advanced to be chaplain to the king, by an order from his majesty himself. Not only the nature of the post, but the gracious manner of conferring it, evidently shewed that it was intended as a step to future favours; and this was so well understood, that, upon the removal of the court to pass the summer at Winchester, the doctor’s prebendal house was pitched upon for the use of Mrs. Eleanor Gwyn. But Ken was too pious even to countenance vice in his royal benefactor; and therefore positively refused admittance to the royal mistress, which the king, however, did not take amiss, as he knew the sincerity of the man; and, previous to any application, nominated him soon after to the bishopric of Bath and Wells. A few days after this, the king was seized with the illness of which he died; during which, the doctor thought it his duty to attend him very constantly, and did his utmost to awaken his conscience. Bishop Burnet tells us that he spoke on that occasion “with great elevation of thought and expression, and like a man inspired.” This pious duty was the cause of delaying his admission to the temporalities of the see of Wells; so that when king James came to the crown, new instruments were prepared for that purpose.

When he was settled in his see, he attended closely to his episcopal function. He published “An Exposition of the Church Catechism” in 1685, and the same year, “Prayers for the Use of the Bath.” Nor was he less zealous as a guardian of the national church in general, in opposing the attempts to introduce popery. He did not indeed take part in the popish controversy, then agitated | so warmly for he had very little of a controversial turn but from the pulpit, he frequently took occasion to mark and confute the errors of popery; nor did he spare, when his duty to the church of England more especially called for it, to take the opportunity of the royal pulpit, to set before the court their injurious and unmanly politics, in projecting a coalition of the sectaries. For some time he held, in appearance, the same place in the favour of king James as he had holden in the former reign; and some attempts were made to gain him over to the interest of the popish party at court, but these were in vain; for when the declaration of indulgence was strictly commanded to be read, by virtue of a dispensing power claimed by the king, this bishop was one of the seven who openly opposed the reading of it: for which he was sent, with his six brethren, to the Tower. Yet though in this he ventured to disobey his sovereign for the sake of his religion, yet he would not violate his conscience by transferring his allegiance from him. When the prince of Orange therefore came over, and the revolution took place, the bishop retired; and as soon as king William was seated on the throne, and the new oath of allegiance was required, he, by his refusal, suffered himself to be deprived. After his deprivation, he resided at Longleate, a seat of the lord viscount Weyrnouth, in Wiltshire; whence he sometimes made a visit to his nephew, Mr. Isaac Walton, at Salisbury, who was a prebendary of that church. In this retirement he composed many pious works, some of the poetical kind; for he had an inclination for poetry, and had many years before written an epic poem of 13 books, entitled “Edmund,” which was not published till after his death. There is a prosaic flatness in this work; but some of his Hymns and other compositions, have more of the spirit of poetry, and give us an idea of that devotion which animated the author. It is said that when he was afflicted with the colic, to which he was very subject, he frequently amused himself with writing verses. Hence some of his pious poems are entitled “Anodynes, or the Alleviation of Pain.

Bishop Ken did not mix in any of the disputes or attempts of his party, though it is very probable he was earnestly solicited to it; since we find the deprived bishop of Ely, Dr. Turner, his particular friend, with whom fee had begun an intimacy at Winchester school, so deeply | engaged in it. He never concurred in opinion with those nonjurors who were for continuing a separation from the established church by private consecrations among themselves, yet he looked on the spiritual relation to his diocese to be still in full force, during the life of his first successor, Dr. Kidder; but, after his decease in 1703, upon the nomination of Dr. Hooper to the diocese, he requested that gentleman to accept it, and afterwards subscribed himself “late bishop of Bath and Wells.” The queen, who highly respected him, settled upon him a pension of 200l. per annum, which was punctually paid out of the treasury as long as he lived. He had been afflicted from 1696 with severe cholicky pains, and at length symptoms being apparent of an ulcer in his kidneys, he went to Bristol in 1710 for the benefit of the hot wells, and there continued till November, when he removed to Leweston, near Sherborne, in Dorsetshire, a seat belonging to the hon. Mrs. Thynne. There a paralytic attack, which deprived him of the use of one side, confined him to his chamber till about the middle of March; when being, as he thought, able to go to Bath, he set out, but died at Longleate, in his way thither, March 19, 1710-11. It is said that he had travelled for many years with his shroud in his portmanteau; and that he put it on as soon as he came to Longleate, giving notice of it the day before his death, to prevent his body from being stripped.

His works were published in 1721, in four volumes; and consist of devotional pieces in verse and prose. Various reports having been industriously spread that he was tainted with popish errors, and not steadfast to the doctrine of the church of England, it was thought proper to publish the following paragraph, transcribed from his will “As for my religion, I die in the holy catholic and apostolic faith, professed by the whole church, before the disunion of East and West; more particularly, I die in the communion of the church of England, as it stands distinguished from all papal and puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the cross.1


Life by Hawkins, prefixed to his works. Gen. Dict. Biog, Brit, —Burnet’s Own Times.Gent. Mag. vol. LXXXIV.