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THE life of Bishop Ken, in connexion with the political history of our Church, has been written with great zeal and affection by Mr. Bowles; and his Prose Works have been recently published under the superintendence of Mr. Round. In the following pages he is viewed more particularly in the character of a Christian and a poet.
THOMAS KEN was born in July, 1637, at Little Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire, where his father, a solicitor of Furnival's Inn, appears to have possessed a temporary residence. He had two sisters, of whom Anne, the elder, was married to the excellent Isaac Walton, and Martha, the younger, to a gentleman of the name of Beacham. It is not known in what place he received the first rudiments of his education. His parents watched over him with affectionate solicitude and early implanted those principles of piety which took such deep root in his heart. In one of his poems he has a touching allusion to their tenderness.
E'er since I hung upon my mother's breast,
Thy love, my God, has me sustained and blest;
By whose interest he procured admission into the venerable establishment of William of Wykeham, we are not informed. The melody of his voice, for which as a child he was remarkable, although a qualification of great
importance in times when music was associated with instruction, was not likely to gain him much favour with the warden of Winchester College, a man of fine scholarship and eloquence, but a violent polemic, and a subscriber to the Covenant. It is only ascertained that he was admitted January 30th, 1650-51, and that in 1655-56, he was entered of Hart Hall, then occupying the site of Magdalen College; there being no vacancy at New College.
On the death of Cromwell, the cloud of puritanical gloom began gradually to disperse, and the solemn anthem, in the words of Prynne, was once more tossed from side to side, and men knelt with a lighter breast amid the dim religious light of their long-silent cathedrals. A music meeting was instituted about the same period at Oxford, of which Ken became a member, and Anthony Wood, who has recorded the names of the various performers with unusual enthusiasm, says that he would "be sometimes among them, and sing his part." He had not yet, we may suppose, begun to play on his lute.
In 1661, he obtained his bachelor's degree, and soon after went into orders. To what extent he distinguished himself in his academic exercises is unknown; but we are assured that the piety and sweetness of his disposition attracted the notice of the Society to which he belonged. In 1666, he was elected to the vacant fellowship in Winchester College, whither he now hastened to return*. There he found his friend Bishop Morley, who had been translated from the see of Worcester, and under whose roof dwelt Isaac Walton, who was come to pass the
His subscribing one hundred pounds to the new buildings of New College fronting the garden, was the first proof of his gratitude.- -BOWLES.
évening of his days with that excellent prelate whom he had sheltered in the season of his want and affliction.
Morley had seen and appreciated the virtues of Ken, while at Oxford, and he welcomed him to Winchester with all the tenderness of friendship. He appointed him his domestic chaplain, and at various times presented him with the living of Brixton, in the Isle of Wight, a stall in his own cathedral, and finally with the rectory of Woodhay, vacant by the promotion of Dr. Sharrock to the archdeaconry of Winchester. The last benefice Ken resigned into the hands of his patron.
It was during these hours of tranquillity and peace that he composed his Manual of Prayers, and Morning, Evening, and Midnight Hymns, for the use of the Winchester scholars. Mr. Bowles is of opinion that the melody to which the words were sung, was adapted by Ken from the old tune of Tallis. His skill in music was probably not inconsiderable; he had an organ in his rooms, which he left behind him on his departure from Winchester, and the Bishop of Hereford communicated to Mr. Bowles a very interesting anecdote respecting it.
The apartments formerly appropriated to Ken were subsequently occupied by the Rev. Philip Barton. During the absence of that gentleman, one of the boys obtained admission into the chamber, being actuated by an enthusiastic desire to touch Ken's organ. Dr. Barton, on discovering the culprit, set him an imposition. The boy was afterwards Dr. Joseph Warton, the accomplished author of the Essay on the genius of Pope.
Ken did not slumber in his prosperity. He preached constantly and with great success at "St. John's Church in the Soak," near Manchester, which appears to have been destitute of any regular ministerial instruction, and
many anabaptists were converted by the earnestness of his eloquence. "And that neither his study," says Hawkins, "might be the aggressor on his hours of instruction; or what he judged his duty prevent his improvement; or both, his closet addresses to God; he strictly accustomed himself but to one sleep, which often obliged him to rise at one or two o'clock in the morning, and sometimes sooner, and grew so habitual that it continued with him almost to his last illness. And so lively and cheerful was his temper, that he would be very facetious and entertaining to his friends in the evening, even when it was perceived that with difficulty he kept his eyes open; and then seemed to go to rest with no other purpose than the refreshing him and enabling him with more vigour and cheerfulness to sing his Morning Hymn, as he then used to do, to his lute, before he put on his clothes."
In 1675, he accompanied Isaac Walton's son, who had recently taken his degree at Christ's Church, Oxford, in a tour to Italy. The time appointed for the journey happened to be that fixed for the celebration of the papal jubilee, but of their travels, the only memorial is a head by an unknown Italian artist, in the possession of Dr. Hawes. They returned in the same year, and Ken was heard to remark, as we are informed by Hawkins, that he had great reason to thank God for his travels, since, if it were possible, he returned rather more convinced of the purity of the Protestant religion than before. But his innocence did not preserve him from calumny. At a period when religious intolerance ran so high, and the road, to use the language of Chillingworth, which did not lead to Geneva, was considered as necessarily to lead to Rome, the motives of his harmless visit were, of course, misrepresented; and the opinion that he had become