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THE REV. JOHN KEBLE, M.A.
“Non immerito vocaris Johannes id est cui donatum est .... tibi donatum est
abdita penetrare mysteria."-Orig. Hom. II. in diversos.
“I cannot paint to memory's eye
The scene, the glance, I dearest love,
(Hymn for Fourth Sunday in Advent.)
in Gloucestershire, on St. Mark's Day, 1792. He was edu
cated by his father (the Rev. JOHN KEBLE, Vicar of Coln St. Aldwyn's), until December, 1806, when (though at that time considerably under fifteen years old), he obtained by competition a scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, proving by his success the excellent training which his father had given him.
In the Easter Term Examination in 1810, when just eighteen years of age, he obtained a double first-class, a distinction which in that form had been obtained by only one man before that time, namely, the late Sir Robert Peel, by only one other at the same time, and (it
is believed) by no one else (with perhaps one or two exceptions) at any time at so early an age.
In the year after this he obtained a fellowship at Oriel College, which was at that time one of the highest distinctions of the University. The distinguished names of Copleston (soon after Provost), and Davison (who wrote the standard book on Prophecy), were among the electors: Whately (afterwards Archbishop of Dublin) was elected at the same time. (See the Notes on Oriel College.)
In the following year (1812) Mr. KEBLE obtained the Chancellor's Prize for the English Essay, “On Translation from Dead Languages;" also the Chancellor's Prize for the Latin Essay on the following subject, “Xenophontis res bellicas, quibus ipse interfuit, narrantis, cum Cæsare comparatio."
In Michaelmas Term, 1818, he was appointed College Tutor-an office which he held for about five years. He was deeply beloved by his pupils (amongst whom are some of the most distinguished men of the present day), who on his retiring from that office, presented him with some magnificent and massive plate, bearing the expressive inscription JOHANNI KEBLE DISCIPULORUM ORIELENSIUM PIETAS, MDCCCXXIII.
He was one of the Public Examiners from Michaelmas Term, 1814, for two years, and again from Michaelmas, 1821, to 1823. On Trinity Sunday, 1815, he was made Deacon, with his fellowship as his title, and was ordained Priest in the following year. His earliest parochial work, which began immediately upon his ordination, consisted chiefly in officiating in the churches of East Leach and Burthorpe, of which he held the curacies for some time. He used to reside at Fairford with his father in vacation time, and, after his appointment to the tutorship at Oriel, during Term time he rode from Oxford every other Saturday to spend Sundays at home, and perform the duty at his curacies: his brother, the Rev. THOMAS KEBLE, having been at the same time appointed Tutor at Corpus Christi College, of which he was then Scholar, and afterwards Fellow, used to take the duty in the same way on the alternate Sundays; their father undertook the parochial visiting and occasional week-day services in these little parishes for his sons during the time of their being in Oxford.
For both these curacies the two brothers only received sixty-five pounds a-year between them.
These little rustic parishes, with their beautiful scenery, must for ever have the honour of having suggested to the Poet many of the thoughts which he has expressed in his “Christian Year.”
Mr. KEBLE's taste for poetry was manifested when he was very young. There are extant among his papers, in his own handwriting, many poetical pieces of great beauty, some of which seem to have been written before he went to Oxford. As early as the year 1808, he wrote a poem on Mahomet, the original manuscript of which is still in existence. It was the prize subject at Oxford for that year. In the year 1819 he wrote some of the hymns which form part of “The Christian Year;" but the excessive humility of his disposition, which shewed itself throughout his life in a manner almost incredible to those who had not the honour and exceeding great privilege of knowing him, made him shrink from the publication of that great work until he was at last constrained to give way to the urgent advice of his friends; so that in 1827 appeared the first edition of that book which is known, studied, and loved wherever the English language is spoken, and which stands alone in having reached ninety-two English editions (besides those published in America), in the lifetime of its Author; several of the editions consisting of three thousand, and the ninetieth of five thousand copies a.
In 1828 Mr. KEBLE was spoken about for election to the headship of Oriel, then vacant by the promotion of Dr. Copleston to the Bishopric of Llandaff and Deanery of St. Paul's, when the present Provost (Dr. Edward Hawkins) was elected. In 1831 Mr. KEBLE was elected to the Professorship of Poetry at Oxford, which office he held for two periods of five years, according to the usual custom.
After retiring from the duties of tuition at Oxford, Mr. KEBLE held the curacy of Southrop, living in the vicarage-house there, and being visited by many of his former pupils, some of whom he assisted in their studies. Amongst those to whom he afforded this help were the late Rev. Isaac Williams (the author of the “Baptistery,” the “Cathedral,” and many other most valuable and well-known works), and the late Ven, R. I. Wilberforce (Archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire), who had lodgings at a farm-house, at a short distance from Southrop, spending the daytime with the Poet: others resided with him at the Vicarage. These visitors and pupils of the Poet shewed how they valued his kindness by making him valuable presents, since he refused to receive any other remuneration for his trouble. (See the notes about Southrop.)
He remained at Southrop until the latter part of 1825, when he ob
* In the nine months immediately following the Author's death seven editions, consisting together of eleven thousand copies, were issued.