Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kidd, William (1803-1867)

KIDD, WILLIAM (1803–1867), naturalist, born in 1803, was apprenticed early in life to Baldwin, Craddock, & Joy, a firm of London booksellers. He afterwards entered business on his own account, and had shops successively in Chandos and Regent Streets. While at Chandos Street he published a ‘Guide to Gravesend,’ ‘Popular Little Secrets,’ and other short essays written by himself. Between May and October 1835 he published twenty-four numbers of a weekly ‘London Journal’ dealing with natural history; from 1852 to 1854 he brought out a similar monthly periodical called ‘Kidd's Own Journal,’ which was subsequently reissued in five volumes, royal 8vo, and during 1863–4 he issued ten numbers of ‘Essays and Sketches’ on miscellaneous subjects. By that date he had sold his business, and devoted himself entirely to his favourite studies. He was always an earnest student of nature, and he possessed an astonishing gift of endearing himself to animals. In the later years of his life he resided in the New Road, Hammersmith, and set up a fine aviary, which was burnt down and never rebuilt. Kidd was an independent and eccentric thinker and talker on religious and social subjects, and delivered many lectures in various parts of the country on such subjects as ‘Genial Gossip,’ ‘Fashion and its Victims,’ ‘The Value of Little Things,’ and ‘Happiness made comparatively easy’ (Liverpool Mercury, 8 March 1856). He died at Hammersmith, 7 Jan. 1867. He was married and his wife survived him.

As a naturalist Kidd's chief works were: ‘The Canary,’ London, 1854; ‘The Aviary and its Occupants,’ two parts, 1856, and a number of small books on the goldfinch, the linnet, and other British songsters, which are still valuable. He also wrote an introduction to Westcott's ‘Autobiography of a Gossamer Spider,’ 1857, and, in conjunction with F. Buckland, several papers in ‘Birds and Bird Life,’ 1863, besides contributing papers on birds and kindred subjects to the ‘Gardeners' Chronicle’ and similar periodicals. A long series of tracts and essays which he published on very miscellaneous subjects are either weakly imitative of Leigh Hunt, or characterised only by ignorance and superficiality. The chief of these pamphlets are: 1. ‘The Heart's Proper Element.’ 2. ‘The World and its Two Faces,’ 1854. 3. ‘Honest Thoughts for Plain and Honest People.’ 4. ‘The Strange Spirits of the Day, or a Rap for the Rappers.’ 5. ‘Friendly Appeals to the People’ (only two numbers published). 6. ‘Example, its Power for Good or Evil,’ 1855. 7. ‘The Charmed Ring.’ 8. ‘Man, viewed with Reference to his Words, his Deeds, and his Motives.’ 9. ‘Life, its Tints and its Shadows,’ 1856.

[Gent. Mag. 1867, pt. i. p. 247; Athenæum, 12 Jan. 1867; Kidd's Works.]

M. G. W.