Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kippis, Andrew

KIPPIS, ANDREW, D.D. (1725–1795), nonconformist divine and biographer, was born at Nottingham on 28 March (O.S.) 1725. His father, Robert Kippis, a silk-hosier of Nottingham, maternally descended from Benjamin King of Oakham, Rutland, an ejected minister, was second of the three surviving sons of Andrew Kippis, who died in 1748, and is buried in Sleaford Church (Gent. Mag. lvi. pt. i. pp. 98, 198). His mother, Anne Ryther, was granddaughter of the Rev. John Ryther, who was ejected for nonconformity from the benefice of Ferriby, Yorkshire. Losing his father when he was five years old, he was placed under the care of his grandfather at Sleaford, Lincolnshire, where he was educated. By the advice of Mr. Merrivale, the local pastor, he resolved to enter the dissenting ministry. In 1741 he was admitted into the academy at Northampton, under the care of Dr. Philip Doddridge [q. v.], and after completing his course of five years in that seminary he accepted an invitation from Boston, Lincolnshire, where he settled in September 1746. Thence he removed to Dorking, Surrey, in 1750, as successor to the Rev. John Mason, author of a treatise on ‘Self-Knowledge;’ and in June 1753 he became pastor of the presbyterian congregation meeting in Princes Street, Westminster. On 21 Sept. 1753 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Isaac Bott, merchant, of Boston.

Kippis's pastorate at Westminster continued for forty-three years. He was soon elected a trustee of the presbyterian fund; he became a member of Dr. Williams's trust in 1762; and his association with many other charitable institutions in London and Westminster enabled him to effectively promote the nonconformist cause. In 1763 he was appointed to succeed Dr. David Jennings as classical and philological tutor in the Coward Academy at Hoxton; and in June 1767 he received the degree of D.D. from the university of Edinburgh, on the unsolicited recommendation of Professor Robertson. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 19 March 1778, and a fellow of the Royal Society 17 June 1779 (Thomson, Hist. of the Royal Soc. App. iv. 57). In both these learned societies he served on the council for about two years. He withdrew from the institution at Hoxton in 1784, and the two other tutors followed his example the next year, when the seminary was dissolved (Bogue and Bennett, Hist. of Dissenters, ii. 519). In 1786 he became one of the tutors in the new dissenting college established at Hackney, and although he retired from that office after a few years, he continued to support the college by a liberal subscription and by his interest with opulent friends. Among his pupils at Hackney were William Godwin and Samuel Rogers. Rogers subsequently apostrophised him, together with his colleagues Price and Priestley, in ‘The Pleasures of Memory’ (Clayden, Rogers and his Contemporaries, i. 418). Kippis died at his residence in Crown Street, Westminster, on 8 Oct. 1795. His funeral sermon was preached, and the oration at the grave in Bunhill Fields delivered, by the Rev. Dr. Abraham Rees.

Kippis was reverenced by dissenters, and his literary attainments secured for him the friendship and esteem of distinguished members of the established church. When about fourteen years old he renounced the principles of Calvinism, in which his relatives had brought him up (Biog. Brit. 2nd edit. iv. 3). Subsequently he inclined to Socinianism, though ‘he highly disapproved the conduct of the modern Socinians, in assuming to themselves the exclusive appellation of unitarians’ (Wilson, Hist. of Dissenting Churches, iv. 116). In his youth he was a most assiduous student. He informed Alexander Chalmers that he once read for three years at the rate of sixteen hours a day. One of the works which he read through was the ‘General Dictionary,’ in ten folio volumes, and he thus laid the foundation of his skill in biographical composition (Gent. Mag. 1795, pt. ii. p. 803).

His editorial connection with the ‘Biographia Britannica’ constitutes his chief claim to remembrance. He was employed by the booksellers to prepare the second edition of that work, ‘with corrections, enlargements, and the addition of new lives.’ When he had been engaged for some time on this task he found it too vast for him to execute alone, and Dr. Towers was appointed as his associate. The letters K. and T. affixed to the new articles, or to the additions to the old articles, distinguish their respective shares. Only five volumes were published, all at London in folio—vol. i. in 1778, vol. ii. in 1780, vol. iii. in 1784, vol. iv. in 1789, and vol. v. in 1793, when the dictionary ends abruptly with the article ‘Fastolf.’ A first part of the sixth volume (‘Featley’ to ‘Foster’) was printed in 1795. To this half-volume, after the proprietors had for some time endeavoured to find a fitting successor to Kippis, Dr. George Gregory wrote a preface, intending to come forward as continuator of the work. Delays in its publication followed, and nearly the whole impression was consumed in the fire on Nichols's premises in February 1808, only three copies having been preserved (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ix. 184 n.). The second edition of the ‘Biographia Britannica’ hardly deserves the high praise which has been sometimes bestowed upon it. The memoirs which were imperfect or incorrect in the original edition, instead of being rewritten, were textually reproduced, with notes by the editor pointing out omissions and inaccuracies. Thus it seemed as if a literary controversy were being carried on between the editor and the author. Again, many of the new memoirs were of inordinate length, and the prominence given to nonconformists laid the editor open to a charge of partiality. Moreover, he indulged too freely in the expression of opinions instead of confining himself mainly to the narration of facts; and many of the footnotes were far too long and irrelevant. Johnson told Boswell in 1777 that he had been asked to undertake the new edition of the ‘Biographia Britannica,’ but had declined it, ‘which,’ says Boswell, ‘he afterwards said to me he regretted.’ Although Boswell admitted that Kippis had discharged the task judiciously, and with more impartiality than might have been expected from a separatist, he complained that the work was ‘too crowded with obscure dissenting teachers.’ He subsequently, however, withdrew all censure (Boswell, Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill, iii. 174, iv. 376). According to Horace Walpole ‘the “Biographia Britannica” ought to be called the Vindicatio Britannica, for that it was a general panegyric upon everybody’ (cf. Cowper, Works, viii. 320). But in spite of these defects Kippis made a valuable addition to our national biographical literature.

Kippis began his literary career early in life by contributing to the magazines, especially the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’ Afterwards he became a more constant writer in the ‘Monthly Review.’ He also largely contributed to ‘The Library, or Moral and Critical Magazine,’ which he edited for 1761–2. He laid the foundation of the ‘New Annual Register,’ and suggested the improved plan upon which that work was conducted. The ‘History of Ancient Literature’ and the ‘Review of Modern Books’ were at its first commencement written by him, and continued to 1784. He was also the author of the ‘Review of the Transactions of the Present Reign’ prefixed to the ‘Register’ for 1780, and of the ‘History of Knowledge, Learning, and Taste in Great Britain’ prefixed to the succeeding volumes to the year 1794.

His separate publications are: 1. ‘A Vindication of the Protestant Dissenting Ministers with regard to their late application to Parliament in the matter of Subscription,’ London, 1772 and 1773, 8vo. 2. Life of Sir John Pringle, bart., president of the Royal Society, prefixed to his ‘Six Discourses, delivered on occasion of six annual assignments of Sir Godfrey Copley's medal,’ 1783. 3. ‘Considerations on the Provisional Treaty with America, and the Preliminary Articles of Peace with France and Spain,’ 2nd edit. 1783. 4. ‘Observations on the late Contests in the Royal Society’ [concerning Dr. Hutton], London, 1784, 8vo, published with a view to allaying the animosities which existed in that body. 5. ‘The Life of Captain James Cook,’ London, 1788, 4to, translated into French by J. H. Castéra, 2 vols., Paris, 1789, 8vo. 6. Life of Dr. Nathaniel Lardner, prefixed to the complete edition of his ‘Works,’ 11 vols., 1788. 7. ‘The Life of Anthony Ashley Cooper, first Earl of Shaftesbury,’ privately printed [London, 1790 ?], 4to. The fourth Earl of Shaftesbury originally entrusted the work to Benjamin Martyn, who had free access to the family archives; but after the fourth earl's death in 1771, his son, the fifth earl, considering that Martyn's life was not sufficiently complete for publication, put it into the hands of Dr. Gregory Sharpe, master of the Temple, and afterwards engaged Kippis to revise it and prepare it for the press. An edition was eventually printed, but with the exception of two copies the whole impression was immediately destroyed. One of the extant copies is now in the British Museum. The work afterwards appeared under the title of ‘The Life of the first Earl of Shaftesbury, from original documents in the possession of the family, by Mr. B. Martyn and Dr. Kippis, now first published. Edited by G. Wingrove Cooke, esq.,’ 2 vols., London, 1836, 8vo. 8. Several single discourses, some of which are reprinted in his ‘Sermons on Practical Subjects,’ London, 1791 and 1878, 8vo. 9. ‘An Address delivered at the Interment of Richard Price, D.D., F.R.S.,’ 1791. 10. Life of Dr. Philip Doddridge, prefixed to the seventh edition of his ‘Family Expositor,’ 1792. 11. Life of Job Orton, prefixed to his ‘Exposition of the New Testament,’ 1822. This first appeared as a long note appended to the memoir of Philip Doddridge in the ‘Biographia Britannica,’ 2nd edit. v. 308 seq. Kippis also edited Doddridge's ‘Lectures,’ with a large number of additional references, and assisted in preparing ‘A Collection of Hymns and Psalms for Public and Private Worship,’ 1795, which was extensively used in dissenting chapels, and passed through several editions.

A portrait of Kippis was engraved (1792, folio) by F. Bartolozzi, from a painting by W. Artaud (Bromley, Cat. of Engraved Portraits, p. 364).

[Addit. MSS. 5874 ff. 71, 72, 28104 f. 51, 21553 f. 128; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, n. 6142; Sermon by John Evans, M.A., being a Tribute of Respect to the Memory of S. Stennett, A. Kippis, and R. Harris, 1795; Gent. Mag. 1795, pt. i. p. 10, pt. ii. pp. 803, 883, 913, 1796, pt. i. p. 5, 1804, pt. i. p. 35; Georgian Era, iii. 545; Brown's Nottinghamshire Worthies, pp. 299–302; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), pp. 205, 1278; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit.; Nichols's Lit. Anecd.; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. x. 432, xi. 213; Phonetic Journal, xlv. 468; Funeral Sermon by Dr. Abraham Rees, 1795; Rees's Cyclopædia; Wilson's Dissenting Churches, iv. 103–17, 402; Jones's Bunhill Memorials, pp. 136, 140.]

T. C.