Keigwin, John (DNB00)

KEIGWIN, JOHN (1641–1716), Cornish scholar, was born at Mousehole on Mounts Bay in Cornwall, and baptised at Paul on 7 Jan. 1641. His direct ancestor was 'Jenkin Keigwin, gent.,' who was killed by a cannon-ball when the Spaniards landed at Mousehole on 23 July 1595. His father was Martin Keigwin, and he was the only son by a second marriage. His mother was Elizabeth, second daughter of Robert Scawen of St. Germans, whom his father married 27 Dec. 1639. John Keigwin received a classical education, and was instructed in the Cornish language by his father. His occupation was that of a merchant at Mousehole, but he gave much of his time to the study 'of the original language of his county,' then on the verge of extinction, and was probably the last person whose knowledge of it was profound. Edward Lhuyd, in his address 'to the courteous and noble inhabitants of the county of Cornwall,' expresses his acknowledgments to Keigwin. In 1700 Lhuyd came into Cornwall, and, with the assistance of Keigwin, wrote his 'Cornish Grammar.' While attending the assizes for Cornwall, Keigwin was requested by Sir Francis North, the lord chief justice, to undertake the translation from the Cornish of a mystery play entitled 'Pascon Agan Arluth' (The Passion of our Lord). This he did in 1682. His second work was a translation of 'The Creation of the World,' by William Jordan [q. v.], 1697. These works remained in manuscript until 1826–7, when Davies Gilbert, F.R.S., edited and printed them in two volumes, entitled respectively 'Mount Calvary' and 'The Creation of the World.' Gilbert's knowledge of Cornish was, however, limited, and he made many errors of transcription. Between 1860 and 1863 Mr. Whitley Stokes re-edited them in the 'Transactions of the Philological Society.' Keigwin corresponded in the Cornish tongue with John Boson, William Gwavas, and Thomas Tonkin. One of his letters to Gwavas, dated 1693, is in the British Museum Addit. MS. 28555, pp. 139–40.

He died at Mousehole on 20 April 1716. By his wife Mary Penrose, whom he married in 1666, he had four children.

[Mount Calvary, 1826, with Memoir of J. Keigwin, by Sir N. H. Nicolas, pp. xi–xviii; Mackay's Annals of the Bodleian; Pryce's Archæologia Cornu-Britannica, 1790, in Preface; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1850, i. 664, 937; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. pp. 280, 281, 1089, 1195.]

G. C. B.