Kent, Charles (DNB12)

KENT, CHARLES, whose full Christian names were William Charles Mark (1823–1902), author and journalist, born in London on 3 Nov. 1823, was eldest son in a family of five sons and two daughters of William Kent, R.N., and grandson of William Kent, captain R.N. [q. v.]. His mother was Ellen, only daughter of Charles Baggs, judge of the vice-admiralty court, Demerara, and sister of Charles Michael Baggs, Roman catholic bishop [q. v.]. Both parents were Roman catholics, and Kent was educated first at Prior Park, Bath, and then at St. Mary's College, Oscott (13 Feb. till Christmas 1838). At an early age he adopted the profession of letters and began writing prose and verse. At Christmas 1845, when only twenty-two years of age, he succeeded William Frederick Deacon [q. v.] as editor of the 'Sun,' an evening newspaper, which, founded in 1792 by William Pitt, had sunk into a struggling condition. Its politics had long been liberal, and it advocated free trade. Since 1833 it was the sole property of Murdo Young, whose daughter Kent married in 1853. In 1850 Kent purchased the paper of his future father-in-law for 2024Z. Kent remained both editor and proprietor, but he failed, despite his zeal and industry, to restore the fortunes of the paper, which expired on 28 Feb. 1871.

The 'Sun' was one of the first journals to publish reviews of books, and Kent was a voluminous contributor of these as well as of leading articles. Some of his political sketches were published separately under pseudonyms. 'The Derby Ministry, by Mark Rochester,' appeared in 1858 and was reissued as 'Conservative Statesmen'; 'The Gladstone Government, by A Templar,' followed in 1869. After his connection with the 'Sun' ceased, Kent edited, from 1874 to 1881, the 'Weekly Register,' a Roman catholic periodical. Meanwhile Kent was called to the bar at the Middle Temple (10 June 1859), but he did not practise. He was busy seeking a literary reputation in fields outside journalism. ' Catholicity in the Dark Ages, by an Oscotian' (1847) gave promise of enlightened learning. 'The Vision of Cagliostro, a Tale of the Five Senses,' which appeared in 'Blackwood's' in 1847, was reissued in the first series of 'Tales from Blackwood.' His earliest independent volume under his own name, 'Aletheia, or the Doom of Mythology; with other Poems' (1850), showed poetic thought and feeling. One of the poems, 'Lamartine in February [1848] 'accidentally came to the notice of the French poet and statesman three years after its publication and drew from him an enthusiastic letter of gratitude. At the same time Kent wrote largely for 'Household Words' and 'All the Year Round,' and came into intimate relations with Dickens, the editor and proprietor. To the 'New Monthly Magazine' he contributed 'Stereoscopic Glimpses,' twenty poems descriptive of as many English poets' home life, beginning with Shakespeare at Shottery and ending with Wordsworth at Rydal. These he collected in 1862 as ‘Dreamland; or Poets in their Haunts.’ He welcomed Longfellow to England in a poem which appeared in ‘The Times,’ 3 July 1868. A collected edition of Kent's ‘Poems’ was published in 1870.

Kent's literary acquaintance was large. It early included, besides Charles Dickens, Leigh Hunt, both the first and the second Lord Lytton, Charles Reade, Robert Browning, George Meredith, and Matthew Arnold. He caused Leigh Hunt's line, ‘Write me as one that loves his fellow-men,’ to be placed on Hunt's tomb at Kensal Green. Dickens wrote a letter to Kent within an hour of the novelist's death (8 June 1870), and Kent presented it to the British Museum in 1879. The first letter which he received from the second Lord Lytton (4 July 1866) he also presented to the Museum in 1887.

His later years were largely devoted to preparing popular complete editions of the works of great writers. The collected works of Burns appeared in 1874. In 1875 he brought out a centenary edition of Lamb's works with a memoir which contained among other new facts an authentic record of Lamb's relations with Frances Maria Kelly, the actress, the information coming from Miss Kelly herself. There succeeded editions of Thomas Moore (1879), Father Prout (1881), besides ‘Leigh Hunt as an Essayist’ (1888), the miscellaneous works of the first Lord Lytton (12 vols. Knebworth edition), ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Lord Lytton’ (1883), and ‘The Humour and Pathos of Charles Dickens,’ 1884. A literary curiosity called ‘Corona Catholica. De Leonis XIII assumptione, epigramma in 50 linguis’ (sm. 4to, 1880), supplied translations of an English epigram into fifty languages; among the many eminent scholars who supplied the translations were Max Müller, who turned the epigram into Sanskrit, Prof. Sayce, who turned it into Assyrian, and Prince Lucien Bonaparte who rendered it in Basque. The MS. of this compilation is now in the British Museum.

Kent received a civil list pension of 100l. on 14 Jan. 1887. In his last years he was a frequenter of the Athenæum Club, which he joined in 1881. He was a contributor to this Dictionary, writing among other articles those on Chatterton and Charles Reade. He died on 23 Feb. 1902 at his house at Campden Hill, and was buried at St. Mary's catholic cemetery, Kensal Green.

He married in 1853 Ann (1824–1911), eldest daughter of Murdo Young of Ross, N.B. She wrote in youth several novels: ‘Evelyn Stuart’ (3 vols. 1846); ‘Maud Hamilton’; ‘The Gilberts of Ashton,’ and was a contributor to the press until 1906. She died in London on 16 Aug. 1911. She was received into the Roman catholic church in 1851. She had issue five sons and two daughters.

[The Times, 24 Feb. 1902; Biograph, Feb. 1879; Grant's Newspaper Press, i. 330 seq.; Allibone, Dict. Eng. Lit. Suppl.; J. Collins Francis, Notes by the Way, 1909; private information.].

S. L.