Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kidgell, John

KIDGELL, JOHN (fl. 1766), divine, baptised on 28 April 1722 at St. Mary Woolnoth, London, was son of John Kidgell of St. Mary Woolchurch (Registers, ed. Brooke and Hallen, p. 100). He was admitted to Winchester in 1733 (Kirby, Winchester Scholars, p. 238), matriculated at Oxford from Hertford College on 21 March 1740–1, graduated B.A. in 1744, and M.A. in 1747 (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886, ii. 792), and was elected fellow. He was a man of some talent, but dissolute and dishonest. James Douglas, earl of March and Ruglen (afterwards the well-known Duke of Queensberry), appropriately appointed him his chaplain. In 1756 he was assistant-preacher to the Bishop of Bangor, in December 1758 became rector of Woolverston, Suffolk (Addit. MS. 19105, f. 250), and by 1761 was morning preacher at Berkeley Chapel, London. On 14 May 1762 he was instituted to the rectory of Godstone, Surrey (Manning and Bray, Surrey, ii. 337), and on 24 June following to that of Horne in the same county (ib. ii. 320–1). He habitually neglected his duty, and lived as a man about town, under the auspices of Lord March. Walpole describes him as a ‘dainty, priggish parson, much in vogue among the old ladies for his gossiping and quaint sermons’ (Reign of George III, i. 311). When in 1763 the government wanted a second copy of the famous ‘Essay on Woman’ (which was printed by Wilkes and probably written by Thomas Potter [q. v.]), Kidgell corruptly obtained it from one of Wilkes's printers. This he handed to Lord March, who was in secret consultation with Lord Bute and Lord Sandwich. He then attempted to defend his conduct and replenish his purse by publishing ‘A genuine and succinct Narrative of a scandalous, obscene, and exceedingly profane Libel, entitled “An Essay on Woman,”’ &c., 4to, London, 1763, which completely blasted his reputation. An attempt on the part of Lord Sandwich to obtain for him the wealthy rectory of St. James, Westminster, failed (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, ix. 659), and Kidgell, who was deeply in debt, had to fly the country, and is said to have died in Flanders (Brayley and Britton, Surrey, iv. 148). In June 1766 the churchwarden of Horne instituted proceedings against him in the court of arches for non-residence, but the cause, as being ‘improperly begun,’ was dismissed ‘for the present’ (Ann. Reg. ix. 105).

Kidgell was author of:

  1. ‘The Card’ [anon.], 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1755, a series of tales partly in the epistolary form.
  2. ‘Original Fables,’ in English and French, 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1763.

Both were printed for private circulation only. In the ‘Oxford Sausage’ (ed. 1764, pp. 119–24) are some amusing lines by him, entitled ‘Table Talk,’ which were written in 1745.

[Kidgell's Works; pamphlets in answer to his Narrative, 1763; Forster's Charles Churchill, 1855, p. 93; Gent. Mag. 1768, p. 613.]

G. G.