( From the Gentleman's Magazine for July, 1810.)
DR. KELLY, Rector of Copford, near Colchester, and in the Commission of the Peace for Essex, was born on the 1st of November, 1750, at; Douglas, in the Isle of Man. Descended from a line of forefathers who had from time immemorial possessed a small freehold near that town, Called Aalcaer, which devolved on the Doctor, he was placed under the tuition of the Rev. Philip Moore, Master of the Free Grammar School of Douglas. Mr, Kelly became speedily distinguished by quickness of intellect, by his industry, and by the rapidity of his classical progress. From the pupil he became the favourite and the companion of his instructor ; whose regard he appears particularly to have conciliated by his skill in the vernacular dialect of the Celtic tongue spoken in that Island.
Ere his attainment of seventeen, Young Kelly attempted the difficult task of reducing to wilting the grammatical rules, and proceeded to compile, a Dictionary of the language. The obvious difficulties of such an undertaking to a school-boy, may be estimated by the consideration that this was the very first attempt to embody, to arrange, or to grammaticize this language ;that it was made without any aid whatever from books, MSS., or oral communications ;. but merely by dint of observation on the conversation of his unlettered countrymen.
It happened at this moment that Dr. Hildesley, the then Bishop of Sodor and Man, had brought to maturity his benevolent plan of bestowing on the natives of the Island a translation of the Holy Scriptures, of the Common Prayer Book, and of some religious tracts in their own tongue. His Lordship most gladly availed himself of the talents and attainments of the subject of this brief notice, and prevailed upon him to dedicate several years of his life to this favourite object. The Scriptures had been distributed in portions amongst the insular clergy for each to translate his part. On Mr. Kelly the serious charge was imposed of revising, correcting, and giving uniformity to these several translations of the Old Testament, and also that of conducting through the press the whole of these publications. In June, 1 1768, he entered on his duties. In April, 1770, he transmitted the first portion to Whitehaven, where the work was printed : and when conveying the second, he was ship-wrecked, and narrowly escaped perishing. The manuscript with which he was charged was held up five hours above water, and was nearly the only article on board preserved. In the course of " his labours in the vineyard " he transcribed with his own hand all the books of the Old Testament three several times. The whole impression was completed under his guidance in December, 1772, soon after which the worthy Bishop died.
In the year 1776, Mr. Kelly received an invitation from the Episcopal Congregation at Ayr, in North Britain, to become their Pastor. On this title he was ordained by the Bishop of Carlisle, before whom he preached the ordination sermon. From that time lie continued to reside at Ayr, till the year 1779, when he was engaged by His Grace the Duke of Gordon as tutor to his son the Marquis of Huntley. The studies of this young nobleman Mr. Kelly continued to direct at Eton and Cambridge ; and afterwards accompanied him on a tour to the continent. After his return, in the year 1791, by the interest of his noble patron, Mr Kelly obtained from the Chancellor the presentation to the Vicarage of Ardleigh, near Colchester, which preferment he continued to hold until 1807. Being presented by the Chancellor to the more valuable Rectory of Copford, in the same neighbourhood, he had the satisfaction of being enabled to resign his Vicarage in favour of his friend and brother-in-law the Rev. H. Bishop.
Mr. Kelly was of St. Johns College, Cambridge, where he obtained the degrees of LLB. in 1794, and LLD. in 1799. In 1803 he corrected and sent to the press the grammatical notes on his native dialect. These were printed by Nichols and Son, with a neat dedication to the Doctors former pupil, under the title of "A Practical Grammar of the antient Gaelic or language of the Isle of Mann, usually called Manks." In 1805 he issued proposals for printing a Triglot Dictionary of the Celtic tongue, as spoken in the Highlands of Scotland, in Ireland, and in the Isle of Man. Considerable pains were bestowed in bringing to completion this useful and curious work. It has been the misfortune of Celtic literature that those learned persons whose mother-tongue happens to have been one of these dialects, have usually treated it with neglect. But it has been its still greater misfortune to be overlaid and made ridiculous by the reveries of many whose " zeal " is utterly "without knowledge". Dr. Kelly furnished the rare and probably solitary example of a competent skill in these three last surviving dialects of the Celtic tongue. As his task advanced it was committed to the press. In 1808, sixty three sheets were printed, and the first part of the Dictionary, with the English turned into the three dialects was nearly or quite completed, when the fire at Messrs. Nichols reduced to ashes the whole impression. (See the account of this, Gent. Mag., vol. 78, page 100.) The Doctors MSS., and some of the corrected proofs, it is understood, remain with the family ; but whether the printing may ever be resumed is doubtful.
The Doctor gave to the press an Assize Sermon, preached at Chelmsford ; and a sermon for the benefit of a certain Charitable Institution, preached at the same place. The former was printed at the instance of the Chief Baron, the latter at the earnest request of the Right Hon. Lord Woodhouse.
In 1785, Dr. Kelly married Louisa, eldest daughter of the ingenious Mr. Peter Dollond, of St. Pauls Church-Yard. The Doctor prepared a brief memoir of his wifes grandfather, John Dollond, F.R.S., the celebrated inventor of the achromatic telescope. The Doctor was seized with typhus fever in November, 1 809, and after a short struggle expired on the 12th of that month. No man could be more sincerely regretted. To great acuteness of intellect, and sound and varied learning, was added a disposition, gentle, generous, and affectionate. His remains were accompanied to the grave by his parishioners in a body, and were interred, on the 17th of November, iii his own Parish Church, when a discourse was delivered on the occasion by the Rev. J. G. Taylor of Dedham, Dr. Kelly left a widow, and an only son, who was a Fellow of St. Johns College, Cambridge.
In the Manx Sun of July 24th, 1858, the following announcement appeared, which deserves to be transferred to this memoir, as a tribute to the memory of Dr. Kelly, and at the same time as commemorating a generous act of his surviving relative.
"We have been informed that Mrs. Gordon Kelly, widow of the late Gordon William Kelly, Esq., Recorder of Colchester, only son of the well-known Dr. Kelly, a native of this Island has transmitted to the Venerable the Archdeacon of this Diocese, the sum of £1000, for the purpose of founding at our Insular College an Exhibition to the Universities from that Institution, open to all competitors ; and another sum of £100, the interest of which Mrs. Kelly wishes to be given annually as a Manx Prize. The Rev. Dr. Kelly was an old alumnus of the Douglas Grammar School, where he was a very favourite pupil of the Rev. Philip Moore ; and afterwards took a large share in the general revision of the translation of the Manx Scriptures.
The Council of the Manx Society repose full confidence in the judgment of the Rev. Mr. Gill. As the authorised Translator of the Acts of Tynwald into Manx, he holds the highest place of authority as to the living Manx language. lie has had long experience in preaching, and in the other duties of a Manx Parish Clergyman. As the Editor of their edition of Dr. Kellys Manx Grammar, he has already placed the Manx Society in his debt. And now with such coadjutors as Messrs. Clarke and Mosley, Mr. Gills edition of Dr. Kellys great work must command the confidence of all Manxmen, and be an abiding monument of the final stage of the fast disappearing dialect of the Celtic language, indigenous to the Isle of Man. The Council of the Manx Society congratulate their subscribers, and the inhabitants of the Isle of Man, upon the completion of this national work.