Lives of
Scottish Poets
edited by

Center for Applied Technologies
in the Humanities

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Literary Chronicle
New Monthly Magazine
Monthly Review
Notes and Queries
Gibson and Laing
Halkett and Laing
Scottish Notes & Queries

Part I. (Volume I.)
James the First
Thomas the Rhymer
John Barbour
Andrew Wyntoun
Gavin Douglas
Allan Ramsay
William Meston
John Home
James Beattie
Robert Burns

Part II. (Volume I.)
James the Fifth
William Dunbar
Sir James Inglis
Henry the Minstrel
Sir David Lyndsay
Alexander Barclay
Alexander Montgomerie
William Alexander
William Drummond
James Thomson
John Oswald

Part III. (Volume II.)
James the Sixth
Sir Richard Maitland
Arthur Johnston
Hamilton of Bangour
Hamilton of Gilbertfield
Samuel Colvil
Alexander Ross
John Armstrong
John Ogilvie
James Macpherson
Charles Salmon

Part IV. (Volume II.)
Alexander Hume
John Bellenden
Mark Alexander Boyd
Ninian Paterson
William Wilkie
Robert Fergusson
William Julius Mickle
Alexander Geddes
James Grahame

Part V. (Volume III.)
Robert Henryson
Alexander Scott
Walter Kennedy
John Ogilby
Alexander Pennecuik
Alexander Cunningham
David Mallet
William Falconer
Francis Garden
Robert Blair
James Moor
James Graeme
Caleb Whitefoord
James Grainger
Hector Macneill
John Wilson

Part VI. (Volume III.)
Robert Kerr
Richard Lord Maitland
Thomas Hamilton
Charles Hamilton
Michael Bruce
Thomas Blacklock
John Logan
Andrew Macdonald
James Mercer

Appendix. (Volume III.)
James I
Allan Ramsay
John Home
Robert Burns
William Drummond
Robert Fergusson
Alexander Scott
John Wilson



Although Walter Kennedy [note] is now chiefly known to the readers of Scottish poetry, as a rival in Flyting to Dunbar, he appears, in his time, to have possessed a much more respectable poetical reputation. He speaks of himself as “Of Rethory the Rose,” and as one who has

———ambulate on Parnasso the mountain,
Inspyrit with Hermes frae his golden sphere;
And dulcely drank of eloquence the fountain,
Quhen puriflet with frost, and flowand cleir.

But independently of his own authority, which may reasonably be supposed to be tinctured with some portion of vanity, we find him mentioned by both Douglas and Lindsay, as one of the most eminent of their contemporaries. Douglas even ranks him before Dunbar in his Court of the Muses, styling him, “The Greit Kennedie.” His works, however, have unfortunately all perished, except the Flyting with Dunbar, and two short pieces, the one entitled, an Invective against Mouth-Thankless, contained in the Evergreen; [note] and the other, Prais of Age, published by lord Hailes. [note]


From the Flyting, we learn, that he was a native of the district of Carrick, and belonged to the ecclesiastical order. Dunbar upbraids him with living by
theft and beggary; but Kennedy replies, that he wants not “land, store, and stakkis,” “steids and cakes,” of his own. He boasts also of the favour of royalty, and even of some affinity to it.

I am the king's blude, his trew and special clerk,
That never yit imaginit his offence;
Constant in mine allegiance, word, and wark,
Only dependand on his excellence,
Trusting to have of his magnificence
Guerdon, reward and benefice bedene.

The Flyting is altogether a miserable exhibition of rival malice, and does as little credit to the moral sense, as to the poetical taste of the combatants. It is due, however, to Kennedy, to mention, that the attack did not commence with him; and that as far as it is worth glancing at a comparison, he appears to have had the best of the conflict. Dr. Irving [note] remarks, that “in the Testament of Kennedy, Dunbar has consecrated this apparently dissolute priest to perpetual ridicule.” This may be true of the Kennedy referred to in the Testament; but Dr. I. seems to be in a mistake, in supposing him to be the same person with the hero of the Flyting. The priest satirized in the Testament is a “Master Andro Kennedie;” but the Christian name of the poet was Walter.


Lord Hailes thinks it probable, that this fierce altercation between the two poets may have been merely a play of fancy, without any real quarrel existing between the parties. Had it served to show off their talents to mutual advantage, I should have been inclined to suppose so too; but it is incredible, that
any two individuals should concert to calumniate each other so grossly as Dunbar and Kennedy have done in the
Flyting, for any entertainment which the exposure might be supposed to give to the public.


It is gratifying to find, that Dunbar, who survived Kennedy, survived also whatever resentment he entertained toward him. In his Lament for the Death of the poets, he thus laments the approaching loss of his old antagonist, who appears, at the time that poem was written, to have been on his death-bed.

And Mr. Walter Kennedy
In point of death lies wearily,
Grit rewth it wer that so should be,
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The Invective against Mouth-thankless is beneath criticism; it is not very intelligible, and, in as far as it is so, is indecent. The Prais of Age is the only production by Kennedy extant, which is of a nature to account for the estimation in which he was anciently held. “This poem,” says Lord Hailes, whose opinion I gladly adopt, “gives a favorable idea of Kennedy as a versifier. His lines are more polished than those of his contemporaries. If he is the person against whom Dunbar directed his Invective, he has met with hard measure.”

K. K.