William Kenrick


Portrait of William Kenrick

William Kenrick was a renown British novelist, playwright, journalist and lampooner. In 1773, Kenrick published A New Dictionary of the English Language in which he used diacritical marks to guide pronunciation. He also marked the syllabic structure of his entries. His 1784 book, called A rhetorical grammar of the English language had sections describing different vowels and consonants (1784, pp. 37-65).. James Boswell writes of Kenrick’s hope for his 1772 dictionary as follows:

He said he had a pronouncing dictionary almost ready, by which he hoped to fix a standard, as the varieties of pronunciation among people in genteel life were very few. He said he taught a man from Aberdeen to speak good English in six weeks. He said his great difficulty was to get him to speak at all. He told him, "Sir, you don't speak at all. You sing” (Boswell, 1772 cited in Wimsatt and Pottle, pp. 92-3)

Kenrick edited the Monthly Review, a popular magazine in the 18th century. In his writings he often criticized his contemporaries, such as Samuel Johnson, Boswell, Garrick, and Fielding. Because of this, he was regarded widely by his colleagues in the following ways:

Kenrick was a "hack writer" who possessed a "strong love of notoriety, and a jealous and perverse temper" Kenrick "was often drunk and violent. He became the enemy of every decent and successful person, and so notorious as a libeler that few condescended to answer him. His vanity lead him to fancy himself equal to any task without serious study. In his later years Kenrick seldom wrote without a bottle of brandy at his elbow. Though a superlative scoundrel, he was clever, and especially proud of the rapidity of his writing; even his more serious works seldom occupied him for more than two days.

Writing of William Kenrick

Kenrick, William (1765) A review of Doctor Johnson's New Edition of Shakespeare. Google E Book

Kenrick, William (1767) The widow'd wife. Google E Book.

Kenrick, William (1773)A new dictionary of the English language: containing, not only the explanation of words, with their orthography, etymology, and idiomatic use in writing; but likewise, their orthoepia or pronunciation in speech, according to the present practice of polished speakers in the metropolis… to which is prefixed a rhetorical grammar… London: printed for John and Francis Rivington, William Johnston, Thomas Longman and Thomas Cadell

Kenrick, William (1774) The Poetical Works of Robert Lloyd, A.M. Google E Book.

Kenrick, William (1797) Falstaff's Wedding. Google E Book.

Kenrick, William (1778) London review of English and foreign literature. Google E Book.

Writing about Kenrick

Wimsatt, William K. & Pottle, Frederick A., (eds.). (1959) Boswell for the Defence, 1769-1774. NY: McGraw-Hill. In a footnote to this entry, Wimsatt and Pottle describe Kenrick as 'no doubt the greatest scoundrel among the writers of his age.'