Kitto, John

Kitto, John one of the most eminent Biblical scholars of this age, was born at Plymouth, England, Nov. 4, 1804. To humble birth was added, in his twelfth year, the affliction of a total loss of his sense of hearing; but neither poverty nor bodily defect were sufficient to deter the ambitious and energetic youth from the acquisition of knowledge. Every effort that could possibly be put forth to secure books was made; to pay for a few books from a circulating library, he groped for old iron and ropes in Sutton Pool, and with the few pennies obtained by this irksome task he supplied himself with the elements of an education. The destitution of his parents obliged them at last to place John in the " workhouse" at Plymouth, where he was admitted Nov. 15, 1819, and taught the shoemaker's trade. In this place his powerful will soon asserted his position against older and stronger boys, and here he began in 1820 a diary which is still preserved, and large excerpts from which have been printed in his Life. It contains many self- portraits, physical and mental, and shows the awakening of his mind to literary tastes and ambition. In his trade, however, he was often so dull and dispirited that he called himself "John the Comfortless," and twice had thoughts of bringing his life to a premature end. In 1821 he was hired out to a shoemaker, but his awkwardness and tendency to books greatly irritated his master, and John was submitted to such harsh treatment that he was readmitted to the workhouse about six months later. In the year following he finally brought out some essays in Nettleton's Plymouth Journal, and also wrote some imaginary correspondence. These efforts attracted attention, and he was by the interposition of several gentlemen removed to Exeter to become a dentist. In 1825 he published a volume of Essays and Letters, which, though it afforded him but a small pecuniary remuneration, secured him many friends, made him quite generally known, and finally result :d in a complete change of basis for life. Instead of' perfecting himself in the art of dentistry, he accepted an offer to enter the Missionary College at Islington, where he was to be taught the art of printing with a view to service in some foreign missionary institution. In June, 1827, he was sent out to Malta; but, his health declining, he returned to England in 1829. Shortly after this his former employer, Mr. Groves, the dentist, desired a tutor for his children, to accompany him on a tour East, and selected Kitto for the position. He was now afforded a sight of a large part of Europe and Asia, and acquired that familiarity with the scenery and customs of the East which was afterwards of such signal service in the department of literature to which he became devoted. In turn he visited St. Petersburg, Astrachan. the Calmucks, Tatars, the Caucasus, Armenia, Persia, and Bagdad, and by way of Trebizond and Constantinople returned to England in 1833. Through the influence of friends he gained attention by a series of papers in the Penny Magazine (one of these under the suggestive title "The Deaf Traveller'), and by other literary efforts.

In 1835 Kitto finally entered upon the preparation of that class of works which have so justly secured him a prominent place in the field of letters. In this year Mr. Charles Knight, then the editor of the Penny Magazine, suggested to Kitto the preparation of a "Pictorial Bible." All that Kitto needed was the suggestion. He not only eagerly embraced the proposal, but earnestly entreated to be allowed to undertake the responsibility of the entire work. The expiration of scarcely more than two years saw the Pictorial Bible finished (new edit. 1847, 4 vols. 8vo), and shortly after (in 1838) he embodied a great portion of his experience in Persia in two small volumes, Uncle Oliver's Travels. Next followed (1839-40) a Pictorial History of Palestine and the Holy Land. From 1841 to 1843 he found employment in preparing the letter-press for the Gallery of Scripture Engravings, in 3 vols. In 1843 he wrote a History of Palestine (published by A. and C. Black, of Edinburgh), and Thoughts among Flowers (published by the Religious Tract Society). In 1845 he prepared The Pictorial Sunday Book, and commenced the work which, in its latest form (3d edition), still constitutes one of the best works of the kind in any language, the Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature. SEE DICTIONARIES, BIBLICAL, Though the work already accomplished (up to 1848) would have sufficed for the lifetime of almost any man, Kitto labored on indefatigably, and not only brought out contributions of great value, but originated and edited the Journal of Sacred Literature, a quarterly, which, by its masterly productions, has made English scholarship famous even among the all-knowing Teutons. He continued the editorship of the Journal until 1853. His last and most popular work was the Daily Bible Illustrations, completed in eight volumes. During its progress his health gave way, and he retired to Cannstadt, near Stuttgard, in Germany, where he died, Nov. 25, 1854. Dr. Kitto's services to the cause of Scripture learning were great in his own sphere. He revived and freshened the study of Eastern manners, and his origination of his Cyclopcedia marks an epoch in the Biblical literature of England. Our own work is not unfrequently dependent upon the labors of this extraordinary character. His life itself, with his physical defect and early privations, was a marvel of self-education and heroic perseverance. The University of Giessen in 1844 honored him with the doctorate of divinity, though he was a layman. An interesting autobiography is contained in his Lost Senses. See Kitto, Cyclop. Bibl. Lit. vol. ii, s.v.; English Cyclop. s.v.; Allibone, Dict. Encyl. and Am. Auth. s.v.; Memoirs of John Kitto, D.D., compiled chiefly from his letters and journals, by J. E. Ryland, M.A.; with a Critical Estimate of Dr. Kitto's Life and Writings, by Prof. Eadie, D.D. (Edinb. and London, 1856, 8vo); Eadie, John, Life of Kitto (Edinb. 1857, 8vo); Lond. Athenceum, 1857, June 27; North Brit. Rev. Feb. 1847; Littell, Living Age, lii, 445 sq. (J. H. W.)

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