John Kenyon

2nd Dec 1784 - 3rd Dec 1856

Claimant or beneficiary


'Patron of the arts and poet' and friend of the Brownings. Born in Trelawny Jamaica, the son of a West Indian slave-owner, and also inherited part of the estate of his brother-in-law John Curteis (d. 1849).

  1. Married Caroline Curteis 19/01/1821 at St Marylebone. 

  2. Left £180,000 at his death. 'Many a literary home has been made brighter this Christmas time by the noble sympathy of John Kenyon, the poet, whose death we recently announced. The poet was as rich as he was genial. Scarcely a man or woman distinguished in the world of letters with which he was familiar has passed unremembered  in his will, and some poets and children of poets are endowed with a princely munificence. Among those who have shared most liberally in this harvest of goodwill we are happy to hear that Mr & Mrs Browning receive 10,000l, Mr Proctor (Barry Cornwall) 6000l and Dr Southey a very handsome sum, we think 8000l. We hear that there are eight legatees many of them the old literary friends of the deceased poet. - Athenaeum.' 

  3. Born Trelawny Jamaica 02/12/1784, son of John Kenyon (died c. 1792) 'extensive' sugar planter, and the daughter (name unknown) of John Simpson, sugar planter of Bounty Hall, Jamaica. Fort Bristol School, Bristol; Charterhouse; Peterhouse Cambridge (matric. 1802, left without a degree 1808). Entered Lincoln's Inn 1804 but was not called to the bar. 'Apparently inherited a sugar planting fortune on Jamaica from his father.' A wealthy dilettante and 'major figure in the literary world' who is in the ODNB as 'patron of the arts and poet.' Aurora Leigh is dedicated to him.

  4. In 1851 John Kenyon aged 67 'Proprietor land and funds' born Jamaica was living at 39 Devonshire Place, which had according to the ODNB been the house of his brother-in-law John Curteis and where John Kenyon and his wife Caroline Curteis 'probably established themselves' between 1831 and her death in 1835.


William D. Rubinstein, Who were the rich? A biographical dictionary of British wealth-holders Volume Two 1840-1859 (MS) reference 1856/10 John Kenyon; William D. Rubinstein, Who were the rich? A biographical dictionary of British wealth-holders Volume Two 1840-1859 (MS) reference 1849/21 John Curteis (left £120,000); Frederic G. Kenyon (ed.), The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning Chapter 2 Letters to John Kenyon 1838 and fn 36.

  1., London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921 [database online]. 

  2. Times 22/12/1856 p. 7; see also more details in Times 27/01/1857 p. 9, eg £100 to Walter Savage Landor, £20,000 to executor Thomas Hawthorne; £5000 to London University Hospital. 

  3. William D. Rubinstein, Who were the rich? A biographical dictionary of British wealth-holders Volume Two 1840-1859 (MS) reference 1856/10 John Kenyon. R.A. Barrett, The Barretts of Jamaica: the family of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Winfield, Kansas, Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University; The Browning Society; Wedgestone Press, 2000) p. 175 shows Kenyon's mother as Margery Simpson, daughter of Elizabeth Barrett Lawrence and John Simpson ('of Cheshire'), and Kenyon's first wife as Susannah Wright; ODNB online, Meredith B. Raymond, 'Kenyon, John (1784-1856), patron of the arts and poet.'

  4. 1851 census online.

Further Information

(1) Susannah Wright (2) Caroline Curteis

Will proved 19/12/1856 PROB11/2243/331. Trustees and executors Robert Hawthorne (q.v.) of 5 Lime St Square and James Booth of Hyde Park Gardens. Legacies inter alios: to Robert Hawthorne £20,000; James Booth £5000; 'my friend Miss Bayley £5000; sister-in-law Elizabeth Kenyon £2000; cousin Elizabeth Browning wife of Robert Browning £4000; Robert Browning £6500; cousin Lorenzo Hall [?] £7500; cousin Thomas Hall £1000; John Simpson a person of colour now living on the Estate of Vale Royal in the parish of Trelawny in Jamaica £500; University College Hospital £5000.

Wealth at death
Cambridge (Peterhouse) [1802-1808 ]
Legal Education
Lincolns Inn [1804 ]
Church of England
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Claims (2)

£1,478 17s 11d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£638 10s 0d

Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1809 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Joint owner

Relationships (5)

Nephew → Aunt
Son → Father
Notes →
Inferred by LBS, but there is strong supporting...
Nephew → Uncle
Grandson → Grandfather
Grandson → Grandmother

Addresses (2)

3 Parade, Cowes, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, Wessex, England
39 Devonshire Place, London, Middlesex, London, England
Notes →

This was the house of Kenyon's brother-in-law John Curteis, at which Kenyon and his wife Caroline 'probably established themselves' 1831-1835. Kenyon was living there with servants in 1851: his brother-in-law Curteis had died in 1849 and Kenyon was his heir.