John Mitchell Kemble, an English historian, eldest son of Charles Kemble, born in London in 1807, died in Dublin, March 26, 1857. He was educated by Dr. Richardson, author of the "English Dictionary," and afterward at Bury St. Edmund's grammar school, and Trinity college, Cambridge. In 1820 he visited Germany, and at this time commenced his study of the Anglo-Saxon and kindred Teutonic dialects.
He became acquainted with Thiersch, the brothers Grimm, and other leading philologists and antiquaries of Germany. In 1830 he visited Spain in order to cooperate with the Spanish liberals against the government of King Ferdinand. Returning to England, he began to explore everywhere, in the British museum and in cathedral and collegiate libraries, for manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon period, which he deciphered with remarkable skill. His first public effort was his lectures at Cambridge on the Anglo-Saxon literature and language in 1834-'5. About this time he published " The Anglo-Saxon Poems of Beowulf, the Traveller's Song, and the Battle of Finnesburgh, with a Glossary and Historical Preface," to the second edition of which he added a translation of Beowulf with a glossary and notes. From 1835 to 1844 he edited the " British and Foreign Review," to which he contributed many valuable anonymous articles, as he did also to the Archaeologia, the " Cambridge Philological Museum," the "Foreign Quarterly," and latterly to " Fraser's Magazine." The article on " Jakel's Comparative Philology " in the " Foreign Quarterly " is the best known of his contributions to periodical literature.
In 1839 he commenced the publication of his collection of Anglo-Saxon charters, the Codex Diploma-ticus AEvi Saxonici. For some years he superintended the publication of several of the archaeological works of the AElfric and Camden societies. In 1849 appeared his " Saxons in England," a work which caused Jakob Grimm to say that Kemble was the first of his disciples. From July, 1849, to May, 1855, he resided in the north of Germany, where he prosecuted his studies, and, as he wrote German with as much facility as his native language, contributed many essays to the " Transactions " of the archaeological society of Hanover. In 1854 he was employed by the antiquarian society of Hanover to excavate the sepulchral barrows of pagan times on the heath of Luneburg, resulting in large accessions to the Hanoverian museum. In 1857 appeared his last work, " State Papers and Correspondence illustrative of the Social and Political State of Europe from the Revolution (1688) to the Accession of the House of Hanover." At the time of his death he was engaged by the managers of the Manchester exhibition to form a department of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon art.
His unexpected demise caused the abandonment of this design.