John Keigwin

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Keigwin House, Mousehole

John Keigwin (1641–1716) was a Cornish antiquary, born at Mousehole, Cornwall. He was a leading member of a group of antiquaries in west Penwith; this group also included John Boson and Thomas Boson, William Gwavas, Thomas Tonkin, William Borlase, Oliver Pender, and James Jenkins of Alverton. The scholars Edward Lhuyd and William Borlase described Keigwin's knowledge of the Cornish language as profound and complete. His teacher was the scholar John Boson.[1] Keigwin had mastered the French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages in addition to Cornish and English. He was a nephew of William Scawen, also a scholar of the Cornish language, since Scawen's sister Elizabeth had married his father Martin Keigwin.[2]

Keigwin's translations of Pascon Agan Arluth and Creacon of the World were published by Davies Gilbert in 1826 and 1827.[3]

Among other scholarly work he translated the letter of Charles I, King of England to the people of Cornwall written at Sudeley Castle in 1643 into Cornish. The scholar Henry Jenner, noted extraordinary mistakes made by Keigwin in the translations of Pascon and Creacon.[1] Jenner and P. Berresford Ellis note that Keigwin used the Hebrew word for war, milchamath, in translating King Charles's letter instead of bresel.[4]


R. Morton Nance regarded Keigwin's Cornish as less good but E. G. Retallack Hooper maintained that criticism of his Cornish is partly due to the way Davies Gilbert edited his writings. As Gilbert did not understand any Cornish himself and could not read Keigwin's handwriting properly, though Keigwin's reputation in Cornwall was good his work was neglected until it was reexamined by Whitley Stokes and others.[5]

John Boson wrote Keigwin's epitaph in 1716, given here in a later orthography:

En Tavaz Greka, Lathen ha’n Hebra,
En Frenkock ha Carnoack deskes dha,
Gen ol an Gormola Brez ve dotha
Garres ew ni, ha Neidges Ewartha.[6]

In English it is: In tongue Greek, Latin and Hebrew / In French and Cornish, learned well / With all the Glory of Mind was to him / Has left us, and fled is he on high.[7] His manuscripts are divided between the British Library, the Bodleian Library and the National Library of Wales. They include a transcription of the Ordinalia written about 1707 which is accompanied by an English translation and a Latin preface.[8]


  1. ^ a b Henry Jenner (1904). Handbook of the Cornish Language.
  2. ^ DNB John Keigwin
  3. ^ 1) John Keigwin (1826) Mount Calvary, or, The History of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection, of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; Written in Cornish (as it may be conjectured) some centuries past; interpreted in the English tongue, in the year 1682, by John Keigwin; edited by Davies Gilbert. London: J. B. Nichols; sold by Simpkin and Marshall, also by Tregonning, Thurg, and Vigurs, Penzance.
    2) John Keigwin (1827) The Creation of the World, with Noah's flood; written in Cornish in the year 1611, by William Jordan ; with an English translation by John Keigwin; edited by Davies Gilbert. London: J. B. Nichols; sold by Simpkin and Marshall, also by Tregonning, Thurg, and Vigurs, Penzance
  4. ^ Peter Berresford Ellis (1974). The Cornish Language and its Literature. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-710-07928-2; p. 92 Google Books
  5. ^ Ellis (1974); p. 91; citing Old Cornwall; vol. 3, nos. 4 &5 and A. S. D. Smith The Story of the Cornish Language; revised by E. G. Retallack Hooper. Camborne, 1969
  6. ^ John Boson (1715). Verse in honour of John Keigwin Archived 2008-09-07 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Ellis (1974); p. 111
  8. ^ Ellis (1974); p. 91 & fn

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