Felton, Henry (DNB00)

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FELTON, HENRY, D.D. (1679–1740), divine, was born in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields 3 Feb. 1679. His earlier education was at Chenies in Buckinghamshire, whence he was removed to Westminster, under Dr. Busby, and finally to the Charterhouse, where he became a private pupil of Dr. Walker, the head-master. In due time he entered St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, of which Dr. John Mill, the learned editor of the Greek Testament, was then principal, and where he had for his tutor Thomas Mills, afterwards bishop of Waterford. He proceeded to his degrees in the usual course, taking his M.A. in June 1702; and in December of the same year was ordained deacon in the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, by Dr. Lloyd, bishop of Worcester. In June 1704 he was admitted to priest's orders by Compton, bishop of London. According to Hearne he then left the university and ‘became an eminent preacher in and about London.’ On 7 July 1706 Hearne (MS. Diaries, xi. 57) heard a ‘neat well-penned discourse’ delivered by Felton at St. Mary's on an Act-Sunday. Hearne says that Dr. Mill had always been ‘very rough’ to Felton, and would not appear at the church. Hearne adds: ‘Mr. Felton lately put out a sixpenny pamphlet against the presbyterians of Colebrooke, which has the character of one of the best pamphlets that have been written.’ Probably this appeared in the early part of 1706, and is Felton's first publication. In 1708 he undertook the care of the English church at Amsterdam, but returned to England in the following year, and became domestic chaplain to the Duke of Rutland, an office which he retained under three successive dukes. On 11 July 1709 he took the degree of B.D. In 1711 he published his ‘Dissertation on Reading the Classics, and forming a just Style,’ a work that he had written for his pupil, John, lord Roos, or Ros, afterwards third Duke of Rutland. It was popular in its day, and passed through several editions. Hearne calls it ‘a very light, foolish performance.’

In 1711 Felton was presented to the rectory of Whitwell in Derbyshire by the second Duke of Rutland. On 5 July 1712 he proceeded to the degree of D.D. Hearne says (20 April 1722): ‘Yesterday morning Henry Felton, D.D., of Queen's College, very unanimously elected principal of Edmund Hall. He preached immediately before the election in the college chapel, and made, I am told, an excellent sermon.’ Hearne's subsequent notices are disparaging and even virulent. In 1725 Felton preached before the university on Easter day a sermon on ‘The Resurrection of the same numerical body, and its reunion to the same soul, against Mr. Locke's notion of personality and identity.’ This sermon excited considerable attention, and went through three editions, the last of which was in 1733, in which year he preached a second on the ‘Universality and Order of the Resurrection, being a Sequel to that wherein the Personal Identity is asserted.’ This is dedicated to Bishop Smallbrooke, Chandler's successor, Whitwell, Felton's benefice, being in Lichfield diocese. In 1727 he issued a small and useful tract entitled ‘The Common People taught to defend their Communion with the Church of England against the attempts and insinuations of Popish emissaries. In a Dialogue between a Popish Priest and a Plain Countryman.’ In 1730 appeared the ‘Character of a Good Prince. A Sermon before the University of Oxford, 11 June 1730, being the day of His Majesty's Inauguration.’

In 1728–9 he preached the Lady Moyer lectures at St. Paul's, which he published at Oxford in 1732, under the title of ‘The Christian Faith asserted against Deists, Arians, and Socinians, &c. To which is prefixed a very large Preface concerning the Light and Law of Nature, and the Expediency and Necessity of Revelation.’ This, his greatest work, is dedicated to Gibson, bishop of London. In 1735 he published at Oxford ‘The Scripture Doctrine of the Resurrection as it stood before the Law,’ and in 1736 ‘The Scripture Doctrine in the Books of Moses and Job.’ These, and one or two occasional sermons, are apparently all the works published in his lifetime. In 1736 his patron and former pupil, the third Duke of Rutland, then chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, presented him to the rectory of Barwick-in-Elmet, Yorkshire. He died on 1 March 1740, and was buried in the chancel of the church of Barwick. Some years after his death, his son, the Rev. William Felton, in 1748, published a set of sermons on the creation, fall, redemption, &c., which he had preached in Whitwell and Barwick churches, and which he had intended for the press. To this work the editor prefixed a sketch of his father's life and character.

[Life by Felton's son; Hearne's MS. Diaries in the Bodleian Library.]

R. H-r.