Layton, Henry (DNB00)
|←Layman, William||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32
LAYTON, HENRY (1622–1705), theological writer, eldest son of Francis Layton (d. 23 Aug. 1661, aged 84) of Rawdon, West Riding of Yorkshire, was born in 1622. His father was one of the masters of the jewel-house to Charles I and Charles II. In pursuance of his father's will, Layton built the chapel at Rawdon, which is a chapelry in the parish of Guiseley. He died at Rawdon on 18 Oct. 1705, aged 83. By his wife Elizabeth (d. 1702, aged 55), daughter of Sir Nicholas Yarborough, he left no issue.
According to Thoresby (Diary, 1830, i. 398) Layton printed many tracts against pluralities, and a valuable work on coins, 1697, 4to, dealing especially with English coins. But his title to remembrance is his anonymous authorship of a series of pamphlets, printed between 1692 and 1704, on the question of the immortality of the soul, a doctrine which he rejected, though he believed in the second coming of our Lord and a general resurrection. His thoughts had been directed to this subject about 1684, but it was some years later before he began to write. ‘In summer 1690,’ he says, ‘I practised my monastick discipline, reading within doors, and labouring the ground abroad … what I read within I ruminated without.’ At Christmas he communicated his speculations to his friends in conversation; between Candlemas and the week after midsummer 1691 he had composed a treatise of fifteen sheets, which was circulated in manuscript. A year's correspondence with ‘a neighbour-minister’ ended in his being referred to Bentley's second Boyle lecture (4 April 1692). To this lecture Layton replied in his first published pamphlet. Bentley took no notice of it, but it was criticised five years later by a local presbyterian divine, Timothy Manlove, M.D. [q. v.], of Leeds. Another ‘neighbour-minister’ referred him to the ‘Pneumatologia’ (1671) of John Flavel [q. v.] Layton's original treatise had now swelled to fifty sheets. He sent it to London for printing, but no publisher would undertake it. Accordingly he bade his London correspondent pack the manuscript away in a shallow box, labelling it ‘The Treatise of such a man concerning the Humane Soul.’ Ultimately he printed it at his own expense as ‘A Search after Souls.’ By 1697 he was ‘captus oculis;’ Manlove's criticism, published in that year, was read to him by his amanuensis, Timothy Jackson, and he issued a reply. His knowledge of contemporary affairs was limited; he supposed that John Howe [q. v.] and Matthew Sylvester were elders in Manlove's congregation. His production of pamphlets continued till the year before his death, with little advance upon his original statement of his case, his position being that soul is a function of body, a view which he defends on physiological grounds, and harmonises with scripture. The bent of his mind was not rationalistic. Speech he considers ‘a miraculous gift to Adam,’ whose posterity, unless taught, would be dumb. His authorship seems to have been very little known. Caleb Fleming, D.D. [q. v.], who replied to his ‘Search’ in 1758, thought it was the work of William Coward (1657?–1725) [q. v.] Besides his printed tracts, Layton left theological manuscripts on different topics of earlier date. Among them, no doubt, were the five large treatises of practical divinity which he mentions in ‘Second Part of Search after Souls,’ p. 25. His literary executor was his nephew, William Smith, rector of Melsonby, North Riding of Yorkshire.
Layton published the following, all quarto, all anonymous, and all (except No. 7) without title-page, dates, or place of printing: 1. ‘Observations upon a Sermon intituled, “A Confutation of Atheism,”’ &c. [1692?], pp. 19. 2. ‘A Search after Souls and Spiritual Operations in Man,’ &c. [1693?] pp. 278. 3. ‘A Second Part of … A Search after Souls,’ &c. [1694?], pp. 188 (consists in part of replies to letters of ‘a minister, eminent as scholar and teacher,’ who on 21 Nov. 1693 advised him not to publish). 4. ‘Observations upon a Short Treatise … by … Timothy Manlove, intituled, “The Immortality of the Soul,”’ &c. [1697?], pp. 128. 5. ‘Observations upon Mr. Wadsworth's book of the Soul's Immortality,’ &c. [1699?], pp. 215 (deals with Thomas Wadsworth's ‘Ἀντιψυχοθανασία,’ 1670; from p. 201 with ‘The Immortality of the Humane Soul,’ 1659, by Walter Charleton, M.D. [q. v.]). 6. ‘An Argument concerning the Humane Souls Seperate [sic] Subsistance,’ &c. [1699?], pp. 16 (Abbot). 7. ‘Arguments and Replies in a Dispute concerning the Nature of the Humane Soul,’ &c., London, 1703, pp. 112 (no publisher; deals with letters, dated 15 Aug. and 14 Sept. 1702; Francis Blackburne (1705–1787) [q. v.], in ‘Hist. View,’ p. 305, identifies the writer with Henry Dodwell the elder [q. v.]; the tract is evidently meant as the first of the following series). 8. ‘Observations upon … “A Vindication of the Separate Existence of the Soul. …” By Mr. John Turner, lecturer of Christ Church, London,’ &c. [1703?], pp. 55 (Turner had written in 1702 against Coward). 9. ‘Observations upon Dr. [William] Nicholl's … “Conference with a Theist,”’ &c. [1703?], pp. 124 (at end is ‘finit. 22 Jun. 1703;’ at p. 99 is a reference showing that No. 10 was written somewhat later). 10. ‘Observations upon … “Vindiciæ Mentis,” … 1702,’ &c. [1703?], pp. 88. 11. ‘Observations upon … “Psychologia” … by John Broughton, M.A. … 1703,’ &c. [1703?], pp. 132 (at end is ‘Ended the 22d of October, 1703’). 12. ‘Observations upon … Broughton's Psychologia, Part Second,’ &c. [1703?], pp. 52. 13. ‘Observations upon … A Discourse … By Dr. Sherlock … 1704,’ &c. [1704?], pp. 115. All the above except No. 6, and omitting the title-page of No. 7, were collected (not reprinted) 1706, 2 vols., as ‘A Search after Souls … By a Lover of Truth.’ Most of the copies were suppressed by Layton's executors, a few being deposited in public libraries and given to private friends. The British Museum has all the tracts except No. 6; Dr. Williams's Library, Gordon Square, has the 1706 reissue.[Thoresby's Ducatus Leodiensis (Whitaker), 1816, p. 260; Thoresby refers to Memoirs of Layton, 1705 (not seen), of which there is no copy at the British Museum or in any public library at Leeds, Bradford, or Halifax; Thoresby's Letters of Eminent Men, 1832, ii. 193 sq. (letter from Smith of Melsonby); Monk's Life of Bentley, 1833, p. 46; Ezra Abbot's Literature of the Doctrine of a Future Life, appended to Alger's Critical History of the Doctrine, Philadelphia, 1864; Layton's pamphlets.]