Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brookfield, William Henry
BROOKFIELD, WILLIAM HENRY (1809–1874), divine, was the son of Charles Brookfield, a solicitor at Sheffield, where he was born on 31 Aug. 1809. In 1827 he was articled to a solicitor at Leeds, but left this position to enter Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1829 (B.A. 1833, and M.A. 1836). In 1834 he became tutor to George William (afterwards fourth Lord) Lyttelton (1817–1876). In December 1834 he was ordained to the curacy of Maltby in Lincolnshire. He was afterwards curate at Southampton, in 1840 of St. James's, Piccadilly, and in 1841 of St. Luke's, Berwick Street. In 1841 he married Jane Octavia, the youngest daughter of Sir Charles Elton of Clevedon Court, Somerset. The wife of Hallam the historian was Sir C. Elton's sister. In 1848 Brookfield was appointed inspector of schools by Lord Lansdowne. He held the post for seventeen years, during part of which time he was morning preacher at Berkeley Chapel, Mayfair. On resigning his inspectorship he became rector of Somerby-cum-Humby, near Grantham. He was also reader at the Rolls Chapel, and continued to reside chiefly in London. In 1860 he was appointed honorary chaplain to the queen, and later chaplain-in-ordinary. He died on 12 July 1874. Mrs. Brookfield died on 27 Nov. 1896 at Walpole Street, Chelsea. A son, Mr. Charles Brookfield, is a well-known actor.
Brookfield was an impressive preacher, and attracted many cultivated hearers. His sermons, which show no special theological bias, have considerable literary merit. He had an original vein of humour, which made even his reports as a school inspector unusually amusing. He had extraordinary powers of elocution and mimicry. As a reader he was unsurpassable, and his college friends describe his powers of amusing anecdote as astonishing. He had the melancholy temperament often associated with humour, and suffered from ill-health, which in 1851 necessitated a voyage to Madeira. He was known to all the most eminent men of letters of his time, some of whom, especially Lord Tennyson and Arthur Hallam, had been his college friends. He was described by his friend Thackeray as ‘Frank Whitestock’ in the ‘Curate's Walk,’ and Lord Tennyson contributes a sonnet to his memory in the ‘Memoir.’ In the same memoir, written by his old pupil and friend Lord Lyttelton, will be found letters from Carlyle, Sir Henry Taylor, Mr. Kinglake, James Spedding, Dr. Thompson (master of Trinity College), Mrs. Ritchie, and others.
[Sermons with Memoir, by Lord Lyttelton, 1874.]