Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cotton, Henry

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COTTON, HENRY (1789–1879), divine, was a native of Buckinghamshire. He was born in 1789, and, having been for four years at Westminster School (into which he was admitted in 1803), entered Christ Church, Oxford, where he obtained in 1810 a first class in classics, and became Greek reader. There he graduated B.A. in the following year, and M.A. in 1813. While at Christ Church he attracted the notice of the dean, Cyril Jackson, to whose memory his work on the various editions of the Bible is dedicated, and it was probably through the dean's influence that he was appointed in 1814 sub-librarian of the Bodleian. This post he resigned in 1822, having two years before received from his university the degree of D.C.L., and having been admitted into holy orders. He was likewise a student of Christ Church. In 1823 he removed to Ireland as domestic chaplain to the learned Dr. Laurence, shortly before promoted to the archbishopric of Cashel, who was also an Oxford man, and father-in-law of Cotton. In June 1824 the archdeaconry of Cashel was conferred upon him; in 1828 the union of Thurles; he was appointed likewise in 1832 to the treasurership of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin; and in 1834, the temporalities of the deanery of Lismore having been transferred to the ecclesiastical commissioners for Ireland, under the provisions of the act 4 and 5 William IV, c. 90, the cathedral chapter elected him to the honourable, but unremunerative, dignity of dean of Lismore. Until failing eyesight induced him to retire from the active duties of the ministry he laboured faithfully, taking a deep interest in his various engagements. In 1872 he became almost totally blind, and then felt bound to resign all his other ecclesiastical preferments, having held an exemplary position as a scholar, an author, and a minister of religion. He died at his residence in Lismore 3 Dec. 1879, and was buried in the graveyard of Lismore Cathedral.

Cotton's works (not including occasional sermons and articles in periodicals) are:

  1. ‘Dr. Wotton's Thoughts on a proper Method of studying Divinity, with Notes,’ &c., Oxford, 1818.
  2. ‘A List of Editions of the Bible in English from 1505 to 1820, with Specimens of Translations,’ &c., Oxford, 1821 (second edition, corrected and enlarged, 1852).
  3. ‘A Typographical Gazetteer attempted,’ Oxford, 1824 (second edition, corrected and enlarged, 1831; and a second series, especially rich in details of the foundation of newspapers in the United States, and of missionary publications in our colonies, Oxford, 1866).
  4. ‘Memoir of a French New Testament, with Bishop Kidder's Reflections on the same,’ London, 1827 (second edition 1863).
  5. ‘A Short Explanation of Obsolete Words in our Version of the Bible,’ Oxford, 1832.
  6. ‘Five Books of Maccabees in English, with Notes and Illustrations,’ Oxford, 1832.
  7. ‘Cui Bono? A Letter to the Right Hon. E. G. Stanley,’ Dublin, 1833.
  8. ‘Fiat Justitia, a Letter to Sir H. Hardinge on the Present State of the Church in Ireland,’ Dublin, 1835.
  9. ‘Fasti Ecclesiæ Hibernicæ,’ 6 vols., Dublin, 1845–78.
  10. ‘Rhemes and Doway: an Attempt to show what has been done by Roman Catholics for the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures in English,’ Oxford, 1855.
  11. ‘The Four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, with short Notes for the use of schools and young persons,’ Oxford, 1857.

On the death of Archbishop Laurence in 1838 Cotton superintended the publication of Laurence's reproduction of the first ‘Visitation of the Saxon Reformed Church in 1527 and 1528,’ and he likewise reissued the privately printed poetical pieces of Archbishop Laurence and his brother, French Laurence, the friend of Fox and Burke; but the volume, ‘through the unfortunate blindness of the editor,’ was very incorrectly printed. In the prefaces to his varied publications he feelingly refers to his residence in remote country parts of the south of Ireland. All his writings, however, are highly creditable to his scholarship, while his ‘Fasti Ecclesiæ Hibernicæ’ (5 vols. 1851–1860) is a standing monument of the most patient industry. It has done for the Irish church what Hardy's ‘Le Neve’ has done for the English; in fact, it excels its English rival in supplying skeleton biographies of all the bishops and the more distinguished members of the cathedral bodies.

[Cotton's Fasti Ecclesiæ Hibernicæ; Men of the Time (ed. 1865), p. 207; Annual Register (1879), p. 233; Academy, 13 Dec. 1879; Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette, 3 Jan. 1880.]

B. H. B.