Henley, Anthony (DNB00)

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HENLEY, ANTHONY (d. 1711), wit and politician, was son of Sir Robert Henley of the Grange, near Arlesford, Hampshire, M.P. for Andover in 1679, who married Barbara, daughter of Sir Edward Hungerford. Sir Robert Henley, master of the court of king's bench, on the pleas side, a place then worth 4,000l. a year, was his grandfather. Out of the profits of this post Anthony inherited a fortune of more than 3,000l. a year, part of which arose from the ground-rents of the houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London. He was a candidate for a demyship at Magdalen College, Oxford, when Dr. Thomas Goodwin [q. v.] was its president under the protectorate, and he gave Addison an account, which was afterwards inserted in the ‘Spectator, No. 494, Sept. 26, 1712,’ of his interview with that grim divine, when he was so alarmed by the only question put to him, whether he was prepared for death, that he could not be induced to present himself again for examination. At Oxford he studied carefully the classical writers, particularly the poets, and when he came to London with a good income and an ample store of classical quotations, he was welcomed by the wits, and was very friendly with Lord Dorset and Lord Sunderland. For some time he was devoted to pleasure, and as his generosity to poor authors became known, he was fed with soft dedications. But after he had recruited his resources with the sum of 30,000l., through his marriage with Mary, daughter and coheiress of Peregrine Bertie (second son of Montagu, earl of Lindsey), by Susan, daughter and coheiress of Sir Edward Monins of Waldershare, Kent, he plunged into politics. He sat for Andover from 1698 to 1700, and for the conjoint borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis from 5 Feb. 1702.

As Henley consistently adhered to the whigs, his opponents made strenuous endeavours, but without success, to displace him at Weymouth, and in 1710 they unsuccessfully petitioned against his return. In 1701 he and his friend, Richard Norton of Southwick, Hampshire, also a strong whig, presented an address from the grand jury of that county, praying for the king's return. On 14 Dec. 1709 he moved the address to Queen Anne, urging the bestowal on Hoadly of ‘some dignity in the church’ for his frequent justification of revolution principles. Henley was one of the foremost wits among the whigs who welcomed Swift's appearance in London life after the publication of the ‘Tale of a Tub.’ He once said of Swift that he would be ‘a beast for ever, after the order of Melchisedeck,’ and Swift reported the witticism in the ‘Journal to Stella,’ which contains many other notices of Henley. Three letters from him to Swift in 1708–10 are in the latter's ‘Works,’ xv. 294–6, 339–44. Henley died of apoplexy in August 1711, and it appears from a letter written in 1733 that Swift continued his friendship to the sons. The widow afterwards married, as his second wife, her relative, Henry Bertie, third son of James, first earl of Abingdon. Henley left three sons, of whom the eldest, Anthony, M.P. for Southampton from 1727 to 1734, was a jester like his father, as appears from his letter to his constituents in the excitement over the excise bill, which is printed in ‘Notes and Queries,’ 2nd ser. xii. 107; and the younger sons were Robert Henley, earl of Northington [q. v.], and Bertie, a prebendary of Bristol (d. 1760). One of his sisters married Sir Theodore Jansen [q. v.], the other was the wife of Henry Cornish, M.P. The royal assent was given on 22 May 1712 to a bill arranging for the payment of the portions of his younger children (Journals of House of Commons, April and May 1712).

An anecdote on ‘Honest Ned,’ which originally came from Henley, is introduced into No. 11 of the ‘Tatler,’ and Nichols in a note thereto states that he was understood ‘on good authority’ to be the author of some papers in that periodical. The first letter in No. 26 was probably one of his communications, and so was the letter in No. 193, under the character of Downes, the prompter, in which Harley's administration, then just formed, was ridiculed under the disguise of a change of managers at the theatre. When the whig ‘Medley’ was started by Maynwaring as a counterblast to the tory ‘Examiner,’ one of the papers was written by Henley, and he is said to have aided William Harrison (1685–1713) [q. v.] in his continuation of the ‘Tatler.’ An anecdote told by him respecting the death of Charles II is inserted in Burnet's ‘History of his own Time,’ and was severely criticised by Bevil Higgons in his volume of ‘Remarks’ on that work (pp. 280–2). Pope said of the ‘Memoirs of Scriblerus’ that Henley contributed ‘the life of his music-master, Tom D'Urfey,’ and added ‘a chapter by way of episode.’ It is noted that his strength lay in describing the manners and foibles of servants, and possibly some of the pretended communications from them in the ‘Spectator’ came from his pen. He sang well, and played several instruments with skill, and was a recognised authority in musical matters. The Purcells shared in his patronage. The songs composed by Daniel Purcell for the opera of ‘Brutus of Alba’ were dedicated on their publication in 1696 to Norton and Henley, and the music written by that master for Oldmixon's opera of ‘The Grove, or Love's Paradise,’ was worked out on a visit to Henley and other friends in Hampshire. He himself wrote several pieces for music, and almost finished Daniel Purcell's opera of ‘Alexander.’ Garth dedicated to him his ‘Dispensary,’ and he was a member of the Kit-Cat Club. His portrait by Kneller was engraved by John Smith in 1694.

[Swift's Works, 1883, i. 83, 133, ii. 44, 98, 115, 135–6, 324, ix. 224, xviii. 104; Forster's Swift, pp. 220, 264, 286–7, 381; Tatler, 1786 ed., i. 118, 431; Spectator, No. 494 (26 Sept. 1712); Topogr. Miscellanies, 1792; Spence's Anecd. pp. 8, 267; Oldfield's Parl. Hist. iii. 379–80; Lord Henley's Life of Lord Northington, p. 5; Edmondson's Baronagium Geneal. iii. 305; Banks's Dormant Baronage, iii. 563; Le Neve's Knights (Harl. Soc.), p. 171; Hutchins's Dorset, 1813, iii. 287, iv. *325; Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation, ii. 641–2; Le Neve's Lives of Persons who died in 1711, pp. 531–7; Cummings's Purcell (Hueffer's Great Musicians), pp. 99–100; J. C. Smith's Mezzotinto Portraits, iii. 1178–9.]

W. P. C.