Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Henley, Samuel

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HENLEY, SAMUEL, D.D. (1740–1815), commentator, commenced his career as professor of moral philosophy in William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia, On the outbreak of the war of American independence he came to England, obtained an assistant-mastership at Harrow School, and soon afterwards received a curacy at Northall in Middlesex. In 1778 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and four years later he was presented to the living of Rendlesham in Suffolk. His letters show that he continued to spend the greater part of his time at Harrow. Dr. Henley engaged largely in literary work, and maintained an extensive correspondence on antiquarian and classical subjects with Michael Tyson, Richard Gough [q. v.], Dawson Turner, Bishop Percy, and other scholars of the time. In 1779 he edited 'Travels in the Two Sicilies,' by Henry Swinburne, the well-known court-chronicler. In 1784 he published with notes an admirable English translation of 'Vathek,' the French romance, written (but as yet unpublished) by William Beckford (1759-1844) [q. v.] The French original was not published till 1787. Stephen Weston stated in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' in 1784 that 'Vathek' had been composed by Henley himself as a text 'for the purpose of giving to the public the information contained in the notes.' Henley replied that his book was merely a translation from an unpublished French manuscript. Beckford, in the preface to the French version of 1815, mentions that the appearance of the English translation before his original was not his intention, and mysteriously attributes it to circumstances 'peu intéressantes pour le public'. Henley was a frequent contributor to the 'Monthly Magazine.' He also occasionally wrote short poems for private circulation among his friends. In 1805 was appointed principal of the newly established East India College at Hertford. He resigned this post in January 1815, and died on 29 Dec. of the same year. He married in 1780 a daughter of Thomas Figgins, esq., of Chippenham, Wiltshire.

In addition to the above-mentioned and three separately-printed sermons preached at Williamsburg, Henley wrote:

  1. 'A Candid Refutation of the Heresy imputed by R. C. Nicholas to the Revd. Samuel Henley,' Williamsburg, 1774.
  2. 'Dissertation on the Controverted Passages of St. Peter and St.Jude concerning the Angels that Sinned,' London 1778.
  3. 'Observations on the subject of the Fourth Eclogue, the Allegory in the third Georgic, and the primary design of the Aeneid of Virgil, with incidental Remarks on some Coins of the Jews,' London, 1788.
  4. 'Essay towards a New Edition of the Elegies a Tibullus. with Translation and Notes, 1792.
  5. 'Ad Anglos … ode gratulatoria,' 1793.
  6. 'Explanation of the Inscription on a Brick from the Site of Ancient Babylon in 'Archaeologia,' 1803, xiv. 205.

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. viii. 15-18, and references passim in index; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. iii. 759-6f5; Gent. Mag.vo1. lxxxvi. pt. i. p. 101; Watt's Bibl. Brit; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 19197. f, 202.]

G. P. M-y.