Henry, Robert

, author of a History of England on a new plan, which has been generally and highly approved, was the son of James Henry, a farmer, at Muirtown in the parish of St. Ninian’s, Scotland, and of Jean Galloway his wife, of Stirlingshire. He was born on Feb. 18, 1718; and, having early resolved to devote himself to a literary profession, was educated first under a Mr. John Nicholson, at the parish school of St. Ninian’s, and for some time at the grammar-school at Stirling. He completed his academical studies at the university of Edinburgh, and afterwards | became master of the grammar-school of Annan. He was licensed to preach on the 27th of March, 1746, and was the first licentiate of the presbytery of Annan, after its erection into a separate presbytery. Soon after he received a call from a congregation oi presbyterian dissenters at Carlisle, where he was ordained in November 1748. In this station he remained twelve years, and, on the 13th of August, 1760, became pastor of a congregation in Berwick upon Tweed. Here, in 1763, he married the daughter of Mr. Balderston, a surgeon, and though he had no children, enjoyed to the end of his life a large share of domestic happiness. In 1768, he was removed from Berwick, to be one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and was minister of the church of the New Grey Friars, from that time till November 1776. He then became colleague-minister in the old church, and in that station remained till his death, which happened in November, 1790. The degree of doctor in divinity was conferred on him by the university of Edinburgh, in 1770; and in 1774, he was unanimously chosen moderator of the general assembly of the church of Scotland, and is the only person on record who obtained that distinction the first time he was a member of the assembly.

It is thought to have been about 1763 that Dr. Henry first conceived the idea of his History of Great Britain the plan of which is indisputably his own. In every period it arranges, under seven distinct heads, or chapters, 1. The civil and military history of Great Britain 2. The history of religion 3. The history of our constitution, government, laws, and courts of justice 4. The history of learning, of learned men, and of the chief seminaries of learning 5. The history of arts; 6. The history of commerce, shipping, money, &c. and 7. The history of manners, customs, &c. Under these heads, which extend the province of an historian greatly beyond its usual limits, and compel him to attend to all these points uniformly and regularly, every thing curious or interesting in the history of any country may be comprehended. The first volume of his History, in qiprto, was published in 1771, the second in 1774, the third in 1777, the fourth in 1781, and the fifth (which brings down the history to the accession of Henry VII.) in 1785. The sixth volume, a posthumous >vork, the greater part of which he had prepared for publication before his death, appeared in 17S'3. Dr. Henry | published his volumes originally at his own risk, and suffered for some time from the malignity of uniair attacks from his own country.*


These attacks were carried on with a degree of malignity then unknown in literary history, and chiefly by one man, Dr. Gilbert Stuart. See a full display of his malice in D’Israeli’s Calamities of Authors, vol. II.

The English critics were more liberal, and very early allowed to his work that merit which has since been universally acknowledged. In 1786, when an octavo edition was intended, Dr. Henry conveyed the property to Messrs. Cadell and Strahan, for the sum of 1000l. reserving to himself what remained unsold of the quarto edition. His profits on the whole, including this sum, he found to amount to 3, 300l. a strong proof of the intrinsic merit of the work. The prosecution of this history had been his favourite object for almost thirty years of his life. He had naturally a sound constitution, with a more equal and a larger portion of animal spirits than is commonly possessed by literary men. From 1789 his bodily strength was sensibly impaired, yet he persisted steadily in preparing his sixth volume.

Henry was naturally fond of society, and few men enjoyed it more perfectly, or were capable of contributing so much to its pleasures. Though his literary pursuits might have been supposed to have given him sufficient employment, he always found time for social conversation, for the offices of friendship, and for objects of public utility. Of the public societies in Edinburgh he was always one of the most useful and indefatigable members; and he conversed with the ardour, and even the gaiety of youth, long after his bodily strength had yielded to the infirmities of age. His library he left to the magistrates of Linlithgow, &c. under such regulations as he conceived would tend to form a library calculated to diffuse knowledge and literature in the country. Both as a man, and as an author, he has left a character which will, and ought to be esteemed. A history of England, “from the death of Henry VIII. to the accession of James VI.” was published by James Pettit Andrews, as a “continuation” of Dr. Henry’s, and professedly on the same plan. But although this work, proceeding from a well-known lover of anecdotes, is not unamusing, a continuation upon Henry’s more serious plan is yet wanting to complete what would be a truly valuable series of English history. 1


Life as above.