Anthony Henley (1667–1711)

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Anthony Henley (1667–1711)[1] was an English politician and wit.

Anthony Henley, 1694 engraving by John Smith after Godfrey Kneller


He was son of Sir Robert Henley of the Grange, near Alresford, Hampshire, Member of Parliament for Andover in 1679, who married Barbara, daughter of Anthony Hungerford;[2] the legal official Sir Robert Henley, master of the court of king's bench, on the pleas side, was his grandfather. Out of the profits of this post Anthony inherited a fortune of more than £3,000 a year. At Oxford he studied classical literature, particularly poetry.[3]

Coming to London, Henley was welcomed by the wits, and was on good terms with the Earl of Dorset and Earl of Sunderland. After marrying he went into politics. He sat for Andover from 1698 to 1700, and for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis from 5 February 1702. Henley was a Whig, and Tory opponents made strenuous but unsuccessful efforts to displace him at Weymouth, and in 1710 they unsuccessfully petitioned against his return. On 14 December 1709 he moved the address to Queen Anne, urging some dignity in the church for Benjamin Hoadly, based on his justification of Revolution principles.[3]

Henley was one of the foremost Whig wits who welcomed Jonathan 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. Letters from Henley in 1708–10 are in Swift's Works.[3]

The Purcells had patronage from Henley, who was musical. The songs composed by Daniel Purcell for the opera of Brutus of Alba were dedicated on their publication in 1696 to Henley and Richard Norton, a friend; and his music for John 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. Samuel Garth dedicated to him his poem The Dispensary, and he was a member of the Kit-Cat Club.[3]


Henley died of apoplexy in August 1711.[3]


John Nichols believed that Henley wrote for The Tatler. When the Whig Medley was started by Arthur 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 in his continuation of the Tatler. An anecdote told by him on the death of Charles II was in Gilbert Burnet's History of his own Time, and was criticised by Bevil Higgons in his volume of Remarks on Burnet. Alexander Pope said that Henley contributed the "Life of His Music-Master, Tom D'Urfey", a chapter in the Memoirs of Scriblerus. Henley liked describing the manners and foibles of servants, and possibly some of the pastiches of communications from them in The Spectator came from him.[3]


Henley gained £30,000 by his marriage with Mary, daughter and coheiress of Peregrine Bertie, by Susan, daughter and coheiress of Sir Edward Monins of Waldershare, Kent. His widow afterwards married, as his second wife, her relative Henry Bertie.[3]

Henley left three sons, of whom the eldest, Anthony, M.P. for Southampton from 1727 to 1734, was a jester like his father; and the younger sons were Robert Henley, 1st Earl of Northington, and Bertie, a churchman and prebendary of Bristol (died 1760).

One of Henley's sisters married Sir Theodore Janssen, the other was the wife of Sir John Rogers, 2nd Baronet. Henley found them both marriage portions in 1698. His marriage with Mary Bertie has been attributed to a need to clear himself from resulting debts.[1]

The royal assent was given on 22 May 1712 to a bill arranging for the payment of the portions of Henley's younger children. From a letter written in 1733 it is apparent that Swift continued his friendship to the sons.[3]


  1. ^ a b, Henley, Anthony (1667-1711), of the Grange, Northington, Hants.
  2. ^ Sambrook, James. "Henley, Anthony". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12927.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h  Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney, eds. (1891). "Henley, Anthony". Dictionary of National Biography. 25. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainStephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney, eds. (1891). "Henley, Anthony". Dictionary of National Biography. 25. London: Smith, Elder & Co.