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brother to the Lord Mowbray.” The town contains 348 houses,
* Nichols, Vol. I. p. 259, from Godwin de Praesulibus, p. 258, Ed, Richardson,
* See Drake's Antiquities of York.
wrote and descanted on almost every popular subject of the day. Public men, and public measures, were treated with a boldness and freedom of language, that provoked astonishment and curiosity. It will be impossible to delineate the varied characteristics and proceedings of this man, in the limited space which I am necessarily confined to in this work; but in detailing the following particulars, I hope to experience the approbation of the reader: For whenever it becomes necessary to discuss and decide on the merits of public characters, it should be done with freedom and discrimination. John Henley has furnished us with ample data for writing a copious memoir and character of him, in his own “Oratory Transactions.” Whence it appears, that ambition was his ruling passion; and this impelled him, in all his scholastic proceedings, to aim at pre-eminence. He was generally head boy, or captain, in each school, and acquired a considerable knowledge of languages, &c. When at College, he still persevered in his studies; and there displayed some traits of that spirit which afterwards excited so much popularity. “He here began to be uneasy,” says Mr. Nichols: “he was impatient that systems of all sorts were put into his hands; and that he incurred the danger of losing his interest, and the scandal of heterodoxy, if (as his genius led him) he freely disputed all propositions, &c. He was always impatient under those fetters of the free-born mind; and privately determined, some time or other, to enter his protest against any person's being bred like a slave, who is born an Englishman. Here he also observed, that the space of four years was employed on the forming of such qualifications as might be mastered, to more perfection, in a fourth part of the time. He likewise found it was a great defect that, though he was brought up for a clergyman, he was not instructed to preach, or pray, or read prayers, or speak, or catechise, or confer, or resolve a case of eonscience, or understand the scriptures, or form any natural and clear idea of the Christian religion. He determined, therefore, some time to lay a foundation for removing such a complaint, that men might be
I i 4 educated
educated for their proper business, and not be under the greatest disadvantages in that station where they ought be most excellent”.” The man of bold and independent mind, who publicly arraigns established prejudices, old customs, and great abuses, will inevitably excite numerous enemies; but he is also likely to produce some good. This is manifested in the example before us; for when Henley gave full scope to his powers, he often repressed the obtrusions of folly, and checked the career of vice; though in doing this, he generally committed such absurdities as tended to counteract the efficacy of his satire. After leaving the University, where he was admired for his proficiency, but hated for his licentiousness, he officiated for some time as vicar of the church, and master of the grammar-school of Melton. During his stay here he published some sermons, and other works; but deserting his native town, he sought the metropolis, as a theatre more adapted for the exercise and exertion of his talents. Here he soon obtained popularity, by the character of his discourses, and the powerful action with which he delivered them. In a contest for the lectureship of St. John's chapel, near Bedford Row, it is said that the declamatory and theatrical style (as commonly called) of his delivery, excited the disapproval of the congregation, and that another person was elected. Provoked at this, he rushed into the vestry-room, and exclaimed, “Blockheads ! are you qualified to judge of the degree of action necessary for a preacher of God's word?—Were you able to read, or had sufficient sense, ye, sorry knaves, to understand the most renowned orator of antiquity, he would tell you that the great, almost the only requisite for a public speaker, was action, action, action.—But I despise, and defy you; provoco ad populum; the people shall decide between us.” This circumstance probably gave origin to his public lectures; for he soon afterwards advertised that he should ‘hold forth’ publicly twice a week. For this purpose he hired a large room in Newport Market, which he called The Oratory.
* History of Leicestershire, Vol. I. p. 259, from Oratory Transactions, p. 1,
Oratory. Here he delivered, on Sundays, a theological discourse in the morning, and a lecture in the evening. Every Wednesday he also gave lectures on the sciences, and on various miscellaneous subjects. He next took a room near Lincoln's Inn Fields, contiguous to the great Catholic chapel, and called it, “The Little ‘Catholic Chapel.” By quaint and occasionally witty advertisements and handbills, he amnounced his lectures; and generally attracted a numerous audience. The prices of admission 'were sixpence and one shilling each person. A syllabus of his lectures was also published, containing a long list of the various topics on which he proposed to descant during a course. The distinguishing characteristics of Henley in his lectures were, “to play round the surface of a subject, without puzzling his hearers by deep argument, solid learning, or abstruse speculation; to excite curiosity by singularity and extravagance; to provoke mirth sometimes by broad humour, and occasionally by barefaced impudence; to treat public men and public measures with sarcasm, personality, satire, and buffoonery” When Lord :Chesterfield was secretary of state, Henley was arrested, and brought before the privy council; but, careless and unabashed, he there indulged in his usual freedom of language, and was at length dismissed with a reprimand. Among other public characters whom he attacked, was Alexander Pope, who retaliated in the following terms, in that severely satirical poem of his called the “Dunciad.’
: —“Imbrown'd with native bronze, see Henley stands
* Lounger's Common Place Book, Vol. II. 3d Edit.
Henley died October 24, 1756; and his collection of MS. lectures, common place books, sermons, &c., amounting to about 200 volumes, was sold by public auction, June 12–15, 1769*.
At BURTON-LAzARs, about two miles to the north-west of Melton, was an hospital, founded “by a general collection throughout England; but chiefly by the assistance of Roger de Mowbray, who lived in the reign of King Stephen, 1135-1154+.” This hospital was the principal, or chief of the lazar houses in England; and its revenues supported a master, and eight sound, as well as several poor leprous brethren, who professed the order of St. Augustine. The hospital was situated on a hill, at a short distance from the hamlet: and in adopting this situation for the leprous fraternity, the founders were probably influenced by the peculiar character of a bath, or spring, the waters of which were formerly in high reputation for that disorder called leprosy. A bathing room, and drinking room, were built here about the year 1760, and the place frequented by many persons afflicted with scrofulous and scorbutic complaints. Some of these are said to have derived very considerable benefit from the use of the waters. These “are foetid and saline, without any mineral taste; but are esteemed pure in the highest degree, and create an appetite. They brace and invigorate weak constitutions, and render all less liable to colds and the inclemencies of weathers.” The chapel at Burton consists of a nave and two ailes; and at the west end are two bells, suspended beneath arches. STAPLEFORD,
* See a copious list of his publications, and many further particulars respecting him, in Nichols's History of Leicestershire, Vol. I. p. 260, &c.
t History of Leicestershire, Vol. I. p. 272.
# Ibid. p. 269. Throsby, in his “Leicestershire Views," p. 178, &c. has given a list of persons who obtained cures from bathing in, and drinking the waters. Most of the disorders appear to have been scorbatic.