1902 Encyclopedia > Robert Henry

Robert Henry
English historian
(1718-90)




ROBERT HENRY, (1718-1790), the author of the History of Great Britain written on a new plan, was the son of a farmer, and was born in the parish of St Ninians near Stirling, 18th February 1718. He received his early educa-tion at the school of his native parish, and at the grammar school of Stirling, and after completing a course of study at Edinburgh University became master of the grammar school of Annan. In 1746 he was licensed to preach by the Annan presbytery, shortly after which he was chosen minister of a Presbyterian congregation at Carlisle, where he remained until 1760, when he was removed to a similar charge at Berwick-on-Tweed. It was during his stay at Berwick that the idea of his History first occurred to him, but the dearth of books and the difficulty of consulting original authorities compelled him to postpone the execution of his design till his removal to Edinburgh, as minister of New Greyfriars, in 1768. The first volume of his History appeared in 1771, and the others followed at irregular intervals until 1785, when the fifth was published, bringing down the narrative to the Tudor dynasty. The work was rirulently assailed by Gilbert Stuart, but the attack was overdone, and although it for a time hindered the sale, the injury effected was only temporary. For the volumes pub-lished in his lifetime Henry realized as much as £3300, and through the influence of Lord Mansfield he was in 1781 rewarded with a pension of £100 a year from George III. In 1784 he received the degree of D.D. from the university of Edinburgh. He died in 1790 before his sixth volume was quite ready for the press. Four years after his death it was published under the care of Malcolm Laing, who supplied the entire chapters v. and vii., and added an index. A life of the author by Sir Henry Wellwood Moncreiff was prefixed to the volume. The novel feature in Henry's History was that he combined with the narrative of the great political events of each era an account of the domestic state and social progress of the people within the same period. His researches were conducted with great care, and his work embodies much novel and curious infor-mation ; but the comprehensiveness of his plan, and the limited character of the historical sources then available, greatly militated against the accuracy of his narrative. Notwithstanding also that the work is well arranged, and written with clearness and simplicity, its defects as an authority are not compensated for by any peculiar excel-lences of style, by originality or vigour of reflexion, or by any special skill in the delineation of character.

A Continuation of Henry's History to the Accession of James I., by J. Petit Andrews, appeared in 1796. An account of the attack of Gilbert Stuart on Henry is given in Disraeli's Calamities of Authors.







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