Airay, Henry (DNB00)


AIRAY, HENRY, D.D. (1560?–1616), puritan divine and author of ‘Lectures’ on St. Paul's Epistle to the ‘Philippians,’ originally published in 1618, and recently republished in Nichol's ‘Puritan Commentaries,’ was born ‘about 1559–60,’ at Kentmere, Westmoreland; he was the son of William Airay, the favourite servant of Bernard Gilpin, the apostle of the North. Thus from his birth brought under the vigilant eyes and benignant care of this saintliest of the provincial leaders of the puritans, he was among the first to share the benefits of a school erected and endowed by Gilpin in the parish. Henry was selected to enjoy this privilege, we are told, in a somewhat eccentric way. ’Whenever he [Gilpin] met a poor boy upon the road, he would make trial of his capacity by a few questions, and if he found it such as pleased him, he would provide for his education.’’Nor,’it is added, ’did his care end here. From his school he sent several to the universities, where he maintained them wholly at his own expense.’Of these Henry and his brother Evan (or Ewan) were two. They were in attendance at Oxford when the venerable apostle lay dying. When he was gone, his will revealed that he had not forgotten his ’scholars.’One clause runs: ’All the rest of my goods and chattels I will that they be divided into two equal parts, and the one of them to be given to the poor of Houghton, the other to scholars and students in Oxford, whose names are [among others]. . . Ewan Ayray. . . Hen. Ayray.. . . These I will, be relieved as mine executors shall see needful, a year, two, or three, as the sum will arise.’

In 1579 Airay was ’sent,’says Wood, ’to St. Edmund’s Hall, aged nineteen or thereabouts.’’Soon after,’he continues, ’he was translated to Queen’s College, where he became pauper puer serviens, that is, a poor serving child that waits on the fellows in the common hall at meals, and in their chambers, and do other servile work about the college.’The transference to Queen’s is probably to be explained by it having been Gilpin’s own college, as well as by his Westmoreland origin giving him a claim to the benefit of Eaglesfield’s foundation attached to it. He proceeded B.A. on 19 June 1583, and ’after he was bachelor’s standing in 1583 he was made pauper puer, or tabardus, or tabardarius, that is, a tabardier or tabitter (so called because anciently they wore coats, or upper gowns, much according to the fashion of those belonging to heralds);’’which servile work belonging to pauper puer serviens, when under-graduates, all are to undergo before they can be fellows.’On 15 June 1586, he passed M.A., and on 3 Nov. of the same year was elected Fellow, B.D. in 1594, and D.D. on 17 June 1600, all in Queen’s College. About the time he was ’Master’[of Arts] in 1586, he entered holy orders, and became a frequent and zealous preacher in the university, particularly in the church of St. Peter-in-the-East, joining to the Queen’s College. His ’Lectures on Philippians’is a spirited example of his preaching in the church, of his fiery denunciation of popery, and of his unmistakable enunciation of that evangelical Calvinism which Oxford, in common with all England, then prized. In 1598 he was chosen provost of his college, and in 1606 was vice-chancellor of the university, wherein, ’as always before, he showed himself a zealous Calvinist, and a great maintainer of such that were of his mind.’In the discharge of his vice-chancellorship he came into conflict with Laud, who even thus early was manifesting his Romish tendencies. In the archbishop’s diary is this entry under 1606: ’The quarrel Dr. Ayry picked with me about my sermon at St. Mary’s, 21 Oct. 1606.’Airay had himself published a ’Treatise on Bowing at the Name of Jesus,’in which he condemned the practice. It is due to Laud to recall that long after he spoke with all honour, even reverence, of his former ’quarreler.’Dr. John Rainolds dying on 21 May 1607, the vice-chancellor preached his funeral sermon. They had been as twin brothers. In 1615–16 Airay was rector of Bletchingdon, near Oxford. In the register of this church, however, an earlier entry in 1603 connects him with it as one of the godfathers of ’George Aglionby, only son of Dr. John Aglionby, rector there.’In 1621 he accepted a presentation to Charlton-upon-Otmoor, although he was fully aware that it was a poor living, and certain to involve him in ’a tedious suit of law.’A memorial of this suit—most unselfish on the new rector’s part, and successful, to the permanent benefit of those who came after him—remains in his posthumous tractate ’Touching his Suit in Law for the Rectory of Charlton’(1621), an annotated copy of which is in the British Museum. He died on 6 Oct. 1616, and was interred within Queen’s Chapel. His character has been elsewhere described as follows: —’Altogether Henry Airay must have been a fine specimen of the more cultured puritans; strong with the strength of a true manhood, but softened with the shyness of woman; full of all tender charities, but bold for the truth; of brain in matter all compact, and not unvisited by speculation, yet beautifully modest before “The Word; ” gifted with “large utterance” in thick-coming words, that catch sometimes a vanishing glow, as of the light sifting through opal clouds from the vision behind of Him who is at once their grand burden and informing spirit; and throughout a robust common-sense, that offers an admirable contrast to the showy nothings of his contemporaries. You will look in vain in his “Lectures” for erudite criticism, or subtle exegesis in the modern sense; but there seems to us to be an instinctively true following up of the apostolic thoughts, a quick insight into their bearings and relative force, ingenious application to present need, and an uncommon fullness of positive instruction.’

[Memoir prefixed to reprint of Airay's Lectures (1864); Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 177–8 et freq.; Gilpin's Life of Bernard Gilpin (1854), pp. 65, 67; Laud's Works, iii. 133, 262, v. 6, vi. 295; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), i. 223, 237, 267, 286; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, ii. 247; Wood's Hist. and Antiq. of the Colleges and Halls of Oxford, ed. Gutch (1786), pp. 148, 161; MSS. from Rev. S. O. Balleine, M.A., Bletchingdon; Extracts from Queen's Registers, from Rev. Dr. Magrath, per R. L. Clarke, M.A., librarian.]

A. B. G.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.4
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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200 ii 19 Airay, Henry: after twin brothers insert Airay became prebendary of Canterbury in 1609