Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dudley, Henry Bate

DUDLEY, Sir HENRY BATE (1745–1824), journalist, born at Fenny Compton, Warwickshire, on 25 Aug. 1745, was the second son of the Rev. Henry Bate, who for many years held the living of St. Nicholas, Worcester, and afterwards became rector of North Fambridge in Essex. He is said to have been educated at Queen's College, Oxford, but though the letters M.A. and LL.D. are sometimes given after his name, it does not appear that he ever received a degree at either university. Having taken orders Bate succeeded to the rectory of North Fambridge upon his father's death, but most of his time was spent in London, where he became well known as a man of pleasure. In 1773 an affray at Vauxhall Gardens brought him into considerable notoriety, and about this time he became curate to James Townley, the vicar of Hendon, and author of the celebrated farce, ‘High Life below Stairs.’ Bate was one of the earliest editors of the ‘Morning Post,’ which was established in 1772. The smartness of his articles and the excitability of his temperament frequently involved him in personal quarrels, which sometimes ended in a fight or a duel, and he thus earned the nickname of the ‘Fighting Parson.’ Bate never lost an opportunity of keeping himself well before the public, and Horace Walpole, in a letter to Lady Ossory, 13 Nov. 1776, records one of Bate's advertisements: ‘Yesterday, just after I arrived, I heard drums and trumpets in Piccadilly; I looked out of the window, and saw a procession with streamers flying. At first I thought it a press-gang, but seeing the corps so well drest, like Hessians in yellow, with blue waistcoats and breeches, and high caps, I concluded it was some new body of our allies, or a regiment newly raised, and with new regimentals for distinction. I was not totally mistaken, for the colonel is a new ally. In short, this was a procession set forth by Mr. Bate, Lord Lyttelton's chaplain, and author of the old “Morning Post,” and meant as an appeal to the town against his antagonist, the new one’ (Letters, Cunningham's edit. vi. 391–2). Bate continued to be editor of the ‘Morning Post’ until 1780, when he quarrelled with some of his coadjutors, and on 1 Nov. started the ‘Morning Herald’ upon liberal principles, and in opposition to his old paper. About the same time he also founded two other newspapers, the ‘Courrier de l'Europe,’ a journal printed in French, and the ‘English Chronicle.’ On 25 June 1781 he was committed to the king's bench prison for the term of twelve months for a libel on the Duke of Richmond which had appeared in the ‘Morning Post’ during his editorship on 25 Feb. 1780. The judgment had been delayed until the prison had been ‘sufficiently repaired to admit of prisoners after the devastation committed by the rioters in June 1780’ (Douglas, Reports, 1783, pp. 372–6). In 1781 Bate bought the advowson of Bradwell-juxta-Mare in Essex for 1,500l. and in 1784 assumed the additional name of Dudley, in compliance with the will of a relation of that name. Upon the death of the incumbent of Bradwell in 1797, Dudley presented himself to the living. It appears that immediately after the purchase Dudley had become the curate of Bradwell, and had obtained from the absentee rector a lease of the glebe and tithes. The bishop therefore refused to institute him on the ground of simony, and legal proceedings were commenced by Dudley. When a compromise was at length agreed to, it was discovered that the right of presentation had lapsed to the crown, and in the exercise of its right the chaplain-general of the army had been appointed. The case attracted considerable attention at the time, and it was thought an exceedingly hard one, Dudley having spent during the life of the previous incumbent more than 28,000l. in rebuilding the church, reclaiming and embanking the land, and otherwise improving the benefice. An address from the magistrates of the county in Dudley's favour was presented to Addington in June 1801. Towards the close of 1804 Dudley was presented to the living of Kilscoran in the barony of Forth, co. Wexford, and in the following year was appointed chancellor of the diocese of Ferns. In 1807 he also became rector of Kilglass in the county of Longford. Resigning his Irish benefices in 1812 he was in that year presented to the rectory of Willingham, Cambridgeshire, and on 17 April 1813 was created a baronet. In 1816 he was presented by the inhabitants of Cambridgeshire with a piece of plate for ‘his very spirited and firm conduct during the riots’ which had occurred in the earlier part of that year. In June 1815 he was appointed to a prebendal stall in Ely Cathedral. Dudley died at Cheltenham on 1 Feb. 1824 in his seventy-ninth year. He was an intimate friend of Garrick and the associate of all the wits of the day. He introduced William Shield to the public as an operatic composer, and was one of the earliest admirers of the talents of Mrs. Siddons. He was a magistrate for seven English and four Irish counties, but his career was not altogether a creditable one. Johnson in discussing his merits with Boswell said, ‘Sir, I will not allow this man to have merit. No, sir; what he has is rather the contrary: I will indeed allow him courage, and on this account we so far give him credit’ (Boswell, Life of Johnson, 1831, v. 196). In 1780 he married Mary, daughter of James White of Berrow, Somersetshire, and sister of the celebrated actress, Mrs. Hartley, but had no issue, and the baronetcy consequently became extinct upon his death. Portraits of Dudley and his wife by Gainsborough were exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1885 (Catalogue of the Gainsborough Exhibition, Nos. 75 and 171), both of which have been engraved by James Scott. Dudley was one of the minor contributors to the ‘Rolliad,’ which originally appeared in his newspaper, the ‘Morning Herald.’

He wrote the following works:

  1. ‘Henry and Emma, a new poetical interlude, altered from Prior's “Nut-Brown Maid,” with additions and a new air and chorus (the music by Dr. Arne),’ &c., anon., London, 1774, 8vo.
  2. ‘The Rival Candidates, a comic opera in two acts,’ &c., London, 1775, 8vo.
  3. ‘The Blackamoor washed White, a comic opera,’ London, 1776, 8vo. The songs only of this opera were printed. It was acted for four nights in February 1776, at Drury Lane, but led to such disturbances that it was obliged to be withdrawn.
  4. ‘The Flitch of Bacon, a comic opera in two acts; as it is performed at the Theatre Royal in the Haymarket,’ London, 1779, 8vo. It was set to music by William Shield, and was the first of his compositions which appeared on the stage.
  5. ‘The Dramatic Puffers, a prelude, as performed at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden,’ anon., London, 1782, 8vo.
  6. ‘The Magic Picture, a play’ (altered from Massinger), London, 1783, 8vo.
  7. ‘Remarks on Gilbert's Last Bill for the Relief of the Poor,’ London, 1788, 8vo.
  8. ‘The Woodman, a comic opera, in three acts; as performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, with universal applause,’ London, 1791, 8vo. The music was composed by Shield.
  9. ‘The Travellers in Switzerland, a comic opera, in three acts, as performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden,’ London, 1794, 8vo. The music was composed by Shield.
  10. ‘Passages selected by Distinguished Personages, on the great Literary Trial of Vortigern and Rowena; a comi-tragedy, “whether it be or be not from the immortal pen of Shakespeare?”’ 5th ed. London, 1795?–1807, 4 vols. 8vo. This is a satire on the leading public characters of the day in a series of passages professing to be quotations from Ireland's play. It originally appeared from time to time in the ‘Morning Herald,’ and was written by Dudley and his wife.
  11. ‘Letters, &c., which have lately passed between the Bishop of London and the Rev. H. B. Dudley respecting the Advowson of the vacant rectory of Bradwell near the Sea, Essex,’ London, 1798, 8vo.
  12. ‘A Few Observations respecting the present state of the Poor; and the Defects of the Poor Laws: with some remarks upon Parochial Assessments and Expenditures,’ 3rd edit. London, 1802, 8vo.
  13. ‘A Short Address to the … Lord Primate of all Ireland, recommendatory of some Commutation or Modification of the Tythes of that Country; with a few Remarks upon the present state of the Irish Church,’ 3rd edit. London, 1808, 8vo. This tract was republished in ‘The Pamphleteer,’ vi. 239–56.
  14. ‘Letter to the Rev. R. Hodgson on his “Life of Bishop Porteous,”’ 1811, 8vo.
  15. ‘A Sermon delivered at the Cathedral of Ely on Monday, 17 June 1816, before Mr. Justice Abbott, Mr. Justice Burrough, and Chief-justice Christian, on the opening of their special commission for the trial of the rioters. Printed at the request of the grand jury,’ Cambridge, 1816, 4to.

[Burke's Extinct Baronetage, 1844, p. 175; Gent. Mag. 1810, vol. lxxx. pt. i. p. 183, 1824, vol. xciv. pt. i. pp. 273–6, 638–40, 1828, vol. xcviii. pt. i. p. 496; Annual Register, 1824, Chron. pp. 296–7; Baker's Biog. Dram. (1812), vol. i. pt. i. p. 210; Reminiscences of Henry Angelo (1828), i. 153–69; Public Characters (1823), i. 538–9; Rose's Biog. Dict. 1848, vii. 162–3; The Vauxhall Affray, or the Macaronies Defeated (1773); London Mag. 1773, xlii. 461–2; Andrews's Hist. of British Journalism (1859), i. 211–13, 222–3; Watt's Bibl. Brit. (1824); Allibone's Dict. of English Literature (1859), i. 526; Dict. of Living Authors (1816), pp. 100–1; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ii. 114, iii. 130, xii. 471; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.