Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Riley, Henry Thomas
RILEY, HENRY THOMAS (1816–1878), translator and antiquary, born in June 1816, was only son of Henry Riley of Southwark, a West India planter or merchant, and was educated at Chatham House, Ramsgate, and at the Charterhouse (1832–4). He was originally entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, but at the end of his first term migrated to Clare College, where he was admitted on 17 Dec. 1834, and elected a scholar on 24 Jan. 1835. In 1838 he obtained the second of the members' prizes for undergraduates, then given for a Latin essay. He graduated B.A. in 1840 and M.A. in 1859, after which he removed to Corpus Christi College. On 16 June 1870 he was incorporated at Exeter College, Oxford.
Riley was called to the bar at the Inner Temple on 23 Nov. 1847, but early in life he was forced to toil for the booksellers in order to gain a livelihood. He is said by Allibone to have translated the ‘Olynthiacs’ of Demosthenes so early as 1836, and his life was passed in an incessant course of editing and translating. He died at Hainault House, the Crescent, Selhurst, Croydon, on 14 April 1878.
For Bohn's Classical Library Riley translated the complete works of Ovid (viz. the ‘Metamorphoses,’ 1851, the ‘Fasti,’ ‘Tristia,’ &c., 1851, and the ‘Heroides,’ 1852), the comedies of Plautus (1852, 2 vols.), the ‘Pharsalia’ of Lucan (1853), the comedies of Terence and the fables of Phædrus (1853), and (in conjunction with John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S.) the natural history of the elder Pliny (1855–7, 6 vols.) His ‘Dictionary of Latin Quotations’ (1856 and 1860), for which he is said to have received the meagre payment of 50l., was included in the same series. For Bohn's Antiquarian Library he translated the ‘Annals’ of Roger de Hoveden (1853, 2 vols.) and Ingulph's ‘Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland’ (1854).
For the ‘Chronicles and Memorials’ series of the Master of the Rolls, Riley edited the ‘Munimenta Gildhallæ Londoniensis,’ including the ‘Liber Albus’ (1859), the ‘Liber Custumarum’ (1860, in two parts), with a translation of the Anglo-Norman passages, and a glossary (1862); the Chronica Monasterii S. Albani, comprising the Annals of John Amundesham (1870 and 1871, 2 vols.); and a further set of the chronicles of St. Albans, in eleven volumes, including the works of Thomas Walsingham, John of Trokelowe, Henry of Blandford, and William Rishanger, and the register of John Wethamsted.
Riley translated for the corporation of the city of London the ‘Liber Albus’ (1861) and the ‘Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London, 1188–1274, from the Latin and Anglo-Norman of Arnald Fitz-Thedmar; with the French Chronicle of London, 1259–1343, from the Chroniques de London’ (1863). He also published in 1868 a volume entitled ‘Memorials of London and London Life, a series of Extracts from the City Archives, 1276–1419.’
On the creation of the Historical Manuscripts Commission (by royal warrant of April 1869) Riley was engaged as an additional inspector for England, and to him was deputed the task of examining the archives of various municipal corporations, the muniments of the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, and the documents in the registries of various bishops and chapters. His accounts of these collections are in the first six reports of the commission. As an expert in such matters Riley had no superior.
Riley wrote in the ‘Athenæum,’ the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ and the ‘Archæological Journal.’ He contributed lives of Pliny the elder and Pliny the younger to the eighth edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica.’
[Athenæum, 20 April 1878, p. 509, and 27 April, p. 542; Academy, 20 April 1878, p. 345; Anderson's Croydon, p. 219; Boase's Exeter College, Commoners, p. 273; Parish's Carthusians, p. 197.]