Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wharton, Henry
WHARTON, HENRY (1664–1695), divine and author, was the son of Edmund Wharton (a descendant of Thomas Wharton, second son of Thomas, second baron Wharton [see under Wharton, Thomas, first Baron]), vicar of Worstead, Norfolk, rector of Stoley, and afterwards rector of Saxlingham, and Susan his wife (Henry calls her Mary, so her name may possibly have been Susan Mary), daughter of John Burr, a well-to-do clothmaker of Dedham in Essex. He was born at Worstead on 9 Nov. 1664, and baptised on 20 Nov. Both his father and his mother survived him. He had a younger brother, Edmund, born 1666, ‘an apothecary and great rake,’ and a sister Susan.
He was born with two tongues, both of the same shape and size. The lower gradually lessened and the upper grew till the deformity ceased to be inconvenient (Philosophical Transactions, 1748, xlv. 232–233, from a manuscript of Wharton's). At the age of six he was sent to a ‘public school’ at Norwaltham for a year, after which he was taught by his father so thoroughly ‘that at his entrance into the university he had the reputation of an extraordinary young man’ (‘Life’ prefixed to Sermons, vol. i.) His manuscript autobiography records many youthful classical exercises in verse. He was admitted pensioner of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, on 15 Feb. (‘Autobiography’ in D'Oyley's Life of Sancroft, ii. 109; but the ‘Life’ says 17 Feb.) 1679–80, of which college his father had been a fellow. His tutor was Dr. John Ellys, ‘a person of eminent learning, singular piety, and strictness of life.’ In November of the same year he was elected scholar of his college. He held this scholarship by special favour until 1687, though he went out of residence a year before. As an undergraduate he seldom studied less than twelve hours a day, and he became proficient not only in classics, but in philosophy, French, Italian, and mathematics, being in the last private pupil of Isaac Newton, then fellow of Trinity, and Lucas, professor of mathematics. He graduated B.A. Hilary term 1683–4, having ‘deservedly the first place given him by the then proctor of the university, the learned Rev. William Needham, fellow of Emmanuel College, afterwards his dear friend and fellow chaplain at Lambeth.’ He bore the highest character as an undergraduate, and was especially noted as ‘constant in frequenting the prayers and sacraments in the chapel.’
He remained in college till the spring of 1686, when, seeing no likelihood of a vacant fellowship, he accepted the recommendation of Dr. Barker, a senior fellow of his college, to William Cave [q. v.], the ecclesiastical historian, who promised him a salary of ten pounds a year and free access to his fine library. He greatly assisted Cave in his ‘Historia Litteraria’ (published 1688), and he considered that his help was not adequately acknowledged (cf. his own account in D'Oyley's Life of Sancroft, ii. 111–12, with Cave's letter to Archbishop Tenison, ib. 165 sqq.). He visited Windsor with Cave in April, and was made acquainted with many learned persons and with a Roman priest named Matthews, who said mass for James II privately, and who tried to lure Wharton into hideous vice, alleging his own Roman training as an excuse (Autobiography). His labours for Cave now became incessant and exhausting, and he asserts that he did almost all the work which was afterwards published in his employer's name. He was ordained deacon by Thomas White (1628–1698) [q. v.], bishop of Peterborough, on 27 Feb. 1686–7, though he was under the canonical age, on account of his extraordinary learning. Nathaniel, lord Crewe, bishop of Durham, made him at the same time many promises of patronage, which were not fully carried out. In June 1687 he was dangerously ill with smallpox, and the degree of M.A. was conferred on him at Cambridge on 5 July by proxy.
He now assisted Thomas Tenison [q. v.] in his controversy with the Romanists, and was the means of bringing ‘one of excellent parts’ back to the communion of the English church. To this period belong his works: 1. ‘A Treatise of the Celibacy of the Clergy, wherein its Rise and Progress are historically considered,’ London, 1688, 4to. 2. ‘Speculum Ecclesiasticum, or an Ecclesiastical Prospective Glass [written by Thomas Ward q. v.], considered,’ London, 1688, 4to. Of this there were two editions within a month, the second with two appendices. 3. ‘A Treatise proving Scripture to be the Rule of Faith, writ by Reginald Peacock, bishop of Chichester, before the Reformation, about the year 1450,’ London, 1688 (with forty pages of learned introduction). 4. ‘The Enthusiasm of the Church of Rome demonstrated in some Observations upon the Life of Ignatius Loyola,’ London, 1688. (This was answered by William Darrell, S.J., in ‘A Vindication of S. Ignatius from Phanaticism,’ 1688.) He won great reputation by these works, which showed remarkable learning for so young a man, and the Romanists made many attempts to convert him. In 1687 he became tutor to the eldest son of John, lord Arundell of Trerice, and in November finally left Cave, whom he considered to have used him very ill. Cave after Wharton's death accused him of ‘unfair and disingenuous dealing;’ but the second edition of his ‘Historia Litteraria’ contains many additions from Wharton's manuscripts. Wharton during 1687 and 1688, besides his original writings, produced several translations from French theological works, and was engaged on investigation of mediæval manuscripts at Cambridge and in the Royal Library at St. James's (for details see D'Oyley's Life of Sancroft).
On 12 Jan. 1688 Wharton first made acquaintance with Archbishop Sancroft, who became his patron and gave him much important literary work. He published by the archbishop's direction ‘The Dogmatical History of the Holy Scriptures’ from Archbishop Ussher's manuscripts, and, by the advice of Tenison, Ridley's ‘Brief Declaration of the Lord's Supper,’ with extracts from Poynet's ‘Diallacticon.’ On 30 June Sancroft gave him a license to preach throughout the whole province of Canterbury, the only such license ever given by that archbishop. On 10 Sept. Sancroft made him his chaplain, and presented him to the rectory of Sundridge, Kent, to which institution was deferred till he was of full age. He resigned this on being appointed to the rectory of Minster, October 1688. He was ordained priest by the archbishop on 9 Nov. 1688, and on 19 Sept. 1689 received the rectory of Chartham. He ‘kept curates’ at his benefices while he ‘busied himself about the public concerns of learning’ (Wood, Athenæ Oxonienses, iv. 330). At this time, too, he became closely associated in literary friendship with Dr. Henry Maurice, afterwards Margaret professor at Oxford; Bishop William Lloyd, then of Asaph; Dr. John Battely, archdeacon of Canterbury; and Dr. Matthew Hutton, rector of Aynho (cf. Stubbs, Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, ed. 1897, p. vi).
He now began his ‘Anglia Sacra,’ a collection of the lives, partly by early writers, partly compiled by himself, of the English archbishops and bishops down to 1540. This, ‘a work of incredible pains,’ was published in two folio volumes, London, 1691. He completed the history of the prelates of the sees whose cathedrals were served by regulars, but a third volume, to deal with those whose cathedrals were served by secular or regular canons, was never finished, and only a part of it, ‘Historia de Episcopis et Decanis Londinensibus necnon de Episcopis et Decanis Assavensibus,’ was published in a small octavo after his death, London, 1695.
At the revolution he alone of his chaplains remained with Sancroft at Lambeth. He took the oaths to the new sovereigns, but was ordered by the archbishop never to mention them in the public prayers [see Sancroft, William]. He did not hesitate to apply for preferment, but was frequently disappointed, and he considered that Burnet prevented Queen Mary from making him one of her chaplains. Other bishops, however, favoured him; he visited many of them, and he preached before the queen at Whitehall. In 1693 he published, under the name of Anthony Harmer, ‘A Specimen of some Errors and Defects in the History of the Reformation of the Church of England wrote by Gilbert Burnet, D.D.,’ which unquestionably exposes a number of considerable mistakes, brought forth a bitter rejoinder in the same year from Burnet (concerned chiefly with faults of copyists, for which Wharton was not responsible), and probably prevented any further favour from Burnet's royal friends. Considerable extracts from it are reprinted in Pocock's edition of Burnet's ‘History’ (see pref. vol. vii. pp. 157 sqq.). Sancroft retained his confidence in Wharton to the end, received several visits from him, on his deathbed promised him all his manuscripts, and especially entrusted him with the publication of the ‘History,’ ‘Diary,’ and other remains of Archbishop Laud; these appeared as the ‘History of the Troubles and Tryal of … Dr. Will. Laud …’ London, 1695, fol. A second volume of ‘Remains’ was published in 1700 (London, fol.), after Henry Wharton's death, by his father.
During these years he had not in the slightest degree remitted his incessant literary labours. In 1692 he published anonymously ‘A Defence of Pluralities or holding two Benefices with Cure of Souls as now practised in the Church of England,’ London, 8vo (directed against some contemplated legislation). This was republished in 1703 ‘with material additions and authorities by the author's own hand after strict review and deliberate perusal.’ In 1693 he published Bede's commentaries on Genesis (an editio princeps), with Aldhelm's ‘Praise of Virginity’ (London, 4to), and contributed to Strype's ‘Cranmer’ (see Appendix, pp. 253–64, ed. 1693).
In April 1694 he settled at Chartham, and was clearly to some extent a disappointed man. He wrote to Dr. Barker, Tillotson's chaplain, in 1692 of his ‘vast labour’ at the Lambeth manuscripts and Sancroft's designs for publication, adding that all were ‘now frustrated, and all my zeal for the public service must be employed in teaching a few plough-joggers who look upon what I say to concern them but little.’ In the autumn of 1694 signs of consumption appeared, and, after an unavailing visit to Bath (visiting Oxford on the way, Reliquiæ Hearnianæ, p. 694), he died on 5 March 1694–5.
He was buried on 8 March with much pomp in Westminster Abbey, where his monument remains between the third and fourth pillars from the cloister gates westward (see Dart, Westmonasterium, ii. 95 sq.; the monument is engraved, p. 92). Tillotson, many bishops, and ‘vast numbers of the clergy were present at his funeral,’ and the choir sang anthems specially composed by Purcell. His portrait, painted by H. Tilson, is engraved by R. White as frontispiece to the edition of his sermons, 1728. He was ‘of a middle stature, of a brown complexion, and of grave and comely countenance.’ Originally strong and vigorous, he injured his constitution by the severity of his studies, ‘that no art or skill of the most experienced physicians could restore it.’
The Leipzig ‘Acta Eruditorum,’ 1696, contained a eulogy of him. In his will he left a bequest for beautifying the parish church of Worstead, which now brings in about 17l. per annum.
Of Wharton's personal character two views have been held. Some, especially staunch Jacobites like Hearne, have regarded him as ‘wanting in integrity,’ and as avaricious alike of literary fame and personal preferment. But the best men of the day had the most confidence in him, and Sancroft's continued affection is a testimony to his goodness. His personal purity, in spite of many temptations, and his regular habits of devotion are especially noted.
The greatness of the services which Wharton rendered to learning can be best estimated by quotations from the judgment of great scholars. Browne Willis, in the dedication of his ‘Mitred Abbies’ (1718), says of him: ‘Without the perusal of the published books and manuscripts of that very extraordinary person (whose unprecedented industry will for ever be admired by all who impartially consider his uncommon performances, beyond what were achieved by any one of his years) it would have been almost impossible to have drawn up this account of monasteries and conventual churches.’ And the testimony of Bishop Stubbs is no less eloquent: ‘This wonderful man died in 1695, at the age of thirty, having done for the elucidation of English church history (itself but one of the branches of study in which he was the most eminent scholar of his time) more than any one before or since’ (Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, ed. 1897, p. vi). It must be added, however, that ‘he wrote and printed in too great a hurry, which hath rendered his works [occasionally] incorrect.’ Wharton's manuscript collections were enormous, the most notable being a catalogue of the Lambeth manuscripts (afterwards purchased by Archbishop Tenison, and placed in the archiepiscopal library), and materials for a critical edition of Benedictus Abbas, Nicholas Trivet, and several other mediæval chroniclers, and ‘vast collections out of ancient and modern records relating to church affairs.’ Sixteen volumes of his manuscript collections are in the Lambeth Library. Among his manuscripts is a life he wrote of Captain John Smith (1580–1631) [q. v.], ‘distinguished by his adventures and atchievements in the four quarters of the globe’ (Lambeth MS. No. 592). To these should be added ‘A List of the Suffragan Bishops in England, drawn up by the late Rev. Henry Wharton, M.A.,’ published in ‘Bibliotheca Topographica,’ vol. vi., London, 1790.
His fourteen sermons preached before Archbishop Sancroft in 1688 and 1689 were published, with a short life, in 1728.
[Wharton's manuscript history and diary of his own life, once in the possession of Edward Calamy (cf. Birch's Life of Tillotson, p. 143), appears to be now lost. A large manuscript collection of notes relating to the family of Wharton and Warton, now in the Bodleian Library, was made by the late Edward Ross Wharton [q. v.]; the collections on the life of Henry Wharton are contained in vol. xii. The most important printed authorities are D'Oyley's Life of Sancroft, ii. 103 sqq. (from Wharton's own manuscript); Anthony Wood's Athenæ Oxonienses, iv. 330–3; the life prefixed to vol. i. of the Sermons, 1728 [this was written by Thomas Green of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and afterwards bishop of Norwich (1721) and Ely (1733); see also Nichols's Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, iii. 658]. Letters to and from William Nicholson, Archbishop of Cashel, 1809, i. 12, 16, 18; Birch's Life of Tillotson; Gent. Mag. vols. lx. and lxi. There are lives in Biogr. Britannica, vol. vi., and Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary, vol. xxxi.]