"He began there to be uneasy; for it shock'd him to find he was commanded to believe against his own judgment in points of Religion, Philosophy, &c. for his genius leading him freely to dispute all propositions, and call all points to account, he was impatient under those fetters of the free-born mind."
— Pope, Alexander (1688-1744)
Ver. 199. lo! Henley stands, &c. ]
J. Henley the Orator; he preached on the Sundays upon Theological matters, and on the Wednesdays upon all other sciences. Each auditor paid one shilling. He declaimed some years against the greatest persons, and occasionally did our Author that honour. Welsted, in Oratory Transactions, N. 1. published by Henley himself, gives the following account of him. "He was born at Melton-Mowbray in Leicestershire. From his own Parish school he went to St. John's College in Cambridge. He began there to be uneasy; for it shock'd him to find he was commanded to believe against his own judgment in points of Religion, Philosophy, &c. for his genius leading him freely to dispute all propositions, and call all points to account, he was impatient under those fetters of the free-born mind. --Being admitted to Priest's orders, he found the examination very short and superficial, and that it was not necessary to conform to the Christian religion , in order either to Deaconship , or Priesthood ." He came to town, and after having for some years been a writer for Booksellers, he had an ambition to be so for Ministers of state. The only reason he did not rise in the Church, we are told, "was the envy of others, and a disrelish entertained of him, because he was not qualified to be a compleat Spaniel ." However he offered the service of his pen to two great men, of opinions and interests directly opposite; by both of whom being rejected, he set up a new Project, and styled himself the Restorer of ancient eloquence . He thought "it as lawful to take a licence from the King and Parliament at one place, as another; at Hickes's-hall, as at Doctors-commons; so set up his Oratory in Newport-market, Butcher-row. There (says his friend) he had the assurance to form a Plan, which no mortal ever thought of; he had success against all opposition; challenged his adversaries to fair disputations, and none would dispute with him; writ, read, and studied twelve hours a day; composed three dissertations a week on all subjects; undertook to teach in one year what schools and Universities teach in five ; was not terrified by menaces, insults, or satyrs, but still proceeded, matured his bold scheme, and put the Church , and all that , in danger ."
Welsted, Narrative in Orat. Transact. N. 1.
After having stood some Prosecutions, he turned his rhetoric to buffoonry upon all public and private occurrences. All this passed in the same room; where sometimes he broke jests, and sometimes that bread which he called the Primitive Eucharist . --This wonderful person struck Medals, which he dispersed as Tickets to his subscribers: The device, a Star rising to the meridian, with this motto, ad summa; and below, inveniam viam aut faciam. This man had an hundred pounds a year given him for the secret service of a weekly paper of unintelligible nonsense, called the Hyp-Doctor.