1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Felton

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 14:185-87.



HENRY FELTON, a learned divine, was born Feb. 3, 1679, in the parish of St. Martin's-in-the-fields, Westminster, and was educated first at Cheneys in Buckinghamshire, then at Westminster school under Dr. Busby, and lastly at the Charter-house under Dr. Walker, to whom he was a private pupil. At a proper age he was admitted of Edmund hall, Oxford, of which Dr. Mill, the celebrated critic, was at that time principal, and his tutor was Mr. Thomas Mills, afterwards bishop of Waterford in Ireland. In June 1702, he took his master's degree, and in December following was ordained deacon, in the royal chapel at Whitehall, by Dr. Lloyd, bishop of Worcester. In June 1704 he was admitted to priest's orders by Dr. Compton, bishop of London. In 1705-6, he first appeared as an author, in a piece entitled Remarks on the Colebrook Letter, a subject the nature of which we have not been able to discover. In 1708 he had the care of the English church at Amsterdam, but did not long continue in that situation, returning to England in 1709. Soon after his return he was appointed domestic chaplain to the duke of Rutland, at Belvoir castle, and sustained that relation to three successive dukes, for which noble house he always preserved the warmest gratitude and affection. In the same year (July 11, 1709) Mr. Felton was admitted to the degree of B.D. being then a member of Queen's college. Having been employed as tutor to John lord Roos, afterwards third duke of Rutland, be wrote for that young nobleman's use, his Dissertation on reading the Classics, and forming a just style, 1711, 12mo. A fourth edition of this was published in 1730, but the best is that of 1757. It was the most popular, and best known of all Dr. Felton's works, although in the present improved state of criticism, it may appear with less advantage.

In 1711, Mr. Felton was presented by the second duke of Rutland to the rectory of Whitewell in Derbyshire; and July 4, 1712, he proceeded to the degree of doctor in divinity. On the death of Dr. Pearson, in 1722, he was admitted, by the provost and fellows of Queen's college, principal of Edmund hall. In 1725, he printed a sermon which he had preached before the university, and which went through three editions, and excited no common attention, entitled The Resurrection of the same numerical body, and its re-union to the same soul; against Mr. Locke's notion of personality and identity. His next publication, in 1727, was a tract, written with much ingenuity, entitled The Common People taught to defend their Communion with the Church of England, against the attempts and insinuations of Popish emissaries. In a dialogue between a Popish priest, and a plain countryman. In 1728 and 1729, Dr. Felton was employed in preaching eight sermons, at lady Moyer's lecture, at St. Paul's, which were published in 1732, under the title of The Christian Faith asserted against Deists, Arians, and Socinians. The sermons, when printed, were greatly augmented, and a large preface was given concerning the light and the law of nature, and the expediency and necessity of revelation. This elaborate work was dedicated to Dr. Gibson, bishop of London. In the title he is by some mistake called late principal of Edmund hall, a situation which he never resigned. In 1736 the duke of Rutland, being chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, gave him the rectory of Berwick in Elmet, Yorkshire, which he did not long live to enjoy. In 1739 he was seized with a rheumatic disorder; from which, however, he was so far recovered, after a confinement of nearly three months, that he thought himself able to officiate, in his church at Berwick, on Christmas-day, where he preached his last sermon, and with his usual fervour and affection. But having caught cold, which was followed by a defluxion, attended with a violent fever, he died March 1, 1739-40. During the whole of his disorder, he behaved with a resignation and piety becoming a Christian. He was interred in the chancel of the church of Berwick. He left behind him, intended for the press, a set of sermons on the creation, fall, and redemption of man; the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, and the rejection and punishment of Cain, which were published by his son, the rev. William Felton, in 1748, with a preface containing a sketch of his father's life and character. This work was the result of great attention. The sermons were first composed about 1730, and preached in the parish church of Whitwell in that and the following year. In 1733 he enlarged them, and delivered them again in the same church; and in 1736 when removed to Berwick, he transcribed and preached them at that place. But though he had applied much labour to the subject of the resurrection, he did not think that his discourses on that head, or any other of his university sermons, were fit for re-publication.