JOHN HINCHLIFFE, a learned English prelate, was born in Swallow-street, Westminster, in 1731, where his father was in the humble employment of a stable-keeper. He was educated, however, at Westminster-school at the same time with Smith and Vincent, who were afterwards his successors in the headship of that celebrated academy. In 1750 he was elected to Trinity college, Cambridge, where he took his bachelor's degree in 1754, and about the same time became usher of Westminster-school, then entered into holy orders, and officiated as morning preacher of South Audley street chapel. He continued in these employments (taking his master's degree in 1757) until 1760, when he travelled into Germany, Italy, and France with Mr. Crewe, afterwards member of parliament for Cheshire, who, when returned from his tour, settled on Dr. Hinchliffe three hundred pounds a year, and made him his domestic chaplain. With this gentleman the doctor lived, with the attention and respect which were justly due to his merit. During his residence in Italy, where he conducted himself in every respect agreeable to his station and character, he was favoured with an introduction to the late duke of Grafton, who had been contemporary with him at Cambridge, and soon after, in 1764, by the interest of his grace, he was appointed head-master of Westminster school, on the resignation of Dr. Markham, late archbishop of York, but his ill state of health not being suited to such a laborious employ, he was obliged to resign in a few months after he had accepted it. He declined several advantageous offers that were made him if he would travel again; and being made very easy in circumstances by the generosity of his friend and pupil, Mr. Crewe, he intended to return and reside at college, when he was solicited by his noble patron to undertake for a few years the care the late duke of Devonshire.
In consequence of this, Dr. Hinchliffe was appointed tutor and domestic chaplain to the duke of Devonshire, with whom he continued at Devonshire-house till his grace went abroad; and, by the joint interest of his two noble patrons he was presented to the vicarage of Greenwich, in 1766. About this time, Miss Elizabeth, the sister of his pupil Mr. Crewe, a young lady about twenty-one years of age, was courted by an officer of the guards, who not being favoured with the approbation of Mr. Crewe, this latter gentleman applied to Dr. Hinchliffe, requesting him to dissuade his sister from encouraging the addresses of her suitor. This he did so effectually, that the lady not only gratified her brother's wishes, but her own, by giving both her heart and hand to the doctor. Mr. Crewe acquiesced immediately in his sister's choice, encreasing her fortune from five thousand, the sum originally bequeathed to her, to fifteen thousand pounds but at the same time withdrawing the three hundred per annum before mentioned. Dr. Hinchliffe, it is said, was offered the tuition of the prince of Wales, which important trust he declined, from his predilection, as it is supposed, to what were called Whig principles. On the death of Dr. Smith, in 1768, his lordship was elected, through the recommendation of the duke of Grafton, master of Trinity college, Cambridge; and scarce a year had elapsed, when he was raised to the bishopric of Peterborough on the death of Dr. Lamb, in 1769, by the interest of the duke of Grafton, then prime minister. It is probable his lordship might have obtained other preferment, had he not uniformly joined the party in parliament who opposed the principle and conduct of the American war. The only other change he experienced was that of being appointed dean of Durham, by which he was removed from the mastership of Trinity college. He died at his palace at Peterborough Jan. 11, 1794, after a song illness, which terminated in a paralytic stroke. His lordship, although a man of considerable learning, published only three sermons, preached on public occasions. He was a graceful orator in parliament, and much admired in the pulpit. Mr. Jones, in his Life of bishop Home, says that "he spake with the accent of a man of sense (such as he really was in a superior degree), but it was remarkable, and, to those who did not know the cause, mysterious, that there was not a corner of the church, in which he could not be heard distinctly." The reason Mr. Jones assigns, was, that he made it an invariable rule, "to do justice to every consonant, knowing that the vowels will be sure to speak for themselves. And thus he became the surest and clearest of speakers: his elocution was perfect, and never disappointed his audience." Two years after his death, a volume of bishop Hinchliffe's "Sermons" were published, but, probably from a want of judgment in the selection, did not answer the expectations of those who had been accustomed to admire him in the pulpit.