Henry Kirke White displayed from his childhood an ardent love of study, and an earnest desire for a literary life. But the circumstances of his family made it necessary to put him to a trade, and between fourteen and fifteen he spent a year of misery in the employment of weaving stockings. He was removed in 1800 to an attorney's office, and thenceforward applied himself with great diligence to the study of the law, acquiring likewise in his leisure hours a knowledge of the languages and of several of the sciences.
At length he seemed to have attained the object of his ardent desire and indefatigable exertion; he was released from his employment in 1804, and after a twelvemonth's preparatory study, in which his progress was truly astonishing, he entered the University of Cambridge. Here he at once obtained the highest academical honors, but his protracted and incessant intensity of devotion to his studies entirely destroyed his health and soon brought him to the grave. It was his intention to have devoted himself to the profession of divinity; an office in which he seemed well fitted to dignify and render useful, by his piety and talents.
His poetry possesses uncommon beauties, and excited high hopes of his future excellence and celebrity. It is often remarkable for its pathos.