John Henley, an English clergyman, better known as "Orator Henley," born at Melton Mowbray, Aug. 3, 1092, died Oct. 4, 1750. He entered St. John's college, Cambridge, at the age of 17, and while an undergraduate addressed to the " Spectator" two letters which were published in numbers 390 and 518. Having taken orders, he was made assistant curate of the parish of Melton. Soon afterward he was chosen assistant preacher at Ormond street and Bloomsbury chapels, London. In 1723 he obtained the living of Chelmondiston, Suffolk, with the privilege of non-residence; but reports having been spread damaging to his reputation, the bishop ordered him to remove to his parish, whereupon he resigned the living. He now rented a building in Newport market, and fitted it up as a place of worship. " The Oratory," as he called it, was opened in 1720, and for about 30 years he lectured twice a week to large audiences, mainly of the lowest classes of the people. All except those who rented seats were charged a shilling for admittance. He endeavored to found a new sect to be called Henleyarians, and drew up a form of prayer under the title of the " Primitive Liturgy," discarding the Nicene and Athanasian creeds. He also conceived the idea of connecting with his system an enlarged course of liberal education.
For some time he edited a weekly jour-nal of nonsense called the " Hyp-Doctor," designed to ridicule the arguments of the " Craftsman," for which he received from Sir Robert Walpole £100 a year. When this gratuity was withdrawn, he became so violent an opponent of government that in 1746 some adherents of the ministry broke up one of his Sunday evening meetings and caused him to be arrested, but he was soon set at liberty. He used to put forth the most preposterous announcements. On one occasion he advertised to teach shoemakers a short way of making shoes, which was by cutting off the tops of ready-made boots. He interlarded his orations with satire, invective, and buffoonery, and accompanied them with all the extravagances of a theatrical delivery. Pope apostrophized him in the "Dun-ciad." Yet Henley was a man of learning and a diligent student. He wrote a poem entitled "Esther," which is said to contain fine passages; a "Compleat Linguist, or a Universal Grammar of all the Considerable Tongues in Sweden;" a number of pamphlets, various controversial pieces, and the "Oratory Transactions" published in numbers.