Aldrich was educated at Westminster School under Dr Richard Busby. In 1662, he entered Christ Church, Oxford, and in 1689 was made Dean in succession to the Roman Catholic John Massey, who had fled to the Continent. In 1692, he became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford until 1695. In 1702, he was appointed Rector of Wem in Shropshire, but continued to reside at Oxford, where he died on 14 December 1710. He was buried in Christ Church Cathedral without any memorial, at his own request.
Henry Aldrich was a man of unusually varied gifts. A classical scholar of fair merits, he is best known as the author of a little book on logic (Artis Logicæ Compendium). Although not innovative in the field of Logic itself (it closely follows Petrus Hispanus' Summulae Logicales), its insistent use by generations of Oxford students has shown it to be of great synthetic and didactic value: the Compendium continued to be read at Oxford (in Mansel's revised edition) till long past the middle of the 19th century.
Aldrich also composed a number of anthems and church services of high merit, and adapted much of the music of Palestrina and Carissimi to English words with great skill and judgment. To him we owe the well-known catch, "Hark, the bonny Christ Church bells."
Evidence of his skill as an architect may be seen in the church and campanile of All Saints Church, Oxford, and in three sides of the so-called Peckwater Quadrangle of Christ Church, which were erected after his designs. He bore a great reputation for conviviality', and wrote a humorous Latin version of the popular ballad A soldier and a sailor, A tinker and a tailor, etc.
Another specimen of his wit is furnished by the following epigram of the five reasons for drinking:
- Si bene quid memini, causae sunt quinque bibendi;
- Hospitis adventus, praesens sitis atque futura,
- Aut vini bonitas, aut quaelibet altera causa.
The translation runs:
- If on my theme I rightly think,
- There are five reasons why men drink:—
- Good wine; a friend; because I'm dry;
- Or lest I should be by and by;
- Or — any other reason why.
- Salter, H. E. and Lobel, Mary D., ed. (1954). "Christ Church". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford. Victoria County History. pp. 228–238. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
- Horn, Joyce M., ed. (1996). "Deans of Christ Church, Oxford". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541–1857: volume 8: Bristol, Gloucester, Oxford and Peterborough dioceses. Institute of Historical Research. pp. 80–83. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
- "Previous Vice-Chancellors". University of Oxford, UK. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
- Randel, Don Michael, ed. (1996). "Aldrich, Henry". The Harvard biographical dictionary of music. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-674-37299-9.
- Aldrich, Henry (1750). Artis logicæ compendium. Oxford University. p. 147. Archived from the original on 17 November 2006. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
|Wikisource has the text of the 1885–1900 Dictionary of National Biography's article about Henry Aldrich.|
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Henry Aldrich", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
- Free scores by Henry Aldrich in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
|Dean of Christ Church, Oxford
|Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University