Nettleship was born at Kettering, and was educated at Lancing College, Durham School and Charterhouse schools, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1861, he was elected to a fellowship at Lincoln, which he vacated on his marriage in 1870. In 1868, he became an assistant master at Harrow, but in 1873 he returned to Oxford, and was elected to a fellowship at Corpus. In 1878 he was appointed to succeed Edwin Palmer in the professorship of Latin, and held the post till his death.
Nettleship had always been interested in Virgil, and a good deal of his time was devoted to his favourite poet. After John Conington's death in 1869, he saw his edition of Virgil through the press, and revised and corrected subsequent editions of the work. In 1875, he had undertaken to compile a new Latin lexicon for the Clarendon Press, but the work proved more than he could accomplish, and in 1887 he published some of the results of twelve years' labour in a volume entitled Contributions to Latin Lexicography, a genuine piece of original work.
In conjunction with John Edwin Sandys, Nettleship revised and edited Oskar Seyffert's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, and he contributed to a volume entitled Essays on the Endowment of Research an article on "The Present Relations between Classical Research and Classical Education in England," in which he pointed out the great value of the professorial lecture in Germany.
In his views on the research question, he was a follower of Mark Pattison, whose essays he edited in 1889 for the Clarendon Press. In Lectures and Essays on Subjects connected with Latin Literature and Scholarship, Nettleship revised and republished some of his previous publications. A second series of these, published in 1895, and edited by F. Haverfield, contained a memoir by Mrs M. Nettleship.
- Bywater, Ingram; rev. Roger T. Stearn. "Nettleship, Henry (1839–1893)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004; online edn, May 2006). Retrieved 4 October 2009. "Nettleship attended Mr Darnell's Preparatory School, Market Harborough, before going in 1849 to the new Lancing College, and then in 1852 to Durham School, whose headmaster was Edward Elder, for whose character and attainments Nettleship always retained the utmost admiration. In 1854 Nettleship followed Elder to Charterhouse, and became a ‘gown-boy’ by winning an open foundation scholarship in 1855."
- Obituary notices appeared in The Times (11 July 1893); Classical Review (October, 1893); Oxford Magazine (18 October 1893).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Nettleship, Henry". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Works by Henry Nettleship on Open Library at the Internet Archive
- Works by or about Henry Nettleship in libraries (WorldCat catalog)