Henry Morley

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Henry Morley, circa 1888

Henry Morley (15 September 1822 – 14 May 1894) was an English academic who was one of the earliest professors of English literature in Great Britain. Morley wrote a popular book containing biographies of famous English writers.


The son of apothecary Henry Morley, the younger Morley was born in Hatton Garden, London. He was educated at a Moravian Church school in Neuwied, Germany at the age of ten, from 1833 to 1835, then he attended a preparatory school in Stockwell and entered King's College London in 1838 for medical studies.[1] Morley graduated in 1843 and became part of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, a professional organization, that same year.

Morley worked as a physician in partnership with another doctor in Madeley, Shropshire, but it turned into a financial failure because of the dishonesty of his partner who was unlicensed.[1] In 1848, he established a school in Manchester and started writing in his spare time. Morley wrote some satirical articles that were published and gained the attention of Charles Dickens.

At Dickens' invitation, Morley moved to London in 1850 to become an editor of and a contributor to Dickens' publication, Household Words. When that publication dissolved, Morley worked for its successor, All the Year Round. From 1859 to 1864, Morley also edited and wrote for The Examiner.

From 1865 to 1889, Morley served as Professor of English Literature at University College London, his students including the Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore. Noted for his knowledge of English literature, Morley was considered to be an engaging and warm teacher. He also delivered popular lectures on literature in different parts of Great Britain. He was awarded an honorary LLD degree by the University of Edinburgh in 1879.[1] Henry Morley was a strong supporter of degrees for women.[2] He supported in particular Annie Leigh Browne when she opened in 1882 a residence for women students at Byng Place, renamed College Hall in 1886.[2]

From 1882 to 1889, Morley was principal of University Hall, a research library in Bloomsbury, London.[3]

Morley's biography was written in 1898 by Henry Shaen Solly, his son-in-law and former student.[2]

Morley died on 14 May 1894 in Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight and is buried at Carisbrooke Cemetery.[1]


Morley was the editor of two book series. Morley's Universal Library,[4] drawing on the concept of a universal library, was published from 1883 by George Routledge. Cassell's National Library was published from 1886, totalling 209 weekly editions.

Morley was the author of biographies on Bernard Palissy, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Gerolamo Cardano and Clément Marot. He also wrote introductions to two books written by John Locke—the 1884 edition of "Two Treatises of Government" and the 1889 edition of "A Letter Concerning Toleration".

Morley's principal work, however, was English Writers (10 volumes 1864-94), coming down to William Shakespeare. His First Sketch of English Literature—the study for the larger work—had reached at his death a circulation of 34,000 copies.


  1. ^ a b c d Fred Hunter, Morley, Henry (1822–1894), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 08 October 2009, retrieved 12 June 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Deborah Colville, UCL Bloomsbury Project, 13 April 2011, Bloomsbury Project - University College London.
  3. ^ Howard Roberts, J. R.; Godfrey, Walter H., eds. (1949). "University Hall (Dr. Williams' Library), Gordon Square". Survey of London: volume 21 The parish of St Pancras part 3: Tottenham Court Road & neighbourhood. London County Council. Retrieved 18 June 2012 – via British History Online.
  4. ^ Morley's Universal Library (George Routledge) - Book Series List, publishinghistory.com. Retrieved 24 June 2018.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource.