|Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th Edition||Public Domain via Project Gutenberg|
(c. 1703-1783), Irish author, son of William Brooke, rector of Killinkere, Co. Cavan, was born at Rantavan in the same county, about 1703. His mother was a daughter of Simon Digby, bishop of Elphin. Dr Thomas Sheridan was one of his schoolmasters, and he was entered at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1720; in 1724 he was sent to London to study law. He married his cousin and ward, Catherine Meares, before she was fourteen. Returning to London he published a philosophical poem in six books entitled Universal Beauty (1735). He attached himself to the party of the prince of Wales, and took a small house at Twickenham near to Alexander Pope. In 1738 he translated the first and second books of Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata, and in the next year he produced a tragedy, Gustavas Vasa, the Deliverer of his Country. This play had been rehearsed for five weeks at Drury Lane, but at the last moment the performance was forbidden. The reason of this prohibition was a supposed portrait of Sir Robert Walpole in the part of Trollio. In any case the spirit of fervent patriotism which pervaded the play was probably disliked by the government. The piece was printed and sold largely, being afterwards put on the Irish stage under the title of The Patriot. This affair provoked a satirical pamphlet from Samuel Johnson, entitled "A Complete Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage from the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr Brooke" (1739). His wife feared that his connexion with the opposition was imprudent, and induced him to return to Ireland. He interested himself in Irish history and literature, but a projected collection of Irish stories and a history of Ireland from the earliest times were abandoned in consequence of disputes about the ownership of the materials. During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 Brooke issued his Farmer's Six Letters to the Protestants of Ireland (collected 1746) the form of which was suggested by Swift's Drapier's Letters. For this service he received from the government the post of barrack-master at Mullingar, which he held till his death. He wrote other pamphlets on the Protestant side, and was secretary to an association for promoting projects of national utility. About 1760 he entered into negotiations with leading Roman Catholics, and in 1761 he wrote a pamphlet advocating alleviation of the penal laws against them. He is said to have been the first editor of the Freeman's Journal, established at Dublin in 1763. Meanwhile he had been obliged to mortgage his property in Cavan, and had removed to Co. Kildare. Subsequently a bequest from Colonel Robert Brooke enabled him to purchase an estate near his old home, and he spent large sums in attempting to reclaim the waste-land. His best-known work is the novel entitled The Fool of Quality; or the History of Henry Earl of Moreland, the first part of which was published in 1765; and the fifth and last in 1770. The characters of this book, which relates the education of an ideal nobleman by an ideal merchant-prince, are gifted with a "passionate and tearful sensibility," and reflect the real humour and tenderness of the writer. Brooke's religious and philanthropic temper recommended the book to John Wesley, who edited (1780) an abridged edition, and to Charles Kingsley, who published it with a eulogistic notice in 1859. Brooke had a large family, but only two children survived him. His wife's death seriously affected him, and he died at Dublin in a state of mental infirmity on the 10th of October 1783.
His daughter, Charlotte Brooke, published The Poetical Works of Henry Brooke in 1792, but was able to supply very little biographical material. Other sources for Brooke's biography are C. H. Wilson, Brookiana (2 vols., 1804), and a biographical preface by E. A. Baker prefixed to a new edition (1906) of The Fool of Quality. Brooke's other works include several tragedies, only some of which were actually staged. He also wrote: Jack the Giant Queller (1748), an operatic satire, the repetition of which was forbidden on account of its political allusions; "Constantia, or the Man of Lawe's Tale" (1741), contributed to George Ogle's Canterbury Tales modernized; Juliet Grenville; or the History of the Human Heart (1773), a novel; and some fables contributed to Edward Moore's Fables for the Female Sex (1744).