Henry Brooke (Author)

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Henry Brooke

Birthplace: Rantavan, Mullagh, County Cavan, Ireland
Death: October 10, 1783 (75-84)
Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
Place of Burial: Mullagh, County Cavan, Ireland
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev William Brooke and Lettice Brooke
Husband of Catherine Brooke
Father of Charlotte Brooke; Arthur Brooke and 20 other children that did not reach adulthood Brooke
Brother of Robert Brooke ( Artist) and Robert Brooks

Managed by: Susan Mary Rayner (Green) ( Ryan)
Last Updated:

About Henry Brooke (Author)


Henry Brooke


Brooke was born in Rantavan, Mullagh in 1703. He was son of Rev. William Brooke, rector of Killenkere and Letrice Digby. His mother was possibly the second daughter of Dr. Simon Digby, bishop of Elphin. He was educated at the Royal School Cavan and Trinity College Dublin and afterwards went to London to study law. He married his cousin Catherine Mears and they had twenty two children of which only two survived to adulthood including Charlotte Brooke.

While in England, Brooke was acquainted with Alexander Pope who refined some of Brooke’s literary work. Brooke parodied Sir Robert Walpole the ‘whig’ prime minister in his play ‘Gustavus Vasa’ and this was the first play banned under the licensing Act of 1737. Brooke’s health was always delicate and on doctors advice he returned to Dublin in 1725. Brooke was interested in politics but could not avoid controversy because of his parodies. Brooke’s father died in 1745 and he inherited the land and house at Rantavan.

He wrote a series of pamphlets called ‘Farmers Letters’ spanning fifteen years (1745-1760) which were anti Catholic in nature and were written to prepare Protestants for the spread of Jacobitism. The Earl of Chesterfield (then viceroy to Ireland) rewarded Brooke for his political support by appointing him barrack-master of Mullingar.

The regular salary was important to Brooke as money was limited. Brooke withdrew somewhat from politics and with his brother Robert tried to modernise the Rantavan estate. This did not work out and they moved to Daisy Park near Sallins, Co Kildare an estate rented from a cousin Simon Digby. He renewed his interest in politics and his views became increasingly liberal and produced a new series of ‘Farmers Letters’ defending Irish history and culture in 1760.

Brooke became the first editor of the ‘Freemans Journal’ in 1763. It was in the period 1765-1770 that Brooke wrote ‘The fool of quality’ his most famous work which provided discourse on politics, education, women’s rights, and the penal laws.

He returned to Rantavan House in 1770 but he was no more successful than previously in his attempts to effect improvements to the estate. His wife died in 1772 and his own mental and physical health declined. He died in Dublin on 10 October 1783 and is buried in Mullagh.


Source https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/an-irishwoman-s-diary-1.221901

On a recent visit to Co Cavan, it was surprising to discover little local interest in Henry Brooke, the 18th-century writer and politician. The author of one of the most extraordinary and widely read of the early sentimental novels, The Fool of Quality, Brooke was a distinguished member of the parish of Rantavan, near Mullagh. The local heritage centre also fails to mark Brooke's contribution to English literature and the radical role he played in the politics of his day.

Henry Brooke was born in 1703, the second of three sons of the Rev William Brooke, rector of Moybolgue (now Bailieborough). He attended the school of Dr Thomas Sheridan, grandfather of the playwright, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, in Dublin. Dr Sheridan's opinion of his young pupil was that "nature intends that this child should act some great part on the theatre of human life". Although Jonathan Swift considered Brooke "a young man of genius", he was sorry to see his gifts initially inclined to poetry.

Play withdrawn

Having attended Trinity College, Brooke studied law in London at the Temple in 1724.

However, it soon became obvious that his part in the theatre of human life would be a dissident one. His first play, Gustavas Vasa, which had been described as "the foremost production of human powers", was hastily withdrawn from production at Drury Lane by order of the Lord Chamberlain because of certain defamatory references thought to apply to Sir Robert Walpole.

Brooke then returned to Ireland, where he produced a number of religious and economic tracts, including a pamphlet entitled The Farmer's Letters to the Protestants of Ireland, which was seen as intending to rouse the spirit of freedom. In 1748, his opera, Little John and the Giants, was withdrawn after just one night because of its political allusions, satire mixed with political allegory and quotations against tyrants and tyranny. In 1761 he published a pamphlet, The Tryal of the Roman Catholics, which was the first written by a Protestant in favour of reforming the laws constraining Catholics. And in his tract The Interests of Ireland Considered, Stated and Recommended, Brooke argued for equal treatment for Ireland with Britain in regard to the construction of canals. He was also interested in Irish history and language and issued a prospectus for a work on Irish mythology and a for a history of Ireland, which unfortunately were never completed.

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Henry Brooke (Author)'s Timeline

Mullagh, County Cavan, Ireland
Mullagh, County Cavan, Ireland
October 10, 1783
Age 80
Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
October 22, 1783
Age 80
Mullagh, County Cavan, Ireland