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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Henry Sacheverell

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HENRY SACHEVERELL (1674-1724), English ecclesiastic and politician, was the son of Joshua Sacheverell, rector of St Peter's, Marlborough. He was adopted by his godfather, Edward Hearst, and his wife, and was sent to Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1689, was demy of his college from 1689 to 1701 and fellow from 1701 to 1713. Addison, another Wiltshire lad, entered at the same college two years earlier, but was also elected a demy in 1689; he inscribed to Sacheverell in 1694 his account of the greatest English poets. Sacheverell took his degree of B.A. in 1693, and became M.A. in 1695 and D.D. in 1708. His first preferment was the small vicarage of Cannock in Staffordshire; but he leapt into notice when holding a preachership at St Saviour's, Southwark. His famous sermons on the church in danger from the neglect of the Whig ministry to keep guard over its interests were preached, the one at. Derby on the 15th of August, the other at St Paul's Cathedral on the 5th of November 1709. They were immediately reprinted, the latter being dedicated to the lord mayor and the former to the author's kinsman, George Sacheverell, high sheriff of Derby for the year; and, as the passions of the whole British population were at this period keenly exercised between the rival factions of Whig and Tory, the vehement invectives of this furious divine on behalf of an ecclesiastical institution which supplied the bulk of the adherents of the Tories made him their idol. The Whig ministry, then slowly but surely losing the support of the country, were divided in opinion as to the propriety of prosecuting this zealous parson. Somers was against such a measure; but Godolphin, who was believed to be personally alluded to in one of these harangues under the nickname of "Volpone," urged the necessity of a prosecution, and gained the day. The trial lasted from 27th February to 23rd March 1710, and the verdict was that Sacheverell should be suspended for three years and that the two sermons should be burnt at the Royal Exchange. This was the decree of the state, and it had the effect of making him a martyr in the eyes of the populace and of bringing about the downfall of the ministry. Immediately on the expiration of his sentence (13th April 1713) he was instituted to the valuable rectory of St Andrew's, Holborn, by the new Tory ministry, who despised the author of the sermons, although they dreaded his influence over the mob. He died at the Grove, Highgate, on the 5th of June 1724.

See Hearne's Diaries, Bloxam's Register of Magdalen and Hill Burton's Queen Anne, vol. ii. There is an excellent bibliography by Falconer Madan (1887).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Henry Sacheverell'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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