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Henry Cary (1804–1870)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published:

Henry Cary (1804-1870), judge, editor and Anglican clergyman, was born on 12 February 1804 at Kingsbury, Warwickshire, England, the third son of Henry Francis Cary and Jane, daughter of James Ormsby of Sandymount, Dublin. His father, then vicar of Kingsbury, achieved fame as the translator of Dante and became a professional writer and editor, and later a senior official at the British Museum. Henry inherited his father's bent for industrious scholarship. From Merchant Taylors' School he went to Worcester College, Oxford (B.A., 1824; M.A., 1827). As an undergraduate he made a prose translation of the Odyssey and, while reading law at Lincoln's Inn, published A Practical Treatise on the Law of Juries at Nisi Prius (1826) and A Practical Treatise on the Law of Partnership (1827). After being called to the Bar on 15 November 1827 his flow of publications continued: A Commentary on the Tenures of Littleton (1829) and a work on Lord Lansdowne's Criminal Procedure Acts (1830). Cary was not very concerned with the practice of the law; he was essentially a legal scholar. In London he married Isabella Charlton Dawson.

After his mother died in November 1832 Cary went through a period of mental stress and, at his wife's prompting, entered the Church. He was ordained by Bishop C. R. Sumner of Winchester in July 1833. As a churchman, Cary again turned to scholarship. The Tractarian movement soon aroused his interest and he began to edit material on topics with which it was concerned: Testimonies of the Fathers of the First Four Centuries to the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England (1835), in 1840 new editions of Dr William Cave's Lives of the Apostles and Lives of the Fathers, Cyprian's letters for Newman and Pusey's Library of the Fathers (1840) and pamphlets of his own composition on the Apostolical succession and on National education. Cary's ecclesiastical research took him to the Bodleian, whose catalogue he helped to prepare and where he used the Tanner MSS to produce Memorials of the Great Civil War in England, from 1646 to 1652 (London, 1842).

In 1838 Cary had become perpetual curate of St Paul's, Iffley, near Oxford, but resigned his cure in 1844 to further his classical studies. Another spate of editing followed: lexicons to Sophocles and Herodotus, an edition of the Phaedo and a translation of Herodotus (1847-49) wherein he took previous translators to task; it long remained a popular text. Meanwhile his father died in 1844 and Cary took it upon himself to vindicate his reputation as a scholar and a British Museum official. The latter was achieved before a royal commission in 1848 and the former by a Memoir (1847) and by introductions to Cary senior's books on the early French and later English poets. From 1847 Cary held a curacy at Drayton, Buckinghamshire, but, his father's defence accomplished, he was growing dissatisfied with his prospects and circumstances in England. In 1849 he went to New South Wales.

Bishop William Grant Broughton welcomed Cary warmly and licensed him on 16 November to St Mark's, Alexandria (Darling Point). In this new district some influential residents had already shown their impatience of episcopal direction; Cary managed to conciliate his parishioners and to remain on good terms with Broughton, who helped him set up a classical school. But Cary had no real enthusiasm for parochial work and resigned in May 1851. He failed to win appointment as temporary lecturer in classics at the new University of Sydney and became a full-time schoolmaster. In this he was successful and, even after his nomination as a university examiner, he was much sought after as a coach. In 1866, after questions in the Legislative Assembly, the senate investigated and expressed its disapproval of Cary's dual role. He had already alienated Professor John Woolley by criticisms of the academic structure of the university and this reprimand was the result.

Cary's coaching activities lasted longer than his career as a colonial schoolmaster. In 1855, his Anglican orders notwithstanding, he returned to the law. With the help of influential friends, including Canon Robert Allwood, he became master in Equity and, after another spell in private practice, was appointed judge of the District Court and chairman of Quarter Sessions for Cumberland and the coast in January 1859. Inevitably, this also meant for Cary a return to legal scholarship: in 1861 he published A Collection of Statutes Affecting New South Wales, a large and important compilation. He was transferred to the western district in October 1861, a position that ill health and a growing impatience with routine rendered increasingly irksome. But he produced an edition, with index, of The Common Law Procedure Acts and the Law of Evidence Amendment Act (1868) and continued to work on an elaborate, and uncompleted, concordance to Dante. Cary resigned office in September 1869 and died at his home in Phillip Street on 30 June 1870. He had retained an interest in the affairs of the Church of England after his change of profession; he found the churchmanship of Frederic Barker, Broughton's successor, little to his liking but kept friends among the High Church clergy, notably Robert Allwood. In his last illness he desired to make confession according to Roman Catholic rites and he was buried as a member of that faith. He was predeceased by his wife and survived by two sons.

Select Bibliography

  • H. W. A. Barder, Wherein Thine Honour Dwells (Syd, 1949)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1866, 2, 485
  • Law Times (London), 49 (1883-84)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 1870
  • Truth (Sydney), 15 Dec 1915
  • Senate minutes, 1851, 1866 (University of Sydney Archives)
  • Bishop Broughton, Register (Sydney Diocesan Registry)
  • Windeyer papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'Cary, Henry (1804–1870)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 February, 1804
Kingsbury, Warwickshire, England


30 June, 1870 (aged 66)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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