Born: De­cem­ber 15, 1808, Black­ley Hurst, near Bil­linge, Lan­ca­shire, Eng­land.

Died: Feb­ru­ary 15/16, 1872, West­min­ster, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Buried: Bromp­ton Ce­me­te­ry, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Pseudonym: Paul Dell.


Son of an ir­on work­er and lock mak­er, Chorley moved with his fa­mi­ly to Li­ver­pool af­ter his fa­ther’s death in 1816.

He was edu­cat­ed by pri­vate tu­tors in Li­ver­pool and at the school of the Roy­al In­sti­tu­tion. His youth was shaped part­ly by time spent in the house­hold of the weal­thy and in­tel­lec­tu­al Mrs. Ben­son Rath­bone of Green Bank. He be­came a close friend of her son Ben­son, who died in an ac­ci­dent in 1834.

Chorley be­gan writ­ing for the Lon­don Athe­næ­um in 1830, and was the pa­per’s mu­sic cri­tic and li­ter­ary re­view­er un­til 1868. He al­so be­came mu­sic cri­tic for the Lon­don Times and wrote, for these and oth­er jour­nals, re­views and mu­sic­al gos­sip col­umns, dis­cuss­ing com­pos­ers and per­form­ers in Bri­tain and on the Eu­ro­pe­an con­ti­nent.

He was quite con­ser­va­tive, and was a per­sist­ent op­po­nent of in­no­va­tion, but was a live­ly chron­ic­ler of Lon­don life. In the Athe­næ­um and else­where, Chor­ley oft­en cri­ti­cized the mu­sic of Schu­mann and Wag­ner for what he called de­ca­dence.

In 1850 and 1851, Chor­ley ed­it­ed the La­dies’ Com­pan­ion, which co­vered fa­shion and do­mes­tic wo­men’s is­sues.

Chorley was al­so a jour­nal­ist, no­vel­ist, play­wright, po­et, and op­era li­bret­tist. One of his best known piec­es was his obi­tu­ary of Iv­an Tur­ge­nev, mis­tak­en­ly wri­tten while the Rus­sian au­thor was still ve­ry much al­ive. Tur­ge­nev was not of­fend­ed by the er­ror near­ly as much as he was by the cri­ti­cal opin­ions of his work Chor­ley gave in the obi­tu­ary.

Chorley was con­sid­ered ec­cen­tric and abras­ive, but was re­spect­ed for his in­te­gri­ty and kind­ness. He en­thu­si­as­tic­al­ly gave and at­tend­ed din­ner par­ties, and cul­ti­vat­ed friend­ships with Eli­za­beth Bar­rett, Fe­lix Men­dels­sohn, Charles Dick­ens, Ar­thur Sul­li­van and Charles Sant­ley.

After the death of his bro­ther, John Rut­ter Chor­ley (1806–1867), Hen­ry in­her­it­ed enough mo­ney to re­tire from the Athe­næ­um, though he con­tin­ued to con­trib­ute ar­ti­cles for that pa­per and for The Or­ches­tra.

In spite of Chor­ley’s ef­forts to pro­mote the mu­sic of Charles Gou­nod in Eng­land, the com­pos­er dis­liked Chor­ley in­tense­ly. When Gou­nod lived in Eng­land in the ear­ly 1870’s, he wrote a sa­ti­ri­cal pi­ano piece in­tend­ed to be a pa­ro­dy of Chor­ley’s per­son­ali­ty.

It great­ly amused Gou­nod’s Eng­lish pa­tron, Geor­gi­na Wel­don, who desc­ribed Chor­ley as hav­ing a thin, sour, high-pitched so­pran­ish voice and mov­ing like a stuffed red-haired mon­key.

Gounod in­tend­ed to pub­lish the piece with a de­di­ca­tion to Chor­ley, but died be­fore this was pos­si­ble. Wel­don then in­vent­ed a new pro­gram for the piece, which was re-ti­tled Fun­er­al March of a Ma­rio­nette.

It be­came po­pu­lar as a con­cert piece, and in the 1950s, its open­ing phras­es be­came well known as the theme mu­sic for the te­le­vi­sion pro­gram Al­fred Hitch­cock Pre­sents.