Henry Brooke was a novelist and dramatist. He was born in Ireland, the son of a clergyman, studied law at Trinity College, Dublin, but embraced literature as a career.
Brooke began his career as a poet. His now forgotten Universal Beauty was published in 1735, and Alexander Pope thought its sentiments and poetry fine. He then turned dramatist by adapting extant plays, such as The Earl of Essex. He wrote from the Tory point of view and became one of the most important figures in Augustan drama, although not for his successes. His Gustavus Vasa has the distinction of being the first play banned by the Licensing Act of 1737. The play concerned the liberation of Sweden from Denmark in 1521 by King Gustav I of Sweden. Robert Walpole believed that the villain of the play resembled him. Further, a facetious "attack" on it was the first public writing of Samuel Johnson, whose A Complete Vindication of the Licensers of the English Stage feigns support for Walpole while it drives the censor's argument to reductio ad absurdum.
Brooke lived in Ireland most of his life, but he spent time in London when his plays were on the stage. In politics, he was somewhat radical in arguing publicly for loosening the laws persecuting Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom. His daughter Charlotte Brooke was herself an important figure in the history of Irish literature, publishing Reliques of Irish Poetry and working to increase the profile of Irish language poetry.