Henry Kirke White (1785-1806) was born in Nottingham. He attended schools in the city and in 1798 was apprenticed to a Nottingham hosier. By this time he had already begun to write poetry and read widely in the classics and modern literature. Hating the life of a hosier, he persuaded his family to apprentice him to a local law firm, Messrs. Coldham and Enfield of Middle Pavement, Nottingham.
By 1800 White's poems were beginning to be published in the Monthly Mirrorand the Monthly Preceptor. In 1803 he published a volume of poetry, Clifton Grove, by subscription, receiving a generally favourable response.
By the summer of 1803 White was becoming increasingly deaf, precluding a career at the bar, and suffered his first bout of tuberculosis. He decided to go to university and prepare himself for the ministry, managing to procure a sizarship at St John's College, Cambridge. He went up in 1805 and established himself as one of the foremost classical scholars of his year, being awarded an exhibition in June 1806 and winning the University prize in Classical composition. The intense effort required at Cambridge caused a rapid deterioration in his health and he died in his rooms at St John's on 19th October 1806.
White left behind a large amount of unpublished poetry which was collected together by his brother Neville, edited by Robert Southey, and published in 1807 as the Remains of Kirke White. It was a great popular success and went through many printings and four revised editions over the next thirty years. However, as taste changed his reputation as a poet waned and he is now accorded only a minor place among poets of the nineteenth century.