Code, Henry Brereton (c.1770–1838), journalist, dramatist, and government agent (whose real name appears to have been Cody), was educated in a seminary. He began his career as a retailer of hose at Skinner Row, Dublin (1793). After the failure of this business and other speculations, he turned his hand to writing and politics. Employed by the Freeman's Journal in the 1790s, he was dismissed for ‘bad behaviour’. The proprietor, Francis Higgins (qv), alleged in 1801 that Code had been a member of the United Irishmen, and had given public readings of Thomas Paine's The rights of man. Nevertheless, during the 1798 rebellion Code acted as a paid government spy and by 1801 was boasting of a £300 per annum ‘place’. He soon joined the staff of the Dublin Evening Post, and influenced editorial policy in favour of the government; assuming full control in 1802, he transformed the paper into a conservative, pro-government mouthpiece. Faced with mounting criticism, he attempted to reassert a semblance of objectivity in the paper, but in the winter of 1803 he was sacked.
Emmet's (qv) rebellion was the subject of Code's first major book, The insurrection of 23 July 1803, in which he praised the government's humane response. Over the next few years Code struggled under the burden of mounting debts, and after numerous requests the Castle finally took pity on him and secured him a sinecure in the customs, from which he was later dismissed. In the 1810s he turned his versatile talents to the stage, where he achieved some notice, but little critical acclaim. ‘The patriot’ (1810), a musical drama, and ‘The Spanish patriots’ (1812), an historical drama, both contained barely disguised pro-government sentiments. In 1813 he produced a drama with songs entitled ‘The Russian sacrifice, or, The burning of Moscow’. A number of compositions penned by Code, and set to music by Sir John Stevenson (qv) and others, achieved a lasting popularity, including ‘The sprig of shillelagh and shamrock so green’ and ‘See our oars with feathered spray’. He is also credited with authorship of ‘Donnybrook fair’. In 1821 he returned to journalism as proprietor and editor of an Orange, pro-government newspaper, the Warder. It was a failure at first, but was revived the following year and gradually achieved by c.1823–4 a subscription of almost 1,000 people, which had doubled by 1829; its anti-catholic sentiments occasionally led to rioting.
There are few details about Code's personal life. He appears to have married: appealing to Robert Peel (qv) for aid for the Warder (1822), he made reference to supporting eight children. (It is possible that John Marsden Code (1805–75), the Brethren minister, was a son; his father's name is listed as ‘Henry’ in TCD records, and it is likely that he was named after Alexander Marsden (qv), under-secretary at Dublin Castle when he was born.) In 1824 Code co-authored, with Thomas Ettingsall, a book entitled Angling excursions of Gregory Greendrake and Geoffrey Greydrake under a pseudonym. He ended his career with the Warder in 1830 and from there drifted into obscurity. He died 27 February 1838. For most of his life he resided at 13 Eccles St., Dublin.