JOHN WILSON CROKER AS A
PAUL E. RILEY
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
I wish to express my deep appreciation to Dr. Alton
C. Morris, whose patient guidance and helpful suggestions
have made this study possible. I am also indebted to Dr.
Ants Oras and Dr. Albert B. Smith for serving on my super-
visory committee. Finally, I should like to mention Dr.
Ellis L. Raesly, formerly of Florida Southern College, who
unknowingly led me to pursue a graduate degree and to become
a teacher of English.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . ... . . . . . .
INTRODUCTION . . .. .. . . ... 1
I. JOHN WILSON CHOKER . . ... . . 8
II. CROKER'S PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL
RELATIONSHIPS WITH CONTEMPORARIES . .32
III. CROKER AND THE QUARTERLY REVIEW .. 94
IV. CROKER'S LITERARY CRITICISM . . .121
V. CROKER AS A LITERARY CRITIC;
HIS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES . ... .200
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . 212
VITA . . . . . . . . . . . 219
There has been in recent years a growing interest
among scholars in the periodical critics and criticism of
the early nineteenth century. For a long time, of course,
these writers have figured prominently in discussions of
the literature and the literary figures of the period, for
their activities form an inseparable part of literary his-
tory. But the point has been reached where individual
studies of these critics, and investigations of the period-
icals for which they wrote, are being conducted. There is
now a study of the literary career of Francis Jeffrey,
founder and long-time editor of the Edinburgh Review;1 a
biography, including a study of the literary criticism, of
John Gibson Lockhart;2 and a collection of the literary
criticism, with an essay in evaluation, of Leigh Hunt.3
There have been investigations of the publishing practices
James A. Greig, Francis Jeffrey of the Edinburgh
Review (Edinburgh, 1948).
2Marion Lochhead, John Gibson Lockhart (London, 1954).
Leigh Hunt's Literary Criticism, ed. L. H. and C. W.
Houtchens (New York, 1956).
and literary criticism of The Athenaeum, The London Maga-
zine, and Blackwood's Magazine. Numerous articles have
appeared in scholarly publications onphases of this group
of writers, their work, and the periodicals for which they
wrote. There is every reason for thinking that activity in
the field will continue, for it has to do with an unusually
interesting as well as with a highly important aspect of
literary history during the Romantic Period.
A study of John Wilson Croker, then, has a place,
inasmuch as he has not been subjected to any extended criti-
cal analysis thus far. That he has not is by no means an
indication that he is lacking in interest and value. Croker,
it is conceded, was not one of the great critics of the first
half of the nineteenth century, and any intention of repre-
senting him as such would be widely misdirected. When the
student of literature is seeking illuminating comments upon
his subject, he may turn to Coleridge, to Lamb, to De Quincey,
perhaps, but not, probably, to Croker. There is not much
ground for hoping that a study of Croker's literary criticism
4Leslie A. Marchand, The Athenaeum: A Mirror of
Victorian Culture (Chapel Hill, 1941).
5Josephine Bauer, The London Magazine, 1820-29 (Copen-
6F. D. Tredrey, The House of Blackwood 1804-1954
will throw any startling and new light upon the elements of
English literature of his time or before. But, granting
this, it would still be unwise to ignore his work. A study
of Croker's critical methods shows that he followed many of
the prevailing practices of his day; his literary criticism
itself mirrors certain aspects of the literary currents of
the period. Nor can the possible influence of his criticism
be ignored. He was for much of his career in a peculiarly
advantageous position to make his critical views effective,
being for almost half a century connected with one of the
most powerful and aggressive organs of literary criticism in
England--the Quarterly Review. It is surely of some impor-
tance to investigate the critical principles of the man who
was in some degree responsible for shaping the literary
policies of such a publication for so many years during a
highly significant period of English literature.
In spite of certain limitations as a critic, Croker is
assured of a permanent place in literary history for his re-
lationship with some of the most important literary figures
of his time. For more than twenty years he was on terms of
closest friendship with Scott. Southey and Moore considered
him a good friend and were indebted to him for many kindnesses.
His connections with the Quarterly Review resulted in almost
daily intercourse with such men as John Murray, William
Gifford, and John Gibson Lockhart. Finally, personal and
political differences earned him the enmity of and made him
the recipient of bitter attacks by two of the most powerful
figures of the time--Disraeli and Macaulay.
Croker's position in the mainstream of political and
literary events of the first half of the nineteenth century
is clear from an examination of The Croker Papers: The Cor-
respondence and Diaries, edited with a memoir by Louis J.
Jennings in three volumes in 1884. Articles on Croker in the
Quarterly Review for July, 1876, and for October, 1884, as
well as incisive little portraits by Harriet Martineau in
Biographical Sketches (1868) and Keith Feiling in Sketches in
Nineteenth Century Biography (1930), attest his unique char-
acter and his varied accomplishments. A great deal of in-
formation about Croker's personal and professional relations
with individual literary figures is to be found in letters,
journals, and memoirs of the period. Samuel Smiles' A Pub-
lisher and His Friends: Memoir and Correspondence of the
late John Murray, published in two volumes in 1891, contains
a wealth of information about Croker's part in helping to
launch the Quarterly Review and his various connections with
the periodical and its staff. But up to the present time the
only serious and comprehensive appraisal of Croker in all his
relations as a politician and writer has been a biography by
Myron F. Brightfield, John Wilson Croker (1940). While this
book contains much fine and stimulating comment, its comparative
brevity in treating Croker's literary criticism, especially
his criticism of certain of the major writers of his time,
leaves considerable ground for further study. Moreover, it
seems justifiable to investigate the validity of Bright-
field's rehabilitation of Croker's character and his position
as a literary critic.
The aim of this study, then, is to examine in detail
and to attempt an evaluation of Croker's criticism of the
more important literary figures who came under his scrutiny
in the pages of the Quarterly Review. Moreover, such an
analysis of Croker's writings may throw some light upon cer-
tain literary tendencies of the time when he wrote. Finally,
an effort will be made to measure the extent of his influence
upon his contemporaries and upon the course of periodical
criticism of the first half of the nineteenth century.
It is not intended in this study to consider the en-
tire body of criticism that Croker published. Many of his
critical writings dealt with literary works which possessed
little permanent value or interest. The authors of these
works, as well as the works themselves, are today all but
forgotten. No attempt will be made to consider this portion
of Croker's criticism.
Mention should here be made of one factor which im-
poses no limitation on this study. Following the prevailing
practice of periodical critics of his day, Croker rarely
signed his name to any of his critical articles. Brightfield
found, however, when he wrote his biography, that there was
in most cases ample proof of Croker's authorship. Using as
sources Murray's contributors' book; Croker's own lists of
his articles in the Quarterly Review; a bound collection of
Croker's articles, as selected by John Murray III, in the
Cambridge University Library; and the correspondence between
Croker, Murray, and Lockhart, Brightfield identified beyond
question practically all of Croker's contributions during the
forty-six years he was associated with the periodical. A
more recent work which throws light on problems of author-
ship and which lists Croker's contributions under Gifford's
editorship is H. and H. C. Shine's The Quarterly Review under
Gifford: Identification of Contributors, 1809-1824 (1949).
The basic primary source materials for this study are,
in order of their importance, Croker's articles in the Quar-
terly Review; the three-volume The Croker Papers (1884),
edited and containing a memoir by L. J. Jennings; the two-
volume A Publisher and His Friends (1891), edited by Samuel
Smiles; articles on Croker in the Quarterly Review; John
Gibson Lockhart's Memoirs of Sir Walter Scott (1900);
the twelve-volume Letters of Sir Walter Scott (1937), ed-
ited by Sir Herbert Grierson; and collected editions of the
correspondence of Southey, Moore, Lockhart, and Macaulay.
For purposes of presentation this study has been di-
vided into five chapters. Chapter I presents Croker's back-
ground, his education, his personality, a brief review of his
political and literary career, his reputation with his con-
temporaries, and his qualifications for critical work. Chap-
ter II reviews the history of Croker's personal and profes-
sional relationships with certain of his outstanding con-
temporaries--Southey, Moore, Disraeli, Macaulay, Scott, and
others--and suggests the degree of influence he exercised
over certain of these writers. Chapter III is an inquiry
into the status of periodicals during the early years of the
nineteenth century, with the major emphasis on Croker's con-
nection with the Quarterly Review. This chapter also mea-
sures the degree to which Croker subscribed to the rationale
of Quarterly criticism and discusses his special interests
and the scope of his critical writings.
Chapter IV of this study examines in detail Croker's
criticism of the literary works of some of the outstanding
writers of his time, notes his critical methods, principles,
and procedures, and attempts to evaluate his critical writ-
ing. Chapter V reviews his career, influence, critical
method, critical preferences, and suggests his strengths and
weaknesses as a literary critic.
JOHN WILSON CROKER
A study of the life of John Wilson Croker touches on
almost every element of the political, social, and cultural
history of the British Isles in the first half of the nine-
teenth century. During a long career of nearly fifty years in
public life, he became involved directly or indirectly in
most of the political affairs of his day; his acquaintance-
ship with important people gave him access to the highest
levels of English society; and his lifelong interest and
activity in letters give him a permanent, if not prominent,
place in the literary history of the Romantic Period. A
capable public servant and a vigorous party debater, he
possessed a strong spirit of Toryism which he carried with
him into the arena of literary criticism and which earned
him many powerful enemies. His influential position in con-
nection with the Quarterly Review caused him to be respected,
if not always liked, by most of the important figures of the
time, and the many letters and opinions of his contemporaries
attest his unique character and his varied accomplishments,
as well as his partisan influence and his political biases.
John Wilson Croker was born in Galway, ireland, on
December 20, 1780. His father, John Croker, was for many
years Surveyor General of Customs and Excise for the port of
Dublin, and it is recorded, on the authority of Edmund Burke,
that he was "a man of great abilities and most amiable manners,
an able and upright public steward, and universally respected
and beloved in private life." He was descended from an old
English family settled for many generations at Lineham in
South Devon. A soldier of this family distinguished himself
at the capture of the town of Waterford in 1650, and was re-
warded with the grant of considerable estates in Waterford,
Limerick, and Cork. But John Wilson Croker, being only the
younger son of a younger son, did not inherit any portion of
the family estates.
Croker spent the early years of his boyhood in the
town of Newport, county Mayo, near the shores of Clew Bay.
In order to cure him of a speech impediment, his parents
sent him, at about the age of ten, to an "Academy of Elo-
cution" in Cork maintained by James Knowles, first cousin
of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. He was soon transferred to a
school founded by French refugees, where he acquired a good
training in the French language. About 1792, Croker entered
1[Sir William Smith], "John Wilson Croker," Quarterly
Review, CXLII (July, 1876), 87.
Willis's school at Portarlington. The boy showed an early
interest in Latin and Greek, an interest which was much
strengthened by his remaining at Portarlington to enter,
with about a half-dozen others, a course of classical study
under the Reverand Richard Hood.
In November, 1796, shortly before his sixteenth birth-
day, Croker entered Trinity College, Dublin. Here he con-
tinued his classical studies and took a leading part in the
Historical Society, an organization which encouraged young
Irishmen to become orators. He wrote several prize essays
for the society, and received the first gold medal it awarded.
His first acquaintance with Thomas Moore began at this period,
and the correspondence which ensued between them was rarely
interrupted until the death of the poet, although political
ties and other circumstances often threw them widely apart.
Having completed college and taken the B.A. degree, Croker
preceded to London in 1800 and was entered as a student of
law at Lincoln's Inn. Admitted to the Irish bar in 1802, he
commenced law practice while resuming his studies in London
at intervals in 1804 and 1805.
In 1806 Croker entered upon his political career. In
his first attempt to get elected to Parliament from the bor-
ough of Downpatrick he was defeated. But in the following
year there came the collapse of the Grenville Ministry, and,
with financial aid from the Tory party, Croker undertook
another contest. This time he was victorious, and in June,
1807 he took his seat in the House of Commons, where he was
placed in charge of Irish business by his lifelong friend,
Sir Arthur Wellesley, then Chief Secretary. In 1809 he was
appointed Secretary of the Admiralty, a post which he retained
for twenty-one years. In 1816 he declined an offer to make
him a Privy Councillor; but twelve years later he accepted
the honor at the hands of the Duke of Wellington.
During his years in public office, Croker seems to
have been as successful in social and cultural circles as he
was in politics. He was elected a member of White's Club--
at that time a high distinction--as well as a Fellow of the
Royal Society. He was on friendly terms with not only most
of the Tory statesmen, but, according to entries in his Dia-
ry, with the wit and fashion of the town. Although prone to
argumentation and contradiction, he had, by contemporary
accounts, great powers of conversation, and his presence un-
doubtedly gave life and spirit to the companies he joined.
His friendship with the Prince Regent (later to become George
IV) began soon after his appointment to the Admiralty post
and resulted in many invitations to Carlton House. In
Croker's notebook of 1813, under the head of engagements, is
the entry: "For some years after this I dined very frequently,
sometimes twice a week, with the Prince Regent."2 He wrote
to his wife in August of the same year:
The Plymouth Telegraph announces another
complete victory of Lord Wellington over Soult
on the 30th. When I went to the Prince with the
news this morning, he embraced me with both arms.
You never saw a man so rejoiced. I have seen
him again today; and you cannot conceive how
gracious he is to me. H. R. Highness has asked
me to go to the Pavilion Wednesday and Thursday,
or as long as I can stay.3
With the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, Croker was
on terms of closest intimacy for many years. The Duke's
confidential conversations with him are scattered up and
down the pages of the Croker Papers; Peel became godfather
to Croker's son, and after the war accompanied him on a visit
to Paris and the battlefield of Waterloo. Among the many
cultural interests that engaged Croker's attention were the
establishment of the Athenaeum Club and the acquisition of
the Elgin Marbles for the British Museum. The Athenaeum
Club, which was founded in 1824, owed its origin almost en-
tirely to Croker; and it was chiefly through his exertions
that the Government and Parliament were induced to purchase
the Elgin Marbles.
2As quoted in Ibid., p. 102.
Louis J. Jennings, ed., The Croker Papers: The
Correspondence and Diaries, I (London, 1884), 53.
Released from his post at the Admiralty by the acces-
sion of the Whigs to power in 1830, Croker took a prominent
part in the debates on the Reform Bill in the House of Com-
mons. On the passing of the Bill, which he had strenuously
opposed, Croker in 1832 retired permanently from active
political life. He took up residence at West Molesey, in
Surrey, where he carried on an extensive correspondence and
occupied himself in literary pursuits until his death in his
seventy-seventh year, on August 10, 1857.
Croker's literary career began shortly after he enter-
ed upon the practice of law. His first literary effort had
as its subject the French Revolution, which had produced a
powerful impression upon him, though he was only in his ninth
year when war broke out. An alliance which connected his
family with Edmund Burke's helped perhaps to confirm him in
that man's stand on the Revolution; but there is evidence
that it was his mother's warning voice more than anything
else that contributed to giving his mind the strong antirev-
olutionary bias which was one of his leading characteristics
throughout life. Mention of his first writing, and a glimpse
of the young Croker, appears in a memorandum written by a
Mr. Jesse with whom he lived:
1 was lodging and boarding with a Miss
Robinson in Middle Scotland Yard, about fifty-
seven years ago, when Mr. Croker became an
inmate. The society in the house consisted
of four or five very pleasant men, and Mr.
Croker soon became the life of the party by
his wit and talents, and his constant readiness
to provoke an argument, which he never failed
to have the best of. In these lodgings he em-
ployed himself in writing political letters on
the French Revolution, addressed to Tallien,
which appeared in the Times newspaper.4
The letters affected to give an account of the visit to Eng-
land of the regicide Tallien, hero of the 9thThermidor, and
were written in what Croker later characterized as "that style
at once pert and pedantic which is apt to mark the transition
state between college and the world, and particularly in
young Irishmen."5 But the attitude toward the French Revo-
lution expressed in the letters was never afterwards altered;
neither was the tendency for satire and pungent wit.
A year or two later Croker assisted James and Horace
Smith (famous in their day as authors of the "Rejected Ad-
dresses") and other friends in starting two periodicals, the
Picnic and the Cabinet. Among his contributions were some
verses, written with epigrammatic smartness, on the locali-
ties of London, in imitation of a small collection of similar
squibs on Paris, called Tout Paris en Vaudeville. These
periodicals, however, had only a brief existence, and do not
appear to have attracted much attention. Several other
4As quoted in Smith, p. 90.
5As quoted in Myron F. Brightfield, John Wilson Croker
(Berkeley, 1940), p. 7.
literary ventures occupied Croker's attention in 1804 and
the succeeding year. One was a poetic satire on the Irish
stage, entitled Familiar Epistles, which was so popular that
it ran through five editions in less than a year. A contem-
porary of Croker's said that "the satire was felt and resented
with great bitterness, its lightness and gaiety adding pun-
gency to truths which in a graver dress would neither have
attracted so much notice nor given so much offence."6 It was
followed in 1805 by a satirical work in prose, entitled An
Intercepted Letter, in which, under the disguise of Chinese
names, Croker gave an amusing account of Dublin politics and
society. It had even a greater success than the Familiar
Epistles, for it ran rapidly through seven editions, and
received the praise of Maria Edgeworth: "It contains one of
the best views of Dublin ever seen, evidently drawn by the
hand of a master, though in a slight, playful, unusual
style." Croker's poem "Battle of Talavera," published in
1809, was reviewed by Sir Walter Scott, who bestowed high
praise upon it and quoted several lines as possessing ,pecu-
liar and picturesque merit."8 Robert Southey, too, professed
As quoted in Smith, p. 91
"The Battle of Talavera," Quarterly Review, 11
(November, 1809), 429.
admiration, calling it "a poem which has been one of the most
successful of modern times, or indeed of any times--and yet
not more so than it deserves to be."
In 1809 Croker, in association with Scott, John Murray,
George Ellis, and William Gifford, founded the Quarterly Re-
view as an equipoise to the Edinburgh Review, which had become
obnoxious to the Tory party for the ferocity of its criticism.
Croker became the Quarterly Review's chief supporter and one
of its leading contributors for nearly half a century. But
he continued to do other literary work besides. He edited
three books of memoirs, the first two of which he also translated:
Memoirs of the Embassy of the Marshal de Bassompierre to the
Court of England in 1626 (1819) and Royal Memoirs on the
French Revolution (1823). In 1848 appeared Memoirs of the
Reign of George the Second. Two children's books came from
his pen: Stories Selected from the History of England .
for Children (1817) and Progressive Geography for Children
(1828). Probably Croker's most important literary work was
his edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, which he published
in 1831 and about which more will be discussed in Chapter
II. uver the years he also edited numerous letters and
speeches of figures important at the time but little-
known today. Toward the end of his life he was engaged
Letter of March 27, 1812; as quoted in Brightfield,
in editing the works of Pope, but failing health forced him
to break off and leave the work incomplete. A great deal of
his material went to enrich the Elwin-Courthope edition of
Pope half a century later.
There are certain salient traits in Croker's character,
due either to native tendency or to the play of circumstances,
that are especially illuminating in an investigation of his
successes and failures as a critic. Though these traits will
be given fuller treatment later, a few observations may be
apropos here. Croker had a propensity for sly satire and
pungent wit. Not infrequently this tendency led into a vein
of ridicule and sometimes cruel and fierce recrimination.
He was a strong, even a bitter partisan, who understood very
clearly the value of official propaganda and saw no reason
for keeping politics out of anything, especially literary
criticism. As he himself pointed out, "Party is much the
strongest passion of an Englishman's mind. Friendship, love,
even avarice give way before it."10 He was thoroughly at
home in a review where it was taken for granted that a
writer's known or supposed political sympathies should help
to determine the critic's attitude to his work. But it should
be remembered, in extenuation of Croker's offences, that his
1Letter of January 21, 1831; Samuel Smiles, ed.,
Memoir and Correspondence of the Late John Murray, 11 (London,
early manhood was passed in a time of bitter personal ani-
mosity, when there was hardly any social intercourse between
persons of different political opinions, and when party
spirit proceeded to lengths unknown in the present century.
Added to this, he was frequently called upon, at short notice,
to write a review which would stir the public's passions or
to defend a Ministry savagely assailed by the most powerful
writers and journalists of the day. Writing for the most
part anonymously, he did not measure his words and phrases.
To this habit of party warfare, joined to an innate spirit
of criticism and to a hatred of humbug and imposture, may be
attributed the severity with which he attacked and unravelled
--even to the most minute details--everything which he thought
bore the appearance of fraud and undue pretension. He was
accused of descending to the merest trifles in his criticisms
and reviews; but he himself said that he was never disposed
to regard any fact as a trifle, because he had found by long
experience that the smallest and apparently the most indiffer-
ent trifles often indicated serious matters, and led to im-
portant results.1 His scholarly tenacity, "like that of
an academic bloodhound,"2 may be seen at its best in his
11Jennings, 1, 27-28.
121an Jack, English Literature 1815-1832 (Oxford,
1963), p. 334.
article on Fanny Burney, to be discussed in Chapter II, and
in his edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, so savagely
attacked by Macaulay yet so valuable that Birkbeck Hill
was to be deeply indebted to it half a century later.
The impression received of Croker's reputation among
his contemporaries is not a unified one; there is a good deal
of conflicting testimony. It is difficult to separate Croker
the literary critic from Croker the politician. Moreover,
almost all the evidence we have is likely to be tinged with
prejudice, for it is furnished by bitter personal or polit-
ical enemies or by close personal friends and admirers.
Croker's detractors--and there were many--maligned him
with a vehemence not often found in the annals of English
politics and letters. Many of those whom he offended by his
political or literary judgments took care, sooner or later,
to exact vengeance. As early as 1813 Thomas Barnes wrote a
cutting sketch which appeared in Leigh Hunt's The Examiner,
in which he spoke of Croker's "hard-faced and protrusive im-
pudence," and his "arrogance of manner, unbecoming in any
man, but least of all suited to a man of his small preten-
sions."1 In her novel Florence Macarthy, Sydney Owenson,
This article is reprinted in part in Derek Hudson,
Thomas Barnes of The Times (Cambridge, 1944), pp. 160-163.
who became known to the world as Lady Morgan, wrote a barbed
caricature of Croker in the figure of the "bilious, satur-
nine" Counsellor Conway Crawley. In Disraeli's Coningsby,
as no biographical sketch of Croker ever fails to point out,
Croker was presented as Rigby, the servitor and toady of the
Marquis of Monmouth. Macaulay called Croker a "varlet," and
recorded in his diary his opinion that Croker was "a bad, a
very bad man; a scandal to politics and to letters." To
Sydney Smith, the well-known clergyman, writer, and wit,
Croker was "the calumniator general of the human race."l
Two abusive articles--one attacking Croker as a politician,
the other his standing as a critic--are representative of
the many slashes that appeared in various periodicals of the
time. The first, from the New Monthly Magazine, opens in a
strain of irony by praising him, but wastes no time in
launching into a direct attack:
Mr. Croker is an elegant scholar, an
elegant writer, a man of acute talents, and
a wit; and has only to blame his own base
sycophancy to power, and his tortuous and
unerect, prying, and intriguing means of
attacking it, for not being now the moral no
less than the intellectual leader of his party.
G. Otto Trevelyan, ed., The Life and Letters of Lord
Macaulay, II (New York, 1877), 225.
15Nowell C. Smith, ed., The Letters of Sydney Smith,
II (Oxford, 1953), 680.
It is to a biting consciousness of this
fact, and to a constitutional irritability
of frame, and not to the mere proud-flesh
insolence of office, that I would ascribe
that peevish petulance and insolent assump-
tion of manner which have won for him a
more undivided unpopularity than is bestow-
ed on any other individual . in either
House of Parliament.16
The second article appeared in The Gentleman's Magazine ex-
actly one month after Croker's death, and begins:
In what may be called the pettifoggery
of literature, the late Mr. Croker was an
unrivalled adept. By patient delving he
would undermine a molehill, and then com-
placently congratulate himself on having
overthrown a mountain. His habit was to
nibble at some unimportant fact in a noble
composition, and then delude himself--or
endeavour, by triumphant boasting, to de-
lude others--into a belief that he had
destroyed the credit of the work in which
the fact occurred. His assiduity in this
small work was extraordinary.17
In the years following his death the bitterness of the attacks
on Croker redoubled, and his reputation, with few men step-
ping forth to defend it, gradually slipped downward, reach-
ing its nadir towards the closing years of the century with
G. Otto Trevelyan's broad and sweeping attack on Croker's
moral character, in which he threw out a dark allusion to
"certain unsavoury portions" of Croker's private life.
16XXXI (April, 1831), 355.
1 January, 1858, p. 29.
1Trevelyan, 1, 122.
But there is another picture to be gained of Croker
from those of his contemporaries who saw him as an able
politician, a discerning critic, and a steadfast friend.
As Jennings observes,
when we get fairly behind the scenes of his
life, we find that Mr. Croker was the close and
intimate friend of many of the most eminent men
of his day, and not only their friend, but
their adviser in every great emergency which
befell them. They attached an extraordinary
value to his opinions, and trusted in him to
a degree which is rare either in public or in
private life. Never was he known to betray
Croker was held in high regard by the leading Tory statesmen
and politicians of his day. Testimonials from publishers,
editors, and critics to his honorable reputation as a man,
and his worth as a literary critic, are also abundant. John
Gibson Lockhart, editor, biographer, and critic, spoke of
Croker's "industrious researches and . sagacious crit-
icism" and declared that to literary matters Croker
"brought his own piercing, strong, and liberal understanding,
enriched with most multifarious knowledge of books, more
especially of literary and political biography, and expanded
by as extensive observation of men and manners as has fallen
Jennings, I, 2.
20"Croker's Edition of Boswell," Quarterly Review,
XLVI (November, 1831), 11.
to the lot of any living person."21 William Blackwood, the
founder of Blackwood's Magazine, wrote Murray of his first
meeting with Croker: "1 think 1 have never been so much
gratified with any one. His quickness of mind, intelligence,
and activity are surprising; and what gives a complete charm
to the whole is the simplicity and perfect gentlemanly tone
of his manners." For many years Blackwood sent Croker
every number of "Maga," and asked him to express a frank
and free opinion of its contents, a request with which Croker
generally complied. William Gifford, editor of the Quar-
terly Review until 1824, and a critic himself, always recog-
nized Croker's merits as a literary critic and spoke of him
to Murray as "really a treasure to us."25 Perhaps the tes-
timonials of three of the well-known literary figures of the
time--Scott, Southey, and Moore--most convincingly reveal the
esteem in which Croker was held by some of his contemporaries.
Ibid., p. 2.
Letter of July 12, 1816; Smiles, 1, 465.
F. D. Tredrey, The House of Blackwood 1804-1954
(London, 1954), p. 61.
For an example of Croker's criticism of the maga-
zine, see Jennings, 1, 143-144.
Smiles, I, 201.
Their respect for both his character and his critical abil-
ities is attested by the correspondence which passed between
them. The history of Croker's relationship with these men
will be discussed in Chapter II.
Croker's creative writings, though popular in their
day, are little known to the modern reader. Such is to be
expected, for they possess little intrinsic or historical
value, it was in the critical rather than in the creative
forms of literature that Croker's powers were permitted their
fullest scope. He did his best work in primarily intellec-
tual types of writing--in editing and in criticism. As this
study is concerned with his criticism of literature, it will
be well to inquire into his qualifications for this kind of
work, and to attempt to determine the extent they shaped
his critical outlook.
Keenness of intellect was croker's first qualification
for critical work. His mental acuteness is to be detected
while he was still a schoolboy at Portarlington. His school-
fellow there and perhaps his earliest intimate friend was
Joseph Jackson, who, many years later, as Justice Jackson of
the Irish Court of Common Pleas, wrote to Croker in a fondly
You were then at the head of the school,
and facile princeps in every branch of our
course. You were also a great favourite with
our master Mr. Willis, and with Monsieur
Doineau, the French teacher, the principal
assistant. They were proud of your talents
and acquirements, as being likely to re-
dound to the character and credit of the
For a young Irishman of Croker's mental abilities,
attendance at Trinity College was taken as a matter of course.
Trinity was still the brilliant and worldly college which
had graduated Sheridan and Burke. John Hely Hutchinson's
administration had been a long scandal that ended in 1795,
when the amiable Richard Murray became provost; but Hutch-
inson had known what he wanted. He aimed to attract the
nobility and gentry, and instituted instruction in riding,
fencing, and the modern languages as parts of a genteel ed-
ucation. The curriculum had been revised in 1793 and was,
as a matter of fact, an advance over Oxford and Cambridge.27
As a "Junior Freshman" Croker might look forward to Murray's
Logic, equal parts of Virgil, Homer, and Horace, the first
three books of Euclid, and portions of Livy and Herodotus.
Education was of course classical. The Latin theme was
still presented by the student, an essay in which he reproduced
As quoted in Smith, p. 88.
Constantia Maxwell, A History of Trinity College
Dublin 1591-1892 (Dublin, 1946), pp. 122-129.
John William Stubbs, The History of the University
of Dublin (Dublin, 1889), p. 257.
what he had learned from his tutor during the week; decla-
mations were still in vogue, and so were the disputations.
As late as 1845 when Taylor published his History of the
University, students taking the degrees of B.A. and M.A. had
still to make two declamations, one in Greek and one in
Latin, and to dispute in the old fashion. But besides the
classics, the curriculum also included some astronomy and
physics, a touch of political science, Conybeare's Defence
of Revealed Religion, and "Locke on Government.29 Trinity
was not a mere college for future curates.
Croker appears to have lost no time in earning him-
self a reputation at Trinity. According to Professor Strong,
he soon "showed signs of brilliance." Jennings states
that "his remarkable abilities appeared from the first to
have attracted the attention of his associates."31 Croker
fortunately had for his tutor Dr. Bartholomew Lloyd, an ex-
ceptionally able man who would become provost in 1831 and
who would achieve renown as a mathematician.
It is likely that Croker's mental acuteness was re-
lated to his early inclination towards satire. He had the
Maxwell, p. 149.
30L. A. G. Strong, The Minstrel Boy: A Portrait of
Tom Moore (New York, 1937), p. 36.
3Croker Papers, I, 7.
faculty of penetrating observation, in life as well as in
literature; and, when he brought this faculty to bear upon
people, friends or enemies, he saw their incongruities more
plainly than most. The coruscating banter and sly satire
which obtained so much popularity for the Familiar Epistles
and The intercepted Letter could only have been written by
someone who possessed keenness and quickness of mind. But
it was these same mental qualities that would sometimes work
to Croker's disadvantage in later years. A consciousness of
his powers would often make him extremely impatient of other
men's opinions if they differed from his, especially in re-
gard to political beliefs, it would also lead him to assume
a tone of authority which he reinforced by violence of lan-
guage and bitterness of spirit, making his name one of the
most hated and feared on the roll of periodical writers of
Another quality of Croker's mind besides mere acute-
ness was intellectual curiosity. It was a trait fraught with
notable consequences in his literary criticism, and it had a
good deal to do with his preparation for his work and the
extent of his scholarly attainments. His thirst for intel-
lectual exploration accounts for his wide and appreciative
reading, which can be considered his second qualification
for critical work. Acquiring an interest in Latin and Greek
literature at an early age, he wrote to a friend: "Pope's
Homer I had by heart . I knew of no translation of
Virgil, and, stimulated by the example of Mr. Pope, was
resolved to fill up that chasm in English literature."32
Such a scheme, though more fanciful than realistic for a
schoolboy, can be attributed mostly to Croker's boyish en-
thusiasm for his studies. But it also shows evidence of
his mental avidity of the time, and there can be little
doubt that his reading covered a wide range of classical
works. Such an assumption can be deduced from a look at
the course of study offered in Irish schools in the latter
half of the eighteenth century. To prepare boys in classi-
cal schools for the entrance exams at Trinity, the Provost
and Senior Fellows at that institution had sent several
recommendations to the Irish schoolmasters, in which the
former specified passages of certain classical authors that
must be read, among them Homer, Lucian, Xenophon, Epictetus,
Virgil, Terence, Horace, Juvenal, and Sallust. Furthermore,
Literal translations were not to be used,
translations from English to Latin and vice
versa were to be made continually, the boys
were to be instructed in Greek and Roman
History, to use globes and maps, to be able
As quoted in Smith, p. 88.
to draw maps and trace out the boundaries
of countries and provinces, to be taught
the composition and proper pronunciation
of English, etc.33
The fact that Croker was classically trained, both
at Portarlington and at Trinity, is a consideration that
affects greatly his criticism. But, despite the low esti-
mation in which modern literatures were held at Trinity in
those days, Croker's reading did not stop with the classics.
His early facility in the French language enabled him to
read widely in French literature, philosophy, and especially
history, in which he continued to take a profound interest
throughout life. His many articles on almost every facet of
the French nation that appeared in issues of the Quarterly
Review attest his broad knowledge of that subject. Nor did
he neglect English literature, for he would scarcely devote
himself to foreign models to the exclusion of those written
in his own tongue. He read widely in English prose and
poetry of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centu-
ries; references to Marlowe, Milton, Dryden, Swift, Cowper,
Gray, Burns, and Crabbe, to name only the most important
authors, are scattered throughout his writings. Croker was
a particular enthusiast of Shakespeare, Pope, and Johnson.
Many years after he left Trinity, while in the midst of
Maxwell, pp. 153-154.
reviewing the Collier-Knight edition of Shakespeare for the
Quarterly Review, he wrote to Murray:
My work is delightful work:--so delight-
ful that I find it very difficult to go on
with it. The road is so charming that 1 sit
down every three steps to admire the prospect;
or 1 slip aside to gather flowers or to taste
the sparkling stream "that brawls along the
wood." 1 wish 1 could fancy myself writing a
review without the necessity of really writing
one. I believe 1 should wander contentedly in
the Shakespearean maze to the end of my life.
I feel like the prince in the fairy tale:--
when I look at the exterior of the palace 1
have reached, 1 am lost in wonder at its
general grandeur and beauty; but when I enter,
1 find the apartments so numerous and each
room so resplendent with gold and jewels that
my senses are bewildered, and 'pon my life 1
know not how 1 shall ever get out of the
Croker spoke often in praise of Pope. Writing to a friend
in 1816, he declared: "1 read more of Pope and Dryden than
1 do of even Scott and Byron; that is to say, 1 do not return
to Scott and Byron with the same regular appetite that 1 do
to the oth 35
to the others." On another occasion he spoke of the "bril-
liancy and beauty of Pope's poetry."36 It was his dissatis-
faction with existing editions of Pope that made him desire
to try his hand at a new one. Johnson, wrote Croker in a
3Letter of January 31, 1842; as quoted in Brightfield,
35Jennings, 1, 96.
Letter of April 10, 1831; as quoted in Brightfield,
review of 1825, was "one of the ablest and best men that
ever adorned literature."37 When Croker was planning his
edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, Murray wrote him that
he had "long known how much your attention and time have
been engaged in the literary history of the period (amongst
others) to which this work refers."38 It was Croker's wide
reading and exhaustive investigations that prepared him for
the writing of more than fifty reviews of biographies and
memoirs covering the period 1775-1825. As lan Jack has
stated, "few men of his day knew so much about the eighteenth
century as Croker."
The picture we get of Croker through most of his life
is that of one whose mind is kept in perpetual intense ac-
tivity by a thirst for intellectual exploration; of one who
attacks one subject after another with energy and enthusiasm,
and who persevers with each until it is mastered. The ea-
gerness with which he would labor upon any piece of work he
might have in hand and the tenacity of purpose in prosecuting
the study of anything that he set his mind to is attested by
numerous contemporaries. The latter trait is especially to
be remembered, for it made itself manifest in Croker's liter-
37Quarterly Review, XXXII (October, 1825), 350.
Smiles, ii, 287.
English Literature 1815-1832, p. 333.
CROKER'S PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL
RELATIONSHIPS WITH CONTEMPORARIES
Croker was on friendly terms with a large number of
the literary men of his time. With two noteworthy excep-
tions, his literary acquaintances--the men whom he met and
with whom he talked and corresponded--attached great value
to his opinions and trusted in him to a high degree. It
is evident from a reading of The Croker Papers that his
kindness and consideration induced him to exert his in-
fluence in various ways for the benefit of his friends.
Those who had the slightest claim upon him rarely asked
his aid without obtaining real and energetic assistance.
Political differences sometimes cost him the loss of a
friend; but no man can take an active part in public af-
fairs without being required, sooner or later, to pay that
Croker had many opportunities to meet literary men.
The Athenaeum, one of the two most important literary clubs
in London, was his creation. He was a frequent diner-out
and made friends at the dinner tables of literary men.
He was for years the chief contributor of a periodical to
which some of the most distinguished writers of the day
also contributed. He was a poet of some note and an editor
of reputation. He attended the notable literary gatherings
at the publisher Murray's place at 50 Albemarle Street.
With other recognized political patrons of the arts, he
regularly attended the dinners of the Royal Academy, where
he formed personal acquaintances with literary people as
well as with painters and sculptors.
Many of Croker's literary acquaintances, though men
of importance in their own time, are merely names today.
Others, such as Theodore Hook, John Barrow, Henry Hallam,
and Henry Hart Milman, have some claim to be remembered.
As would be expected, Croker was widely acquainted with
editors and publishers; his closest friendships were with
William Gifford, John Gibson Lockhart, and John Murray, all
of the Quarterly Review, William Blackwood of Blackwood's
Magazine, and John Walter of The Times. Of the more im-
portant purely literary figures of his time, Croker was on
very friendly terms with three: Southey, Moore, and Scott.
Smiles, II, 83; Murray's drawing room was at that
time the main center of literary intercourse in the west end
Though he once saw Wordsworth and Coleridge at a dinner,
he apparently never met them. Similarly, he had no real
personal acquaintance with Byron, though it is likely he
encountered him on at least one occasion at Murray's.
Finally, in any discussion of Croker's relationship with
contemporaries must be included the names of Disraeli and
Macaulay. With these two important men he had the misfor-
tune to fall foul and become the subject of their satirical
Although Southey was a regular contributor to the
Quarterly Review from its first number, he seems not to
have met Croker until the summer of 1811 when he was on a
visit to London. On this occasion, he recorded: "Croker
has been very civil to me," and "I dined with him the other
day at the Admiralty."3 Details concerning their early
meetings are lacking, but the two men must have conversed
at length on matters relating to the Quarterly Review, an
enterprise in which they both took a deep interest. Undoubt-
edly Southey also spoke to Croker of his recent visit with
2Brightfield, p. 229.
John Wood Warter, ed., Selections from the Letters
of Robert Southey, II (London, 1856), 228.
William Blake, a visit which had made a profound impression
Although the relationship between Southey and Croker
does not appear to have ever reached the stage of intimacy,
in the years that followed the two men corresponded on
friendly terms and saw each other occasionally during
Southey's periodic trips to London. Like most of his dis-
tinguished contemporaries, Croker held Southey's work in
surprisingly high estimation. Southey, more than anyone
else except Wordsworth, was the "real poet" of the period,
devoting his whole heart to literature and his whole time
to literary pursuits. Croker always had high praise for
the man as well as his poetry, so it is not surprising that
on several occasions he used his influence to try to secure
appointments for Southey. As early as 1809 the poet had
let it be known to several influential friends that he wish-
ed to secure a well-paid sinecure. One appointment that he
thought might suit very well was soon to fall vacant: the
post of Historiographer Royal. When the office was vacated
in May, 1812 by the death of Louis Dutens, there were strong
attempts to secure the post for Southey:
Jack Simmons, Southey (New Haven, 1948), p. 134.
Lord Lonsdale applied on his behalf; Croker,
unsolicited, lobbied the Prime Minister and
the Lord Chamberlain; Scott wrote to ask the
help of Lord Melville.5
But the influences were exerted to no avail; the Prince
Regent had decided upon the appointment of his private
librarian, James Stanier Clarke. The disappointed candi-
date wrote to Croker:
My friend William Wynn informs me that
I am indebted to your kindness for an attempt
to forward my wishes and worldly interests.
The knowledge that this attempt was made in
time has saved me from the little sort of
repining which I might else have felt, in
fancying that my application had failed because
it was preferred too late. i wished for the
office, not merely because it would have se-
cured to me a moderate competence, but be-
cause I should have made it my pride to
discharge the duties which ought to attach
to it. The opportunity is lost--but 1 am
not the less beholden to you for your
friendly intentions and endeavour.6
It was in May of 1812 also that Southey published
his Life of Nelson, a work which he had expanded from an
article in the Quarterly Review at Murray's suggestion.
Croker's praise of the work was immediate, and he wrote
Southey an encouraging letter, prophesying that the book
would always be "the popular Life of Nelson."7
Ibid., p. 138.
6As quoted in Brightfield, p. 208.
7Letter of May 7, 1813; Jennings, 1, 50-51.
In the summer of 1813 Croker had another opportunity
to try to secure an appointment for Southey, and this time
his persevering assistance was decisive. The death in Au-
gust of Henry James Pye had created a vacancy in the Poet
Laureateship. Croker immediately put forward Southey's
name for the office, unaware that in some quarters Scott
was already being seriously considered. Southey's letter
of September 20 to his friend Wynn relates the details:
1 called on Croker: He had spoken to
the Prince; and the Prince observing that
I had written "some good things in favour
of the Spaniards," said the office should
be given me. . Presently Croker meets
Lord Liverpool, and tells him what had
passed; Lord Liverpool expressed his sorrow
that he had not known it a day sooner, for
he and the Marquis of Hertford had consulted
together upon whom the vacant honour could
most properly be bestowed. Scott was the
greatest poet of the day, and to Scott
therefore they had written to offer it.
The Prince was displeased at this; though
he said he ought to have been consulted,
it was his pleasure that I should have it,
and have it I should. Upon this Croker
represented that he was Scott's friend as
well as mine, that Scott and I were upon
friendly terms; and for the sake of all
three he requested that the business
might rest where it was.
Scott quickly decided, for a variety of reasons, to decline
the offer. He then wrote to Croker, asking him to use his
Charles Cuthbert Southey, ed., The Life and Corres-
pondence of Robert Southey, IV (London,1849-50), 42.
influence to get Southey appointed in his place. Croker, of
course, had been working for Southey's appointment from the
very beginning, not because he had the slightest personal or
political objection to Scott, but because he was aware that
Southey badly needed the salary. He renewed his efforts and
soon had the affair satisfactorily settled, but not before
Southey had written him that he would accept the office only
if the Laureate's duties could be a little modified:
Twenty years ago, when I had a repu-
tation to win, it would have been easy for me
to furnish odes upon demand on any subject.
This is no longer the case. 1 should go to
the task like a schoolboy, with reluctance and
a sense of incapacity for executing it well;
but unless 1 could so perform it as to give
credit to the office, certain it is that the
office could give none to me.
But if these periodical exhibitions were
dispensed with, and 1 were left to write upon
great events, or to be silent, according as
the spirit moved, I should then thankfully
accept the office as a mark of honourable
distinction, which it would then become.
1 write this to you, not as proposing
terms to the Prince, an impropriety of which
1 should be fully aware, but as to a friend
who has more than once shown me acts of
kindness which 1 had no reason to expect and
by whose advice I would be guided.9
Southey recorded Croker's answer to the request in the Pre-
face to Volume 111 of his Poetical Works:
9 innings, 49-50.
Jennings, 1, 49-50.
Upon this, Mr. Croker, whose friendli-
ness to me upon every occasion I gladly take
this opportunity of acknowledging, observed
that it was not for us to make terms with
the Prince Regent. "Go you," said he, "and
write your Ode for the New Year. You can
never have a better subject than the present
state of the war affords you." He added that
some fit time might be found for representing
the matter to the Prince in its proper light.
The final steps in Southey's appointment suffered the usual
delays. But by the time the poet arrived in London in the
middle of October, Croker was able to inform him that the
Laureateship was his.
Southey acted on Croker's suggestion for his New Year
ode. On December 15, 1813, he sent the poem, the "Carmen
Triumphale," to Croker, asking not for criticism, but if
there was "an impropriety in some parts of it appearing as
the Poet Laureate's production." Two days later he wrote
to his friend John Rickman that "1 am prepared to expect a
letter from Mr. Croker, advising the suppression of anything
discourteous towards Bonaparte."2 Southey's anticipations
were shortly realized; Croker wrote and pointed out that the
ode was an official performance, and it was possible that
before long France might become a friendly power. Thus it
was necessary for the poet to exercise discretion in all
11Southey, Life, IV, 52.
12Ibid., p. 52.
references to France; otherwise he might find himself in an
embarrassing position. In deference to Croker's suggestions,
Southey omitted from the poem the more violently anti-French
stanzas. But he was by no means happy about the alterations,
as he makes clear in a letter of December 28 to his uncle,
the Reverend Herbert Hill:
1 spoilt my poem, in deference to .
Croker's advice, by cutting out all that re-
lated to Bonaparte, and which gave strength,
purport, and coherence to the whole. Per-
haps I may discharge my conscience by putting
these rejected parts together, and letting
them off in the Courier before it becomes a
libellous offence to call murder and tyranny
by their proper names.13
The offending section was ultimately published, with some
additional lines, as an "Ode Written During the Negotia-
tions with Bonaparte."
In June, 1814, Southey wrote to Croker and informed
him that he had written the "Carmina Aulica," consisting of
odes to the Prince Regent, the Emperor Alexander, and the
King of Prussia. He asked Croker to present, as a mark of
respect,copies to the personages to whom the odes were ad-
dressed, a request with which Croker gladly complied.14
Several years later when Southey was contemplating writing
13 bid., p. 54.
14Brightfield, pp. 214-215.
a companion volume to his popular ecclesiastical history of
England, the Book of the Church, Croker wrote in warm praise
of the project:
I am delighted at your idea of a "Book
of the State." If you execute it with the
same spirit and success as the "Book of the
Church," you will have created the two most
valuable standard works in our language--works
which will become (and it is the greatest
praise and prognostication of usefulness which
I can give) school books, and will lead future
generations to good principles and right feel-
ings in matters of Church and State.15
After about 1820 Croker and Southey corresponded in-
frequently, Southey being entirely occupied at his home in
keswick with literary work which completely absorbed his
energies. The two men undoubtedly saw each other at Murray's
drawing room when Southey visited London in May, 1828, and
possibly again in the spring of 1838. The following year
marked the beginning of Southey's slow decline in health
which led ultimately to his death in 1843.
Croker met Thomas Moore in 1796 when the two were
students at Trinity College, Dublin. Moore, almost two
years ahead of Croker, had entered Trinity soon after the
Act of 1793 made it possible for Roman Catholics to legally
proceed to a degree. Because of their being in different
Letter of January 3, 1825; Jennings, 1, 276-277.
classes and the fact that Moore was an externn" residing
with his parents in the city, no real intimacy was formed
between them during their college years. They did have some
contact, perhaps, from their membership in the Historical
Society. By the time Croker joined, Moore had already
achieved a certain notoriety in that group from the spirited
reading of his satire against pedagogues and pedants, the
"Cde upon Nothing."6
After graduating from college in 1798, Moore took up
residence in London to arrange for the publication of his
translation of Anacreon. Croker soon arrived in that city
to study law, and throughout most of 1800 and the succeeding
year the two young men were often together. The growing
friendship is evidenced by a letter Moore wrote to Croker in
I am delighted to find that your friend-
ship is unchanged, and, believe me, my grati-
tude is as warm as ever. 1 had intended
writing to you to confess the theft of an
idea from you, which 1 have committed, not,
however, without acknowledgment. In trans-
lating the fragments of Anacreon, I have
adopted your idea of combining them so as to
form little odes of them. Will you forgive
me for the plagiary? I assure you 1 shall
own the source whence I have drawn it.17
1Strong, Minstrel Boy, p. 45.
Correspondence Between the Right Hon. J. W. Croker
and the Right Hon. Lord John Russell on Some Passages of
Moore's Diary (London, 1854), pp. 21-22.
In 1803 an unsettling circumstance was to sever the
friendship between Croker and Moore for several years. It
was in that year that Moore was given a government appoint-
ment as registrar for the naval court in Bermuda, and he
spent some months there at the uncongenial task of examining
the accounts of vessels. During his absence, Croker pub-
lished his Familiar Epistles, in which appeared a refer-
ence to Moore, with the following footnote:
In Ireland we used to shew our admiration
of his poetic talents by asking him to supper;
in England they reward him with a commercial
and in some degree, legal office: this shows
the difference of the national taste;--with
us, abilities are dissipated in conviviality,
and with them, fettered by the ties of interest
and business. Between us I fancy poor Tom is
not likely to be much improved, or even en-
riched. And I am truly sorry for it; for with
about as many faults as other people have, he
possesses twice as much genius and agreeability
as anybody else. I cannot say much for his
When Moore returned to England after appointing a deputy to
look after his Bermuda responsibilities, he took offence at
what he considered to be a slur on his work and character.
Croker's comment, though obviously intended to be taken
humorously, was a little too pointed for Moore not to be
stung. The result was that he renounced his friendship with
A reconciliation was brought about in 1809 when
Croker, recently appointed to his Admiralty post, offered
to help Moore out of a certain difficulty. The poet had
learned of his deputy's mismanagement of affairs in Bermuda,
for which he was, of course, responsible. When Croker offer-
ed his assistance in patching things up, Moore immediately
wrote the secretary expressing his regret for the coldness
with which he had treated him.
I have long thought that I was a fool
to quarrel with you, and by no means required
your present conduct to convince me how much you
are in every way superior to me. In warmth of
feeling, however, 1 will not be outdone, and 1
assure you that it is with all my heart and
soul that I enter into the renewal of our
With his gratitude for the past was mingled a "lively sense
of favours to come," for Moore attempted soon after this to
induce Croker to help him in a project of quite another
nature. To Croker's indignation (hotly expressed forty
years later), Moore wrote him in December, 1809 the follow-
What I wanted to know was simply this--
whether if the deputy I should appoint would
make it worth my while to resign in his
favour (i.e., in plain placemen's language,
would consent to purchase the appointment),
you could have interest enough to get him
nominated my successor, as by that means 1
should get rid of the very troublesome medium
of a deputation, and have a good large sum at
once in my pocket. . 19
Jennings, I, 51.
19Howard Mumford Jones, The Harp That Once--: A
Chronicle of the Life of Thomas Moore (New York, 1937), p. 131.
Croker declined to undertake such a project, but he gave
Moore some advice which, had it been followed, would have
saved the poet from the embarrassments brought upon by his
deputy a few years later. In 1813, Croker wrote:
I wish I could give you any more agreeable
advice on the subject of your office than that
which I before have given, namely, that you
should yourself go out and look after your
profits. I have no doubt that they are well
worth your doing so, and in your (since ac-
quired) character of father of a family, I
really think it is your bounden duty to look
after your family interests. It is very un-
poetical, and very un-Irish, and very unroman-
tic to attend to worldly cares, but if not
attended to they at last become too strong
for the most poetical head and the most ar-
But the gregarious Moore now basked in the sunshine
of celebrity and had no intention of subjecting himself to
the monotonies of colonial life. Despite Croker's friendly
warnings, the poet permitted his Bermuda affairs to drift,
happy when an occasional draft came from his deputy, and
careless of his own responsibility. Finally, in 1818, he
received the startling news that his deputy had absconded
with the proceeds of the sale of a ship and cargo. Moore
suddenly found himself liable for the whole amount of b6000,
a sum he could not possibly pay. To escape legal action he
decided to go to Paris. Shortly before his departure in
Jennings, 1, 52.
September, 1819, he recorded in his diary a friendly meeting
Called at Murray's, and found Croker
there. Long conversation with him about the
Catholic Question (which, he said, we should
see carried with a high hand before very long),
and about Peel's defeat by Brougham. Gave me
a copy of his speech on the Catholic Question,
and wrote in it, "To T. M. Esq., from his old
friend the author." 21
Croker and Moore saw each other on two or three occa-
sions during the poet's exile in France. Cn September 23,
1820, Moore recorded in his diary that he "met Croker at
St. Cloud with Theodore Hook, who is his travelling com-
panion."22 On October 14, he saw Croker in Paris. But
although both men during these years avowed sentiments of
friendly attachment, there was in their relationship a lack
of complete rapport. For one thing, Moore was a Whig and
made no secret of his close friendship with several of
Croker's political and literary adversaries, men such as
Francis Jeffrey, Sydney Smith, Samuel Rogers, and Leigh
Hunt. Furthermore, Moore, in the newspapers and for his
"Twopenny Post-Bag" and"Fudge Family in Paris," was writing
personal satires on the Prince Regent, a fact which, in it-
self must have sorely tested Croker's patience. On the
21Lord John Russell, ed. Memoirs, Journal, and Cor-
respondence of Thomas Moore, II (London, 1853), 334.
221bid., III, 151.
basis of Irish connections and strong personal affection,
Croker was willing to exert his influence in various ways
for Moore's benefit. But for someone with the strong party
feelings that Croker possessed, a difference in political
outlook with a friend was bound to affect their relation-
ship, however slightly.
For several years after 1821, Croker actively tried to
win Moore to the Tory cause--being encouraged by his refusal
of an offer to succeed Jeffrey as editor of the Edinburgh
Review.23 Thus, in 1821, Moore noticed that Croker would
permit no real political assault on him.
Bye the bye, there have been lately some
attacks upon me in the "Courier," and a defence
in the "Chronicle;" the former, however, far
more flattering than the latter, as bestowing
warm praise in the midst of its censure. Sus-
pect Croker of it.24
Later in the same year a more significant incident occurred.
Received a letter from Croker, to whom
I had written, in consequence of a paragraph
in the "Courier" charging the "Morning
Chronicle" with "importing epigrams from Paris,"
begging him to set them right as to any suspi-
cion they may have of me, as I have not pub-
lished anything political, except the verses
about the Neapolitans, for some years; and
with respect to the King, if 1 occupied myself
about him at all, it would be to praise him with
all my heart for his wise and liberal conduct
23Strong, p. 197; Jones, p. 231.
Strong, p. 197; Jones, p. 231.
24Russell, III, 265.
in Ireland, whatever I might think of the
hollow and heartless sycophants who were
the objects of it. Croker says in his
answer, that, slight as this favourable
mention of the King is, he read it with
pleasure, and should hail a rapprochement
between us on that point with real grati-
With the exception of Moore's political satires,
Croker had a high regard for his fellow countryman's liter-
ary productions, and in 1822 he began to take an active
interest in Moore's current writings. While he was marking
the proof of his "Loves of the Angels," the poet recorded
the fact that he "sent off the first sheet through Croker,
who has offered me the use of his franks in town."26 After
the work appeared, he wrote to Murray, "saying that, from
something which dropped from Croker, I had half a hope he
might undertake me." Croker replied to this, "reminding
me that we had both agreed no friend should ever review the
work of a friend; but that still, if he had time (which he
had not), nothing would give him more pleasure than attempt-
ing to do justice to my poem."28 When Moore later wished to
make alterations in the work, he received "a long letter
2 Ibid., pp. 302-303.
Ibid., IV, 24.
Ibid., pp. 41-42.
from Croker on the intended metamorphosis of my 'Angels'
into Turks: very kind and sensible."29 During this time,
moreover, the poet dined sometimes at Croker's Kensington
Palace apartments. In December, 1823, Moore recorded in
his diary that he "received a note from Croker, proposing
that 1 should belong to a new club for literary and scientif-
ic persons."30 Moore, therefore, was one of the first per-
sons that Croker invited into the proposed Athenaeum Club.
In the years that followed, Croker and Moore continued
to correspond on friendly terms. The former occasionally
received petitions about Moore's Bermuda business to which
he always responded in a kindly fashion. In December, 1826,
Croker sent Moore "an interesting anecdote of Lord Byron"
for his projected Life of Byron. When Croker was engaged
in editing Boswell's Life of Johnson, he appealed to Moore
Can you give me any account of O'Kane,
the Irish Harper? He is mentioned in Boswell,
and I should like to have a short note on him
from you, in preference to one of my own.32
Ibid., p. 44.
Ibid., pp. 152-153.
31Ibid., V, 136.
32Jennings, 11, 39.
After 1832, the two friends lost touch with each
other. When Moore dined at Murray's in April, 1837, it was
"the first time of my meeting with Croker for many years."33
Details concerning their relationship after this date are
unfortunately lacking. Croker's final act in connection
with Thomas Moore was his review for the Quarterly Review,
a year after the poet's death, of the first four volumes of
Moore's Memoirs, which were edited by Lord John Russell.
Croker first formed an acquaintance with the Disraeli
family about 1809 when be became associated with the house of
Murray in connection with the founding of the Quarterly Re-
view. Isaac Disraeli (or D'lsraeli, to adopt his own orthog-
raphy) had had personal and professional connections with
John Murray for several years, and it was at the publisher's
offices that the young Secretary and the elderly Jewish
writer met. For years afterward they remained on friendly
terms, frequently corresponding and occasionally applying to
each other for assistance in various literary matters.
Croker's edition of the Memoirs of the Embassy of the
Marshal de Bassompierre, published in 1819, contained a
reference to two letters in the British Museum "to which i
33Russell, VII, 182.
was kindly directed by Mr. D'Israeli.34 When he was seeing
the first chapters of his edition of Boswell through the
press, Croker again sought assistance from the elder Disraeli:
Though not troublesome to you, I am not
idle; but the printer has adopted a new plan,
which has disabled me from sending you proofs.
In a day or two I shall trouble you with two or
Where could 1 get a sight of Johnson's
original plan of his Dictionary?
Can you tell me when, and to whom, George
the 3rd talked of the Giants of Literature--
see Boswell, sub anno 1750.
What can have become of Boswell's orig-
inal Diary? It would be invaluable, and
cannot, I think, have been destroyed.35
Disraeli read some of the proofs of the new edition and ap-
pears frequently to have communicated with Croker while the
sheets were inthe printer's hands.36 When in 1828 Disraeli
published his Commentaries on the Life and Reign of Charles
the First, the author in his preface referred to Croker in
eulogistic terms: "To my ever kind and valued friend, the
Right Hon. J. W. Croker, whose luminous and acute intelli-
gence is as remarkable in his love of literature and art,
as it has been in the course of a long, honourable, and
As quoted in Brightfield, p. 234.
Letter of April 25, 1829; Jennings, II, 39.
See Ibid., pp. 40-42.
distinguished public life, I stand deeply indebted."37
Benjamin Disraeli did not share his father's admi-
ration for Croker's "acute intelligence." The exact origin
of his enmity of Croker is a matter of some controversy.
Disraeli's biographer, W. F. Monypenny, believes that it
grew out of Disraeli's plan of 1825 to found the Represen-
tative. Briefly stated, this plan was to publish, under
Murray's auspices, a daily newspaper which would rival the
established London Times. Murray's experience with the
successful Quarterly Review encouraged him, and, when the
young Disraeli turned loose his oratorical talents, Murray
consented to be half-owner of the new paper. He also came
to the decision to secure John Gibson Lockhart as editor,
not only of the proposed paper, but of the Quarterly Review
as well. The job of going to Edinburgh to conquer Lockhart
fell to Disraeli. In the meantime, maintains Monypenny,
"a cabal headed apparently by John Wilson Croker . had
been formed among the old contributors to the Quarterly
against Lockhart's appointment as Editor." Murray, the
I (London, 1851), ix.
The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, I (New York, 1929),
65-76. For the full story of the Representative, see also
Smiles, 11, chap. 26; Andrew Lang, The Life and Letters of
John Gibson Lockhart, I (London, 1897), chap. 12; and David
Douglas, ed., Familiar Letters of Sir Walter Scott, II
(Edinburgh, 1894), Appendix III.
39Monypenny, I, 74.
biographer adds, became so alarmed that when Disraeli re-
turned to London he asked him to revisit Scotland and re-
quest Lockhart to use what influence he had to propitiate
his opponents. Sir Walter Scott, Lockhart's father-in-law,
was then brought into consultation; he wrote several friends
and also sent a firm note to Murray, who in his agitation
replied that Disraeli should have gone direct to Scott, not
to Lockhart. On his second return to London Disraeli had
several exhausting scenes with Murray, who at length calmed
down, took a determined line with the "Croker cabal," and
wrote to Lockhart offering him the editorship. Monypenny
concludes by suggesting that "it was probably at this time
that Disraeli first began to feel that dislike of Croker
which was to find memorable expression in Coningsby."4
Monypenny's suggestion is contested by M. F. Bright-
field who persuasively argues that Croker had neither ad-
vance knowledge of Lockhart's appointment to the Quarterly
Review editorship nor any part in the founding of the
Representative.41 Thus there could not be the slightest
evidence to support the claim that Croker and Disraeli
clashed in the launching of the new paper. Brightfield sub-
mits further facts to support his argument by showing that
Ibid., p. 76.
Brightfield, pp. 184-195.
after Disraeli had withdrawn from the whole Representative
enterprise, he tried to obtain from Murray a letter of
introduction to Croker. When the publisher referred this
request to Lockhart, he received the reply:
I think Mr. B. Disraeli ought to tell you
what it is that he wishes to say to Mr. Croker
on a business of yours ere he asks of you a
letter to the Secretary. If there really be
something worth saying, I certainly know no-
body that would say it better, but I confess
I think, all things considered, you have no
need of anybody to come between you and Mr.
Croker. What can it be?44
Besides the affair of the Representative, Monypenny
suggests a second reason for Disraeli's resentment of Croker.
In the early part of 1832 Disraeli "failed in an attempt to
secure election to the Athenaeum, a club of which his father
was one of the original members and Croker practically the
founder; and rightly or wrongly the Bradenham family laid
the failure to the charge of Croker"45 Brightfield also
contests this charge and argues that there were "entirely
adequate reasons" why Disraeli failed to gain membership in
42Unable to raise his share of the capital, he quit
the organization before the first number appeared.
43Up to this time, he had actually seen Croker only
once; the occasion was at his father's dinner table when
Disraeli was still a youth.
44Letter of February 14, 1826; Smiles, II, 215-216.
45Monypenny, I, 210.
the club. The question of whether or not Disraeli himself
was aware of these reasons remains unanswered. If he was
not aware of them, he may have been entirely justified in
suspecting Croker of blackballing him, Croker being chairman
of the admittance committee and the dominating influence of
the club. Thus Brightfield's refutation of Monypenny's
charge is at best guesswork and is indefensible. The most
plausible cause of Disraeli's enmity is suggested by Bright-
field at the close of his long discussion of the whole af-
fair. It was Disraeli's "intolerable humiliation" (his own
words) at being rejected by Sir Robert Peel for the Secre-
taryship of the Admiralty in 1841. As this was Croker's old
position, Disraeli assumed that Peel must have asked Croker's
opinion and that the former Secretary disapproved of him.
Whatever the cause of Disraeli's animosity to Croker,
it resulted in his brutal caricature of that man in his
Coningsby of 1844. Croker is represented as the Right Hon.
Nicholas Rigby, an extraordinarily soulless and clever polit-
ical schemer. Rigby is a masterly portrait of the genus
described by Disraeli as "that fungous tribe," men who
Brightfield, pp. 238-239. He supplies only two
reasons: that Disraeli, in defiance of club rules, had once
walked insouciantly into the club library to confer with his
father, and that the assigned numerical limit of membership
had already been attained.
471bid., p. 241.
48Coningsby: or the New Generation (New York, 1903),
attached themselves to the powerful noblemen of the day by
their assiduity in making themselves useful. He was, how-
ever, not without certain accomplishments: he had been a
member of Parliament, had held a minor office in a Tory
government, and had also won some reputation as the author
of "slashing" political articles. This was the climax of
a career of pertinacious climbing and he then "set up to be
a perfect man of business." He succeeded in this role too:
"the world took him at his word, for he was bold, acute and
voluble; with no thought, but a good deal of desultory in-
formation; and though destitute of all imagination and noble
sentiment, was blessed with a vigorous, mendacious fancy,
fruitful in small expedients, and never happier than when
devising shifts for great men's scrapes."49
In the course of time Rigby met Lord Monmouth, who soon
appraised his quality:
He was just the animal that Lord Monmouth
wanted, for Lord Monmouth always looked upon
human nature with the callous eye of a jockey.
He surveyed Rigby; and he determined to buy him.
He bought him; with his clear head, his inde-
fatigable industry, his audacious tongue, and
his ready and unscrupulous pen; with all his
dates, all his lampoons; all his private
memoirs, and all his political intrigues. It
was a good purchase. Rigby became a great per-
sonage, and Lord Monmouth's man.50
49 bid., p. 11.
50Ibid., pp. 11-12.
Croker's contemporaries at once identified him with
Rigby. The parallels between the careers of the real man
and the fictional man were too obvious for them to do other-
wise. Disraeli himself, always chary of admitting that he
drew directly from life, professed to see no reason why
Croker should "assume that a character in one of my books,
which he deemed odious, was intended for himself." Never-
theless, he found it embarrassing when Croker was placed
next to him at a political dinner in 1849, and was relieved
that Croker behaved like a man of the world, spoke of his
friendship with Isaac Disraeli, and made himself generally
agreeable. Disraeli adds, "I treated him with great con-
sideration, and spoke enough, but not too much, and took
care never to break into cordiality, which I should have
done under ordinary circumstances with so eminent a man,met
under such conditions."
From Croker's standpoint, Disraeli's embarrassment
was completely unnecessary. For while English readers were
identifying him with Rigby, he himself, it appears, had never
had the curiosity even to look into Coningsby. According to
his own story, as told in a letter of December 29, 1853, it
51Monypenny, I, 624.
was only after he had published his review of Disraeli's
budget speech of 185253 that his attention was called to
the book by hearing that his review was regarded as retali-
ation for what Disraeli had said of him in Vivian Grey4
and Coningsby. "Now the fact is, I never read either,"
Croker adds, and he goes on to state that he never read one
of Theodore Hook's novels, "though some of them were written
in this house, and the characters sketched from the society
he met here." It was the same with Lytton, Dickens, and
I may say the exact same of Coningsby:
I had never seen it nor heard of it in
connection with myself till after the pub-
lication of the Budget review; and I can
most sincerely affirm that I had not the
slightest personal pique, or any motive
to have any, towards Mr. Disraeli.
On the contrary, there were one or two
circumstances, of which Mr. Murray was the
channel, which led me to suppose that Mr.
Disraeli looked towards me with a friendly
and approving eye. If, therefore, I have
given Mr. Disraeli tit for tat it has been
quite unintentionally, and only by chance
medley. . I cannot account for, nor in
fact do I care enough about it to endeavour
to account for, Mr. Disraeli's attacks upon
me; all I care about is, that my political
views as to him should be rightly understood
Quarterly Review, XCII (December, 1852).
54Actually, the two or three references to Croker
in Vivian Grey (1826) are not uncomplimentary.
as altogether uninfluenced by any personal
pique or morbid spirit of retaliation.55
There are evident, however, close parallels between
Croker and Rigby. Croker, although no parvenu, rose by his
own abilities, exercised at the bar and in Parliament, to
be First Secretary to the Admiralty at twenty-eight. He
associated himself with the third Marquess of Hertford (the
original of Lord Monmouth), first acting as his legal ad-
viser and then taking a considerable part in the general
management of his affairs. There is plenty of testimony as
to the "slashing" character of Croker's articles and speeches.
After one of the Reform Bill debates Lockhart wrote to a
Croker was capital and most powerful.
I never saw so much horror excited as by his
slashing dissection of Lord John Russell: and
the House, at first cold and reluctant, be-
came, as he went on, intoxicated with glee.
He had some real eloquent declamation too,
and his delivery was manly and authoritative,
wherever it was not diabolical and vindictive.
Oratory and invective of this kind were evidently genuinely
impressive, and of higher quality than Rigby's shallow, in-
sistent volubility. In fact, Croker's abilities were vastly
superior to "the sharp talent, the shallow information, and
Jennings, III, 304-305.
Lang, II, 140.
the worldly cunning that made a Rigby."57
Brightfield asserts that Croker took no fees from
Lord Hertford and that the legacy he received from him was
no more, if as much, than he might have charged for his
legal services. The terms of Lord Hertford's will were
made public in the year in which Coningsby was written, and
Disraeli represented Rigby as disappointed by the meagerness
of his legacy from Lord Monmouth. As Croker was only three
years Lord Hertford's junior he cannot have built great hopes
upon a legacy; he had taken his reward in social and Parlia-
mentary prestige, but he was certainly above the mean sub-
servience of Rigby.
The story of Disraeli's attack on Croker has a some-
what pitiful conclusion, and one that does little credit to
Disraeli's character. Evidently the caricature rankled
Croker, in spite of his remarks to the contrary, and his mind
reverted to it in his last illness, when he wrote to Lord
Strangford that he had never been able to discover why Dis-
raeli had attacked him, and implied that he would now be
glad of some sort of reconciliation. Disraeli deputed his
friend George Smythe to manage the affair with due consid-
eration for Croker's "feelings and situation," but he could
57Coningsby, p. 74.
58Brightfield, pp. 126-132.
not face an interview--"it was too late, and my sensibili-
ties, which had been played upon in my earlier life, too
much required nursing." He concluded: "The moral 1 draw
from all this is that men of a certain age like the young
ones who lick them."
"Croker looks across the House of Commons at me with
a leer of hatred, which I repay with a gracious smile of
pity."60 So wrote Thomas Babington Macaulay of his Tory op-
ponent in what was one of the bitterest political and liter-
ary feuds of the nineteenth century. There have been many
combats of the kind, but few offering so singular a display
of malevolent and acrimonious feeling. Political before it
became literary, the collision between Croker and Macaulay
was marked by party vindictiveness, personal slander, and
threats of revenge, and ended only with Croker's death in
It was in the Reform Bill debates in the House of
Commons that Croker first came into contact with Macaulay,
a brilliant and outspoken young Whig twenty years his
junior. The two men disliked each other from the start.
Croker later declared: "I cannot pretend to say that 1 like
59Monypenny, I, 625.
60Trevelyan, 1, 225.
Mr. Macaulay either politically or personally. I disliked
him at first sight before I ever heard him open his mouth;
his very person and countenance displeased me."61 Macaulay
wrote at the time that he "detested" Croker "more than cold
boiled veal." With such mutual antipathy, it was inevi-
table that these outspoken representatives of two opposing
political factions would eventually indulge in open warfare.
Croker and Macaulay, it has been pointed out, were to
some extent "pitted" against each other in the House of Com-
mons, at least in the mind of the public, and more than
once Croker gained a marked and telling advantage over his
antagonist. According to contemporary accounts, he possess-
ed greater power as a debater than Macaulay, and on more
than one occasion he utterly demolished an elaborately pre-
pared and showy, but unsubstantial, speech of the Whig
orator. The differences in the speeches of the two men have
been well summarized by Croker's biographer:
The general principles in Croker's
addresses reposed firmly upon the details
fought over in committee and on the points
advanced during the debate. He spoke from
mastery of the subject, and he thought as
he spoke. Macaulay delivered set orations
carefully rehearsed and committed to memory.
Since they were never replies, they scarcely
ever advanced, or even regarded, the precise
61As quoted in Brightfield, p. 63.
62Trevelyan, 1, 218.
63Smith, Croker," p. 108.
point the debate had reached. One natural
result of this was that Macaulay's speeches
read better as literature at the present
day. . His methods were not those of
the Parliamentary speakers even of his
day. . Certain it is that, had Macaulay
ever plunged into the give and take of daily
Parliamentary life, he would have been forced
to change his style and manner. The man who
learns a part cannot successfully encounter
one who thinks on his feet. Swelling periods
are readily trimmed by a clever opponent;
broad generalizations, can be success-
fully turned or shown to be irrelevant.
Indeed, it was treatment of this kind that
Macaulay experienced at Croker's hands during
the Reform debates.64
It was in the very midst of these conflicts, when the
passions of both parties were inflamed to the highest degree,
that Croker's edition of Boswell made its appearance. There
is clear evidence from Macaulay's own letters that it was
because he writhed under the sting of Croker's successful
replies in their parliamentary battles that he became the
assailant in the field of literature. "I will certainly re-
view Croker's "Boswell" when it comes out," he had written
in March,1831, to Macvey Napier, editor of the Edinburgh
Review. And after one of their passages of arms in the
Committee on the Reform Bill, he wrote to his sister:
1 ought to tell you that Peel was very
civil and cheered me loudly; and that impu-
dent, leering Croker congratulated the House
on the proof which I had given of my readiness.
64Brightfield, pp. 64-65.
65Selected Correspondence of the Late Macvey Napier
(London, 1879), p. 110.
He was afraid, he said, that I had been
silent so long on account of the many
allusions which had been made to Calne
[the borough for which Macaulay sat]. Now
that I had risen again he hoped that they
should hear me often. See whether I do
not dust that varlet's jacket for him in
the next number of the Blue and Yellow.66
From that time forth Macaulay waited impatiently for his
opportunity to settle his account with Croker.
The threat of revenge was made in July; the article
which carried the threat into execution appeared in the
Edinburgh Review in September. Somewhat more than a third
of it is an attack on Croker's edition. The first sentence,
"This work has greatly disappointed us," strikes at once the
tone--approaching fairly closely the limits of hypocrisy and
spite. It is maintained by a sprinkling of expressions such
as "monstrous blunders," "absolutely swarm with misstate-
ments," "utterly frivolous," "scandalous inaccuracy," "a
degree of ignorance hardly credible," and "every schoolgirl
knows." Moreover, Croker is accused generally of making his
misstatements in a "cool and authoritative manner," and of
having "no adequate sense of the obligation which a writer
who proposes to relate facts owes to the public."
The method and substance of the attack was the pointing
6Trevelyan, I, 218.
7CVI (September, 1831), 1-38.
out of a dozen or more mistakes in dates and of some irreg-
ularities in the translation of Latin and Greek words.
Scarcely one of the comments involved a matter of conse-
quence. But more--to discover mistakes of the kind that
Macaulay sought requires little more apparatus than a bio-
graphical dictionary and a Greek and Latin grammar. For
example, Croker is ridiculed for declaring that the Marquis
of Montrose was beheaded; for, says Macaulay, he was hanged.
The fact was that he was hanged and beheaded. Again, the
essayist pounces upon Croker's assertion that "Lord Mans-
field survived Johnson full ten years," whereas the period
was "eight years and a quarter." But the context of the
passage shows clearly that the entire point was the fact
and not the period of survival. Croker is accused of giving
two sets of dates for the life of Allan Ramsay; the essayist
fails to note that one set is clearly Boswell's inaccurate
guess and the other Croker's correct assertion. Macaulay
takes half a page to prove that Croker's translation of
Philarchus as a "term expressing a paternal and kindly
authority" means nothing of the kind, but simply "a man who
loves rule." To enter further into Macaulay's specific
charges of inaccuracy would be to engage in minute detail
6Mark Napier, Memoirs of the Marquis of Montrose, 11
(Edinburgh, 1856), 802.
extending over pages. The fact that he passed off the result
of such labors as a critical review allows by inference the
belief that he knew nothing of criticism and little of
Boswell or Johnson. In truth, Macaulay's strength lay in
the popular essay, not in criticism. When he faced Croker's
critical edition of a great work, he was (even if his inten-
tions had been honest) quite beyond his depth.
The animus with which the article was written was
obvious to most people who were at all familiar with the
Croker-Macaulay feud, even before Macaulay's own revelations
had told all the truth. "It will be evident," remarked the
Spectator, "that the book has been taken up by one determined
to punish the member of parliament in the editor, and who .
is determined to sacrifice truth to brilliancy. "Every-
body is aware," remarked the Athenaeum, "that the article was
originally leveled less against Mr. Croker the editor than
Mr. Croker the politician, and the abuse which may have been
relished in times of hot passion and party vindictiveness,
reads in our calmer days as so much bad taste and bad feel-
ing." Other leading periodicals of the time contained re-
views of a complimentary nature. Lockhart, in the Quarterly
Review, did not suppress his disagreement with certain
69September, 1831; as quoted in Jennings, II, 48-49.
70May 17, 1856, p. 615.
details of the work, but he summed them up as "a few trivial
mistakes and inadvertencies easy to be corrected hereafter."71
His conclusion was that Croker had united editing with
scholarship, thus producing the first genuinely critical
edition of an English writer. The Westminster Review mar-
velled at "the strict attention to fact and the minute ex-
amination of evidence."72 And in Fraser's Magazine, Thomas
Carlyle began his review by declaring that Croker had done
a necessary piece of work in the most skillful manner.
Macaulay returned to the charge in 1843 in his review
in the Edinburgh Review of Madame D'Arblay's Diary and
Letters. The offence of which he now arraigned Croker was
based on an important literary discovery made by Croker:
that the novel Evelina, which Johnson raved about and Reyn-
olds sat up half the night to read, was not written (as was
commonly believed) by a girl of seventeen, but by a woman
of twenty-five. The fact thus discovered was recorded by
Croker both in his 1833 review of her memoirs of her father
(Memoirs of Dr. Burney)74 and in his article on her own
XLVI (November, 1831), 46.
72XVIII (October, 1831), 119.
7V (May, 1832), 379-380.
Quarterly Review, XLIX (April, 1833).
Diary and Letters which appeared in 1842.75 It was a per-
fectly legitimate inquiry for Croker to make; indeed, the
age of the author of Evelina in 1778 was the key to the en-
tire Memoirs. Croker showed that almost all the sensation
caused by the novel arose from the fact that the reading
public was "utterly at a loss to comprehend how a girl of
seventeen, slow, shy, secluded--almost neglected--never
having been, as it would seem, from under the parental roof,
and having seen little or nothing of life (but her own little
play-room), could have written such a work as Evelina."6
Yet Macaulay labelled Croker's discovery a "ferocious in-
sult," and in the essay referred to, indulged in the follow-
ing piece of abuse:
There was no want of low minds and bad
hearts in the generation which had witnessed
her first appearance. There was the envious
Kenrick and the savage Wolcot, the asp George
Steevens, and the polecat John Williams. It
did not, however, occur to them to search the
parish register of Lynn, in order that they
might be able to twit a lady with having con-
cealed her age. That truly chivalrous exploit
was reserved for a bad writer of our own time,
whose spite she had provoked by not furnishing
him with materials for a worthless edition of
Boswell's Life of Johnson, some sheets of which
our readers have doubtless seen round parcels
of better books.77
75Ibid., LXX (September, 1842).
Ibid., XLIX (April, 1833), 109.
77Edinburgh Review, LXXVI (January, 1843), 537.
To the same effect Macaulay had previously written, "My ar-
tide on Croker has smashed his book:' an assertion not
borne out by facts. For according to an article in the
Quarterly Review appearing forty-five years later announcing
the coming of a new edition of Boswell, the book had "stead-
ily maintained its ground as by far the best edition of
Boswell. Upwards of 40,000 copies have been sold; and such
is still the demand for it, that a new library edition is
even now in preparation."
The next episode in the history of this literary
quarrel was Croker's review of Macaulay's Histcry of England,
which appeared in the Quarterly Review of March, 1849.
There was now another jacket to be dusted; but in this
instance, although the dusting was done with equal gusto,
it was carried out with a good deal less bias. True, for
Croker to have maintained a perfectly impartial attitude
towards a man who had injured him would have required more
forebearance than he possessed. But he refrained from fall-
ing on the History with any fraction of the savagery with
which Macaulay tried to demolish Boswell. There was also in
the article an absence of all personal allusion. Macaulay's
Trevelyan, I, 225.
79 (July, 1876), 113.
CXLII (July, 1876), 113.
reactions, however, were entirely characteristic. On April
13, after the review had reached the public, he wrote in his
The article has been received with
general contempt. Really, Croker has done
me a great service. I apprehended a strong
reaction, the natural effect of such a suc-
cess; and, if hatred had left him free to
use his very slender faculties to the best
advantage, he might have injured me much.
He should have been large in acknowledgment;
should have taken a mild and expostulatory
tone; and should have looked out for real
blemishes, which, as I too well know, he
might easily have found. Instead of that,
he has written with such rancor as to make
everybody sick. I could almost pity him.
But he is a bad, a very bad, man: a scandal
to politics and to letters.80
Macaulay says that Croker "should have been large in acknow-
ledgment." Was he not? The article begins: "The reading
world will not need our testimony, though we willingly give
it, that Mr. Macaulay possesses great talents and extraordi-
nary acquirements. He unites powers and has achieved suc-
cesses, not only various, but different in their character,
and seldom indeed conjoined in one individual. He was while
in Parliament, though not quite an orator, and still less a
debater, the most brilliant rhetorician of the House." How
much further is it possible to go in the way of acknowledg-
ment? "He should have looked out for real blemishes."
80Trevelyan, II, 225.
Croker did look out for them, and exposed them by the dozen.
Though the style is sharp, and the criticisms are severe--
sometimes too severe, in fact, as Croker occasionally over-
states his case--it certainly does not follow that the arti-
cle was what Macaulay's biographer called it, "a farrago of
angry trash."81 On the contrary, Croker's article contains
some discerning criticism and employs a clever strategy.
Presenting specific evidence and exhibiting an easy famil-
iarity with sources, the author demonstrates Macaulay's
great (though unacknowledged) dependence on the historian
Mackintosh; he criticizes his reckless handling of the as-
sertions of source documents; he penetrates his pretense of
drawing from the "lighter literature of the age." He then
considers the literary or romantic method of-historical
writing that Macaulay practiced and shows how it prevents the
adding of any new material to historical knowledge. It
demands bold strokes of the brush--contrasts and antithesis;
its narrative invariably has a plot; and it forces the au-
thor to "take sides" on every historical question which
arises. He sums up by saying that the book must be regarded
chiefly as "an historical romance," and would "never be
quoted as an authority on any question or point of the
History of England."
81Ibid., II, 210.
Nor was Croker alone in finding fault with Macaulay's
book as a work of history. Lockhart, writing to Croker
before the latter wrote his review, said: "I doubt if
Macaulay's book will go down as a standard edition to our
historical library, though it must always keep a high place
among the specimens of English rhetoric." Sir James
Stephen told Bishop Phillpotts that he "had abandoned all
idea of reviewing the book [for the Edinburgh Review], be-
cause it was, in truth, not what it pretended to be, a his-
tory, but an historical novel."83 And many years later no
less a figure than William Gladstone, when he had been on
Macaulay's side in politics, remarked that Macaulay's state-
ment on the low social condition of the clergy of the Resto-
ration Period "is no more and no less than a pure fable."84
While fully alive to the qualities which ensure to the
History a permanent place in England's literature, Gladstone
declared that Macaulay's "whole method of touch and handling
82Jennings, Ili, 193.
83 bid., p. 194.
84"The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay," Quarterly
Review, CXLII (July, 1876), 41.
85lbid., p. 48.
It is evident from the arguments of Macaulay's de-
tractors that there was a fundamental disagreement on what
constituted the "true method" of writing history. A dis-
cussion of that question would be long and involved, and has
no place in the present study. Let it suffice to say that
historical fashions change. Whereas previous histories had
tended to discuss strictly political events, Macaulay de-
cided to write about ordinary people as well as princes and
statesmen. And whereas an earlier age regarded it as anath-
ema for a historian to be either partisan or picturesque,
Macaulay took sides and approached his subject as a story-
teller. Perhaps it is absurd, as one commentator suggests,
to quarrel with Macaulay without considering his aim: the
History "was intended to reach the largest possible circle
of readers, and its author must therefore be judged with due
regard to what he attempted to achieve." That Macaulay
succeeded in his attempt there seems little question; the
measure of his success is the enduring popularity of his
Whatever view one takes of Croker's attack, nothing
can justify the unwarranted expressions which Macaulay threw
upon his private life, and which G. U. Trevelyan amplified
Giles St. Aubyn, Macaulay (London, 1952), p. 98.
by reference to "certain unsavoury portions" of that life
which "had been brought to light in the course of either par-
liamentary or judicial investigations." Croker's private
life, so far as has ever been ascertained, was blameless.
"Nothing whatever," says L. J. Jennings, "that was injurious
to Mr. Croker's private character was ever 'brought to life'
in a 'parliamentary investigation,' or any other investiga-
tion." It is not unlikely that Macaulay's hatred of
Croker had become an unreasoning obsession. The only excuse
to be made for him is that he gave vent to his anger in a
private journal, which was probably never meant for publi-
Croker met Walter Scott in April, 1809, when the lat-
ter was in London for a two month's visit. Scott, says
his friend J. B. S. Morritt, in his Memoranda of the period,
"was much with George Ellis, Canning, and Croker, and delighted
87Trevelyan, 1, 122.
88Jennings, Ii, 422.
Lockhart misdates this visit. He states that Scott
was in London when "the first number of that Journal [the
Quarterly] appeared," which would have been in February,
1809 (John Gibson Lockhart, Memoirs of Sir Walter Scott, II
[London, 1900], 79). Actually, however, Scott did not leave
Edinburgh until April 5 (see his letter to Murray of April 4,
1809; Smiles, I, 151).
in them--as, indeed, who did not?" The meetings of these
men were chiefly occupied with the affairs of the newly-
launched Quarterly Review, the second number of which ap-
peared while Scott was in London.
From the first Croker and Scott found that they had
much in common and shared many interests. Both had studied
law and had held legal offices; both idealized the old order
and resisted the destructive side of the Revolution. Tory-
ism was an important bias of both men's minds and colored
their view of life. Although Scott was immeasurably Croker's
superior as a writer, both had published writings of a criti-
cal nature, Scott in his articles in the Edinburgh Review
and Croker in his early satirical pieces. Finally, the two
men had a common interest in making a success of the Quarter-
ly Review, to which they both would devote so much time and
effort. It is not surprising that the meeting in 1809 was
the beginning of a long friendship. Though not without an
occasional ruffle in later years, the relationship was one
of mutual affection and warmth, as evidenced by the corres-
pondence which passed between them over a period of more than
In May, 1810, Scott wrote to Croker "to entreat your
obliging acceptance of a certain square volume called The
9 Lockhart, II, 78.
Lady of the Lake. . 1 hope you will find her agreeable
company for an evening or two."9 The following October he
wrote again to bestow praise on Croker's "Battle of Talavera:'
written in the "irregular Pindaric measure" which Scott's
recently published "Marmion" had rendered so popular.
I drop you these few lines, not to engage
you in correspondence, for which I am aware you
have so little time, but merely to thank you
very sincerely for the eighth edition of your
beautiful and spirited poem and the kind letter
which accompanied it. Whatever the practised
and hackneyed critic may say of that sort of
poetry, which is rather moulded in an appeal to
the general feelings of mankind than the tech-
nical rules of art, the warm and universal
interest taken by those who are alive to fancy
and feeling, will always compensate for his
approbation, whether entirely withheld or given
with tardy and ungracious reluctance. Many a
heart has kindled at your "Talavera" which may
be the more patriotic for the impulse as long
as it shall last. I trust we shall soon hear
from the conqueror of that glorious day such
news as may procure us "another of the same."
The Prince Regent had often heard of Scott from Croker
and others and was greatly desirous of meeting him. On hear-
ing from Croker that Scott was to be in London in March, 1815,
the Prince said: "Let me know when he comes, and I'll get
up a snug little dinner that will suit him." Besides
Croker and Scott, the party comprised the Dukes of York and
Jennings, 1, 32.
Lockhart, II, 519.
Gordon, Lords Melville and Yarmouth, and the Earl of Fife.
Croker afterwards told Lockhart that it was "the most inter-
esting and agreeable" occasion in his recollection. "The
Prince and Scott," Croker declared, "were the two most bril-
liant story-tellers in their several ways that I have ever
happened to meet; they were both aware of their forte, and
both exerted themselves that evening with delightful effect.
On going home, 1 really could not decide which of them had
shone the most. The Regent was enchanted with Scott, as
Scott with him; and on all his subsequent visits to London
he was a frequent guest at the Royal table."
In the years that followed, Scott frequently applied
to Croker for his help in various ways. It was through
Croker that Scott usually approached the Regent. For in-
stance, in a private conversation with the Prince about 1815,
Scott had expressed a wish for the appointment of a commis-
sion to examine the long-sealed Crown Room in Edinburgh
Castle. He was anxious to look for the lost regalia of
Scotland, under the belief that important discoveries would
result from a search. He therefore requested Croker, in
1816, to get the necessary permission from the Prince; and
although Croker felt convinced that the Crown Room contained
Ibid., p. 520.
nothing of value, he exerted his efforts to gain the Prince's
consent to have the room examined. It was not until Janu-
ary, 1818, that he was able to write Scott:
I have the pleasure to tell you that at
last I have gotten the warrant for searching
for the old regalia of the Scottish Crown,
which at your suggestion, and by the Prince's
command, I have been soliciting so long.
I shall be, of course, anxious to hear of
(although I am not very sanguine as to) the
result of your search. I know that both the
Regent and yourself have hopes of finding
something. I limit my expectations to your
ascertaining that there is nothing to be
found. Do you think that such a fellow as
Rob Roy would have driven cattle, while
there was such a prize at Edinburgh Castle?95
When the search, conducted on February 4, 1818, proved that
Scott was right, Croker was the first to whom he conveyed
the news. "I know nobody entitled to earlier information,
save ONE, to whom you can perhaps find the means of communi-
rating the result of our researches." In another letter
to Croker written the day after the discovery, Scott gave a
detailed account of the discoveries made, which included the
Crown, Sceptre, and Sword of State. The chest in which they
were deposited had never been opened since 1707, when the
room where it was placed was sealed up.
For a number of other favors Croker was directly
95Jennings, I, 113.
Lockhart, III, 154.
responsible. In July, 1816, Scott wrote:
You were kind enough to procure for a
person of the name of Alexander Campbell
permission to inscribe his Collection of
Scottish music to H. R. [H.] the Prince
Regent. Will you now have the additional
goodness to take charge of the first copy
which we have been able to get out of the
engraver's hands and which is destined for
Carleton House. . Excuse me giving you
all this trouble and when you have an oppor-
tunity to mention the collection to His Royal
Highness will you have the further goodness
to lay my humble and grateful duty before
In January, 1817, he asked Croker to procure for his younger
brother Thomas, paymaster of a regiment in Canada, some
military station more congenial to his health and the needs
of a growing family. Croker took the matter in hand and
soon secured a satisfactory appointment.
In the following April, Scott wrote to ask Croker's
opinion of a cipher he had invented. Scott called it his
"mysterious mode of correspondence" and asked Croker whether
or not the device had any originality. Apparently he was
fascinated by the subject, for in February, 1822, he wrote
Croker that he had met a young man who had "made a curious
discovery of a mode of carrying on secret correspondence
9Sir Herbert Grierson, ed., Letters of Sir Walter
Scott, IV (London, 1937), 259-261.
bbid., pp. 366-369.
99 bid., 1, 147.
without the use of any cypher or written key."00 There is
no record of Croker's reply to either of these schemes.
In March, 1820, Scott went to London for the purpose
of receiving his baronetcy. On March 23, Croker's diary
announced: "Walter Scott came to town and called upon
me.01 Two days later the entry reads:
Scott and his son dined at Munster House
with Palmerston and Miss Temple, Mr. and Mrs.
Arbuthnot, Yarmouth, Torrens, &c. Speaker sent
an apology. We had a very agreeable day.1
Scott returned to London about the middle of February,
1821, and made the journey again in July for the coro-
nation of George IV. On both these occasions he saw much
of Croker, about whom he said at the time: "I know of no
man to whose keeping I would sooner commit my own honour and
that of whomever is dear to me." In the summer of 1822
he was busy in Edinburgh making preparations for the King's
visit to Scotland. Writing hastily to Croker in July, he
1001bid., VII, 84-85.
101Jennings, 1, 168.
102Ibid., p. 169.
103Lockhart's statement that "Scott made the trip
before the end of January, 1821" (Memoirs, Ill, 437), is not
borne out by the dates of Scott's letters. As late as Febru-
ary 6, he was still in Edinburgh, and in a letter of that
date (to Lord Montagu) he wrote that he expected "to be in
London in the course of a week" (Grierson, VI, 353-354).
104Letter of January 25, 1821; Grierson, VI, 341-343.
closed his letter: "Adieu my dear Croker--if the King come
1 hope you will come too & remember as lodgings will be
scarce we have a chamber in the wall for you either here
or in John Lockharts." Pressing governmental affairs
made it impossible for Croker to accept Scott's invitation,
but a matter that arose shortly afterwards showed that he
still had time to concern himself with Scott's interests.
After the King's return to London, the rumor spread that His
Majesty a little resented the prominence given to Scott dur-
ing the Royal visit, and that "a visible coolness had, in
fact, been manifested towards Sir Walter." Croker's
letter in September was intended to set Scott's mind en-
tirely at ease on this point:
1 had the honour of receiving his Majesty
on his return, when he, after the first three
words, began most graciously to tell me "all
about our friend Scott." Some silly or mali-
cious person, his Majesty said, had reported
that there had been some coolness between you;
but he added, that it was utterly false, and
that he was, in every respect, highly pleased
and gratified, and, he said, grateful for the
devoted attention you had paid him; and he
celebrated very warmly the success that had
attended all your arrangements.
Peel has sung your praises to the same
tune; and 1 have been flattered to find that
1051bid., V1 204-206.
106Lockhart, IV, 54-55.
both the King and Peel thought me so much
your friend, that they, as it were, reported
to me the merit of "my friend Scott."107
Early in 1826 an unsettling circumstance occurred
which temporarily cast a shadow over the Croker-Scott
friendship. The Government, alarmed at the recent con-
vulsion in the commercial world, proposed to curb over-
extension of credit by taking from private banks, in Scot-
land as well as in England, the privilege of circulating
their own notes as money, and limiting them to the issue of
notes of b5 value and upwards. The Scotch bankers, appre-
hending a serious curtailment of their profits, strongly
opposed the measure. Partly to take up their cause, but
mostly because he had "long resented the purposeless chang-
ing of Scottish legal customs and practice by the English
government," Scott launched an assault on the English
policy in a series of Letters from Malachi Malagrowther,
which appeared in the Edinburgh Weekly Journal. They were
answered by two communications in the London Courier, which
were reprinted by Murray in pamphlet form as Two Letters on
Scottish Affairs from Edward Bradwardine Waverley Esq.to
Malachi Malagrowther Esq. The author of this reply was
1071bid., p. 56.
108Sir Herbert Grierson, Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
(New York, 1940), p. 265.
In a letter to the Duke of Wellington in March, 1826,
Croker gave his own version of the business:
Walter Scott, who, poor fellow, was ruined
by dealings with his booksellers, and who had
received courtesy and indulgence from the
Scotch bankers, thought himself bound in grati-
tude to take the field for them, which he did
in a series of clever but violent and mischie-
vous letters, as he attacked with great vio-
lence and injustice the administration of Lord
Melville, and indeed of our partyin general.
1 was easily induced to take up my pen against
him, and 1 scribbled away a reply to Sir Walter
in the same style (as far as I could imitate so
superior a genius), which he had used.0
Croker, ever ready to defend the government's policies, met
Scott's theoretical arguments with little difficulty. His
efforts to imitate Malachi's rustic pungency of expression,
however, caused him considerably more trouble. He wrote in
the guise of Bradwardine Waverley, grandson of the hero and
heroine of Waverley, in complaint against the peevish and
jaundiced views of a distant relative, Malagrowther. Al-
though he showed a good deal more restraint than he usually
did in a literary battle, the body of his reply contained a
few personal allusions to Scott that might better have been
spared, and which might have tempted a man with less for-
bearance than Scott to a fiery rejoinder.
Reports of Malachi's reception in London were not long
Jennings, I, 316.
in reaching Scott. Early in March he heard that the Govern-
ment was much offended, especially as this attack against
its measures came from one of its oldest and staunchest
friends. "Last night," he wrote in his diary, "1 had a
letter from Lockhart, who speaking of Malachi, says, 'the
Ministers are sore beyond imagination at present; and some
of them, 1 hear, have felt this new whip on the raw to some
purpose.'" Scott then addressed a careful explanation to
Sir Robert Dundas, disclaiming any intention of insulting
Lord Melville. When Croker saw this letter (after the ad-
dressee had dispatched it to the Admiralty), he immediately
wrote to Scott. It was true, he said, that
Lord Melville certainly felt that his
administration of Scottish affairs was sweep-
ingly attacked, and the rest of the Govern-
ment were astonished to see the one-pound
note question made a kind of war-cry which might
excite serious practical consequences; and, no
doubt, these feelings were expressed pretty
strongly, but it was in the spirit of et tu,
Nevertheless, he wished to assure Scott "that these differ-
ences on speculative points of public policy do not, in this
region, and ought not in yours, to cause any diminution of
private intercourse and regard."
Lockhart, IV, 466.
Ibid., pp. 480-481.
As to myself .. I am so ignorant of
Scottish affairs, and so remote from
Scottish interest, that you will easily
believe that i felt no personal discom-
posure from Mr. Malagrowther. What little
I know of Scotland you have taught me, and
my chief feeling on this subject was wonder
that so clever a fellow as I. M. could enter-
tain opinions so different from those which
I fancied that 1 had learnt from you.112
Scott's reply contained, after a long explanation, a gentle
Besides, my dear Croker, 1 must say you
sported too many and too direct personal allu-
sions to myself, not to authorize and even
demand some retaliation dans le mSme genre;
and however good-humouredly men begin this
sort of "sharp encounter of their wits,"
their temper gets the best of them at last ..
So 1 thought it best not to endanger the loss
of an old friend for a bad jest, and sit
quietly down with your odd hits, and the
discredit which it gives me here for not
repaying them or trying to do so.
in other words, Scott feared that if he did not continue the
controversy his friends would imagine that Croker had crushed
him beyond reply. This fear caused him to record in his
Journal, on March 19, the receipt of "a letter from Croker
of a very friendly tone and tenor, which I will answer ac-
cordingly, not failing, however, to let him know that if I
do not reply [in print] it is not for fear of his arguments
Ibid., p. 481.
Letter of March 19, 1826; Jennings, 1, 317-319.
or raillery, far less from diffidence in my cause." n4
March 23 Croker wrote again, prompting Scott to write in
his Journal for March 28; "Had a very kind letter from
Croker disowning the least idea of personal attack in his
answer to Malachi." In the end, the Government withdrew
its scheme so far as it applied to Scotland, and the victory
rested with Scott.
In the Fall of 1826, Scott visited London and Paris
to gather additional material for his Life of Napoleon. His
numerous meetings with Croker during his stay in London show
that no ill-feeling remained between them because of Malachi.
His diary entry of November 11 records that he breakfasted
with Croker, Lockhart, and Theodore Hook. "We had . a
delicious morning, spent in abusing our neighbours, at which
my three neighbours are no novices any more than I am my-
self."116 Ln the 14th he dined with the Croker family at
Kensington; on the following evening he was with Croker at
the Duke of Wellington's; and on November 16 he and Lockhart
"dined with Croker at the Admiralty au grand couvert. No
less than five Cabinet Ministers were present .. with
14David Douglas, ed.,The Journal of Sir Walter Scott,
I (Edinburgh, 1891), 159.
Ibid., p. 164.
Lockhart, V, 68.
sub-secretaries by the bushel. The cheer was excellent, but
the presence of too many men of distinguished rank and power
always freezes the conversation. Each lamp shines brightest
when placed by itself; when too close they neutralize each
other." Before Scott returned to Edinburgh, Croker, who
was much interested in the progress of Scott's biography,
gave him "a bundle of documents" dealing with Napoleon and
the recent war with France.18
Scott soon showed himself to be Croker's debtor in
other literary matters. The great popularity of Croker's
Stories Selected from the History of England . for
Children, first published in 1817, gave Scott himself the
notion of putting together a series of children's stories.
On May 24, 1827, he recorded in his Journal: "A good thing
came into my head: to write stories for little Johnnie
Lockhart [Scott's invalid grandson] from the History of
Scotland, like those taken from the History of England. 1
will not write mine quite so simply as Croker has done."
Scott went to work, and the Tales of a Grandfather appeared
in early December. He immediately sent a copy to Croker with
Ibid., pp. 71-72.
Ibid., p. 47.
1Douglas, I, 396.
the following note:
My Dear Croker,
I have been stealing from you; and as
it seems the fashion to compound felony, 1
send you a sample of the swag, by way of
stopping your mouth.
Early in 1829 it was Croker who appealed to Scott for
aid. After receiving Murray's acceptance of the project,
Croker had begun work on his edition of Boswell. Besides
using available printed and manuscript materials, he wrote
letters to all of his friends who were likely to be of any
service to him. It was Lockhart who first suggested to him
that Scott could be helpful. "Sir Walter," he said, "has
many MS. annotations in his 'Boswell,' both 'Life' and
'Tour,' and will, I am sure, give them with hearty good
will."121 Scott was enthusiastic about giving Croker his
assistance. On January 30, he wrote:
Your continued friendship and assistance
on many occasions in life entitle you not to
solicit, but to command, anything in my power
to aid your wishes; and I am happy to express
my readiness to do all in my power regretting
only that it is so much limited.122
120Lockhart, V, 112.
2Letter to Murray of January 19, 1829; Smiles,
122Grierson, Letters, XI, 110.
Scott went on to give much information that Croker was able
to use. For several months the harassed author continued
to send short notes, which he occasionally made mention of
in his Journal: ". . wrote notes to Croker upon Boswell's
Scottish tour. It was an act of friendship, for time is
something of a scarce article with me. But Croker has been
at all times personally kind and actively serviceable to me,
and he must always command my best assistance." He also
volunteered to peruse Croker's proofs of the Hebridean tour
and all Scottish references so that misprints could be
In one important area, however, Scott was unable to
provide aid. Croker knew that Boswell's papers must have
been numerous; he therefore was anxious to establish re-
lations with the Boswell family. Scott undertook to make the
connection. On September 1, 1829, he wrote:
There is a very fine library at Auchin-
leck. 1 should conceive the present Sir
Alexander [i.e., James] Boswell is now nearly
of age, but I will inquire about him at the
circuit. The father, poor fellow, had a strong
taste for literature. This young gentleman, I
understand, is rather fond of the turf--which
is an unhappy predilection. I doubt as every
Scotsman gets fetlock deep. Our circuit comes
on soon, when 1 will get you more accurate in-
formation, as I shall meet a brother-in-law of
Entry of March 23, 1829; Douglas, 11, 256.
the late Sir Alexander's on that occasion.
So if you have anything else to ask, you can
let me know.124
But Scott and Sir James Boswell missed one another when mak-
ing mutual calls, and, though Croker often mentioned the
subject in his letters, Scott went no farther. A direct
application by Croker to Sir James brought no reply. The
editor concluded, because of information from another source,
that Boswell's papers were not at Auchinleck and that they
had been "irretrievably dispersed."
Croker's last meeting with Scott took place in the fall
of 1831. Scott, who had recently suffered several severe
strokes, spent a few days in London before sailing to Italy
in quest of health. Since the state of his health did not
permit his dining out, he often asked one or two of his old
friends to dinner. The Journal records a visit from Croker
on October 11; there must have been several more. At this
time the Reform Bill was in discussion in Parliament. Lock-
hart states that "Mr. Croker made a very brilliant speech in
opposition to it, and was not sorry to have it said, that he
had owed his inspiration, in no small degree, to having risen
As quoted in Brightfield, p. 298.
125For the exciting story of the discovery of the
Boswell papers, see Richard D. Altick, The Scholar Adven-
turers (New York, 1950), chap. 1.
from the table at which Scott sat by his side." 12
The next year, as Scott lay dying at Abbotsford, the
Whigs, in appointing a new sheriff for Selkirkshire, gener-
ously made Scott's retiring allowance the same sum as his
sheriff's salary. When Jeffrey introduced the bill in Par-
liament, relates Lockhart, "he used language so graceful and
touching, that both Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Croker went across
the House to thank him cordially for it." During these
last months, Lockhart wrote frequently to Croker from Scott's
bedside. The last of these letters, on September 21, an-
nounced the death of his father-in-law on that day.
Croker's many professional and personal relationships
with his contemporaries were by no means unique for the nine-
teenth century. The catholicity and versatility of the age
fostered frequent intercourse between men interested in all
the arts; as a consequence, men of letters, fine arts, and
even science tended to gravitate together to form a coterie
of artistic-tempered enthusiasts. Perhaps nothing better
illustrates this than the membership of the Athenaeum Club.
Though originally conceived as a gathering place for literary
men, very soon after its founding the practice was established
126Lockhart, V, 362.
127 bid., p. 428.
ibid., p. 428.
of reserving a certain part of the membership roll for lead-
ing figures in the government, the clergy, the arts, and the
sciences. The influences these men had on one another can
only be estimated, but such estimates are likely to be too
little rather than too much.
Croker's friends were indebted to him for a multitude
of kindnesses. He played an important role in securing for
Southey the Poet Laureateship, and on several occasions he
advised the Laureate on various matters connected with his
literary productions. For a number of years Moore looked to
Croker for assistance and advice, first in connection with
business and personal matters, and after 1822, in connection
with his literary work, notably the "Loves of the Angels."
Scott considered Croker an intimate friend and made him the
recipient of his confidences on many matters. In their
literary relations, Scott showed himself the debtor: he
avowed that his Tales of a Grandfather were suggested and
modelled by Croker's Stories from the History of England;
and he was aided in his Life of Napoleon by Croker's loans
of masses of papers.
Croker's personal qualities were probably not always
engaging. He could be arrogant; moreover, he possessed a
touch of the snob. He had a rough tongue and he usually
expressed himself bluntly, to say the least. He was, it
must be allowed, a strong, even a bitter partisan; and as
he rarely concealed his views, he made enemies, especially
among the powerful. He had the bad fortune to incur the
bitter enmity of two such opposite men of genius as Disraeli
and Macaulay. Macaulay was so obviously extravagant in his
injustice that it recoiled upon himself. Disraeli's ani-
mosity was much less violent, but violent enough in contrast
to his usual cool detachment to lead him to make a spiteful
attack on a man he never knew and to refuse to express con-
trition years later when that man was dying.
But Croker's frequent associations with his many other
literary acquaintances were marked by mutual trust and warm
regard. He was a good friend to literary men at times when
they most needed a friend. The confidence they placed in
him and the laudatory remarks they paid him indicate that
he was stimulating, that his advice was valued, and that his
society was sought after, in estimating Croker's influence
over his contemporaries, the not inconsiderable authority
he maintained in the world of letters as the leading con-
tributor of one of England's most influential periodicals is
far-reaching. But even if all these influences were dis-
counted, and even if he had contributed nothing to literary
history, Croker would be remembered for the company he kept
and the enemies he made.
CROKER AND THE QUARTERLY REVIEW
The age in which Croker lived was a heyday for the
periodical press. It was a period of tremendous growth not
only in the number of publications that came into existence
and the variety of interests they served, but in the prodi-
gious influence they wielded. Many circumstances contrib-
uted to make up this phenomenon: the rapid increase of
wealth and population had made for a greater circulation;
the concentration of workers in the manufacturing towns that
had sprung up as a result of the industrial revolution cre-
ated new and pressing problems to engage men's attention;
the mastery of steam power to the service of printing and
locomotion soon facilitated the publishing and distributing
of reading matter, bringing it within the reach of all; and
the growing educational opportunities contributed to the
spread of literacy among the people, creating a new reading
public. With the "wider dispersion of letters" the journalist
lWalter Graham, English Literary Periodicals (New
York, 1930), p. 17, states that by the year 1800 a total of
two hundred and sixty-four, of all kinds, were being issued
for the perusal of British readers.
had "to please the million," as John Scott observed,
now that literature has fairly become popu-
lar,--since it no longer rests in mighty
fountains of knowledge, and vast reservoirs
of learning,--but meanders, in small streams,
over the whole of the land, irrigating its
surface, and pleasantly refreshing its pro-
Of the great variety of publications that sprang up
to gratify the multiplicity of taste, none achieved more
prominence than the great periodicals--the Edinburgh Review,
the Quarterly Review, and the Westminster Review. In an age
of discussion they were among the chief channels of discus-
sion. At times their influence was comparable to that of
Parliament itself. The political, literary, and even personal
prejudices that governed their editorial policies were of
paramount importance. The industrial revolution had by 1802
forced issues between Whig, Tory, and Radical to become
sharply defined, while at the same time the Romantic type of
literature, so different from the eighteenth century's approach
to style, subject matter, and purpose, was beginning to demand
a hearing from the critics. These considerations were not
overlooked by the editors and the sponsors of the reviews.
The critics as well as the editors quite often reacted
according to personal, political, literary, religious, or
even mercenary considerations. Walter Graham defines in part
London Magazine, I (February, 1820), 187.
the outside pressures serving to influence literary criticism
of the nineteenth century:
In two ways the Review of the nineteenth
century differed from earlier periodicals of
the same type--it was comparatively free from
the bookseller's influence, and it was affected
as never before by political partisanship.3
Although evidence does not bear out the first of Graham's dis-
tinctions, there can be little argument over the soundness of
his second. However, the practice of securing political
backing for nominally literary productions was not peculiar
to the first part of the Romantic Period. The eighteenth
century, too, had its share of political propaganda in lit-
erary magazines. The Tatler and Spectator, with their com-
paratively pale political connections, are notable exceptions
to the rule. Even so, the nineteenth century periodical, as
Graham states above, "was affected as never before by polit-
Two of the three reviews that were to be the official
organs of the political factions existing in England were
started in the first decade of the century. The Edinburgh
Review was begun in 1802; and the Quarterly Review was es-
tablished in 1809. Many things would be involved in a com-
plete account of the circumstances that surrounded the
Graham, p. 227.
Hereafter referred to as the Quarterly.