Guide to the John Wilson Croker Papers, 1791-1899 and undated (bulk 1809-1857)
Barrister, politician, literary critic, and author.
The John Wilson Croker Papers are organized into the following series: Indexed Correspondence, Non-Indexed Correspondence, and Other Papers. The collection consists primarily of letters from English and Irish politicians and personages to Croker, and provide a rich source of material on Great Britain's politics and government in the 19th century.
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
- Croker, John Wilson
- John Wilson Croker papers, 1791-1899 and undated (bulk 1809-1857)
- Language of Material
- 9.0 Linear Feet, 6300 Items
- For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
The John Wilson Croker Papers span the years 1791-1899, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1809 to 1857. The collection is organized into the following series: Indexed Correspondence, Non-Indexed Correspondence, and Other Papers. The Indexed and Non-Indexed Correspondence Series consist primarily of letters to Croker. The detailed description of the collection that follows this more general overview specifies the distinctions between these two correspondence series. The collection is a rich source of material on Great Britain's politics and government in the 19th century. Political matters discussed in the correspondence include the following: Canada; Catholic relief; the Church of England; the Conservative/Tory Party; the Corn Laws; Ireland, including its legal, political, social, religious, and economic conditions; naval affairs, including operations in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812; parliamentary reform; and relations with France and the history of the French revolution. The correspondence also illuminates the patronage system of the early 19th century, the relationships between prominent Conservatives, and the confidence that many Conservative leaders had in Croker's counsel. Statesmen and other prominent figures involved in Irish affairs or Conservative politics with whom Croker had continuing or considerable correspondence include: William Beresford; Robert Saunders Dundas, Second Viscount Melville; Francis Egerton, First Earl Ellesmere; Davies Gilbert; Henry Goulburn; William Richard Hamilton; Spencer Horsey de Horsey; Robert Jenkinson, Second Earl Liverpool; Bartholomew Lloyd; James Major; Anthony George Perrier; and Charles William Stewart Vane, Third Marquess Londonderry. The Other Papers Series contains a folder on the legal and financial matters of Croker and his family, as well as several folders holding letters and diary entries used by Louis J. Jennings to write the first collection of Croker's works.
Croker's interest in French history and politics began with the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which was partially inspired by the French Revolution. On an 1815 trip to France with Robert Peel and William Fitzgerald, Croker began collecting materials on the Revolution and its development into the French empire. His meticulous research about persons, events, and buildings continued through correspondents in France, as demonstrated by a number of items in the collection.
The collection is also a significant source of information on the United Kingdom's patronage system in the early nineteenth century. Many letters involve appeals for positions or discussions of a person's fitness for particular office.
A number of letters in the collection also relate to the legal and social affairs of Ireland and the administration of Dublin University. Correspondents include judges, government officials, attorneys, doctors, university officials, and multiple members of leading families. Salient topics in this correspondence include Catholic Emancipation, public unrest, the Potato Famine, and the administration of the university.
Selected letters and diary entries have been published in The Croker papers: The correspondence and diaries of the late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker ... secretary to the Admiralty from 1809 to 1830, ed. Louis J. Jennings, 3 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1884). Additional information may be found in Myron Franklin Brightfield, John Wilson Croker (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1940). For collections related to the John Wilson Croker Papers, see the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. There may be a 48-hour delay in obtaining these materials.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
The description of the collection's correspondence given in the Collection Overview generally describes the content of both the Indexed and Non-Indexed Correspondence Series, which were acquired and processed at different times. Two research tools resulted from the processing and description of the earliest letters, which resulted in the Indexed Correspondence Series. The first of these tools, the cards in the library's Signature File, provides a comprehensive record of all the authors found in the Indexed Series. These cards list the author's name, the date for each item written, and the collection in which the items may be found. As the cards are arranged by author and not collection, however, it is necessary to approach the Signature File with prior knowledge of Croker's correspondents. The second of these tools, a paper index for which the series receives its name, lists the notable persons, places, and subjects mentioned in the Indexed Correspondence. The Selective Index does not, however, list the authors of the letters in the series. Although the intensive descriptive work that resulted in the Signature File and the Selective Index was not continued when the non-indexed portion of the Croker Papers was arranged and described, a list of significant correspondents, or correspondents with whom Croker had extensive communication, for each of the Indexed and Non-Indexed Correspondence Series is now available in the Inventory File in the Research Room. For access to any of these resources, see the reference archivist.
The writings of William Beresford, William Henry Ellis, Alexander Grant, Edmund Hopkinson, William Lowther (Second Earl Lonsdale), James Major, Anthony George Perrier, and Charles William Stewart Vane (Third Marquess Londonderry), appear in both the Indexed and Non-Indexed Correspondence Series. Those of Joseph Crowley, John Leslie Foster, John Hignett, Spencer Horsey de Horsey, Francis Egerton (First Earl Ellesmere), Henry Goulburn, Bramley Moore, Graham Moore, George Francis Seymour, and William Young, are predominately found in the Indexed Series. The writings of Robert Saunders Dundas (Second Viscount Melville), Davies Gilbert, M. E. Graham, William Richard Hamilton, H. Hardinge, Robert Banks Jenkinson (Second Earl Liverpool), Bartholomew Lloyd, and Frederick William Trench III, as well as legal correspondence regarding the Hertford estate, are more predominately found in the Non-Indexed Series.
There are few items in the Indexed Series for the years 1826 and 1829, while the correspondence decreases in the Non-Indexed Series for the years 1834, 1840, 1849, 1850, 1855, 1856, 1858, and 1863-1899. The correspondence in both the Indexed and Non-Indexed Series increases in the early 1810s, early 1820s, and the 1840s. The correspondence in the Indexed Series also swelled in the early 1850s and in the Non-Indexed Series in the late 1820s.
The letters to or from William Beresford are found throughout the Indexed and Non-Indexed Series. There are several folders of letters related to Beresford, however, that are located at the end of the Non-Indexed Series. The materials contained in these folders were accessioned together and have been kept separate due to uncertainty in specifying their dates. Also, a number of the letters of Robert Jenkinson (Liverpool) were accessioned together and microfilmed. This microfilm reel is contained in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library microfilm collection. See the reference librarian for access to this record. These letters are also available in the Non-Indexed Correspondence Series.
The items in both the Indexed and Non-Indexed Series have been arranged chronologically by year, month, and day. Items missing the day of the month are located behind the other items for that given month and year, and items lacking both month and day follow the other letters for that year. When items lack an identifying year, they have been placed at the end of the series. In addition, for the Non-Indexed Series, letters whose years were approximated using watermarks have been placed at the end of the series.
A significant event in Croker's life was the death of his three year-old son. An important item relating to this event, contained in the Indexed Series, is a prayer dated May 17, 1820, two days after the death of his son. Both the Indexed and Non-Indexed Series contain several letters of condolence, some expressed alongside requests for patronage.
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The legal and financial papers consist of tax assessments, bills, and assorted legal papers belonging to Croker and some of his family members. The Photographs folder holds a single photograph of an unidentified hotel. Other papers include research materials compiled by Louis J. Jennings for his edited volume of Croker's diaries and correspondence.
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|1780 Dec. 20||Born in Galway, Ireland|
|1796-1800||Student at Trinity College, Dublin University|
|1800-1802||Studied law in London at Lincoln's Inn|
|1801 Jan. 1||Act of Union became law, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and a unified Parliament|
|1802||Called to the Irish bar|
|1804 May-1807 May||Customs comptroller for Wexford, Waterford, and Ross May|
|1804||Published Familiar epistles to Frederick Jones, Esq, on the present state of the Irish stage|
|1806 May 25||Married Rosamund Carrington Pennell|
|1806||Stood for British Parliament in Downpatrick and defeated|
|1807-1832||Member of Parliament|
|1808 July-1808 Nov.||Locum tenens for Sir Arthur Wellesley, chief secretary for Ireland, during his first campaign in Portugal and Spain|
|1808||Published A sketch of the state of Ireland, past and present|
|1809||Helped found the Quarterly Review|
|1809-1830||Secretary to the Admiralty|
|1811||Published Battles of Talavera: a poem, about Wellesley during the Peninsular War|
|1812||Published A key to the orders in council|
|1813||Published Letters on the subject of the naval war with America in the Courier, using the penname Nereus|
|1815||Visited Paris for the second time with Sir Robert Peel and William Fitzgerald; began research on the French Revolution|
|1820||Croker's son, Spencer Perceval Croker, died at the age of three|
|1821||Published Letters of Mary Lepel, Lady Hervey|
|1823||Published Royal Memoirs on the French Revolution|
|1824||Published Letters to and from Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk, and her second husband, the Hon. George Berkeley; from 1712 to 1767|
|1825||Published Letters from the Hon. Horace Walpole, to the Earl of Hertford, during His Lordship's embassy in Paris|
|1830 Jan.||Used the label Conservative for the Tory party in the Quarterly Review|
|1831||Published a new edition of James Boswell's Life of Johnson, with Journal of a tour to the Hebrides|
|1832||Parliamentary Reform Act passed; Croker retired from Parliament|
|1842||Close friend, Francis Charles Seymour-Conway, Third Marquess of Hertford, died; Croker executor of estate|
|1846||Repeal of the Corn Laws|
|1848||Croker edited and published John, Lord Hervey's Memoirs of the reign of George the Second|
|1854||Formally gave up connection to The Quarterly Review|
|1857 Aug. 10||Died at home in West Molesly, England|
|1871||Publication of Works of Alexander Pope, by Whitwell Elwin and William John Courthope, using materials Croker collected prior to his death|
|1884||Louis J. Jennings published the Croker papers: The correspondence and diaries of the late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker . . .|
John Wilson Croker was a barrister, politician, literary critic, and author. He was tied to many prominent Tory leaders, and was among the first to call theirs the Conservative Party. Very early in his political career he became a friend of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. A strong defender of the Tory party, Spencer Perceval appointed him secretary to the Admiralty when Perceval assumed the office of Premier (Prime Minister). Although some Members of Parliament initially disapproved of Perceval's choice, decrying Croker as a novice and a political rather than a professional figure, Croker held the office through three subsequent premierships. He served in Parliament from 1807 to 1832, standing for Downpatrick (1807-1812), Athlone (1812-1818), Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) (1819 Mar 16-1820), Bodmin (1820-1826), Aldeburgh (1826-1827 May, 1830-1832), and Dublin University (1827 May 15-1830). Croker retained his affection for Ireland, long maintaining both a home and a law practice there, as well as a desire for Irish office. His support of Catholic emancipation led him to electoral loss while standing for several Irish districts, and on those occasions he was appointed to Parliament for "rotten" or "pocket" boroughs controlled by his friends. Although he supported Parliamentary reform that would have abolished some such boroughs, he opposed the Reform Act of 1832 as too radical and used it as an excuse to retire from elected office.
Croker's great passion was for literature; he wrote literary criticism as well as his own poetry, biography, history, and articles on foreign affairs and domestic politics. He had a life-long interest in French politics, particularly as it related to the French Revolution, despotism, and social stability. In the late 1820s, the Guardian, which Croker helped establish twenty years earlier, experienced a change in editorial staff and a concomitant shift in policy. Coincident to these changes, Croker's contributions began to focus on political rather than literary and foreign affairs. After he retired from Parliament, Croker used the Guardian to defend many Conservative positions, particularly those of Robert Peel. Croker's support of and friendship with Peel ended, however, when Peel endorsed the repeal of the Corn Laws. In his later years, Croker concentrated primarily on history and biography.
For a detailed history of Croker's life, see William Thomas, "Croker, John Wilson," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004-2005, and "Croker, John Wilson," The history of Parliament on CD-ROM, 1998.
- Beresford, William, 1797-1883.
- Canada -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
- Catholics -- Great Britain.
- Church of England.
- Corn laws (Great Britain).
- Croker, John Wilson, 1780-1857.
- Croker, John Wilson, 1780-1857 -- Political and social views.
- Dundas, Robert Saunders, Second Viscount Melville, 1771-1851.
- Egerton, Francis, First Earl of Ellesmere.
- France -- Foreign relations -- Great Britain.
- France -- History -- Revolution, 1789-1799.
- France -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
- Gilbert, Davies.
- Goulburn, Henry.
- Great Britain -- Defenses.
- Great Britain -- Foreign relations -- France.
- Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
- Hamilton, William Richard.
- Horsey, Spencer Horsey de.
- Ireland -- History -- 19th century.
- Ireland -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
- Ireland -- Social conditions.
- Jenkinson, Robert Banks, Second Earl of Liverpool.
- Lloyd, Bartholomew.
- Major, James.
- Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815.
- Perrier, Anthony George.
- Statesmen -- Great Britain -- Correspondence.
- Stewart Vane, Charles William, Third Marquess of Londonderry.
[Identification of item], John Wilson Croker Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
The John Wilson Croker Papers were acquired by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as purchases from 1960-1997.
Processed by Owen Yeates, January 2006
Encoded by Owen Yeates and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico
Completed April 2006
Accessions 60-199 to 97-065 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.
Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.