Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton

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The Lord Houghton
Lord Houghton
Personal details
Born19 June 1809 (1809-06-19)
London, England
Died11 August 1885 (1885-08-12) (aged 76)
Vichy, France
Political party Tory
Spouse(s)Hon. Annabel Crewe (d. 1874)
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge

Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton, FRS (19 June 1809 – 11 August 1885) was an English poet, patron of literature and a politician who strongly supported social justice.


Background and education

Milnes was born in London, the son of Robert Pemberton Milnes, of Fryston Hall, Castleford, West Yorkshire, and the Honourable Henrietta, daughter of Robert Monckton-Arundell, 4th Viscount Galway. His grandmother was Rachel Slater Milnes (née Busk, 1760-1835), niece of Sir Wadsworth Busk. [1] Milnes was educated privately, and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1827. [2] There he was drawn into a literary set, and became a member of the famous Apostles Club, which then included Alfred Lord Tennyson, Arthur Hallam, Richard Chenevix Trench, Joseph Williams Blakesley, and others. After graduating with an M.A. in 1831, Milnes travelled abroad, spending some time at the University of Bonn.

He went to Italy and Greece, and published in 1834 a volume of Memorials of a Tour in some Parts of Greece, describing his experiences. [3]

Political career

Milnes returned to London in 1837, and was elected to Parliament as member for Pontefract as a Conservative. In parliament he interested himself particularly in the question of copyright and the conditions of reformatory schools. He left Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel's party over the Corn Law controversy, and was afterwards identified in politics with Lord Palmerston. His easy good nature had the effect that his political career was viewed with less seriousness by his contemporaries than it might otherwise have been. In 1848, he went to Paris to see something of the revolution, and to fraternise with both sides. On his return he wrote, as a ‘Letter to Lord Lansdowne,' 1848, a pamphlet on the events of that year, in which he offended the conservatives by his sympathy with continental liberalism, and in particular with the struggle of Italy against Austria.

During the Chartist riots of 1848, Matthew Arnold wrote to his mother:

Tell Miss Martineau it is said here that Monckton Milnes refused to be sworn in a special constable, that he might be free to assume the post of President of the Republic at a moment's notice. [4]

In 1863, Palmerston elevated Milnes to the peerage as Baron Houghton, of Great Houghton in the West Riding of the County of York. [5]

George W. E. Russell said of him: "As years advanced he became not (as the manner of most men is) less Liberal, but more so; keener in sympathy with all popular causes; livelier in his indignation against monopoly and injustice." [6]

Literary career

Lord Houghton.jpg

Milnes' literary career was often influenced by church matters. He wrote a tract in 1841, which was praised by John Henry Newman. He took part in the discussion about "Essays and Reviews", defending the tractarian position in One Tract More (1841). He published two volumes of verse in 1838, Memorials of Residence upon the Continent and Poems of Many Years, Poetry for the People in 1840 and Palm Leaves in 1844. He also wrote a Life and Letters of Keats in 1848, the material for which was largely provided by the poet's friend, Charles Armitage Brown. Milnes' ballads were among the most popular of their day. [3] In 1868, Lord Houghton was elected to the Royal Society. [7] In 1870, he was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society. [8]

Despite his piety, he had apparently an almost unsurpassed collection of erotic literature, [9] which he bequeathed to the British Library, a collection known to few in his lifetime. A man whom his biographer Saunders said, "had many fine tastes and some coarse ones," [3] Milnes authored The Rodiad , a pornographic poem on the subject of flagellation. [10] [11]

However, his chief distinctions were his sense of literary merit in others, and the way he fostered it. He was surrounded by the most brilliant men of his time, many of whom he had been the first to acclaim. His reputation rests largely on the part he played, as a man of influence in society and in moulding public opinion on literary matters, in connection with his large circle of talented friends. He secured a pension for Tennyson, helped to make Ralph Waldo Emerson known in Britain, and was one of the earliest champions of Algernon Charles Swinburne. He helped David Gray by writing a preface for The Luggie. [3] He helped to obtain a job for Coventry Patmore at the British Museum. He was, in the traditional sense, a patron of literature, who never abused the privileges of his position.

Women's rights

He admired the literacy brilliance in female writers and was a firm friend of the Gaskell family of Manchester. A champion of women's rights, in 1871 he served as a vice-president on the Leeds Committee of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science [12] [13] and was president of the association in 1873. He supported Meta, the daughter of novelist Elizabeth Gaskell in her work as the Representative of the Manchester Ladies' Educational Association and on The North of England Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women. The Spectator reported upon Meta's death in 1913 that, "Lord Houghton once said that the conversation and society to be met with in the house of the Gaskells at Manchester – Plymouth Grove – were the one thing which made life in that city tolerable for people of literary tastes". [14] [15] [16] [17]

Personal life

Milnes was a persistent suitor of Florence Nightingale (who finally refused to marry him), and one of her staunchest supporters along with the statesman Sidney Herbert. On 30 July 1851, he married the Honourable Annabella Hungerford Crewe, daughter of John Crewe, 2nd Baron Crewe. [3] Together they had three children:

She died in 1874. Lord Houghton died at Vichy, France, in August 1885, aged 76, and was buried at Fryston. He was succeeded in the barony by his son, Robert, who became a prominent Liberal statesman and was created Earl of Crewe in 1895 and Marquess of Crewe in 1911.

Richard and Annabella's two daughters were Amicia Henrietta and the novelist Florence Henniker. [18]

Milnes took an interest in parapsychology and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. [19]

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  1. Burke, Bernard (1894). A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of ... - Busk of Ford's Grove. Harrison. p. 267. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  2. "Milnes, Richard Monckton (MLNS827RM)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Saunders 1894.
  4. George W. E. Russell, Collections & Recollections (Revised edition, Smith Elder & Co, London, 1899), at page 53.
  5. "No. 22760". The London Gazette . 7 August 1863. p. 3945.
  6. George W. E. Russell, Collections & Recollections (Revised edition, Smith Elder & Co, London, 1899), at page 57.
  7. "Fellows 1660–2007" (PDF). Royal Society. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  8. American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  9. Hyde, Harford Montgomery (1965). A history of pornography. Heinemann. p. 14.
  10. Whyte, Christopher (1995). Gendering the nation: studies in modern Scottish literature. Edinburgh University Press. p.  216. ISBN   0-7486-0619-X.
  11. Nelson, James G. (2000). Publisher to the Decadents: Leonard Smithers in the Careers of Beardsley, Wilde, Dowson. Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 10. ISBN   0-271-01974-3.
  12. Reilly, C. (1999). Mid-Victorian Poetry, 1860-1879 - Lord Houghton. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 316. ISBN   184714179X. ..a champion of ...women's rights...
  13. National Association for the Promotion of Social Science - Leeds Meeting (1871). Head, Hole & Co, Paternoster Row, London. 1872. Local Officers of the Leeds Meeting - Vice-Presidents...[include]...Duke of Devonshire...Sir Titus Salt...Darnton Lupton...Lord Houghton...Secretaries - Darnton Lupton, Jun.
  14. Murray, J. H. (19 December 2016). The Englishwoman's Review of Social and Industrial Questions: 1872. Janet Horowitz Murray, Myra Stark. ISBN   9781315411194 . Retrieved 25 April 2017. ....Meta Gaskell.... a member of the North of England Council for Education of Woman...
  15. The Englishwoman's Review of Social and Industrial Questions. Garland Publishing. 1985 [1874]. ISBN   9780824037291 . Retrieved 25 April 2014. Josephine E. Butler, President of .......Frances Elizabeth Lupton, Representative of the Leeds Ladies' Educational Association. ... Meta Gaskell, Representative of the Manchester Ladies' Educational Association....Ann J. Clough, Member of Executive...
  16. "Miss Meta Gaskell". The Spectator. 1 November 1913. Retrieved 25 April 2017. LORD HOUGHTON once said that the conversation and society to be met with in the house of the Gaskells at Manchester were the one thing which made life in that city tolerable for people of literary tastes. Miss Meta Gaskell, who died last Sunday...
  17. "Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Volume 19". The Society. 1871. pp. 719–720. Retrieved 25 April 2014. Announcement by the Council – Education of Girls – The following have agreed to be members of the Committee....Miss Gaskell, Manchester....Mrs Baden-Powell.....Mrs Charles Darwin...Erasmus Darwin Esq...Duchess of St Albans....Mrs Frances Lupton, Leeds....Miss Thackeray.....Henry Sidgwick Esq. Trinity College, Cambridge,...Mrs Kitchener...Miss Emily Davies.....
  18. Pite, Ralph (2006). Thomas Hardy:The Guarded Life. London: Picador. p.  329. ISBN   978-0330481861.
  19. Oppenheim, Janet. (1988). The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850–1914. Cambridge University Press. p. 135. ISBN   978-0521347679
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Pontefract
With: William Thomas Stanley-Massey-Stanley 1837–1841
Viscount Pollington 1841–1847
Samuel Martin 1847–1851
Beilby Lawley 1851–1852
Benjamin Oliveira 1852–1857
William Wood 1857–1859
William Overend 1859–1860
Hugh Childers 1860–1863
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Houghton
Succeeded by