Honorary Members 1854 to 1868

1854 W Edmondstoune Aytoun, William Makepeace Thackeray, Archibald T Boyle,
Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay, Benjamin Disraeli, Alexander Smith, Bulwer Lytton
1863 14th Earl of Eglinton & Winton, Henry Glassford Bell, Thomas Carlyle,
Alfred Tennyson, Samuel Lover
1868 Theodore Martin, Lord Ardmillan, Sir Arthur Helps, Prof. J S Blackie,
David Masson, Lord Stanley

 

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William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1813-1865) Honorary member 1854

His life & work:

A poet and prose writer, he studied at the University of Edinburgh (his home town), became a writer to the signet in 1835, and passed as an advocate in 1840. He issued a volume on poems in 1832, by 1836 was a contributor to 'Blackwood's Magazine', and published several books from 1840 onwards. The most popular of his works proved to be his 'Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers' (1848) which ran through 17 editions in as many years. He followed his father-in-law Professor Wilson, 'Christopher North', as editor of Blackwood's Magazine. Prof. Wilson had been nominated as an Honorary Member in 1830, and this connection could well have prompted Prof. Aytoun's nomination, though the many links with the capital's literary figures suggest that much wider networking was current. Another honorary member, Thomas C Latto (see 1846), had been private secretary to Prof. Aytoun for a time.

In 1845 he became Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the University of Edinburgh - a position which he held until his death. His lectures attracted large numbers of students, raising the attendance from 30 to 150. In 1852 he was appointed Sheriff of Orkney and Shetland.

That year, 1845, also saw the publication of the 'Bon Gaultier Ballads', co-authored with Theodore Martin, who later wrote a 'Memoir of Aytoun'. As Martin is another hon. member, you could check his 1868 entry in these archives.

In 1867, he published a volume containing, along with many other vigorous and enjoyable pieces, 'Firmilian, A Spasmodic Tragedy' (originally written later in 1854 under the pen-name of T Percy Jones) - this work, according to the 'North British Review' of 1866, effectively satirised "the kind of stuff that was produced, in all seriousness, by our younger poets in 1853-'54" (one of whom was Alexander Smith, another Honorary Member of 1854). The Rev. George Gilfillan (hon. memb. 1875) was also a Spasmodic poet.

While his signature on the letter to Irvine Burns Club clearly shows the 'd' in his middle name, spelled as it appeared in his 1867 volume, and in the New York Times obituary, yet for some reason it usually appears without the 'd' in 20th century reference books.

His enjoyment of hunting, shooting and other country recreations led to him spending his last summers at Blackhills, Elgin, in poor health.

(Aytoun appears a second time in our minutes as a nominee, in 1863 - perhaps over the intervening years, someone forgot he was already an honorary member.)

His letter, written from 16 Gt Stuart Street, Edinburgh, on 27th January 1854:

Notes:

Sir,
     I have your favour of the 25th announcing that the members of the Irvine Burns Club have done me the honour of electing me a honorary member. I assure you that I esteem the favour highly, for I fully acknowledge the greatness of the debt which we owe to the genius of our unrivalled poet, and am proud to be associated with those who cherish his memory so dearly.
     Believe me to remain
     Sir,
     Your very obed. servt,
     W Edmondstoune Aytoun

Prof. Aytoun lived in the same part of the capital as Archibald Boyle (see below) lived and worked.

Archibald Boyle (1823(+/-1)-....) Honorary member 1854

His life & work:

Archibald T Boyle was an advocate in Edinburgh. In 1852, he stood as Conservative candidate in the Ayr Burghs constituency, gaining only nine votes less than the successful Liberal candidate.

He was Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1857, at the time that plaster casts of five of the Lewis ivory chessmen (found in 1831, and held by the British Museum) were donated to the Society.

The reasons for his nomination may well include his links with Ayrshire (see his letter below) and his links with other literary figures, such as two other 1854 honorary members, Prof. Edmondstoune Aytoun and the young poet Alexander Smith.

His letter, written from 11 Stafford Street, Edinburgh, on 27th January 1854:

Notes:

Dear Sir,
     I have just received your letter of the 25th intimating my Election as an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns' Club. And I beg through you to tender my best thanks to the club for the compliment they have been so kind as to pay me. I shall hope on some future occasion to be present at some of your meetings.
     I may mention that I was appropriately employed on the evening of the 25th in assisting in the formation of an Ayrshire Club in Edin. which I hope from what we saw that evening will soon become a flourishing & useful Institution.
     If my election involves any pecuniary or other obligations I must trust to you to let me know.
     I am, Dear Sir,
     Most faithfully yours
     Archibald T Boyle

We do not know whether the Edinburgh Ayrshire Club proved successful or not.

The Stafford St address may have been his business address - he was certainly residing, with 4 siblings, a housekeeper and 8 servants (one a 70-year-old native of Irvine, designated as Head Nurse) at 28 Charlotte Square a few years before.

Other nominees 1854

Sir Archibald Allison (1792-1867), a lawyer and historian, published a ten-volume 'Modern History of Europe from the French Revolution to the Fall of Napoleon' from 1833 to 1842, with further volumes on later years appearing from 1852 to 1859. A work of vast industry, it proved popular and was translated into many languages. He was created a baronet in 1852, during Lord Derby's administration.

Douglas Jerrold (1803-1857), the English dramatist and writer, wrote dramas, melodramas and sparkling comedies from the age of 14 till 1854, but he was possibly better known as a contributor to magazines, particularly 'Punch' from 1841 until his death. In politics a Liberal, he gave eager sympathy to revolutionists such as Kossuth and Mazzini (see our article on Blind in 1870). In social politics, he never tired of declaiming against the horrors of war, the luxury of bishops, or the iniquity of capital punishment. His friends included others approached by Irvine Burns Club.

Richard Doyle (1824-1883) was educated at home in London by his father, the cartoonist John Doyle. Richard Doyle, ann illustrator, worked for Punch from 1842 to 1850, when he resigned in protest at that magazine's hostility to the Pope. He later illustrated books, including works by Dickens and Thackeray. However, he had a much closer link to Irvine, in that his first published work, at the age of 15 in 1839, was a great success - his book 'The Eglinton Tournament' (though it is other contemporary accounts which receive mention in John Strawhorn's 'History of Irvine').

These three nominees are named in our Minute Book, but no acceptances from them are on file, so we can not include them in our official list of Honorary Members.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) Honorary member 1854

His life & work:

"Lars Porsena of Clusium / By the Nine Gods he swore / That the great house of Tarquin / Should suffer wrong no more." - these famous lines are from Macaulay's 'Horatius'.

His 'Lays of Ancient Rome' (published by Longmans) had appeared in 1842; 18,000 copies were sold in ten years (and 40,000 in 20 years). Volumes i and ii of his masterly 'History of England' were published in 1849, so by 1854 his work was well-known and extremely popular. He combined careers in literature and politics. He served as secretary of war in 1839-41 and was paymaster of the forces in 1846-47; he also contributed towards the structure of the Civil Service.

Macaulay had been a child prodigy. In his student days at Cambridge he had won the chancellor's medal for a poem on 'Pompeii', repeating his success the following year with a poem on 'Evening'; by those days he was already contributing to magazines. In 1825 he published his article on Milton in the 'Edinburgh Review', in 1826 he was called to the Bar, and in 1830 he entered Parliament as the member for Calne, in later years representing Leeds, then Edinburgh (from 1852, defeating W E Aytoun, hon. member 1854).

His nomination probably arose from a combination of several factors - the literary interests of that year's President, bookseller Maxwell Dick, the general high regard for his literary successes, and his representing a Scottish constituency.

Created Baron Macaulay in 1857, he is buried in Westminster Abbey. Volumes iii and iv of his 'History of England' appeared in 1855, and volume v was published posthumously by his sister, Lady Trevelyan. Though born in Leicestershire, he was the son of a Scottish Highlander who became a colonial governor and administrator.

His letter, written from Albany, London, on 28th January 1854:

Notes:

Sir,
     I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 25th.
     I beg you to inform the gentlemen in whose name you write that I am sincerely grateful for the distinction which they have conferred on me, & that I accept with much pleasure.
      I thank you for the facsimile of Burns's handwriting.
     I have the honor to be
     Sir
     Your faithful servant
     T B Macaulay

Albany (completed as Melbourne House in 1775, and converted into an apartment house in 1802) had become a fashionable residence for bachelors for over a hundred years - home not only to Macaulay from 1841 to 1856, but also to many other literary figures, including, in their young days, Byron, Lytton and Prime Minister Edward Heath. The Albany had become "a byword for the celebration of a kind of ostentatious privacy peculiar to the English".

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) Honorary member 1854

His life & work:

Disraeli's nomination was not prompted by his Premiership - that was to follow (in 1868 and in 1874-80). His party was in opposition. Disraeli had been Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord Derby's government for a year (1852-53) before its defeat.

One possible reason for his nomination is his literary success - a first novel appearing in 1826 and books documenting his European and Near Eastern travels in the 1830s. He entered the House of Commons in 1837 and became a leader of the protectionists who opposed Peel's campaigns to abolish the corn laws. Two more novels followed in the 1840s. His Chancellor of the Exchequer post in 1852 was his first appointment to office.

Disraeli's later career led to the Premiership on the resignation of Lord Derby. His first term was short but his second enjoyed a strong Conservative majority. He took a prominent part in regard to the Eastern question and the conclusion of the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. He was created Earl of Beaconsfield in 1872. His government's defeat in 1880 resulted from British reverses in Afghan and Zulu wars, from industrial recession and from his own ill health.

There is another possible reason for his nomination. In 1852, Disraeli published 'Lord George Bentinck, a Political Biography'. Lord Bentinck (1802-1848), son of the 4th Duke of Portland, was from 1846 the leader of the Protectionists in the House of Commons. Could it be that Irvine Burns Club was honouring a man who had assisted, and had written a biography of, a politician with nominal Ayrshire connections? And did the Club Directors of that day support the Corn Laws?

Disraeli's literary reputation arose from a number of novels, travel books, and poetry. The publication most likely to have been known to Club members of the day was his novel 'Sybil, or The Two Nations' (1845), depicting the conditions prevailing among the working classes in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, the overcrowding in miserable tenements, the inadequate wages, the 'truck' system (being paid in goods instead of in money), the selfishness of many landlords and employers, as well as relating the agitation leading to the Chartist riots. His book set a template for progressive, reforming Conservatism that has helped him remain a hero to centre-left Tories to this day.

The letter written on his behalf by Mrs Disraeli from Hughenden Manor (Bucks) on April 24th, 1854:

Notes:

Sir,
     I am requested by Mr Disraeli to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging communication of Jan.y 25 and to express his grateful sense of the honor conferred in electing him an honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club. Should he ever be so fortunate as to be able to take advantage of the privilege you have bestowed, it will afford him a great gratification to inspect those invaluable memorials of the genius of your illustrious Bard which your Club so honorably preserves. He thanks you for the fac-similie which you enclose & begs you will accept his regrets that his numerous engagements have so long delayed this acknowledgement of your letter.
     I have the honour
     to be Sir
     Your obedt servt
     M A Disraeli

His address is embossed on the writing paper, so does not show up in photocopies. He lived there from 1839 till his death in 1881.

The reply is from Mary Ann Disraeli - about twelve years older than Disraeli, her second husband. Created Viscountess Beaconsfield in her own right in 1868, at the end of her husband's first term as Prime Minister, thus allowing him to remain in the Commons, she died in 1872. When Disraeli was created Earl of Beaconsfield in 1872, he continued as Prime Minister, leading the Goverment from the House of Lords.

Alexander Smith (1829-1867) Honorary member 1854

His life & work:

This Scottish poet and essayist was only in his 24th year when nominated, but had made his name as author of 'A Life Drama and other poems' a year or two before, in 1852. This success led to his appointment, later in 1854, as secretary to the University of Edinburgh. Other volumes of poetry followed. The two works which have been said to be his finest work in verse came later - in 1857, 'City Poems', containing 'Glasgow', giving a sombre picture of the city, and in 1861, his longest work, 'Edwin of Deira'.

The two (rather under-whelming) quotations (both from "A Life Drama") which usually appear in Dictionaries of Quotations are
"Like a pale martyr in his shirt of fire"
and
"In winter, when the dismal rain
Came down in slanting lines,
And Wind, that grand old harper, smote
His thunder-harp of pines."

"A Life Drama and other poems" was received with much enthusiasm - this and his Ayrshire birthplace (Kilmarnock) probably explain his nomination for honorary membership at such a young age. However, the style of Smith and other young poets of 1853-54, the 'Spasmodic School', was superbly satirised, and effectively ended, by Aytoun (also an 1854 honorary member), in 'Firmilian' (written in 1854 and appearing more widely in 1867).

Described by John Macintosh ('The Poets of Ayrshire', 1910) as "one of the brightest gems in the literary crown of Ayrshire", he lived only four years in Kilmarnock before his father, a pattern designer, moved to Paisley. Smith was greatly encouraged in 1851 by George Gilfillan of Dundee (an honorary member of 1875; see entry there), who proclaimed Smith's talent and cast himself in the role of enthusiastic discoverer of a new star in the poetic firmament, writing articles in review magazines including extracts from Smith's poems. 'A Life Drama' brought him such fame that he travelled in England, was welcomed in London, spent a week as the guest of the Duke of Argyll at Inveraray Castle, was appointed secretary to the University of Edinburgh (and later Registrar to the University Council), married Flora Macdonald, a descendant of the heroine, and became the central figure of 'The Raleigh Club'. Messrs Macmillan paid £200 to publish 'City Poems'.

Alexander Smith also, though later than his nomination as an honorary member, published an edition of the 'Poetical Works of Burns', contributing an admirable memoir. He died at the same age as Burns, 37, of typhoid.

His letter, written from Glasgow on 2nd February 1854:

Notes:

Sir,
     Your note only came to hand yesterday, so that I have been unable to reply till now.
     I thank you from my heart for the honour you have done me, and shall long remember it with pleasure.
     Yours faithfully
     A Smith

 

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) Honorary member 1854

His life & work:

Literature, Thackeray decided in 1833, should be his profession. His unremarkable educational career shows that he was not of a mind to study seriously either for art (his inclination) or for law, and he had lost almost all his independent income in unfortunate investments. Starting with articles and reviews for magazines, including 'Punch' between 1844 and 1851, he made his name as a novelist in 1847 when 'Vanity Fair' was published in monthly parts. By the time of his nomination for honorary membership of Irvine Burns Club, he had published two more novels, consciously forming a style opposed to that of Dickens' indictment of social evils. He also delivered a course of lectures on the English humorists of the 18th century - first in London, afterwards in Scotland and America before large audiences.

More novels and more lectures followed in the later 1850s. Thackeray also stood as Radical candidate for Oxford city, losing by a small majority. His prodigious output also included graceful verses. His prose works were masterly depictions of the society of his time.

An interesting biography of Thackeray appears at http://www.bookrags.com/biography/william-makepeace-thackeray/ which ends with the description: "A massive person, 6 feet 3 inches tall, Thackeray was a genial and modest man, fond of good food and wine. In the years of his success he candidly took great pleasure in the amenities of the society that he portrayed so critically in his novels."

Thackeray and Dickens were very good friends with Douglas Jerrold (1803-1857), a major contributor to 'Punch', and mentioned in our minutes as another 1854 nominee, though he seems not to have accepted. They were the principal pall-bearers at Jerrold's funeral.

His letter, written from 36 Onslow Sq., Brompton, on 18th May 1854:

Notes:

Sir,
     I have just returned from abroad, and find your kind note informing me that the Irvine Burns Club has done me the favor to elect me an Honorary Member. I am much obliged to the Society for the honor that it has done me: and should I come north shall hope to avail myself of my privilege as a member of your Club.
      Believe me
      Your obliged servt
      W M Thackeray

The date of the letter is that on which the Thackeray family moved into this address.

The letter was addressed to Club Chairman (President) Maxwell Dick. It was entirely appropriate that Maxwell Dick, being a bookseller, should nominate such a number of literary figures as honorary members in his year of office.

Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873) Honorary member 1854

His life & work:

"It was a dark and stormy night" - the first words of the novel 'Paul Clifford' (1830) by Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, (from 1866) first Baron Lytton of Knebworth, the youngest son of General Bulwer and Elizabeth Lytton.

In his student days at Cambridge, he gained the chancellor's medal for a poem on 'Sculpture'. His first novels appeared in 1828 and were closely followed by many more, including 'The Last Days of Pompeii'. He also wrote four plays - the first a failure, the other three instant successes, one containing the phrase 'the pen is mightier than the sword'. A poetical satire of 1845 attacked Tennyson, who replied vigorously. He entered Parliament in 1831, supporting the Reform Bill as a Whig, but subsequently supporting the Conservatives.

In the years following his nomination as an honorary member, he was (in 1856) elected rector of Glasgow University, served (1858-59) as secretary for the colonies, entered the House of Lords in 1866, and published more literary works (anonymously) in the 1870s. As lord of Knebworth Castle, he enjoyed its revenues, independent of his salary as Minister and his income as an author.

Those opening words of 'Paul Clifford' have led to the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (of San Jose State University English Dept.), the literary competition that sees entrants compose deliberately terrible openings to novels. Despite the opening line, the book was so successful that the publisher could, in 1854, quote 'The Times' on the policy of Routledge in making good books available at cheap prices: "The good books they now issue command a large sale. Cheap books sold at railway stations and similar places of human concourse have enabled Messrs Routledge to give Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton the extravagant sum of £20,000 for the exclusive sale of his works for the next ten years." Sir Edward was a mainstream author of his day.

His letter, written from 1 Park Lane, London, on Wednesday (no date):

Notes:

Sir,
     Accept my best thanks for the honour the Burns Club has conferred upon me. I am sincerely pleased that you & its other members have so well comprehended my affectionate admiration for a great genius & a noble heart - which Scotland may justly reverence. If I ever come to Irvine I hope I shall see your valuable MSS. Meanwhile I shall treasure the facsimile. Yours most obliged B Lytton.

A columnist in the New York Times of 1859 wrote: "Last evening I had the honor of dining with Sir EDWARD BULWER LYTTON, at his magnificent mansion No. 1 Park-lane, Piccadilly. Of all the living authors of England, Sir EDWARD was the one I most wished to see. As a novelist, a poet, an orator and a statesman - 'take him for all in all' - where shall we find his peer? For the last thirty years the reading world has fed upon his thoughts, and an entire generation has been stimulated and educated by his glowing poetry and his fine philosophy."

The trade name Bovril is mostly due to Bulwer Lytton. In the 1870s, when John Lawson Johnston launched his meat extract, he took the prefix 'bo'' from the Latin for an ox and the second part from Bulwer-Lytton's then-popular 1871 novel 'The Coming Race', whose plot revolves around a powerful energy fluid named "Vril".

His son, the Rt Hon Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton, first Earl of Lytton, was nominated as an honorary member in 1888 "in recognition of his eminence as a Statesman and Diplomatist and his distinction and celebrity as a Poet". Unfortunately, we have no aceptance letter. A career diplomat, he served in nine embassies before his appointment as Viceroy of India (by Lord Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli, an honorary member) in 1876, being created an Earl on retirement in 1880. As a poet his pen name was 'Owen Meredith'.

For the years 1855 to 1862 inclusive, there are no minuted nominations nor any letters of acceptance.

Henry Glassford Bell (1803-1874) Honorary member 1863

His life & work:

Sheriff-substitute of Lanarkshire from 1839, Henry Glassford Bell had earlier made his name as a poet and writer. The author of several volumes of poetry, he had also produced a ‘Life of Mary Queen of Scots’ in 1830. From 1828 to 1831 he was editor of the ‘Edinburgh Literary Journal’, which enjoyed a brief but brilliant career. His many literary friends included others of our honorary members.

By the time of his nomination as an honorary member in 1863, Bell had become one of the most prominent citizens of Glasgow. As Dean of Faculties in 1865-68, he helped to raise funds for the relocation of the University of Glasgow to its new site on Gilmorehill in 1870. He was one of the originators of the Royal Scottish Academy. In 1867, he was appointed Sheriff-principal of Lanarkshire.

He is interred in the nave of Glasgow Cathedral, the first person in the 19th century to be buried there.

His letter, written from the Sheriff Chambers, Glasgow on Jan. 30th, 1863:

Notes:

Sir,
     I beg to return my best acknowledgements to the members of the Irvine Burns Club for the honour they have conferred on me in electing me an Honorary Member, & for the interesting lithographic facsimile of the "Cottar's Saturday Night" they have been so kind to send me.
     I have always been aware that the Irvine Burns' Club holds a high place among the numerous patriotic Societies who delight in commemorating the genius of our great poet, the lustre of whose reputation no time will ever dim.
     I am
     Sir
     Your very obed. Svt
     Henry Glassford Bell

 

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) Honorary member 1863

His life & work:

By 1863, aged 67, Thomas Carlyle, the son of an Ecclefechan stonemason, had for three decades been a prominent member of a brilliant London literary circle including such as John Stuart Mill and Leigh Hunt. He knew German well, and corresponded with Goethe. Thackeray described his famous (or infamous) writing style as ‘prose run mad’.

His prodigious output began with short biographies and articles in 1818 and went on to include the ‘Life of Schiller’ (1823), a translation of Legendre’s ‘Geometry’ (1824), the novel ‘Sartor Resartus’ (1833), ‘The French Revolution’ (1837), ‘Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches’ (1845, which made him famous) and, at the time of his Irvine nomination, ‘The History of Frederick the Great’ (1858-65). His marriage to Jane Welsh (a descendant of John Knox) in 1826 created a partnership of intellect and affection.

The years after 1863 saw fewer great works. His wife’s death in 1866, while he was up in Scotland to take up the Lord Rectorship of the University of Edinburgh where he had studied, was a severe blow. Much was published after his death by his literary executor J A Froude, the eminent historian, whom Irvine Burns Club elected an honorary member in 1890 – his ‘Life of Carlyle’, ‘Carlyle’s Reminiscences’ and ‘Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle’ provoked an extraordinary amount both of interest and of controversy. A statue of Carlyle was set up on the Chelsea embankment in 1882, and his house in Cheyne Row was opened to the public in 1895.

Carlyle is most remembered in Burns circles for his ‘Life of Burns’ published in 1828 (prompted by that of J G Lockhart). Reflecting the Bard’s own comments on the importance of the Irvine stage in his career, Carlyle recognised this in his ‘Life’. (He probably also thought back to his own 23rd year, when, mirroring Burns’ ‘hypochondriac complaint’ of that period, he had himself suffered digestive disorders and a near mental breakdown and religious crisis.) On Robert Burns in Irvine, he wrote:

“By much the most striking incident in Burns’ life is his journey to Edinburgh; but perhaps a still more important one is his residence in Irvine, so early as his twenty-third year. Hitherto his life had been poor and toilworn; but otherwise not ungenial, and, with all its distresses, by no means unhappy . . . But now, at this early stage, he quits the paternal roof; goes forth into looser, louder, more exciting society; and becomes initiated in those dissipations, those vices, which a certain class of philosophers have asserted to be a natural preparative for entering on active life.”

His letter, written from Chelsea on 1 Feby, 1863:

Notes:

Sir,
     Will you be so good as to convey my thanks to the Gentlemen of the Irvine Burns Club for the interesting facsimile which I have just recd, and for the honour they have done me by Election to their Brotherhood. I beg to remain
     Yours sincerely
     T Carlyle

The letter is addressed to Jas. Dickie, the Club's Hon. Secy.

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) Honorary member 1863

His life & work:

The pre-eminent poet of the Victorian age, Alfred Tennyson was appointed Poet Laureate (succeeding Wordsworth) in 1850 and became a great favourite of Queen Victoria. One commentator (Rachel Cooke, 2012) has written: It is sometimes difficult to believe how famous Tennyson once was . . the extravagantly bearded creature who succeeded Wordsworth as Poet Laureate was as well known as [a glamour model and media personality today] . . there were audiences with Queen Victoria (his neighbour in the Isle of Wight) who found solace in the poet's verses 'In Memoriam' (1849) after the death of Prince Albert (in 1861) . . there was a visit from the great Italian liberator, Garibaldi, who (1864) planted a wellingtonia at the Tennyson home on the Isle of Wight . . and there was the funeral of Charles Dickens (1870) during which men lifted their children to catch a glimpse of the great poet over the heads of the congregation.

As a student at Cambridge, he won the chancellor's prize for poetry in 1829. Several volumes appeared in the 1830s, but his 1842 two-volume edition of his work contained some of his finest work and made his reputation. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1850. In 1859, his 'Idylls of the King' finally established his fame and popularity; this volume contained a cycle of twelve narrative poems relating to King Arthur.

Although offered a baronetcy in 1865 and again in 1868, he declined on those occasions, but was persuaded by Gladstone to accept in 1883, and was created first Baron Tennyson in 1884.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson was the first Poet Laureate to be invited to accept honorary membership of the Club. When he died, the post was left open for a few years as no living poet was considered suitable (Rossetti was female; Swinburne was in poor health). All subsequent ones except Day-Lewis, whose tenure was short, have been invited.

It is possible that the contact for Tennyson may have been his friend Alexander Macmillan (1818-1896), who had been brought up in Irvine - Macmillans certainly published his 1849 volume of poems and probably published many others. The last years of Macmillan's life were spent in a house once owned by Tennyson. Macmillan's friendship with other authors, such as Kingsley, may have forged other links.

His letter, written from Farringford (Isle of Wight) on Feby 9th 1863:

Notes:

Sir,
     The fac-simile which you have been so kind as to send and the accompanying intimation of my election as an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club have only just reached me. I beg to thank you for your kind gift and for the honour done me by the members of the Irvine Club.
     I have the honour to be
     Sir
     Your very obedient servant
     A. Tennyson

The Tennysons had rented Farringford from 1853, and bought it in 1856, from the proceeds of publishing "Maud".

As noted above, he was at this date still plain A. Tennyson.

Samuel Lover (1797-1868) Honorary member 1863

His life & work:

There is no single obvious reason for the Club's nomination of Samuel Lover as an honorary member. We would have to guess at the publication of his collection of songs, 'The Lyrics of Ireland', in 1858.

Yet this would reflect only one of Lover's many gifts, shared between two islands - born in Dublin, he moved to London in 1835. He was a novelist - his best-known titles being 'Handy Andy, an Irish tale', 1842, and 'Rory O'More: A National Romance' (1836) . He was an artist (particularly of miniature portraits) - in 1832 Paganini, at the height of his popularity, was visiting Dublin and agreed to sit for Lover - Lover had already painted the Duke of Wellington and various of the Dublin nobility, but it was the marked success of the Paganini portrait which led to its display at the Royal Academy and Lover's permanent removal to London. He was a song-writer - his song 'Rory O'More' was the hit tune of 1837 - the New York Times (1880) records that "it immediately flew over the Kingdom, crossed the ocean, and made a circuit of the world, becoming a favourite in every city and village of Britain, America and the colonies". He was a musician and entertainer, appearing often at Lady Blessington's evening receptions, and his 'Irish Evenings' of sketches and songs were popular both in Britain and America. Here is a verse from Rory O'More:

Then Rory, the rogue, stole his arm round her neck,
So soft and so white, without freckle or speck,
And he look’d in her eyes that were beaming with light,
And he kiss’d her sweet lips; - don’t you think he was right?
“Now Rory, leave off, sir; you’ll hug me no more,
That’s eight times to-day you have kiss’d me before.”
“Then here goes another,” says he, “to make sure,
For there’s luck in odd numbers,” says Rory O’More.

His letter, written from The Vine, Sevenoaks, on February 19th 1863:

Notes:

Dear Sir
     I have to request you to convey to the members of the Irvine Burns' Club my lively sense of the honor they have done me in electing me an honorary member of their fraternity. In a club constituted for the very purpose of honouring the memory of the great National Bard of whom Scotland is so justly proud, such a mark of recognition is a most gracious and very touching compliment, a compliment I feel deeply, & for which I return sincere thanks.
     Beyond the borders of his native land few, if any, more admire & more highly appreciate the genius of Burns than myself, therefore the present of the facsimile of "The Cottar's Saturday Night" which accompanies the announcement of my honorary membership is most welcome, for its intrinsic value, but is rendered more valuable as a memento of the circumstance it commemorates, and, as such, shall always be looked upon by me with pleasure & with pride.
     Perhaps some day I may have the opportunity of seeing those most interesting MSS which the Club possesses, and pledge my brother members in "a cup o' kindness", though I cannot promise to be quite up to a "pint stoup" or "a right good willie waught".
     Believe me, Dear Sir,
     Yours Very truly,
     Samuel Lover
P.S. Your letter bearing date January 29 - I did not receive till last night.

 

14th Earl of Eglinton & Winton (1841-1892) Honorary member 1863

His life & work:

The 14th Earl was young, only 21, and just married (December 1862), when Irvine Burns Club invited him to become an Honorary Member (an honour awarded to his father in 1837). Just over a year later, in 1864, he was awarded the freedom of the Royal Burgh of Irvine.

Archibald William Montgomerie succeeded to the Earldom at the age of 20, in 1861, becoming the 14th Earl of Eglinton, and 2nd Earl of Winton, as well as 3rd Baron Ardrossan and 15th Lord Montgomerie. His new wife was Lady Sophia Adelaide Theodosia Pelham, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Yarborough.

The young Earl revived social life at Eglinton following his father’s absences as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and had a keen interest in the turf and in hunting. The Bogside races were revived in 1867 and the Scottish Grand National steeplechase was instituted. By the time of his death there were four annual meetings at Bogside. As a fox hunter, he rode at the head of the Eglinton Hunt for many years. In public life, the Earl served as a Deputy Lieutenant of Lanarkshire and also of Ayrshire.

His estates comprised nearly 24,000 acres around Eglinton, bringing in (in 1873) over £32,000 in rents and over £9,000 in mineral royalties. Losses in the Glasgow Bank crash of 1878 prompted him to sell Coilsfield and the original family property at Eaglesham. It was the era of coal mining in the area – he sank the Lady Sophia, Eglinton No. 1 pit, in 1883. Also in 1883, he authorised the removal of the rubble and rubbish which had accumulated in the ruins of Seagate Castle and had it trenched into the Low Green.

The Earl latterly had poor health and was due to spend the winter of 1892-93 on his yacht in the Mediterranean, but died in the late summer. He was survived by his four daughters. The Countess had died in 1886. The Earldom passed to his brother, George Arnulph Montgomerie (1848-1919).

His letter, written from Eglinton Castle in January 1863:

Notes:

Sir
     I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th intimating to me the honour the members of the Irvine Burns Club have done me in electing me an honorary member & I beg you will convey to them my thanks for the Lithograph.
     I am Sir
     yours faithfully
     Eglinton & Winton

 

James Crawford, Lord Ardmillan (1805-1876) Honorary member 1868

His life & work:

James Crawford was appointed a Lord of Session in 1855 and, later that year, a judge of the high court of justiciary. The seat of Ardmillan is about three miles from Girvan.

Born at Havant, Hants, and educated at Ayr Academy, he studied for the bar at Glasgow College and at the University of Edinburgh. By 1868, he was towards the end of a distinguished legal career, being appointed sheriff of Perthshire in 1849, and Solicitor-General for Scotland in 1853.

His letter, written from Edinburgh on January 30, 1868:

Notes:

Dear Sir
     I feel honoured & gratified by your electing me a member of the Irvine Burns Club & I thank you for the Photographic Fac Simile of the Poet's M.S.S. of "The Cottar's Saturday Night". I rejoice in every indication of the high Estimation in which my Countrymen hold the Genius of Burns & of the appreciation & discriminating sympathy with which all that is noble and genial in him is cherished, without overlooking or excusing his faults.
     I am
     Yours faithfully
     Jas. Crawford
     Ardmillan

Lord Ardmillan lived at Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

Theodore Martin (1816-1909) Honorary member 1868

His life & work:

There are two possible reasons why Theodore Martin, later knighted (in 1880), a prolific author, was nominated as an honorary member, and a third reason for his later fame.

His later fame arose from his close friendship with Queen Victoria. After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, the Queen asked his private secretary Col. Grey (who had in 1867 compiled for her 'The Early Days of the Prince Consort') to write a biography of the Prince, but Col. Grey died in 1870. Theodore Martin had been introduced to the Queen by Arthur Helps (another hon. member of 1868) and his acceptance letter to us came from Osborne House. His reputation as an author prompted Her Majesty to ask that he undertake the biography - the result was 'The Life and Letters of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort', published in five volumes between 1874 and 1880, the reason for his knighthood.

One possible prompt for his nomination was his 'Memoir of Prof. W E Aytoun' (his friend, an 1854 hon. member, who had died in 1865), published in 1867. However, the main reason would be the 'Bon Gaultier Ballads'. These had appeared in magazines and journals, under the nom de plume Bon Gaultier, over several years - humorous verse, often parodying famous poets of the time, in a style somewhere between Robert Service and Pam Ayres. Co-authored with Prof. Aytoun, a volume, each poem accompanied by a charming line-drawing, was published in 1845, and was into a Seventh Edition (available on Google Books) by 1861. The volume has been described as "famous and delightful". So, whether the prompt was the popularity of the pair's verse, or the 'Memoir of Aytoun', is of little relevance.

Martin was born and educated in Edinburgh. He practised there as a solicitor, then went to London to head the firm of Martin & Leslie, parliamentary agents. His many other publications included translations of Goethe, Dante, Schiller, Horace and Catullus - these were mostly published in the 1860s before his work on the Prince Consort, but he was still publishing in 1905 and 1906 (at the age of 90).

His letter, written from Osborne (Isle of Wight) on 31 Jan. 1868:

Notes:

Sir
     Your letter of the 28th has been forwarded to me here, where I have been for the last three weeks laid up by a bad accident.
     I am deeply sensible of the honour done me by my Election as an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club, and I beg that you will convey this feeling to the Members at the earliest convenient opportunity.
     The facsimilie which the Club has been so kind as to present to me will be not the least valued of my little collection of books & papers relating to our great poet.
     Some day I hope I may have an opportunity of inspecting the Club's Collection of Autographs. Such things have a special interest for me. I am fortunate enough to possess an autograph of the lines to the Earl of Glencairn; Believe me
     Sir
     Your very obedt servt
     Theodore Martin
P.S. My address is 31 Onslow Square, London

Osborne House was a residence of Queen Victoria.

The letter is addressed to James Dickie, the Club's Hon. Secy.

Prof. J S Blackie (1809-1895) Honorary member 1868

His life & work:

Thomas Carlyle (an 1863 honorary member) once described Professor John Stuart Blackie as "a man of lively intellectual faculties, of ardent friendly character, and of wide speculation and acquirement". From his home in Edinburgh, Blackie corresponded with the great and famous throughout Britain and Europe, from Goethe and Carlyle to Ruskin and Gladstone, and filled the pages of newspapers and journals with writings on the major issues of the day.

Blackie was a scholar, patriot, and poet. Born in Glasgow, educated in Abereeen, where he studied theology, he spent three years at Gottingen, Berlin and Rome, before studying law at Edinburgh. He was appointed Professor of Latin Literature at Aberdeen in 1841, became interested in university reform (including the admission of women students), and in 1852 became Professor of Greek at Edinburgh. His books included volumes on the history of Scottish, German and student song, a metrical translation of Goether's 'Faust' (1834) and a translation of the works of Aeschylus (1850). His lectures were popular, and his enthusiasm for all things Greek included launching the Hellenic Society and encouraging the study of modern Greek.

Scottish nationality (and nationalism) was another enthusiasm. He championed the Gaelic language, almost single-handedly raising the funds for the Chair of Celtic at Edinburgh. His often-quoted comment on Robert Burns is: "'When Scotland forgets Burns, then history will forget Scotland"; his 'Life of Robert Burns' was published in 1888. In 1891, he and his nephew published the first edition of 'The Scottish Students' Song Book'. His death was marked by a national day of mourning and his funeral stopped the city in its tracks.

The National Gallery of Scotland commentary on his portrait (bequeathed by him) describes him as "a renowned classical scholar, well known for his wit and kindly manner, as well as his flamboyance and characteristic dress" (a plaid worn shepherd-style, a broad-brimmed hat, and a big stick). There is probably no one reason for his nomination - all aspects of his life and works would have made him a worthy recipient.

His letter, written from 24 Hill Street, Edinburgh on January 30, 1868:

Notes:

Dear Sir
     I have to return the Irvine Burns Club my most sincere thanks for the honor they have done me in making me a member of their association. I consider sympathy with Burns, and with the Covenanters the true tests of a genuine Scotsman; and shall always be proud to think that in respect of either or both I am not considered unworthy of my position. I have also received the facsimile of the Cotters Saturday Night, which I value highly.
     and am
     Sincerely
     Yours
     John Blackie

This letter, more than some of the others in the collection, reflects the writer's enthusiasms.

Arthur Helps (1813-1875) Honorary member 1868

His life & work:

Arthur Helps (later knighted, in 1872) was an English essayist and historian, but there seems no particular reason for his nomination as an honorary member. After university, he became private secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (till 1839), then private secretary to the Secretary for Ireland till 1841. In 1859/60, he was appointed clerk of the Privy Council in 1859/60, holding the position until his death.

His works have been described as "for the most part of a pleasant moralizing type" - several volumes had appeared before his 1868 nomination, and his popularity was established in 1847-59 by his 'Friends in Council', dialogues on ethical and aesthetic questions, including slavery. His historical work centred on the Spanish conquest in America (1857-61). In 1862, he published (at Queen Victoria's request) a volume of the late Prince Consort's speeches with an introduction by himself.

He was a friend of Theodore Martin (another 1868 honorary. member) and introduced him to the Queen, as a result of which Martin wrote the biography of Prince Consort. Helps himself edited the Queen's 'Leaves from a Journal of our Life in the Highlands', published later in 1868.

Queen Victoria's comment "We are not amused" was occasioned by this honorary member. The Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 'Daily Sentinel' reported in January 1887 that: 'Sir Arthur Helps, who was her private secretary, used to tell an amusing anecdote of being snubbed by her for telling a rather funny story down the table, among the ladies-in-waiting, to relieve the monotony of a dreary dinner, when the queen remarked: "What is it? We are not amused."'

His letter, written from the Privy Council Office on 1st February, 1868:

Notes:

Sir,
     I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th ulto, and to request that you will convey to the members of the Irvine Burns Club my sense of the high honour which they have conferred upon me by electing me an honorary member of their body.
     I have also to acknowledge with many thanks the fac-simile of the original manuscript of 'The Cotter's Saturday Night', which you have been so good as to send me.
     I have the honour to be,
     Sir,
     Your obedient Servant,
     Arthur Helps

 

Lord Stanley (1826-1893) Honorary member 1868

His life & work:

Lord Stanley, in 1868, was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; during his Commons years (1848-69), he represented Kings Lynn. [To avoid confusion, we should note that he was not one of the two most famous Earls of Derby - one, his father, the 14th Earl, had ended slavery in the West Indies and was Prime Minister on three occasions, and the other, his nephew, the 17th Earl, was known as the 'King of Lancashire' and headed recruitment for World War I.]

Edward Henry Stanley was known as a most liberal Conservative. In his father's first administration (1852), Lord Stanley was under-secretary for foreign affairs (and his father appointed the 13th Earl of Eglinton as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland). In his father's second administration (1858-59), Lord Stanley was at first Secretary of State for the Colonies (most efficiently supervising the India Bill, and becoming the first Secretary of State for India), then President of the Board of Control (and his father for a second time appointed the 13th Earl of Eglinton as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland). In his father's third administration (1866-68), Lord Stanley was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a post he took up again, as the 15th Earl of Derby, in Disraeli's government of 1874. Becoming a Liberal in 1880, he served as Gladstone's Colonial Secretary in 1882-85. Afterwards, he led the Liberal Unionist party in the Lords until 1891.

He married fairly late, in 1870, Lady Mary Catherine Sackville-West, the daughter of the 5th Earl de la Warr and the widow of the 2nd Marquess of Salisbury. Having no issue, the Earldom passed to his younger brother in 1893.

The only clear connection to Irvine is an apparent friendship between the Derbys and the Eglintons, so we cannot say what prompted his nomination as an honorary member. His links to the West of Scotland were about to be strengthened - in 1868 he started a three-year term of office as Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow.

His acceptance - written on his behalf at the Foreign Office on February 6, 1868:

Notes:

Lord Stanley presents his compliments to Mr Vickie [sic] & begs that he will express to members of the Irvine Burns Club Lord Stanley's best thanks for the compliment which they have paid him on electing him as an Honorary Member of the Club, and which Lord Stanley has much pleasure in accepting.
     Lord Stanley is also much obliged for the interesting facsimile of the original MS of one of Burns' Poems which accompanied Mr Vickie's letter.

'Mr Vickie' is in fact James Dickie, of Irvine, the Club's Hon. Secy.

Prof. David Masson (1822-1907) Honorary member 1868

His life & work:

David Masson had recently (1865) become Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at Edinburgh, succeeding Prof. W E Aytoun (hon. member 1854); Masson held this chair for thirty years, until 1895. After studying theology under Thomas Chalmers (with whom he maintained a friendship until Chalmers' death), he abandoned aspirations to the ministry and turned to literature. He was a native of Aberdeen.

In the 1840s he contributed to several magazines and went to London, to find wider scope for his energy and knowledge, in 1847. There he was secretary (1851-52) of the "Society of Friends of Italy". He interviewed Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He had known Thomas de Quincey and wrote a biography of him. He was an enthusiastic friend and admirer of Thomas Carlyle (hon. member 1863). In 1852 he was appointed Professor of English Literature at University College, London, and from 1858 to 1865 he edited the newly-established 'Macmillan's Magazine' - he mentions his friendship with the publisher in his letter of acceptance. His most important published work began in this period - the six volume 'Life of Milton' (1859-80).

Once back in Edinburgh, he actively promoted the movement for the university education of women. His other roles included Historiographer Royal of Scotland (1893), President of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club (1896) and Chairman of the Scottish History Society (1900).

His son David became the first Professor of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne and his daughter Rosaline became known as a writer and novelist.

His letter, written from 3 Rosebery Crescent, Edinburgh, on Feb 22, 1868:

Notes:

Dear Sir,
     The temporary disappearance of your letter among papers of a different kind has been the cause of my delay in acknowledging it, & the receipt of the Fac-Simile which accompanied it.
     Permit me now to tender to the members of the Irvine Burns Club, through you, my most grateful thanks for the honour they have done me in associating me with them in the manner announced in your letter, & for the gift of the fac-simile. It is very gratifying to me to be an Honorary Member of a club so long-established & so interesting as the Irvine Burns Club; and it is a peculiar addition to the pleasure to remember that Irvine is the native place of my dear & good friend Mr Alexander Macmillan. Should I ever be in Irvine, I shall not fail to pay my respects to you, & to ask for a sight of the Burns relics belonging to the Club. Believe me, Dear Sir,
     Yours very truly
     David Masson

Alexander Macmillan, born in Irvine, had, with his late elder brother Daniel, set up Macmillan & Co., the London publishing house.

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