My first and greatest desire from the outset was to let the correspondence speak for itself, a long and patient study of it having convinced me that it afforded a complete vindication of Mr. Croker from the injustice with which one writer after another, each imitating the other, had treated him. It is too often the first word that decides the estimation in which a man is to be held. It happened that Mr. Disraeli, inflamed by personal dislike and pique, spoke that word about Mr. Croker, and others echoed it, some of them from Mr. Disraeli's motive, and others without well knowing what they were doing. — Louis Jennings, Preface to The Croker Papers
Frontispiece to Volume I of The Croker Papers, edited by Louis Jennings.
John Wilson Croker was a controversial figure who aroused strong feelings, as Harriet Martineau's obituary of him makes plain. Rarely can an obituary of a prominent public figure have been as unsympathetic as hers. Not least, she criticised the Tory politician and journalist for his "entire unscrupulousness in matters both of feeling and of statement." But it is important to bear in mind also what Louis Jennings has to say about Croker at the beginning of his widely praised edition of the The Croker Papers. Jennings goes further than explaining how Croker came to have such a reputation. He adds that Croker's voluminous correspondence was "written in a singularly light and sparkling vein," and that "his friendships included most of the eminent statesmen except of course, on the side of the Whigs. He gave his friends, when he wrote to them, the best he had to give, and they dealt in the same spirit with him." Though revealing, this is perhaps more an assessment of his correspondence than of his character. But further insight into the latter is given by his biographer, William Thomas. Apart from vindicating Croker in other ways, Thomas points out that he lost both his children in infancy:
The blow was severe. Mrs Croker had a prolonged depressive illness and Croker himself said that he only stayed in office to preserve his sanity. So the critical acerbity for which he acquired a reputation was really a carapace for a sensibility happiest in a domestic circle and easily bruised by the strife of party politics.
Croker's was an important voice in the key parliamentary and social issues of early Victorian Britain. Looked at more objectively (as he deserves to be), he has much to offer the student of this period. — Jacqueline Banerjee.
Discussions of Croker's Work
- John Wilson Croker's Image of France
- The Opening Paragraphs of Macaulay's Review of Croker's edition of Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson (1831)
Brightfield, Myron. John Wilson Croker. Cambridge, 1940.
Brodhurst, Audrey. "The French Revolution Collections in the British Library." British Library Journal. 2/1976: 138-58.
Halévy, E. "English Public Opinion and the French Revolutions of the Nineteenth Century." In A. Coville and H. Temperley, eds. Studies in Anglo-French History during the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Cambridge, 1935.
Houghton, W. E. et al., eds. Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals. Vol. I. Toronto, 1966.
Jennings, Louis J., ed. The Croker Papers. Correspondence and Diaries of the late Rt Hon. John Wilson Croker. 3 vols. London, 1884.
Portsmouth, Robert. John Wilson Croker: Irish Ideas and the Invention of Modern Conservatism. Dublin, 2010.
Shattock, Joanne. Politics and Reviewers: The "Edinburgh" and the "Quarterly" in the Early Victorian Age. Leicester, 1989.
Smiles, Samuel. A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir and Correspondence of the late John Murray. Vol. II. London, 1891.
Thomas, William. "Croker, John Wilson (1780–1857), politician and writer." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 23 February 2016.
_____. The Quarrel of Macaulay and Croker: Politics and History in the Age of Reform. Oxford, 2000.
Last modified 23 February 2016