Page images




THE late eminent genealogist, Sir W. Betham of Dublin, Ulster King-at-Arms, well known as the author of numerous works on the Antiquities of Ireland, and Mr. Richard Sainthill, an equally zealous antiquary still living in Cork, were two of the most intimate friends and correspondents of the late Mr. Crofton Croker.

The first-named gentleman drew up an elaborate table tracing the Croker pedigree as far back as the battle of Agincourt. The Croker crest-" Deus alit eos" was granted to Sir John Croker, who accompanied Edward IV. on his expedition to France in 1475, as cup and standardbearer; but without going back to the original generation, or tracing the Limerick or any other branch of the family, it will be sufficient to say here that the Crokers, if they did not come over with William the Conqueror" came originally from Devonshire, and settled in Ireland in the reign. of Elizabeth. Thomas Crofton Croker was the only son of Thomas Croker, who, after twenty-five years of arduous and


faithful military service in North America, Holland, and Ireland, and after having purchased every step in the army, was gazetted brevet-major on the 11th May, 1802, in the same regiment which he had at first joined (the 38th, or 1st Staffordshire Foot), and in which he had uninterruptedly served. Indeed, he was so much attached to his regiment, that, in his case at least, the Staffordshire knot became perfectly symbolic. The closer the knot was drawn the firmer the tie became. He commenced, continued, and ended an honourable life of activity in the service of his country from mere boyhood, until ill-health and a broken constitution forced him to sell his commission. Thomas Croker was the eldest son of Richard Croker, of Mount Long in the county of Tipperary, who died on the 1st January, 1771; and his mother was Anne, the daughter of James Long of Dublin, by the Honourable Mary Butler, daughter of Theobald the seventh Earl of Cahir. Thomas Croker was born on the 29th March, 1761. In 1796 he married Maria, eldest daughter and co-heir of Croker Dillon of Baltidaniel in the county of Cork, and on the 15th January, 1798, Thomas Crofton Croker was born at the house of his maternal grandmother in Buckingham Square, Cork, receiving his first Christian name after his father, and his second after his godfather, the Honourable Sir E. Crofton, Bart.

While very young, during the years 1812 and 1815, Crofton Croker made several excursions in the south of Ireland, studying the character and traditions of the country, on which occasions he was frequently accompanied by Mr. Joseph Humphreys, a Quaker, afterwards master of the

Deaf and Dumb Institution at Claremont near Dublin. In 1813 he was placed with the mercantile firm of Messrs. Lecky and Mark, and in 1817 he appeared as an exhibitor in the second exhibition of the Cork Society, for he had already displayed considerable talent as an artist. In 1818 he contributed to an ephemeral production called The Literary and Political Examiner:' on the 22nd March of that year his father died, and he left Ireland, not to revisit it until he made a short excursion there in 1821 with Alfred Nicholson and Miss Nicholson (who afterwards became Mrs. Croker), children of the late Mr. Francis Nicholson, one of the founders of the English water-colour school, and who died in 1844 at the patriarchal age of ninety-one


Crofton Croker's first visit to England was paid to Thomas Moore in Wiltshire; and soon after his establishing in London he received from the late Right Hon. John Wilson Croker an appointment at the Admiralty, of which office his namesake (but no relation) was secretary, and from which he (Crofton) retired in 1850 as senior clerk of the first class, having served upwards of thirty years, thirteen of which were passed in the highest class. This retirement, although he stood first for promotion to the office of chief clerk, was compulsory upon a reduction of office, and was not a matter of private convenience. In 1830 Crofton Croker married Miss Marianne Nicholson, and the result of their union was an only child, Thomas Francis Dillon Croker, born 26th August, 1831, the writer of the present memoir.

The literary labours of Crofton Croker were attended

[ocr errors]

with more gratifying results than his long and unwearied official services. The Researches in the South of Ireland' (1824), an arrangement of notes made during several excursions between the years 1812 and 1822, was his first important work. It was published by John Murray, the father of the present publisher of the Quarterly Review,' and contained illustrations by Mr. Alfred and Miss Nicholson: with the Fairy Legends,' however, the name of Crofton Croker became more especially associated, the first edition of which appeared anonymously in 1825, and produced a complimentary letter from Sir Walter Scott, which has been published in all subsequent editions. The success of the first edition of the legends was such as immediately to justify a second, which appeared the next year, illustrated with etchings after sketches by Maclise, and which was followed by a second series (Parts 2 and 3) in 1827. The third part, although it appeared under the same title, namely Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland,' may be considered as forming almost a separate work, inasmuch as it comprised the fairy superstitions of Wales and other countries, in addition to those current in Ireland. A translation of the legends by the Brothers Grimm appeared in Germany in 1825, and another in Paris in 1828 (Les Contes Irlandais, précédés d'une introduction par M. P. A. Dufau '), but it was not until 1834 that Murray published them in a condensed form in his Family Library,' the copyright of which edition, as revised by the author, was purchased of Murray by the late Mr. Tegg, and is now published by his son. In October, 1826, Croker was introduced to Sir

[ocr errors]

Walter Scott at Lockhart's in Pall Mall. Sir Walter recorded the interview thus:-" At breakfast Crofton Croker, author of the Irish fairy tales-little as a dwarf, keen-eyed as a hawk, and of easy, prepossessing manners, something like Tom Moore. Here were also Terry, Allan Cunningham, Newton, and others." At this meeting, Sir Walter Scott suggested the adventures of Daniel O'Rourke as the subject for the Adelphi pantomime, and, at the request of Messrs. Terry and Yates, Croker wrote a pantomime founded upon the legend, which was produced at the Adelphi the same year. It succeeded, and underwent two editions: the second was published in 1828, uniform with the legends, and entitled 'Daniel O'Rourke; or, Rhymes of a Pantomime, founded on that Story.' Croker wrote to his sister (Mrs. Eyre Coote, alive at the present time) the following account of the breakfast party at Lockhart's, which, though already published in The Gentleman's Magazine' (November, 1854), is sufficiently interesting to be repeated. He first mentions "the writing and preparing for the Adelphi Theatre a Christmas pantomime from the renowned adventures of Daniel O'Rourke, two or three meetings with Sir Walter Scott, some anxious experiments in lithography under the directions of Mr. Coindet, one of the partners of Englemann's house of Paris, who has lately opened an establishment here, which will be of the utmost importance to the advancement of the art in this country, and of which I hope soon to send you specimens." Then he adds: "To tell half the kindness and attention. which I received from Sir Walter Scott would be impossible. The breakfast party at Lockhart's consisted of


« PreviousContinue »