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Croker, John Wilson

Croker, John Wilson (1780–1857). An Irish lawyer, educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Croker had two separate though related careers as politician and as man of letters. He entered Parliament in 1806 and was taken up by Canning, becoming a strong Tory supporter, though sympathetic to both catholic emancipation and a measure of parliamentary reform. He was on close terms with both Peel and Wellington. In 1809 he helped to found the Quarterly Review, in which most of his essays appeared. Perceval appointed him secretary to the Admiralty in 1809, a well-paid post which he held for 22 years, never quitting his office ‘without a kind of uneasiness like a truant boy’. Despite a residual stammer, he was a sharp and effective debater. But his brilliant upwards progress faltered after 1820 when his only child, a 3-year-old son, died. He went out with the Tories in 1830 and played a prominent part in opposing the Whig Reform Act. Greville, who did not like him, called a 2½-hour speech in reply to Macaulay in September 1831 ‘very fine’. But after the passage of the bill, he gave up his seat, to his friends' bewilderment, partly in despair, partly because he was tired and ill. The rest of his life he devoted to his literary work, though staying on close terms with Peel until his conversion over the Corn Laws, which Croker thought had ‘ruined the character of public men’. In an age of brutal reviewing, there remains a contrast between Croker's public image as sarcastic and arrogant, and the affection felt for him by his friends and family. Greville wrote at his death: ‘While Macaulay is thus ascending to the House of Peers, his old enemy and rival Croker has descended to his grave, very noiselessly and almost without observation, for he had been for some time so withdrawn from the world that he was nearly forgotten. He had lived to see all his predictions of ruin and disaster to the country completely falsified.’

J. A. Cannon

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Croker, John Wilson

John Wilson Croker (krō´kər), 1780–1857, British Tory politician and author, b. Ireland. He was a member of Parliament from 1807 to 1832 and secretary of the admiralty from 1810 to 1830. The most famous of his regular contributions as a critic to the Quarterly Review was his virulent attack (1818) on Keats's Endymion. Croker's best work was his careful edition (1831) of Boswell's Life of Johnson.

See Croker Papers (ed. by L. J. Jennings, 3 vol., 1884; repr. 1972).

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