A Compendium of Irish Biography/Wellesley, Arthur, Duke of Wellington
Wellesley, Arthur, Duke of Wellington, younger brother of preceding, was born at 24 Upper Merrion-street, Dublin, 29th April 1769. [For ancestry, see notice of his father, p. 550.] When but twelve years of age he lost his father, and little care appears to have been bestowed upon him by his mother, a somewhat harsh woman, who believed the "slender, blue-eyed, hawk-nosed, and rather sheepfaced boy" to be hopelessly deficient in mental ability. He spent a short time at Eton, and was then sent to the Military College at Angers, in France, where for several years he studied under Pignerol, the great engineer. In March 1787 he was appointed an ensign in the 73rd Regiment. His promotion was rapid, in consequence of the growing political influence of his brother; he was appointed aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Camden, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and by September 1793 he had attained the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 33rd Regiment. He was elected member for Trim in the Irish Parliament, in the session commencing 20th January 1791; and held the seat until that Parliament was dissolved on 5th June 1795. Reference to the Irish Debates shows that he addressed the House on five occasions. On 10th January 1792 he seconded the address on the speech from the Lord-Lieutenant — supporting Government in its warlike policy towards France and its discouragement of the Volunteers, or "National Guards," and thus expressed himself on the Catholic question: "I have no doubt of the loyalty of the Catholics of this country, and I trust when the question shall be brought forward we shall lay aside animosities, and act with moderation and dignity, and not with the fury and violence of partisans." On 28th January 1793 he spoke in favour of the House vindicating its privileges in the matter of the printer and proprietor of the Hibernian Journal, accused of publishing a libel on their body. On the 25th of February he supported a Catholic Relief Bill, but deprecated the admission of Catholics into Parliament. On 24th January 1794 he expressed himself with reference to a return regarding enlistment. On 13th March 1795 he defended the conduct of the Lord-Lieutenant in permitting a large number of regular troops to be sent out of Ireland for the defence of the Empire, assuring the mover of a resolution, that, "however he may treat the new levies with contempt, they were not objects of contempt to the enemies of their country." Arthur Wellesley and Lord Edward FitzGerald sat in Parliament at the same time, and served together on committees. Sir Jonah Barrington thus describes the former in 1793: "He was then ruddy-faced and juvenile in appearance, and popular enough among the young men of his age and station; his address was unpolished; he occasionally spoke in Parliament, but not successfully, and never on important subjects; and evinced no promise of that unparalleled celebrity and splendour which he has since reached, and whereunto intrepidity, decision, good luck, and great military science, have justly combined to elevate him. … I became rather intimate with Captain Wellesley and Mr. Stewart [afterwards Lord Castlereagh], and perceived certain amiable qualities in both, which a change of times, or the intoxication of prosperity, certainly in some degree tended to diminish." Lord Plunket often told how upon one occasion, when sitting with Arthur Wellesley on a committee of the Irish House of Commons, he never for a moment ceased playing the then fashionable game with a "quiz." FitzPatrick, in his Sham Squire, says: "The early life of the 'Iron Duke,' if honestly told, would exhibit him deficient in ballast. Having had some warm words with a Frenchman in Dublin, he wrested from his hand a cane, which was not returned. The Frenchman brought an action for the robbery of the cane, and Wellesley was absolutely tried in the Sessions House, Dublin, for the offence. He was acquitted of the robbery, but found guilty of the assault." In June 1794, Arthur Wellesley embarked at Cork with some Irish regiments on an expedition to Flanders, where he distinguished himself upon several occasions. The British troops were obliged to return home ignominiously next spring, having been unable to effect anything against the French, and Wellesley appears to have been disgusted with the war, with the incapacity of the generals, and the blunders and mismanagement of the home authorities. On 25th June 1795, he wrote from Trim to Lord Camden, asking for some civil employment in Ireland.—"It certainly is a departure from the line I prefer; but I see the manner in which the military offices are filled." After embarking in an expedition destined for the West Indies, that had to put back from stress of weather, he was ordered on service in India, and landed at Calcutta in February 1797. During his eight years' residence in Hindostan (until March 1805) he earned a high military reputation. His elder brother. Lord Wellesley, was Governor-General, and Arthur carried out in the field plans of which he was the part adviser in the cabinet. A striking monument of his ability, industry, and statesmanship remains in the four volumes of supplementary Despatches written in India between 1797 and 1805. It is said that the first occasion upon which he adopted his brother's change of name from Wesley to Wellesley was in one of those despatches, dated 19th May 1798. As Colonel Wellesley, he carried Seringapatam by assault on 2nd May 1 799. As Major-General, he reduced Ahmednuggar on 9th August 1803, and defeated Scindia, at Assaye on 23rd September, and again at Argaum on 29th November. In 1804 General Wellesley was gazetted a K.C.B. Dr. W. H. Russell has said of his Indian services: "With more than Clive's success, although the results were not so great when judged by the comparative status of the British power at the two epochs, Wellesley had acquired a reputation to which no stain of duplicity or foul play could be attached." Soon after his return home in September 1805, Sir Arthur Wellesley went abroad again as Brigadier-General in Lord Cathcart's unsuccessful expedition to Holland. On the 12th April 1806 he was elected to Parliament for Rye, and for the borough of Mitchell on 20th January 1807. He was re-elected for Mitchell on his appointment as Secretary for Ireland in the following April; and at the general election in June, was elected both for Newport, Isle of Wight, and Tralee—accepting the seat for Newport. His Civil Correspondence and Memoranda during his Irish administration, from 30th March 1807 to 12th April 1809, were published by his son, the present Duke, in 1860. They contain his opinions upon the most minute points of Irish administration during those years— delivered in his usual terse and vigorous style. The following remarkable passage occurs in a letter on the "Defences of Ireland," written to Lord Hawkesbury, from Dublin Castle, 7th May 1807. "I am positively convinced that no political measure which you could adopt would alter the temper of the people of this country. They are disaffected to the British Government; they don't feel the benefits of their situation; attempts to render it better either do not reach their minds, or they are represented to them as additional injuries; and in fact we have no strength here but our army. Surely it is incumbent upon us to adopt every means which can secure the position and add to the strength of our army." In a letter of advice to General Lee, in command at Limerick, dated from Cork, 7th July 1808 (published in Lenehan's History of Limerick), Sir Arthur makes the following remarks on the condition of the public peace in Ireland: "The situation of a general officer commanding in a district in Ireland is very much of the nature of a deputy-governor of a county or a province. … It frequently happens that disturbances exist only in a very small degree, or probably only partially, and that the civil power is fully adequate to get the better of them. At the same time, the desire to let a building to the Government for a barrack— the desire to have troops in the county, either on account of the increased consumption of the necessaries of life, or because of the increased security which they would give to that particular part of the country—would occasion a general rise in the value or rent of land, which probably at that moment might be out of lease, or in some instances the desire to have the yeomen called out on permanent duty—occasions a representation that the disturbances are much more serious than the facts would warrant. Upon these occasions letter after letter is written to the commanding officer and to the Government; the same fact is repeated through many different channels; and the result of an enquiry is generally, that the outrage complained of is by no means of the nature or of the extent which has been stated. … It frequently happens that the people who do commit outrages and disturbances have reason to complain; but in my opinion that is not a subject for the consideration of a general officer." Sir Arthur added considerably to his military reputation in the descent on Denmark in 1807, where he held a command. It has been said that his predilection in the Peninsular sieges for assaults rather than bombardments arose from his experiences of the horrors of the bombardment of Copenhagen, and the subsequent excesses of the victorious British troops. In July 1808, mainly through the influence of Lord Castlereagh, Sir Arthur was despatched from Cork in command of a small expeditionary force, to challenge the French occupation of the Peninsula. It is unnecessary to recount by what series of events this small armament, at first almost unnoticed and probably despised by France, was by Wellesley's genius increased and welded into a force against which the resources and prestige of Napoleon were shattered within a few short years. It is unnecessary to recount how, overcoming a thousand difficulties, and at first badly supported from home, he defeated Napoleon's greatest generals at Talavera, Torres Vedras, Albuera, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajos, Salamanca, the Pyrenees, and in a hundred minor engagements, and how Sir Arthur Wellesley, who left Cork in 1808, on 14th February 1814 had beaten the French entirely out of Spain, and entered Paris on 4th May as Duke of Wellington, acknowledged to be the second captain in Europe, the recipient of rich estates in both England and the Peninsula, and of almost every honour that it was in the power of two nations to bestow. On 24th June he took his seat in the House of Lords by the titles of Baron, Viscount, Earl, Marquis, and Duke, and received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament. In August he went to Paris in the capacity of ambassador from the United Kingdom, and proceeded thence to take part in the Congress of Vienna. On the 8th March 1815 the of Napoleon's escape from Elba reached the representatives of the great powers at Vienna, and on the 5th April Wellington was at Brussels, actively engaged in forwarding the military preparations to oppose him. The Duke's correspondence shows that by the 10th June, whilst ignorant of Napoleon's plans,. he was fully informed of the real force at his disposal. Judging of the Emperor's dispositions by those which he would have made in his place, he inclined to believe that he would act on the defensive, but that if he did attack it would be on the allies' right. On the night of the 15th Wellington was at a ball given by the Duchess of Richmond in Brussels, when the news reached him of Napoleon's having attacked the Prussians at Charleroi. Before the ball was ended the troops at Brussels were on their march to the front, and early in the morning they were overtaken by the Duke at Quatre Bras, where they successfully sustained an attack from Marshal Ney with a large French division. In another part of the field the French were successful in an attack upon the Prussians. On the 17th there was some heavy fighting; but to maintain communications with the Prussians Wellington fell back on a position already chosen in front of the village of Waterloo. This movement was conducted in such a masterly manner that all Napoleon's efforts to bring the British to an engagement during the 17th were unsuccessful, and the following wet and stormy night found Wellington in a strong position, where he proposed to await the arrival of the Prussians. It is unnecessary to enter into the particulars of the battle of Waterloo, fought on the 18th of June 1815. The allied force, of which 25,000 were British, under Wellington, numbered 72,000 men, with 1 86 pieces of artillery. From eleven to four o'clock, they sustained the assaults of Napoleon's army, numbering 80,000, with 252 pieces of artillery. Foiled in his efforts to force the British positions, Napoleon's defeat was accomplished by the arrival, at half-past four o'clock, of 36,000 Prussians under Blucher, with 100 guns. The loss of the allies under Wellington has been computed at 15,000, that of the Prussians at 7,000, and that of the French, in the battle and pursuit, at 40,000. The Duke wrote to a friend soon after the engagement: "You will have heard of our battle of the 18th. Never did I see such a pounding match. Both were called what the boxers call gluttons. Napoleon did not manoeuvre at all. He just moved forward in the old style, in columns, and was driven off in the old style. The only difference was that he mixed cavalry and infantry, and supported both with an enormous quantity of artillery. I had the infantry for some time in squares, and we had the French cavalry walking about us as, if they were our own. I never saw the British infantry behave so well." Colonel Chesney, one of the first military critics of our day, has thus written of Waterloo; "Yet not on this battle—as I hope presently to show—however heroically fought or dexterously won, should the glory of the allied generals rest; but on the noble devotion of each to the common object in view, and the perfection of mutual confidence which enabled each so to act separately as to produce with their united armies at the right moment the greatest possible result. Never in the whole of military history was the tactical value of the troops more entirely subordinated to the strategical operations. … Waterloo was, in fact, viewed in its proper aspect, but the crown and finish of a splendid piece of strategy. . . If Wellington in this battle had shown some over-confidence in the needless detachment which weakened his line, the energy of his ally, the firmness of his chosen troops, his own masterly adroitness in tactics had redeemed the error, if they did not wholly justify it. … Had it been any other general [than Napoleon] that acted thus on that eventful day, it would long ago have been said that his tactics in the battle were as defective as the strategy which placed him in it at such fearful odds." From Waterloo the allies pushed on to Paris—Blucher entering France by Charleroi, and Wellington moving by Nivelles to Bavay. The French fortresses offered but little opposition; Paris capitulated on 3rd July, and Louis XVIII. made his public entry next day. Blucher wished to revenge on Napoleon and the French nation the injuries inflicted on Prussia; but Wellington would listen to no measure not dictated by the necessities of public justice; and opposed Blucher's desire for the destruction of public buildings in Paris. Wellington has, however, been severely blamed for not interfering to prevent the execution of Marshal Ney. The Duke continued to reside in the palace of the Elysée until 29th June 1 816, when he returned to England. After a short sojourn at Cheltenham, he resumed his duties in Paris, where, with the exception of short visits to England, he resided in command of the army of occupation until the evacuation of France. His judgment was generally deferred to by the allied sovereigns, and his policy towards France was aimed rather to encourage and to raise than further to weaken that country. On the division of the Waterloo prize-money in 1819, Wellington's share came to £60,000, and, in addition, Parliament purchased for him, at a cost of £263,000, the estate of Strathfieldsaye, free from all rent or service, except the presentation, by him and his successors, to the Sovereign, of a small flag on each recurring anniversary of Waterloo. In 1818 the Duke of Wellington was appointed Master-General of the Ordnance, and in 1822 was named as Plenipotentiary at the Congress of Verona. In 1827, on the death of the Duke of York, he was appointed Commander-in-chief of the army; but he resigned all his offices rather than serve under Canning. Wellington was Prime-Minister from January 1828 to November 1830. His administration was formed chiefly to oppose Catholic Emancipation; and on the 28th April 1828 he thus strongly pronounced against it in the House of Lords: "There is no person in this House whose feelings and sentiments, after long consideration, are more decided than mine are with respect to the subject of the Roman Catholic claims; and I may say, that until I see a very great change in that question, I certainly shall continue to oppose it." But the march of opinion was so rapid, and O'Connell, backed by an overwhelming majority of the Irish people, and by a strong public feeling in Great Britain, raised such a storm, that on the 5th of the following February the Duke was obliged from his place to declare: "No man who has looked at the state of things for the last two years can proceed longer upon the old system, in the existing condition of Ireland, and of men's opinions on the subject, both in that country and in this. My opinion is that it is the wish of the majority of the people that this question should be settled one way or other. It is upon that principle, and in conformity to that wish, that I and my colleagues have undertaken to bring the adjustment of it under the consideration of Parliament." A few days afterwards he added: "From all he had seen and read relative to Ireland, during the last two years, he was forced to arrive at this conclusion, namely, that he did not believe there was on the face of the globe any country claiming the denomination of a civilized country situated as that country now was under the government of his Majesty and the Imperial Parliament." The Catholic Association was "dangerous." No compact with Rome would add to the security of the Church of Ireland. On the 2nd of April, referring to a clause of the Emancipation Bill, he said: "There is no man more convinced than I am of the absolute necessity of carrying into execution that part of the present measure which has for its object the extinction of monastic orders in this country." He declared that "the Union was proposed principally for the purpose of ensuring Catholic Emancipation, and that there was no remedy for the unhappy state of things then existing in Ireland but Emancipation. The words with which he urged his reluctant colleagues in the House of Lords finally to pass the Bill, though often quoted, must not here be omitted: "I am one of those who have probably passed a longer period of my life engaged in war than most men, and principally in civil war; and, I must say this, that if I could avoid, by any sacrifice whatever, even one month of civil war in the country to which I was attached, I would sacrifice my life in order to do it. … Yet, my lords, this is the resource to which we must have looked— these are the measures which we must have applied, in order to have put an end to this state of things, if we had not made the option of bringing forward the measures, for which, I say, I am responsible. … It is mainly to the Irish Catholics that we all owe our proud pre-eminence in our military career, and that I personally am indebted for the laurels with which you have been pleased to decorate my brow, for the honours which you have so bountifully lavished on me, and for the fair fame (I prize it above all other rewards) which my country, in its generous kindness, has bestowed upon me." He also said: "It is impossible, therefore, that any mischief can occur to the Church of Ireland, without a breach in the union of the two countries. … We propose regulations which will have the effect of destroying the influence of the Catholic priesthood in the election of members of Parliament." [For particulars of the Catholic Emancipation Act (10 Geo. IV. cap. 7), which received the royal assent 13th April 1829, see O'Connell, Daniel, p. 377.] Some further views of Wellington regarding Irish affairs may be given. (4th May 1822.) "If you glance at the history of Ireland during the last ten years, you will find that agitation really means something just short of rebellion." (2nd November 1830.) "We do not now stand on worse ground on the question of the repeal of the Union than we should have done had not the Catholic question been carried. … I gave way because I conceived the interests of the country would be best answered by doing so; I gave way on the ground of policy and expediency, and upon those grounds I am at this moment ready to justify what I did." The Duke's opinion of O'Connell is thus summarily expressed in a letter to the Right Hon. Maurice FitzGerald, of the 21st of May, 1831: "The truth is that O'Connell has become too powerful for a subject! It will be very difficult to bring him to the state in which his existence in Ireland will be consistent with that of the Government—that is to say, if the British government should continue to exist there or anywhere else, which I confess is, in my opinion, very doubtful." On the 30th of May, he wrote to Lord Melville: "I don't in general take a gloomy view of things; but I confess that, knowing all that I do, I cannot see what is to save Church, or property, or colonies, or union with Ireland, or eventually monarchy, if the Reform Bill passes. It will be what Mr. Hume calls 'a bloodless revolution.' There will be, there can be, no resistance. But we shall be destroyed, one after the other, very much in the order that I have mentioned, by due course of law. … Nothing that resistance (I mean in Parliament) can occasion will be worse than what must be the consequence of the Bill.… The ruin will be general. I am, therefore, for resistance in earnest, with as much strength as possible." (27th February 1832.) Tithes were the most sacred kind of property. (28th February) If the system of Irish education were to be abrogated, "I consider that it would be better, perhaps, to have separate schools for the Protestants and Roman Catholics. … I really cannot see the difference between public and private education." (3rd July 1833.) The state of Ireland was a conspiracy against law and government, (10th July.) He objected to the reduction in the number of Irish Bishops. On 28th April 1837 he made a speech principally on the necessity of conciliating the Protestants of Ireland. Upon this ground he objected to the "Irish Corporations Bill." Agrarian disturbance in Ireland was caused by political agitation. (9th May 1843.) The Union should at all costs and under all circumstances be maintained inviolate. Remedial measures were of no avail whilst agitation continued in Ireland. (8th August.) The military were in a state of perfect efficiency "to meet all misfortunes and consequences which may result from the violence of the passions of those men who unfortunately guide the multitude in Ireland." (18th March 1844.) The compact entered into for the maintenance of the Church Establishment in Ireland should be held sacred. (17th May,) He supported the new Irish Poor-law. On account of his opposition to liberal measures he became very unpopular during his tenure of office, and was even pelted with stones in the streets of London, and had the windows of his mansion, Apsley House, broken. He guarded against a recurrence of such an event by fixing permanent iron shutters outside the windows—taking a grim pleasure in the disgrace which the appearance of his house brought on the people of London. His measures for the introduction of a new police-force in England, and the precautions he took to garrison London against any possible emeute on the part of the Reformers, brought his Ministry to a disastrous termination, and the seals of office were confided to Lord Grey. He was again Prime Minister for a short time in 1834: and in 1843, on the death of Lord Hill, he resumed the post of Commander-in-chief. If no man ever contributed more to the military greatness of the United Kingdom, no man was ever more richly repaid, whether in material wealth, or in public consideration. The emoluments of his different offices, added to the interests of his several Parliamentary grants, brought up his income to about £43,000 per annum in money, besides his permanent estates in land. Amongst the many foreign honours and presents conferred on him was a service of plate from Portugal, valued at £100,000. Brialmont, his biographer, says: "The greatest leading principle of his moral being was duty. In private life he was truth itself. As a public man he had but one object in view, viz., to benefit, to the utmost of his ability and skill, the state whose servant he was. Of personal ambition, in the vulgar acceptation of that term, the Duke knew nothing. The desire of winning applause, or of advancing himself to places of honour and power, seems never, from first to last, to have moved him. … Justice requires that we should say unreservedly, that, with less of boldness and genius, Wellington possessed a greater amount of moral consideration as to the selection of his means, that he was a more scrupulous observer of his engagements, in short, a more honest man, than the unmatched victor of Austerlitz. He was gifted, moreover, with a larger share of patience and tenacity, his judgment was more calm, and sometimes clearer. Throughout the Peninsular war he gave proof, in a remarkable degree, of an amount of sagacity and foresight such as occurs only here and there in the letters of the Emperor,"  His coolness under all circumstances was one of his most striking characteristics: whether in defeat and humiliation or in his moments of highest exaltation, he was much the same outwardly—when informed of the failure of his first attack on Badajos, as when witnessing the flight of Napoleon at Waterloo; when the stones of a London mob were rattling about his head and smashing the windows of his mansion, as when on so many occasions he received the thanks of Parliament, It may be that a certain scorn of human nature and human weakness underlay all—a conception of events, not alone in their present aspect, but in all their bearings. He had little sympathy with the masses—with their aspirations and weaknesses, and perhaps little belief in the possibility of their elevation and enlightenment. There could be no accord between him and a people fully alive to their rights and responsibilities. Essentially an aristocrat and a conservative, all the changes he was instrumental in forwarding, he accepted rather as disagreeable necessities to the sustainment of the state, than as concessions demanded by truth and justice. He opposed Catholic Emancipation as long as it was possible; he opposed a free press; he discountenanced, if he did not oppose, regimental schools; he avoided railways so long as post horses were to be had on the roads he ordinarily travelled. For his native island he had no sympathy; and he is said to have more than once declared himself an Englishman who had had the misfortune to be born in Ireland. If cold in his manners, he was more careful of the lives of his men and more solicitous for their comfort than many leaders who were able to attach their troops to them by feelings of deep personal devotion such as he could never inspire, and which perhaps he did not covet. According to conventional standards, he was a religious man. The Bible, the Prayer-Book, and Taylor's Holy Living and Dying were always within reach of his iron camp bedstead. The Duke of Wellington's talents as a general and military administrator were of the highest order; but he was deficient in those prescient statesmanlike qualities and that moral intuition which combine to make a really great man. He had no sympathy with any philanthropic aim that looked beyond the ordinarily recognized limits assigned by respectability and conventionality. He despised the press; he despised free thought; he disbelieved in popular government; he opposed all concessions to Catholics as long as possible; he opposed the abolition of the corn laws; he "felt proud of such a sovereign as George IV.;" he opposed reform in Parliament; he predicted the downfall of the constitution as the consequence of the passage of the Reform Bill; he opposed free-trade; West India property was not to be sacrificed to the fancies of abolitionists; he denied the Jews' right to citizenship or to civil equality. Yet on some questions he was almost unexpectedly liberal—he declared against the game-laws, and supported penny postage. The thirty-three bulky volumes of his published Despatches, written in terse and nervous English, attest the methodical, concentrative power of his mind. A volume might be filled with his aphorisms. His curt answers to letters were peculiarly characteristic of his business-like and unimaginative disposition. Although to the last his mind was as bright and keen as ever, his constitution had been somewhat undermined by repeated attacks of catalepsy from 1837. He died somewhat suddenly at Walmer Castle, early on the 14th of September, 1852, aged 83, and his remains were accorded a public funeral in St. Paul's. Seventy titles were proclaimed over his grave, and eight field-marshal batons, conferred by as many countries, were broken. A magnificent monument, only now (1878) completed, marks his resting-place. Wellington was five feet nine inches high when in his prime. His shoulders were broad, his chest well developed, his arms long, and his hands and feet in excellent proportion. His eyes were of a dark violet-blue or grey, and his sight was so penetrating that even to the last he could distinguish objects at an immense distance. A forehead not very high, but broad and square, eyebrows straight and prominent, a long face, a Roman nose, a broad under-jaw, with a chin strongly marked, gave him somewhat a resemblance to more than one hero of antiquity, especially to Julius Caesar. His hair, originally coal black, became as white as silver before he died; but to the last there was no sign of baldness. He was scrupulously neat in his costume, latterly spending two hours and a half in dressing. In battle he wore a short white cloak, so that he could be recognised afar by his officers. The Duke was but an indifferent judge of horse-flesh, and he became so attached to the animals he rode that he could not bear to part with them when worn out; consequently he was somewhat noted for the disreputable appearance of his horses. Bulwer's sketch of his appearance on Rotten Row will give some idea of the estimation in which he was held by the English people during his lifetime:
"Next, with loose rein and careless canter, view
The Duke of Wellington, then Sir Arthur Wellesley, married, 10th April 1806, Lady Catherine Pakenham, daughter of Lord Longford, descended from a family settled in Ireland since 1576. She died in April 1831. They had two children—Arthur Richard, the present Duke, who has had no issue; and Charles, a major-general in the army, who died in October, 1858, five of whose children survive.        
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