Dwarris, Fortunatus William Lilley (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 16
Dwarris, Fortunatus William Lilley

by William Prideaux Courtney

DWARRIS, Sir FORTUNATUS WILLIAM LILLEY (1786–1860), lawyer, eldest son of William Dwarris of Warwick and Golden Grove, Jamaica, by Sarah, daughter of W. Smith of Southam in Warwickshire, was born in Jamaica, 23 Oct. 1786, where he inherited a considerable property, but left the island in infancy, and was entered at Rugby School 23 Oct. 1801. He proceeded thence to University College, Oxford, and took the degree of B.A. on 1 March 1808. Having determined upon adopting the law as his profession, he was called to the bar at the Middle Temple on 28 June 1811, and in the same year (28 Feb.) married Alicia, daughter of Robert Brereton, a captain in the army. Through his connection with Jamaica, he was appointed in 1822 one of the commissioners to inquire into the state of the law in the colonies in the West Indies, and on the passing of an act founded upon his report (he being the only surviving commissioner), his services were acknowledged by knighthood, an honour which was bestowed upon him at St. James's Palace on 2 May 1838. Numerous official appointments were conferred upon him. He was a member of the commission for examining into the municipal corporations, a master of the queen's bench, recorder of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and counsel to the board of health. In 1850 he was elected a bencher of the Middle Temple, and in 1859 he was appointed its treasurer, when he was called upon to take the chief part in the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone of its new library. He was both F.R.S. and F.S.A., a vice-president of the Archæological Association, and a member of the Archæological Institute. Dwarris died at 75 Eccleston Square, London, on 20 May 1860, and was buried in Woking cemetery on 26 May; his wife died in the same house on 10 June 1856, and her remains were placed in the same cemetery on 16 June. Their family consisted of four sons and two daughters.

Allibone assigns to Dwarris the authorship of a volume entitled ‘Juvenile Essays in Verse, 1805;’ the volume is not to be found in the British Museum, and is unknown to his surviving children. His other publications were: 1. ‘Substance of the Three Reports of the Commissioner of Inquiry into the Administration of Civil and Criminal Justice in the West Indies; extracted from the Parliamentary Papers,’ 1827. 2. ‘The West India Question plainly stated, and the only Practical Remedy briefly considered,’ 1828, in which Dwarris argued in favour of an improvement in the condition of the slaves and the gradual abolition of slavery. His views on these questions are also set out in a long letter which he addressed from Barbadoes in January 1823 to Dr. Parr (Parr, Works, viii. 25–8). 3. ‘A General Treatise on Statutes,’ 1830–1, two parts; 2nd ed., assisted by W. H. Amyot, barrister-at-law, and the son-in-law of Dwarris, 1848; another ed. by Platt Potter, LL.D., one of the justices of the supreme court of the state of New York, Albany, New York, 1871. A standard work of high authority. 4. ‘Alberic, Consul of Rome,’ an historical drama in five acts (anon.), 1832. 5. ‘Railway Results, or the Gauge Deliverance;’ a dramatic sketch, 1845. ‘A Skit on the Railway Mania,’ ‘Young England,’ &c. 6. ‘Some New Facts and a Suggested New Theory as to the Authorship of Junius,’ privately printed, 1850. The opinion of Dwarris was that the letters were written by several persons, of whom Sir Philip Francis was the chief. This volume, with other works on the same subject, was reviewed by Mr. C. W. Dilke in the ‘Athenæum’ for 1850 and 1851, and the articles are reproduced in his ‘Papers of a Critic,’ vol. ii. 7. ‘A Letter to the Fellows of the Royal Society of Antiquaries on the Present Condition and Future Prospects of the Society,’ privately printed, 1852; an argument in favour of a reduction in the rate of subscription and on the necessity for increased energy in the society's operations. 8. ‘A Letter to the Lord Chancellor on his Proposed Scheme for the Consolidation of the Statute Law,’ 1853. 9. ‘The Widow's Rescue,’ ‘Select Eulogies,’ ‘Schooled or Fooled,’ a tale, ‘Collected and Recollected,’ 1855. To the ‘Journal of the British Archæological Association’ he contributed the following papers: ‘On the Local Laws, Courts, and Customs of Derbyshire,’ vii. 190–9; ‘The Forest Laws, Courts, and Customs and the Chief Justices in Eyre, North and South of the Trent,’ viii. 172–83; ‘The Privileges of Sanctuary,’ xiv. 97–110. In the ‘Archæologia,’ xxxiii. 55, is a paper by Dwarris ‘On the History of one of the Old Cheshire Families,’ the Breretons, with whom his wife was connected.

[Law Times, xxxv. 141 (1860); Rugby School Register, i. 86; Gent. Mag. June 1860, p. 646; Journal of Brit. Archæol. Assoc. (by T. J. Pettigrew), xvii. 182–3 (1861); information from his son, Canon Dwarris.]

W. P. C.