Ashley, Evelyn (DNB12)

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ASHLEY, EVELYN (1836–1907), biographer of Lord Palmerston, born in London on 24 July 1836, was fourth son of Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh earl of Shaftesbury [q. v.], by his wife Emily, daughter of Peter Leopold Cowper, fifth Earl Cowper ; his maternal grandmother was sister of Lord Melbourne, and in 1839 married as her second husband Lord Palmerston.

Ashley, whose baptismal names were Anthony Evelyn Melbourne, was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1858. In the same year he became private secretary to Lord Palmerston, then prime minister. The government was on the eve of defeat, and on its fall (1858) Ashley paid a visit to America with Lord Frederick Cavendish [q. v.] and Lord Richard Grosvenor, afterwards Lord Stalbridge. Next year Lord Palmerston [returned to office, and Ashley acted as his private secretary until the prime minister's death in 1865. Meanwhile he made more than one eventful excursion abroad. In 1860 he told Lord Palmerston that he was going to Italy to see what Garibaldi was doing and should take full advantage of his official position. Lord Palmerston replied that what his secretary did during his holiday was no business of his. With this implied permission, Ashley presented himself to Garibaldi in camp and was given ample facilities for watching the progress of the campaign. In 1863 he accompanied Laurence Oliphant [q. v.] on an expedition into the Russian province of Volhynia, where they were arrested on suspicion of being Polish insurgents (Oliphant, Episodes in a Life of Adventure, p. 333). In 1865 he was attached to the mission sent to convey the Order of the Garter to King Christian IX of Denmark, and was then created a commander of the Danish Order of the Dannebrog.

In 1864 Ashley joined Algernon Borthwick [q. v. Suppl. II] and others in producing ' The Owl,' the forerunner of society newspapers. The editors were intimately acquainted with current public and private affairs, and secured contributions of literary value. The publication attracted much attention during the six years of its existence. Ashley had become a student of Lincoln's Inn on 22 Nov. 1856, and was called to the bar in 1863. After Lord Palmerston's death (1865) he joined the Oxford circuit; he held the office of treasurer of county courts from 1863 until 1874. He devoted most of his time to the completion of 'The Life of Lord Palmerston,' which had been begun by Lord Dalling, but was interrupted by his death in 1872. Lord Dalling published in 1870 two volumes and had written part of a third. This Ashley finished in 1874, and he added two concluding volumes which he published in 1876. Though new material has since been published, the book still holds standard rank.

In 1874 Ashley entered parliament as a member of the liberal party. At the general election in February he had been defeated in the Isle of Wight, but he was returned for Poole, Dorset, at a bye-election on 26 May 1874. As a private member he persistently but unsuccessfully endeavoured to pass a bill to enable accused persons to give evidence. The principle was eventually sanctioned by Lord Halsbury's Act of 1898. In 1879 he distinguished himself by his defence of Sir Bartle Frere from an attack by members of his own party. At the general election of 1880 he was returned for the Isle of Wight and was appointed under-secretary to the board of trade in Gladstone's second administration. The president, Mr. Chamberlain, was also in the House of Commons, so that Ashley's parliamentary duties were light, but he presided over the railway rates committee (1881-2). In 1882 he was transferred to the colonial office ; the secretary of state was Lord Derby, and Ashley represented his department in the House of Commons. To him fell the important task of explaining the conditions of service in which the Australian contingents were to proceed to the Soudan in 1885. From 1880 to 1885 he was one of the ecclesiastical commissioners.

At the general election of 1885 Ashley was beaten in the Isle of Wight by Sir Richard Webster (Lord Alverstone). When Gladstone announced his adoption of the principle of home rule, Ashley joined the liberal unionists. At the general election of 1886 he stood as a liberal unionist for North Dorset, and was beaten. Thence-forward he sustained a series of defeats at Glasgow, Bridge ton division, in 1887, at the Ayr boroughs in 1888, and at Ports- mouth in 1892 and 1895. Of statesmanlike temper, he was brought up in an older political school, and was untrained in modern electioneering methods; on the mass of voters his intellectual ability and attainments made small impression. Although his active interest in county politics never declined, he made no further attempt to renew his parliamentary career. On the death in 1888 of his uncle, William Cowper-Temple, Lord Mount-Temple [q. v. Suppl. I], Ashley succeeded to the properties bequeathed to Mount-Temple by Lord Palmerston, his stepfather Broadlands, Romsey and Classiebawn, co. Sligo. He was sworn of the privy council in 1891. He was D.L. Hampshire and J.P. Hampshire, Dorset, and Sligo, an alderman of the Hampshire county council, official verderer of the New Forest, and five times mayor of Romsey (1898-1902). He was also chairman of the Railway Passengers' Assurance Company. He died at Broadlands on 15 Nov. 1907, and was buried at Romsey.

Ashley married twice: (1) in 1866, Sybella, daughter of Sir Walter and Lady Mary Farquhar (d. 1886), by whom he left one son (Wilfrid, M.P. for the Blackpool division of Lancashire since 1906) and one daughter; (2) in 1891, Alice, daughter of William Willoughby Cole, third earl of Enmskillen, by whom he left one son. A portrait painted by Miss Emmett in 1899 is at Broadlands. A cartoon by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1883.

[The Timea, 16 Nov. 1907; Daily Telagraph, 16 Nov. 1907; Blackpool Herald, 16 Nov. 1907; private sources; cf. Lucy's Disraeli Parliament, pp. 57 et seq.]

R. L.