Elton, Charles Isaac (DNB01)

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ELTON, CHARLES ISAAC (1839–1900), lawyer and antiquary, was the eldest son of Frederick Bayard Elton of Clifton, and Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Charrles Abraham Elton of Clevedon, sixth baroret. Born on 6 Dec. 1839 at Southampton, he was educated at Cheltenham College and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he matriculated as a commoner in 1857. He took a first class in classical moderations in 1859, and a second class in literæ humaniores, and a first class in law and history in 1861. He graduated B. A. in 1862, and was elected to the Vinerian law scholarship, and to an open fellowship at Queen's.

Entering at Lincoln's Inn he was called to the bar in 1865. Early in his career he was fortunate in attracting the attention of Sir George Jessel [q. v.] by his ready application of a passage of Bracton to a case in which Jessel was employed Elton did not have to wait for briefs long. He had been a severe student of black-letter law, and his great powers of application and tenacious memory combined to render him perhaps the most erudite lawyer of his generation. He rapidly acquired a large conveyancing practice, and was largely employed in court work in real property cases, especially where foreshores, minerals, and manorial rights were concerned. In 1885 be was made a queen's counsel, and elected bencher of his inn. Contrary to the general practice of chancery 'silks,' he did not attach himself to any one court, but practised as a 'special' whenever the matter was heavy enough for him to be retained. During the latter years of his life his appearances in court grew less and less frequent.

This was due to no decline in the demands made upon him, but to his easy circumstances and multifarious interests. In 1869 he had succeeded somewhat unexpectedly under the will of his uncle, R. J. Elton, to the property of Whitestaunton, near Chard in Somersetshire. As lord of the manor, owner of a house ranging in date from Edward IV to Elizabeth, and with the remains of a Roman villa in his grounds, he had ample opportunities of satisfying his excep- tionally varied tastes. He was fond of all field sports, and took a practical interest in farming, which made him a capital parliamentary representative of West Somersetshire, for which he was returned to the House of Commons in 1884. He was defeated by Sir Thomas Acland [q. v. Suppl.] for the Wellington division in 1885, but secured re-election in 1886, retiring in 1892. A conservative in politics, he seldom spoke in parliament except when legal subjects were under discussion, but he served on several important committees and royal commissions.

Elton spent much time in writing on historical, archaeological, legal, and literary topics. He read omnivorously, and was indeed a mine of information on all subjects connected not only with law and history, but with English and foreign literature, and especially with Shakespeare. He was an original member of the Selden Society (1887), and a F.S.A. (1883). His library, as large as it was catholic, contained many rare books, as well as fine specimens of sixteenth to eighteenth century binding. In 1891, in conjunction with his wife, he privately printed a catalogue of a portion of his library. He was at the same time an enthusiastic collector and a good judge of all articles of vertu.

Elton died at Whitestaunton of pneumonia, after a short illness, on 23 April 1900. Of a big burly exterior, his appearance suggested the west-country yeoman rather than the scholar or the Lincoln's Inn conveyancer. He was married in 1863 to his cousin, Mary Augusta, daughter of Richard Strachey, esq., of Ashwick Grove, Somerset, who survived him ; he left no issue.

Elton published the following works: 1. 'Norway, the Road and the Fell,' 1864. 2. 'The Tenures of Kent,' 1867. 3. 'A Treatise on Commons and Waste Lands,' 1868. 4. 'The Law of Copyholds,' 1874. 5. 'Observations on the Bill for the Regulation and Improvement of Commons,' 1876. 6. 'Origins of English History,' 1882. 7. 'Custom and Tenant Right,' 1882. 8. 'An Excursus on Manorial Land Tenure,' 1883. 9. 'The Career of Christopher Columbus,' 1892. 10. 'Great Book Collectors,' in collaboration with Mrs. Elton, 1893.

[Times, 24 April 1900; Solicitor's Journal, 28 April 1900 ; J. Foster's Oxford Men and their Colleges ; private information.]

J. B. A.