Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/197

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Elton
Elton
185

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.

ELTON, JOHN (d. 1751), adventurer in Persia, was sent by the Russian government in 1735 to assist in the Orenburg expedition in the rank of a sea captain. During this mission he was sent to explore Lake Aral, but was hindered by the Tartars from reaching the lake. He then employed himself in surveying the south-eastern frontier of Russia, particularly part of the basins of the Kama, Volga, and Jaik. Returning to St. Petersburg in January 1738, he took umbrage at not obtaining promotion and quitted the Russian service. In the same year he proposed to some of the British factors at St. Petersburg to carry on a trade through Russia into Persia and central Asia by way of the Caspian Sea. Associating himself with Mungo Graeme, a young Scot, he obtained credit for a small cargo of goods suitable for Khiva and Bokhara. They left Moscow on 19 March 1738-9, and, proceeding down the Volga from Nijni Novgorod to Astrakhan, embarked on the Caspian for Karagansk. At Karagansk they received such unpromising accounts of the state of the steppe that they resolved to continue their voyage to Resht in Persia. Elton was successful in finding a good market and in obtaining a decree from the shah granting them liberty to trade throughout Persia, and extraordinary privileges. He persuaded the Russia Company to take up his scheme, and in 1741 an act of parliament sanctioning the trade was passed. In 1742 two ships were built on the Caspian, and Elton was placed in command of the first completed. These vessels carried the English flag, which, however, Anthony Jenkinson [q. v.] claimed to have first displayed on the Caspian about 1558. The apprehensions of the Russian court were, however, excited by the intelligence that Elton was building ships on the Caspian, after the European fashion, for the Persian sovereign, Nadir Shah. On receipt of the intelligence the Russia Company despatched Jonas Hanway [q. v.] to make inquiry concerning Elton's proceedings. Hanway arrived at Resht on 3 Dec. 1743 and found Elton earnestly pressing forward the construction of Persian vessels. The Russian court, indignant at Elton's action, refused to countenance the Caspian trade and ruined the expectations of the Russia Company.

In the meanwhile Elton had constructed a ship of twenty guns for Nadir Shah, of which he was placed in command. He was appointed admiral of the Caspian, and received orders to oblige all Russian vessels on those waters to salute his flag. The Russia Company, in October 1744, vainly ordered him to return to England, Elton replying by the transmission of a decree from Nadir Shah, dated 19 Nov. 1745, forbidding him to quit Persia. Offers of a pension from the Russia Company and a post in the navy