Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Walker, Joseph Cooper
WALKER, JOSEPH COOPER (1761–1810), Irish antiquary, was born probably in Dublin in 1761, and was educated under Thomas Ball of that city. He suffered all his life from acute asthma, and in his earlier years travelled a great deal in the hope of improving his health. For many years he lived in Italy. Of a studious disposition, he utilised his leisure in making researches into Italian literature and Irish antiquities, his two favourite studies. After his return to Ireland he settled down in a beautiful house called St. Valerie, Bray, co. Wicklow, where he stored his various art treasures and his valuable library. Here the rest of his life was passed, and here he wrote the works by which he is best known. He died on 12 April 1810, and was buried on 14 April in St. Mary's Churchyard, Dublin. He was one of the original members of the Royal Irish Academy, in whose welfare he took the warmest interest, and contributed various papers to its ‘Transactions.’ Francis Hardy [q. v.], biographer of the Earl of Charlemont, undertook a biography of Walker, which, however, when finished in 1812, showed such signs of the failure of Hardy's mental power that the family prudently withheld it. On Hardy's death the materials were handed to Edward Berwick [q. v.], who does not seem to have finished his task. Many of Walker's letters are printed in Nichols's ‘Literary Illustrations’ (vii. 696–758).
The following is a list of his works: 1. ‘Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards,’ London, 1786, 4to; new edit. 1818, 8vo. 2. ‘Historical Essay on the Dress of the Ancient and Modern Irish, to which is subjoined a Memoir on the Armour and Weapons of the Irish,’ Dublin, 1788, 4to; new edit. London, 1818, 8vo. 3. ‘Historical Memoir on Italian Tragedy,’ 1799. 5. ‘Historical and Critical Essay on the Revival of the Drama in Italy,’ Edinburgh, 1805, 8vo. Also ‘Anecdotes on Chess in Ireland,’ a paper contributed to Charles Vallancey's ‘Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis’ [see Vallancey, Charles]. His ‘Memoirs of Alessandro Tassoni’ were published posthumously in 1815, with a lengthy preface by his brother, Samuel Walker. It contains also poems to Walker's memory by Eyles Irwin [q. v.], Henry Boyd [q. v.], William Hayley [q. v.], and Robert Anderson (1770–1833) [q. v.] Walker left behind him several works in manuscript, including a journal of his travels and materials for ‘Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers of Ireland.’[Gent. Mag. 1787 i. 34, 1788 ii. 998, 1810 i. 487; Wills's Irish Nation, iv. 655; Brit. Mus. Cat.; preface to Memoirs of Alessandro Tassoni, ed. Samuel Walker.]