John Wilson Croker's Image of France in the Quarterly Review
David Morphet (notes)
Political developments in France provided a substantial topic for British periodicals during the first half of the nineteenth century. The most sustained comment came from the Rt Hon. John Wilson Croker, a close associate of the Duke of Wellington, Canning and Pitt, who was Secretary to the Admiralty from 1809 to 1830. Croker was the principal contributor to the High Tory Quarterly Review (QR) on political matters over much of the period. His thirty or so articles on France published up to 1851 constitute a significant part of his total QR output. He prided himself on his knowledge of French affairs, and regarded himself as particularly expert on the events of the French Revolution of 1789. He had a special connection with France through his father-in-law, a member of the British consular service based in France, and through his son-in-law, the British Consul in Brest. He regularly took Paris newspapers, and visited Paris when he could. Over the years, he assembled extensive collections of original printed documents from the French Revolution – a total of over 48,000 items, which are held in the British Library.
Croker’s image of France was partial. He had no sympathetic understanding of social and economic forces, and read events in a narrowly political light. He considered that the 1789 Revolution had been brought about by the conspiracy of malcontents and that its effects had been entirely pernicious. Well into the 1840s he believed that revolution in Britain was a real threat and that advocates of Parliamentary reform were playing with fire. By constantly drawing attention to instability in France, he hoped to contribute to the avoidance in Britain of revolution or reform à la française. He undoubtedly believed that it was his mission to do so.
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