The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Biography

Richard Monckton Milnes, 1809-1885

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1809
Place of Birth: Bolton Street , Mayfair
Date of Death: 1885.08.11
Place of Death: Vichy


Richard Monckton Milnes, first Baron Houghton of Great Houghton, was a writer, politician and prominent society figure. He was the only son of Robert Pemberton Milnes (1784-1858) of Fryston Hall, near Wakefield, and the Hon. Henrietta Maria Monckton, the second daughter of the fourth Viscount Galway. On 30 July 1851 he married the Hon. Annabel Crewe, the youngest daughter of the second Baron Crewe. They had two daughters and a son, who was created Earl of Crewe in 1895.


In 1831 Monckton Milnes graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, where he had been part of a literary group known as the 'Apostles' that included Alfred Tennyson, Arthur Hallam and William Thackeray. He had a distinguished and varied career, travelling widely and socialising with the elite of London, the Continent and America. In 1837 he became Conservative M.P. for Pontefract. In 1853 he established the Philobiblon Society with M. Van de Weyer, the Belgian minister in London. In July 1863 he was made Baron Houghton of Great Houghton, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He was named President of the liberal arts group at the French Exhibition in 1867. In 1869 he represented the Royal Geographical Society at the opening of the Suez Canal, having been a member of its council since 1854, and a joint trustee from 1857 to 1871. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, Honorary D.C.L. of Oxford, LL.D. of Edinburgh, Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, Secretary for foreign correspondence in the Royal Academy, a trustee of the British Museum and President of the London Library from 1882.

Monckton Milnes' friends included Thomas Campbell, F. D. Maurice, John Sterling, Christopher Wordsworth, Samuel Rogers, Walter Savage Landor, Sydney Smith, Cardinal Wiseman, David Gray, Algernon Charles Swinburne and JW. He was a lavish entertainer, particularly in his later years at his London home, 16 Upper Brook Street. He was among those who attended JW's famous Sunday breakfasts (#03432), and in 1877 was invited by JW to a concert being given by Mlle Nita Gaïtano at the Leyland's home, 49 Princes Gate, on 6 July, JW baiting him with the prospect of seeing Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178) (#09153). Like JW, he was a member of The Arts Club from 1865 until his death in 1885.

The list of publications brought out by Monckton Milnes was impressive, his poetic works consisting of Memorials of a Tour in some parts of Greece, chiefly Poetical (London, 1834), Memorials of a Residence on the Continent, and Historical Poems (London, 1838), Poems of many Years (London, 1838), Poetry for the People, and other Poems (London, 1840), Poems, Legendary and Historical (London, 1844) and Palm Leaves (London, 1844). His prose writings include A Speech on the Ballot, delivered in the House of Commons (London, 1839), Thoughts on Purity of Election (London, 1842), Life and Letters of John Keats (1848), Address on Social Economy (London, 1862) and Monographs (London, 1873). He also contributed articles to papers and journals such as the Times, Athenæum, Westminster Review and Edinburgh Review.


Doyle, Francis Hastings, Reminiscences and Opinions, 1813-1885, London, 1886; Records of The Arts Club, London; Reid, T. Wemyss, The Life, Letters and Friendships of Richard Monckton Milnes, first Lord Houghton, London, 1890; Dictionary of National Biography Online, Oxford, 1997 (accessed 2003); Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998.