John Wilson Croker – 1780-1857


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John Wilson Croker

Athenaeum Club LondonAmong the many services which Mr. Croker rendered to men of letters and to lovers of art, not the least important were the establishment of the Athenaeum Club and the acquisition of the Elgin Marbles for the British Museum.

The Athenaeum Club, which was founded a few years later than the period we have now reached, owes its origin almost entirely to Mr. Croker; and it was chiefly through his exertions that the Government and Parliament were induced to purchase the Elgin Marbles.

If he had done no other good in his generation, this would alone entitle him to the gratitude of posterity.  The speech which he made, in [1816], in favour of the purchase, advocated the encouragement by the State of the fine arts, and urged arguments, now familiar, but then little understood or appreciated by the public.  It elicited from Lord Elgin the following letter:

MY DEAR SIR , June 12, [1816].

I am wholly unable to express the obligation I feel for your kindness.  Hitherto I have only received the newspaper, and that a very hurried, account of the debate on the occasion of my marbles. But with what I know of the opinions you have on other occasions so powerfully maintained on all the points which could possibly be brought to bear in attack on the subject, I perceive in this hasty sketch, not only the well-informed and triumphant supporter of my cause, but the animated and, I may say, friendly vindication of my conduct.  It has ever been a source of great astonishment with me, that without its having earlier been at all an object of attention with you, you should, with such perfect ease, have made yourself master of the whole question, as much, I may venture to say, as it can be understood; and that you should at once have seized, with precision, details which one should imagine nothing short of personal inspection or professional study could have brought to particular notice.

That Mr. Hammersley, or any one else, with the evidence of the Committee before their eyes and in the hands of the public, should have reverted in the House of Commons to all the virulence and misrepresentation in which disappointed travellers may have indulged, while the facts were little known, is quite incredible. But it becomes a piece of no small good luck to me when repelled with as much accuracy as acuteness by a person who has used no advantages in his research, beyond what is equally within the reach of any gentleman in England sitting quietly by his own fireside.

A thousand thanks for your kindness, which has been throughout so very gratifying, as well as so beneficial to me, and believe me ever, with much respect and regard,

Yours, very faithfully,



Mr. Croker had hitherto enjoyed an uninterrupted career of success; but in [1820] he was struck down by a calamity which darkened all his prospects.

Excerpt from The Quarterly Review – Volume 142 – published in 1846


Further Reading and External Links

The Athenaeum Club 

John Wilson Croker Biography