1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/De Tabley, John Byrne Leicester Warren, Baron
DE TABLEY, JOHN BYRNE LEICESTER WARREN, 3rd Baron (1835–1895), English poet, eldest son of George Fleming Leicester (afterwards Warren), 2nd Baron De Tabley, was born on the 26th of April 1835. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1856 with second classes in classics and in law and modern history. In the autumn of 1858 he went to Turkey as unpaid attaché to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, and two years later was called to the bar. He became an officer in the Cheshire Yeomanry, and unsuccessfully contested Mid-Cheshire in 1868 as a Liberal. After his father’s second marriage in 1871 he removed to London, where he became a close friend of Tennyson for several years. From 1877 till his succession to the title in 1887 he was lost to his friends, assuming the life of a recluse. It was not till 1892 that he returned to London life, and enjoyed a sort of renaissance of reputation and friendship. During the later years of his life Lord De Tabley made many new friends, besides reopening old associations, and he almost seemed to be gathering around him a small literary company when his health broke, and he died on the 22nd of November 1895 at Ryde, in his sixty-first year. He was buried at Little Peover in Cheshire. Although his reputation will live almost exclusively as that of a poet, De Tabley was a man of many studious tastes. He was at one time an authority on numismatics; he wrote two novels; published A Guide to the Study of Book Plates (1880); and the fruit of his careful researches in botany was printed posthumously in his elaborate Flora of Cheshire (1899). Poetry, however, was his first and last passion, and to that he devoted the best energies of his life. De Tabley’s first impulse towards poetry came from his friend George Fortescue, with whom he shared a close companionship during his Oxford days, and whom he lost, as Tennyson lost Hallam, within a few years of their taking their degrees. Fortescue was killed by falling from the mast of Lord Drogheda’s yacht in November 1859, and this gloomy event plunged De Tabley into deep depression. Between 1859 and 1862 De Tabley issued four little volumes of pseudonymous verse (by G. F. Preston), in the production of which he had been greatly stimulated by the sympathy of Fortescue. Once more he assumed a pseudonym—his Praeterita (1863) bearing the name of William Lancaster. In the next year he published Eclogues and Monodramas, followed in 1865 by Studies in Verse. These volumes all displayed technical grace and much natural beauty; but it was not till the publication of Philoctetes in 1866 that De Tabley met with any wide recognition. Philoctetes bore the initials “M.A.,” which, to the author’s dismay, were interpreted as meaning Matthew Arnold. He at once disclosed his identity, and received the congratulations of his friends, among whom were Tennyson, Browning and Gladstone. In 1867 he published Orestes, in 1870 Rehearsals and in 1873 Searching the Net. These last two bore his own name, John Leicester Warren. He was somewhat disappointed by their lukewarm reception, and when in 1876 The Soldier of Fortune, a drama on which he had bestowed much careful labour, proved a complete failure, he retired altogether from the literary arena. It was not until 1893 that he was persuaded to return, and the immediate success in that year of his Poems, Dramatic and Lyrical, encouraged him to publish a second series in 1895, the year of his death. The genuine interest with which these volumes were welcomed did much to lighten the last years of a somewhat sombre and solitary life. His posthumous poems were collected in 1902. The characteristics of De Tabley’s poetry are pre-eminently magnificence of style, derived from close study of Milton, sonority, dignity, weight and colour. His passion for detail was both a strength and a weakness: it lent a loving fidelity to his description of natural objects, but it sometimes involved him in a loss of simple effect from over-elaboration of treatment. He was always a student of the classic poets, and drew much of his inspiration directly from them. He was a true and a whole-hearted artist, who, as a brother poet well said, “still climbed the clear cold altitudes of song.” His ambition was always for the heights, a region naturally ice-bound at periods, but always a country of clear atmosphere and bright, vivid outlines.
See an excellent sketch by E. Gosse in his Critical Kit-Kats (1896). (A. Wa.)