Bankes, William John (DNB00)

BANKES, WILLIAM JOHN (d. 1855), traveller in the East, was second but eldest surviving son of Henry Bankes [q. v.], of Kingston Hall, Dorsetshire, and elder brother of the Right Hon. George Bankes [see Bankes, George, 1788-1856]. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge; was B.A. 1808, and M.A. 1811. From 1810 to 1812 he represented Truro in parliament. In 1821 he was returned for Cambridge University, but was defeated in 1825 by Lord Palmerston and Sir J. Copley. In 1829-31 he sat for Marlborough, and was returned by the county of Dorset to the first reformed parliament, but lost this seat in 1825, after which he did not again enter parliament. On the death of his great-uncle, Sir William Wynne, he succeeded to Soughton Hall in Flintshire, and on his father's death in 1835 he came into the family estates in Dorsetshire. Byron, his contemporary, describes him as the leader of the set of college friends which included C. S. Matthews and Hobhouse. Bankes was Byron's friend through life. Byron gave him letters of introduction when he was starting on an eastern journey in 1812. Bankes afterwards visited Byron in Venice. Byron speaks of him with affection. Several letters to him are given by Moore. Rogers says in his 'Table Talk' (ed. Dyce, p. 291) that he had known Bankes eclipse Sydney Smith by the vigour of his talk. He was known to the literary world by his travels in the East. He inspired or wrote a review of Silk Buckingham's work on Palestine, which appeared in the 'Quarterly Review ' for January 1822. He afterwards published a letter to Hobhouse, repeating charges against Buckingham, who had accompanied him in Syria, of appropriating his drawings. Buckingham obtained a verdict of 400l. damages for the libel, 26 Oct. 1826. He also translated from the Italian in 1830 an autobiographical memoir of Giovanni Finati, with whom he travelled in Egypt and the East. In 1815 he discovered an ancient Egyptian obelisk in the island of Philae, and had it brought to England for the purpose of erecting it in his own grounds at Kingston Hall. He died at Venice 15 April 1855, leaving no issue, and was succeeded by his brother the Right Hon. George Bankes.

[Gent. Mag. August 1855; Burke's History of the Landed Gentry; Bankes's Life of Giovanni Finati.]

G. V. B.