Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Waller, John Francis
WALLER, JOHN FRANCIS (1810–1894), author, born in Limerick in 1810, was the third son of Thomas Maunsell Waller of Finnoe House, co. Tipperary, by his wife Margaret, daughter of John Vereker. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1827, and graduated B.A. in 1831. He was called to the Irish bar in 1833, and while studying in the chambers of Joseph Chitty [q. v.] he commenced his contributions to periodical literature. On returning to Ireland he went the Leinster circuit, but almost immediately joined the staff of the ‘Dublin University Magazine,’ a periodical which had been founded a few months earlier. To this magazine Waller was a prolific contributor of both prose and verse for upwards of forty years, and he succeeded Charles James Lever [q. v.] as its editor. His most notable articles in it were the ‘Slingsby Papers,’ under the pseudonym of ‘Jonathan Freke Slingsby,’ which appeared in book form in 1852, a series of humorous reflections somewhat after the manner of Wilson's ‘Noctes Ambrosianæ;’ but, although he possessed a graceful fancy, Waller had not Wilson's intellectual powers. He best deserves remembrance as a writer of verse, and especially as the author of songs, many of which, set to music by Stewart and other composers, attained a wide vogue. Some were translated into German. The best known are perhaps ‘The Voices of the Dead,’ ‘Cushla ma Chree,’ and ‘The Song of the Glass.’ Of the last-named, Richard Monckton Milnes (first Baron Houghton) [q. v.] said that it was one of the best drinking songs of the age. Waller also wrote the ‘Imperial Ode’ for the Cork Exhibition, 1852, and an ode on the ‘Erection of the Campanile of Trinity College,’ which, with other pieces of the same sort, were published in 1864 as ‘Occasional Odes.’ In 1852 he received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Dublin University, in recognition of his eminent literary attainments. He was for many years honorary secretary of the Royal Dublin Society. He became in 1864 a vice-president of the Royal Irish Academy, and was also the founder, in 1872, and vice-president of the Goldsmith Club. In 1867 he became registrar of the rolls court, and on his retirement removed to London, where his later years were spent in literary work for Cassell & Co. He died at Bishop's Stortford on 19 Jan. 1894. He married, in 1835, Anna, daughter of William Hopkins. By her he had two sons and six daughters.
The following is a list of Waller's published works not already mentioned:
- ‘Ravenscroft Hall and other Poems,’ 1852.
- ‘The Dead Bridal,’ 1856.
- ‘Occasional Odes,’ 1864.
- ‘Revelations of Pete Browne,’ 1872.
- ‘Festival Tales,’ 1873.
- ‘Pictures from English Literature,’ 1870.
He was also the editor of the ‘Imperial Dictionary of Universal Biography,’ London, 1857–63, 3 vols. (also issued in sixteen parts); new edit. 1877–84, 3 vols.; and of editions of Goldsmith's ‘Works’ (1864–5), of Moore's ‘Irish Melodies’ (1867), and of ‘Gulliver's Travels’ (1864), with memoirs of the authors prefixed.
[Dublin University Magazine, vol. lxxxiii.; Athenæum, 1894, i. 149; Burke's Landed Gentry.]