Wraxall, Frederic Charles Lascelles (DNB00)

WRAXALL, Sir FREDERIC CHARLES LASCELLES, third Baronet (1828–1865), miscellaneous writer, born at Boulogne in 1828, was the eldest son of Charles Edward Wraxall (1792–1854), lieutenant royal artillery, by Ellen Cecilia, daughter of John Madden of Richmond, Surrey. His grandfather was Sir Nathaniel Wraxall [q. v.] He was educated at Shrewsbury (where he was Dyke scholar), and matriculated from St. Mary Hall, Oxford, on 26 May 1842, but left the university without graduating. In May 1863 he succeeded his uncle, Sir William Lascelles Wraxall, as third baronet.

From 1846 he spent the greater part of his life on the continent. In 1855 he served for nine months at Kertch in the Crimea as first-class assistant commissary, with the rank of captain, in the Turkish contingent. His experiences during this period are embodied in his ‘Camp Life: Passages from the Story of a Contingent,’ published in 1860. Before going to the Crimea he had issued ‘A Visit to the Seat of War in the North,’ a brochure which purported to be a translation from the German, but was probably original. Throughout life Wraxall continued to interest himself in military matters. In 1856 he issued ‘A Handbook to the Naval and Military Resources of European Nations;’ in 1859 ‘The Armies of the Great Powers;’ and in 1864 a volume called ‘Military Sketches,’ which was chiefly concerned with the French army and its leaders, but had also chapters on the Austrian army, the British soldier, and ‘The Chances of Invasion.’

In 1858 he conducted the ‘Naval and Military Gazette,’ and from January 1860 to March 1861 ‘The Welcome Guest;’ and he sent frequent contributions to the ‘St. James Magazine’ and other periodicals. In 1860 he edited for private circulation the Persian and Indian despatches of Sir James Outram [q. v.] He was well versed in modern history, more particularly that of France and Germany during the last two centuries. His ‘Memoirs of Queen Hortense,’ written in collaboration with Robert Wehran (1861, 2 vols. 8vo; reissued in 1864), is little more than a compilation of gossip; but ‘Historic Byeways,’ two volumes of essays reprinted from periodicals, shows extensive reading. Besides other stories of German, French, and Russian history is ‘Mr. Carlyle's latest Pet,’ a hostile criticism of the characters drawn by that historian of Frederick William I, based upon the recently published ‘Aus vier Jahrhunderten’ of Karl von Weber.

Wraxall's most important historical work was ‘The Life and Times of Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark and Norway,’ 1864, 3 vols. 8vo. He claimed to have shown by original research the worthlessness of the evidence on which the queen was divorced after the Struensee affair, and published for the first time (iii. 252–3) the letter protesting her innocence, which the queen wrote just before her death to her brother George III of England. He obtained through the Duchess of Augustenburg a copy of the original in the Hanoverian archives, and through Sir Augustus Paget was afforded access to the privy archives of Copenhagen. He also used the privately printed ‘Memoirs’ of the Landgrave Charles of Hesse-Cassel (brother-in-law of Christian VII of Denmark), the ‘Memoirs’ of Reverdil (secretary to Christian), and the private journals of Sir N. W. Wraxall. The English foreign office remained closed to him.

Wraxall died at Vienna on 11 June 1865. He married, in 1852, Mary Anne, daughter of J. Herring, esq. She died without issue on 27 Nov. 1882. The baronetcy passed successively to Wraxall's younger brothers, Sir Horatio Henry (d. 1882) and Sir Morville Nathaniel Wraxall (1834–1902), the fifth baronet.

Wraxall published several entertaining novels. They include:

  1. ‘Wild Oats: a Tale,’ 1858, 12mo; 1865, 8vo.
  2. ‘Only a Woman,’ 1860, 8vo; 1861, 8vo.
  3. ‘The Fife and Drum, or Would be a Soldier,’ 1862, 8vo.
  4. ‘Married in Haste: a Story of Everyday Life,’ 1863, 2 vols. 8vo.
  5. ‘The Black Panther, or a Boy's Adventures among the Redskins,’ 1863, 8vo; Boston, 1865, 16mo.
  6. ‘The Backwoodsman’ (illustrated), 1864, 8vo; 1871, 8vo.
  7. ‘Golden Hair: a Tale of the Pilgrim Fathers’ (illustrated), 1864, 8vo.
  8. ‘Mercedes,’ a romance of the Mexican war, 1865, 3 vols.
  9. ‘Fides, or the Beauty of Mayence’ (adapted from the German), 1865, 3 vols.

He was author also of ‘Remarkable Adventures and Unrevealed Mysteries,’ 1863, 2 vols. 8vo, containing articles on Struensee, Königsmark, D'Acon, Cagliostro, Clootz, and other adventurers; of ‘Criminal Celebrities, a collection of Memorable Trials,’ 1861, 8vo; and ‘The Second Empire as exhibited in French Literature,’ 1852–63, 2 vols. 8vo; 1865. In 1862 he made the authorised English translation of Victor Hugo's ‘Les Misérables,’ the version being reissued in 1864 and 1879. Many other translations from both the French and German came from his pen. A posthumous volume, collected from magazines, entitled ‘Scraps and Sketches gathered together,’ appeared in September 1865.

[Burke's Peerage and Baronetage; Men of the Time, 1862; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Times, 17 June 1865; Athenæum, 17 June 1865; Ill. Lond. News, 24 June 1865; Allibone's Dict. Engl. Lit.; Walford's County Families; Works in Brit. Mus.]

G. Le G. N.