Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton

The Right Honourable
The Lord Houghton

Lord Houghton.
Personal details
Born 19 June 1809
London, England
Died 11 August 1885 (1885-08-12) (aged 76)
Vichy, France
Nationality British
Political party Tory
Spouse(s) Hon. Annabel Crewe (d. 1874)
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge

Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton, FRS (19 June 1809 11 August 1885) was an English poet, patron of literature and politician.

Background and education

Milnes was born in London, the son of Robert Pemberton Milnes, of Fryston Hall, Castleford, West Yorkshire, and the Honourable Henrietta, daughter of Robert Monckton-Arundell, 4th Viscount Galway. He was educated privately, and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1827.[1] There he was drawn into a literary set, and became a member of the famous Apostles Club, which then included Alfred Lord Tennyson, Arthur Hallam, Richard Chenevix Trench, Joseph Williams Blakesley, and others. After graduating with an M.A. in 1831, Milnes travelled abroad, spending some time at the University of Bonn.

He went to Italy and Greece, and published in 1834 a volume of Memorials of a Tour in some Parts of Greece, describing his experiences.[2]

Political career

Milnes returned to London in 1837, and was elected to Parliament as member for Pontefract as a Conservative. In parliament he interested himself particularly in the question of copyright and the conditions of reformatory schools. He left Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel's party over the Corn Law controversy, and was afterwards identified in politics with Lord Palmerston. His easy good nature had the effect that his political career was viewed with less seriousness by his contemporaries than it might otherwise have been. In 1848, he went to Paris to see something of the revolution, and to fraternise with both sides. On his return he wrote, as a ‘Letter to Lord Lansdowne,’ 1848.[2]

During the Chartist riots of 1848, Matthew Arnold wrote to his mother:

Tell Miss Martineau it is said here that Monckton Milnes refused to be sworn in a special constable, that he might be free to assume the post of President of the Republic at a moment's notice.[3]

In 1863, Palmerston elevated Milnes to the peerage as Baron Houghton, of Great Houghton in the West Riding of the County of York.[4]

George W. E. Russell said of him: "As years advanced he became not (as the manner of most men is) less Liberal, but more so; keener in sympathy with all popular causes; livelier in his indignation against monopoly and injustice."[5]

Literary career

Milnes' literary career was often influenced by church matters. He wrote a tract in 1841, which was praised by John Henry Newman. He took part in the discussion about "Essays and Reviews", defending the tractarian position in One Tract More (1841). He published two volumes of verse in 1838, Memorials of Residence upon the Continent and Poems of Many Years, Poetry for the People in 1840 and Palm Leaves in 1844. He also wrote a Life and Letters of Keats in 1848, the material for which was largely provided by the poet's friend, Charles Armitage Brown. Milnes' ballads were among the most popular of their day.[2] In 1868, Lord Houghton was elected to the Royal Society.[6] In 1870, he was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.[7]

Despite his piety, he had apparently an almost unsurpassed collection of erotic literature,[8] which he bequeathed to the British Library, a collection known to few in his lifetime. A man whom his biographer Saunders said, "had many fine tastes and some coarse ones,"[2] Milnes has been considered a possible author of The Rodiad, a pornographic poem on the subject of flagellation.[9][10]

However, his chief distinctions were his sense of literary merit in others, and the way he fostered it. He was surrounded by the most brilliant men of his time, many of whom he had been the first to acclaim. His reputation rests largely on the part he played, as a man of influence in society and in moulding public opinion on literary matters, in connection with his large circle of talented friends. He secured a pension for Tennyson, helped to make Ralph Waldo Emerson known in Britain, and was one of the earliest champions of Algernon Charles Swinburne. He helped David Gray by writing a preface for The Luggie.[2] He helped to obtain a job for Coventry Patmore at the British Museum. He was, in the traditional sense, a patron of literature, who never abused the privileges of his position.

Personal life

Milnes was a persistent suitor of Florence Nightingale (who finally refused to marry him), and one of her staunchest supporters along with the statesman Sidney Herbert. On 30 July 1851, he married the Honourable Annabel, daughter of John Crewe, 2nd Baron Crewe.[2] She died in 1874. Lord Houghton died at Vichy, France, in August 1885, aged 76, and was buried at Fryston. He was succeeded in the barony by his son, Robert, who became a prominent Liberal statesman and was created Earl of Crewe in 1895 and Marquess of Crewe in 1911.

The novelist Florence Henniker was his daughter.[11]

Milnes took interest in parapsychology, he was a member of the Society for Psychical Research.[12]

Styles of address


  1. "Milnes, Richard Monckton (MLNS827RM)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Saunders 1894.
  3. George W. E. Russell, Collections & Recollections (Revised edition, Smith Elder & Co, London, 1899), at page 53.
  4. 1 2 The London Gazette: no. 22760. p. 3945. 7 August 1863.
  5. George W. E. Russell, Collections & Recollections (Revised edition, Smith Elder & Co, London, 1899), at page 57.
  6. 1 2 "Fellows 1660-2007" (PDF). Royal Society. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  7. American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  8. Hyde, Harford Montgomery (1965). A history of pornography. Heinemann. p. 14.
  9. Whyte, Christopher (1995). Gendering the nation: studies in modern Scottish literature. Edinburgh University Press. p. 216. ISBN 0-7486-0619-X.
  10. Nelson, James G. (2000). Publisher to the Decadents: Leonard Smithers in the Careers of Beardsley, Wilde, Dowson. Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-271-01974-3.
  11. Pite, Ralph (2006). Thomas Hardy:The Guarded Life. London: Picador. p. 329. ISBN 978-0330481861.
  12. Oppenheim, Janet. (1988). The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge University Press. p. 135. ISBN 978-0521347679
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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Gully
Viscount Pollington
Member of Parliament for Pontefract
With: William Thomas Stanley-Massey-Stanley 1837–1841
Viscount Pollington 1841–1847
Samuel Martin 1847–1851
Beilby Lawley 1851–1852
Benjamin Oliveira 1852–1857
William Wood 1857–1859
William Overend 1859–1860
Hugh Childers 1860–1863
Succeeded by
Hugh Childers
Samuel Waterhouse
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Houghton
Succeeded by
Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-Milnes
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