John Wilson Croker, a British statesman and author, born in Galway, Ireland, Dec. 20, 1780, died at Hampton, near London, Aug. 10, 1857. He was educated at Trinity college, Dublin, where in 1800 he received the degree of bachelor of arts, and was entered as a student at Lincoln's Inn, but remained in Dublin, and was called to the Irish bar in 1802. He devoted his leisure to literature, and published anonymously in 1804 "Familiar Epistles on the Irish Stage," and in 1805 "An Intercepted Letter from Canton." In 1807 he wrote an elaborate pamphlet on "The Past and Present State of Ireland," in which he advocated Catholic emancipation. In that year he was returned to parliament by the borough of Downpatrick. When, in 1809, charges of maladministration were brought against the duke of York, and a parliamentary inquiry was instituted, Mr. Croker was one of the most effective defenders of the duke. He was associated with Gifford, Scott, George Ellis, Frere, and Southey in establishing the "Quarterly Review," the first number of which appeared in 1809, and he continued till his death to be one of the most frequent contributors to that periodical.
In 1809 he was appointed secretary to the admiralty, and retained that office till 1830. He sat in the house of commons through eight successive parliaments till 1832, having been returned for Yarmouth, Athlone, Bodmin, and in 1827 for the university of Dublin. In 1828 he was sworn a privy councillor. He favored the project of Catholic emancipation, and was among the first to advocate a state encouragement of the fine arts. He was a resolute opponent of the reform bill, which he believed would ultimately revolutionize the country. The passing of that bill destroyed him politically, for he declared that he never would sit in a reformed parliament. He subsequently devoted himself to literature, and his contributions to the "Quarterly" were so caustic that for many years it was customary to attribute all the most malevolent and ablest articles of that periodical to his pen. Besides his review articles and many pamphlets and printed speeches on political questions, he published poems entitled "Talavera," "Songs of Trafalgar," and several lyrics, of which the fine lines on the death of Canning are among the most successful; "Military Events of the French Revolution of 1830;" "Letters on the Naval War with America;" and "Stories from the History of England for Children," which Scott acknowledged to have been the model of his "Tales of a Grandfather." He also translated Bassompierre's "Embassy to England," edited the "Suffolk Papers," the "Letters of Lady Hervey," Lord Hervey's " Memoirs of the Reign of George II.," and Walpole's "Letters to Lord Hertford," and furnished an edition of Boswell's "Life of Johnson" with copious annotations.
The last named work was severely reviewed by Macaulay; and in return, the harshest and most effective criticism upon the first volumes of Macaulay's "History of England" was from the pen of Croker. He was also long at feud with Disraeli, who lampooned him in the character of Rigby in "Coningsby," and whose political pretensions were consequently assailed in the "Quarterly." He had a controversy with Lord John Russell upon the publication by the latter of the "Memoirs and Correspondence" of Moore. A selection from his numerous contributions to the "Quarterly Review" has been published.