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Sir Henry Bulwer

AKA William Henry Lytton Earle Bulwer

Born: 13-Feb-1801
Birthplace: London, England
Died: 23-May-1872
Location of death: Naples, Italy
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Diplomat, Author

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Clayton-Bulwer Treaty

William Henry Lytton Earle Bulwer, Baron Dalling and Bulwer, better known as Sir Henrry Bulwer, an English diplomat and author, was born in London on the 13th of February 1801. His father, General William Earle Bulwer, when colonel of the 106th regiment, had married Elizabeth Barbara Lytton, who -- as the only child of Richard Warburton Lytton, of Knebworth Park, in Hertfordshire -- was sole heiress of the family of Norreys-Robinson-Lytton of Monacdhu in the island of Anglesea and of Guersylt in Denbighshire. Three sons were the fruit of this marriage. The second, afterwards Lord Dalling, was amply provided for by his selection as heir to his maternal grandmother; the paternal estates in Norfolk went to his elder brother William, and the maternal property in Herts to the youngest, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, known first as Bulwer the novelist and dramatist, and afterwards as the first Baron Lytton of Knebworth.

General Bulwer, as brigadier-general of volunteers, was one of the four commanding officers to whom was entrusted the defense of England in 1804, when threatened with invasion by Napoleon. Three years afterwards, on the 7th of July 1807, he died prematurely at fifty-two at Heyden Hall. His young widow had then devolved upon her not only the double charge of caring for the estates in Herts and Norfolk, but the far weightier responsibility of superintending the education of her three sons, then in their earliest boyhood. Henry Bulwer was educated at Harrow, under Dr. George Butler, and at Trinity College and Downing College, Cambridge. In 1822 he published a small volume of verse, beginning with an ode on the death of Napoleon. It is chiefly interesting now for its fraternal dedication to Edward Lytton Bulwer, then a youth of nineteen.

On leaving Cambridge in the autumn of 1824, Henry Bulwer went, as emissary of the Greek committee then sitting in London, to the Morea, carrying with him £80,000 sterling, which he handed over to Prince Mavrocordato and his colleagues, as the responsible leaders of the War of Independence. He was accompanied on this expedition by Hamilton Browne, who, a year before, had been despatched by Lord Byron to Cephalonia to treat with the insurgent government. Shortly after his return to England in 1826, Bulwer published a record of this excursion, under the title of An Autumn in Greece. Meanwhile, bent for the moment upon following in his father's footsteps, he had, on the 19th of October 1825, been gazetted as a cornet in the 2nd Life Guards. Within less than eight months, however, he had exchanged from cavalry to infantry, being enrolled on the 2nd of June 1826 as an ensign in the 58th regiment. That ensigncy he retained for little more than a month, obtaining another unattached, which he held until the 1st of January 1829, when he finally abandoned the army. The court, not the camp, was to be the scene of his successes; and for thirty-eight years altogether -- from August 1827 to August 1865 -- he contrived, while maturing from a young attaché to an astute and veteran ambassador, to hold his own with ease, and in the end was ranked amongst the subtlest intellects of his time as a master of diplomacy. His first appointment in his new profession was as an attaché at Berlin. In April 1830 he obtained his next step through his nomination as an attaché at Vienna. From there, exactly a year afterwards, he was employed nearer home in the same capacity at The Hague.

As yet ostensibly no more than a careless lounger in the salons of the continent, the young ex-cavalry officer veiled the keenest observation under an air of indifference. His constitutional energy, which throughout life was exceptionally intense and tenacious, wore from the first a mask of languor. When in reality most cautious he was seemingly most negligent. No matter what he happened at the moment to take in hand, the art he applied to it was always that highest art of all, the ars celare artem. His mastery of the lightest but most essential weapon in the armory of the diplomat, tact, came to him as it seemed intuitively, and from the outset was consummate. Talleyrand himself would have had no reason, even in Henry Bulwer's earliest years as an attaché, to write entreatingly, "pas de zèle", to one who concealed so felicitously, even at starting, a lynx-like vigilance under an aspect the most phlegmatic. He had hardly reached his new post at The Hague when he found and seized his opportunity. The revolutionary explosion of July at Paris had been echoed on the 25th of August 1830 by an outburst of insurrection at Brussels. During the whole of September a succession of stormy events swept over Belgium, until the popular rising reached its climax on the 4th of October in the declaration of Belgian independence by the provisional government. At the beginning of the revolution, the young attaché was despatched by the then foreign secretary at Whitehall, Lord Aberdeen, to watch events as they arose and report their character. In the execution of his special mission he traversed the country in all directions amidst civil war, the issue of which was to the last degree problematic. Under those apparently bewildering circumstances, he was enabled by his sagacity and penetration to win his spurs as a diplomat. Writing almost haphazard in the midst of the conflict, he sent home from day to day a series of despatches which threw a flood of light upon incidents that would otherwise have appeared almost inexplicable. Scarcely a week had elapsed, during which his predictions had been wonderfully verified, when he was summoned to London to receive the congratulations of the cabinet. He returned to Brussels no longer in a merely temporary or informal capacity. As secretary of legation, and afterwards as chargé d'affaires, he assisted in furthering the negotiations out of which Belgium rose into a kingdom. Scarcely had this been accomplished when he wrote what may be called the first chapter of the history of the newly created Belgian kingdom. It appeared in 1831 as a brief but luminous paper in the January number of the Westminster Review. And as the events it recorded had helped to inaugurate its writers career as a diplomat, so did his narrative of those occurrences in the pages of the Radical quarterly signalize in a remarkable way the commencement of his long and consistent career as a Liberal politician. Shortly before his appearance as a reviewer, and immediately prior to the carrying of the first Reform Bill, Bulwer had won a seat in the House of Commons as member for Wilton, afterwards in 1831 and 1832 sitting there as M.P. for Coventry. Nearly two years having elapsed, during which he was absent from parliament, he was in 1834 returned to Westminster as member for Marylebone. That position he retained during four sessions, winning considerable distinction as a debater. Within the very year in which he was chosen by the Marylebone electors, he brought out in two volumes, entitled France -- Literary, Social and Political, the first half of a work which was only completed upon the publication, two years afterwards, of a second series, also in two volumes, under the title of The Monarchy of the Middle Classes. Through its pages he made good his claim to be regarded not merely as a keen-witted observer, but as one of the most sagacious and genial delineators of the generic Frenchman, above all of that supreme type of the race, with whom all through his life he especially delighted to hold familiar intercourse, the true Parisian. Between the issuing from the press of these two series, Henry Bulwer had prefixed an intensely sympathetic Life of Lord Byron to the Paris edition of the poet's works published by Galignani -- a memoir republished sixteen years afterwards. A political argument of a curiously daring and outspoken character, entitled The Lords, the Government, and the Country, was given to the public in 1836 by Bulwer, in the form of an elaborate letter to a constituent. At this point his literary labors, which throughout life were with him purely labors by-the-way, ceased for a time, and he disappeared during three decades from authorship and from the legislature.

During the period of his holding the position of chargé d'affaires at Brussels, Bulwer had seized every opportunity of making lengthened sojourns at Paris, always for him the choicest place of residence. It was in the midst of one of these dolce far niente loiterings on the boulevards that, on the 14th of August 1837, he received his nomination as secretary of embassy at Constantinople. Recognizing his exceptional ability Lord Ponsonby, the British ambassador at Constantinople, at once entrusted to him the difficult task of negotiating a commercial treaty, which had the double object of removing the intolerable conditions which hampered British trade with Turkey and of dealing a blow at the threatening power of Mehemet Ali, pasha of Egypt, by shattering the system of monopolies on which it was largely based. In this difficult task Bulwer was helped by the hated of Sultan Mahmed II for Mehemet Ali, but the treaty was nonetheless a remarkable proof of his diplomatic skill, and the compliment was well deserved when Lord Palmerston, in writing his congratulations to him from Windsor Castle, on the 13th of September 1838, pronounced the treaty a capo d'opera, adding that without reserve it would be at once ratified. Shortly after this achievement Bulwer was nominated secretary of embassy at St. Petersburg. Illness, however, compelled him to delay his northern journey -- almost opportunely, as it happened, for in June 1839 he was despatched, in the same capacity, to the more congenial atmosphere of Paris. At that juncture the developments of the feud between Mehemet Ali and the Porte were threatening to bring England and France into armed collision. In 1839 and 1840, during the temporary absence of his chief, Lord Granville, the secretary of embassy was gazetted ad interim chargé d'affaires at the court of France, and thus during this critical time he had fresh opportunities of winning distinction as a diplomat.

On the 14th of November 1843 he was appointed ambassador at the court of the young Spanish queen Isabella II. Upon his arrival at Madrid signal evidence was afforded of the estimation in which he was then held as a diplomat. He was chosen arbitrator between Spain and Morocco, then confronting each other in deadly hostility, and, as the result of his mediation, a treaty of peace was signed between the two powers in 1844. In 1846 a much more formidable difficulty arose -- one which, after threatening war between France and England, led at last to a diplomatic rupture between the British and Spanish governments. The dynastic intrigues of Louis-Philippe were the immediate cause of this estrangement, and those intrigues found their climax in what has ever since been known in European annals as the Spanish Marriages. The storm sown in the Spanish marriages was reaped in the whirlwind of the February revolution. And the explosion which took place at Paris was answered a month afterwards at Madrid by a similar outbreak. Marshal Narvaez thereupon assumed the dictatorship, and wreaked upon the insurgents a series of reprisals of the most pitiless character. These excessive severities of the marshal-dictator the British ambassador did his utmost to mitigate. When at last, however, Narvaez carried his rigor to the length of summarily suppressing the constitutional guarantees, Bulwer sent in a formal protest in the name of England against an act so entirely ruthless and unjustifiable. This courageous proceeding at once drew down upon the British envoy a counter-stroke as ill-judged as it was unprecedented. Narvaez, with matchless effrontery, denounced the ambassador from England as an accomplice in the conspiracies of the Progressistas; and despite his position as an envoy, and in insolent defiance of the Palmerstonian boast, Civis Britannicus, Bulwer, on the 12th of June, was summarily required to quit Madrid within twenty-four hours. Two days afterwards Isturitz, the Spanish ambassador at the court of St. James's, took his departure from London. Diplomatic relations were not restored between the two countries until years had elapsed, nor even then until after a formal apology, dictated by Lord Palmerston, had been signed by the prime minister of Queen Isabella. Before his return the ambassador was gazetted a K.C.B., being promoted to the grand cross some three years afterwards. In addition to this mark of honor he received the formal approbation of the ministry, and with it the thanks of both Houses of Parliament.

Before the year of his return from the peninsula had run out Sir Henry Bulwer was married to Georgiana Charlotte Mary Wellesley, youngest daughter of the 1st Baron Cowley, and niece to the Duke of Wellington. Early in the following year, on the 27th of April 1849, he was nominated ambassador at Washington. There he acquired immense popularity. His principal success was the compact known as the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, ratified in May 1850, pledging the contracting governments to respect the neutrality of the meditated ship canal through Central America, bringing the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific into direct communication. After having been accredited as ambassador to the United States for three years, Sir Henry Bulwer, early in 1852, was despatched as minister plenipotentiary at the court of the grand duke of Tuscany at Florence. Shortly after his retirement from that post in the January of 1855, he was entrusted with various diplomatic missions, in one of which he was empowered as commissioner under the 23rd article of the treaty of Paris, 1856, to investigate the state of things in the Danubian principalities, with a view to their definite reorganization. Finally he was installed, from May 1858 to August 1865, as the immediate successor, after the close of the Crimean war, of the "Great Elchi", Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, as ambassador extraordinary to the Ottoman Porte at Constantinople.

In the winter of 1865 Buiwer returned home from the Bosporus, and retired with a pension. He was elected member for Tamworth on the 17th of November 1868, and retained his seat until gazetted as a peer of the realm on the 21st of March 1871, under the title of Baron Dalling and Bulwer of Wood Dalling in the county of Norfolk. Upon the eve of his return to his old haunts as a debater and a politician he had asserted his claim to literary distinction by giving to the world in two volumes his four masterly sketches of typical men, entitled Historical Characters. This work, dedicated to his brother Edward, in testimony of the writer's fraternal affection and friendship, portrayed in luminous outline Talleyrand the Politic Man, Cobbett the Contentious Man, Canning the Brilliant Man, and Mackintosh the Man of Promise. Two other kindred sketches, those of Sir Robert Peel and Viscount Melbourne, having been selected from among their author's papers, were afterwards published posthumously. Another work of ampler outline and larger pretension was begun and partially issued from the press during Lord Dalling's lifetime, but not completed. This was the Life of Viscount Palmerston, the first two volumes of which were published in 1870. A third volume appeared four years afterwards. Even then it left the story of the English statesman broken off so abruptly that the work remained at the last the merest fragment. It was completed by Evelyn Ashley.

Lord Dalling died unexpectedly on the 23rd of May 1872 at Naples. He had no issue, and the title became extinct. In his public career he enjoyed a three-fold success -- as ambassador, as politician and as man of letters. His popularity in society was at all times remarkable, mainly no doubt from his mastery of all the subtler arts of a skilled conversationalist. The apparent languor with which he related an anecdote, flung off a bon mot, or indulged in a momentary stroke of irony imparted interest to the narrative, wings to the wit and point to the sarcasm in a manner peculiarly his own.

Father: General William Earle Bulwer
Mother: Elizabeth Barbara Lytton
Brother: William Bulwer-Lytton
Brother: Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Wife: Georgiana Charlotte Mary Wellesley

    UK Member of Parliament
    UK Ambassador 1849-52, to the United States


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