Robert Bulwer-Lytton

Edward Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton GCB GCSI GCIE PC (8 November 1831 - 24 November 1891) was an English statesman and poet. He served as Viceroy of India during the Great Famine of 1876-78. His uncompromising implementation of Britain's trading policy is blamed for the severity of the famine, which killed up to 10 million people. He worked as a poet under the pen name of Owen Meredith.

Background and education

He was a son of novelists Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton and Rosina Doyle Wheeler. He was educated at Harrow School and at the University of Bonn.

Diplomatic career

In 1849 he entered the Diplomatic Service, aged 18, when he was appointed as attaché (private secretary) to his uncle, Sir Henry Bulwer, who was Minister at Washington, DC. It was at this time he met Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. He began his salaried diplomatic career in 1852 as an attaché to Florence, followed by Paris in 1854 and the Hague in 1856. In 1858 he was transferred to St Petersburg, Constantinople and Vienna. In 1860 he was appointed British Consul General at Belgrade.

In 1862 Lytton was promoted to 'Second Secretary' in Vienna, but his success in Belgrade led to Lord Russell appointing him 'Secretary of the Legation' at Copenhagen in 1863. During this time he twice acted as Chargé d'Affaires in the Schleswig-Holstein conflict. In 1864 he was transferred to the Greek court to advise the young Danish Prince. In 1865 he advanced to Lisbon where he conclude a major commercial treaty with Portugal.

After an appointment to Madrid he became Secretary to the Embassy at Vienna and, in 1872, Paris. By 1874 he was appointed British Minister Plenipotentiary at Lisbon where he remained until being appointed Governor General and Viceroy of India in 1876.

Viceroy of India
Indian Famine

Lord Lytton arrived as Viceroy of India in 1876. In the same year, a famine broke out in south India which claimed between 6.1 million and 10.3 million people.

While some Historians claim the famine was due to natural causes and thus the British Government bore no responsibility, some British and American historians recently argued the famine was man-made due to Lytton's policies.

Second Anglo-Afghan War, 1878-1880

In September 1878, Lytton sent an emissary to Afghanistan who was refused entry. A month later in October 1878, he ordered an invasion which not only failed in its objective, but whose costs (and brutality) became a major issue in the defeat of Disraeli's Conservative government by Gladstone's Liberals in 1880. Lytton resigned with Disraeli.

Midway on his journey [to India] he met, by prearrangement, in Egypt, the Prince of Wales, then returning from his tour through India. Immediately on his arrival in Calcutta he was sworn in as Governor General and Viceroy, and on 1 January 1876, surrounded by all the Princes of Hindustan, he presided at the gorgeous ceremonial on the plains of Delhi, which marked the Proclamation of her Majesty, Queen Victoria, as Empress of India. After this the Queen conferred upon him the honor of the Grand Cross of the civil division of the Order of the Bath. In 1879 an attempt was made to assassinate Lord Lytton, but he happily escaped uninjured. The principal event of his viceroyality was the Afghan war, which resulted disastrously for the British troops. (New York Times 1891)

In 1877, Lord Lytton convened a durbar (imperial assembly) in Delhi which was attended by around 84,000 people including princes and title holders. In 1878, he promulgated the Vernacular Press Act, which empowered him to confiscate the press and paper of a local language newspaper publishing 'seditious material'. The resulted in public outcry in Calcutta led by the Indian Association.

In 1880 he resigned his Viceroyality simultaneously with the Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and was created Earl of Lytton, in the County of Derby, and Viscount Knebworth, of Knebworth in the County of Hertford. In 1887 he was appointed Ambassador to Paris.

Owen Meredith

When Lytton was twenty-five years old, he published in London a volume of poems under the name of Owen Meredith. He went on to publish several other volumes under the same name. The most popular one is "Lucile", a story in verse published in 1860. His publicatiuons included:

  • Clytumnestra and other poems, 1855
  • The Wanderers, 1859
  • Lucile, 1860.
  • The Ring of Ainasis, 1863
  • Fables in Song, 1874
  • Speeches of Edward Lord Lytton with some of his Political Writingss, Hitherto unpublished, and a Prefactory Memoir by His Son, 1874
  • The Life Letters and Literary Remains of Edward Bulwer, Lord Lytton, 1863
  • Glenaveril, 1885
  • After Paradise, or Legends of Exile, 1887
Marriage and children

On 4 October 1864 Lytton married Edith Villiers. She was a daughter of Edward Ernest Villiers (1806-1843) and Elizabeth Charlotte Liddell.

Her paternal grandparents were George Villiers and Theresa Parker. Her maternal grandparents were Thomas Liddell, 1st Baron Ravensworth and his wife Maria Susannah Simpson.

George Villiers was a son of Thomas Villiers, 1st Earl of Clarendon and Charlotte Capell. Theresa Parker was a daughter of John Parker, 1st Baron Boringdon and his second wife Theresa Robinson. Maria Susannah Simpson was a daughter of John Simpson and Anne Lyon.

Charlotte Capell was a daughter of William Capell, 3rd Earl of Essex and Lady Jane Hyde. Theresa Robinson was a daughter of Thomas Robinson, 1st Baron Grantham and Frances Worsley. Anne Lyon was a daughter of Thomas Lyon, 8th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Jean Nicholsen.

Lady Jane Hyde was a daughter of Henry Hyde, 4th Earl of Clarendon and Jane Leveson-Gower.

They had at least seven children:

  • Edward Rowland John Bulwer-Lytton (1865-1871)
  • Lady Elizabeth Edith "Betty" Bulwer-Lytton (12 June 1867 - 28 March 1942). Married Gerald Balfour, 2nd Earl of Balfour
  • Lady Constance Georgina Bulwer-Lytton (1869-1923)
  • Henry Meredith Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1872-1874)
  • Lady Emily Bulwer-Lytton (1874-1964). Married Edwin Lutyens. Associate of Krishnamurti
  • Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton (1876-1947)
  • Neville Bulwer-Lytton, 3rd Earl of Lytton (6 February 1879 - 9 February 1951)
  • Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts. 1. Verso, 2000. ISBN 1859847390 pg 7
  • New York Times, 25 November 1891, Wednesday, Death of Lord Lytton, A Sudden Attack of Heart Disease in Paris. No Time for Assistance. His Long Career as a Diplomat in Englaaand's Service, His Literary Work as Owen Meredith
  • The British Created an Indian Holocaust, by Kathakali Chatterjee, University of Wisconsinm 17 July 2007
  • Mike Davis, 2001. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World. Verso, London
  • David Washbrook, `Lytton, Edward Robert Bulwer-, first earl of Lytton (1831-1891)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 29 September 2008

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