Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke - Encyclopedia

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SIR CHARLES WENTWORTH DILKE, Bart. (1810-1869), English politician, son of Charles Wentworth Dilke, proprietor and editor of The Athenaeum, was born in London on the 18th of February 1810, and was educated at Westminster school and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He studied law, and in 1834 took his degree of LL.B., hut did not practise. He assisted his father in his literary work, and was for some years chairman of the council of the Society of Arts, besides taking a prominent part in the affairs of the Royal Horticultural Society and other bodies. He was one of the most zealous promoters of the Great Exhibition (1851), and a member of the executive committee. At the close of the exhibition he was honoured by foreign sovereigns, and the queen offered him knighthood, which, however, he did not accept; he also declined a large remuneration offered by the royal commission. In 1853 Dilke was one of the English commissioners at the New York Industrial Exhibition, and prepared a report on it. He again declined to receive any money reward for his services. He was appointed one of the five royal commissioners for the Great Exhibition of 1862; and soon after the death of the prince consort he was created a baronet. In 1865 he entered parliament as member for Wallingford. In 1869 he was sent to Russia as representative of England at the horticultural exhibition held at St Petersburg. His health, however, had been for some time failing, and he died suddenly in that city, on the 10th of May 1869. A selection from his writings, Papers of a Critic (2 vols., 1875), contains a biographical sketch by his son.

HiS Son, SIR Charles Wentworth Dilke, Bart. (1843-), became a prominent Liberal politician, as M.P. for Chelsea (1868-1886), under-secretary for foreign affairs (1880-1882), and president of the local government board (1882-1885); and he was then marked out as one of the best-informed and ablest of the advanced Radicals. He was chairman of the royal commission on the housing of the working classes in 1884-1885. But his sensational appearance as co-respondent in a divorce case of a peculiarly unpleasant character in 1885 cast a cloud over his career. He was defeated in Chelsea in 1886, and did not return to parliament till 1892, when he was elected for the Forest of Dean; and though his knowledge of foreign affairs and his powers as a critic and writer on military and naval questions were admittedly of the highest order, his official position in public life could not again be recovered. His military writings are The British Army (1888); Army Reform (1898) and, with Mr Spenser Wilkinson, Imperial Defence (1892). On colonial questions he wrote with equal authority. His Greater Britain (2(2 vols., 1866-1867) reached a fourth edition in 1868, and was followed by Problems of Greater Britain (2 vols., 1890) and The British Empire (1899). He was twice married, his second wife (née Emilia Frances Strong), the widow of Mark Pattison, being an accomplished art critic and collector. She died in 1904. The most important of her books were the studies on French Painters of the Eighteenth Century (1899) and three subsequent volumes on the architects and sculptors, furniture and decoration, engravers and draughtsmen of the same period, the last of which appeared in 1902. A posthumous volume, The Book of the Spiritual Life (1905), contains a memoir of her by Sir Charles Dilke.

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