Alexander Robert Charles Dallas

Alexander Robert Charles Dallas (b 1791), lawyer, author, preacher and relative of Lord Byron who was the author of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage". He edited a book "Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron From the Year 1808 to the End of 1814", which had been written by his father Robert.


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Alexander Robert Charles Dallas was the son of Robert Charles Dallas (1754-1824) and they were both ancestors of the current Duke of Somerset, John Seymour, 19th Duke of Somerset

Alex's second wife Anne Briscoe, wrote a book called "Incidents in the Life and Ministry of the Rev. Alex R.C. Dallas, A.M.", the second edition of which was published in 1872, London: James Nisbet & Co and is available for free to read online at this link.  That this is an autobiography is specified here on page six.

Some genealogical notes from this work:
  • "I was born on the 29th of March, 1791 at Colchester [, co Essex] and was baptized in St Peter's Church, in that city, on the 23rd of April following." (page 6)
  • My father "... was a barrister his father had acquired a considerable fortune in Jamaica as a physician A strong feeling against slavery had induced my father to leave the West Indies where a brilliant career was opened before him He held an eminent position at the bar there and Lord Balcarras the governor had led him to expect that he would appoint him Attorney General The strong statements he made concerning slavery offended many of the planters and his deep abhorrence of the system as it was then carried on in Jamaica made him forego all the advantages of his prospects and return to England From the moment of his departure from Jamaica he never received a single remittance from the proceeds of the property which became involved and passed into other hands The result was necessarily a painful position of straitened circumstances in England which lasted for some time." (page 7)
  • "He had seven children one of whom the eldest girl he lost early the others were three boys and three girls of whom I was the youngest but one We were all brought up " (page 8)
  • "My elder brother Byron had chosen the sea as a profession and my father had procured him a berth as a midshipman on board the Apollo frigate. He had hardly served two years before he died. My younger brother was little more than an infant and it was determined that I should be sent to school. Accordingly I went to a respectable academy of some standing in Kennington.... The two or three years which I passed in this school I consider to have been entirely wasted." (page 10)
  • "Before I had completed my third year at school it pleased God that my eldest surviving sister Charlotte should be carried off after a short illness. She was a person of singular beauty great attractions and with an intellect so suited to my father's own that she was the very idol of his heart. Her death was a heavy blow to him I was sent for from school to attend the funeral. My father was almost paralyzed with grief and could not attend to anything but he desired that I should be kept at home for a time I never went back to school." (page 10)
  • "I was one morning sitting at the piano in the drawing room when the servant announced Mr Bullock a very old friend of my father's.... 'How old is he?' 'Fourteen,' said my mother. 'Can he write?'.... I was to fill a vacancy as a clerk in the Commissariat Office of the Treasury.... Mr Bullock took me to the office which was then at No.25, Great George Street, Westminster. Sir Brook Watson was the head of the department" (page 11)
  • "My father lived at Camberwell from whence I had every morning a pleasant walk across what were then fields to arrive at the office by ten o clock" (page 12)
  • "In this way the time passed for about two years when circumstances occurred which changed the current of my life. I was now in my seventeenth year .... My father had changed his residence to lessen my daily walk and had taken a house in the King's Road Chelsea from which I went as much through the country as before across those fields now covered with brick and mortar. I was extremely fond of dramatic amusements and my father had a friend connected in some way with the property of the theatres from whom I frequently obtained free admission tickets. I inherited this taste which was strong also in my father. He was the author of a comic drama which was represented at Drury Lane with a fair amount of success. This brought him and me also into personal acquaintance with the principal actors and my intercourse with them engrossed my thoughts. Elliston Russell and others were pleasant acquaintances but old Charles Mathews specially charmed me and he took to me and treated me with many a kindness. This gave me an access behind the scenes where I saw very much of the accompaniments of theatrical amusements which ought to have awakened me to better thoughts and disabused my mind of the passion for plays. But it had no such effect I saw all in the glare of the theatre's gorgeous tinsel ...." (page 13)
  • "The office of the Commissariat department was transferred to the Treasury Chambers where I sat near a window that looked into Whitehall Gardens for about two years." (page 14)
  • "Colonel Gordon was at that time the head of the Commissariat department in the Treasury. The European events which had occurred in the year 1809 had brought about great changes. A British force was sent to garrison Cadiz and to preserve it from Soult who invested it with a large army. Some Commissariat officers were wanted for this service and Colonel Gordon sent for me to offer me the commission of Deputv Assistant Commissary General which of course I gratefully accepted. It was a great disturbance to my father whose ruling idea was family union and it affected my mother much to think of parting with me. Arrangements were made for my outfit and on the 10th June my father took me down to Portsmouth to report myself in the proper quarter. A large convoy was about to sail for Cadiz there were no fewer than a hundred and four ships. My berth was assigned on board the brig Mary in which three Commissariat clerks were also sent out thus I was beginning the service with a sort of command. It was a long time before all the ships were ready and it was not until the 1st July 1810 that I took leave of my father and of the shores of England." (page 16)
  • "I was two years at Cadiz" (page 24)
  • He is made Commissariat of the Island of Leon, and admitted to the Mess of the 95th Regiment (page 35), a position which continued until August 1812 (page 40)
  • He is offered the position of Assistant Commissary-General in charge of the 4th Division, about Nov 1812 (page 71), but it is not possible and instead is appointed  to take charge of the 16th Light Dragoons (page 72), presenting his orders to Major Hay who had command of the 16th (page 73)
  • He is present at the Battle of Waterloo 1815
  • "At this time I persuaded my family to adopt the plan that I proposed for their residence in France I went over to Havre and took a very nice cottage in a little village called Sanvio and on the 12th of October 1815 I carried my invalid mother with my sisters and placed them comfortably in it My father afterwards joined them. Though there were very few English residents there at that time it was not long before acquaintances were formed with the best people and I took an early opportunity of taking one of my sisters to Paris which led to a warm and intimate intercourse with the family of Madame de St L" (page 149)
  • "Lord Byron the poet was connected with my father who had been instrumental in inducing him to publish Childe Harold. Lord Byron had risen to the height of fame and to be associated with him would have been at that time a matter of much pride to a young man in my circumstances. When he was about to set forth upon his farewell journey from England [1815 wj] he sent for me and proposed that I should accompany him as a companion and that he would bear all the expense. It is difficult to imagine the feeling of pleasure which would naturally be produced from such an offer from such a person and I fully entered into this feeling but I was at that time very much preoccupied with attentions in a family where the talents and amiable manners of the daughter were the great attraction and under the influence of this feeling I did not meet Lord Byron's proposal with the readiness and in the tone that he expected and as I asked for time for consideration the matter was courteously closed. If the influence to which I allude had not existed I should have manifested an eager desire for the journey which would have been congenial to many of my natural impulses. How sad would have been the effect upon me of the companionship of such a man under all his circumstances and in his tone of mind" (page 168)
  • "...I was dining one day with my friend Parker.... He had a cousin who was a solicitor and had succeeded to the practice of an old man who had acquired a large fortune in this profession and had died two years before. This old man in his advanced age had married a girl of eighteen and had left a daughter to whom his fortune would come when she became of age and in the meanwhile she was to be made a ward in Chancery. A considerable dowry was bequeathed to the widow. My friend Parker told me all this as we sat after dinner and he added that she was a lovely woman and very clever and had many suitors. 'This lady,' he said, 'has just arrived at my cousin's house from Cheltenham. I am invited to meet her there at dinner the day after to morrow and I will get you an invitation Dallas.' I received the invitation and on the 17th of March 1818 I first met this lady at the house of my friend's cousin and I found the report of her personal attractions to be quite true. Of course I took pains to make myself agreeable my guitar was sent for and we had such music as at that time had the attraction of novelty I played and sang and produced the effect of drawing the lady's attention. I called the next day and was there continually I became thoroughly fascinated and on the six and twentieth day after I first saw her I made my proposal of marriage and was accepted. This was on the 12th of April. I begged for an early day for the wedding and it was fixed for the 4th of May. A friend who possessed a beautiful villa at Morden in Surrey received the intended bride as her guest the marriage was arranged to take place from her house. A goodly number of friends were assembled at Morden on the appointed day on which the marriage took place." (page 169)
The newspapers of the day mention this marriage as follows:
  • "Baldwins London Weekly Journal", 9 May 1818 : "May 4, at Morden, A.R.C. Dallas, Esq., Assistant Commissary-General, to Mrs. Edge, late of Norfolk-street, Strand."
  • "Champion And Review", 10 May 1818 : "On Monday last, at Morden, Alexander R.C. Dallas, Esq., Assistant Commissary General, to Mrs. Edge, late of Norfolk-street, Strand."
It is certain that the solicitor is this:
They had married and had a child as follows:
  • James Edge married Mary Ann Ferguson 11 Mar 1813 Saint Dunstan In The East, London (Batch M001431 wj)
  • Mary Ann Edge, baptized 11 Jun 1814 Saint Clement Danes, Westminster, London; parents James Edge and Mary Ann (Batch C041601 wj)

Returning to more genealogical notes from this work:
  • Shortly after his marriage, he and his wife take lodings in Berners Street, London (page 171) and he commences the study of law, he enters at the Middle Temple and becomes a member of the Forensic Society (page 172)
  • His eldest child (Alexander Robert "A R" Dallas) is born 17 Mar 1819 in Berners Street, London (page 173)
  • They next moved to Hans Place, London (page 174)
  • A second son (Henry Richard George Dallas) is born "after another year" (on 2 Apr 1820) and Mr and Mrs Clare (the Rector of St Andrew's, Holborn) were his godparents (page 175)
  • They now remove to Oxford, where he wishes to study theology at St John's, but instead transfers to Worcester and take a house in St Giles (page 176)
  • A daughter (Agnes Sarah Dallas) is born "in the course of a year" (baptised 31 May 1821 St Giles, Oxford Batch C038814 wj) Mrs Wall wife of Dr Wall physician, was sponsor (godmother).
  • At this point, page 187, the autobiography stops, and a biography by his widow commences, although she quotes extensively from his diary and letters
  • He is made curate of Radley in 1821 (page 195), of Highclere (page 196)
  • He is made curate of Wooburn, co Buck in 1824 (page 214)
  • His father dies 21 Oct 1824 (page 219)
  • Another son is born 26 Jun 1824 (page 221), but dies on 5 Sep 1824.
  • He is made curate of Burford, co Oxon and begins there 4 May 1826 (page 226)
  • Another son was born and died in 1826 (page 226)

"Courier", 05 Aug 1822, page 1, "Suffering Irish - Price 1s.6d. - A Sermon, upon the present Distress in Ireland; preached to a country congregation, chiefly of the labouring class, at Highclere, in the county of Hants, by the Rev. Alexander Dallas, curate of Highclere.  Published by particular request, and for the Benefit of the Suffering Irish, by Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, London."

Alexander's father R.C. Dallas, Esq, wrote a book "Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron From the Year 1808 to the End of 1814", published in 1824 by Charles Knight, London.  Alex states in a letter dated 3 Jul 1824 that he has been "...charged by my father with the entire arrangement of this publication...." which is to say it's arrangement, which possibly would include editing but not authorship.  The publication was held up by an injunction dated 7 Jul 1824 from a Bill in Chancery, claiming that the letters were private and should not be published without the approval of the Byron family, and also that ownership of those letters, both those written by Byron to his mother, and those written by Byron to R.C. Dallas, should come to the executors of the estate, not to R.C. Dallas, who therefore should have no ownership interest in order to publish them.  On page lii of the Introduction, he calls himself "the Editor".  The introduction goes into long and excruciating detail over eighty pages regarding the ins and outs of this litigation.  Because of this litigation, the actual letters were not printed at this time, but rather, a new book was created which extracted the main ideas from the letters and also quoted from Dallas' replies.  The main part of that book without this enormous introduction starts on this page.

The case is mentioned at some extent, in the 14 Jul 1824 "Dublin Journal".  The Lord Chancellor gives his opinion on part of this case on page lxxx, when he states : "... if A writes a letter to B, B has the property in that letter, for the purpose of reading and keeping it, but no property in it to publish it...."

The Dallas family were close connections to Lord Byron, as R.C. Dallas' sister Henrietta was Lord Byron's aunt.  Henrietta however had died in 1793 at the age of 29, and her husband George Anson Byron died just three months later.  A long letter from R.C. Dallas to Lord Byron, which I suppose must mark their first correspondence, dated 6 Jan 1808, commences on page three, and then R.C. first meets him a few days later on the 27th of that month.  From that point, Dallas acted as Byron's publication agent to shepherd his satire through multiple editions, while Byron himself took a Grand Tour through parts of Europe and the Middle East, which was the basis of his most successful poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage".  Again it was Dallas who acted as Byron's publication agent.

Returning to genealogical items of note in his biography:
  • He is made vicar of Yardley Aug 1827 (page 233), inducted 22 Sep 1827 (page 234)
  • He is offered the rectory of Wonston Aug 1828 (page 239)

A letter written and dated "Havre, 28 Oct 1845" in The Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle, Volume 24 states : "In 1828, the Rev Mr Dallas now rector of Wonston Hants came on a visit to his mother and sisters then residing in a rural village in this vicinity but since removed to the world of spirits He had but a short time previous to his visit been the ornament of every brilliant circle in which he moved Perfect in the dance in song and instrumental music possessing the enthusiasm of chivalry and the dignified but winning politeness of a thorough military gentleman endowed with superior natural perceptions and enjoying the benefits of a superior classical education graced with modern belles lettres and consolidated by a knowledge of man in various countries he was peculiarly adapted to shine in the best European society Havre had been often on former occasions witness to his varied accomplishments and the recipient of pleasures which talents like his diffuse through the circle they adorn But now he comes another man Paul himself was not more changed His presence now produced a most unaccountable wonder in the society which had expected to welcome the gay officer as it had done before But his spirit breathes another element He now feels a sympathy for the immortal in his fellows which is hidden even from themselves He publicly announces his change and with the book of God in his hand first convinces his own family and familiar friends of their need of salvation by faith in Christ Long did he pray and labour that light might dawn on their self righteous spirits that the grace of God would subdue and lead them like children to the Saviour Such efforts were crowned with joyful success and he went forth in the strength of answered prayer and with the co operation of his converted household and friends to the more public witness of the power of God in the gospel of his Son Some who then believed are reaping the fruits of the Spirit in the kingdom of glory others are with us still in possession of all the life and activity of their first love The English population was moved and the light broke upon some French families At length however becoming too ardent and methodistical for the spiritual thermometer of the clergyman here he was not permitted to minister in the church His missionary spirit still found means of diffusing itself to the joy of the few believers and to the wonder of the ungodly until the time for his return to England He has visited Havre since that time but not of late years His devotedness success and discipline as a pastor have been long known beyond his own humble locality and beyond the limits of his own sect His practised and powerful pen has often addressed comfort to the humble believer and alarm to the sinner and thrown light upon the pathway of the more public servants of Christ His Commentary for Cottagers is a beautiful proof of his adaptation to the labouring classes My Churchyard developes most fearfully the workings of the soul under his masterly applications of truth and his works on prophecy though not in harmony with the prevailing views of our theological champions discover an acute discernment and a profound knowledge of Scripture and of history About the time of the visit mentioned above an evangelical French minister laboured with great success among the native population He formed a church on the Dissenting principle This still exists and under the ministry of Mr Vivian an eloquent preacher and independent thinker prospers beyond its former experience The English French and Americans here have enjoyed successively the ministrations of the Rev Mr Harbottle of England and Rev Messrs Mines Ely and Sawtell from America These men preached the gospel and left a saving influence in the city In the French Evangelical Church and my own are about eighty members who attend as many as understand the two languages both services which are conducted in the American chapel The two sabbath schools contain about fifty pupils Christians of various denominations in France Great Britain and America have long felt a deep interest in our prosperity May they have reason from year to year to bless God for his goodness and his grace to the churches of Christ in France and on the whole continent" The letter is signed "E.E.A."