Robert Charles Dallas (1754-1824)

Biography of Robert Charles Dallas (1754-1824), miscellaneous writer


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Robert Charles Dallas was also the father of Alexander Robert Charles Dallas and they were both ancestors of the current Duke of Somerset, John Seymour, 19th Duke of Somerset

For some reason, the below biographies, do not happen to mention that Robert during his chief correspondence with Lord Byron 1808-1814, was evidently living in London, from which writing in 1811, he proposed to retire into the country, Byron suggested he retire to Southwell.  A few more details on Robert's residence are preserved in the autobiography of his son Alex.

In addition, the DNB biography below has many errors in it :
  • First, it states "on coming of age went to Jamaica", while Robert himself states, in a letter to Lord Byron, that he went to Jamaica at "the age of five-and-twenty".
  • Second, that his wife Sarah was the "daughter of Thomas Harding of Nelmes, Essex" when his own obituary states that she was the daughter of "Benjamin Harding, Esq. of Hacton House, near Hornchurch."
  • Thirdly, that the family left Jamaica because of the ill effects on Sarah's health.  Robert does not mention that in his letter but instead attributes their leaving to his own near-death and "the other sad concomitants of a West Indian existence"
  • Fourthly, pretends that Dallas' interaction with Byron vis a vis the Satire and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage was slight, when in actuality it was substantial, and essentially made Byron a national person.  Dallas being that person who persuaded Byron that CHP was not only publishable but great.  And who was the prime mover as essentially literary agent to shepherd it through it's printing and sale.
  • Fifthly, states ludicrously that Byron gave the proceeds from CHP to Dallas, when in actuality he gave the manuscript to Dallas to have it published and did not trouble himself with the remuneration, not wanting to be paid for his writing.
  • Sixthly, ignores the fact that it was Byron himself who wrote the introductory letter, with which Dallas' novel Sir Francis Darrell, commences.
  • Seventh, they neglect to state that his book on Byron was edited and a conclusion written by his son, and that the author states therein, that he had moved to Bordeaux 1814-15 "...but that Napoleon's successful entry into Paris hurried me back to England; and on my arrival in London I saw both Lord and Lady Byron at their house in Piccadilly."
  • Eighth, "at the very moment of his quitting his country forever.... I had returned to the Continent.... He sent a note to my son who was then in London, requesting to see him.... invited him to accompany him [to Italy and Switzerland]".  Alex himself also mentions this event which creates a stunning alteration in all future Byron biographies which all past biographers have neglected to their chagrin and worthlessness. "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 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)
  • Ninth, no mention is made about the fact that from 1815 until at least 1818 and probably until his death, both he, his wife, and their daughter(s) were living at Havre, as their son Alex reports in his autobiography.
  • Tenth, and I'm not yet certain who is right here, but his DNB below states that he died 20 Nov 1824, while the biography of his son, written by Alex's widow Anne, states that he died 21 Oct.  I'm inclined to believe that DNB lifted this date from his obit which was published as of that day in the Gentleman's Magazine, but I'm not certain that that date is the day he died.  It seems as likely to be the day the obit was written.

The Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 13, page 397 "Dallas, Robert Charles (1754-1824)"

"DALLAS, ROBERT CHARLES (1754-1824), miscellaneous writer, was born in 1754 at Kingston, Jamaica where his father, Robert Dallas, M.D., of Dallas Castle, Jamaica, was a physician; his mother was a daughter of Colonel Cormack. He was educated at Musselburgh, N.B., and under James Elphinston at Kensington. He entered the Inner Temple, but on coming of age went to Jamaica to take possession of the estates which he had inherited upon his father's death. He was there appointed to 'a lucrative office.' After three years he visited England and married Sarah, daughter of Thomas Harding of Nelmes, Essex. He returned with his wife to Jamaica, but resigned his office and left the island upon finding that her health was injured by the climate. He lived on the continent, till upon the outbreak of the French revolution he emigrated to America.  He was disappointed in the country and returned to Europe. He became an industrious author, but is chiefly remembered by his connection with Byron. His sister, Henrietta Charlotte, was married to George Anson Byron, uncle of Lord Byron.  Dallas introduced himself to Byron by a complimentary letter upon the publication of the 'Hours of Idleness'.  Dallas saw something of Byron after the poet's return from the East, gave him literary advice, and communicated for him with publishers. Byron presented him with the sums received for 'Childe Harold' and the 'Corsair.'  Some letters addressed by Byron to his mother during his eastern travels were given to Dallas by Byron.  Dallas, on the strength of these and other communications, prepared an account of Byron from 1808 to 1814.  He proposed to publish this upon Byron's death; but Hobhouse and Hanson, as the poet's executors, obtained an injunction from Lord Eldon against the publication of the letters.  Dallas died immediately afterwards, 20 Nov 1824, at Ste Adresse in Normandy. He was buried at Havre in presence 'of the British consul and many of the respectable inhabitants.'  The book upon Byron came out simultaneously, edited by his son, A.R.C. Dallas as 'Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron from the year 1808 to the end of 1814.' An account of the disputes the publication is prefixed.

Dallas also published : 1. 'Miscellaneous Writings, consisting of Poems; Lucretia, a Tragedy; and Moral Essays, with a Vocabulary of the Passions,' 1797, 4to. 2. 'Percival, or Nature Vindicated.' 4 vols. 1801 (novel). 3. 'Elements of Self-Knowledge; (compiled and partly written by Dallas), 1802. 4. 'History of the Maroons, from their Origin to their Establishment in Sierra Leone,' 2 vols. 1803 ('much esteemed') 5. 'Aubrey,' 4 vols. 1804 (novel) 6. 'The Marlands, Tales illustrative of the Simple and Surprising,' 4 vols. 1805. 7. 'The Knights, Tales illustrative of the Marvellous,' 3 vols. 1808. 8. 'Not at Home, a Dramatic Entertainment,' 1809. 9. 'The New Conspiracy against the Jesuits detected,' 1815 (in French, 1816) 10. 'Letter to C. Butler relative to the New Conspiracy,' &c., 1817. 11. 'Ode to the Duke of Wellington, and other Poems,' 1819. 12. 'Sir Francis Darrell, or the Vortex,' 4 vols. 1820 (novel) 13. 'Adrastus, a Tragedy; Amabel, or the Cornish Lovers; and other Poems,' 1823. His 'Miscellaneous Works and Novels,' in 7 vols, were published in 1813.

[Gent. Mag. for 1824, ii. 642, 643; Moore's Life of Byron.]"


A review of his book on Byron is in the 'Gentleman's Magazine', Dec 1824, collected as Volume 94, London: John Nichols, 1824), page 529

His D.N.B. entry seems heavily lifted from his obituary as follows:

'Gentleman's Magazine', collected as Volume 94, London: John Nichols, 1824), page 642, "Obituary : R.C. Dallas, Esq"
"RC Dallas Esq Nov 20 At St Adresse in Normandy aged 70 Rbt Chas Dallas Esq. He was born at Kingston Jamaica the son of Dr Dallas a physician there. He received the rudiments of his education at Musselburgh,  N.B. and was afterwards placed under the tuition of the late Mr James Elphinston, of Kensington. He then entered himself as a student of law in the Inner Temple, and about the time of coming of age made a voyage to Jamaica, to take possession of the property which had devolved to him by his father's death. Here he was appointed to a lucrative office; but after a residence of three years in the island, returned to Europe, and married the daughter of Benjamin Harding, Esq. of Hacton House, near Hornchurch. With this lady he again repaired to Jamaica; but her health being impaired by the climate, he was obliged to relinquish his office, and quitted the West Indies for ever. Mr Dallas passed several years on the continent, whence he was driven by the French Revolution; and afterwards visited America, with the intention of settling in that country. Disappointed, however, in the idea which he had formed of it, he once more returned to England, and commenced a literary career, highly creditable to his industry. He published Miscellaneous Writings consisting of Poems Lucretia a Tragedy and Mora Essays with a vocabulary of the Passions 1 797 4to Clery's Journal of Occurrences at the Temple during the con6nement of Louis XVI from the French 1798 8vo Annals of the French Revolution from the French of Bertrand dc Moleville 1800 180 9 vols 8vo Memoirs of the last year of Louis XVI 3 vols 8vo Letter to the Hon CJ Fox respecting an inaccurate quotation the Annals of the French Revolution made by him in the House of Commons by Bertrand dc Moleville with a translation 1800 8vo Correspondence between Bcrtrand de Moleville and CJ Fox upon his quotation of the Annals with a translation 1800 8vo The British Mercury from the French of Mallet du Pan The Natural History of Volcanoes from the French MS of the Ablie Ordinaire 1801 8vo Percival or Nature Vindicated novel 1 801 4 vols Elements Self Knowledge 1802 8vo History of the Maroons from their origin to their establishment in Sierra Leone 1803 2 vols 8vo This book was much esteemed for the simplicity of its narration and authenticity of its details Description of the Costume of the Hereditary States of the House of Austria from the French of Bertrand de Moleville 1804 imp 4to Refutation of the Libel on the late King of France published l y Helen Maria Williams under the title of Political and Confidential Correspondence of Louis XVI from the French of Bertrand do Moleville 1804 8vo Aubrey 1804 novel 4 vols Memoirs of Maria Antoinette Queen of France from the French of Joseph Weber her foster brother 1 805 royal 8vo The Morlands Tales illustrative nf the Simple and Surprising 1805 4 vols 12mn The latter ears of the Reign and Life of Louis XVI from the French of Hue 1 806 8vo The Knights Tales illustrative of theMar rollous l808 3vols l2mo The Siege of Rochelle an historial novel from the French of Madame de Genlis 1808 3 vols 12mo Not at Home 1809 eom 8vo Miscellaneous Works and Novels 1819 7 vols royal 18mo

"His last work Recollections of Lord Bvron is reviewed in p 529. He was a religious and just man in private and domestic intercourse cheerful pleasing and unaffected. He was followed to his grave at Havre by the British Consul and many of the respectable inhabitants of the place."

However even this seems heavily lifted from "A biographical dictionary of the living authors of Great Britain and Ireland", 1814 : "Dallas, Robert Charles"