Sub-fonds BUL 1 - Diplomatic Papers of Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer

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Diplomatic Papers of Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer


  • 1801-1972 (Creation)

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27 series

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Born 13 February 1801. Died 23 May 1872. Second son of General William Earle Bulwer (1757-1807), of Wood Dalling, Heydon Hall, Norfolk, and his wife, Elizabeth Barbara Lytton (1773-1843), only child of Richard Warburton Lytton of Knebworth Park, Hertfordshire.

Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer, Lord Dalling and Bulwer (1801-72), began his diplomatic career as attaché at Berlin in 1827, becoming successively attaché at Vienna in 1829, The Hague in 1830, and Paris in 1832. In 1830 he was sent on a special mission to Belgium and his eye-witness accounts of the revolution there were favourably received by the Foreign Office. Subsequently however he was elected to Parliament and for several years seemed to have abandoned his diplomatic career until 1835 when he became secretary to the Legation at Brussels. For two years he managed to combine Parliamentary and diplomatic careers, hurrying back from Brussels to speak in important debates and to vote, usually with the Radicals. In addition, he was obliged by his financial situation to take up a third career, that of author and journalist. Although he had inherited, if not a fortune, an easy competence from his maternal grandmother, by the 1830s he was in urgent need of funds to maintain an expensive way of life. He moved in the first circles; like his brother Edward Bulwer Lytton the novelist he frequented Lady Blessington's salon; he was a friend of Disraeli and d'Orsay; and he gambled. In 1837 he finally decided in favour of diplomacy and it was then that his serious career as a diplomat really begins. As secretary to the embassy at Constantinople he contributed towards the making of a commercial treaty with Turkey, he was then secretary to the embassy at Paris, frequently taking charge during the ambassador's absence, and in 1843 he was appointed minister-plenipotentiary at Madrid. His ministry there was a stormy one. He was unable to circumvent the Spanish Marriages in 1846, and in 1848 his high-handedness with the Spanish Government (he appears to have taken for his model Lord Palmerston whose protegé he was) and his indiscreet use of the press led to his expulsion from Spain. The Foreign Office supported his conduct in the subsequent diplomatic unpleasantness, but it was thought tactful that his next post should be outside Europe, and consequently he went as minister-plenipotentiary to Washington in 1849. Here he was entirely successful and was instrumental in drawing up the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty concerning territorial claims in Central America. From Washington he was transferred to the Court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany at Florence where he spent several uneventful years until 1855. In 1856 he became the British representative on the Commission to investigate the condition of the Danubian Principalities and his work here led to his final and most important posting as Ambassador to Constantinople. (There were at this time only two ambassadorial posts, the other was at Paris occupied by his brother-in-law Lord Cowley).

As Ambassador to Constantinople Bulwer was probably less successful than he deserved to be. The newly opened telegraph lines from London to Constantinople and Alexandria enabled speedy communication with the Foreign Office. While this would have been an advantage at Madrid, it was a mixed blessing at Constantinople. Bulwer frequently had a shrewder grasp of the realities of Turkish politics than his chiefs at the Foreign Office, but far less of a free hand to pursue his own line than his predecessor at Constantinople, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, with whom he was inevitably compared. In the nineteenth century it was never possible or even expected that a senior diplomat could live on his salary and allowances. This led to Bulwer's keen interest in speculative commercial undertakings. Although he never made a fortune, he appears to have been luckier or more astute than many of his contemporaries in not suffering any substantial losses. The personal papers also show that Bulwer had many friends in literary circles in London and Paris and continued his journalism throughout his whole career.

HLB was agent in Parliament for the Australian Colonies. He refused a salary for this and only drew expenses.

Bulwer was in very poor health in the mid 1860s and divided his time between Paris, Hyères and Aix. He occupied himself in revising earlier drafts for his books 'Historical Characters' and the 'Life of ... Palmerston'. In 1868 he was sufficiently well to become M.P. for Tamworth. From 1870 he played an active part in the affairs of the Société des Travaux Publiques et Banque d'Orient. In 1871 he was created Baron Dalling and Bulwer, but he had little time to enjoy his honour as his health declined and he died in 1872.

Archival history

These papers, which have been in the family's possession since Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer's death in 1872, were deposited in the Norfolk Record Office by Mrs H. Bulwer-Long, who is the great grand-daughter and heiress of William Earle Lytton Bulwer of Heydon Hall, Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer's elder brother. The papers were housed at Heydon Hall and Heydon Grange, the division being arbitrary, and each deposit was made up of papers from both houses. The first part of the collection which was placed on temporary deposit in July 1968, had previously been lodged for a time at the Institute of Historical Research and was listed by the Historical Manuscripts Commission in 1959. The second part of the collection, which came in in two deposits in May and June 1982, has not previously been listed or used for historical research. The collections have been combined and this list supersedes that of 1959 filed in the National Register of Archives.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

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Scope and content

The bulk of the papers listed here concern Bulwer's diplomatic career, principally in Spain, the Danubian Principalities and Constantinople. There are several boxes of papers relating to his Parliamentary career in the 1830s but very little about his short spell as M.P. for Tamworth 1868-71. There are seventeen boxes containing MSS of Bulwer's published works and drafts of articles for newspapers. Personal papers are scanty, but they show how, in the 1850s-60s, Bulwer was troubled both by poor health and financial difficulties.

Attaché at Berlin 1827, Vienna 1829, The Hague 1830 bdl 1
Attaché at Paris 1832-33 bdl 2
M.P. for Wilton 1830, Coventry 1831-35 and Marylebone 1835-37 bdl 3-10
Printed papers about British Auxiliary Legion in Spain, 1834-40 bdl 11
Financial and business affairs, 1830-54 bdl 12
Chargé d'affaires, Brussels, 1835-37 bdl 15-16
Secretary of embassy at Constantinople, 1837-38 bdl 17-18
Secretary of embassy at Paris, 1839-43 bdl 19-20
Minister-plenipotentiary and envoy-extra-ordinary at Madrid, 1843-48 bdl 21-78
Minister plenipotentiary and envoy extra-ordinary at Washington, 1849-52 bdl 79-97
Minister plenipotentiary and envoy extra-ordinary at Florence, 1852-55 bdl 98-108
Misc. undated letters from the 1850s bdl 109
Papers relating to Costa Rica and Central America, 1852-56 bdl 110-114
Papers relating to the Guyandotte Land Co., 1854 bdl 115-117
Commissioner to investigate the condition of the Danubian Principalities 1856-58 bdl 118-160
Ambassador extraordinary at Constantinople, 1858-65 bdl 161-360
Personal and miscellaneous papers 1865-72 bdl 361-378
M.P. for Tamworth 1868-71 bdl 379
Societé des Travaux Publiques et Banque d'Orient, and Euphrates Valley Railway Co., 1870-72 bdl 380-91
Letters from various persons to Edward W. A. Tuson, 1856-58 bdl 392
Misc. political and diplomatic papers, 1820s-60s. bdl 393-394
Literary MSS and notes bdl 395-418
Miscellanea bdl 419
Newspapers and printed material from 1872 bdl 420
Part of draft biography and biographical notes bdl 421-422
Lists of HLB's papers bdl 423
Addenda. bdl 424

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The various parts of the collection have been re-united. The division appears to have been purely arbitrary. The first deposit contained about half of the papers relating to Spain, two thirds of those relating to Turkey, and very little else. To avoid confusion, bundle numbers from the list made by the Historical Manuscripts Commission have been incorporated into this catalogue so that items from the earlier list can be identified.

The papers in both halves of the collection were arranged in roughly chronological and alphabetical bundles. For example all correspondents for 1860 whose names began with A were put together. However all these bundles contained strays and there were many other bundles that were miscellaneous. With the exception of a few bundles which had been arranged according to subject and which are to be found after the general correspondence for Turkey, I have arranged the documents in chronological order of diplomatic posting. Bulwer's correspondence while in England between postings is put with the correspondence for the next posting, as it usually refers to it, except in the case of the years 1848-49 where many of the letters refer to Spanish affairs and have been arranged with Bulwer's correspondence as Minister at Madrid.

Official despatches to and from the Foreign Office have been listed in each case ahead of the rest of the correspondence which contains semi-official and personal letters. Correspondents are arranged in alphabetical order. Thus, for example, all Bulwer's semi-official and private correspondence with Lord Russell during his Turkish Embassy has been drawn together, placed in its alphabetical position, and arranged chronologically within bundles. It has not always been possible to establish the exact chronological order as it is common to find several letters written to the same person on the same day. I have refrained on the whole from guessing the date of undated material but have given the date of the watermark where these exist.

Letters to Bulwer are listed first and followed by his draft or copy replies, also in chronological order. It is frequently impossible to tell whether a letter is a draft or a copy; a few are endorsed 'not sent'; many, particularly at the end of his career, are not in Bulwer's own handwriting but in that of one of his private secretaries or of members of the embassy staff. Many letters are endorsed with draft replies, usually in Bulwer's own hand. These are so frequent that they are seldom noted in the catalogue.Letters to Bulwer's private secretary Henry Phillips, to members of the Constantinople Embassy staff and to his wife Georgiana, Lady Bulwer, have been listed alphabetically under the name of the writer as though they had been addressed to Bulwer himself. Unless otherwise stated, all letters are to Bulwer and if no number of letters is given there is only one. Letters to other persons have been where possible re-united with their covering letter and filed under the recipient's name. There is a detailed list of writers and recipients at the end of the catalogue. Where possible I have identified correspondents from the 'Dictionary of National Biography', the 'Dictionary of American Biography' and the 'Almanach de Gotha'. Persons may be more fully identified in the index than in the list and references are given to individual letters within the bundles. Many of the letters are endorsed with the name of the sender, but Bulwer and the embassy staff who made these endorsements had a Churchillian way with foreign names and they cannot always be relied on.

In the nineteenth century the language of diplomacy was French. Even the American minister at Constantinople writes formal letters to Bulwer in French. Virtually all correspondence between Bulwer, foreign diplomats and members of foreign governments is in French. Because this is so general it is not stated in the list. If letters are in languages other than French and English this has been stated. Other languages found are Italian, German, Greek, Rumanian, Armenian and Turkish. All Turkish diplomats wrote, or their secretaries wrote for them, in French.


HLB = Henry Lytton Bulwer
DNB = 'Dictionary of National Biography'
DAB = 'Dictionary of American Biography'

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  • French

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Index of recipients in searchroom list.

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Publication note

'List of Bulwer's own printed works'
'Ode on the death of Napoleon'; 'Lines on the Neapolitan Revolution, and other poems', 1822.
'Today and Yesterday. A Satire' [in verse] 1824.
'An Autumn in Greece'. 1825.
'France. Social, literary and political'. 1834.
'The Monarchy of the Middle Classes'. 'France, social, literary and political, 1836.
'The Lords, the Government and the Country', 1836.
'Complete works of Lord Byron', to which is prefixed a life by HLB, 1842.
Private memoir of the late Lord Melbourne, ?1848.
'Historical Characters': Talleyrand, Cobbett, Mackintosh and Canning 1868.
'The Life of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston', 3 vols., 1870-74.
'Sir Robert Peel: An Historical Sketch' 1874.
'Bibliography: books etc. relating to Bulwer'.
'Complete Peerage' (the best short biographical sketch).
K. Bell: 'The Constantinople Embassy of Sir Henry Bulwer 1858-65' (1961, London University thesis)
Juliette Decreus: 'Henry Bulwer-Lytton et Hortense Allart d'après des documents inédits' (1961)
Edmund B. D'Auvergne: 'Envoys Extraordinary' (1937).

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