John Pope-Hennessy [Sir] (1834-91)


[freq. Pope Hennessy]; b. 5 April 1834, Co. Cork; son of John Hennessy of Ballyhennessy, Co. Kerry, and Elizabeth Hennessy [née Casey] of Cork; ed. Queen’s College, Cork, and grad. in medicine; joined British Medical Dept.; attracted notice of Lord Rosse and elected Conservative MP for King’s County [Laois], 1859-65, defeating the Liberal candidate Sir Patrick O'Brien by one vote, the other being elected in turn by a majority of one vote in 1865; studied law while in London; bar 1861; entered public service a Supplemental Clerk to the Privy Council; entered Colonial Service; appt. Gov. of Labuan, 1867; protegé of Disraeli and MP for Kilkenny, 1859-65, playing the part of a Irish Nationalist Conservative; appt. gov. of Sierre Leone [West African Settlement], 1872-73; became Governor of Barbados, 1873-78, and of Windward Isles, 1875; estab. convict labour in Malaysia and rendered the colony profitable;
succeeded Arthur Edward Kennedy [see infra] as 8th Governor of Hong-Kong, 1878-82; removed ban on property ownership by Chinese and permitted them to take up British citizenship; appointed the first Chinese minister of state; unpopular with Europeans in the colony; supported Grant-in-Aid for education; reformed prison system, introducing separate cells - in conjunction with planned use of convicts as labour in Labuan; KCMG [Knight Commander of the Order of Michael and George], 1880; contrib. to Royal Society, Philosophical Magazine, Contemporary Review, Nineteenth Century, and Subjects of the Day; spent his latter years living in Sir Walter Ralegh’s house at Youghal and developed an obsessive interest in the adventure; issued Ralegh in Ireland, with his Letters on Irish Affairs, and Some Contemporary Documents (1883); Hon. Sec. of Mathematical Section of British Association; chair of the Repression of Crime Section of the Social Science Congress;

appt. Gov. of Mauritius, 1883-89; became the object of remonstrances in London from the Mauritians; forces The Times to publish a retraction; quarrel with Clifford Lloyd resulted in mission to Mauritius to investigate the trouble led by Sir Hercules Robinson, who reported unfavourably; Hennessy recalled; restored for remainder of his term by the Secretary of State; congratulated for execution of his public duties at end of term; contrib. ‘What Do the Irish Read?’ to Nineteenth Century (1884), citing chiefly nationalist writers; retired from colonial service with full pension of Colonial Governor; proffered himself as Parnellite candidate prior to O’Shea divorce trial but afterwards joined opposition and stood as Tory; elected MP for N. Kilkenny, 1890;

Hennessy has two illegitimate dgs. with his mistress A. M. Conyngham; m. Catherine [“Kitty”] Elizabeth Low (1850–1923; m. Hennessy, 4 February 1868), then married Catherine, dg. of Sir Henry Low, Major-Gen. Richard Pope-Hennessy was one of his three sons; through whom James Pope-Hennessy and John Wyndham Pope-Hennessy were grandsons [see infra]; he is sometimes styled a Catholic advocate of Empire Liberalism and was the reputed model for the eponymous hero of Trollope’s novel Phineas Finn; his motto gave it that the three necesssary things for success were audacity, audacity, audacity.

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Irish studies
  • The Failure of the Queen’s Colleges and of Mixed Education in Ireland (London 1859);
  • Ireland and Italy (Dublin: Duffy 1860), 54pp. [Cathach Books, 1996/97];
  • Sir Walter Ralegh in Ireland, with his Letters on Irish Affairs, and Some Contemporary Documents (London: K. Paul, Trench, & Co. 1883), [vii]-xi, 263pp. [see note], and Do. [rep. as] Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland, introduced by Thomas Herron [E. Carolina U.] (UCD Press 2009), 187pp.;
  • ‘What Do the Irish Read?’, in Nineteenth Century, 14 (Jan.-June 1884), pp.920ff.; ‘Lord Beaconsfield’s Irish policy’ [2 essays], in Nineteenth Century (iss. of 1885);

Note: Also cited as Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland (London: Kegan Paul 1883) xi, 263 [BL]

Related papers
  • Edward Wilmot Blyden, The West African University: Correspondence between E. W. Blyden [...] and His Excellency J. Pope Hennessy (Freetown: “Negro” Printing Office 1872), 17pp. [8º]; Memorial to Her Majesty The Queen relative to the conduct of His Excellency John Pope Hennessy, Governor of Barbados and certain members of the Executive Council (Bridgetown: G.P. 1876), 60pp.; Report of the Commissioners appointed by His Excellency John Pope Hennessy to enquire into the working of the Contagious Diseases Ordinance, 1867 together with an appendix containing minutes of evidence taken before the Commission, official correspondence, returns &c. (Hongkong: Noronha & Sons 1879), xii, 321pp.

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James Pope-Hennessy, Verandah: Some Episodes in the Crown Colonies 1867-1889 (London: Allen & Unwin 1964), [written by his grandson, as infra].

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New York Times (7 Oct. 1891), ‘Sir John Pope Hennessy Dead - A result of the strain of the North Kilkenny contest’ [obituary]: ‘Coupled with the announcement this morning that Mr. Parnell died last night was the news that Sir John Pope Hennessy, member of Parliament for North Kilkenny, was also dead. / His death occurred at Queenstown rather suddenly, and is said to have been due to the mental and physical strain to which he was subjected as one of the consequences of the political contest in North Kilkenny. Immediately after the exposures in the O’Shea divorce case, in December, 1890, he contested North Kilkenny’s election, backed up by Mr Parnell’s opponnents, and defeated the Parnellite candidate, Mr. Vincent Scully, by 1,147 votes. This was a great, and possibly the greatest, test of strength between the Parnellites and McCarthyites, and the defeat of Mr Scully no doubt counted for a great deal in the future series of disasters which befell the Irish leader. [... &c., as in Life, supra; see full article in New York Times, online.] (Note that the sentence, ‘[...] the defeat of Scully no doubt counted ... &c.’ is repeated in different parts of the article.)

R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch (1993), cites ‘What Do Irish Read?c in Nineteenth Century, Vol. 14 (Jan.-June 1884), in which Pope-Hennessy identifies the Irish library-borrowers’ most popular authors as MacGeoghegan, D’Arcy McGee, Gavan Duffy, A. M. Sullivan, Justin McCarthy, O’Callaghan, with works by Macaulay, Hallam, Froude, Fr. Burke, biographies by R. R. Madden, Thomas Moore (Lord Edward Fitzgerald), Tone’s Memoirs, Mitchel’s Jail Journal, and Maguire’s Father Mathew (Foster, p.312).

Barry McLoughlin, review of Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland, in Books Ireland (Sept. 2009): ‘While Hennessy was of a strange species - an Irish Catholic attaching himself to the Tory party [...] he was a progressive colonial administrator much criticised for leniency towards the “natives” (Mauritius). More importantly, he had become an Irish nationalist in the historicist, sentimental sense. He portrayed the career of Raleigh in Ireland in the darkest tones, seeing him as an influential actor in the destruction of Gaelic Ireland by means of war, pillage, assassinations and land-robbery. That did not go down well with the Victorian establishment, for Raleigh (like Sir Francis Drake or Nelson) was part of the national pantheon, and leading London commentators, with some justification, labelled Pope Hennessy’s work the attack of a disgruntled former Crown servant on the historian Froude and other extreme Imperialists. / Pope Hennessy’s study of Raleigh became an obsession, if not a form of expiation for his own opportunistic career. He bought the Devon adventurer's Rostellan Castle between Midleton and Whitegate, and the dwelling house where Raleigh allegedly smoked the first tobacco and planted the first potatoes in Ireland, Myrtle Grove beside St Mary's Collegiate Church in Youghal, later the family home of Patricia Cockburn. There Pope-Hennessy wrote his tract in a room dominated by Raleigh’s portrait, making excerpts from the State Paper Office files.’ (For details on Sir Walter Raleigh, see under Edmund Spenser, Notes, infra.)

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Speech of 26 July 1860 (House of Commons) - ‘[T]he military administration of India would be conducted with greater skill, with more economy, and, as a natural result of a higher educational standard, with a greater regard for the feelings and interests of the Native population. Indeed, recent events furnished us with the most conclusive evidence that many of the British officers, entrusted with grave authority in India, had, from an ignorance of popular customs and a disregard of national habits and traditions, given great cause of complaint and encouragement to disaffection. As long as we send out officers to India who seem inclined to treat the Natives as slaves, who seem unable or unwilling to appreciate the noble qualities, of that unfortunate people, and who add the grossest military outrages and insults to the civil misgovernment and financial burdens we have imposed upon them, so long will our rule in India be a blot upon civilization.’ Hansards, Vol. 160, cc. 231-59, 235; quoted in Wikipedia - “Sir John Pope Hennessy, KCMG” [online].

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Kith & kin (1): James Pope-Hennessy (b.1916) was author of works such as London Fabric (1939, 1941), Hawthornden Prize winner; West Indian Summer: A Retrospect (London: B. T. Batsford 1943); Sins of the Fathers: A Study of the Atlantic Slave Traders 1441-1807 (1968), Half-crown Colony: A Historical Profile of Hong Kong (1969), a life of Monckton Miles (2 vols., 1949, 1952) and Aspects of Provence (1952); a life of Queen Mary (1959), and a commentary prefixed to Cecil Beaton, History Under Fire: 52 photographs of air raid damage to London buildings, 1940-41 (1941). He was the son of Major-Gen. Richard Pope-Hennessy, orig. of Cork, and Dame Una Pope-Hennessy [née Birch, dg. of Gov. of Ceylon], and was born in Belgravia. On quitting Oxford without a degree, he worked in the office of Catholic publishers Sheed and Ward and briefly, after a pre-war sojourn as secretary to the Governor of the Barbados; served in anti-aircraft battery before being transferred to intelligence; appt. to British army staff in Washington; knew Guy Burgess there; edited The Spectator, 1947-49. He became an Irish citizen in 1970, and occupied rooms at the Shannon Hotel in Banagher, Co. Offaly, where he wrote biographies of Anthony Trollope and Robert Louis Stevenson and was working on a life of Noël Coward when he died in London, having been beaten up by a gang of youths in an unsavoury part of London after his return there in 1974. Sir John Pope-Hennessy as his grandfather. [See Wikipedia, online].

Kith & kin (2): John Wyndham Pope-Hennessy, was a director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kensington - fam. known as “the Pope” - and a protegé of Kenneth Clark; he wrote such works as The Complete Work of Paolo Uccello (London: Phaidon Press 1950); Italian Renaissance Sculpture, and Italian Gothic Sculpture (both 1986), Nineteenth-century German Drawings and Water-colours [Victoria & Albert Museum Cat.] (1968), 173pp.; and Italian Painting, asst. by Laurence B. Kanter [Robert Lehman Collection] (NY: The Museum in association with Princeton UP 1987), xvi, 331pp., 29 cm. [4º]. He was traumatised by the death of his elder brother James, as supra; and see Wikipedia, online].

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