1867 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John D'Alton

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 222 (March 1867) 386-87.



Jan. 20. At 48, Summer-hill, Dublin, aged 74, John D'Alton, Esq., barrister-at-law, the well-known Irish historian and genealogist.

The deceased was the representative of one of the most ancient families in the county of Westmeath, being the direct descendant of Sir Walter D'Alton, who, as recorded in the Office of Arms, secretly married Jane, a daughter of Louis, king of France, and, having thereby incurred that monarch's displeasure, fled to England, whence he passed to Ireland with Henry II. on the invasion of that country. The late Mr. D'Alton was a son of the late William D'Alton, Esq., of Bessville, co. Westmeath, and of his wife, Elizabeth Leynes. He was born in the year 1792, and having been educated by the Rev. Joseph Hutton, in 1806 he entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in due course. Selecting the law as his future profession, in 1811 he entered the Middle Temple, London, was called to the Irish bar in 1813, and joined the Connaught circuit.

During his practice as a barrister he was largely employed in cases wherein questions of pedigree were involved; but, except the appointment of Commissioner of the Loan Fund Board, which was given him in 1835, he never acquired any other legal preferment. Mr. D'Alton's first published work was a metrical romance, entitled "Dermid, or Erin in the days of Boroihme," which appeared in 1814, and was highly spoken of by Sir Walter Scott. His attention as an author was subsequently mainly directed to Irish historical literature, and in 1828 he successfully competed for the Conyngham gold medal offered by the Royal Irish Academy for the best essay on "The Ancient History, Religion, and Arts of Ireland, from the time of the introduction of Christianity to the English Invasion," which was published in the Transactions of the Academy. In 1833, Messrs. Caldwell, of Dublin, commenced the publication of "The Irish Penny Magazine," edited by Mr. Samuel Lover, and supported by a staff of competent writers, foremost among whom was Mr. D'Alton, his contributions being chiefly "Illustrations of Irish Topography." He was also a contributor for many years to the pages of THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE, and to several of the leading periodicals of the day. In 1838 he was elected a corresponding member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and in the same year he published the "Memoirs of the Archbishops of Dublin," a valuable repertory of Irish ecclesiastical biography, and also his "History of the County of Dublin," for which he had for many years been collecting materials. In 1844 he published his "History of Drogheda and its Environs, with Memoir of the Dublin and Drogheda Railway." His "Annals of Boyle" appeared in 1845. This work gives the history of the country from the earliest period to the year 1245, when the annals of Boyle terminate; it contains notices of many. old Irish families, which render the work of great value to the antiquary and genealogist.

Mr. D'Alton produced in 1855 his "Illustrations, Historical and Genealogical, of King James's Irish Army List, 1689," a work sufficiently indicative of Mr. D'Alton' deep research into the family history and pedigrees of his native country, and p which a second and enlarged edition was published in 1860. The last publication on which Mr. D'Alton was engaged was his "History of Dundalk." This work his age rendered him incapable of completing alone, and it was successfully brought out by him and Mr. O'Flanagan jointly in 1864.

Besides his published works, Mr. D'Alton has left nearly 200 volumes of MSS. calculated to furnish valuable aid for future historians and genealogists. The late Mr. D'Alton was the recipient of a pension of 50 per annum from the public fund set apart for distinguished authors. His social powers were of a high order; and at the first meeting of the Royal Irish Academy after his decease, the President, Lord Talbot de Malahide, pronounced a graceful tribute to his literary and genial character.

He married, in 1818, Catherine, daughter of Edward Phillips, Esq., of Clonmore, co. Mayo, by whom he had issue two sons, William and Edward D'Alton, of Dublin, esqs., and also four daughters.

The deceased was interred in the burial place at Glasnevin, near Dublin.