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John Byrne Leicester Warren, 3rd Baron De Tabley (26 April 1835 - 22 November 1895) was an English poet, numismatist, botanist and an authority on bookplates.

He was eldest son of George Fleming Leicester (afterwards Warren), 2nd Baron De Tabley (1811-1887), by his wife (married: 1832) Catherina Barbara (1814-1869), second daughter of Jerome, 4th Count de Salis-Soglio.

Hon. Mr. Warren, as he then was, was educated at Eton College (1847-51, Rev. Edward Coleridge's house) and Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1856 with second classes in classics, law and modern history. In the autumn of 1858 he went to Turkey as unpaid attaché to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. In 1860 he was called to the bar, Lincoln's Inn. He became a Lieutenant in the Cheshire Yeomanry, and unsuccessfully contested Mid-Cheshire in 1868 as a Liberal.

After his mother died and his father's re-marriage in 1871 be removed to London, where he became a close friend of Tennyson. Tennyson once said of him: 'He is Faunus, he is a woodland creature'.

From 1877 till his succession to the title in 1887 De Tabley was lost to his friends, assuming the life of a recluse. It was not till 1892 that he returned to London life, and enjoyed a sort of renaissance of reputation and friendship.

During the later years of his life Lord De Tabley made many new friends, besides reopening old associations, and he almost seemed to be gathering around him a small literary company when his health broke, and he died at Ryde, in his sixty-first year. He was buried at Little Peover in Cheshire.

Although his reputation will live almost exclusively as that of a poet, De Tabley was a man of many studious tastes. He was at one time an authority on numismatics (he was a first cousin of the numismatist John Francis William de Salis) ; he wrote two novels; published A Guide to the Study of Book Plates (1880); and the fruit of his careful researches in botany was printed posthumously in his elaborate Flora of Cheshire (1899).

Poetry, however, was his first and last passion, and to that he devoted the best energies of his life. De Tabley's first impulse towards poetry came from his friend George Fortescue, with whom he shared a close companionship during his Oxford days, and whom he lost, as Tennyson lost Hallam, within a few years of their taking their degrees. Fortescue was killed by falling from the mast of Lord Drogheda's yacht in November 1859, and this gloomy event plunged De Tabley into deep depression. Between 1859 and 1862 he issued four little volumes of pseudonymous verse (by G. F. Preston), in the production of which he had been greatly stimulated by the sympathy of Fortescue. Once more he assumed a pseudonym: his Praeterita (1863) bearing the name of William Lancaster.

In the next year he published Eclogues and Monodramas, followed in 1865 by Studies in Verse. These volumes all displayed technical grace and much natural beauty; but it was not till the publication of Philoctetes in 1866 that De Tabley met with any wide recognition. Philoctetes bore the initials M.A., which, to the author's dismay, were interpreted as meaning Matthew Arnold. He at once disclosed his identity, and received the congratulations of his friends, among whom were Tennyson, Browning and Gladstone.

In 1867 he published Orestes, in 1870 Rehearsals and in 1873 Searching the Net. These last two bore his own name, John Leicester Warren. He was somewhat disappointed by their lukewarm reception, and when in 1876 The Soldier of Fortune, a drama on which he had bestowed much careful labor, proved a complete failure, he retired altogether from the literary arena.

It was not until 1893, that he was persuaded to return, and the immediate success in that year of his Poems, Dramatic and Lyrical, encouraged him to publish a second series in 1895, the year of his death. The genuine interest with which these volumes were welcomed did much to lighten the last years of a somewhat sombre and solitary life. His posthumous poems were collected in 1902.

The characteristics of De Tabley's poetry are pre-eminently magnificence of style, derived from close study of Milton, sonority, dignity, weight and color. His passion for detail was both a strength and a weakness: it lent a loving fidelity to his description of natural objects, but it sometimes involved him in a loss of simple effect from over-elaboration of treatment. He was always a student of the classic poets, and drew much of his inspiration directly from them. His ambition was always for the heights, a region naturally ice-bound at periods, but always a country of clear atmosphere and bright, vivid outlines.

See an excellent sketch by E. Gosse in his Critical Kit-Kats (1896). An extract of what Gosse wrote:

'His character was like an opal, where all the colours lie purdue, drowned in a milky mystery, and so arranged that to a couple of observers, simultaneously bending over it, the prevalent hue shall in one case seem a pale green, in the other a fiery crimson'.


A poem

A Pastoral

Venetian School

Arcadian spaces of great grass arise;

Crisp lambs are merry : hoary vales are laid,

Studded with roe-deer and wild strawberries;

In one a shepherd tabours near a maid ;

Who teases at the button of his cloak,

Where rarely underneath them grows the herb;

A squirrel eyes ther lovers from an oak,

And speckled horses pasture without curb.

In a fair meadow set with tulip-heads.

A water-mill rolls little crested falls

Of olive torrent, broken in grey threads.

A grave-yard crowds black crosses in square walls.

And up behind in a still orchard close

The apples ripen, crushing down the trees,

In millions, russet-green and amber-rose,

Fit for the gardens of the Hesperides.

Such colour as the morning brings the skies,

Such mirage as our dreams in childhood gave,

Infinite cadence of ethereal dyes,

The radiance of a rainbow-burnished wave.

Quaint pastoral Arcadia, where are set

Thy rainy lands and reddish underwoods?

Earth has not held thy fabled sunsets yet,

Though lovers build their palace on thy roods.


Niece, Alcyone Stepney (1876-1952) by Millais
  • Catherine (1838-1881).
  • Meriel (1839-72), married (1862), Allen, 6th Earl Bathurst (1832-1892), of Cirencester. (He succeeded in 1878, after her death).
  • Eleanor (1841-14 August 1914), married (1864), Sir Baldwyn Leighton, MP, 8th Bt (1836-2 January 1897), of Loton, Salop.
She was (eventual) heir to her brother in 1895, and in 1900 took the name Leighton-Warren.
  • Margaret (1847-1921), married (1875), Sir Arthur Cowell-Stepney, 2nd Bt, (aka Emile Algernon Arthur Keppel Cowell-Stepney) (1834-1909), of Llanelli.
Their daughter Catherine Muriel Cowell Stepney (Miss Alcyone Stepney) (1876-1952), was painted by Sir John Everett Millais, Royal Academy, 1880, no. 239. Of Cilymaenllwyd, Llanelli, she married Sir Stafford Howard, KCB, DL, JP, MP in 1911.
  • and two other children, who both died in infancy.


On 28 September 1909 she married Alfred (d. 9 October 1949), younger son of Admiral Sir Edward Southwell Sotheby, KCB.


Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Warren
Baron de Tabley
Succeeded by


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