Meredith, Owen. A pseudonym adopted by Edward Robert, first Earl of Lytton (1831-1891), son of the novelist Bulwer-Lytton, the author of Lucile (1860), etc. He took his pseudonym from the names of two of his ancestors, Owen Gwynned ap. Griffith, King of North Wales, and ap. Meredith ap. Tudor, great-grandfather of Henry VI of England. Once Meredith was termed "third among living poets." He won the qualified praise of the Brownings and George Meredith. Yet due to his prolixity, posterity remembers him but vaguely as a facile rhymester who drew a malicious parody by Swinburne and judged himself in the lines: ... "Genius is the master of man, Genius does what it must, and talent does what it can." The Reader's Encyclopedia. (New York: Crowell, c1948).


Chronology of the Life of Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton, 1st Lord Lytton (Owen Meredith)

1831.... Born London, 8 November, to Edward and Rosina Bulwer-Lytton.

1845.... Sent to Harrow; begins to compose poetry.

1849.... Sent to Bonn to study with tutor; attempts suicide.

1850.... Enters the Diplomatic Service as unpaid Attache to his uncle Sir Henry Bulwer, British Minister to the United States.

1852.... Transferred to Florence, where he comes under influence of the Robert and Elizabeth Browning; begins to consider himself a poet.

1855.... As Owen Meredith, publishes first volume of verse: Clytemnestra; The Earl's Return; The Artist, and Other Poems (London: Chapman and Hall).

1855-59.... Successive diplomatic postings to Paris and The Hague.

1859.... The Wanderer published; second secretary in the British embassy in Vienna.

1860.... Lucile published in April.

1861.... Tannhauser; or, The Battle of the Bards written with Julian Fane; Serbski Pesme: or, National Songs of Servia, translations and paraphrases of Serbian folk poetry.

1863.... The Ring of Amasis, a novel, published.

1864.... Marries Edith Villiers on October 4.

1865.... Posted to Lisbon; a son, Rowland, born in September. Ticknor & Fields publishes The Apple of Life, a relatively short narrative poem quickly incorporated in The Poetical Works (though there were occasional, later, editions).

1867.... The Poetical Works of Owen Meredith, (2 vols.); birth of daughter, Elizabeth.

1868.... Chronicles and Characters appears under his own name.

1869.... Orval; or, The Fool of Time published; a daughter, Constance, born; transferred to Madrid.

1870.... Posted to Vienna.

1871.... Rowland dies from complications of whooping cough.

1871-73.... "Lyrical Fables" appear in Fortnightly Review.

1872.... Posted as Secretary to legation in Paris; March 2: a son, Henry Meredith Edward Lytton, born (known as "Henry").

1873.... January 18: his father, Edward Bulwer Lytton, first Baron Lytton, dies; his son inherits the title and family properties.

1874.... Fables in Song appears; March 1: Henry Lytton dies of influenza; December 26: a daughter, Emily, born..

1875.... King Poppy: A Story without End published privately.

1876.... Appointed Viceroy of India by Disraeli. On arrival in India becomes immediately involved in repelling Russian interests in Afghanistan. A son, Victor Alexander Geroge Robert Lytton, born August 9.

1877.... January 1: supervises proclamation of Victoria as Empress of India (Assemblage at Delhi). Deals with famine said to have claimed 5 million lives.

1878.... November 21: First Phase of the Second Afghanistan War.

1879.... February 6: a son, Neville Stephen Lytton, born; May 26: Treaty of Gandamark secures British rights in Afghanistan; September 3: Major Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari killed in Kabul.

1880.... With defeat of Disraeli's government, resigns Viceroyalty in March; made first Earl Lytton in April.

1883.... Publishes two-volume biography of his father, the novelist Bulwer-Lytton.

1884... Brings legal suit against Louisa Devey, his mother's excutrix, preventing publicaton by her of his father's early letters to his mother. Wins the case firmly establishing that while property rights to letters may be given, sold, or bequeathed to others, if they are not, copyright is retained by the author. Lord Lytton v. Devey becomes precedent cited in the 1911 U.S.Copyright Act.

1885.... Glenaveril, a semi-autobiographical poem, published.

1887.... After Paradise: or, Legends of Exile, a book of lyrics and fables published; appointed British Ambassador to France.

1891.... Dies in Paris on November 24.

1892.... Posthumous publication of Marah and reissue of King Poppy.

1936.... Edith Villiers Lytton dies.

See also:
Harlan, Aurelia Brooks, 1899- . Owen Meredith; a Critical Biography of Robert, First Earl of Lytton.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1946. A revision of her dissertation, Harlan's book is more concerned with analysis of Lytton's writing (including a chapter on Lucile) than with his life per se. It was the first, and remains one of very few, full length considerations of Lytton's life and work.

Raymond, E. Neill. Victorian Viceroy: The Life and Times of Robert, the First Earl of Lytton. (London and New York: Regency Press, 1980). 312p plus notes, 8p b&w illustrations. A detailed biography of Lytton more concerned with his diplomatic career than with his writing. An epilogue describes Lytton's descendents to 1980.

Washbrook, David. "Lytton, Edward Robert Bulwer-, first earl of Lytton (1831-1891)", (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004). The "DNB" is available online, but locked behind a paywall. This is, however, a very widely held reference set which is found in mostlibraries, and many libraries also subscribe to the online edition. Washburn's summary biography is excellent and worth seeking out.

Jenkins, Lyndsey. Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr. (London: Biteback Publishing, 2015). In her first chapter Jenkins reviews briefly the lives and family backgrounds of Lytton and his wife (Edith Villiers, 1841-1936) as well as Lytton's professional career. In her final chapter she similarly reviews the lives of the Lytton children who lived to maturity: Elizabeth (Betty) Balfour) 1867-1942; Emily Lutyens (1874-1964); Victor (1876-1947); and Neville (1879-1951). The bulk of her book is concerned with Lytton's second daughter, Constance (1869-1923), a somewhat sickly child who never married and lived a large part of her life with her mother but who, in 1909, became a suffragette and dedicated the remainder of her life to the cause of women's voting rights. Arrested not long after becoming an activist, she was quickly recognized as an artistocrat and released; many of her fellow arrestees, of lower class, went on hunger strikes and were force-fed for days and weeks. To establish this hypocrisy beyond question, in January 1910 Constance disguised herself as "Jane Warden" and, commiting an offense in Liverpool, was arrested, jailed, and force-fed for several days. The prison medical staff did not check her physical condition as prison rules required, and thus failed find her chronic heart problems. She left prison in poor health but as an effective and influential spokeswomman for the suffragettes.

For obituaries and other biographies of Lytton, see bottom of the page at Reviews.

Last revised: 12 March 2016