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William Parry goes to Trial
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Like many others William Parry returned from the Greek Revolution a disappointed man. If he had won Byron’s respect in his capacity as an engineer he also won the enduring enmity of others who regarded him as a toady and a martinet. All that he had labored at came to nought when Byron died: what little remained of the regiment had been snatched away by Leicester Stanhope, the representative of the London Greek Committee, and put to uses of which Byron would not have approved. Parry published The Last Days of Lord Byron (1825) to shore up his finances, but also to commemorate Byron’s actions and revenge himself upon those who had undermined Byron’s plans for Greece.

In excerpting his book the Times reprinted a long, hilarious account of an encounter the practical-minded engineer had with Jeremy Bentham prior to departing for Greece. Bentham was not only an important backer of the London Greek Committee, he was a particular hero to the Whig reformers. On 22 May 1825 the Examiner shot back at Parry and his book, “the very contemptible production of a very contemptible fellow—one Parry, lately a caulker, but now calling himself a Major, and who had unfortunately prevailed upon the Greek Committee to send him out to Greece as an Engineer.” In August Blackwood’s responded with a glowing review of Parry, quoting the offensive passage at full length.

This was followed up on 2 April 1826 by a letter from Leicester Stanhope himself, defending the positions he had taken contrary to the views of Byron and Parry. To this the Examiner appended a footnote amplifying its earlier remark: “This man was a caulker in the dock-yards, and is—(not to repeat the worst of him)—a slanderer, a sot, a bully, and a poltroon. Who wrote the book to which he has prefixed his name, we cannot exactly say; but he himself cannot write ten words of English.”

Parry sued, claiming that the aspersions made against his character had left him unable to find employment in his profession, and the case went to trial in June 1827. The lawyers for the newspaper sought to make good their charges by calling witnesses who were present at Missolonghi, Stanhope among them. The trial proceedings as recorded by the Times and the Examiner are literary criticism of an extreme sort. Parry won his case but was awarded trivial damages. He spent his remaining years in and out of institutions before dying in the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum in 1859.

David Hill Radcliffe

William Parry: Last Days of Lord Byron (1825)
Anonymous, “Last Days of Lord Byron,” in The Times (19 May 1825)
Anonymous, [Mr. Parry and Mr. Bentham] in The Examiner (22 May 1825) 329
John Gibson Lockhart, “The Last Days of Lord Byron” in Blackwood’s Magazine 18 (August 1825) 137-55
Leicester Stanhope, “Last Days of Lord Byron,” in The Examiner (2 April 1826) 212-13
Anonymous, “Verdict against the Examiner, in the Case of William Parry,” in The Examiner (15 June 1827) 375-76
Anonymous, “Parry v. Hunt,” in The Times (17 June 1827) 375-76