AGAR ELLIS, Hon. George James Welbore (1797-1833).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1818 - 1820
1820 - 1826
1826 - 1830
1830 - 1831

Family and Education

b. 17 Jan. 1797, o.s. of Henry Welbore Agar* (afterwards Ellis), 2nd Visct. Clifden [I] and 2nd Baron Mendip [GB]. educ. private sch. at Ealing 1806; Westminster 1811, Christ Church, Oxf. 1814; continental tour 1817-18. m. 7 Mar. 1822, Lady Georgiana Howard, da. of George, 6th Earl of Carlisle, 4s. 3da. cr. Baron Dover 20 June 1831.

Offices Held

PC 22 Nov. 830; chief commr. woods, forests and land revenues Dec. 1830-Jan. 1831.


Agar Ellis was by his own confession shockingly idle at university, but his talents were undoubted. He planned to spend the long vacation of 1815 on Elba collecting material for Buonaparte’s biography, but was forestalled by the Emperor’s return to France. He was impatient to be in Parliament and his first ambition was to represent his university. Subsequently he considered standing for county Kilkenny where his father owned 40,000 acres; but for that, he admitted, ‘he could have wished Ireland was sunk in the Atlantic’. While he was touring the Continent, ‘a sensible, very young man, with a careworn, expressive Spencer face’ and ‘the most unconquerable sweetness of temper’, he asked his friend Lord Shaftesbury to find a seat for him and in the end came in as a paying guest on the A’Court interest for Heytesbury, where his father had been chosen 25 years before.1 All his other seats were his own purchases.

Agar Ellis had previously attended debates in both Houses and found them tedious. He had joined Brooks’s Club, 11 May 1816, Grillion’s Club in 1819, and his own preference was for witty society and literature. Lady Morpeth described him in 1819 as ‘the young man of the year, although very like an old one in some things but he seems clever—he is so like [John William] Ward* that it is quite droll’.2 In the course of an amusing correspondence on the London scene with his friend Ralph Sneyd he wrote, 31 Jan. 1819, ‘my duties to the House of Commons and to Mme Lieven are alike unpaid’. On 1 Mar. he wrote

I am very thankful for a violent cold, which came to my assistance on Saturday and has prevented my further attendance—no, there can be nothing in life so disagreeable, not even sleeping with Mme. Lieven, or conversing with William Sloane, as an election committee or such a committee as the one I was on—the greater part of the members so devoid of common sense.

He confessed, ‘I neither read Ricardo on political economy, nor Copleston upon currency but then I live a great deal with Sydney Smith, whom I think more entertaining than anybody’.3 Smith, who met him at Holland House, found him ‘a very gentleman-like, civil, sensible young man, but, I fear, a Tory’.4 Agar Ellis admitted, ‘I vote only with government and attend most regularly Mackintosh’s criminal law committee of which I am a member’. He was in the opposition minority on the question of Wyndham Quin*, 29 Mar. 1819, and on 1 Apr., in Quin’s absence, announced a motion for his removal from his Irish county office. This he withdrew on better information, 5 Apr. He spoke and voted against state lotteries, 4 May. He joined the majority against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May. He opposed the foreign enlistment bill, 10, 21 June. No further minority votes were reported, but in January 1820 he was alleged to have ‘gone over to the opposition’. The report was somewhat premature, but evidently came true. Meanwhile he was on the look-out for another seat ‘devoid of constituents’.5

Agar Ellis retained his social aspirations, and realized his ambition to be a historian as well as a political journalist; at Westminster he persevered, but lacked the stamina, when his Whig friends found him a niche, to do himself justice.6 He died v.p., 10 July 1833.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Arthur Aspinall


  • 1. Letters of Countess Granville, i. 114, 119, 123, 196; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, Agar Ellis to Sneyd, 8 Apr. 1819.
  • 2. Chatsworth mss, Lady Morpeth to Devonshire, 16 Mar. 1819.
  • 3. Sneyd mss.
  • 4. Sydney Smith Letters ed. N. C. Smith, i. 316.
  • 5. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 22 Jan. 1820; Sneyd mss, Agar Ellis to Sneyd, 8 Feb. 1820.
  • 6. DNB; Gent. Mag. (1833), ii. 178; Greville Mems. ed. Strachey and Fulford, ii. 389-91.