Nicolas, Sir Nicholas Harris
vols history navy
NICOLAS, SIR NICHOLAS HARRIS (1799-1848), English antiquary, was born 10th March 1799, the fourth son of John Harris Nicolas of East Looe in Cornwall, whose Breton ancestors had settled there on the revocation of the edict of Nantes. He entered the navy in 1808, and was promoted lieutenant in 1815. At the close of the war he retired from the service and began to study for the bar. He was called at the Inner Temple in 1825, but his business as a barrister was chiefly confined to the claims of peerage before the House of Lords, his special genealogical knowledge rendering his assistance in such cases invaluable. On genealogical questions and those connected with the descent of ancient families his researches have thrown much important light. Of works on these subjects he published a considerable number, the most useful being Notitia Ilistorica (1824 ; expanded in 1835 for " Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopt-edia " into Chronology of History), Synopsis 'of the Peerage of En.gland (2 vols., 1825), and Testanzenta Vetusta (2 vols., 1826). Nicholas wrote a number of valuable biographical notices for Pickering's Aldine edition of the poets, among others those of Chaucer, Surrey, Wyatt, Collins, Cowper, Thomson, Burns, and Kirke White. His " Lives of Isaak Walton and Charles Cotton," prefixed to Pickering's edition of the Complete Angler, are also the fruit of independent and original research. The service of Nicolas in the royal navy seems to have left an impress on his mind which his antiquarian studies tended rather 'to deepen than obliterate ; and it is where his passion for antiquarian research was exercised in illustrating the historic glories of England and the heroic deeds of famous individuals that he found the most congenial scope for his powers. His magnum opus is his History of the Orders of Knighthood of the British Empire (4 vols., 1841-42). For his previous researches into the history of the orders he was, in 1831, made a knight of the Hanoverian Guelphic order and in 1832 chancellor of the Ionian order of St Michael and St George, and in 1840 he was advanced to the grade of the Grand Cross. In his later years Nicolas was occupied chiefly with works connected with the naval achievements of England. He published Dispatches and Letters of Admiral Lord Viscount Telson (7 vols., 1844-46); and he was engaged until a few days before his death in editing the papers of Sir Hudson Lowe. He died at Cape Cure, near Boulogne, August 3,1848.
Sir Harris Nicolas left an unfinished History of the British 1-m, in 2 vols. He became a member of the council of the Society of Antiquaries in 1826, but on account of a controversy with the other members in regard to the management of its affairs be withdrew in 1828. Besides exposing in various pamphlets what he regarded as serious defects in its management, he made frequent reference to them in the Retrospective Review, of which he was joint-editor. He also instituted an inquiry into the proceedings of the Record Commission, the publications of which ho regarded as not commensurate in value with the money expended on them. But, although, owing to the warmth of his feelings and his keen interest in his subject, Nicolas was apt to involve himself in keen controversy, he never cherished personal animosity, and his motives were otherwise above suspicion. A complete list of the writings of Nicolas will be found in the Gentleman's Magazine for October 1848.