Blunt, Wilfrid Scawen (1840–1922), eccentric, traveller, and poet, was born 17 August 1840 at Petworth House, Sussex, second son of Francis Scawen Blunt of Crabbet House, Sussex, who was a grenadier guard, and his wife Mary Chandler of Surrey, daughter of a Church of England clergyman. After schooling at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, and Oscott College near Birmingham, he entered the diplomatic service at eighteen, left it when at twenty-nine he married Lady Anne Isabella Noel King, Byron's granddaughter, and three years later inherited Crabbet, which enabled him to travel. He travelled in the Near and Middle East, and twice visited Egypt and India, consequently adopting strongly anti-imperialist views while retaining the demeanour of an English gentleman and purporting to be a tory.
Blunt paid seven visits to Ireland between March 1886 and June 1888 in order to support the agrarian agitation that became known as the Plan of Campaign. He looked upon Ireland as a case of English oppression similar to that he had perceived in India and Egypt. In Ireland he was a privileged but captive tourist, hosted, guided, and guarded by home-rule politicians, agrarian agitators, and catholic ecclesiastics, most notably the MPs John Dillon (qv) and William O'Brien (qv) and the archbishop of Cashel, Thomas William Croke (qv). On 16 October 1887 he spoke at a banned meeting of tenants of the 2nd marquess of Clanricarde (qv) (d.1916) at Woodford, Co. Galway, for which he was arrested, convicted of intimidation and breach of the peace, and imprisoned for two months at Galway and Kilmainham.
Blunt's Irish travel diaries, published as The land war in Ireland, being a personal narrative of events (1912), while useful to historians, suffer from his weaknesses as a prose writer: ‘His discretion is questionable, his judgement superficial; he records gossip as fact, and allows prejudice to colour his narration’ (P. G. Elgood, DNB). More laudable was his Irish verse: ‘The canon of Aughrim’ (1886), ‘Remember O'Brien!’ (1887), and ‘In vinculis’ (1888), the last of which received praise from Oscar Wilde (qv). He later wrote a play, Fand, a féerie in three acts, for the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Although in Ireland he posed as a catholic, which gave him easy access to catholic ecclesiastics, he had in Egypt shown sympathy with Islam, and after his death (10 September 1922) he was buried, at his own request, without religious rites.