Sue Young Histories

Albany William Fonblanque 1793 - 1872

December 09, 2008

Albany William Fonblanque 1793 - 1872 was an English journalist.

Fonblanque was a patient of homeopath Frederick Hervey Foster Quin.

Fonblanque was a friend of Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, John Chapman, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, John Forster, Walter Savage Landor, Edward Bulwer Lytton, and John Stuart Mill.

Fonblanque was descended from a noble French Huguenot family, the de Greniers of Languedoc, and was born in London. John de Grenier Fonblanque, a banker, had been naturalized in England under the name of Fonblanque; and his son, John Samuel Martin Fonblanque, was Albany’s father.

At fourteen young Fonblanque was sent to the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, to prepare for a career in the Royal Engineers. His health was not good enough, and his studies were suspended. Upon his recovery he studied law with a view to being called to the bar.

At the age of nineteen (1812) he began writing for the newspapers, and soon attracted attention because of the boldness and liberality of his opinions, and because of the superiority of his style to what Thomas Babington Macaulay, when speaking of him, called the “rant and twaddle” of the daily and weekly press.

While he was sharing in all the political struggles of this eventful period, he was also studying, devoting at least six hours a day to the study of classics and political philosophy. Under this regime, his health once more broke down. He continued to be a regular contributor to the newspapers and reviews, making a reasonable living.

From 1820 to 1830, Fonblanque was successively employed on the staff of The Times and the Morning Chronicle, whilst he contributed to the Examiner, to the London Magazine and to the _Westminster Review _.

In 1828 the Examiner newspaper, which had been purchased by the Rev. Dr Fellowes, author of the Religion of the Universe, etc, was given over to Fonblanque’s complete control; and for a period of seventeen years (1830 to 1847) he not only sustained the high character for political independence and literary ability which the Examiner had gained under the direction of Leigh Hunt and his brother, John Hunt, but even compelled his political opponents to acknowledge a certain delight in the boldness and brightness of the wit directed against themselves.

When it was proposed that the admirers and supporters of the paper should facilitate a reduction in its price by the payment of their subscription ten years in advance, not only did Edward Bulwer Lytton volunteer his aid, but also Benjamin Disraeli, who was then flirting with radicalism.

During his time with the Examiner, Fonbianque had many offers of further literary employment; but he devoted his energies and talents to the service of the paper he had resolved to make a standard of literary excellence in the world of journalism.

Fonblanque was offered the governorship of Nova Scotia; but although he took great interest in colonial matters, and had used every effort to advocate the more generous political system which had colonial self government for its goal, he decided not to abandon his beloved Examiner even for so sympathetic an employment.

In 1847, however, domestic reasons induced him to accept the post of statistical secretary of the Board of Trade. This of course compelled him to resign the editorship of the Examiner, but he still continued to contribute largely to the paper, which, under the control of John Forster, continued to sustain its influential position.

During the later years of his life Fonblanque took no prominent part in public affairs; and when he died at the age of seventy nine he seemed, as his nephew, Edward Fonblanque, observes, a man who had lived and toiled in an age gone by and in a cause long since established.

Albany Fonblanque’s political activity may be judged by a study of his England under Seven Administrations (1837), in comparison with the course of social and political events in England frnm 1826 to 1837.

As a journalist, he must be regarded in the light of a reformer. Journalism before his day was regarded as a somewhat discreditable profession; men of true culture were shy of entering the hot and dusty arena lest they should be confounded with the ruder combatants who fought there before the public for hire.

But the fact that Fonblanque, a man not only of strong and earnest political convictions but also of exceptional literary ability, did not hesitate to choose this field as a worthy one in which both a politician and a man of letters might usefully as well as honorably put forth his best gifts, must have helped, in no small degree, to correct the old prejudice.


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