Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 15.djvu/82

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absorbed for a time in editing the ‘Weekly Dispatch,’ which he purchased within a year after his return home; and when he had leisure to return to his book he conceived that its place had been supplied by Mr. (now Sir) D. Mackenzie Wallace's volumes. A translation of Tourguenieff's ‘Virgin Soil’ was published by Dilke in 1878. In 1880 he was returned for Newcastle as an advanced liberal, and seemed likely to play a considerable part in politics; but his health, never robust, gradually gave way and he resigned his seat. He died at Algiers on 12 March 1883.

[Athenæum, 17 March 1883.]

N. McC.

DILKE, CHARLES WENTWORTH (1789–1864), antiquary and critic, was born on 8 Dec. 1789. At an early age he entered the navy pay office, but his leisure hours were devoted to reading, and, sharing the enthusiasm for the Elizabethan dramatists which was created by the publication of Lamb's ‘Specimens of the English Dramatic Poets,’ he turned his attention in that direction. Gifford, who had edited Massinger, and was in the midst of his edition of Ben Jonson, encouraged him, and between 1814 and 1816 he brought out his continuation of Dodsley's ‘Old Plays,’ a very acute and careful piece of editing. He had by this time married and settled at Hampstead, and there made the acquaintance of Charles Armitage Brown [q. v.], and of what was then termed the cockney school, Keats, to whom he proved both a sympathetic and judicious friend, Leigh Hunt, J. H. Reynolds, and Hood. Shelley was also known to him. He was busy contributing to the periodicals which sprang up within a few years of the peace, such as the ‘London Review,’ the ‘London Magazine,’ and ‘Colburn's New Monthly,’ and naturally enough when the ‘Retrospective Review’ was started he became one of its chief supporters. His articles were mainly on literary topics, but in 1821 he produced a political pamphlet in the shape of a letter addressed to Lord John Russell, which was distinctly radical in tone, and pleaded for the repeal of the corn laws.

An event which formed a turning-point in Dilke's life was his becoming connected, about the end of 1829, with the ‘Athenæum,’ which, founded by James Silk Buckingham [q. v.] at the beginning of the previous year, had been purchased by John Sterling, and had subsequently passed into the hands of its printer and a number of men of letters. In the middle of 1830 Dilke became the supreme editor, and the effect of a firm hand on the management of the paper was speedily seen. Early in 1831 he reduced the price of the journal to fourpence, a measure which resulted in a marked increase in its sale and a corresponding reduction in the circulation of the ‘Literary Gazette,’ which adhered to the then customary price of a shilling. Meanwhile his co-proprietors, Reynolds, Hood, and Allan Cunningham, alarmed by the change, gave up their shares in the paper, although they continued to write largely for it, and the financial responsibility fell entirely upon the printer and the editor, who obtained the co-operation of Lamb, Barry Cornwall, Chorley [q. v.], George Darley, and others of his friends, and as soon as he had the opportunity enlisted the aid of Sainte-Beuve, Jules Janin, and other continental writers of repute, quite an unheard-of thing for a British journalist to do in those days. Although the circulation of the paper quickly developed, the heavy duty prevented the growth of advertisements, and for several years there was no surplus profit from which to pay Dilke a salary. The main principle of his editorship was to preserve a complete independence, and to criticise a book without caring who was the writer or who was the publisher, a principle which at the time was a startling novelty, and to maintain it Dilke withdrew altogether from general society, and avoided as far as possible personal contact with authors or publishers. In 1836 the navy pay office was abolished, and Dilke consequently retired on a pension, and devoted all his energies to the improvement of the paper.

In the forties the ‘Athenæum’ had become an established success, and no longer required the constant exertions which had been necessary in earlier days. Dilke consequently handed over the editorship to the late T. K. Hervey, and listened to the overtures of the ‘Daily News,’ which, started with great expectations of success under Charles Dickens, signally failed at first to realise the hopes of its proprietors. They therefore naturally turned to one who was politically in sympathy with them, and had proved his business faculty by converting a struggling journal into a paper of recognised influence and large circulation. Called in at first as a ‘consulting physician,’ he became in April 1846 manager of the ‘Daily News,’ John Forster being the editor, and applied to it the same policy that had proved successful in the case of the ‘Athenæum,’ reducing the price of the ‘Daily News’ by one-half. The capital of the paper proved, however, insufficient to meet the heavy expenses which the competition for news with the ‘Times,’ the ‘Herald,’ and the ‘Morning Chronicle’ involved, and another great stumbling-block was that, the proprietors belonging to various sections of the liberal party, each of them