Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 59.djvu/257

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Walter
Walter
251

represents. Many books were printed at the logographic press, and a shop for their sale was opened in the west end. From the outset Walter appears to have obtained the printing of 'Lloyd's List' (Smiles, ut sup.), probably through his former connection with Lloyds as an underwriter; and in or about 1787 he was appointed printer to the customs—a privilege whicn was withdrawn eighteen years later because 'The Times,' by that time a growing power in the land, had sharply criticised the policy of the government and the conduct of Lord Melville, which led to the dismissal of the latter. There is no foundation for the report mentioned in Timperley's 'Encyclopædia of Literary and Typographical Anecdotes' that Walter 'bad obtained a pension or sinecure of 700l. a year from Mr. Pitt.'

Moderately successful as a printer and publisher, sanguine and somewhat visionary as an inventor and innovator, Walter was not fortunate as a journalist. But he gave 'The Times' in germ the character which it has since maintained. Some of the more ephemeral and less worthy features of its first numbers have disappeared in its maturity. But in spite of occasional lapses into frivolity, and even what would now perhaps be regarded as scurrility, it devoted itself from the first to the serious discussion of public manners and policy—it denounced prizefighting, and never defended the slave trade—to a sagacious and independent survey of public affairs, foreign and domestic; to the intelligent discusson and promotion of the country, and more especially to a reproduction of the debates in parliament at once prompter, more accurate, and more copious than any other newspaper attempted at the time. Financially, however, it was not an immediate success, and it brought upon Walter himself much personal vexation. In 1786 he was convicted at the Guildhall, at the suit of Lord Loughborough, 'for a libel in propagating an infamous and injurious report, highly injurious to the honour and character of the plaintiff' {Ann. Reg. vol. xxviii.'), and ordered to pay damages 150l.In 1789 he was tried before the king's bench for a libel on the Duke of York. The libel appears to have consisted in the statement that the duke and two of his brothers, the Dukes of Clarence and Cumberland, were 'insincere' in their expressions of joy at the king's recovery (Fraser, Rae nt sup.) For this offence he was sentenced to pay a fine of 50l., to undergo a year's imprisonment in Newgate, to stand in the pillory for one hour between the hours of twelve and three, and to enter into recognisances for his good behaviour for seven years (Ann. Reg. vol. xxxi.) During his imprisonment he was again brought before the court on two fresh charges of libel: one on the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, whom he had represented as having so demeaned themselves as to incur the just disapprobation of his majesty; and another on the Duke of Clarence, of whom he had said that he had returned home without authority from the admiralty or his commanding officer. A fine of 100l. was inflicted for the latter offence; for the former, Walter was sentenced to pay another fine of 100l. and to be imprisoned in Newgate for a second year after the term of the imprisonment he was then undergoing (Fraser Rae, ut sup.; Ann. Reg. vol. xxxil.) The libel on the Prince of Wales appears to have a curious history. 'I kept consistent to my opinion to defend the administration during the regency, when the other papers veered round to the rising son (sic), though many temptations were made me by individuals of the opposite party. I was accustomed to receive communications from the treasury, with a private mark, by direction of one of the under-secretaries of state; by the insertion of one of them I was prosecuted at the instance of the Prince of Wales, at the suit of the treasury, for a treasury offence. Expecting remuneration, I gave up no author, and suffered a long and painful imprisonment, under a delusion of being soon released, though it lasted sixteen months. . . . Had I disclosed the authors and their employers, I might have escaped prosecution myself, and proved it on others' (letter to Lord Kenyon, ut sup.) In the end the Prince of Wales relented. On 9 March 1791 Walter 'was liberated from his confinement in Newgate in consequence of receiving his majesty's most gracious pardon, at the instance of his royal highness the Prince of Wales' (Ann. Reg. vol. xxxiii.); but no reparation appears to have been made by the treasury. Once more Walter was involved in 1799 in an action for libel at the suit of Lord Cowper, and again convicted. This he ascribes to 'an incautious insertion of my eldest son, on whom I have for several years committed the guidance of the paper.' He was adjudged to be technically liable, under a then recent statute, as proprietor of 'The Times,' for a paragraph of which he assured Lord Kenyon he was utterly ignorant until he read it in 'The Times,' and which he also avowed that he was not prepared to defend (letter to Lord Kenyon, ut sup.)

Advancing in years, with health impaired by imprisonment and energy weakened