Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hunt, Frederick Knight

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HUNT, FREDERICK KNIGHT (1814–1854), journalist and author, was born in Buckinghamshire in 1814. His family appear to have been in narrow circumstances. At the time of his father's death about 1830 Hunt was a night-boy in a printer's office. To support his family, which he continued to do more or less until his death, he procured a diurnal engagement as clerk to a barrister. His employer, fortunately for him, had but little practice; and Hunt, who for years together never enjoyed a continuous night's rest more than once a week, filled up his time with study instead of sleep. His master, struck with his industry and attainments, introduced him to a connection with a morning newspaper. While labouring on the press, the indefatigable Hunt found time to study medicine, and combined both professions in the establishment in 1839 of the 'Medical Times,' which was incorporated in January 1852 with the 'Medical Gazette,' and successfully continued as the `Medical Times and Gazette' until 1885. Little profit nevertheless accrued to the projector, who, becoming temporarily embarrassed from the misconduct of a relative, was obliged to part with the property and accept the situation of surgeon to a poor-law union in Norfolk. He returned to London after a year, and, while continuing to practise medicine, resumed his connection with the press. He was successively sub-editor of the 'Illustrated London News' and editor of the 'Pictorial Times,' and upon the establishment of the 'Daily News' in 1846, was selected by Dickens as one of the assistant editors. In 1851 he was made chief editor, and under him the paper first became prosperous. Hunt died of typhus fever 18 Nov. 1854. He is described as an amiable, sanguine, impulsive man, disposed to busy himself with too many projects, and to diffuse his energies over too wide a field, but possessed of sound literary judgment, as well as of extraordinary energy and power of work. He was the author of a book on the Rhine, published in 1845, and of other ephemeral publications, but his literary reputation rests entirely on 'The Fourth Estate: Contributions towards a History of Newspapers and of the Liberty of the Press,' 1850, which will in some respects never be superseded. It is far from being a complete history of the English press, but contains a great number of interesting particulars respecting its development, especially of the various legislative impediments with which it has had to contend; and the chapters on the economy of newspaper offices in the writer's own day, though now entirely out of date, are most interesting and valuable for that very reason.

[Athenæum, 25 Nov. 1854; Daily News, 20 Nov.]

R. G.