Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sidney, Samuel

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SIDNEY, SAMUEL (1813–1883), agricultural writer, was born 6 Feb. 1813 in Paradise Street, Birmingham, where his father, Abraham Solomon, M.D., practised as a physician. He was educated for the law, and acted for a short time (about 1834) as a solicitor in Liverpool. He soon took, however, to journalistic and literary work, using the nom de plume of Sidney, which he afterwards adopted for all purposes. His earlier writings dealt largely with railways and the gauge question, generally from the agricultural point of view. Most of his works on this subject appeared between 1846 and 1848. In 1847 the return of his brother John from Australia appears to have aroused Sidney's interest in the colonies, and he wrote much on emigration and colonisation between 1848 and 1854. In conjunction with his brother he edited ‘Sidney's Emigrant's Journal’ between 1848 and 1850, when it was discontinued ‘as barely paying its necessary expenses.’ From 1847 to 1857 he wrote regularly for the ‘Illustrated London News,’ acting as hunting correspondent, and visiting agricultural exhibitions at home and abroad. He wrote also for the ‘Live Stock Journal’ a series of articles extending over many years, entitled ‘Horse Chat’ and signed ‘Cavalier.’ He contributed many articles to the earlier volumes of ‘Household Words,’ and wrote a novel dealing with Australian life, entitled ‘Gallops and Gossips in the Bush of Australia’ (1854), which he dedicated to Charles Dickens. In 1850–1 he became one of the assistant commissioners for the Great Exhibition, and was afterwards for some years assistant secretary to the Crystal Palace Company. In 1859 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the secretaryship of the Royal Agricultural Society, and in the succeeding year was appointed secretary of the Agricultural Hall Company. In 1864 he organised the first horse show held at that hall, and acted as manager of many succeeding horse shows there.

In 1857 he edited and in great part rewrote W. C. L. Martin's book on ‘The Pig;’ and in 1860 he re-edited Youatt's book, also on ‘The Pig.’ But by far his most important contribution to literature was ‘The Book of the Horse,’ for which he had long collected materials, and which was first published in 1873. It is a mine of information on the various breeds of horses, English and foreign, on fox-hunting and deer-hunting, on horsemanship and horsewomanship, on the management of the stable, breeding, breaking, &c. It is in this work that Sidney's versatile pen appears at its best. The book became popular at once, and is now (1897) in its fourth edition. In its compilation he had valuable assistance from many leading experts, but he was himself a good judge of a horse, and was a fine rider in his early days. He died of heart disease at Stamford Hill on 8 June 1883.

Of his separately published writings, the more important were, besides those mentioned above: 1. ‘Gauge Evidence,’ 1846. 2. ‘The Double Gauge Railway System,’ 1847. 3. ‘A Voice from the far Interior of Australia,’ 1847, written nominally by his brother John, but really by him. 4. ‘The Commercial Consequences of a Mixed Gauge,’ 1848. 5. ‘Railways and Agriculture in North Lincolnshire,’ 1848; a beautiful little volume printed by Pickering. 6. ‘Rides on Railways,’ 1851. 7. ‘The Three Colonies of Australia,’ 1852.

[Obituary notice in Agricultural Gazette, vol. xvii. (new series), 1883, p. 598; Preface to the Book of the Horse; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Private information from Mr. F. T. S. Houghton and others.]

E. C.-e.