Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Arnold, Arthur

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ARNOLD, Sir ARTHUR (1833–1902), radical politician and writer, born on 28 May 1833, at Gravesend, Kent, was third son of the three sons and three daughters of Robert Coles Arnold, J.P., of Whartons, Framfield, Sussex, by his wife Sarah, daughter of Daniel Pizzi of Clement's Hall, Rochford, Essex. Sir Edwin Arnold [q. v. Suppl. II] was an elder brother. Owing to delicate health, Arnold, whose full Christian names were Robert Arthur, was educated at home, and subsequently adopted the profession of surveyor and land agent. He was professionally engaged on proposals connected with the construction of the Thames embankment; and in 1861 he issued a pamphlet, entitled 'The Thames Embankment and the Wharf Holders,' in which he supported the adoption of the scheme of (Sir) Joseph William Bazalgette [q. v. Suppl. I]. Cherishing literary ambitions, he produced in his leisure two sensational novels, 'Ralph; or, St. Sepulchre's and St. Stephen's' (1861) and 'Hever Court' (1867), the latter appearing as a serial in 'Once a Week.'

In 1863, under the Public Works (Manufacturing Districts) Act, Arnold was appointed by Charles Pelham Villiers [q. v.], then president of the poor law board, assistant commissioner and subsequently government inspector of public works. For three years he was engaged on the difficult task of supervising the employment of the destitute cotton operatives of Lancashire on the making of roads and other public works, and he contributed some striking articles on the subject to the 'Daily Telegraph.' In 1864 he issued his popular 'History of the Cotton Famine from the fall of Sumter to the passing of the Public Works Act,' which reappeared in a cheap edition next year. In 1867 a tour in the south and east of Europe first aroused his philo-Hellenic sympathies, which were conspicuous in his descriptive letters 'From the Levant,' published in 1868, and to which he was constant through life. In the same year Arnold became first editor of the 'Echo,' a new evening paper, and one of the earliest to be sold for a halfpenny, which attained great success under his control. He resigned the post in 1875, soon after the purchase of the paper by Albert Grant, known as Baron Grant [q. v. Suppl. I], and immediately started on a journey through the East with his wife, riding the whole length of Persia, a distance of more than 1000 miles. His 'Through Persia by Caravan ' (1877), dedicated to Earl and Countess Granville, gives a spirited account of his adventures.

Arnold's interests were divided between politics and journalism. A staunch radical, he studied with attention current social and agrarian problems, and contributed frequently to the leading reviews. Articles and pamphlets by him were collected into a volume, entitled 'Social Politics' (1878), in which he warmly advocated the reform of the land laws and the political enfranchisement of women. He was in sympathy with the movement in favour of the nationalisation of land, and in 1885 was elected chairman of the Free Land League.

Meanwhile Arnold's ambition to enter parliament had been gratified. After contesting unsuccessfully the borough of Huntingdon in the liberal interest in 1873, he was returned in 1880 as radical member for Salford. While acting with the radical wing of his party on questions of home politics, Arnold frequently criticised with vigour and independence the government's conduct of foreign affairs. In 1880 he became chairman of the Greek committee, in succession to Sir Charles Dilke, and he was active in urging the claims of the Hellenic kingdom to an extension of territory in accordance with the suggestion of the treaty of Berlin. In 1873 the King of Greece had conferred on him the golden cross of the Order of the Saviour. In the House of Commons he made his mark as an effective speaker in debates on the franchise. On 21 March 1882 his proposal of a uniform franchise and a redistribution of seats was approved by the house (Hansard, 3 S. cclxvii. 1443, 1532). In 1883 he moved for an elaborate return of electoral statistics, which influenced the reform bill of 1884. At the general election of 1885 Arnold was defeated in the newly formed division of North Salford. He stood again there in 1892 as a supporter of home rule, with the same result, and he was defeated in 1892 for North Dorset. He did not re-enter the House of Commons. As a liberal imperialist Arnold gradually lost sympathy with the official policy of the liberal party, and in 1900 he opposed the views of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman [q. v. Suppl. II] on the conduct of the South African war.

Abandoning party politics, Arnold devoted his energies to problems of municipal government. In 1889, on the formation of the London county council, he was elected an alderman for six years; he was re-elected in 1895 for three, and again in 1898 for six years. On 12 March 1895 he was chosen chairman, and was re-elected on 10 March 1896, thus enjoying the unique distinction of holding the office for more than one year. On 18 July 1895 he was knighted, and Cambridge bestowed on him the hon. degree of LL.D. in 1897. He died at 45 Kensington Park Gardens on 20 May 1902, and was buried at Gravesend. In 1867 he married Amelia, only daughter of Captain H. B. Hyde, 96th regiment, of Castle Hyde, co. Cork, who survived him without issue. She founded a scholarship in his memory at Girton College, Cambridge, and a brass memorial tablet has been placed there.

[Times and Westminster Gazette, 21 May 1902; Tinsley, Random Recollections of an Old Publisher, 1900, ii. 67; T. H. S. Escott, Masters of English Journalism, 1911; Men and Women of the Time, 1899; private information from Miss Arnold.]

G. S. W.