Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Clayden, Peter William

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CLAYDEN, PETER WILLIAM (1827–1902), journalist and author, eldest son (of four children) of Peter Clayden (d. 1865), ironmonger, and Eliza Greene (d. 1873), was born at Wallingford on 20 October 1827. He was educated at a private school in Wallingford, and early went into business. Brought up among congregationalists, he was led by the writings of Dr. James Martineau [q. v. Suppl. I] to Unitarian views, and was admitted to the Unitarian ministry. For thirteen years from 1855 to 1868 he was an active Unitarian minister. He was in charge successively of Unitarian churches at Boston (1855-9), at Rochdale (1859-60), and at Nottingham (1860-8). In 1865 Clayden appealed to Dr. James Martineau to act as leader in a movement for the union of all congregations that rested on a spiritual and not on a dogmatic basis ; and on 14 March 1866 the Free Church Union was formed, of which Clayden became secretary (Life and Letters of James Martincan, i. 418). Meanwhile he was also devoting himself to journalism. While at Boston he edited for a time the 'Boston Guardian' ; while at Nottingham he wrote chiefly on political and social questions for the 'Edinburgh Review,' the 'Fortnightly,' and the 'Cornhill Magazine.' He strongly advocated the cause of the north during the American civil war. He had already become acquainted with Miss Harriet Martineau [q. v.], and she, in 1866, introduced him to Thomas Walker [q. v.], editor of the 'Daily News,' who engaged him at once as an occasional writer in his paper. A thirty years' association with the 'Daily News' was thus inaugurated. In 1868, when the 'Daily News' was reduced to Id., Clayden resigned his ministry and joined the regular staff in London as leader writer and assistant editor. In 1887 he became night editor, a post he retained till 1896.

Clayden, an ardent liberal of strong non-conformist leanings, greatly increased the influence of the 'Daily News' as an organ of liberal nonconformist opinion. He was especially active in support of Gladstone's anti-Turkish views of the Eastern question, and in hostility to the pro-Turkish policy of Lord Beaconsfield and his successors.

Clayden thrice sought in vain to enter parliament in the liberal interest, unsuccessfully contesting Nottingham in '1868, Norwood in 1885, and North Islington in 1886. He was a member of the executive committee of the National Liberal Federation and an alderman of St. Pancras. Clayden's journalistic efficiency and honesty of purpose were well recognised by professional colleagues. In 1893 he was elected president of the Institute of Journalists, and in 1894 president of the International Congress of the Press at Antwerp. In 1896, when freed from regular journalistic work, he advocated the cause of the Armenians, whom Turkey was persecuting anew. As honorary secretary of the committee which was formed to press the question in parliament, Clayden organised meetings, and in 1897 published 'Armenia, the Case against Lord Salisbury.' He died suddenly on 19 Feb. 1902 at 1 Upper Woburn Place, and was buried in Highgate cemetery.

He married (l) in 1853, Jane, daughter of Charles Fowle, of Dorchester, Oxfordshire (d. 1870); (2) in 1887, Ellen, daughter of Henry Sharpe, of Hampstead (d. 1897). His second wife was grandniece of Samuel Rogers [q. v.] the poet, and a niece of Samuel Sharpe [q. v.], the Egyptologist; of the latter, Clayden published a biography in 1883, while of Samuel Rogers he wrote two memoirs from family papers, 'The Early Life of Samuel Rogers' (1887); and 'Rogers and his Contemporaries' (2 vols. 1889). His eldest son by his first wife, Arthur William Clayden, became principal of University College, Exeter. In addition to separately published pamphlets and the works already mentioned, Clayden's chief publications were:

  1. 'The Religious Value of the Doctrine of Continuity,' 1866.
  2. 'Scientific Men and Religious Teachers,' 1874.
  3. 'England under Lord Beaconsfield,' 1880.
  4. 'Five Years of Liberal and Six Years of Conservative Government,' 1880.

[The Times, 20 Feb. 1902; Daily News, 20 Feb. 1902; F. M. Thomas, Recollections of Sir John Robinson, 1904; Letters to William Allingham, 1911; Athenaeum, 22 Feb. 1902; private information.]

G. S. W.