Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Hill, Frank Harrison

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HILL, FRANK HARRISON (1830–1910), journalist, baptised on 4 March 1830 at Boston, Lincolnshire, was younger son of George Hill, merchant of that city, by his wife Betsy, daughter of Pishey Thompson [q. v.]. Educated at the Boston grammar school, Hill in September entered as a divinity student the Unitarian New College, Manchester, where he studied under Dr. James Martineau [q. v. Suppl. I]. In June 1851 he completed the five years' 'course of study for the Christian ministry prescribed by that institution.' There is no evidence that he availed himself of his right to preach. Meanwhile in 1848 he had matriculated at the University of London, and having graduated B.A. in the first class in 1851 acted from 1853 to 1855 as private tutor in the family of Dukinfield Darbishire of Manchester; the elder of his pupils, S. D. Darbishire, was subsequently the famous 'stroke' of the Oxford University boat (1868-70), and afterwards practised as a doctor at Oxford. Somewhat later Hill became tutor in the family of Mrs. Salis Schwabe, also of Manchester.

Hill seems to have owed his introduction to journalism to Henry Dunckley [q. v.], 'Verax' of the 'Manchester Times and Examiner,' and to Richard Holt Hutton [q. v. Suppl. I], editor of the 'Spectator.' He was sufficiently well known in 1861 to become, on the death of James Simms, editor of the 'Northern Whig,' the chief organ of the Ulster liberals. He took up his work at Belfast at the time when the Fenian movement in the south of Ireland was becoming dangerous, and when the civil war in the United States was influencing party politics at Westminster. Alone of Irish journalists he supported the north in the American struggle, and he risked temporary unpopularity in the cause (cf. address presented on resigning editorship, Jan. 1866).

After leaving New College, Manchester, Hill kept up friendly relations with his teacher, Dr. James Martineau, who had officiated at Hill's marriage at Little Portland Chapel, London, in 1862. Through Martineau he made the acquaintance of Harriet Martineau, then on the staff of the 'Daily News' and like himself a staunch supporter of the northern states. He also came to know Crabb Robinson, Robert Browning, and W. J. Fox. At the suggestion of Mr. Frank Finlay, proprietor of the 'Northern Whig' (his wife's brother), Hill was hastily summoned at the end of 1865 to London to become assistant editor of the 'Daily News.' It was a critical moment in parliamentary politics. After the death in 1865 of Lord Palmerston, the liberal prime minister, and the succession of Earl Russell to his office, the party demanded stronger measures and methods than the whig tradition countenanced. Hill energetically championed a forward liberal policy. Whilst the conservative reform bill of 1866 was passing through parliament he contributed to a volume of essays, 'Questions for a Reformed Parliament' (1867), an enlightened article on the political claims of Ireland. At the same time he wrote for the 'Saturday Review,' and a high place among London journalists was soon won. On the retirement of Thomas Walker [q. v.] from the editorship of the 'Daily News' in 1869, Edward Dicey [q. v. Suppl. II] filled the post for a few months; but Hill soon succeeded Dicey, and he held the editorship for seventeen years. The price had been reduced from threepence to one penny a year before he assumed office. Hill continued to give steady support to Gladstone's administration, and the journal became an influential party organ. Under his editorship and the management of (Sir) John Richard Robinson [q. v. Suppl. II] the 'Daily News' attained an influence and a popularity which it had not previously enjoyed. Hill collected a notable body of leader-writers. Amongst these, in addition to Peter William Clayden [q. v. Suppl. II], the assistant editor, were Justin McCarthy, (Professor) William Minto [q. v.], (Sir) John Macdonell, Prof. George Saintsbury, Andrew Lang, and later Mr. Herbert Paul—whilst William Black the novelist. Sir Henry Lucy, and Frances Power Cobbe [q. v. Suppl. II] were occasional writers or auxiliary members of the staff. Hill himself wrote constantly, notably a series of 'Political Portraits,' which was published separately in 1873 and went through several editions. His intimate relations with the political leaders of the day enabled him to gauge accurately their aims and ambitions, and his keen insight had at its service a caustic pen.

Hill declined to accept Gladstone's home rule policy in 1886. The proprietors were unwilling to sanction Hill's claim to independence of the party leaders' programme, and early in 1886 his services were somewhat abruptly dispensed with. He returned the cheque for a year's salary sent by the proprietors on his retirement. Thereupon Hill's political friends wished to show, by means of a pecuniary testimonial, their appreciation of his services to the party, but the proposal was abandoned in deference to his wish. Before the close of the year he became the regular political leader-writer of the 'World,' and held that post for twenty years.

Hill contributed to the 'Fortnightly Review' (1877-8) a bitter and trenchant article on 'The Political Journeyings of Lord Beaconsfield,' and to the 'Edinburgh Review' (July 1887) an appreciative article on 'Mr. Gladstone and the Liberal Party.' After leaving the 'Daily News' he was a frequent contributor to the 'Nineteenth Century.' A life of George Canning which he wrote for the 'English Worthies' series (1881) contained few new facts, but showed a clearer appreciation of Canning's political aims and difficulties than previous biographers had presented. Hill was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1872, but never practised. He died suddenly at 13 Morpeth Terrace, Westminster, on 28 June 1910, and by his will bequeathed 1000l. to the Boston grammar school to found an exhibition from the school to any English university. In June 1862 he married Jane Dalzell Finlay, daughter of the proprietor of the 'Northern Whig,' and a contributor to the literary section of that paper. After her marriage Mrs. Hill continued to write literary articles and reviews, chiefly in the 'Saturday Review.' She died in 1904.

[Private information; F. Moy Thomas's Recollections of Sir John R. Robinson, 1904; Justin McCarthy's Reminiscences; Notes and Queries, 15 Oct. 1910.]

L. G. R.