Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Westall, William

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WESTALL, WILLIAM [BURY] (1834–1903), novelist and journalist, born on 7 Feb. 1834 at White Ash, near Blackburn, in Lancashire, was eldest son of John Westall, a cotton spinner of White Ash, by his wife Ann, daughter of James Bury Entwistle. Richard Westall the painter [q. v.] belonged to the same stock. After being educated at the Liverpool high school, Westall engaged in his father's cotton-spinning business. But about 1870 he retired, lived much abroad, and devoted himself to journalism. While at Dresden he sent articles to ‘The Times’ and ‘Spectator,’ and moving to Geneva in 1874 acted as foreign correspondent both to ‘The Times’ and the ‘Daily News,’ besides editing the ‘Swiss Times,’ of which he became part proprietor. His first book, ‘Tales and Traditions of Saxony and Lusatia,’ appeared in 1877, but his earliest success in fiction, ‘The Old Factory,’ a story of Lancashire life with strong local colouring, was issued in 1881. His later novel, ‘Her Two Millions’ (1897), amusingly depicts the conditions of Anglo-continental journalism in Geneva, where Westall became acquainted with Russian revolutionaries, particularly with Prince Kropotkin and with S. Stepniak (i.e. Sergyei Mikhailowitch Kravchinsky). He persuaded the latter to settle in London, and collaborated with him in translations of contemporary Russian literature, and of Stepniak's book on the aims of reform, ‘Russia under the Czars’ (1885). Westall was long a prolific writer of novels, drawing freely on his experiences alike in Lancashire and on the continent and further afield. He extended his travels to North and South America and to the West Indies, but finally returned to England, making his residence in Worthing.

He died at Heathfield, Sussex, on 9 Sept. 1903, and was buried there. He had just completed his latest novel, ‘Dr. Wynne's Revenge.’

Westall was married twice: (1) on 13 March 1855 to Ellen Ann, second daughter of Christopher Wood of Silverdale, Lancashire, by whom he had two sons and one daughter; and (2) at Neuchâtel on 2 Aug. 1863, to her elder sister Alicia, by whom he had two sons and two daughters.

A portrait—a bad likeness—belongs to Westall's daughter, Mrs. Chadwick, Clyde House, Heaton Chapel. A large photograph hangs in the Whitefriars Club.

Westall's numerous novels, which are of old-fashioned type, mainly dependent on incident and description, comprise, besides those mentioned:

  1. ‘Larry Lohengrin,’ 1881 (another edition, ‘John Brown and Larry Lohengrin,’ 1889).
  2. ‘The Phantom City,’ 1886.
  3. ‘A Fair Crusader,’ 1888.
  4. ‘Roy of Roy's Court,’ 1892.
  5. ‘The Witch's Curse,’ 1893.
  6. ‘As a Man sows,’ 1894.
  7. ‘Sons of Belial,’ 1895.
  8. ‘With the Red Eagle,’ 1897.
  9. ‘Don or Devil,’ 1901.
  10. ‘The Old Bank,’ 1902.

[The Times, 12 Sept. 1903; T. P.'s Weekly, 18 Sept. 1903; Who's Who, 1903; Brit. Mus. Cat.; private information.]

E. S. H-r.