Murray, David Christie (DNB12)

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MURRAY, DAVID CHRISTIE (1847–1907), novelist and journalist, born on 13 April 1847 in High Street, West Bromwich, was one of a family of six sons and five daughters of William Murray, printer and stationer of that town, by his wife Mary Withers. David attended private schools at West Bromwich and Spon Lane, Staffordshire, but at the age of twelve was set to work in his father's printing office. He early entered on a journalistic career by writing leaders for the 'Wednesbury Advertiser.' He was soon on the staff of the 'Birmingham Morning News' under George Dawson, reporting police court cases at twenty-five shillings a week, and rapidly winning the approval of his employer as an admirable descriptive writer. In Jan. 1865 Murray went to London without friends, funds, or prospects, and found casual employment at Messrs. Unwin Brothers' printing works. In May he enlisted as a private in the fourth royal Irish dragoon guards, and accompanied his regiment to Ireland, but after a year a great-aunt purchased his discharge. Thenceforth journalism or foreign correspondence was his profession, varied by novel-writing. When in London, he passed his time in Bohemian society. In 1871 he became parliamentary reporter for the 'Daily News.' In 1892 he was editor of the 'Morning,' a short-lived conservative daily London paper. A few years later he contributed to the 'Referee' ethical, literary and political articles, which were collected as 'Guesses at Truth' (1908).

Murray travelled much, and was constantly absent from London for long periods. He represented 'The Times' and the 'Scotsman' in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877–8. On his return he described in a series of articles for 'Mayfair' a tour through England in the disguise of a tramp. From 1881 to 1886 he lived mainly in Belgium and France, and from 1889 to 1891 Nice was his headquarters. Subsequently he resided for a time in North Wales. He made some success as a popular lecturer, touring through Australia and New Zealand in that capacity in 1889–91, and through the United States and Canada in 1894–5. He described Australia in articles in the 'Contemporary Review' (1891). In 'The Cockney Columbus' (1898) he collected letters on America from the 'New York Herald.' From 1898 onwards he devoted much energy to the support by writing and lecturing of Emile Zola's plea in behalf of Captain Dreyfus, a French officer, who had been wrongfully condemned for espionage.

Meanwhile Murray used his literary power to best effect in fiction. In 1879 he contributed his first novel, 'A Life's Atonement,' periodically to 'Chambers's Journal.' From that date until his death scarcely a year passed without the publication of one and at times two novels. Between 1887 and 1907 he occasionally collaborated with Henry Herman [q. v. Suppl. I] or Mr. Alfred Egmont Hake. Murray's novels 'Joseph's Coat' (1881) and 'Val Strange' (1882) achieved a notable success. 'By the Gate of the Sea' (1883) and 'Rainbow Gold' (1885), which first appeared in serial form in the 'Cornhill Magazine' under the editorship of James Payn [q. v. Suppl. I], fully maintained Murray's repute. 'Aunt Rachel' (1886) was equally attractive. Murray's fiction abounded in vigour. His plots are loosely constructed and he drew his incidents freely from his journalistic experiences. His style shows the hand of the journalist, but he is effective in describing the neighbourhood and inhabitants of Cannock Chase.

Murray died on 1 Aug. 1907 in London after a long illness, during wliich he endured much privation. He was buried at Hampstead. A memorial tablet in copper with pewter medallion was unveiled at West Bromwich public library in December 1908. He was twice married. By his first wife, Sophie Harris of Rowley Regis, whom he married in 1871, he had a daughter, who died young ; by his second wife, Alice, whom he married about 1879, he had one son, Archibald. Two sons and two daughters were born out of wedlock.

Besides his novels, Murray was author of several rambling volumes of autobiography. Such were: 'A Novelist's Notebook' (1887); 'The Making of a Novelist, an Experiment in Autobiography' (1894); and 'Recollections' (1908).

[Who's Who, 1907; The Times, 2 Aug. 1907; Allibone, Suppl. II., 1891; Henry Murray, A Stepson of Fortune, 1909, p. 445 (autobiographic recollections by D. C. Murray's brother); Murray's Recollections, 1908 (with photogravure portrait), and other autobiographic works, which are deficient in dates; private information.]

E. L.