Skinner, John Edwin Hilary (DNB00)

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SKINNER, JOHN EDWIN HILARY (1839–1894), special correspondent, elder son of Allen Maclean Skinner, Q.C., and a descendant of Matthew Skinner [q. v.], was born in London in January 1839, and educated at London University, where he graduated LL.D. in 1861. In the same year he was called to the bar from Lincoln's Inn, and went the northern circuit. A first-rate linguist, he obtained a commission from the ‘Daily News’ as special correspondent with the Danish army in the war of 1864. He was present during the campaign down to the fall of Alsen at the end of June, whereupon Christian IX presented him with the Dannebrog order. A partial success only can be ascribed to his attempt to unravel the Schleswig-Holstein complication in ‘The Tale of Danish Heroism’ (London, 1865, 8vo); his opinion as to the superiority of the Prussian breech-loaders, however, was amply vindicated in the following year, when Skinner reported the Austro-Prussian campaign. In the meantime Skinner had visited America, and on his return wrote two sketchy volumes entitled ‘After the Storm’ (London, 1866, 8vo), dealing with the United States, Canada (the ‘Tendon Achilles’ of the British empire, of which he advocates the independence), and Mexico. In 1867 he ran the blockade into Crete, and in ‘Roughing it in Crete’ (London, 1867, 8vo) advocated the cession of Crete to Greece. This, he contended, would not only conciliate liberal opinion, but would concentrate the Turkish power. Nine years later, on this same subject he contributed ‘Turkish Rule in Crete,’ denouncing the ‘blighting effect’ of Turkish misgovernment, to the ‘Eastern Question Association’ papers (No. ix. 1877). During the Franco-German war of 1870 Skinner was attached to the crown prince of Prussia's staff, and described the battles from Wörth to Sedan. He carried his account of the decisive battle from Donchéry, near Sedan, to London, riding neck and neck with Dr. Russell of the ‘Times,’ and crossing from Ostend in the same boat. Their narratives appeared simultaneously on 6 Sept., having been anticipated only in the ‘Pall Mall Gazette.’ For a short time, in the spring of 1881, Skinner was assistant judicial commissioner in Cyprus; in 1885 he unsuccessfully contested the constituency of South Paddington against Lord Randolph Churchill. He died at Setif in Algeria, whither he had gone for his health, early in November 1894. A ‘dapper little man,’ overflowing with vivacity, he was referred to by Mr. Archibald Forbes in 1870 as one of the élite of the profession. His account of Sedan has rarely been surpassed.

[Daily News, 27 Nov. 1894; Times, 27 Nov. 1894; Woolrych's Lives of Eminent Serjeants, ii. 527; Walker's Days of a Soldier's Life; Russell's Diary of the Last Great War, pp. 240, 540, &c.; Works in Brit. Museum Library.]

T. S.