The Times/1917/Obituary/Thomas Edward Kebbel
JOURNALIST AND FRIEND OF DISRAELI
We regret to announce that Mr. Thomas Edward Kebbel, the veteran journalist and author, and a close personal friend of Disraeli, died on Monday at Little Peatling, Chesham Bois, in his 91st year.
The third son of the Rev. Henry Kebbel, vicar of Wistow and Kilby, Leicestershire, he was educated at Merchant Taylor's School, where he was a boarder, and at Oxford, first at Exeter College and afterwards at Lincoln, where he was an exhibitioner, and graduated with a second in "Greats" in 1849. He then came to London to read for the Bar, but difficulties intervened and it was not until 1862 that he was called by the Inner Temple. For many years he held the office of Receiver of Fines for the Treasury, to which he was appointed by Lord Beaconsfield, but journalism was his profession, and his introduction to it began in 1855 when he joined the Press, and organ of the Tory Party, to the cause of which Mr. Kebbel remained a staunch adherent all his life. But, he found journalism hard and unremunerative work, until in 1873 he joined the Standard, on the staff of which he continued as a political leader writer for many years. While writing mainly on politics he also wrote freely on sport and rural life, to which he was keenly attached from his boyhood; indeed he was always a countryman at heart. He was an occasional contributor to The Times, which has published letters from him quite recently.
In politics he owed much to his training and direct inspiration to Disraeli in 1858, and from 1859 onwards he saw a great deal of him, visiting him constantly in London and at Hughenden, and getting to know him as intimately as was possible only to a very few. Lord Rowton told him that it was intended by Disraeli that Mr. Kebbel and Lord Barrington should write his Life, but written instructions to that fact were never discovered.
At one time Mr. Kebbel was a facile writer of Latin verse, and some of his translations of Tennyson have been published. A rather disastrous controversy into which he fell with H. A. J. Munro in Macmillan's Magazine is still remembered by those who care for such things. Mr. Kebbel had rashly criticized on the grounds of taste Munro's privately printed version of Gray's "Elegy," to which he preferred the old-fashioned rendering by Gilbert Wakefield. Munro's answer was characteristic and annihilating. After Kebbel had admired Wakefield's line, "Ad tumuli fauces ducit honoris iter," Munro showed that so far from representing Gray, it could only mean "the path of public office leads to jaws of a hillock."
Mr. Kebbel also did a good deal of biographical and historical work, including lives of Beaconsfield, Lord Derby and Crabbe, a collection of Beaconsfield's speeches, "Essays on History and Politics," and history of Tory Administrations. A successful study of country life and ways was his "Agricultural Labourer." He was no mean sportsman; his happiest reminiscences were those of hours spent with dog and gun. In 1911 he published an interesting volume of recollections, "The Battle of Life," a record mostly of his early struggles, of his school and college days, and of sport in Leicestershire, Wiltshire, and elsewhere. It is a good picture of manners which have long passed away, and reminds one vividly in places of Thackeray. For instance, Mr. Kebbel was once "nabbed" by a living counterpart of Mr. Moss, of Cursitor-street; he could remember old Merchant Taylor's School in Suffolk-lane with sympathy and gratitude; and he reproached himself, perhaps rather harshly, for not taking a better class at Oxford, although he read with Mark Pattison.
He married in 1873, Evelyn Catherine, youngest daughter of Mr. John Clarke, of Great Yarmouth. Mrs. Kebbel died in June, 1912. The funeral will be at Chesham Bois at 3 on Friday.