The Times/1922/Obituary/Daniel Conner Lathbury

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Personality in Journalism.
Mr. Lathbury's career.
A brilliant editor.

The death of Mr. D. C. Lathbury, in his 92nd year, announced on another page, removes a journalist of remarkable distinction and personality. He will be long remembered, both for his brilliant editorship, first of the Guardian and then of the Pilot, and also for the vigorous independence with which he maintained his convictions.

Daniel Conner Lathbury was born at Wootton, near Northampton, on April 11, 1831. the eldest son of the Rev. Thomas Lathbury, author of many books and pamphlets, of which "The History of Convocation" and "The History of the Nonjuror" have a permanent value. From King's College London, he proceeded to Brasenose College, Oxford , graduating in 1854. He was President of the Union, but in the schools he achieved nothing more than a Fourth Class in Literis Humanioribus. Called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn, he never practised but betook himself once at journalism. He was writing for the Daily News before 1861, about which time he became seriously engaged in Action's Chronicle; and in 1863 he joined the Saturday Review, and wrote one or two articles a week for eighteen years, many of them on French subjects, He also became connected with the Spectator. In 1878 he was joint-editor of the Economist.

Home rule and South Africa

In 1883 Lathbury succeeded Martin Sharpe as editor of the Guardian and put new life into a journal which was declining from its former estate. For sixteen years he conducted the paper with a vigour and brilliancy that was never altogether to the taste either of the proprietors or of the subscribers. The tempered Liberalism with which the influence of Mr. Gladstone in earlier years, and the collaboration of Dean Church and of Professor Montague Bernard throughout, had qualified its ecclesiastical severity, did not hinder the free range of the paper in the parsonage, and had some effect on the political temper of the clergy. But Lathbury's Liberalism was of another kind. When the great cleavage on Home Rule broke up the party he followed Mr. Gladstone without reserve. He was not the man to veil his opinions, but he allowed himself a reasonable caution, and by leaning rather to the ecclesiastical side of his office he succeeded for some years in maintaining his position.

The outbreak of the war in South Africa shook him more seriously. Frankly, courageously, with whatever errors of judgment, he set himself against the general current of opinion denounced the policy which led to the war, and would not keep silence even when blood was drawn. Expostulations did not move him, and at the end of 1899 he was peremptorily dismissed from the direction of the paper. The cause was avowed, and he made it public, but the proprietors had another motive about which little was heard. The fact is that Lathbury had not only given the rein to his political opinions, but he head also allowed his personal convictions on disputed Church questions, notably the use of incense and reservation, to get the upper hand.

the story of the "Pilot"

His dismissal from the Guardian opened for Lathbury the way to a great personal success, which nevertheless led to financial disaster. Friends rallied round him, and he started the Pilot, the first number of which was greeted by the Spectator, a not too friendly rival, with the remark that it was to other weekly journals as a cathedral to a conventicle. The new venture had a chequered career of not quite four years. If the truth be told, Mr. Lathbury had not the qualities of a man of business; he could make a brilliant journal, but he could not make it pay. A succès d'estime the Pilot had in abounding measure; it stopped for want of funds, and the insistence of readers, not without some loosening of pursestrings, brought it forth again after a brief eclipse. But funds were again exhausted, the director ad moving support was no longer young, and failure was complete. Not the least remarkable feature of the struggle was the fact that the friends who generously furnished the means for its continuance were almost to a man opposed to Lathbury's political opinions—opinions to which he gave expression after a very different fashion from that on which he had ventured in the Guardian.

After the demise of the Pilot, Lathbury did sporadic work in journalism, characteristically always taking the most independent line. He was also occupied for some years with his edition of Mr. Gladstone's "Correspondence on Church and Religion," which was intended to fill a space deliberately left by Lord Morley in his otherwise exhaustive biography. He gave more, however, to his friends than to the public, and his pungent criticisms of current affairs inspired comments for which he could not be held directly responsible. In his charming cottage at Hascombe, with its exquisite garden, or his modest establishment in town, his decking years were cheered by the devoted companionship of his wife. who was a daughter of Professor Bonamy Price. There were always to be learnt the lessons of a cheerful pessimism that expected things in Church or State to become far worse before the days of inevitable mending. A rare combination of scepticism about men and measure, with complete confidence in the ultimate working of human institutions, was the secret of his large tolerance, and animated the laughing philosophy which rarely deserted him. Of the men and measures of the moment he was often intolerant. The gravity with which he conducted a rather solemn newspaper of mainly ecclesiastical interest, the organ of Bishops and archdeacons, had always contrasted oddly with the genial violence of his personal judgments. In his latter days Lathbury shared the lot of many lifelong Liberals, and found the successors of his old associates little to is liking. Yet it would be a mistake to think that he had outlived his day, for there was always the future to come, and that would set things right.

There will be a requiem at St. Alban's, Holborn, at 8.30 next Saturday, followed by the first part of the burial service at 10.45.

This work was published before January 1, 1924 and it is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 97 years or less since publication.