Walker, Thomas (1822-1898) (DNB00)

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WALKER, THOMAS (1822–1898), journalist, was born on 5 Feb. 1822 in Marefair, Northampton. His parents sent him to an academy in the Horse Market at the age of six, where he remained till ten. The headmaster was James Harris. His father died when he was young, and his mother accepted the offer of relatives at Oxford to take charge of him. He was taught carpentering there in the workshop of Mr. Smith. At the close of his apprenticeship he began business with Mr. Lee; but he retired at twenty-four because it was uncongenial, and also because he had determined to become a journalist.

He gave his leisure hours to self-training, reading the best books, and reading them often. He perused Thomas Brown's ‘Philosophy of the Human Mind’ five times in succession. He learned German in order to study Kant's works in the original. At a later period he was so much impressed by Coleridge as to read his ‘Aids to Reflection’ and portions of the ‘Friend’ once every five years. He equipped himself for the pursuit of journalism by becoming an adept at shorthand, and in September 1846 he advertised in the ‘Times’ for an engagement. Before doing so he had formed three resolutions: ‘The first was to refuse no position, however humble, provided it could be honestly accepted; the second, to profess less than he could perform; and the third, to perform more than he had promised.’ T. P. Healey, proprietor of the ‘Medical Times,’ engaged Walker as reporter. Walker also contributed papers to ‘Eliza Cook's Journal.’ Having made the acquaintance of Frederick Knight Hunt [q. v.], assistant-editor of the ‘Daily News,’ he first wrote for that journal, and next obtained a subordinate post on the editorial staff, his duty being, to use his own words, ‘to fag for the foreign sub-editor [J. A. Crowe], translate for him, and condense news from the European and South American journals.’ In 1851 he became foreign and general sub-editor. On the death of William Weir [q. v.] in 1858 he was appointed to the editorship. As editor he was distinguished for his support of the cause of Italian liberty, and by his confidence in the ultimate triumph of the federalists in the American civil war. Under the influence of Miss Martineau he advocated very strongly the justice of the action of the northern states, and refused to yield to the strong pressure brought to bear by friends of the confederates. He resigned the editorship in 1869 to accept the charge of the ‘London Gazette,’ a less arduous post. He retired on 31 July 1889, when the office of editor was suppressed. He died on 16 Feb. 1898 at his residence in Addison Road, Kensington, and was buried on 20 Feb. in Brompton cemetery. He was twice married, and a daughter survived him. His later years were devoted to philanthropic work in connection with the congregational church, in which he once held the honourable position of president of the London branch. He was a man of great strength of character. Dr. Strauss, one of his teachers, styles him ‘a very cormorant at learning, and one of those rare men who have the faculty of acquiring knowledge’ (Reminiscences of an Old Bohemian, i. 112). The principles of domestic, colonial, and foreign policy which he formulated and enforced on becoming editor of the ‘Daily News,’ made that journal's fame; and when he retired from conducting it, Mr. Frederick Greenwood wrote in the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’ that Walker had been distinguished as editor ‘by a delicate sense of honour and great political candour. He always held aloof from partisan excesses, and has shown himself at all times anxious to do justice to opponents—not common merits.’

[Athenæum, 26 Feb. 1898; privately printed Memoir; Times, 20 Feb. 1898; Daily Chronicle, 19 Feb. 1898.]

F. R.