Author Topic: Robert Blatchford  (Read 7728 times)


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Robert Blatchford
« on: March 31, 2012, 04:48:43 PM »
Robert Blatchford
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Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford (17 March 1851 � 17 December 1943) was a socialist campaigner, journalist and author in the United Kingdom. He was a prominent atheist and opponent of eugenics. He was also an English patriot. In the early 1920s, after the death of his wife, he turned towards spiritualism.

Early life

Robert Blatchford was born 17 March 1851 in Maidstone, England, the second son of John Glanville Blatchford, a strolling comedian and Georgina Louisa Corri Blatchford, an actress. His early life was mostly spent close to the stage, and his father died when Robert was very young, in 1853. However, his mother continued to act for the following nine years. To help support the family the two sons, Montagu and Robert, would perform with their mother doing comedic renditions and dances for extra income which was insufficient. In 1862 the family settled in Halifax to attempt to start a better life by allowing the sons to learn a trade. Robert's first job being an odd job boy in a lithographic printing works; his salary being only eighteen pence a week. As a child he did attend school only occasionally, firstly in Halifax and then in Portsmouth for only a few weeks. These brief experiences though did provide him with enough insight to be able to label the education system as a 'cram' method.

To gain an education he taught himself from the age of eight, and he read the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, and works by Dickens. His poor health provided him with this free time, as throughout his childhood he was frail and sickly and in fact doctors stated he would not reach adulthood. Around 1864 his mother secured full-time employment as a dressmaker and immediately apprenticed both her sons, Montagu as a lithographic printer and Robert as a brushmaker. It was at a factory that he met the girl he would later marry, 'Within a few weeks... I told myself I would marry Sarah Crossley.' They would eventually marry in 1880.

By 1871 Blatchford left Halifax, and why he did so has been the cause of debate. Laurence Thomson argues that it is because of a quarrel with his mother. His daughter Dorothea stated it was on May Day he decided to leave because of his hard life. On this day he decided to leave for Hull by foot then on to London via Yarmouth.

Military and early journalistic career

He joined the Army at an early age and rose to become a sergeant major by 1874 and had also achieved the army's second class certificate of education. To reach this level took seven years; he served with the Irish regiment 103rd Dublin Fusiliers and the 96th Regiment of Foot. The pleasures of army life stimulated in Robert some of his best writing. In 1877 he left the army to become a clerk in the Weaver Navigation Company earning a guinea per week. Although he had left the army in 1878, he served a few months with the reserve army due to the scare about the threat that Russia posed to England. During this time as a clerk he carefully used his spare time to learn, he learnt grammar, syntax and shorthand. By 1880 he was married to his sweetheart Sarah Crossley. They were married at the Zion chapel Halifax and settled in Norwich. She was the daughter of a domestic servant and mechanic. It was around this time that Robert was becoming frustrated with his job, as he had the desire to become an artist. Unfortunately in Norwich the opportunities to become an artist were not available, so instead he decided to become a writer. His career began in 1882 on the Yorkshireman Newspaper, where he had merely had a sketch published. He obtained a full time job through his friend Alexander Muttock Thompson who worked for the Manchester Sporting Chronicle. Thompson recommended him to a friend who ran the newspaper, Bell's Life in London. He started at this paper a year later and he also began writing for the Leeds Toby. This new job lead to a new life for the family and also a move to South London.

In 1885 he began to write for the Manchester Sunday Chronicle. When Bell's Life failed he moved to this full time in 1887 via a short holiday on the Isle Of Wight due to the death of his two children. He was not yet a socialist, although back in the North there was much more to influence him towards it. In the North there was huge reaction to the competitiveness of industrial society. The largest influence on Blatchford was the South Salford Social Democratic Federation. In 1889 he was working full-time for the Chronicle and he wrote a series of articles denouncing the conditions of the housing in Manchester and he organised two working men's Sanitary Organisations.

Blatchford stated in the Fortnightly Review in 1907 that "Dr Cozier is mistaken if he thinks I took my Socialism from Marx, or that it depends upon the Marxin theory of value. I have never read a page of Marx. I got the idea of collective ownership from H.M. Hyndman; the rest of my Socialism I thought out myself. English Socialism is not German: it is English. English Socialism is not Marxian; It is humanitarian. It does not depend upon any theory of "economic justice" but upon humanity and common sense".

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