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James Hannay

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Published : 29 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 17/2/1827
Death : 9/1/1873
Views : 2376

Journalist and author. After his early school years, educated himself largely by study and wide reading. From age thirteen to eighteen served in Royal Navy; dismissed, 1845, on charges of insubordination. Turned to journalism; lectured on literary subjects. From 1868 was British consul in Barcelona. Friend of Thackeray and Carlyle. Early in his journalistic career, founded a penny comic weekly, Pasquin, with Sutherland Edwards. Also worked with Edwards on the Puppet-Show. Thereafter contributed to Punch, United Service Magazine, Leader, Athenaeum, Quarterly Review, Illustrated Times, Welcome Guest, Cornhill, and other periodicals. Also contributed various series of articles to newspapers, e.g., "From Our Own Correspondent", to New York Tribune; "From an Englishman in Spain", to Pall Mall Gazette. Editor, 1860-1864, of Edinburgh Courant. Reprinted from periodicals various of his sketches, stories, and critical articles. Author of two 3-volume novels: Singleton Fontenoy, R.N., 1850, and Eustace Conyers, 1855; also Studies on Thackeray, 1869.


Hannay had little admiration for Dickens or for Dickens’s writings. In one of his letters to the Dumfries Courier, at the time of Dickens's separation from his wife, he remarked on Dickens's lack of judgment in communicating to "the whole world" his "private domesticities"; in another, commenting on the Garrick Club affair, he wrote of Thackeray's superiority over his assailants and their backers-up" (Worth, James Hannay, pp. 80-81). As a novelist, wrote Hannay, Dickens displayed "the faults belonging to a too zealous and narrow worship of modern social ideas, and a too great neglect of established, classical, ancient literature" (A Course of English Literature, p. 321).

Dickens had few comments on Hannay’s H.W.
contributions. He supplied the title—"In the Name of the Prophet Smith!"—for Hannay's article on Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Concerning it he wrote to Wills (July 1851): "I wish Hannay would not imitate Carlyle. Pray take some of the innumerable dashes out of his article—and for God's sake don't leave in anything about such a man [i.e., Smith] believing in himself—which he has no right to do and which would by inference justify almost anything". Smith's belief in himself is mentioned in the article, but not stressed. Dickens also supplied the title for Hannay's "Graves and Epitaphs"—and again he instructed Wills (October 7 1852): "See to the dashes ... They are at present innumerable". This was an article that Miss Burdett-Coutts liked (Heart of Charles Dickens, ed. Johnson, p. 209). 

In his preface to
Sand and Shells, 1854, Hannay stated that the sketches that comprise the book were reprinted from the United Service Magazine and from H.W. None of the sketches are from H.W., though H.M.S. Bustard and Captain Jigger of Sand and Shells find occasional mention in the H.W. articles.

H
annay contributed to the early numbers of A.Y.R. Twenty years after his death, the A.Y.R. article "Some Forgotten Novelists" (July 22 1893) mentioned him as a writer who had "hardly received due justice" and was no longer read by the general public; but there would always be a few readers, maintained the A.Y.R. writer, who would regard Singleton Fontenoy as a "cherished" possession.

H
annay's "English Songs" was included in the Putnam volume of selections from H.W.: Home and Social Philosophy, 2nd series.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1973.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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