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Samuel Sidney

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Published : 62 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 6/2/1813
Death : 8/6/1883
Views : 2247

Writer on railways, emigration, agriculture and livestock; son of Abraham Solomon, M.D. Educated for the law; worked for a time as solicitor in Liverpool; turned to journalism, assuming, in lieu of "Solomon", the name "Sidney"; used it thereafter for all purposes. From 1846 to 1848 published several books on railways and the gauge question. With his brother John Sidney, who had been six years in New South Wales, wrote Sidney's Australian Handbook, 1848; book was immediate popular success; sold thousands of copies. Brought out Sidney's Emigrant's Journal, 1848-1850 (for first few numbers, John Sidney was co-editor). Made speeches on emigration, wrote pamphlets on the subject. In 1852 published The Three Colonies of Australia. Was for many years hunting correspondent and writer on agricultural exhibitions for Illustrated London News; for Live Stock Journal wrote series of articles titled "Horse Chat". Was one of assistant commissioners for Great Exhibition. In 1860 appointed secretary of Agricultural Hall Co.; organized and managed horse shows at the Hall.


Sidney's acquaintance with Dickens and his connection with H.W. resulted from the prominence that Sidney and his brother had attained as authorities on Australian emigration. In a letter to Miss Burdett-Coutts, February 4 1850 (Heart of Charles Dickens, ed. Johnson, p. 164), in which he referred to Samuel Sidney merely as "the brother", to John Sidney as "the Bushman brother" and to the brothers jointly as "the writers of those pamphlets". Dickens stated that he had some time before directed a gentleman to "confer with them on the practicability of our doing something useful, in the Periodical, on the subject of emigration". He continued: "In sending me those books, they wrote me a very earnest letter, expressive of their desires to become contributors on that subject". The books, stated Dickens, gave him knowledge of the state of society in New South Wales "of which one could have no previous understanding, and which would seem to be quite misunderstood, or very little known, even in the cities of New South Wales itself". (The Sidneys' Voice from the Far Interior of Australia. By a Bushman, 1847, contains such information).

Sidney became a regular H.W. contributor, writing first on Australian matters, later on other subjects of his interest. Never in Australia himself, he based his H.W. writings on Australia (as he did his other writings on Australia) on histories and other works, statistical and other reports, information from persons—such as Caroline Chisholm— connected with emigration, letters sent to him by emigrants, and information furnished him by his brother.

Dickens's letters contain comparatively few comments on Sidney's H.W. contributions. "A Gallop for Life" Dickens found "surprisingly good" (to Wills, August 31 1851: MS Huntington Library). "Lost and Found in the Gold Fields" he thought "very poor"; another of  Sidney's articles was "such careless slip-slop as to be almost unintelligible, and quite unsuitable unless the second part be much better" (to Wills, March 10 1853; August 7 1854). An article on Robert Stephenson that Sidney submitted to A.Y.R. Dickens did not publish, holding that enough had already been written on the recently deceased engineer; Wills was to "Pay well for the article nevertheless" (to Wills, Oct.ober 30; to Sidney, November 3 1859). One of Sidney's later articles Dickens printed despite its "disgusting snobbery", revising it so as to make the snobbery as little offensive as it could be made (to Wills, August 26 1866: MS Huntington Library).

Wills's chip "Official Emigration", May 1 1852, indicates that one of Sidney's statements in "Three Colonial Epochs" had been called into question. Sidney had quoted Earl Grey as saying that after the cessation of the distress caused by the railroad failures, persons who emigrated under Government auspices were chiefly "the refuse of workhouses". Wills explained that the statement resulted from lithe misconstruction (for which we are in no degree responsible) of a sentence in the minutes recording a conversation of Earl Grey.

For "India Pickle", two names appear in the Office Book author-column: "Capper Sidney" (no ampersand). "Capper" is in part written over another notation or is itself in part overwritten, but the name is not marked out. Payment in one sum, rather than split payment, implies that the article was not a joint writing of the two contributors. Capper, resident in India and Ceylon, would be the more logical author of the item; but Sidney, who had not been in India, also contributed an article (derivative) on India.

Harper's reprinted, in whole or part, six of Sidney's H.W. contributions, two of them acknowledged to H.W.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Australian Dictionary of Biography

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