Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day/J. B. Hopkins


According to an oft-told story, a parliamentary reporter being asked if a certain M.P. had not been in the gallery, replied, 'Yes; but he was not up to our mark, so we pitched him into the House!' The said M.P. might have been a clever politician and statesman, though he failed in reporting, which requires a special and natural aptitude. The same remark is applicable to other departments of journalism. The leader-writer, the essayist, and the critic need extensive reading, minute observation, quickness of apprehension, and to wield an ever-ready pen. The journalist must also have the faculty of writing in a style that is both easy and instructive; for the newspaper reader expects to be spared the trouble of thinking, and to be regaled with completely digested thought. The adage that tells us the poet is born and the orator made is a rhetorical error; because the poet needs mental culture, and no man can be an orator unless he has the special talent. So with the journalist, who must be both born and made.

Mr. John Baker Hopkins was born in London, on the 10th of April 1830. He is maternally descended from a Staffordshire family, the Bakers, who have been closely allied with the Jennings family, and he is named after his great grandfather, a Wedgbury worthy, whose physical prowess, was celebrated in local song.

In April 1862, Mr. Henry Hotze, the commercial agent of the Confederate States, called on Mr. Hopkins, and discussed the expediency of buying the 'Atlas,' and making it the Confederate organ in Europe. Mr. Hopkins suggested that it would be better to start a new paper as the avowed organ of the Confederacy; and this was agreed to. In ten days after this interview—that is, on the 1st May 1862—the first number of the 'Index' appeared, under the joint editorship and management of Messrs. Hotze and Hopkins. At the 1862 meeting of the Social Science Congress, at the London
"As mil a man as ever scuttled ship or cut a throat."


Guildhall, Mr. Hopkins read an elaborate and remarkable statistical paper on the resources of the South; and this paper he soon afterwards reprinted as an introduction to 'The South Vindicated.'

The connection with the 'Index' involved a great deal of labour outside the immediate business of the paper; for the 'Index' was the bureau for information on Southern affairs. Mr. Hopkins was the London correspondent of the 'New York Daily News,' and he also sent occasional letters to the 'Mobile Register.' At the conclusion of the civil war it was intended to carry on the 'Index;' but President Johnson regarded the continued publication of the paper as a proof that the South had not entirely submitted to the Union, and therefore the 'Index' ceased to appear.

From 1864 until 1868, Mr. Hopkins held the responsible appointment of London correspondent to the Paris 'Correspondence Havas' a lithographic daily sheet of telegrams and news, circulated by imperial authority, and from which the French press took their information. The 'Correspondence Havas' is the oldest press association in Europe, and from it sprang our 'Reuter agency'—Mr. Julius Reuter having been for many years on the 'Havas' staff before he started his useful and successful agency in England.

In September 1865, Mr. Hopkins was invited by his friend Captain Hamber, the editor, and by Mr. Johnstone, the proprietor, to join the staff of the 'Standard;' and for three years he was associated with that paper.

Meantime Mr. Hopkins produced 'The Fall of the Confederacy,' an essay that was favourably received both in England and America. Some sketches of social life which had been contributed to the 'Cosmopolitan' were collected and published under the title of 'Cosmopolitan Sketches.' A few months after the passing of the 1867 Reform Bill, Mr. Hopkins wrote 'The English Revolution.' In that book, after a survey of the political situation, the author advocates certain changes and reforms which he deems expedient in consequence of the establishment of household suffrage.

At the commencement of 1867, Mr. Hopkins's learned friend, the editor of the 'Law Journal,' offered him an appointment on that paper, which he accepted and still holds. Mr. Hopkins was an occasional contributor of leaders to the 'Morning Post,' and for some time wrote a weekly letter under the signature of 'Esse Quam Videri.'

These letters led to an engagement on 'Vanity Fair,' to which periodical he contributed under the same nom de plume.

In May 1870, the London 'Figaro,' one of the most successful journalistic enterprises of the day, was started; and, two months later, Mr. James Mortimer selected Mr. Hopkins for his chief leader-writer. It cannot be denied that Mr. Hopkins is sometimes too unsparing and too vehement in the use of invective, and too bitter in his satire; but he says, and truly, that he has never written a line that assailed or reflected upon the private character of any man, be he prince or peasant.