Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mudford, William

MUDFORD, WILLIAM (1782–1848), author and journalist, born in Half Moon Street, Piccadilly, London, on 8 Jan. 1782, became in 1800 assistant secretary to the Duke of Kent, whom he accompanied to Gibraltar in 1802; but he soon resigned this situation in order to devote himself to literary pursuits and to study politics, with a view to journalism. An admirer of Burke, he adopted strong conservative or old whig opinions. After a brief connection as a parliamentary reporter with the 'Morning Chronicle,' he obtained an appointment, first as assistant editor, and afterwards as editor of the 'Courier,' an evening journal which had acquired popularity and influence, and which maintained upon no unequal terms a rivalry with the 'Times.'

Mudford warmly supported Canning during the intrigues which preceded and followed his accession to the office of prime minister, and was frequently in communication with him until his death. Declining to support a change of policy on the part of the proprietors of the 'Courier,' Mudford publicly withdrew from the paper, and justified his conduct in a letter which attracted considerable attention. The 'Courier' steadily declined in circulation, and finally expired, after some unsuccessful efforts had been made to induce Mudford to resume the editorship.

A loss of his earnings during the speculative mania compelled him at forty to begin the world again, with a young wife and increasing family. He worked assiduously, and, at the invitation of the conservative party in East Kent, he became the editor, and subsequently the proprietor of the 'Kentish Observer,' and settled at Canterbury. To ' Blackwood's Magazine ' he was a regular contributor, and a single number occasionally contained three articles from his pen a tale, a review, and a political paper. His series of 'First and Last' tales and his contributions under the title of 'The Silent Member' were very popular. Mudford succeeded Theodore Hook [q. v.] in 1841 as editor of the 'John Bull,' and removed to London, but he still maintained his connection with the 'Kentish Observer.' Despite declining health he toiled incessantly. A vigorous article on the French revolution of 1848, written long after midnight, which appeared in the 'John Bull' of 5 March of that year, was the last effort of his pen. He died at 5 Harrington Square, Hampstead Road, on 10 March 1848, leaving a widow and eight children. His second son, Mr. William Heseltine Mudford, is now (1894) the editor of the 'Standard.'

His works are :

  1. 'A Critical Enquiry into the Writings of Dr. Samuel Johnson. In which it is shewn that the Pictures of Life contained in "The Rambler" and other Publications of that celebrated Writer have a dangerous tendency. To which is added an Appendix, containing a facetious Dialogue between Boz [James Boswell] and Poz [Dr. Johnson] in the Shades,' 2nd edit. London, 1803, 8vo.
  2. 'Augustus and Mary, or the Maid of Buttermere, a Domestic Tale,' 1803, 12mo.
  3. 'Nubilia in search of a Husband, including Sketches of Modern Society' (anon.), London, 1809, 8vo; 4th edit., with two additional chapters, in the same year.
  4. ‘The Contemplatist, or a Series of Essays upon Morals and Literature,’ 1811, 12mo.
  5. ‘The Life and Adventures of Paul Plaintive, Esq., an Author. Compiled by Martin Gribaldus Swammerdam,’ 2 vols. London, 1811, 12mo.
  6. ‘A Critical Examination of the Writings of Richard Cumberland. Also Memoirs of his Life,’ 2 vols. London, 1812, and again 1814, 8vo.
  7. ‘An Historical Account of the Campaign in the Netherlands in 1815, under the Duke of Wellington and Prince Blucher,’ London, 1817, 4to, with plates by Cruikshank, from drawings by J. Rouse. In this volume he received assistance from the Duke of Wellington, to whom it was dedicated.
  8. ‘The Five Nights of St. Albans’ (anon.), a novel, 3 vols. London, 1829, 12mo; London [1878], 8vo.
  9. ‘The Premier’ (anon.), a novel, 3 vols. London, 1831, 8vo.
  10. ‘The Canterbury Magazine. By Geoffrey Oldcastle, Gent.,’ 1834, &c.
  11. ‘Stephen Dugard’ (anon.), a novel, 3 vols. London, 1840, 12mo; reprinted in Hodgson's ‘New Series of Novels,’ vol. v. London [1860], 8vo.
  12. ‘Tales and Trifles from “Blackwood's” and other popular Magazines,’ 2 vols. London, 1849, 8vo; containing the well-known story of ‘The Iron Shroud,’ which is reprinted in vol. i. of ‘Tales from Blackwood.’
  13. ‘Arthur Wilson, a Study’ (anon.), 3 vols. London, 1872, 8vo (a posthumous publication).

He also translated Golbéry's ‘Travels in Africa,’ 1803; Helvetius's ‘De l'Esprit,’ with a life of the author, 1807; Madame Grafigny's ‘Peruvian Letters,’ 1807; Cardinal de Bausset's ‘Life of Fénelon,’ 1810; ‘Memoirs of Prince Eugene of Savoy,’ 1811; and he edited Goldsmith's ‘Essays on Man and Manners,’ 1804, ‘The British Novelists,’ 1811, and Beattie's ‘Beauties,’ 1809, with memoir.

[Private information; Gent. Mag. June 1848, p. 665; Biog. Dict. of Living Authors, p. 245; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 1626.]

T. C.