Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gruneisen, Charles Lewis

GRUNEISEN, CHARLES LEWIS (1806–1879), journalist and musical critic, was born in Bloomsbury, London, 2 Nov. 1806. His father, Charles Gruneisen, a native of Stuttgart, was naturalised as an English subject by act of parliament 23 Dec. 1796. The son was educated by a private tutor and at Pentonville academy, his studies being completed in Holland. He commenced the pursuit of literature at an early period of his career, and in 1832, at the age of twenty-six, was appointed sub-editor of the conservative 'Guardian;' became editor of the 'British Traveller and Commercial and Law Gazette,' a London evening paper, in 1833, and in the same year managed the foreign department of the 'Morning Post,' and was also sub-editor of that paper. In March 1837 he was sent as special correspondent of the 'Morning Post' to the Carlist army in Spain, where he was attached to the headquarters of Don Carlos. Passing with the army through various smaller actions he was present at the victory of Villar de los Navarros, 24 Aug. 1837, and received the cross of a special order instituted by the king for those who were engaged in the battle. His position enabled him to be the means of saving the lives of many prisoners who would have been massacred by the Carlist generals, contrary to the orders of Don Carlos. He remained with the army when it advanced to Madrid in September 1837, and in the retreat from that city suffered great hardships, and several times ran risks of being killed. After the battle of Retuerta, 5 Oct. 1837, finding that his services were no longer of any use in Spain, he prepared to leave the country, but was almost immediately, 19 Oct., taken prisoner by some Christino soldiers. He was on the point of being shot as a Carlist and a spy, and it was only by the intervention of Lord Palmerston that his release was at last effected, and he returned to England in January 1838. Previously to his departure from Spain Don Carlos had conferred on him the cross of the order of Charles III. From 1839 to 1844 he was the Paris correspondent of the 'Morning Post;' editor of the 'Great Gun,' a weekly illustrated paper, from 16 Nov. 1844 to 28 June 1845, and special correspondent of the 'Morning Herald' during the tour of the queen and Prince Albert in Germany in 1845. While in Paris he organised an express system to convey correspondence to the London journals, and during the five winter months he carried out a complete communication with London from Paris by despatches conveyed by pigeons.

On his return to England he acted as musical critic to the 'Britannia,' the 'Illustrated London News,' and the 'Morning Chronicle,' up to 1853. On 21 Aug. 1846 an Italian opera company was established at Covent Garden, with Costa as conductor, and a company which included Grisi, Mario, and many other celebrities. The idea and organisation of this enterprise was mainly due to Gruneisen, and to it he gave disinterested support by his advice and his pen during a long period. In 1869 he publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the management of Frederick Gye (Standard, 25 Feb. 1869). Gye, in disgust, entered into partnership with Mr. J. H. Mapleson in 1869, and from this period, as Gruneisen had foretold, the decline of the opera in England commenced. In the meantime he had become intimate with Meyerbeer, who entrusted him with the sole charge of the score of 'Le Prophète,' which was brought out with great success at Covent Garden 24 July 1849. He was one of the chief founders and a director of the Conservative Land Society 7 Sept. 1852, and acted as secretary of it from 1853 to December 1872 (Diprose, St. Clement Danes, 1868, pp. 184–185). He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a member of the Society of Arts, of the Royal Literary Fund, and one of the trustees of the Newspaper Press Fund. He was, however, perhaps better known as a musical critic than in any other capacity. He entered with the keenest interest into the study of all new musical works, and pronounced very decided opinions as to some of the productions of the modern school. He was one of the first to draw attention to the merits and demerits of Wagner, while his knowledge of Spanish music, acquired during his residences in Spain, was remarkable. His sincerity, earnestness, and high principle gave much weight to his opinions on musical art. He succeeded H. F. Chorley [q. v.] in 1868 as musical critic of the 'Athenæum,' a post which he held till his death. He died at his residence, 16 Surrey Street, Strand, London, 1 Nov. 1879, and was buried at Highgate 7 Nov.

He was the author of ‘The Opera and the Press,’ 1869; of ‘Sketches of Spain and the Spaniards during the Carlist Civil War,’ 1874; and of a little book entitled ‘Memoir of Meyerbeer,’ and contributed notes to W. A. Lampadius's ‘Life of Mendelssohn,’ 1876.

[Men of the Time, 1879, pp. 468-9; Era, 9 Nov. 1879, p. 11; Times, 4 Dec. 1879, p. 8; Athenæum, 8 Nov. 1879, p. 603.]

G. C. B.