Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whitty, Edward Michael

WHITTY, EDWARD MICHAEL (1827–1860), journalist, son of Michael James Whitty [q. v.], was born in London in 1827. He was educated at the Liverpool Institute and at Hanover. About 1844 he became a reporter on the provincial press, and from 1846 to 1849 he was the writer of the parliamentary summary of the ‘Times.’ He was the London correspondent of the ‘Liverpool Journal,’ and for several years served with George Henry Lewes, E. F. S. Pigott, and other distinguished writers on the staff of the ‘Leader.’ His great powers of sarcasm were first conspicuous in the singularly vivid and vigorous sketches of the proceedings in parliament which he contributed to the ‘Leader.’ The preliminary essays began in its columns on 14 Aug. 1852, and the first description of the debates by ‘The Stranger in Parliament’ appeared in the number for 13 Nov. in that year. A selection from them was published anonymously in 1854 as the ‘History of the Session 1852–3: a Parliamentary Retrospect.’ These articles originated the superior kind of parliamentary sketch, and for pungency of expression and fidelity of description have never been surpassed. A volume entitled ‘The Derbyites and the Coalition’ (1854?, 12mo) is assigned to Whitty by Allibone. A brilliant series of Whitty's ‘Leader’ articles was collected in ‘The Governing Classes of Great Britain: Political Portraits’ (London, 1854; with additions, 1859). The volume is said to have greatly impressed Montalembert. The phrase ‘the governing classes,’ though previously used by Carlyle (Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, 1845, ii. 150), was identified with Whitty's volume; R. B. Brough dedicated to him in 1855 his ‘Songs of the Governing Classes.’

Before long Whitty quarrelled with his old friends on the ‘Leader,’ and he seized the opportunity of satirising them in clever epigrammatic sentences in his novel of ‘Friends of Bohemia, or Phases of London Life,’ which was written in a fortnight and sold for 50l. (London, 1857, 2 vols.; New York and Philadelphia, 1864, with memoir). Whitty was appointed editor of the ‘Northern Whig’ early in 1857, but the engagement terminated abruptly in the spring of 1858. He returned for a time to London, and on the death of his wife and two children emigrated to Australia to work on the ‘Melbourne Argus.’ He died at Melbourne, at the house of a relative, on 21 Feb. 1860. A few years later a handsome monument was erected to his memory by Barry Sullivan the actor.

Whitty possessed great talent, and was endowed ‘with a brilliant style and a powerful battery of sarcastic irony’ (Irish Quarterly Review, vii. 385, &c.). A sketch of him under the name of ‘Ned Wexford,’ by James Hannay, is in the ‘Cornhill Magazine’ (xi. 251–2; reprinted in Espinasse's Literary Recollections, pp. 323–4).

[Athenæum, 12 May 1860, p. 651; Saunders, Otley, & Co.'s Oriental Budget, 1 June 1860, p. 122; Dublin Review, July 1857, pp. 101–4; Jeaffreson's Novels and Novelists, ii. 402; information from Miss Whitty of Concordia, Blundellsands, Liverpool, Sir Edward R. Russell, and Mr. F. D. Finlay.]

W. P. C.