Fonblanque, Albany William
FONBLANQUE, ALBANY WILLIAM (1793-1872), English journalist, descended from a noble French Huguenot family, the Greniers of Languedoc, was born in London in 1793. John Grenier, a banker, became naturalized in England under the name of Fonblanque; and his son John Samuel Martin Fonblanque (1760-1838), a distinguished equity lawyer, and the author of a standard legal work, a Treatise on Equity, was the father of Albany Fonblanque; he represented the borough of Camelford in parliament; and was one of the Whig friends of George IV. when prince of Wales. At fourteen young Fonblanque was sent to Woolwich to prepare for the Royal Engineers. His health, however, failed, and for two years his studies had to be suspended. Upon his recovery he studied for some time with a view to being called to the bar. At the age of nineteen (1812) he commenced writing for the newspapers, and very soon attracted notice both by the boldness and liberality of his opinions, and by the superiority of his style to what Macaulay, when speaking of him, justly called the "rant and twaddle of the daily and weekly press" of the time. While he was eagerly taking his share in all the political struggles of this eventful period, he was also continuing his studies, devoting no less than six hours a day to the study of classics and political philosophy. Under this severe mental training his health once more broke down. His energy, however, was not impaired. He became a regular contributor to the newspapers and reviews, realizing a fair income which, as his habits were simple and temperate, secured him against pecuniary anxieties.
From 1820 to 1830 Albany Fonblanque was successively employed upon the staff of The Times and the Morning Chronicle, whilst he contributed to the Examiner, to the London Magazine and to the Westminster Review. In 1828 the Examiner newspaper, which had been purchased by the Rev. Dr Fellowes, author of the Religion of the Universe, etc., was given over to Fonblanque's complete control; and for a period of seventeen years (1830 to 1847) he not only sustained the high character for political independence and literary ability which the Examiner had gained under the direction of Leigh Hunt and his brother, John Hunt, but even compelled his political opponents to acknowledge a certain delight in the boldness and brightness of the wit directed against themselves. When it was proposed that the admirers and supporters of the paper should facilitate a reduction in its price by the payment of their subscription ten years in advance, not only did Mr Edward Bulwer (Lord Lytton) volunteer his aid, but also Mr Disraeli, who was then coquetting with radicalism. During his connexion with the Examiner, Fonblanque had many advantageous offers of further literary employment; but he devoted his energies and talents almost exclusively to the service of the paper he had resolved to make a standard of literary excellence in the world of journalism. Fonblanque was offered the governorship of Nova Scotia; but although he took great interest in colonial matters, and had used every effort to advocate the more generous political system which had colonial self-government for its goal, he decided not to abandon his beloved Examiner even for so sympathetic an employment. In 1847, however, domestic reasons induced him to accept the post of statistical secretary of the Board of Trade. This of course compelled him to resign the editorship of the Examiner, but he still continued to contribute largely to the paper, which, under the control of John Forster, continued to sustain its influential position. During the later years of his life Fonblanque took no prominent part in public affairs; and when he died at the age of seventy-nine (1872) he seemed, as his nephew, Edward Fonblanque, rightly observes, "a man who had lived and toiled in an age gone by and in a cause long since established."
The character of Albany Fonblanque's political activity may be judged of by a study of his England under Seven Administrations (1837), in comparison with the course of social and political events in England from 1826 to 1837. As a journalist, he must be regarded in the light of a reformer. Journalism before his day was regarded as a somewhat discreditable profession; men of true culture were shy of entering the hot and dusty arena lest they should be confounded with the ruder combatants who fought there before the public for hire. But the fact that Fonblanque, a man not only of strong and earnest political convictions but also of exceptional literary ability, did not hesitate to choose this field as a worthy one in which both a politician and a man of letters might usefully as well as honourably put forth his best gifts, must have helped, in no small degree, to correct the old prejudice.
See the Life and Labours of Albany Fonblanque, edited by his nephew, Edward Barrington de Fonblanque (London, 1874); a collection of his articles with a brief biographical notice.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)