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Yates, Edmund Hodgson

YATES, EDMUND HODGSON (1831-1894), English journalist and author, son of Frederick Henry Yates (1797-1842), was born at Edinburgh on the 3rd of July 1831. His father and mother (nte Brunton; 1709-1860) were both prominent figures on the London stage from about 1817 onwards. Edmund Yates was educated at Highgate School and at Dusseldorf. In 1847 he obtained a clerkship in the General Post Office, with which he continued to be connected up to 1872, becoming in 1862 head of the missing letter department. He married in 1853, and soon began to write for the press. Charles Dickens made him dramatic critic to the Daily News, and he was a contributor to Household Words. He wrote several farces which were acted between 1857 and 1860. In 1855 he had begun writing a column for the Illustrated Times (under Henry Vizetelly), headed " The Lounger at the Clubs ": this was the first attempt at combining " smart " personal paragraphs with the better class of journalism, and in 1858 Yates was made editor of a new paper called Town Talk, which carried the innovation a step forward. His first number contained a laudatory article on Dickens, and the second a disparaging one on Thackeray, containing various personal references to private matters. Thackeray, regarding this as a serious affront, brought the article before the committee of the Garrick Club, of which he contended that Yates had made improper use, and the result was that Yates was expelled. Besides editing Temple Bar and Tinsley's Magazine, Yates during the 'sixties took to lecturing on social topics, and published several books, including his best novel, Black Sheep (1867); and under the heading of " Le Flaneur" he continued in the Morning Star the sort of " personal column " which he had inaugurated in the Illustrated Times. On his retirement from the Post Office in 1872 he went to America on a lecturing tour, and afterwards, as a special correspondent for the New York Herald, travelled through Europe. But in 1874, with the help of E. C. Grenville Muiray, he established a new London weekly, The World, " a journal for men and women," which he edited himself. The paper at once became a success, and Yates bought out Grenville Murray and became sole proprietor. The World was the first of the new type of " society papers," abounding in personal criticism and gossip: one of its features was the employment of the first person singular in its columns, a device by which the personal element in this form of journalism was emphasized. After Truth was started in 1877 by Mr Henry Labouchere (who was one of Yates's earliest contributors), the rivalry between the two weeklies was amusingly pointed by references in The World to what " Henry " said, and in Truth to the mistakes made by " Edmund." In 1885 Yates was convicted of a libel in 1884 on Lord Lonsdale, and was imprisoned in Holloway gaol for seven weeks. In the same year he published his Recollections and Experiences in two volumes. He died on the 20th of May 1894. He had been the typical flaneur in the literary world of the period, an entertaining writer and talker, with a talent for publicity of the modern type developed, no doubt, from his theatrical parentage which, through his imitators, was destined to have considerable influence on journalism.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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