Thomas Wemyss Reid

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Sir Wemyss Reid. Portrait of Thomas Wemyss Reid.jpg
Sir Wemyss Reid.

Sir Thomas Wemyss Reid (29 March 1842 – 26 February 1905) was an English newspaper editor, novelist and biographer.


Early life

Reid was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1842, the son of a Congregational minister [1]

Congregational church religious denomination

Congregational churches are Protestant churches in the Reformed tradition practicing congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs.


He became chief reporter on the Newcastle Journal aged 19. His reporting of the Hartley Colliery disaster (1862) established his reputation regionally, and two years later he was appointed editor of the Preston Guardian. [1] He was made London correspondent of the Leeds Mercury in 1867, becoming its editor three years later. He reminisced of the changes he had made to the working methods of the Mercury:

The Journal is a daily newspaper produced in Newcastle upon Tyne. Published by ncjMedia,, The Journal is produced every weekday and Saturday morning and is complemented by its sister publications the Evening Chronicle and the Sunday Sun.

Hartley Colliery disaster 1862 mining disaster which led to safety legislation

The Hartley Colliery disaster was a coal mining accident in Northumberland, England that occurred on Thursday 16 January 1862 and resulted in the deaths of 204 men. The beam of the pit's pumping engine broke and fell down the shaft, trapping the men below. The disaster prompted a change in UK law that henceforth required all collieries to have at least two independent means of escape.

The Leeds Mercury was a newspaper published in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It was published from 1718 to 1755 and again from 1767. Initially it consisted of 12 pages and cost three halfpennies. In 1794 it had a circulation of about 3,000 copies, and in 1797 the cost rose to sixpence because of increased stamp duty. It appeared weekly until 1855, then three times a week until 1861 when stamp duty was abolished and it became a daily paper costing one penny.

When I was appointed editor of the '"Leeds Mercury" I was told that I need never trouble to come to the office in the evening. If I looked in during the afternoon, and wrote my leader and notes, I would do all that was necessary. In those days, the provincial daily editor did not think of forming a judgement of his own on current events. When the pile of London dailies came in, he would read their leaders and base his own on them. In that way he was always a day behind London. I tried to change all that. I was down in my office each night, and I wrote my leaders on the telegraphic news as it came in . When Charles Dickens died, the news came in about eleven at night, and we went to press at one. I wrote a leader on Dickens's death, and that, I believe, was the only comment that appeared next day in any provincial daily on the matter. Other editors awoke to the fact that they, too, must no longer depend on London, and the old, easy-going times everywhere passed away. [1]

Charles Dickens English writer and social critic

Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are still widely read today.

He won the right for provincial newspapers to be admitted to the House of Commons press gallery and was (notes his entry in the ONDB) "the first to establish a provincial paper as a real rival to the London press, in the quality of its news and comment, and in its access to behind-the-scenes information". [2] He held the editorship for seventeen years, until in 1887 he moved to London to become a director and general manager of Cassell & Co, the London publishers, a post he held until his death. [1] From 1890–99, he was the editor-in-chief of the moderate Liberal magazine The Speaker .

House of Commons of the United Kingdom lower house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House.

The Speaker was a weekly review of politics, literature, science and the arts published in London from 1890 to 1907. A total 895 issues were published.

He wrote a number of biographies, principally of W E Forster (a personal friend), and of Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton, but also including one of Charlotte Brontë. [1] He also wrote a book on Tunisia, "Land of the Bey", and a number of popular novels, including "Gladys Fane". [3]

William Edward Forster British politician

William Edward Forster, PC, FRS was an English industrialist, philanthropist and Liberal Party statesman. His staunch advocacy of lethal force against the Land League earned him the nickname Buckshot Forster.

Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton British politician and poet

Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton, FRS, was an English poet, patron of literature and politician.

Charlotte Brontë English novelist and poet

Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels became classics of English literature.

On his death the Yorkshire Post, the Leeds-based rival of the Mercury described him as an inveterate political wire-puller who had known more about the formation of Gladstone's administration in 1892 that anybody else outside the official circles. [4] He was knighted in 1894.

Liberal government, 1892–1895 Government of the United Kingdom

In the 1892 general election, the Conservative Party, led by the Marquess of Salisbury, won the most seats but not an overall majority. As a result, William Ewart Gladstone's Liberal Party formed a minority government that relied upon Irish Nationalist support. On 3 March 1894, Gladstone resigned over the rejection of his Home Rule Bill and the Earl of Rosebery succeeded him.

Reid died in 1905 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London. A former subordinate offered the following pen-portrait:

His style, if direct and clever, was common place, and his manner of speech retained more than a suggestion of Northern provincialism. But at every point and in every situation he had a personality that impressed. He was self-willed, self-assured, and if provoked eminently combative. It was not by suavity alone that he made his way. He could fight, and I know that in politics at any rate he was a tolerably good hater. He was afraid of nobody. Rather below the medium height, without any particular graces of person or of address, he could hold his own anywhere. He talked well and unaffectedly, and in his eyes, which had a curious scintillating brightness, there ever seemed to lurk a shrewd and humorous patronage of all men and things. [4]


Among his more permanent writings are:

He pronounced Heathcliff, from Wuthering Heights, "the greatest villain of literature." (From "A character study from "Wuthering Heights," The Nassau Literary Magazine (1848–1908); Apr 1879; 34, 9; American Periodicals Series Online).

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Death of Sir Wemyss Reid". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 27 February 1905. p. 7.
  2. "Thomas Reid".
  3. "Reid, Sir (Thomas) Wemyss". Who's Who: 1343. 1905.
  4. 1 2 "Death of Sir Wemyss Reid: A Personal Note (By One Who Worked Under Him)". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 27 February 1905. p. 7.