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Charles Whibley

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Title: Charles Whibley  
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Subject: James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Satyricon, William Ernest Henley, Bristol Grammar School, George Wyndham, Denis Vrain-Lucas, George Robert Sims, Edward Hall, William Paton Ker, Marcel Schwob
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Charles Whibley

Charles Whibley (1859–1930) was an English literary journalist and author. Whibley’s style was described by Matthew as “often acerbic high-tory commentary”.[1] In literature and the arts, his views were progressive. He supported James Abbott McNeill Whistler[2] (they had married sisters).[3] He also recommended T.S. Eliot to Geoffrey Faber, which resulted in Eliot being appointed as an editor at Faber and Faber.[4] Eliot's essay Charles Whibley (1931) was contained within his Selected Essays, 1917-1932. He died on 4 March 1930 at Hyères, France.

Charles Whibley
Charles Whibley, English writer and journalist
Born 9 December 1859
Sevenoaks, Kent, England
Died 4 March 1930
Hyères, France
Occupation Writer and journalist
Parents Ambrose Whibley and Mary Jean Davy

Early life

Born 9 December 1859 at Sevenoaks, Kent, England. The eldest son of Ambrose Whibley,[6] silk mercer, and his second wife, Mary Jean Davy.[7] He was educated at Bristol Grammar School and Jesus College, Cambridge where he took a first in classics in 1883.[8][9]

The immediate family of Charles included his brother Leonard Whibley, who was Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge from 1899–1910, and a lecturer in Classics (Ancient History).[10] Charles also had a half-brother, Fred Whibley, copra trader, on Niutao, Ellice Islands (now Tuvalu); and a half-sister, Eliza Elenor, who was the wife of John T. Arundel, the owner of J. T. Arundel & Co. which evolved into Pacific Islands Company and later the Pacific Phosphate Company, which commenced phosphate mining in Nauru and Banaba Island (Ocean Island).

Whibley worked for three years in the editorial department of Cassell & Co, publishers. He shared a house with his brother Leonard Whibley, William Ernest Henley and George Warrington Steevens.[11]

Life in Paris

In 1894 Charles became the Paris correspondent for the Pall Mall Gazette. This Tory evening paper conformed with Whibley's conservative political views.

In Paris Charles moved in the symbolist circles with Stéphane Mallarmé, Marcel Schwob and Paul Valéry.[12] He was a witness at the wedding of Marcel Schwob and Marguerite Moreno in England on 12 September 1900.

Marriage to Ethel Birnie Philip

In 1896 Charles married Ethel Birnie Philip in the garden of the house occupied by James Abbott McNeill Whistler at 110 rue du Bac, Paris.[13] Ethel Birnie Philip, was the daughter of the sculptor John Birnie Philip and Frances Black. Before her marriage Ethel Whibley worked during 1893-4 as secretary to James McNeill Whistler. Whistler painted a number of full-length portraits of Ethel Whibley, including Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian, and portraits and sketches of her titled as Miss Ethel Philip or Mrs Ethel Whibley.[14]

Hartrick (1939) describes Whibley as “an obviously English type, and therefore something of a red rag to Whistler.[15] As the brother-in-law of James McNeill Whistler, Whibley was part of Whistler’s intimate family circle, referred to as “Wobbles” in Whistler’s correspondence and on one occasion Whibley was mocked by Whistler for describing himself as a 'boulevardier' during his time in Paris.[16] In 1897 Whistler created the cover design for Whibley's volume of essays A Book of Scoundrels.[17]

Later career as a writer

After the death of Ethel in 1920, in 1927 Charles married Philippa Raleigh the daughter of Walter Raleigh, Chair of English Literature at Oxford University.[18]

Whibley contributed to the London & Edinburgh magazines including The Pall Mall Magazine, Macmillan's Magazine and Blackwood's Magazine. As a writer on Blackwood's Magazine, he was a prominent conservative columnist, as well as an influential literary figure, recruited by its editor William Blackwood III.[19] He was a persistent critic of the system of state education.[20] It was an open secret that Whibley contributed anonymously, to the Magazine, his Musings without Methods for over twenty-five years. T.S. Eliot described them as "the best sustained piece of literary journalism that I know of in recent times"[21] Whibley was friends with William Ernest Henley and contributed to the Scots Observer (published in Edinburgh) and also to the National Observer (published in London) under Henley's editorship.

A portrait of Charles Whibley is held by Jesus College, Cambridge. A sketch of Charles Whibley is held by the National Portrait Gallery, London.[22]


  • A Collection of Letters of W. M. Thackeray 1847-1855 (1887)
  • Cathedrals of England and Wales and Their History (1888)
  • In Cap and Gown: Three Centuries Of Cambridge Wit (1889) editor
  • A Book of English Prose, Character and Incident 1387-1649 (1894) with W. E. Henley
  • A Book of Scoundrels (1897)[23]
  • Studies in Frankness (1898)
  • The Pageantry of Life (1900)
  • Musings Without Method: A Record of 1900-1901 (1902)
  • William Makepeace Thackeray (1903)
  • Literary Portraits (1904)
  • American Sketches (1908)[24]
  • The Letters of an Englishman (1911)
  • Essays in Biography (1913)
  • The Letters of an Englishman, Second Series (1915) with first series
  • Jonathan Swift (1917) The Leslie Stephen Lecture, University of Cambridge, 26 May 1917
  • Political Portraits (1917)
  • Literary Studies (1919)
  • Political Portraits, Second Series (1923)
  • Collected Essays of W. P. Ker (1925) editor
  • Apuleius: The Golden Ass (1927)
  • The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter (1927) with W. C. Firebaugh

Project Gutenburg publishes online editions of American Sketches[25] and A Book of Scoundrels[26]


  • Stephen Donovan, The Muse of Blackwood's: Charles Whibley and Literary Criticism in the World, in David Finkelstein (editor), Print Culture and the Blackwood Tradition (2006)
  • Julie F. Codell, ed., Imperial Co-histories: National Identities and the British and Colonial Press (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003), p. 96.

External links

  • Project Gutenberg
  • WorldCat catalog)

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