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Sir William Christopher Leng 'The Sheffield Daily Telegraph'

Spy (Sir Leslie Ward) (1851-1922)



Watercolour with bodycolour and pencil on tinted paper on board

12 x 6 ¾ inches

Vanity Fair, 8 March 1890, Men of the Day no 463, 'The Sheffield Daily Telegraph'

Chris Beetles & Alexander Beetles (eds.) Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection, London: Chris Beetles Ltd, 2023, page 87

'Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, October-November 2023, no 42

In 1864 Sir William Christopher Leng (1825-1902), who had begun his journalistic career contributing to the Hull Free Press and Dundee Advertister, joined Frederick Clifford (1828–1904) in purchasing the Sheffield Daily Telegraph. He became its managing editor and rapidly turned the paper into a great Conservative power in the north of England.

Leng expanded his publishing business to include a Weekly Telegraph, a Sunday Telegraph, and the Evening Telegraph and Star. He also remained active as a journalist, reporting for the Daily Telegraph on his travels in Europe. He was also politically active, serving as vice-chairman and chairman of the Sheffield Conservative and Constitutional Association. On the recommendation of Lord Salisbury, who referred to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph as that 'clever organ of Jingoism', Leng was knighted in the Jubilee honours of 1887.

“Born five-and-sixty years ago at Hull, he was brought up in the chemists trade, from which wholesome occupation he was diverted by his greed for work into the paths of journalistic enterprise. In 1859 he wrote for The Dundee Advertiser. In 1890 he is the editor and managing proprietor of The Sheffield Daily Telegraph. He owes a good deal to one named William Broadhead, for it was by his dogged and aggressive war with Broadheadism that he earned for himself the little niche which he now occupies. Having successfully suppressed this form of trade tyranny, and having brought about a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Trades' Union Outrages in Sheffield, he was obliged to take his own portrait and six hundred guineas from the good and grateful Yorkshire folk; and, continuing to prosper, he was three years ago improved into an excellent but rather pompous Jubilee Knight.

Despite the mental and physical activity which, combined with British obstinacy, has made him what he is, Sir William is a very absent-minded man. He is therefore a complete fortune to spectacle-makers and to purveyors of umbrellas; for while he has unavailingly bought spectacles by the gross, he very constantly forgets to bring either his own or any other person's umbrella home with him: which is quite absurd. He is an aggressive, roundly abusive, scornful denunciator of his foes, who gives less time to the ransacking of Hansard than he spares space for invective; for it is his chief article of belief that Conservatism prospers by aggression. He found Sheffield a hot-bed of Radicalism and he converted it, and became a Town Trustee and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. He is equally fond of a good story and of long Partagas, which he smokes all day, and smoking which he falls asleep.

It is his boast that he earned his breakfast before he was eleven years old; yet he is a conceited man, for he is so particular about the company which he keeps that he is said to have declined to seek Parliamentary honours.”

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