David Syme on his Colleagues

David Syme, proprietor of The Age (1860-1908), writing on Arthur Windsor, editor of The Age (1872-1900) – from Ambrose Pratt’s David Syme: the Father of Protection in Australia;

Mr. Windsor was a man of rare ability and an experienced journalist. He was a graceful writer and at the same time an incisive critic. He was more at home with a rapier than the bludgeon. He remained editor until 1900, when he retired. He was a lovable man, full of humour, but very shy. He invariably declined all invitations to parties and made very few acquaintances. That was no advantage to him as editor of a newspaper, but very much to the contrary, as he was totally unconversant with the views and idiosyncrasies of the people around him and, as a rule, had little respect for them. He took little interest in commercial matters, but threw himself with vigour into social and political questions…

Incidentally, the copy of Pratt’s David Syme: the Father of Protection in Australia at the State Library of Victoria was printed in 1908. It was originally given to the North Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute and Circulating Library “With compliments of the Executors of the Late Mr. David Syme” (as a small label on the inside cover states) – so I’m guess that this might have been Syme’s own personal copy. Yet considering Syme died that same year, it can’t have been in his posession for very long. Also on the inside cover, a small label from the North Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute and Circulating Library, which states that “This book is not to be kept longer than fourteen days”, as well as information on membership costs; “Subscriptions per annum – Gentlemen – £1, Ladies & youths under 18 – 10s.

Furthermore, here’s Syme on another contributor to The Age, Professor Henry Charles Pearson;

In conversation he was full of anecdote. Tactful and dignified though he was in his relations with members on both sides of the House, he, nevertheless, was not popular. He was modest and reserved. He had none of that loud, assertive manner which goes a long way with many people. It was said of him by those who knew him best that he was so far above the average member in capacity and knowledge that he was disliked for that very reason. He was a man who would have been a credit to any Legislature in the world. He returned to England after his resignation and died shortly after his arrival there. He is best known in the literary world by his History of England in the Fourteenth Century, which though published in England, was written before he left Melbourne. The colony suffered an irreparable loss when he left its shores…

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