James Nicol Dunn

James Nicol Dunn (12 October 1856 – 30 June 1919) was a Scottish journalist and newspaper editor, best known as the editor of London newspaper The Morning Post from 1897 to 1905 and as London editor of the Glasgow Evening News from 1914 unitl his death in 1919.[1]

James Nicol Dunn
BornJames Nicol Dunn
(1856-10-12)12 October 1856
Kincardineshire, Scotland
Died30 June 1919(1919-06-30) (aged 62)
Denmark Hill, London, England
Period1888 – 1919
Years active1888 – 1919

Early lifeEdit

Dunn was born in Kincardineshire on 12 October 1856, the eldest son of Joseph Dunn and Margaret Dunn (née Macleod).[1] Dunn was educated at Aberdeen, initially intending to study law, but work on journals and magazines while still a student encouraged him to enter journalism instead.[2]


Dunn had a varied career as a journalist across various newspapers and magazines in Scotland, England and South Africa until his death in 1919, "Moving between the metropolis and the provinces so as to belong almost equally to both."[3] Dunn's career in journalism began in Scotland, first with the Dundee Advertiser (which he joined before he turned twenty) and later on as a member of the Glasgow and West Scotland staff of The Scotsman.[1][4][5] In 1888, he became the managing editor of the Scots Observer in 1888, which in 1889 became the National Observer, following the newspaper's move from Edinburgh to London. Dunn remained in this role "in its prime" under editor William Ernest Henley until 1893 when he resigned to join the staff of the Pall Mall Gazette.[6][7]

From 1895 to 1897, Dunn was the editor of two periodicals, the Black & White magazine, a British illustrated weekly, and the Ludgate Monthly, a London-based monthly, which published short fiction and articles of general interest.[1] From 1897 to 1905, Dunn was editor of the London newspaper The Morning Post, a conservative London-based daily whose editorship "was marked by such an advance in the political weight of that paper."[7] The Morning Post, before and after Dunn, had a reputation as "a powerful Conservative organ" but it was during Dunn's reign that it "gained a tremendous Vogue", or popularity, through its coverage of the Second Boer War by the then-young journalist Winston Churchill.[8]

In 1904, Dunn was elected President of the Institute of Journalists (now the Chartered Institute of Journalists), the oldest professional association for journalists. Dunn was President during "a rather stormy period" of the Institute but "by his urbanity and good humour, weathered a difficult situation, to the complete satisfaction of every one who had to work with him."[9] It was also around this time that Dunn was involved with Quiz, Art and Literature, and The Pen and Pencil.[5][10]

In 1905, Lord Northcliffe purchased the Manchester Courier, a daily newspaper published in Manchester and rival to the better-known Manchester Guardian (now the Guardian), and installed Dunn as editor "with a big fanfare of trumpets and a large ceremonial lunch".[11][12] Northcliffe's adventures in northern newspapers were ultimately unsuccessful. Dunn served as editor from 1905 and 1910, and in 1916 the newspaper ceased publication.[11]

In January 1911, Dunn departed for South Africa where he became editor of the Johannesburg Star from 1911 to 1914.[13][1]

Dunn returned to Britain in 1914, where he served as London editor for the Glasgow Evening News from 1914 throughout the First World War and until his death in Denmark Hill, London, on 30 June 1919.[1][14] Dunn's hobbies included chess and golf and he was a member of various private members' clubs including the London Press Club, the Yorick, the Cecil Club, and the Savage Club.[1]


As a journalist and editor, Dunn was in regular correspondence, and worked closely with, various writers during his career in London from the late 1880s to the early 1900s, a time when literary writings frequently featured in periodicals and there was much crossover between the worlds of literature and journalism. In his career at the Pall Mall Gazette, the Black and White, Ludgate Magazine, and the Morning Post in the 1890s and 1900s, Dunn worked closely with English journalist, short story writer, novelist and poet Henry Dawson Lowry and Lowry dedicated his 1895 book Women's Tragedies to Dunn.[15]

In late 1888, shortly after Dunn moved with the retitled National Observer to London, Oscar Wilde sent Dunn a poem, Symphony in Yellow, inspired by a yellow omnibus (bus) slowly traversing Blackfriars Bridge in London one foggy day in late 1888.[16] According to Wilde, Dunn was "quite charmed" but was unsure about publication.[16] In December 1888, Wilde requested the return of the poem if it were not to be published in the National Observer and instead it was first published in Centennial Magazine in February 1889.[17][18]

In 1895 and shortly after becoming editor of the Black & White magazine, Dunn sought out writings from American journalist and novelist Harold Frederic.[19] In 1896, English author, poet and dramatist Eden Philpotts dedicated his book My Laughing Philosopher to Dunn.[20] Dunn is also known to have corresponded with J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, as well as English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Irish poet and author W.B. Yeats.[21][22][23]

More generally, Dunn was friends with Thomas Hardy and indeed one at least one occasion holidayed with him, and also had a minor acquaintance with H.G. Wells.[24][25][26]


Dunn was a prolific correspondent and his letters survive in archives at Yale University,[21] University of Edinburgh,[2] Leeds University, the British Library, and National Library of Scotland.[27] He is the subject of eight photographic portraits, one by Frederic G. Hodsoll and seven - possibly a series - by Henry Walter Barnett, held by the National Portrait Gallery.[28]

Dunn was described in the Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland as: "although Dunn's career seems full and varied, he remains a shadowy figure in the history of journalism."[29]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Dunn, James Nicol, (12 Oct. 1856–30 June 1919), London Editor Glasgow News since 1914". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u195882. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b Eddie, Graeme D. "Letters of James Nicol Dunn (1856-1919) - Archives Hub". archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  3. ^ Escott, T. H. S. (Thomas Hay Sweet) (1902). Masters of English journalism : a study of personal forces. --. London : T.F. Unwin. pp. 302–303. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  4. ^ Boyd, Alexander Stuart (1905). Glasgow men and women, their children and some strangers within their gates : a selection from the sketches of Twym / by A.S. Boyd. London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1905. p. 150. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  5. ^ a b "London Notes". The Inland Printer. Chicago : Inland Printer Co. 34: 862. 1904–1905. Retrieved 11 November 2020.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  6. ^ "The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler :: Biography". www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  7. ^ a b Sladen, Douglas Brooke Wheelton; Makino, Yoshio (1914). Twenty years of my life. London [England] : Constable. p. 197. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  8. ^ Ridgway, Athelstan, ed. (1950). Everyman's Encyclopaedia Volume Nine: Maps to Nyasa (Third ed.). London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. p. 390. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  9. ^ Higginbottom, Frederick James (1934). The vivid life : a journalist's career. London : Simpkin, Marshall, limited. p. 212. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  10. ^ "The Pen and Pencil – Literary Bonds". Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  11. ^ a b Camrose, Viscount (1947). British Newspapers And Their Controllers. London: Cassell and Company Limited. p. 118. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  12. ^ Barlow, Monica (September 1988). THE CLOUDED FACE OF TRUTH: A Review of the South African Newspaper Press approaching Union, PhD thesis. University of Bristol. p. 132.
  13. ^ "London Press Club and James Nicol Dunn: Presentation volume on Dunn's departure for South Africa during the Boer War, in luxury leather binding, with full-page calligraphic address by 'L.J.S.'". www.richardfordmanuscripts.co.uk. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  14. ^ Simonis, H. (1917). The Street of Ink: An Intimate History of Journalism. Cassell and Company, Ltd. (London). p. 200. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  15. ^ Lowry, Henry Dawson (1895). Women's Tragedies. John Lane. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  16. ^ a b Wilde, Oscar (1979). Selected letters of Oscar Wilde. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-0-19-212205-6. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  17. ^ Wilde, Oscar (234). Letters / edited by Rupert Hart-Davis. London : [R. Hart-Davis]. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  18. ^ "Symphony in yellow (Wilde, set by (Carey Blyton, Charles Tomlinson Griffes)) (The LiederNet Archive: Texts and Translations to Lieder, mélodies, canzoni, and other classical vocal music)". www.lieder.net. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  19. ^ Frederic, Harold (1977). The correspondence of Harold Frederic. Fort Worth : Texas Christian University Press. pp. 391–392. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  20. ^ Philpotts, Eden (1896). My Laughing Philosopher. A. D. Innes. p. i. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  21. ^ a b "Dunn, James Nicol, 1856-1919 : Archives at Yale". archives.yale.edu. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  22. ^ Swinburne, Algernon Charles (1959). Letters. New Haven, Yale University Press. pp. 137–138. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  23. ^ Yeats, W. B. (William Butler) (1986). The collected letters of W. B. Yeats. Oxford : Clarendon Press. p. 629. ISBN 978-0-19-812682-9. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  24. ^ Hardy, Thomas (1954). The letters of Thomas Hardy. Waterville, Maine : Colby College Press. p. 65. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  25. ^ "News of the Month". The Bookman. Hodder And Stoughton Ltd Mill Rd. 13 (74): 43. November 1897. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  26. ^ Bennett, Arnold (1960). Arnold Bennett and H. G. Wells : a record of a personal and literary friendship. Urbana, Ill. : University of Illinois Press. p. 43. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  27. ^ Archives, The National. "The Discovery Service: James Nicol Dunn". discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  28. ^ "James Nicol Dunn - National Portrait Gallery". www.npg.org.uk. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  29. ^ Damian Atkinson (DA) (2009). Brake, Laurel; Demoor, Marysa (eds.). Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Academia Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-90-382-1340-8. Retrieved 11 November 2020.