WILLIAM HOWARD RUSSELL Autograph Letter Signed.
Irish born journalist and war correspondent.
ALS. 3pp. 167 Victoria Street, SW. July 12th 1893. To [William] Woodall.
"I shall be very happy to dine with you on the 20th, & my wife is disengaged on that evening also, but I am rather at a loss about the introduction of the feminine element in her person into the halls which are lighted by the fulmina belli & I wish you to be good enough to tell me if we are actually to dine at the usual hall in Pall Mall where hitherto I have had much communing of spirit but very little physical comfort. I sought you yesterday in order to the keeping of my word to you last Saturday you have hit on for my good luck an open night."
8vo. Approx 7 x 4.5 inches. Fine.
William Howard Russell, known as "Willie Russell of the Times" is regarded by many as being the first modern war correspondent, although he, himself, disliked the term. He covered many foreign wars for 'The Times' but it was for his reporting of the Crimean War for which he will be most remembered. Florence Nightingale said that it was due to Russell's reports of conditions in the British camps that she entered into wartime nursing. William Howard Russell was generally liked by most British soldiers but was despised by their commanders, who called him a "vulgar, low Irishman". This, and more accurately, his truthful and public influencing reports, caused commanders, such as Lord Raglan, to blacklist him and order their officers not to speak with him. Nevertheless, he covered the whole of the campaign, including the Battle of the Alma, the "thin red line", the siege of Sevastopol and the Charge of the Light Brigade. He went on to cover the Indian Mutiny (witnessing the recapture of Lucknow), the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. He retired from war reporting in 1882 and founded the 'Army and Navy Gazette'. When William Howard Russell was knighted by Edward VII, the king is reported to have said "Don't kneel, Billy, just stoop."
From a 19th century collection made by the radical Liberal M.P., William Woodall, who was Surveyor of the Ordnance and Financial Secretary to the War Office under Gladstone. William Howard Russell is here under the impression that he was to dine at the War Office (where, it seems, women were not normally welcomed - and neither, probably, was Russell!). However, from later correspondence it appears that he had been under a misapprehension and the invitation was most probably to dine at the House of Commons.