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Franklyn, Henry Mortimer (1848–1900)

by Donald S. Garden

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Henry Mortimer Franklyn (1848?-1900), newspaper proprietor and journalist, was probably the second son of George Jerome Franklyn and his wife Jane, née Mortimer. He went to New York where he worked for an uncle in the liquor trade and contributed gratuitously to periodicals. He later moved to San Francisco where he married the wealthy Helen Hensley on 14 June 1876. Franklyn followed no occupation but managed her affairs. Through unwise speculation, in which his honesty and integrity were questioned, Franklyn lost most of her money and £30,000 of his own; he was declared insolvent in 1878. His wife divorced him and he left the country.

Franklyn arrived in Melbourne in February 1879 and with his remarkable persuasive talents soon promoted the Victorian Review Publishing Co. The Victorian Review, a monthly magazine of high quality and wide recognition, included many important contributors; Franklyn's own articles covered a wide variety of subjects. In 1881 he published A glance at Australia in 1880, a surprisingly comprehensive study of the Australian colonies and their pastoral, agricultural and mercantile development and potential. The aim of his publications was to make Australia known and through them he evolved a blueprint for the country's economic and political development based on free trade and a federated Australia. He was disgusted by Victoria's rejection of the proposed federal council at the 1880-81 Colonial Conference, and in reaction founded in March 1881 the Federal Australian, a weekly devoted to promoting federation. In November he started the World, an evening newspaper. On 25 July 1883 in Melbourne he married the 19-year-old Henrietta Isabel, the youngest daughter of John Seals of Hobart and his wife Emily, née Llandall. They lived in luxury at Virgilius, St Kilda, which Franklyn had bought in 1881 and where a daughter was born on 19 February 1885.

Franklyn's extravagance, including heavy betting on horse-racing, worsened his financial position which declined steadily after 1885 when he borrowed large sums to buy the Victorian Review, Federal Australian and the World. The World was discontinued in June but Franklyn published the others until debts amounting to £70,000 forced him into bankruptcy in February 1886. After the insolvency hearings Franklyn left for England where in 1887 he published The Unit of Imperial Federation, a cause he had adopted in 1885. News of his later prosperity reached Victoria in 1893. He claimed to have inherited £150,000 from an uncle and to have succeeded as an insurance broker, though his estate was valued at only £1255 3s. 10d. when he died on 9 August 1900 in Upper Berkeley Street, London. His will provided for his daughters, Vera Gladys and Helen Ermyntrude, 'in consequence of my wife's extravagance and unsteadiness'.

Franklyn was never specifically charged with dishonesty. By all accounts he was a smooth Yankee type whose sales talk caused many to doubt the sincerity of his ideas and his assumed pose of a patriotic Australian, but he had an immense capacity for work and his knowledge of many subjects made him a skilled commentator on contemporary events.

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne), 20 Feb, 18, 30 Mar, 10 Apr, 19 May 1886
  • Age (Melbourne), 30 Mar 1886
  • Table Talk, 3 Mar 1893
  • insolvency papers (Public Record Office Victoria).

Citation details

Donald S. Garden, 'Franklyn, Henry Mortimer (1848–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/franklyn-henry-mortimer-3567/text5499, published in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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