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Frederick William Haddon (1839–1906)

by Carole Woods

This article was published:

Frederick William Haddon (1839-1906), by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co.

Frederick William Haddon (1839-1906), by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co.

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29440

Frederick William Haddon (1839-1906), journalist, was born on 8 February 1839 in Croydon, Surrey, England, son of Richard Haddon, schoolmaster and landscape artist, and his wife Mary Caroline, née Wykes. Adopted by an uncle he was educated at private schools, but prevented from studying law by his uncle's death and in 1855 entered the service of the Statistical Society of London. In 1859 he became assistant secretary for the society and for the Institute of Actuaries of Great Britain and Ireland. He helped to edit the Journal of the Statistical Society and contributed statistical articles to other London journals. Edward Wilson and Lauchlan Mackinnon, proprietors of the Melbourne Argus, engaged Haddon in 1863 and in December he arrived in Melbourne with them in the Great Britain. Haddon worked first as a contributor to the Argus and then as sub-editor. He became co-editor of the new weekly Australasian in 1864 and sole editor in 1865. He was promoted editor of the Argus on 1 January 1867. Under his guidance it became, according to Richard Twopeny, 'the best daily paper published out of England'. Meanwhile Saturday night gatherings at his lodgings in 1867-68 and quarters which he briefly shared with Marcus Clarke attracted talented literary friends who in 1868 formed the Yorick Club. Haddon, one of the first trustees, withdrew as the club lost its Bohemianism but retained ties with Marcus Clarke and in 1870 went with him to Tasmania.

In 1873 Haddon left for Europe and early next year, after a survey of leading English newspapers, he recommended that the Argus adopt the 'telescopic system' of varying the newspaper's size according to the availability of the news. Wilson, fired with Haddon's enthusiasm, sought reform of the Argus administration and a reduction in the paper's price. The editorial council, resentful of his alleged 'backstairs influence' over Wilson, cursorily dismissed Haddon's system. Mortified, he refused to attend daily policy meetings and so jeopardized his editorial position. Wilson attributed his conduct to 'habits of self-indulgence' and subsequent poor health. Ignoring desperate warnings from Wilson and Mackinnon against making the Argus subservient to free-trade dogma and the constitutionalist party, Haddon continued to pontificate on these subjects and in January 1879 he went to England to stop Berry's 'embassy' from gaining imperial reform of the Victorian Legislative Council. He lobbied British statesmen, interviewed editors, wrote 'nervous and forcible' letters to The Times and other journals and compiled a pamphlet sympathetic to the council, The Constitutional Difficulty in Victoria. Statement of Facts for the Information of English Readers (London, 1879). In June he left London and returned by way of America. Despite a price reduction from 3d. to 2d. in 1884 and to 1d. in 1893, the Argus failed to rival the Age in circulation, but Haddon continued as editor in more stable circumstances than before.

Wilson described Haddon as a 'safe and good Editor' who lacked brilliance but kept the Argus free from libel actions. Later critics also noted Haddon's ability to encourage new writers, his disciplined yet frank relations with the staff and his insistence on efficiency. He was Melbourne correspondent for The Times in 1895-1903, but retired from the Argus in 1898 to represent the trustees of Wilson's estate on the management board of the Argus and Australasian. He served on the inquiry into the finances of the Royal Melbourne Hospital and undertook other work relevant to charitable bequests from the Wilson estate. He went to London for the coronation in 1902, and for some years was president of the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club.

Haddon married Annie Jane King in June 1875. She died in 1877 aged 37. Haddon died on 7 March 1906 at his home, Heronwood, South Yarra, survived by his second wife, Alice Annie Good of Sandhurst, whom he had married on 31 January 1883, and a daughter by his first marriage. His estate was valued for probate at £2558.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Meudell, The Pleasant Career of a Spendthrift and his Later Reflections (Melb, 1935)
  • B. Elliott, Marcus Clarke (Oxford, 1958)
  • Bulletin, 21 Feb 1880, 26 May 1883
  • F. W. Haddon letters (State Library of Victoria)
  • J. S. Johnston letters (University of Melbourne Archives).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Carole Woods, 'Haddon, Frederick William (1839–1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Frederick William Haddon (1839-1906), by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co.

Frederick William Haddon (1839-1906), by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co.

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29440

Life Summary [details]


8 February, 1839
Croydon, Surrey, England


7 March, 1906 (aged 67)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.