Note: nalism in 1866. He joined the staff of the Newcastle Daily Chronicle and later became a leading writer on the Daily Telegraph. Many of the papers which he contributed to the Daily Telegraph were collected in volume form in "Round the Galley Fire" and other volumes. He wrote his first novel in 1874, "John Holdsworth, Chief Mate". In 1887, he retired from the Daily Telegraph to concentrate on novel writing. He went on to write 50 novels, mainly about seafaring life including "The Wreck of the Grosvenor", "The Frozen Pirate", "An Ocean Free Lance", "Jack's Courtship", "An Ocean Tragedy", "The Emigrant Ship", "The Ship, Her True Story", "The Convict Ship", "What Cheer!", "The Two Captains", "The Romance of a Midshipman", "The Ships Adventure", "Overdue", "Abandoned", "His Island Princess" and "List Ye Landsmen". His last book, "The Yarn of OLd Harbour Town", was published in 1905. His harrowing account of the sailors' plight in "The Wreck of the Grosvenor" was very influential in the passage of reform laws to improve the lot of British merchant seamen.
Obituary - "the Times", Thursday, 9 November, 1911.
"Mr William Clark Russell, the novelist of the sea, passed away in his sleep at an early hour yseterday at his residence at Bath. Mr Russell had for years suffered severely from rheumatism, and for the last six months had kept to his bed.
One instinctively expects to hear that a writer of stories of the sea has lived a stirring life, but Russell's career was singularly uneventful. His connexion with the sea was over early; and from middle age onward he was a crippled invalid who could only go about in a bath-chair. His father was Henry Russell, the musician, well known as the author of "Cheer boys, cheer", and other popular songs. His mother was Isabella Lloyd, daughter of Charles Lloyd, banker, of Bingley Hall, Birmingham, and he was born in New York on February 24, 1844. His teachers were Messrs. Gibson and Brewsher, of Boulogne-sur-Mer, and one of Charles Dickens's sons was among his school fellows. A story of those times which Clark Russell liked to tell was that he and young Dickens very nearly ran away from school together. They had acquired a fowling piece, and saved up five francs; and they walked on the ramparts of Boulogne, projecting an expedition to the wilds of Africa to hunt big game. They obviously could not get far with five francs; but Clark Russell related that they had fully made up their minds to start, and were only prevented from doing so by the accident that a letter from Charles Dickens arrived in the nick of time - a letter of good advice in which the novelist exhorted his son to put away childish things and to realize the grave responsibilties of life. The boy was impressed and decided to give up the sporting expedition, which Clark Russell was not sufficiently enterprising to undertake alone.
At the age of 13, however, Clark Russell left school and went to sea in the ordinary course as an apprentice in the British merchant service; and during the next seven years garnered the experience which was to be his literary stock-in-trade, beginning to write when his captain sent him below as a punishment for some offence against discipline. At the age of 21 he left the sea, and after a brief interlude in some commercial calling became a journalist; and by the time he was 24 he was already the editor of an ephemeral publication which had the late Joseph Hatton for one of its contributors. Some years were to pass, however, before he was to make his name, in 1874, with the publication of his first novel "John Holdsworth, Chief Mate", followed in 1875 by the still more successful "Wreck of the Grosvenor". He has related in some autobiographical fragment, that he sold the copyright of one of these works for £50, and that the publishers disposed of 50,000 copies of it; but he added with a generosity rare among novelists, that he did not think he had anything to complain of, or any reason to regret the bargain. It certainly advertised him, and made a market for his wares, with a result that a long series of nautical novels, some more, some less, successful, poured in quick succession from his pen, chief among them being - "The Lady Maud", 1876; "A Sailor's Sweetheart", 1877; "The Frozen Pirate", 1877; "An Ocean Free-lance", 1878; "An Ocean Tragedy", 1881; "My Shipmate Louise", 1882; "The Emigrant Ship", 1894; "The Convict Ship", 1895, "The Tale of the Ten", 1896; "The Last Entry", 1897; "The Ship's Adventure", 1899; "Overdue", 1903; "Wrong Side Out", 1904. He also reprinted a good many of his fugitive articles under such titles as "My Watch Below", "Round the Galley Fire" and a "Book for the Hammock", and wrote lives of Nelson, Dampier, and Collingwood.
Fiction, it should be added, was Clark Russell's introduction to journalism of a more profitable kind than he had previously attempted. An invitation to call at the office of the "Daily Telegraph" was quickly followed by an invitation to join the Staff.
Note: William joined the British merchant service aged 13, serving for eight years. He took up jour
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