William Hale White 1831 – 1913

William Hale White 1831 – 1913 known by his pseudonym Mark Rutherford was a British writer and civil servant.

William Hale White wrote for John Chapman at the Westminster Review.

John Chapman was an ‘invaluable enabler’ who gave the start to the careers of many famous writers.

William Hale White was born in Bedford and educated at Bedford Modern School. His father, William White, a member of the Nonconformist community of the Bunyan Meeting, moved the family to London, where he was well known as a doorkeeper of the House of Commons.

William White wrote sketches of parliamentary life for the Illustrated Times, his son collected the writings and later released them as The Inner Life of the House of Commons in 1897.

William Hale White was educated for the Congregational ministry, but the development of his views prevented his taking up that career, and he became a clerk in the admiralty. He had already served an apprenticeship to journalism before he made his name as a novelist by the three books edited by Reuben Shapcott, The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford (1881), Mark Rutherford’s Deliverance (1885), and The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (1887).

Under his own name William Hale White translated Spinoza‘s Ethic (1883). Later books are Miriam’s Schooling, and other Papers (1890), Catherine Furze (2 vols., 1893), Clara Hopgood (1896), Pages from a Journal, with other Papers (1900), and John Bunyan (1905).

Though for a long time little appreciated by the public, his novels, particularly the earlier ones, share a power and style which must always give his works a place of their own in the literary history of their time. George Orwell described Mark Rutherford’s Deliverance as ‘one of the best novels written in English’.

Bedford now has a school named after him (see Mark Rutherford Upper School). His eldest son,  William Hale White 1857-1949 was a distinguished doctor. His second son, Jack, married Agnes Hughes, one of Arthur Hughes’ daughters.

3 thoughts on “William Hale White 1831 – 1913”

  1. Hi:

    I am desperate to find a reference for the W. Hale White quote: “Face what you think you believe and you will be surprised.” Can you help?

    R. Legge

  2. William Hale White (Mark Rutherford) Symposium.
    Mark Rutherford, born William Hale White in Bedford in 1831 had his life celebrated on Saturday 22 June, commemorating the 100th anniversary of his death on 14 March 1913.
    The Symposium, organised by the Mark Rutherford Society, and held at Dr Williams’s Library, Gordon Square, London, was opened by his great-grandson, John Hale-White, and chaired by the Professor of English Literature at the University of Bedfordshire, Bob Owens’
    William Hale White is best known for six novels written under the name of Mark Rutherford, published between 1881 and 1896: The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford (1881); Mark Rutherford’s Deliverance (1885); The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (1887); Miriam’s Schooling (1890); Catherine Furze (1893); and Clara Hopgood (1896).The ‘Mark Rutherford’ novels share a power and style distinctive in the literary history of their time. George Orwell described Mark Rutherford’s Deliverance as ‘one of the best novels written in English’. D. H. Lawrence wrote, ‘I have always had a great respect for Mark Rutherford . . . so thorough, so sound, and so beautiful’. Arnold Bennett regarded him as ‘a novelist whom one can deeply admire’. Claire Tomalin, wrote that White’s novels ‘draw directly on a private store of memories and emotions, and you sense quite strongly that he took up a mask in order to be nakedly confessional in a way he could not otherwise have managed’.
    William Hale White is generally regarded as the most important novelist of the nineteenth century to have emerged from a Nonconformist background and to have taken Nonconformist life and experience as his main subject. this was noted by the historians Eric Hobsbawm and Edward Thompson. He is undeservedly neglected and the Society’s aim is to redress this.
    Professor Owens opened the Symposium, briefly summarising Mark Rutherford’s life and importance. Roger Pooley, Professor of English Literature at Keele University followed with an assessment of Nonconformist Culture and Politics in The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane. The opening panel closed with Professor Valentine Cunningham of Oxford University, speaking on ‘Mark Rutherford and the Plight of the Dissenting Aesthete’.
    After a lunch-break, in which academics and enthusiasts discussed Mark Rutherford over a buffet lunch, some early researchers were remembered. Nicholas Jacobs looked at the contribution of young German researcher Hans Klinke who wrote his thesis in the late 1920s, as well as noting that there were translations of his books in French, Italian and Czech as well as Japanese. Nick Wilde read a message from Wilfred Stone (author of a biographical study of Mark Rutherford published in 1954), recalling his research on Rutherford in Britain in the 1950s, and Mike Brealey spoke about an early British pioneer, Henry Arthur Smith, whose thesis appeared in 1938. The afternoon concluded with Jean-Michel Yvard, from the University of Angers in France, on the subject of whether Mark Rutherford was an agnostic or a believer, and Max Saunders, Professor of English at Kings College, London, spoke about the nature of fictional autobiography.The day finished with a highly original dramatic monologue by Mark Crees, Chair of the Mark Rutherford Society imagining himself at Mark Rutherford’s grave in Groombridge, Kent.

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