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Philip Gibbs

(1877—1962) writer and journalist


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(1877–1962), KBE (1920), married (1898) Agnes Mary Rowland (d. 1939). Fifth of the seven children of a civil servant in the Board of Education who disapproved of public schools and had published fiction, he was educated at home. Cosmo Hamilton was his elder brother, A. Hamilton Gibbs his younger brother, and their sister Helen Hamilton Gibbs published five novels 1928–37. He began his literary career in Cassells, the publishers, before joining, for brief periods, the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Chronicle and, as literary editor, the Tribune. His first novel, The Street of Adventure (1900) was about journalism, the second, The Individualist (1908) about politics. Intellectual Mansions, S. W. (1910) was rendered a failure when suffragette leaders bought up the edition and bound it in their colours. John le Dreux, a young doctor, and his sister, Margaret, escape provincial life by moving into a mansion block in South London. Their neighbours speak ‘a language of allusions, of literary and artistic slang, which seemed to belong to some inner society of intellectuals, with secret code words and ideas’. The woman John falls in love with, Phillida Fraquet, becomes increasingly involved in the suffrage campaigns, much to the distress of her resoundingly self-absorbed husband, Raymond. Raymond, an advocate, though so far not an exponent, of free love, persuades Margaret to elope with him to Paris. They are forestalled by Phillida's heroic death during a suffrage riot. Her dying word, breathed into John's ear, is ‘Glad’, and her sacrifice earns the commendation of the Times itself. All the novel earned from the Times Literary Supplement was the contemptuous remark that ‘there are wild and turbulent scenes, and a tragedy which is supposed to make the nation take the movement seriously’. Gibbs continued as a freelance journalist before joining the Daily Chronicle as a special correspondent, reporting on a variety of events and activities but increasingly used to cover foreign conflicts. On the outbreak of the First World War he became war correspondent for the Chronicle, one of the five accredited reporters with the Allied Forces (for which he was knighted in 1920) and responsible for some of the finest war reportage. His own experiences are described in both fictional (The Middle of the Road, 1923) and non-fictional terms (Realities of War, 1920). Gibbs continued as a journalist after the war (reporting from Russia in 1921, for example), but left the Daily Chronicle. He briefly edited the Review of Reviews in 1920–1, and increasingly wrote as a commentator on international affairs, and as an advocate of world peace. His books include, Beauty and Nick (1914), The Soul of War (1915), Battle of the Somme (1916), Now It Can Be Told (1920), Adventures in Journalism (1923), and Young Anarchy (1926). He was a Roman Catholic, and in 1919 became the first journalist ever to interview the Pope. His son Anthony Gibbs was the author of fourteen novels 1925–50.

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.



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