Henry Vollam Morton

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For the Australian politician, see Henry Morton (politician).
H.V Morton Portrait.jpg
Born Henry Vollam Morton[1]
(1892-07-26)26 July 1892
Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire
Died 18 June 1979(1979-06-18) (aged 86)
Cape Town, South Africa[1]
Occupation Journalist and writer
Nationality British
Citizenship British
South African
Genre Travel writing, Journalism
Notable works In Search of... series
Spouse Dorothy Vaughton
Violet Mary Muskett
Children Timothy Morton
Website
www.hvmorton.co.uk

Henry Canova Vollam Morton FRSL (known as H. V. Morton), (26 July 1892 – 18 June 1979) was a journalist and pioneering travel writer from Lancashire, England. He was best known for his prolific and popular books on London, Great Britain and the Holy Land. He first achieved fame in 1923 when, while working for the Daily Express, he scooped the official Times correspondent during the coverage of the opening of the Tomb of Tutankhamon by Howard Carter in Egypt.

Life[edit]

Morton was born at Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, the son of Joseph Morton, editor of the Birmingham Mail, and Margaret Maclean Ewart. He was educated at King Edward's School in Birmingham but left at the age of 16 to pursue a career in journalism. In the late 1940s he emigrated to South Africa, settling near Cape Town in Somerset West, and became a South African citizen. He married Dorothy Vaughton (born 1887) on 14 September 1915. They divorced, and on 4 January 1934, he married Violet Mary Muskett (née Greig, born 1900). She survived him.

Journalism[edit]

After leaving school, Morton entered journalism on the staff of the newspaper edited by his father, the Birmingham Gazette and Express.[1] After two years, he became its assistant editor in 1912;[1] he moved to London, and spent most of the rest of his British career there, on various national newspapers and magazines. His first job in the capital was as a subeditor on the Daily Mail.[1]

He served in the Warwickshire Yeomanry during World War I,[1] but saw no action. After the war, he returned to London and journalism, from 1919 on the Evening Standard, and from 1921 on the Daily Express. His columns on London life in the latter became very popular.

In 1923 Morton reported on the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun[2] after out-manoeuvering the official Times journalist who had been given exclusive rights to the story. A day after the opening of the inner burial chamber containing the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun the discovery was reported in the Daily Express.

"The romantic secret of the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor was revealed yesterday when, for the first time in 3,000 years, the inner chamber of the tomb was entered. Every expectation was surpassed. Within the chamber stood an immense sarcophagus of glittering gold, which is almost certain to contain the mummy of the king. Wonderful paintings, including that of a giant cat, covered the walls. A second chamber was crowded with priceless treasures."

— H.V Morton, Daily Express, Saturday 17th of February, 1923[3]

From 1931 to 1942, he was "special writer" at the Daily Herald. In 1941, he attended and reported on the Atlantic Charter between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The meeting became the subject of his book Atlantic Meeting and was published in 1943.[4]

Travel writing[edit]

Morton's first book, The Heart of London, appeared in 1925, and was a development of his popular Daily Express columns. This was followed by two further collections of his writings on London, in Spells of London (1926), and Nights of London (1926). In 1926, as motoring was becoming established in the UK, he set off to drive around England in a bull-nosed Morris, an early mass-produced motor-car. His account of these travels and of the England of the 1920s was published in 1927 as In Search of England, a best-seller that established him as one of the leading travel-writers of the age. This was followed by a number of similar books dealing with the nations of Britain and Ireland.

Even greater acclaim greeted Morton's first foreign travel book, In the Steps of the Master (1934), which sold over half a million copies.[citation needed] The Master of the title was Jesus, and the book was an account of Morton's travels in the Holy Land. This was soon followed by In the Steps of St. Paul (1936), which presents a picture of Ataturk's Turkey. [5]

This was followed by Through Lands of the Bible (1938) in which he visits Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. Extracts from all three books were combined and published as Middle East during World War II for the servicemen stationed there.

During the Second World War, in addition to Atlantic Meeting (1941), Morton published two books describing England under the shadow of war, including a further collection of essays on London in Ghosts of London (1939), and I Saw Two Englands (1942). A full-length book about London and its history which examined the bomb damage was published in 1951 (In Search of London).

After the war, Morton turned his attention to South Africa, publishing In Search of South Africa in 1948. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he wrote a number of books dealing with Spain and Italy. A Traveller in Italy deals with Northern Italy, whilst "A Traveller in Southern Italy" deals with the remaining provinces in the South of Italy.

Honours[edit]

Morton became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL).[when?] Greece made him a Commander of the Order of the Phoenix in 1937 and he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1965. There is a blue plaque, commemorating his birth in Ashton-under-Lyne.

Controversy[edit]

A biography, by Michael Bartholomew, based on Morton's private papers, titled In Search of H.V.Morton was published by Methuen in 2004. Reading of Morton's private diaries and memoirs reveal that he was a possible Nazi sympathizer. On February 1941 he wrote: "I must say Nazi-ism has some fine qualities" and, "I am appalled to discover how many of Hitler's theories appeal to me".[6] In another entry he described the United States as "that craven nation of Jews and foreigners". His private writings also reveal that he was a frequent adulterer.

Publications[edit]

Morton was a prolific writer, his body of work containing many hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and features in addition to his works on travel journalism.

Title Year
The Heart of London 11 June 1925
The Spell of London 11 February 1926
London June 1926
The London Scene 1926
The London Year, A Book of Many Moods
The Nights of London 11 November 1926
When You go to London 1927
May Fair: How the Site of a Low Carnival Became the Heart of Fashionable London 1927
In Search of England 2 June 1927
In Search of Scotland 1 August 1929
The Soul of Scotland 1930
In Search of Ireland 4 December 1930
In Search of Wales 16 June 1932
Blue Days at Sea, and Other Essays 20 October 1932
Glastonbury, the Jerusalem of England 1933
What I Saw in The Slums 1933
A London Year 1933
In Scotland Again 26 October 1933
In The Steps of the Master October 1934
Our Fellow Men 7 May 1936
In The Steps of St. Paul October 1936
London: A Guide 1937
Through Lands of The Bible 27 October 1938
The Ghosts of London 16 November 1939
Travel in War Time circa 1940
H.V. Morton's London 31 October 1940
Women of the Bible 21 November 1940
Middle East 5 June 1941
I, James Blunt 1942
I Saw Two Englands 15 October 1942
Atlantic Meeting 1 April 1943
Travels in Palestine and Syria September 1944
In Search of South Africa 21 October 1948
In Search of London 24 May 1951
In The Steps of Jesus 1953
A Stranger in Spain 3 February 1955
A Traveller in Rome 29 August 1957
This is Rome 1959
This is the Holy Land 1961
A Traveller in Italy 24 September 1964
The Waters of Rome 1966
The Fountains of Rome 1966
A Traveller in Southern Italy 1969
H.V. Morton's Britain February 1969
H.V. Morton's England 5 June 1975
The Splendour of Scotland 11 November 1976
The Magic of Ireland 17 August 1978
In Search of The Holy Land April 1979

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Mr H. V. Morton". The Times. 23 November 1979. p. VI. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Buried History: Tutankhamun". Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Daily Express, 17 February 1923
  4. ^ Methuen Publishers
  5. ^ H. V. Morton. In the Steps of St Paul, London: Rich & Cowan, 1936. (Available as free ebook, from Kobo)
  6. ^ Hastings, Max (9 May 2004). "A very English hypocrite". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 

External links[edit]