Henry Vollam Morton

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For other people named Henry Morton, see Henry Morton (disambiguation).
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 Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in Egypt.

Life[edit]

Early life[edit]

Morton was born at Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, on July 26th, 1892, 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 dropped out at the age of 16 to pursue a career in journalism. He served in the Warwickshire Yeomanry during World War I,[1] but saw no combat action. 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). They had a son.

Later life[edit]

In the late 1940s Morton, and his wife, emigrated to the Union of South Africa, settling near Cape Town in Somerset West. He later became a South African citizen, and remained a permanent resident until his death in 1979. Morton and his son were survived by his wife, Violet.

Journalism[edit]

Morton's journalism career began in 1910 at the Birmingham Gazette and Express, where his father was also an editor.[1] Two years later, he was promoted to an assistant editor;[1] and relocated to London, for most of his British career, on various national newspapers and magazines. His first position in London was as a sub-editor for the Daily Mail.[1]

After his British military service during First World War, Morton returned to London to resume his journalism career: in 1919 on the Evening Standard, and from 1921 on the Daily Express. His columns on London life in the latter were popular among readers.

Tomb of Tutankhamun[edit]

Main article: KV62

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]

For his scoop, Morton received unprecedented journalistic and public acclaim, and a boon to the popularity of his travel writing and journalism. Between 1931 to 1942, he was "special writer" at the Daily Herald. In 1941, he was a reporter at the Atlantic Charter between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later became the subject of his book Atlantic Meeting, published 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.

In Search of... Series[edit]

Morton's vignette In Search of England (1927) became a bestseller, and was the first of many In Search of... series books to follow.

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), and describes Turkey 13 years after the Turkish War of Independence and its founding as a sovereign state.[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 British servicemen stationed in the Middle East.

In addition to Atlantic Meeting (1941), Morton wrote two books describing England and the War, including collection of essays on London in Ghosts of London (1939), I Saw Two Englands (1942), and 'I James Blunt' describing England after the Nazi victory, being fictional propaganda for the British Goverment. A full-length history of London, (In Search of London) (1951), includes a post-war examination of bombing damage inflicted on London during The Blitz. After the World War II, South Africa became the subject of In Search of South Africa(1948), and shortly afterwards he and his wife emigrated there as well. During the late 1950s and 60s he wrote on books on Spain and Italy. A Traveller in Italy is situated in Northern Italy, while A Traveller in Southern Italy explores the poorer provinces of Southern 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 was awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1965. A commemorative blue plaque was erected in Ashton-under-Lyne (Morton's birthplace) in June 2004.

Controversy[edit]

A controversial biography by Michael Bartholomew, based on Morton's private and public writings, titled In Search of H.V.Morton was published by Methuen in 2004. According to Bartholemew, based on Morton's private memoirs and diaries, Morton was privately a Nazi sympathizer. In a diary entry from, February 1941, he confessed: "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, with a body of work consisting of several hundred newspaper, magazine articles and features, in addition to his published books.

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]