CHAMPION, Henry Hyde (1859-1928)


CHAMPION, Henry Hyde (1859-1928)
social reformer and journalist
was the son of Major-General J. H. Champion, and was born in India on 22 January 1859. He was educated at Marlborough College and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and entering the army fought with the artillery in the Afghan war. He resigned his commission and joined the socialist movement in 1882, became honorary secretary of the social democratic federation, and wrote and worked for a socialist paper, Justice. In 1886 with John Burns, H. M. Hyndman and J. Williams he was indicted for sedition in connexion with the Trafalgar Square riots, but was acquitted. Champion was also conducting a paper called To-Day, and in 1885-6 Bernard Shaw's early novel Cashel Byron's Profession appeared in it as a serial. It was published separately by Champion in 1886. This was the first work of Shaw's published in book form. In 1889 Champion was one of the leaders of the dock labourers' strike, to the funds of which a large sum was sent from Australia. Soon afterwards he had a disagreement with some of his fellow socialists, broke away, and for a time was assistant-editor of the Nineteenth Century. He stood as an independent candidate for the house of commons at Aberdeen, but, though he polled fairly well, was defeated and soon afterwards went to Melbourne. In 1895 he established a weekly paper the Champion which lasted until 1897, and he also published in Melbourne in 1895 The Root of the Matter, a series of dialogues on social questions. This book which gave a very reasonable and moderate statement of the socialist position attracted less attention than it deserved. Champion could not, however, find his place in politics in Australia. He could not see eye to eye with the Labour party, and a statement, possibly made in haste, that this party consisted of lions led by asses did not help the position. He was an unsuccessful candidate for South Melbourne for the Victorian legislative assembly, and then settled down as a leader writer for The Age. His wife successfully conducted the Book Lovers' Library and Bookshop, and in connexion with this Champion published an interesting literary monthly paper, the Book Lover, which ran from 1899 to 1921. He had a long period of ill-health before his death at Melbourne on 30 April 1928. He married Elsie Belle, daughter of Lieut.-Colonel Goldstein, who survived him. He had no children.
Champion did not fulfil in Australia the promise of his early years. He had much ability and a pleasant personality, but his way in politics was barred because he was unable to completely conform to the policies of any of the parties. He interested himself in social movements, was a foundation member of the anti-sweating league, and he organized the first appeal which resulted in the foundation of the Queen Victoria hospital for women and children. He also founded the Australasian authors' agency and published a few volumes of books with literary merit.
The Age, 1 May 1928; The Argus, 2 May 1928: The Herald, 1 May 1928; H. M. Hyndman, The Record of an Adventurous Life; G. B. Shaw, Preface to Cashel Byron's Profession; A. J. A. Symons, The Quest for Corvo, which tells how Champion befriended F. W. Rolfe known as Baron Corvo; Morley Roberts, W. H. Hudson, A Portrait, which says of Champion that he "was ever a good talker and good at everything but his own affairs; the staunchest friend and wisest", p. 71; Bibliography of G. B. Shaw, Supplement to the Bookman's Journal, 1925; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature; personal knowledge and private information.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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