Oldmeadow, Ernest James

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OLDMEADOW, ERNEST JAMES

Journalist and novelist; b. Chester, England, Oct. 31, 1867; d. London, Sept. 11, 1949. He was the son of Wesleyan parents and he embarked on the ministry in Nova Scotia. He was converted to Catholicism in 1897 and shortly after was appointed editor of the London Musical Times. Cardinal Francis bourne offered him the editorship of the Tablet on the death of James Milburn (18601923) who had served the paper for many years, the last three as editor. Oldmeadow accepted and was, from Bourne's point of view, a good choice: they agreed that the journal's primary purpose was to defend the Church against the Church of England. In his 13 years as editor Oldmeadow conducted the controversy with unremitting zest; he had a vigorous, pugnacious style, which he kept fresh, he said, by writing standing up and wearing a hat. After World War I, however, there was not the same public for the old controversy in the old way. Bourne expected to draw, as his predecessors had done, a substantial income for the archdiocese from two-thirds of the profits of the paper; the other portion went to Cardinal Herbert Vaughan's foundation for the mill hill missionaries. When the paper's circulation fell to less than 3,000, Cardinal Arthur hinsley, Bourne's successor, soon sold it and thus Oldmeadow's editorship was terminated (1936) in a manner he resented. But the paper had never absorbed all his interests. He had founded a wine business (1912) under the name Francis Downman, and had made some mark as a novelist of the romantic Edwardian school. He was versatile and warmly convivial, and his apparently belligerent manner did him less than justice. In 1933 Bourne made him, together with H. Belloc and G. K. Chesterton, a Knight Commander of St. Gregory. Oldmeadow remained vigorous until he was more than 80, but after leaving the Tablet he took little part in Catholic life beyond writing the two-volume Francis Cardinal Bourne (194044), and novels, among them Susan (1907), The Scoundrel: A Romance (1907), and Antonio (1909), the best-known of a long list that began with Lady Lohengrin in 1896. He wrote also studies of Schumann, Chopin, and Mozart.

[d. woodruff]