Robert Blatchford

On this date in 1851, Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford was born in Maidstone, England. He was raised by his actress mother after his father’s death. At age 20 he joined the army, which he served in for six years, attaining the rank of sergeant. He was deeply influenced by his military service and would write several books drawn from this experience, most famously My Life in the Army (1910).

After leaving the service, Blatchford married Sarah Crossley. In 1883, he began writing for newspapers around Manchester, where they settled. In 1885 he moved to London to become a full-time journalist, using the pen name “Nunquam Dormio” (Latin for “I never sleep”), which he would continue to use throughout his life, sometimes shortening it to merely “Nunquam.” Blatchford became attracted to socialist ideas while reporting on conditions in Ireland and the slums of Manchester.

In 1891 he co-founded the socialist newspaper The Clarion, for many years the primary popularizer of English socialism. His first popular book, Merrie England, an influential explication of socialist principles, was published in 1893. In that same year, Blatchford was involved in the foundation of the Independent Labour Party, a forerunner of the modern Labour Party, despite his distrust of electoral and party politics. His autobiography, My Eighty Years, was published in 1931.

In 1903 he wrote God and My Neighbor, a critique of religion, especially Christianity. God and My Neighbor sparked major debate and brought condemnations from the pulpit for two years after publication. Later in life, Blatchford abandoned his earlier materialist views after the death of his wife in 1921; unable to believe that she was really gone, he turned to spiritualism, while continuing to reject Christianity and other revealed religions. (D. 1943)

Freedom From Religion Foundation