Joseph Clayton (1868 – 1943) [Biography]

[Biography from Matthew Hoehn’s Catholic authors: contemporary biographical sketches, pp. 139-140 (1948)]

Joseph Clayton, English author. Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, convert to Catholicity, was born in London, April 28, 1868. He was the son of Francis Clayton, manager of the now extinct daily St. James Gazette. His grandfather was a wholesale newspaper agent in London.

He received his early education in London day schools, later going to Worcester College and thence to Oxford. While at Oxford, he played chess for the University Club.

For a short time following graduation he taught in private and elementary schools in Leeds. For two years 1912-1914, he was chairman of the local managers of public elementary schools.

Entering commercial life, he became a clerk in a leading merchant’s office in London. As a young man he was interested in labor and wrote a book on trade unions. Following this line of thought, he also accepted employment as a general laborer and gas stoker in London to gain experience. During these years he took some part in early British labor and socialist movements, acting as secretary to the newly formed Independent Labor Party in Leeds, lecturing for the Fabian Society and acting as election agent and organizer. He served in the Peace Guard who fought the mob in the Boer War times. In 1898 he married Margaret Souter. They had no children. Both of them were militant suffragists.

Clayton began writing for the press in 1896, contributing to numerous papers and reviews. During these years he was the author of two novels, Grace Marlow and The Under Man. His journalistic career included his editorship of Labor Chronicles (1896-1898), and New Age (1906-1907), of which he was also proprietor.

Before entering the Catholic Church, Clayton was known as an Anglo-Catholic biographer of some merit. Father Dolling, Father Stanton of St. Alban’s Holborn, and Bishop Westcott, were written during his Anglican years.

In 1910 (February 12) he was received into the Church by Father Bede Jarrett, O.P. Following his conversion he became a regular contributor to the widely known Catholic periodicals, Blackfriars, Studies, Irish Rosary, and also contributed articles to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

In 1939 Rev. Joseph Husslein, S.J., general editor of the “Science and Culture Series,” delegated Mr. Clayton to undertake the task of writing Pope Innocent III and His Times. With the same zeal which characterized his research on earlier Anglo-Catholic works, he went to work on his new commission. St. Anselm, Protestant Reformation in Great Britain, and Luther and His Work, are all Science and Culture Series books. His Catholic works also include St. Hugh of Lincoln, Sir Thomas More, and The Historic Basis of Anglicanism. His book, Pope Innocent III and His Times, written in 1941 as the January volume of the above-mentioned culture series, is the first English account of that interesting pontiff’s life.

Some of his other books are: Bishops as Legislators; Leaders of the People; The Rise of the Democracy; Robert Kett and The Norfolk Rising of 1549; Cooperation and Trade Unions; Economics for Christians, and Rise and Decline of Socialism.

In October 1914, Mr. Clayton enlisted in the London Irish Rifles, served in the Rifle Brigade in India and Burma from 1915 to 1917, and in France (Labour Corps) from 1917 to 1918. He was released from the army in 1919.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1920, and professed in the Third Order of St. Dominic in 1923.

He lectured at the Catholic Summer School in Cambridge from 1928 to 1929; at the Pax Romana Congress in Cambridge in 1929, and in Seville, Spain in 1930.

His particular bent was history—medieval and modern. He has been known throughout his entire life as a Christian socialist and a democrat in politics. His writings are known for their clear, brief style. An humble and unostentatious man, when approached for biographical data in 1939, he wrote across the brief file of dates and names: “I am rather elderly, and at present too tired to write more.”

He died at Chipping in 1943.

E. F.

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