The following is a letter to, and published in "The Times" written by Thomas Hernon Woodfall in defense of William (Memory) Woodfall, who was reputation was attacked by Lord Palmerston in a speech.

 

MR. WOODFALL AS A PARLIAMENTARY
REPORTER

TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

Sir:- In The Times of today, there appears the following statement made by Lord Palmerston, in his speech to the toast of “the Press” at the Labourers’ Encouragement Society’s dinner at Romsey; and as that statement is unfounded in fact, and is most injurious to the memory of the late Mr. William Woodfall, the celebrated Parliamentary reporter, for whose name the Public have had some regard, and to whose career his descendants  (of whom I am one) look back with pride, I trust that you will allow me to call your attention to it. The words are as follows:-

“I have heard that towards the end of the last century there was a man named Woodfall who used to publish debates, and how did he do it? It is said that he used to go to the gallery of the House of Commons, listen attentively. With his face in his hands, to what passed, go from his dreams and recollections make out what he called a report of a debate.”

Now Sir, Mr. William Woodfall was an honourable, well-educated man, editor of a newspaper, endowed by his Creator with an extraordinary memory. At a time when Parliamentary reporting was in its infancy; when there were not the relays of reporters and the steamengines of The Times to furnish a verbatim report of the night’s proceedings for the morning’s reading; and when Parliamentary speeches, being addressed less to the public than as arguments to the House, did not reach their present interminable length, he attended Parliament and reported from memory at the earliest moment the essence of the debate, honestly and with talent. His reports were true according to his power, and not made up by a drunken impostor, as Lord Palmerston would have us believe, out of “his dreams and recollections.”  They were a great boon to the public (for which his name lives to the present time), and were the germ of that political education of the people which, you, by the aid of modern appliances and great expenditure, have brought to the present perfection.

The sons of Mr. William Woodfall are no more; (one of them was the Chief Justice of Cape Breton, and the author of the Law of Landlord and Tenant - a textbook of the Law to the present time); but I, as his grandson must indignantly deny the injurious character given to him by Lord Palmerston, and assert, from my own association with his immediate descendants (his widow, his sons and others) that he was regarded, by those who knew him, with respect for his moral qualities, as his lives still in our annals remarkable for his intellectual endowments.

I am, Sir, your most obedient servant.

HERNON T. WOODFALL

5 Oakley-terrace, Chelsea, Dec. 22

 

Below is the headstone of Thomas Hernon Woodfall