George Searle Phillips (1815-1889)

George Searle Phillips was a writer and newspaper editor who penned a series of "Walks Round Huddersfield" in the 1840s. He sometimes wrote under the name "January Searle".

His wife, Charlotte, spent time in an asylum and both George Searle and his son, Louis Henry, ended their lives in asylums.


He was reportedly born in 1815[1] in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, the son of the Rev. David Phillips and his wife Maria. He was baptised on 15 May 1818 at the Independent Chapel in Whittlesey.

According to most sources, he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, however the Dictionary of National Biography noted that "his name does not appear among the 'graduati'."[2]

He married Charlotte Kemp on 14 August 1840 at Fletton, Huntingdonshire. They had one known son:

  • Louis Henry Phillips (1844-1880)[3]

It is believed they travelled to America soon after the marriage and he worked for the New York World and New York Herald before returning to England circa 1845, where he became an editor at the Leeds Times as well as the co-editor of Truth Seeker[4].

In the late 1840s, Phillips wrote a series of "Walks Round Huddersfield".

By 1851, he was the Secretary to the Mechanics' Institution in Huddersfield and living on West Parade. In 1854, he was appointed a lecturer to the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes and Literary Societies.

He later returned to America in the 1860s, where he initially worked on the Chicago Tribune before accompanying his friend Charles A. Dana to New York, where he worked on the New York Sun.

At some point, Charlotte Phillips spent several years in a pauper asylum before being released. She published Ten Years in a Lunatic Asylum (1868) under the pseudonym Mabel Etchell, as well as collections of poems under her own name.

In 1873, he suffered a mental breakdown and was confined to the Trenton Insane Asylum in New Jersey on 1 May. On 17 April 1876, he was transferred to the Morristown Asylum in New Jersey, where he eventually died in January 1889.

It seems his family had lost touch with him during his return to America and they assumed he had died there in the 1870s. However, a journalist from the New York Evening Telegram had discovered his whereabouts in late 1879 and a widely distributed article was published on 13 December. It was reported that Phillips was suffering from dementia as well as hearing voices in his head. The article ended by lamenting that the best place for Phillips to end his days would be amongst his relatives in England, "where gentle memories of the long ago might be expected to obliterate the weird nightmare of the past."[5]

In January 1880, the Northampton Mercury reported that Louis Henry Phillips had "recently lost his reason and (it is feared) is quite incurable."[6]

Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. A number of his obituary articles stated that he was born in January 1816.
  2. Dictionary of National Biography - Phillips, George Searle (1815-1889).
  3. Born in East Retford, Nottinghamshire. Worked as a barrister. Died in Manchester.
  4. Learning and Living 1790-1960: A Study in the History of the English Adult Education Movement (2013) by J.F.C. Harrison.
  5. "January Searle: The Inmate of a Madhouse" in Leeds Mercury (01/Jan/1880).
  6. "A Sad Ending to a Literary Career" in Northampton Mercury (10/Jan/1880).