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William Axon

William Axon
William A. E. Axon.png
Born13 January 1846 Edit this on Wikidata
Died27 December 1913 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 67)
Victoria Park Edit this on Wikidata
EducationMaster of Arts, Legum Doctor Edit this on Wikidata
OccupationLibrarian, journalist edit this on wikidata
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society of Literature Edit this on Wikidata

William Edward Armytage Axon (January 13, 1846 - December 27, 1913) was an English librarian, antiquary and journalist for the Manchester Guardian.[1] He contributed to the Dictionary of National Biography under his initials W. E. A. A. He was also a notable vegetarianism activist.


Anna Jane Vardill Niven frontispiece by Axon

Axon was born in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester.[1] He was best known as an antiquary and a bibliographer, but his interests were extremely varied. As honorary secretary of the Manchester and Salford Sunday Society he took a prominent part in the agitation for the opening of the Manchester libraries on Sunday. He had begun life as a boy in the Manchester Reference Library, and was early drawn to literary pursuits. Later he wrote much on the folklore and historical associations of Lancashire and Cheshire, and the antiquaries of these counties made him their president. Besides this, as a member of the English Dialect Society he wrote many tales and sketches illustrating the dialect and customs of the county in which he lived. He was also the author of Cobden as a Citizen in 1907. He published his study of Anna Jane Vardill's poem that was a sequel to Coleridge's poem Christabel in 1908. It was claimed that she had not written it but based on new evidence he was able to assure the Royal Society of Literature that the poem had been written by her.[2]

Axon for 30 years was on the literary staff of the Manchester Guardian, and for his general literary work was distinguished by the University of Manchester, which conferred on him the honorary degree of Master of Arts in 1913. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an honorary LL.D. of Wilberforce University, and had contributed articles to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Dictionary of National Biography, American Encyclopædia, and Notes and Queries.[3]


Axon was an ardent vegetarian and member of the Anti-Tobacco League.[3] He has been described as a "leading figure of the vegetarian movement."[4] He was Vice-President and Hon. Secretary of the Vegetarian Society.[5] Axon contributed articles on the history of vegetarianism to John Harvey Kellogg's Good Health journal. He was editor of the Vegetarian Messenger.[6]

Axon wrote the preface for the 1884 edition of Percy Bysshe Shelley's A Vindication of Natural Diet.[7] He also authored Shelley's Vegetarianism, in 1891.

Historian Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska has noted that "Axon abhorred cruelty to animals and the degrading work of the 'slaughterman, reeking with blood and striking to death with remorseless blows a creature that shares with him the gift of life".[8]


Edited works

  • 1886: The Annals of Manchester: a chronological record from the earliest times to the end of 1885. Manchester: J. Heywood, Deansgate and Ridgefield ("The volume now offered to the public, as a revised edition of the Manchester Historical Recorder, is virtually a new work ...". - preface); electronic version
  • Collected sermons, 1631–1659 of Thomas Fuller, Volume 1 edited by John Eglington Bailey. Completed by William E. A. Axon (1891)[9]
  • Collected sermons, 1631–1659 Volume 2 edited by John Eglington Bailey. Completed by William E. A. Axon (1891)[10]

Contributions to the DNB

  • Ashworth, John
  • Banks, George Linnaeus
  • Bellot, Thomas
  • Bennis, George Geary
  • Blythe, John Dean
  • Bowers, George Hull
  • Bradberry, David
  • Brandwood, James
  • Brittain, Thomas
  • Brooke, Henry
  • Brookes, Joshua
  • Brotherton, Edward
  • Bruen, John
  • Butterworth, James
  • Calvert, Charles
  • Calvert, Thomas
  • Canne, John
  • Castillo, John
  • Caw, John Young
  • Clayton, John (1754–1843)
  • Cole, Thomas (1628–1697)
  • Crestadoro, Andrea


  1. ^ a b "Axon, William Edward Armytage". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. ^ "Anna Jane Vardill © Orlando Project". Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  3. ^ a b The Times Obituary (1913)
  4. ^ Li, Chien-hui. (2019). Mobilizing Traditions in the First Wave of the British Animal Defense Movement. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 289. ISBN 978-1-137-52650-2
  5. ^ Forward, Charles W. (1898). Fifty Years of Food Reform: A History of the Vegetarian Movement in England. London: The Ideal Publishing Union. p. 164
  6. ^ Dr. William E. A. Axon. Food, Home and Garden, 1899.
  7. ^ Shelley, Percy Bysshe. (1884). A Vindication of Natural Diet. London.
  8. ^ Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Ina. (2010). Managing the Body: Beauty, Health, and Fitness in Britain 1880-1939. Oxford University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0199280520
  9. ^ Collected sermons, 1631–1659, Volume 1, edited by John Eglington Bailey. Completed by William E. A. Axon (1891)
  10. ^ Collected sermons, 1631–1659, Volume 2, edited by John Eglington Bailey. Completed by William E. A. Axon (1891)


  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Obituary: Dr. William Edward Armytage Axon", The Times (1913)

External links