ARCHIBALD, Jules Francois

ARCHIBALD, Jules Francois
originally John Feltham (1856-1919)
was born at Kildare, near Geelong, Victoria, on 14 January 1856. Early in life he substituted Jules Francois for his baptismal names John Feltham; possibly he felt that his personality had some affinity with the French spirit, and it has been suggested that he believed he was partly of French descent. His father, however, was a sergeant of police of Irish stock, much interested in literature, his mother, originally Charlotte Jane Madden, came from an English family. She died when the boy was five years old. He was educated at a Catholic school at Warrnambool, and at 14 was apprenticed to Fairfax and Laurie, lessees of the Warrnambool Examiner. His employers afterwards founded the Standard, on which the editor Henry Laurie, afterwards professor of philosophy at Melbourne university, used a ruthless blue pencil; a fact not lost on Archibald who had already begun to write. At the end of his indentures he went to Melbourne, obtained with difficulty some casual work on the Herald, and then was given a junior reportership on the Daily Telegraph at thirty shillings a week. Finding he had no prospects, he got a clerical position in the education department but left it in 1878 to go to Maryborough, Queensland. He was for a few months in the far north but in 1879 decided to try his fortune in Sydney. He found it snobbish and conservative—in his own words, it was a cant-ridden community. He himself was only 23 years of age, but the urge for journalism was in him and he had a hatred of all shams. On 31 January 1880, with his friend John Haynes, he published the first number of the Bulletin, a poor thing in its early number, as he himself admitted, but destined to become a national organ of great influence.
The Bulletin was a weekly paper and was illustrated from the beginning. It had the usual early struggles, but was strengthened by the advent of W. H. Traill (q.v.) as editor and manager when in 1882 both Archibald and Haynes, who were unable to pay the costs of the Clontarf libel action, were sent to jail. They were released when the amount of the costs was raised by public subscription. Traill sold Archibald a quarter interest in the journal, and he acted as editor when Traill was away. In 1886 Traill sold the remainder of his interest and Archibald again became editor. He held the position for 16 years and was a great editor, with an instinct for good writing, and a talent for finding able assistants.
In 1902 his health began to fail, he had to hand over the editorship to Edmond (q.v.), and except for the part taken in the founding of the Lone Hand magazine, he was inactive for some years. In November 1908 he had a mental break-down but recovered, though he was never quite his old self again. In 1914 he sold his interest in the Bulletin. He became literary editor of the newly-established Smith's Weekly in March 1919, and was working until a fortnight before his death, on 10 September 1919, following an operation. His wife predeceased him and he had no children. Under his will a sum of money was left to provide a prize each year for the best portrait painted by an Australian artist, preferably of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics. The value of the prize is usually about £500. Another sum was left to provide a fountain in Sydney to commemorate the association of France and Australia in the first world war. The sculpture on this fountain is the work of Francois Siçard. Other sums were left to charities.
Archibald was a man of medium height, bearded, slightly sardonic in expression, frail, nervy and mercurial, a wit and an excellent raconteur. A brilliant journalist and editor, with a gift of irony and satire, he was also a discoverer and encourager of new writers, appreciative of their good work and giving full credit to them, although it was said of him as a sub-editor that he sharpened the point of every paragraph. He was not a great student of politics, he had little knowledge of finance or business; but his personal charm and loyalty drew brilliant associates to him, and through the Bulletin he was for many years a great influence in Australia in politics, finance, art and literature.
The Lone Hand, 1907-8; The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 12 September 1919; Mrs MacLeod, MacLeod of the Bulletin; The Bulletin, 18 September 1919; W. Moore, The Story of Australian Art; The Catholic Press, 18 September 1919; Vance Palmer, National Portraits; copies of birth and death certificates.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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