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H V Morton

A Biography

Henry Vollam Morton was born on 26 July 1892 in Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester. His father J. V. Morton, edited the Birmingham Mail, and H.V.Morton began his career on the rival Birmingham Express at 17, becoming assistant editor after only two years.  A year later he came to London to edit a magazine. It was after the war - when he served as an officer with the Warwickshire Yeomanry - that he found his vocation as a descriptive writer.

His success in reporting the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb led to him being given the chance to write a series of vignettes about London life for the Daily Express. These later appeared in book form in the 1920s as The Heart of London and The Spell of London.

In 1931 Morton moved to the Daily Herald where the travel pieces that were later to form part of the best selling books appeared.

In the Steps of the Master sold over half a million hardback copies in the 1930s, and this success was matched in 1938 by In the Steps of St Paul which sold more than 100,000 copies in the first month alone.

In 1946 Morton wrote In Search of South Africa. He fell in love with the country and settled near Capetown, eventually becoming a South African citizen. He continued his travels until he was well into his seventies, and during the 1960s produced three books about Italy.

He died in South Africa on 18 June 1979 aged 86.

I'm greatly indebted to Hilary Blair - a relative of H.V.Morton - for providing me with the information for this short biography.

The Aftermath site now has four pieces written by Morton: Cenotaph, Among the Kings (about the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey) Behind the Window (about an encounter with a disabled veteran) and Ghosts of the Fog (about a real London pea-souper). All bear his hallmarks of close, sometimes quirky observation, which (I think) more than makes up for the sometimes excessive sentimentality.

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Sunday 11 December 2005