- Martha S. Vogeler
Stebbing, William (1831–1926), journalist and author, was born on 16 May 1831 in London, the third son of the Revd Henry Stebbing (1799–1883), and his wife, Mary Griffin (1805–1882). Grace Stebbing, the novelist, was his sister. He was educated at Westminster School, where he was a queen's scholar; at King's College School, where he was top of his class in 1847; and at King's College, London. At Oxford University he held a scholarship first at Lincoln College, then at Worcester College, and received three firsts: in moderations (1852), literae humaniores (1853), and law and modern history (1854). Worcester College made him a fellow, and later an honorary fellow. Stebbing was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1858, and practised as a conveyancer and equity barrister for a decade. He also lectured on history at King's College, London, becoming a fellow there, and published works on legal and historical topics, as well as an analysis of Mill's System of Logic (1864).
Stebbing's important thirty-year career at The Times began in 1868; he was brought onto the staff by his best friend, Leonard Courtney, who was already a member. Under John Thadeus Delane, whom he much admired, Stebbing wrote book reviews and leaders; he became temporary assistant to Delane in 1870, and his deputy in 1876. In The Tale of a ‘Times’ Correspondent Charles Lowe remembered Stebbing as 'a little undersized man with a bushy beard', 'learned and accomplished', but displaying 'Olympian aloofness' (Lowe, 60–61). Others judged him inept as an administrator, quarrelsome, and handicapped by a speech defect. Passed over when Delane's successor was appointed in 1877, the aggrieved Stebbing declined to become assistant to the new editor, and returned to leader writing, which was his forte.
Towards the end of the century, Stebbing's contributions to The Times tapered off. Following his scholarly inclinations, he published two biographies in Macmillan's English Men of Action series, on the third earl of Peterborough (1889) and Sir Walter Raleigh (1899); a two-volume survey of English language poets from Chaucer to Tennyson (1907; rev. 1913); three books of graceful essays; three collections of tales; and—between the ages of eighty-six and ninety-two—four anthologies of classical texts translated into English. Stebbing was never a secluded scholar; his lively conversation long delighted his friends at the Athenaeum and the Reform Club. He outlived most of his contemporaries, and contributed reminiscences to the memorial volumes of Leonard Courtney, Charles Henry Pearson, and the Revd C. H. O. Daniel.
On 1 October 1870 Stebbing married Anne Pinckard Pidgeon; they had a daughter and three sons (one named for Delane). He survived his wife by a year, dying on 27 May 1926, aged ninety-five, at Frith Park, his home at Walton on the Hill, Surrey. After an Anglican funeral at Walton he was cremated at Woking crematorium.
- The Times (29 May 1926)
- The Times (28 July 1926)
- The Times (3 Oct 1870)
- The Times (14 May 1925)
- The Times (11 Oct 1917)
- J. Foster, Men-at-the-bar: a biographical hand-list of the members of the various inns of court, 2nd edn (1885)
- F. R. Miles, ed., King's College School: a register of pupils in the school … 1831–1866 (1974)
- [S. Morison and others], The history of The Times, 2 (1939)
- C. Lowe, The tale of a ‘Times’ correspondent (Berlin, 1878–1891) (1927)
- private information (2008) [R. Christophers]
- London Library, press cuttings and material relating to his biography of Sir Walter Raleigh
- News Int. RO, The Times archive
- BLPES, letters to the Courtneys
- Worcester College, Oxford, letters to C. H. O. Daniel
- portrait, News Int. RO, The Times archive
Wealth at Death
£43,412 7s. 3d.: administration with will, 23 July 1926, CGPLA Eng. & Wales