William Axon

William Edward Armytage Axon FRSL (13 January 1846 – 27 December 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.

William Axon

Born(1846-01-13)January 13, 1846
Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, England
DiedDecember 27, 1913(1913-12-27) (aged 67)
Manchester, England
Occupation(s)Librarian, journalist
Jane Woods
(m. 1866; died 1899)

Setta Lueft
(m. 1899; died 1910)


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. Axon 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 Axon wrote many tales and sketches illustrating the dialect and customs of the county in which he lived.

Axon married Jane Woods in 1866; they had three children. After Jane's death in 1899, he married Setta Lueft; they had one child.[1]

Axon 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's second wife died in 1910.[1]

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 died at home on 27 December 1913 and was buried at St Paul's Church in Kersal, Manchester.[1]


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. Hollingworth, Brian Charles (23 September 2004). "Axon, William Edward Armytage (1846–1913), librarian and antiquary". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/57406. ISBN 9780198614128. Retrieved 9 July 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. "Anna Jane Vardill © Orlando Project". orlando.cambridge.org. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  3. 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 this source, which is in the public domain: "Obituary: Dr. William Edward Armytage Axon", The Times (1913)
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