Haydn, Joseph Timothy (1788/1793–1856), newspaper editor and compiler of reference works, was born in Lisbon in 1788 or 1793, the son of Thomas Haydn, a protestant Irish expatriate. He was educated in Portugal before he moved to Dublin in 1818 to found The Stage, an unsuccessful review of Dublin theatres, having earlier ghost-written a History of the Azores for Thomas Ashe, a self-appointed ‘captain of the light dragoons'.
He made his name as a political journalist, founding, and writing for, The Statesman, The Patriot, the Morning Star and, later, editing the Dublin Evening Mail. Under his control the Mail became recognised for a time as the chief protestant newspaper in Dublin. His anti-catholic, anti-Dublin Castle stance proved very popular with the ascendancy, who felt that their position was under threat from the supposedly liberal ideals of the lord lieutenant, Richard Colley, Marquess Wellesley (qv). In 1824–5 his attacks on the lord lieutenant, which became increasingly outrageous, led the attorney general to bring proceedings. Daniel O'Connell (qv) defended Haydn, and the case was dismissed when the jury failed to agree. His career was an eventful one and, more than once, he lost expensive libel actions and was targeted for violent attacks by some of those offended by his inflammatory editorials. He claimed to have had four affairs of honour within ten days, one with Henry Grattan jnr (qv), and another with the lord lieutenant's ADC, which resulted in him being horsewhipped. These affairs attracted further attention and readers, but the libellous nature of much of his journalism meant there were a number of out-of-court settlements. In 1828 The Patriot, having lost circulation owing to the more liberal stance taken after the departure of Haydn, re-employed him. It changed its name to the Statesman and Patriot and became immediately anti-catholic under his direction. This alliance, however, was a short-lived affair. Haydn then moved to Limerick where he edited the Limerick Star and Evening Post, and later the Limerick Times, and also wrote for the Cork Bolster's Quarterly.
In 1839 he went to London where he continued his career as a journalist, working for thirteen years as a reporter with the London Courier and Evening Gazette. Between 1842 and 1849 he revised several volumes of Samuel Lewis's Topographical dictionary, and in 1851 he produced the Book of dignities, a modernised form of Beatson's Political index, which listed holders of many governmental and ecclesiastical positions. His name was used on the Haydn series of dictionaries, but he was not involved in their compilation. His principal achievement through these years was the hugely successful Dictionary of dates in 1841, which was in its twenty-fifth edition by 1900. Funded by Edward Moxon, the Dictionary was accurate and informative, and became an invaluable point of reference for historians and journalists.
Despite the successes of his earlier career, by the 1850s he faced the prospect of debtors’ prison, because of a series of incidents which undermined his career and his health. He fell down a flight of stairs and damaged his back and, later, suffered a stroke; his family subsequently moved into a one-room flat. In 1854 he obtained work at the Admiralty preparing a digest and indexes of volumes of dispatches written in the previous century, but new set-backs to his health led to further incapacitation, and a public subscription fund was organised to support him. In his last months he received a civil-list pension, while his wife raised money by selling stationery and running a library from books donated by publishers.
Haydn married twice. Little is known of his first marriage, which took place before 1820, except that it produced four children: three daughters, and a son who became a printer. In 1836, when he was in his forties, he married the sixteen-year-old Mary Johnson (or Johnston) and they had two sons and one daughter. He died 17 January 1856 at his home, 13 Crowley Street, Oakley Square, London.