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Sunday, February 11, 2007

James Lindridge

I love a challenge. John Adcock posts that nothing is known about James Lindridge, the 19th century author of Tyburn Tree and The Merry Wives of London, the latter a most notorious penny blood. Checking my notes I found I'd also drawn a bit of a blank. However, I did some further digging and I think I've managed to make a chink in the mysterious life of Lindridge.

James Lindridge was only credited with one novel, The Life and Adventures of Jack Rann, alias Sixteen-String Jack, the notorious highwayman, published by George Purkess in penny numbers in 1850-51. This book was listed on the title page as "by the author of DeLisle, Tyburn Tree, etc." from which clue we can flesh out Lindridge's writing career to include a number of other novels. Lindridge was also listed as the editor of Tales of Shipwrecks and Adventures at Sea which was published in 59 numbers in 1845-46.

The only written reference to Lindridge I've found is made by Thomas Frost in his Forty Years' Recollections (p.87) in which he says: "Later still, there entered the field James Lindridge, a newsagents assistant, who catered for the appetite which Mr. Ainsworth and Bulwer Lytton had done so much to stimulate, by producing a Newgate romance, entitled 'Tyburn Tree'."

Armed with these slim clues, I believe we can identify James Lindridge in the 1851 census where he is listed in the occupation of "clerk in publishers office". At the time he was living at 6 Addington Place, Lambeth, Surrey, with his wife Jane, a son and a niece. He was 25 and born in Ashford, Kent.

Lindridge was born on 2 December 1825, the son of George Lindridge and his wife Elizabeth, and was Christened on Boxing Day at Hampstead Place-Weslyan, in Ashford, Kent.

At the age of 15, Lindridge was living with the family of William M. Clark in Warwick Lane, Christchurch, London. Clarke is well known as a printer and publisher to penny blood collectors and was once described as "a dab hand at 'paste and scissors' journalism -- producing, on the cheap, weekly magazines with excerpts, articles, and even whole stories whipped from other magazines." There can be little doubt that Lindridge learned his trade from Clark and, no doubt, wielded the scissors himself on occasion.

Lindridge worked as an assistant to Clark throughout the 1840s, during which time he also began producing books, the earliest being the aforementioned Tales of Shipwrecks and Adventures at Sea (1845-46). A sequel was announced in the preface and Tales of Heroism, and Record of Strange and Wonderful Adventures was subsequently published in 50 numbers in 1846-47. Although no editor is listed, Lindridge seems the obvious candidate. Maybe Lindridge was also in the editor's chair for Tales of the Pirates; or, Lives of Smugglers (31 numbers) which was also published by Clark in 1847.

Lindridge, still in his early twenties, then embarked on a number of novels. Some remain untraced from title threads, notably 'The Old Manor House' and 'The Gold Finders' although I'm tempted to attribute Lindridge as the author behind the pen-name J. Tyrwhitt Brooks, M.D. who penned Four Months Among the Gold-Finders in Alta California. Being the diary of an expedition from San Francisco to the gold districts, published by David Bogue in 1849 and subsequently reprinted in New York by D. Appleton & Co. Henry Vizetelly (under whose name the book is listed by a number of universities) is said to have noted (in his autobiography Glances Back Through Seventy Years, 1893) that this was "a fictitious narrative". Apart from the title appearing in a title chain connected with Lindridge, I've no evidence that Lindridge was the author of this particular, but it's in the right place at the right time. Vizetelly was a printer, artist and engraver... but was he also a writer of fiction?

Another novel that has caused some head-scratching over the years is De Lisle since there are two books of this name, the other being De Lisle; or, The Distrustful Man (Edward Bull, 1828) which was written by Catharine Maria Grey. Lindridge's authorship of the later De Lisle; or, The Shipwrecked Stranger is derived from The Life and Adventures of Jack Rann where Lindridge is the named author and additionally credited as "the author of DeLisle, Tyburn Tree, etc.". Another yarn, The Ruined Cottage, has been credited to Hannah Maria Jones, but it contains a common character to De Lisle and is mentioned in a footnote in that book. Lindridge was almost certainly the author.

Lindridge was married at St. Mary's, Lambeth, to Jane Bell, the daughter of Francis Bell (mason) and his wife Jane, on 8 April 1849. His son, George Bell Lindridge, was born in Lambeth the following year.

By the turn of the decade, Lindridge had written for quite a number of publishers including George Purkess, W. Caffyn and George Vickers but his output seems end quite suddenly around 1851.

William Mark Clark, Lindridge's employer, died on 8 January 1861 after a lingering illness and his business as a printer and bookseller was continued by his widow, Elizabeth from the same address at 16 & 17 Warwick Lane. It is at this address that Lindridge is registered in the 1861 census where it is noted that, at 35, he was a widower. I have been unable to confirm with absolute certainty the year of her death, but I believe she may have died in Maidstone in 1853; if so, it was at the tragically young age of 27. In fact, the tragedy went even deeper as their baby son, George Bell Lindridge, had died in Maidstone in 1852.

Perhaps this explains why Lindridge gave up writing in the early 1850s.

Unforunately, the 1861 census is the last confirmed sighting of James Lindridge, although there is an outside chance that he may have left publishing for that other gentlemanly occupation, retailing beer. In the 1881 census we find one James Lindridge, 56, born in High Halden (which is about 6 miles from Ashford where 'our' James Lindridge was reputedly born) running a pub called The Eagle in Upper Stone Street, Maidstone (where his son and, perhaps, first wife died). James is married to Elizabeth and the father of Jane Bartholomew (at 28 already widowed), Emily (24), Rose (19), Alice (17), Ellen (12) and Agnes (11), all born in Maidstone. And here's the problem... if James is 'our' James, Jane -- born Mary Jane Lindridge in 1853 and married to William Bartholemew in 1875 -- was born the same year that 'our' James's wife died which, although not impossible, seems to make him an unlikely suspect. In the 1891 census this James Lindridge's age has jumped to 70, although a James Lindridge, aged 64, is registered as dying in Maidstone the following year.

So, not exactly a full-length biography but at least we now know something.

Novels by James Lindridge
The Old Manor House.
The Gold Finders.
Tyburn Tree; or, The Mysteries of the Past by John Dicks, Esq [in 44 numbers, 1847?-48?]. London, George Purkess, c.1848; later reprinted as by Jayhohenn Deehiseekayess, Esq. [in 31 numbers, 1848?-49?], London, R. S. Swift, 1849.
The Ruined Cottage; or, The Farmer's Maid [in 78 numbers, 1846?-47]. London, W. Caffyn, 1847.
De Lisle; or, The Shipwrecked Stranger [in 49 numbers, 1847?-48?]. London, W. Caffyn, 1848?
The Adventures of Marmaduke Midge, the Pickwickian Legatee {by the author of 'Tyburn Tree'} [in 10 numbers, 1848?]. London, G. Vickers, 1848?
The Life and Adventures of Jack Rann, alias Sixteen-String Jack, the notorious highwayman [in 52 numbers, 1850-51]. London, G. Purkess, 1851
The Merry Wives of London {by the author of 'The Socialist Girl'} [in 26 numbers, 1850-51]. London, G. Vickers, 1851.

It is worth noting that, although The Merry Wives of London was credited as by the author of 'The Socialist Girl', the last sentence of the book reveals that "the experiences of Laura Bell, the socialist girl, have yet to be written." It seems almost certain that the book never appeared.

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