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Monday, August 31, 2009

Henry Lazarus

I do like tales of obscure authors. Doing some digging around on behalf of the SF Encyclopedia I've stumbled upon an odd tale about an author called Henry Lazarus. Nothing was known about Lazarus except that he was active in the 1890s and had no connection with the clarinetist Henry Lazarus, who lived in South Kensington until his death in 1895.

As far as I'm aware Henry Lazarus wrote only two books:

Landlordism. An illustration of the rise and spread of slumland as evidenced on the great estates of the great ground landlords of London. London, The General Publishing Co., December 1891.
The English Revolution of the Twentieth Century. A prospective history, with an introduction and edited by Henry Lazarus. London, T. F. Unwin, July 1894; second edition with a new preface, London, F. L. Ballin, November 1897.

The latter was named the Book of the Month by the Review of Reviews in 1894, "which Mr. Stead describes as a "very elaborate affair—a compound of Carlyle's 'Latter Day Pamphlets,' General Booth's 'Darkest England,' and Mr. Lazaraus's 'Landlordism.'" The book, we are further told, is "an attempt to combine a treatise as to what is, and what ought to be done, with an exposition of what might be accomplished, in the social regeneration of England, together with a more or less fanciful sketch of the means by which the former things were destroyed and all things made new."

The former, meanwhile, inspired a verse in Punch (20 February 1892) which began:
"The Golgotha of Slumland!" That's a phrase as I am told
Is made use of by a party,—which that party must be bold,—
In the name of Mister LAZARUS, a good Saint Pancrage gent,
Wot has write a book on Slumland, and its Landlords, and its Rent.
We have to thank the compilers of Good Reading About Many Books Mostly By Their Authors, published by T. F. Unwin in 1894 (who just happened to have published Lazarus's book that same year), for what little I've found about Lazarus. In a short essay (signed T. v. E.), the author seeks out Lazarus, offers a brief sketch of his work and recommends his book:
THE interviewer is perhaps the best-abused of modern literary ephemerists—if the term be permitted—but he can be serviceable, is serviceable, and even valuable, quite invaluable sometimes. I am an interviewer, of the invaluable species, of course, and I set my mind upon interviewing the author of the "Revolution of the Twentieth Century."
He baffled me many times, but I caught him at last. Authors always fall into my net some time or other. I am the Major Le-Caron of the literary world, and am unbaffleable. One evening I spied my victim at his club; I knew him, he did not know me. When he reads this he will know me, and, as he is an irascible man, he will probably swear. But the public, whom I always have to consider and never the individual—will—well, the public can decide for itself. I wanted to find out the history of the "History of the Twentieth Century," and here it is:— The author has led a varied and adventurous life, seems to have travelled nearly everywhere, and come into contact with life in many forms. Originally trained to commerce (the chapters of his book on finance and trade bear witness to that), he eventually left the path which leads to fortune and became attracted towards the path which leads to misfortune; the path of the social reformer—the saddest intricacies of it—the slums. After some years of vigorous battle there Mr. Lazarus became an authority on slum matters generally, and was invited to draw up a report on the London slums by that admirable body, "The Mansion House Council on the Dwellings of the Poor." Friends to whom he happened to submit the report urged him to publish it as an independent work. He did, and the result was the little book called "Landlordism," which made a sensation. And no wonder: peers, church dignitaries, millionaires, noble ladies—none who were responsible for the awful places had mercy—the slum-owner, rich or poor, was fearlessly exposed in all his ignominious unattractiveness.
But the public wonder soon cooled; the sum of British misery, pauperism, and crime went on apace. An ugly fester had been laid bare; society soon dropped rags of oblivion over it. One day our author attended—not for the first time—the death-bed of a slum-tenant, a worn-out, starved wretch, who looked eighty, but was less than sixty. Mr. Lazarus plodded homeward with the old man's death-rattle surging in his ears, and his death words seething in his heart:— "It's starvation, sir, don't mind me. I'm easy now, it's all over; once I was as well cared for as you yourself … My wife died like this, … and my boy, … he was starved too; thank God my turn's come at last … I'll tell you one thing, sir, you'll live to see the end of this state of things, there's a——" Then came the last gasp, and the old sufferer was dead.
If the strangeness of the unfinished prophecy impressed our author it was not because it stood alone. Revolutionary growls and mutterings are common experiences to most intimate workers in the nether places of misery and grinding poverty, and the story told in the proem is but the synthesis of many such experiences.
Most real are also the "living pictures," or—more correctly—"dying pictures" portrayed in "Hunger Hall"; the authorities for those cases are beyond cavil.
Now it need scarcely be said that a slum visitor at the death-bed of a slum victim is not an isolated occurrence.
Starvation is an every-day matter in the slums, and our author had witnessed scores of such tragedies. Yet that old man's death, and the unfinished prophecy, became the motive power which induced the history of the "Revolution of the Twentieth Century." The book is an endeavour to lay down a programme of practical reforms, which are pressingly needed in every avenue, almost, of what is called modern civilisation. But, aware that mere abstract treatises appeal only to a very limited audience, Mr. Lazarus has cast his work in a form that attracts the general reader as well as provides a practical guide to the reformer on all the great and serious problems of the time. The book was written and re-written before it left the author's hands, and the facts, illustrations, and records which enrich it have been the labour of many years. A brief mention of some of the subjects worked out into what may perhaps be called the first really possible and realisable Utopia that has ever sprung from the press, will make it evident that in this brief notice it is impossible to attempt an analysis of the book. The problems it solves are those which deal with the land question, the raising of the submerged classes, the cultivation of waste lands, the myriad questions on labour, the national debt (which becomes transformed into a national reserve), transformation of the slums, the unification of the British Empire, the Church, Education, Law, Woman, Parliament, &c. The very breadth of such a scheme, apart from the manner the various subjects are dealt with, tempted me to inquire into the origin of it, and I hope this account of my discovery will not disappoint the curious; I am sure they will thank me if it induce them to read the book for themselves.
From this we learn that Lazarus was a traveller (which may explain why he is missing from census returns) before becoming a reformer. He published numerous Letters to the Editor in The Times from 1890 onwards, some signed on behalf of the St. Pancras Assessment Committee but always giving the address 38, Tavistock-square, W.C., quite a well-to-do area in Bloomsbury. Lazarus was a supporter of the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890, which, he said, was truly valuable to the reformer enabling him "to war successfully against that vampire class which, for want of a better name, may be called the slum-owners." (The Times, 8 November 1890)

Lazarus stood as an Independent candidate at St. Pancas (South) during the London County Council elections of 1892, his candidacy "supported by sections of both parties. Whilst the work he has done in St. Pancras proves that he is no foe of progress of a wise and worthy sort, he certainly is an enemy to the so-called "Progressive" progress, which, he says, where it does not stand absolutely still (as in their determination to stop all improvements unless Parliament adopts their method of paying for them), will spread like greased lightning towards rates not measurable by mere shillings in the pound." (The Times, 11 February 1892)

Lazarus seems to have gone quiet in the wake of the publication of his novel. Very little is heard of him over the next few years. The novel was republished in 1897 and, on 27 January 1898, we find the following notice in The Times in the "Sales By Auction" column:

(A minor aside: I noted with interest the "Oriental china" and "Chinese and other bronzes" as it may confirm that it was "our" Henry Lazarus who appeared before the Opium Commission in 1893 and was quoted as having said that he had been in business in China.)

Why the seemingly-sudden departure from the home he had lived in for quite some years? The reason might be what happened next...

Three weeks after selling his home, Lazarus appeared in court before the Lord Chief Justice in the case Shaw v. Lazarus. The facts reported in the paper reveal an entirely different angle of Lazarus.

It would seem that in 1876 he became acquainted with a young woman later to become Mrs. Clara E. Shaw (under which name the case was brought): she was a girl of fair social position and "the defendent [Lazarus] made love to her." In 1883 he said he desired to marry her and she wished to marry him, but there was a problem: Lazarus was a Jew and he might not be recognised in a will if he married a girl who was not a Jewess. Instead, the two lived together as man and wife on the understanding that they would be married after Lazarus's mother died.

Differences arose after some time and the two separated, although provision was made for their two children. A deed was drawn up stating that Lazarus would pay £100 a year, increasing to £150 following the death of his mother. Clara married a Mr. Shaw [there's a chance that this was the marriage of Clara Edith Goldsbro and William Arthur Shaw in 1894; in the 1901 census, they are living in Kent with two children, both born prior to the marriage: Reginald (14) and Violet (12)]. Lazarus's mother had died in December 1896, but, as of the date of the case, Lazarus was being sued for the recovery of £37 10s. allegedly owed.

Lazarus address the court and, in the words of The Times report on the case, "said that no more awful falsehood had ever been uttered in that Court than the assertion that he had ever promised to marry the plaintiff, who had, in fact, begged and implored him to make her his mistress." The counsel representing Mrs. Shaw was able to read out a letter in which Lazarus promised to marry her. Lazarus went on to claim that he was coerced into signing the deed but both the judge and the jury disagreed that he had been under any duress and found for the plaintiff.

Lazarus had moved to The Hermitage, Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire, and it was here that we next find him, in mid-1900 in adjudication for bankruptcy. He managed to exit bankruptcy in 1903 after some 28 months.

Again, Lazarus disappears from sight, although he remained living at the same address until around 1912/13 and, by 1910, was once again writing to The Times, and signing himself the Hon. Sec. of the Bushey Co-operative Small Holdings and Allotments Association Ltd. I can trace him as late as 1912 in the phone book and to 1913 in The Times, but not in the death indexes despite a search between 1912-20.

The 1911 census, although not fully available yet through any of the subscription services, is at least searchable and Henry appears in a search for "Lazarus" in Hertfordshire as being registered in the Watford district, aged 56. There are only two other people with the surname Lazarus in the area: Mary E. Lazarus, aged 38, and Winifred Louie Lazarus, 8.

Sifting through these clues would surely yield something.

It did: I managed to find Henry Lazarus in the 1901 census, where good old had misspelled his name Henry Layarus. This revealed he was born in the City of London 45 years earlier, so born circa 1855. There were half a dozen people by the name of Henry Lazarus born in London around that period, so confirming his full name has been impossible.

In 1901 he was living with his wife Mary E. Lazarus and Coline W. Tunley, whom Ancesty describe as 'sister'. On examining the actual census you find that Olive (rather than Coline) was actually a visitor. And not born in Clyshaw but Clapham. They really need to sort out their OCR programme.

Mary was 28 and born in Paddington and the birth of her daughter, Winifred Louie Lazarus was registered in Watford in 1902. But there appears to be no record of their marriage.

Working backwards, we find (eventually), Henry Lazarus (aged 36) living at 38 Tavistock Square in the 1891 census. Here also are his mother, the widowed Kate Lazarus (71), a sister, Jeanine (27) and a posse of grandchildren, Stanley Lazarus (12), Frank (11) and George (10). Henry is described as a "retired merchant" and the family are obviously doing well as they have four servants.

This was the family home for many years: in 1881 Lewis Lazarus, a metal merchant, and his wife Catherine were living with their children Julia (30), Ada (23), Samuel (20) and Jeannie (17). In the 1861 and 1871 census returns more children are revealed:

Abraham Lewis (1841-19 Dec 1913)
Simeon (1844-1906(?)) m. Florence Solomon in 1878
Ailsey (c.1846) m. Frederick S. D. Phillipos in 1876
Leon (c.1847)
May (1848) m. Joseph Henry Phillips in 1872
Julia (1849)
Lizzie (c.1852) m. Edward J. Lezard in 1872
Henry (1855)
Emanuel H. (1855-27 Nov 1879)
Ada (1858)
Samuel Octavius (4 Mar 1861-1935)
Jenny/Jeannie (21 Sep 1863)

It would appear that Lewis Lazarus married in 1840, although records make it unclear whether it was to a Catherine Hyams or Catharine Miersod and no earlier census records exist before 1841. At that time, Lazarus was living with Catherine in Grey Street, West Side, Newcastle Upon Tyne with their 1 month old son, Abraham. Within the next two years, the family had moved to London and Lewis, aged 37 in the 1851 census, was described as a General Agent.

Digging further, the firm of Lewis Lazarus & Sons were still carrying out the business of metal brokers and merchants at 10-11 Lime Street, London, in 1900, headed by Abraham (who retired that year), Simeon, Samuel and one Arthur Lindsay Lazarus. In fact, they seem to have lasted until 1932 when a newspaper report revealed that "the cause of the failure of Lewis Lazarus & Sons, metal merchants, to discharge their liabilities this morning, which led to a temporary suspension of dealings in the tin market, was the failure of European clients to meet their differences. Rumours of some such event have been hanging over the tin market for several months, and competent authories are hopeful that now that the extent of the trouble is known the position will improve." (The Argus, Melbourne, 8 June 1932)

From reports elsewhere it seems that the firm of Lewis Lazarus & Co. was established in 1820.

Thus it would appear that Henry Lazarus came from a well-to-do family involved in the buying and selling of metals, especially tin, with connections in China. It is very possible that Henry and his brother Emanuel, neither of whom can be found in the 1871 or 1881 census, travelled extensively on behalf of the firm. Emanuel died in Shanghai in 1879.

I can't help wondering about the two children Henry had with Clara. If my guess is correct—that she is the Clara Edith Goldsbro who married William Shaw in 1894—then it would appear she was the daughter of a physician, Thomas Goldsbro (the son of the Rev. Thomas Goldsbro, curate of Trelystan, Montgomeryshire), born in Southwark in 1857. Two years younger than Henry, they met when she was 18 or 19, a year or so before her father died on 29 January 1877. The family were living at 40 West Square in 1871 (erroneously listed as Goldstro). They had moved by the time of the 1881 census and it is proving impossible to find Clara. Her brother, Thomas William Charles Joseph Goldsbro married Kate Winifred Freeman in 1877 and was living Southwark in 1881 (erroneously listed as Goldston) but the rest of the family (including mother Kate and sister Mary C.) seem to have disappeared without a trace.

The only further trace of the family is a small notice in the Times relating to the sudden death of Clara's aunt, Elizabeth Sarah Goldbro, who died at Southampton Row, London, on 21 March 1884.

Her children were named as Reginald (14) and Violet (12) in the 1901 census but I think they just might have been born Henry Carlyle E. Goldsbro and Violet Julia C. Goldsbro in 1886 and 1888 respectively. And if that's true, I may have discovered where Clara was in 1891, three years before she married. I believe she was living at 7 Blandford Square under the name Clara Edie (aged 31), a married professor of music, with sons Harry (4) and Violet (2). Her birth in Southwark and their births in Marylebone all fit and I can't trace the births of any of them under the name Edie. Edie is, of course, a variation of Edith which, I believe was Clara Goldsbro's middle name.

What happened to Henry Lazarus? There was no obvious sign of his death in records between 1912-20, but it may be that he moved from Bushey Heath rather than died... and a continued search reveals a far more likely suspect in 1922: one Henry Lazarus whose death was registered in Kensington at the age of 67. This ties in with his birth in 1855.

Whether that's our Henry is a bit speculative. But he fits and to eventually find that he is the Henry Lazarus who wrote The English Revolution of the Twentieth Century wouldn't surprise me.

Normally, I limit how much time I spend on an author about whom nothing is known—I can usually tell fairly quickly that I'm not going to be able to add anything. But in Henry's case the extra time paid off with a most intriguing story.


  1. Thank you for your meticulous research!

  2. Very interesting! I stumbled upon your page about Henry Lazarus while researching Lazarus families. There were a number of them in London and both Henry and Lewis were English 'equivalents' to common Yiddish or Hebrew names, making it very difficult to sort out family lineages. As far as I can tell, this Lewis and Henry Lazarus are not of "my" Lazarus tribe, but I won't discount it yet. The connection to China doesn't surprise me; in my own genealogy there were Lazaruses who went to India, some of whom extended their optical business further east to Singapore and Malaysia.