Monday, August 11, 2014

Edward Harrison of Merton House (part 1)

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Edward Harrison was associated with penny dreadfuls and cheap weekly periodicals between around 1860 and 1870, operating out of Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. He issued over 20 penny-part serials, including the well-known Black Bess, or The Knight of the Road, and The Blue Dwarf, and for a while worked in partnership with the author Edward Viles. Yet, despite his name being familiar with enthusiasts and collectors, nothing seems to be have been written about his life and career.

Edward Kingsbury Harrison was born in Clerkenwell on 14 June 1819, to Thomas and Susannah Harrison, and baptised on 1 August 1819 at the parish church of St. James, Clerkenwell. [Note that some sources, most notably my own book From the Penny Dreadful to the Ha’penny Dreadfuller, erroneously suggest that Edward Harrison was born in 1805 in Cornhill, London – this was another Edward Harrison, born into a family of stationers and who himself became a stationer, operating out of 82 Cornhill with his brother Matthew, until the early 1870s]. The family was living in St. John Street, Clerkenwell, with Thomas working as a poulterer. Edward was their second and apparently last child – the first, Thomas James, had been born in October 1817, at Back Road, Islington, and baptised on 2 November 1817 at St. Mary’s, Islington. He died at the age of 15 at Bull and Mouth Street, Aldersgate, and was buried in St. Mary’s churchyard, Lambeth, on 13 June 1832.
Nothing is recorded about Edward’s early life or the beginnings of his career – an Edward Harrison of the right age is recorded in the 1841 census working as a bookseller in Cambridge, and living with a Mary Clapham (aged 58) and her 28 year-old daughter Maria, although it is not known if this was same Edward Harrison.

It is known, however, that Edward, then living at 20 Highbury Terrace, Islington (and rather strangely recorded as a canvas manufacturer) married Mary Leekey (born on 9 February 1813 in Basinghall Street, in the City of London, the daughter of George Leekey, a baker) at the parish church of St. Mary’s, Islington, on 13 April 1845. Almost immediately, they moved to 146 Kingsland Road, Hoxton, where they went on to have seven children: Edward (b. 1846, died 1848), Mary Ann (b. 1847), George (b. 1849), Edward (b. 1851), Louisa (b. 1852), Kate (b. 1855), and Frederick William (b. 1858).

As well as being Edward’s home, 146 Kingsland Road was also his business premises, where he began operating as a bookseller in 1846. In 1861, he also operated out of 1 Exeter Exchange, Strand, and by 1862 had moved his second premises to 135 Salisbury Court, off Fleet Street. This was, at some point in the 1860s, given the name Merton House, Salisbury Square, although it was the same building. In 1866, Salisbury Court became his sole business address, and, indeed, remained in the Harrison name until 1902.

By 1861 Harrison had moved the family home from his business premises in Kingsland Road to 49 Alma Street, Hoxton, where, at the time of the 1861 census, he was living with his sons George and Frederick and a servant, the census recording that he was a bookseller and publisher employing ten assistants. His daughters and son Edward were away at a boarding school in Weston Street, Croydon.

As a publisher, Harrison focussed on penny-part serials and weekly periodicals aimed at both children and adults. His first venture appears to have been The Home Magazine, subtitled A Journal of Entertainment and Instruction for Everyone, which was launched in 1856 and ran for at least 400 numbers until 1865. Harrison is also credited with the ownership of Figaro in London (not to be confused with an earlier and more famous weekly with the same title, which was founded by Gilbert Abbot å Beckett in 1831 and published by William Strange, which ran until 1839). This revival, published and printed by John Frederick Stone, ran between 28 February and 23 May 1857, when its title changed to Figaro, or Life As It Is, and as such it ran for only a further 8 weeks.

Harrison’s third venture may have been The Illustrated Sporting News and Theatrical and Musical Review, which ran, with a couple of minor changes in its title, from March 1862 to March 1870. This was published by Harrison at Salisbury Court, until October 1864, when it was taken over by George Maddick. (Maddick had, in fact, been associated with it since 1862, probably as editor, and working in partnership with John Tallis).

In October 1863 Harrison, in partnership with Joseph Hardiman, Edwin J. Brett and William Emmett, launched The English Girls’ Journal and Ladies’ Magazine, with Emmett as editor and Harrison as publisher. In February 1864, all four joint-proprietors were taken to court by William Stevens, the proprietor of The Family Herald, for breach of copyright – Emmett had reprinted articles and other material from the Herald without permission. As soon as Harrison was made aware of this, in January 1864, he cut himself off from the magazine, giving his three co-partners all unsold copies and giving up any further rights. Hardiman, Brett and Emmett continued to publish the magazine until October 1864, when their partnership broke up.

In the meantime, Harrison had launched a second periodical aimed at a young female readership, The Young Ladies’ Journal, which went on to run for 2,906 numbers between April 1864 and February 1920 – issues from 1899 onwards carried the imprint of Harrison & Viles. This paper had four spin-offs: between June 1869 and January 1870 there were nine monthly issues of a free supplement, The Young Ladies’ Journal Language of Flowers; these were followed by The Young Ladies’ Journal Complete Guide to the Work-Table (later re-issued as a complete volume, which ran to several editions); in 1892 there were three numbers of The Young Ladies’ Journal Library (re-issued in one volume); and in 1895 there was the Butterfly Series of Complete Stories.

Harrison had rather less success with his two periodicals for boys. In March 1863 he launched The Boy’s Miscellany, an Illustrated Journal of Useful and Entertaining Literature for Youth, a one penny weekly containing stories, factual and instructive articles, puzzles and exercises. Harrison kept this going until January 1864, when it was taken over by its printers, Maddick & Pottage, in lieu of unpaid debts. It was subsequently published by George Maddick, although it closed down in July 1864. In an intriguing reversal of fortunes, Harrison later took over Maddick’s Boy’s Penny Monthly, which had been launched in July 1864 and which ended up in Harrison’s hands the following November – its precise length of run is not known.

The Boy’s Miscellany was the first weekly boys’ periodical to give a prominent role to “sensational” fiction, and it was notably followed by Edwin J. Brett’s Boys of England in 1866, which in turn was followed by numerous rival papers published by the likes of the Emmett brothers, John Allingham and Samuel Dacre Clarke. In November 1869 Harrison tried to draw readers away from some of these early weekly boys’ papers with The Gentleman’s Journal, an Illustrated Magazine of Literature, Information and Amusement (later called The Gentleman’s Journal and Youth’s Miscellany), which claimed to offer a higher quality of material. Edited by George Frederick Pardon (“Captain Crawley”) and printed by Harrison & Jehring (see later for details of this partnership), it was accompanied by free monthly supplements containing a range of factual articles, and free colour plates, and while it was definitely a better-quality product than its rivals, it proved to be too expensive to maintain, and it ended its run in September 1872, when it was merged with The Young Ladies’ Journal.

In October 1863, Harrison launched The New Newgate Calendar, containing the Remarkable Lives and Trials of Notorious Criminals Past and Present. This ran for 80 weekly numbers until 1865, and contained a mixture of genuine accounts of criminals and their trials and serial fiction. It was re-issued from April 1867 onwards.

Other periodicals published by Harrison included Mr Merryman (March 1864, three numbers only, an illustrated comic weekly), and The Illustrated London Novelist (October 1864 onwards, one penny weekly and sixpence monthly, subsequently re-issued in one volume).

Harrison was perhaps better-known for his penny-part serials, of which he issued well over 20, most being subsequently re-issued as complete volumes, between 1860 and 1870. Thirteen are listed in A. E. Waite’s Quest for Bloods, and a further ten in COPAC. Dating these is not always easy – the following list is in alphabetical order, with dates (and other information) where given those in Waite or COPAC:
  • The Adventures and Vicissitudes of Captain Cook, Mariner (20 parts, 1870)
  • Black Bess, or The Knight of the Road (by Edward Viles , 254 parts, 1863-68)
  • The Black Highwaymen (by Edward Viles, sequel to Black Bess – 86 parts, 1868-69)
  • The Blue Dwarf (60 parts – 1860-61)
  • Blueskin: A Romance of the Last Century (by Edward Viles , 158 parts, 1866-67)
  • Clifton Grey, or Love and War (by Pierce Egan, c. 1870)
  • The Dance of Death, or The Hangman’s Plot (23 parts)
  • Edward the Black Prince (by Pierce Egan, c. 1870)
  • Gentleman Clifford, and His White Mare Brilliant (by Edward Viles, 35 parts, 1864)
  • The Ghost’s Secret, A Tale of Terror (8 parts, 1863)
  • Jessie, the Mormon’s Daughter (by Percy B. St. John, 64 parts, 1861)
  • The Lady of Title: A Tale of High Life (12 parts, 1861)
  • The Life and Surprising Adventures of Charles Peace (1879?)
  • The London Apprentice and The Goldsmith’s Daughter of East Chepe (by Pierce Egan, 97 parts, 1855)
  • Little John and Will Scarlett, or The Outlaws of Sherwood Forest (40 parts, 1865)
  • The Mystery of Marlborough House (51 parts, 1866)
  • The Orphan Sisters, or The Lovers’ Secret (24 parts)
  • Red Gauntlet, or The Bandit (26 parts)
  • Robin Hood and Little John (by Pierce Egan, 35 parts)
  • Roderick Dhu, or The Warriors of Clan Alpine (c. 1870)
  • Silver Axe: An Arabian Nights Story (12 parts)
  • Tales of Brigands and Banditti (26 parts, 1865)
  • Wat Tyler (by Pierce Egan)
The authorship of some of the above serials is open to dispute – Montague Summers, for example, wrote that Black Bess “was fathered and signed by Edward Viles but was written for him by J. F. Smith at (it is said) a fee of £3 10s per number”. An alternative theory is that Black Bess, and its sequel, were written by James Malcolm Rymer. The Blue Dwarf was credited to Lady Esther Hope, although there is another later version of the story, published by Hogarth House, attributed to Percy B. St. John, with some sources suggesting that Hope and St. John were the same person. Alternatively, it has been suggested that Esther Hope was actually W. Stephens Hayward.

What is certain, however, is that Edward Viles worked closely with Edward Harrison from 1864 onwards, with their relationship culminating in the partnership of Harrison & Viles.

Edward Harrison’s wife had died in the mid-1860s (her exact date of death has not been established), and on 15 June 1867, at the parish church of St. Giles, Camberwell, Edward re-married, his second wife being Eliza Ann Watson, a widow (born 28 January 1817, the daughter of James Streek, a tailor, and his wife Elizabeth). They subsequently moved to Kingsbury House, Valley Road, Shortlands, Kent, where the family remained until Edward’s death.

Kingsbury House was a substantial country residence, with nearly three acres of grounds which included “croquet and tennis lawns, large flower and kitchen gardens, ornamental lake, fernery, conservatories, large coach-house and stabling” (as advertised when it was put up for auction – London Standard, 26 February 1887. It had failed to sell at an earlier auction in October 1886). Harrison had acquired a collection of around 200 oil paintings, watercolours and engravings, which was auctioned at the same time as the house. He had also been a noted grower of orchids, building up a substantial collection which had been auctioned in four sales twelve months previously.

Eliza died on 11 August 1877, and his daughter Mary Ann died on 6 August 1881. Edward himself died, at 79 Adelaide Road, Haverstock Hill, Middlesex (although his home address was still Kingsbury House) on 13 December 1885, and was buried in Norwood Cemetery four days later. He left an estate worth £28,203 (£2.7 million in today’s terms). His executors were J. H. D. Jehring, Edward August (a banker’s clerk) and Edward Viles.

In his will, he bequeathed all his interest in his printing partnership of Harrison & Jehring to his son George. He left his leasehold interest in Merton House to his sons Edward and Frederick in equal shares as tenants-in-common, and he also left his business of wholesale newsagent and publisher, including the rights to The Young Ladies’ Journal and Black Bess, along with the management and control of all other publications with which he had a joint interest with Edward Viles, to Edward and Frederick in equal shares. He also stipulated that the future profits from The Young Ladies’ Journal were to be divided equally between Edward, Frederick and Kate (i.e. Catherine Hester) Burroughs, who had been the editor of the Journal for many years. (Catherine’s daughter-in-law, Kate, went on to marry Harold Bennett Viles, one of Edward Henry Viles’ sons, in 1899).

Edward Harrison’s home, Kingsbury House, was to be sold, and the proceeds, along with the cash he had held in a building society, his life assurance policy, and the rest of his personal estate (after gifts of jewellery etc. to his sons and cash gifts to his servants and all his employees) to be divided into six equal shares, two each to his daughters Kate and Louisa and one each to Edward and Frederick.

The various partnerships with which Edward Harrison been involved, with James Jehring and Edward Viles, therefore continued, although ultimately not altogether smoothly.

To be continued...

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