Saturday, October 04, 2014

Henry Lea

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Henry Lea is something of an enigma  –  a prolific publisher of penny dreadfuls, periodicals and books who flourished between 1851 and 1871, who was bankrupted three times, yet who died, in today’s terms, a millionaire.  His story has never been told before, although even now, with access to online genealogy and other records, there are still gaps to be filled in.

Henry Lea was born on 11 February 1829 in Clerkenwell, in central London, and baptised on 19 April 1829 at St. James’s church, Clerkenwell.  His parents were John and Sarah Lea, his father being a licensed victualler (and not an engraver as previously thought), living in Goswell Street, Clerkenwell.  Henry was one of six children, his siblings being Catherine (b. 31 January 1825, died shortly afterwards), Eliza (b. 12 February 1826), Catherine (b. 25 March 1827), Joseph (b. 19 October 1830), and Eleanor (b. 23 March 1832).  All were baptised at St. James’s, Clerkenwell.

It is known (from the website) that John Lea was the landlord of The Grapes and Can public house in Goswell Street in 1839.  He died two years after this, and was buried in St. James’s churchyard, Clerkenwell, on 13 January 1841.

There appears to be no trace of his surviving family in the 1841 census, nor in the following two censuses.  However, it is known that Henry Lea married Ann Wells (born around 1827) at St. Mark’s, Clerkenwell, on 7 August 1851.  They went on to have six children:  Eliza (baptised 15 September 1852 at St. Stephens, Canonbury Road, Islington), Henry Thomas (baptised on 26 July 1855 at the same church), Charles (b. 30 December 1855 and baptised on 23 January 1856 at St. Sepulchre’s, Holborn), Walter (b. 15 May 1858 and baptised on 13 June 1860 at St. Peter’s, West Hackney), Albert (b. 24 May 1860 and baptised on 13 June 1860 at St. Peter’s, West Hackney), and Ann (b. 2 April 1862, baptised 9 July 1862 at the same church).

The baptism records for these children show that in 1852 Henry was living at 18 William Street, New North Road, Islington, working as a bookseller;  in 1855 he was living at 22 Warwick Lane, Newgate Street (sometimes referred to as Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row), working as a publisher and/or bookseller;  in 1858 and 1860 he was living at 5 De Beauvoir Place, Hackney;  and in 1862 he was living at 27 Graham Road, Dalston.

(Just to confuse matters, there was another Henry Lea, born in the City of London in August 1828, who spent all his working life living in Finsbury, and later Islington, employed as a lithographic printer.  There was also a third Henry Lea (1801-1883), who was a music publisher and seller (and a professor of music and composer) who operated out of 36 Strand and then 8 Park Terrace, Camden Town, for many years between around 1835 and 1870.)

Henry Lea began his publishing career (for which he used the imprints H. Lea and Henry Lea) at the end of 1851 (and not in 1840, as some library and booksellers’ catalogues suggest), when an advertisement in The Examiner on 27 December announced the forthcoming publication, in January 1852, by Henry Lea of Warwick Lane and Willoughby & Co. of 26 Smithfield, of Edward Charlton, or Life Behind the Counter, written by Frederick Ross, a fictionalised exposé of working conditions in the drapery trade.  This was so popular it went to a second edition in February 1852.

Lea remained at 22 Warwick Lane until 1863.  In the ten years preceding this he advertised widely in local newspapers up and down the country, and published a bewildering number of books, periodicals and penny-part serials.  His first periodical was the short-lived Young Englishman’s Magazine, launched in March 1853 and which ran for just five numbers.  This was a largely educational 32-page monthly which carried little in the way of fiction, which may explain its short life.  In September 1853 Lea began his first penny-part serial, Dollars and Cents, or The Glen Luna Family, written by Amy Lothrop (real name Anna Bartlett Warner  –  the story was first published in America in 1852).  His second periodical, The Pictorial London Paper, was announced in July 1854, although this only lasted for a few numbers.
On 27 October 1857 Lea, describing himself as a bookseller, applied to be admitted to the Freedom of the City of London.  In the following month, he took over publication of the The Boys’ and Girls” Companion for Leisure Hours.  This had been launched by Houlston & Wright in April 1857  –  Lea published it between November 1857 and March 1858, when it was taken over by W. Kent, of 51 & 52 Paternoster Row.  The title changed to The Companion for Youth in October 1858, and in December 1859 Lea advertised that from January 1860 it would be published by him, although in October 1860 it was taken over, again, by Dean & Son.

Lea was probably best-known for his penny-part serials, of which he issued at least 50 between 1853 and 1866.  The following list is compiled from a range of sources, including websites, library catalogues and reference books, and includes only those items known to have been released in weekly parts (some appearing in the series Lea’s Illustrated Standard Library)  –  some items included elsewhere were almost certainly one-volume re-issues of earlier serials.

  • The Adventures of a Vagabond (16 parts)
  • Alfred, or The Adventures of a French Gentleman (G.W.M. Reynolds, 30 parts)
  • Amy Lawrence, the Freemason’s Daughter (J.F. Smith, 35 parts, 1860)
  • The Barber of Paris (Paul de Kock, 11 parts)
  • Black Rollo the Pirate, or The Dark Woman of the Deep (Captain I. Lyons, 93 parts, 1861)
  • The Boy Actor, or Struggles for Bread (28 parts 1864)
  • The Boy Brigand, or The Dark King of the Mountains (Alfred Coates, 33 parts, 1864)
  • The Boy Rover, or The Smuggler of the South Seas (Lieut. Parker, 61 parts, 1864)
  • The Broken Heart, or The Village Bride (Mary Bennett, 49 parts, 1856)
  • The Career of Richard Savage:  A Romance of Real Life (Charles Whitehead, 28 parts, 1858)
  • The Child of Mystery, or The Cottager’s Daughter (Hannah Maria Jones)
  • Christopher Tadpole at Home and Abroad (Albert Smith, 43 parts, 1857)
  • Chronicles of the Bastille (1858)
  • Colonel Jack, or The Life of a Highwayman (J.F. Smith, 104 parts, 1860)
  • Coombe Abbey, an Historical Tale of the Reign of James the First (37 parts, 1857)
  • The Cottage Girl, or The Marriage Day (Mrs Bennett, 32 parts, 1860)
  • The Dashing Girls of London, or The Six Beauties of St. James (1864)
  • Dollars and Cents, or The Glen Luna Family (Amy Lothrop, 1853)
  • The Doomed Ship, A Tale of the Arctic Regions (William Hurton, 16 parts, 1855)
  • Emmaline, or The Orphan of the Castle (1856)
  • Eva the Outcast, A Tale of Gipsy Life (1864)
  • The Farmer of Inglewood Forest (Elizabeth Helme, 48 parts)
  • The Forest Queen, Maid Marian.  A Story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, in Sherwood Forest (30 parts, 1855)
  • Gideon Giles, the Roper (Thomas Miller, 49 parts, 1860)
  • The Gipsy Thief, or The Haunted Oak (Hannah Maria Jones, 31 parts, 1858)
  • Grace Walton, or The Wanderers of the Heath (Thomas Peckett Prest, 39 parts, 1855)
  • Guy Fawkes, or The Conspirator’s Bride (14 parts)
  • The Haunted Woman, or Passion and Perseverance (20 parts, 1866)
  • The Headless Horseman (Mayne Reid, 30 parts)
  • Jane Shore, or The Goldsmith’s Wife (Mary Bennett, 46 parts, 1864)
  • Jem Blunt:  A Tale of the Land and the Ocean (W.M. Barker, 1864)
  • Life in Paris, or The Adventures of a Marquis (Vidocq, 1856)
  • Lightning Dick, or The Dark House in Whitefriars (21 parts, 1865)
  • The Miser of Shoreditch, or The Curse of Avarice (Thomas Peckett Prest, 1855)
  • The Mysteries of the Court of Denmark (Lady Charlotte Gordon, 30 parts)
  • Nan Darrell, or The Highwayman’s Daughter (12 parts, 1862)
  • The Ocean Child, or The Wanderer of the Deep (104 parts, 1862)
  • Old Bartholomew Fair:  a Historical Tale of the Reign of George the Third (12 parts)
  • Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century (52 parts, 1855)
  • The Old Sailor’s Jolly Boat, Laden with Tales and Yarns (1855)
  • The Outsiders of Society, or The Wild Beauties of London (20 parts, 1866)
  • Pickwick Abroad, or The Tour in France (78 parts, 1857)
  • The Pride of the Village, or The Farmer’s Daughters (Hannah Maria Jones, 51 parts, 1858)
  • Quadroona, or The Slave Mother (Percy B. St. John, 40 parts, 1860)
  • Schamyl, or The Wild Woman of Circassia (Thomas Peckett Prest, 52 parts, 1856)
  • The Scottish Chiefs (Miss Jane Porter, 1853)
  • The Sepoy’s Daughter, A True Tale of the Indian War (109 parts, 1860)
  • The Sister of Mercy, or The Soldier’s Victim (by Major Fitzwarryne, 36 parts)
  • The Soldier’s Victim, or The Sister of Mercy (36 parts, 1858)
  • Tales of Shipwrecks and Adventures at Sea (15 parts, 1866)
  • Valentine Vox (Henry Cockton, 80 parts, 1863)
  • Vice and its Victims, or Phoebe the Peasant’s Daughter (Thomas Peckett Prest, 72 parts)
  • The Watchmaker (Alexandra Dumas, 13 parts, 1858)
  • Young Ladies of London, or The Mysteries of Midnight (1864)
Lea’s periodicals from the 1850s and early 1860s included The War Chronicle (February 1854), The Household Journal (February 1854), The Home Magazine (November 1856), The Companion Library (complete novels published monthly, launched in 1856), The Indian War Chronicle (October 1857), Lea’s Penny Novelist (1858), Lea’s Illustrated British Drama and Theatrical Portrait Gallery (launched January 1859, published weekly for 45 numbers and then monthly), Once a Month (original novels, beginning with Mayne Reid’s Despard the Sportsman, 1860), and The Halfpenny Miscellany (1861  –  see below).

Amongst the books he published during the same period were The Patriotic Songbook (1855  –  he also published several other song books and reciters, such as The Rifle Volunteer Songster, 1860), Female Life Among the Mormons (1855), The Poetical Works of William Cowper (1855), a series of The Fireside Library, which included Horace Walopole’s The Castle of Otranto, Washington Irving’s Tales of a Traveller and Victor Hugo’s The Demon Dwarf (1856), Other Times, or The Monks of Leadenhall (1857), The Life of Douglas Jerrold (by Thomas Peckett Prest, 1857), a Uniform Series of Handbooks (on a variety of subjects, 1858), a series of novels by Mrs Southworth (1859), The Juvenile Museum, or A Child’s Library of Amusement and Instruction (1859), a series of Captain Armstrong’s Popular Sea Tales (1860), The Complete Works of Shakespeare (in weekly and monthly parts, 1860), The Book of Field Sports (in monthly parts, 1860), and Every Day Law for Every Day Life and The New Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (September 1861).

This last title presumably came in useful five months later, when Lea was declared bankrupt, on 10 February 1862 (London Gazette, 21 February 1862).  A month later, The London Daily News (5 March 1862) reported that his debts were around £10,000, and his assets sufficient for a dividend of two or three shillings in the pound.  These figures were subsequently amended in the same newspaper (29 April 1862) to debts and liabilities of £14,600, assets of £1,900, with a further £2,172 assets held by creditors as security.  It was also stated that £569 of his liabilities were in connection with The Halfpenny Miscellany, which he appears to have bought from Thomas Wilks, of 1 Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row, in late 1861. 

His bankruptcy did not stop him advertising, on 8 March 1862, a re-issue of The Sepoy’s Daughter, which he had earlier published in penny parts in 1860.

He was discharged from his bankruptcy on 28 April 1862 (London Gazette, 6 May 1862), although he did not re-appear as a publisher until the following January, operating out of 125 Fleet Street, and advertising The Halfpenny Miscellany which had survived his financial difficulties. (This became The Penny Miscellany in September 1865, having been taken over and issued from The Office, Aldine Chambers, Paternoster Row).  At the same time he also advertised The Book of Domestic Pets;  an edition of John Frederick Smith’s Amy Lawrence, or The Freemason’s Daughter;  and re-issues of the serials The Gipsy Chief, or The Haunted Oak;  The Child of Mystery, or The Cottager’s Daughter; The Forest Girl, or The Mountain Hut;  and The Scottish Chiefs.  Later publications from 1863 included Tales of the American War, The Sporting Pilot (a periodical), The Jewellers’, Goldsmiths’, Silversmiths’ and Modellers’ Journal of Art and Manufacture, and a new series of The Cottage Journal. 

In 1864 Lea moved to 112 Fleet Street, from where he launched his second boys’ periodical, The Boy’s Friend, in June 1864.  This was a high quality 48-page monthly, priced at threepence, which, like one or two of its predecessors such as Edward Harrison’s Boy’s Miscellany, combined exciting if not exactly bloodthirsty fiction with instruction and information.  Its contributors included Percy B. St. John and Mayne Reid.  The first number carried an advertisement for another Lea monthly, The Boy’s Penny Journal, although it seems that this failed to appear. 

In December 1864 Lea launched The London Library, a series of complete stories, priced at one penny, which began with The White Boys, or The Oath of Vengeance, a Story of Ireland. 
In April 1865 The Boy’s Friend was taken over by Houlston & Wright, a consequence of Lea’s second bankruptcy, declared in March that year (London Gazette, 14 March 1865).  In addition, Richard Isaac Beard, of 16 Bear Alley and 29 Farringdon Street, a printer with whom Lea was a partner, was bankrupted two months later (London Gazette, 5 May 1865).  (Beard had published The Cottage Journal between September 1861 and January 1863.  He later became a licensed victualler, as did Lea).

Lee was not discharged from this second bankruptcy until April 1868.  In May 1865 he had advertised a series of Popular Novels, but he stopped advertising after this date, and did not re-appear until just over three years later, in August 1868, when two publications, Nobody’s Child and The Champion Handbook of Healthy Sports, were announced from new premises at 13 Paternoster Row.  What he was doing during this lengthy absence is not known, other than that he launched The World We Live In, or The Tribunals of All Nations, a one penny weekly, on 2 October 1867, which only survived for one number.  He continued advertising from 13 Paternoster Row until April 1869, before disappearing until February 1870, when he turned up at 147 Fleet Street, launching At Home and Abroad, A Weekly Magazine for the Youth of All Nations.  Like his previous boy’s papers, this combined fiction with factual articles, and ran for 44 numbers before closing in December 1870.

He then moved to 275 Strand, from where he launched Sons of Britannia on 14 March 1870.  This was edited by William Emmett and included serials by authors such as Charles Stevens, W. Stephens Hayward, George Emmett and Percy B. St John.  Publication was transferred to Charles Fox at Hogarth House in March 1871.  Earlier, in May 1870, he had launched The Fortune Teller:  A Journal for Lovers and Sweethearts (four numbers only), and in October 1870, Lea had taken over publication of The Young Briton from Charles Fox, handing it back to him in April 1871.  In January 1871 he took over Henry Williams’s Boys’ Halfpenny Weekly Budget of Plays, Stories, Characters and Scenes, a magazine which focussed on the toy theatre and which had been launched in October 1870, although it was soon taken over again, in March 1871, by Charles Fox.

Lea’s last publication was probably The Family Reader, which he advertised in The Standard on 19 January 1871.  His involvement with this was short-lived  –  in March 1871 he instituted his own liquidation proceedings (London Gazette, 21 March 1871), and The Family Reader (which went on to run until 1920) was taken over firstly by Frederick Farrah and then by John Conway.

This signalled the end of Henry Lea’s career as a publisher.  At the time of the 1871 census, taken on 2 April, he was living at 1 St. Paul’s Villa, Gascoyne Road, Hackney, still described as a publisher and bookseller.  Living with him were his wife Ann and children Charles (aged 15, a shopman), Walter (aged 12), and Annie (aged 9).

He subsequently took up his father’s trade and became a licensed victualler, recorded as such in the 1881 census, living at Albert House, Friern Road, Camberwell, with his wife and a servant.  There is no trace of him in the 1891 census, but it is recorded that he died on 9 November 1893 at 391 Holloway Road, Islington, described in the probate records as a “gentleman” and leaving an estate worth £13,901 (£1.35 million in today’s terms)  –  probate was granted to Henry Thomas, a licensed victualler, and his two sons Charles Lea and Walter Lea.  How he accumulated such a massive fortune in the 20 or so years following his third bankruptcy is an utter mystery.  His will, dated 10 July 1893, gives no clues  –  after small cash gifts to his surviving sons and their wives, and to other relatives, including annuities to his sister and niece, the rest of his estate, unspecified, was bequeathed to his wife.

Three of his sons followed Henry by entering the pub business.  Charles Lea married Mary Perry, a 28 year-old widow (her father was Thomas North, a licensed victualler) on 6 March 1874 in Peckham.  After running pubs in Peckham and Hoxton, he died on 9 March 1896 in Woodberry Down, Finsbury Park, described as a “Gentleman” and leaving an estate valued at £7,537.

Walter Lea married 19 year-old Annie Elizabeth Wise, the daughter of William Wise, a cigar merchant, on 25 September 1885 in Deptford.  He had previously been working for Charles in Peckham, but then moved to Hammersmith.  He seems to have retired from the licensed trade early, as in 1901 he was living “on his own means” in Hastings, with his wife and two servants.  He died on 24 December 1926, leaving an estate valued at £3,647.

Henry Thomas Lea married Louise Maria Cathie in Bloomsbury on 9 August 1876.  He spent many years as a licensed victualler in Barnes, before moving to Hammersmith.  He died in Hastings in 1939.  What became of Henry Lea’s fourth son, Albert, is not known, although as he is not mentioned in Henry’s will it is assumed that he died at an early age.

1 comment:

  1. Most people would probably stop trying to do business in a trade where they already sufferend bankruptices.

    Great work on digging all this up.



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