Robert J. Kirkpatrick
Charles Fox was born on 7 June 1850, and baptised as Charles Nash Fox at St. Matthew’s Church, Bethnal Green, on 26 September 1852. His father was George Fox, born in Bethnal Green in 1816 and a butcher by trade; his mother was Ann Lyon, born in Bethnal Green in 1817. They had married in the parish church at Bethnal Green on 19 February 1840, when they were already living together at 24 Carter Street. They had three daughters before the birth of Charles: Elizabeth (1840-1851), Ann Susan (1845-1935), and Emma (1847-1906).
At the time of the 1861 census the family was living and working at 35 High Street, Mile End New Town. Ten years later, Charles Fox had left home and was recorded living at 11 Newcastle Place, Tower Hamlets, described as a publisher’s assistant, and apparently married to Phebe Fox (born in Hoxton in around 1849 – the census return spelling may be incorrect). There is a record of a marriage between a Charles Fox and a Phoebe Griggs in Freebridge Lynn, Norfolk, in 1868, although whether this is the same Charles Fox is not known. There is no record of a subsequent divorce, although there are two records for the death of a Phoebe Fox, one in Shropshire in 1903 and one in Sussex in 1908.
In 1877 Fox took over The Boy’s Standard, which was being published from Victoria House, Newcastle Street, Strand, and which had been launched by William Lucas in November 1875. In May 1881 Fox re-launched it, relying heavily on stories reprinted from earlier Emmett papers, and it went on to run until June 1892. By then he had also launched the first of his own boys’ papers, The Boy’s Own Novelette, in September 1879 (which ran to four numbers only). In 1882 he moved to 3A Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, and in August 1884, operating out of Caxton House, Bolt Court, Fleet Street, he launched The Boy’s Leisure Hour, which was largely a re-issue of The Boy’s Standard. After 10 numbers, the publication address moved to 4 Shoe Lane, Fleet Street.
Charles Fox and Amelia were married on 21 April 1885 at the parish church of Bromley St. Leonard in Poplar. By then they had moved there, and the 1891 census shows them living at 15 Wellington Road, Bromley St. Leonard, with daughter Amelia and son Harold, along with an 18 year-old servant. Adelaide and Daisy were away at a small boarding school in Colney Hatch Lane, Friern Barnet.
In the meantime, Charles Fox had continued his publishing activities, launching The Boy’s Half Holiday in April 1887 (edited by Alfred Burrage), which merged with The Boy’s Leisure Hour after only 12 numbers. In 1885 he published six numbers of the monthly Champion Library, and in 1889, from 4 Shoe Lane, he launched The Boy’s Champion Journal, edited by George Emmett, and which again recycled material from the earlier Emmett papers. It was incorporated into The Boy’s Standard in January 1892. Fox replaced it with Every Boy’s Favourite Journal, which ran from January to October 1892, and in June 1892 he launched The Boy’s Weekly Novelette from 109 Shoe Lane. He then ran into financial difficulties in October 1892, and in November 1892 he was declared bankrupt, with liabilities of £3,269 and assets of just £50 (Morning Post, 8 November 1892, p 8). However, this appears not have affected him too much – The Boy’s Weekly Novelette continued until September 1895, and four more papers followed: Jolly Bits from Jolly Books, a weekly comic edited by George Emmett, which lasted for just six numbers between August and September 1892; Boys of the Nation, again a rehash of old stories and old illustrations, launched in September 1895 from 9 Red Lion Court, and which ran for only 13 numbers; The Halfpenny Standard Journal, from 9 Red Lion Court, launched in March 1896 and which again relied on old material, and which ran until October 1897; and School and Playground Stories, which ran from January to August 1898.
Charles Fox spent around 10 years, from 1882 to 1892, working out of Shoe Lane, in respect of which what seems to be the only contemporary account of him appeared in 1925. Writing in the collectors’ magazine Vanity Fair (Vol. II, no. 17, p 47), Ben Winskill recalled in an article on “The Penny Dreadful Offices”:
Charles Fox managed his own business and had but one assistant.
He served me many times over the counter of the old Shoe Lane
office which I must say was one of the cleanest and tidiest of
them…… I remember that Fox was a hearty bluff sort of man….
Charles Fox died in September 1917. He did not, it seems, leave a will. His wife died on 7 March 1930, at 53 Galveston Road, East Putney, leaving an estate valued at just under £5,000 (around £270,000 in today’s terms).
There seems to be no further trace of the children Amelia, Charles and Daisy. Harold Nash married in 1914. Curiously, his marriage certificate showed his father as being a compositor, suggesting that Charles Fox made a short-lived return to the fringes of the publishing business.