(BERTHA LEITH ADAMS/MRS. DE COURCY LAFFAN) (1837-1912)
English novelist and poet, Leith Adams published her first book in 1877 (Winstowe). Beginning in 1878 she worked as a journalist for All the Year Round, a weekly literary magazine founded and owned by Charles Dickens. Among her other works were Aunt Hepsy’s Foundling (1881) and Accessory after the Fact (1899), but the Athenæum owns only Geoffrey Stirling or the Great Bank Robbery, a mystery that nonetheless quotes liberally from a poem by Charles Dickens which was first published as an operetta “The Village Coquettes.”
GRANT ALLEN (1848-1899)
Unlike most of the other authors represented in the Athenæum’s yellowback collection, Grant Allen was born in Canada and pursued a career as an anthropologist and scientific writer before turning to fiction and poetry. He was educated in England and formally began his residence there in 1876. His first novel Philistia (1884) was published as a yellowback by Chatto & Windus in 1888. When Allen died at the age of 51, he left behind a mystery with a female detective (Hilda Wade) which was finished by Arthur Conan Doyle and issued to very poor reviews.
MATILDA BETHAM-EDWARDS (1836-1919)
An English novelist, author of children’s books, travel writer, and poet, M. Betham-Edwards, as she was cited on title pages, began her writing career as a travel writer concentrating on France. She was, however, extremely prolific, even extending her writing to hymns. Of her poems the British Quarterly Review (v. 82, 1885) stated, “Miss Betham-Edwards possesses a true lyrical vein – a spontaneity, a purity, a depth and sweetness such as are rare. In addition to these qualifications she can command a mild vein of humor that invariably touches the pathetic closely …” Her Kitty, first published in 1869, was re-issued by Chatto & Windus in 1884.
WILKIE COLLINS (1824-1889)
Best known for The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), Wilkie Collins wrote a number of novels and plays which fall into the “sensational” category. With Charles Dickens as his friend, Collins also published frequently in Household Words, formally joining the staff in 1856. After Dickens’s death in 1870 Collins’s fortunes waned (although some authors attribute his downfall to laudanum). The Athenæum collection include 15 titles by Collins, most of them in yellowback form.
EARL OF DESART (WILLIAM ULICK O’CONNOR CUFFE, 4TH EARL OF DESART) (1845-1898)
William Cuffe was born in London, the eldest son of the third Earl of Desart, whose family had been granted land in County Cork by Queen Elizabeth the First. Although of noble birth and educated at Eton, the Earl of Desart also was literary, writing some 15 novels, many of them mystery thrillers, including Lord and Lady Picadilly, Love and Pride on an Iceberg, and Helen’s Vow. In describing Herne Lodge, critics of the time used such descriptions as “uncanny” and “witty.” Perhaps the most striking characterization came from the Glasgow Herald critic, who stated, “the flesh creeps.”
ANNIE EDWARDES (OR EDWARDS) (c. 1830-1896)
The literary career of Annie Edwardes began with the publication of her first novel, The Morals of May Fair (1858). There followed some 21 novels, some of them adapted for the stage, as was Archie Lovell, first published in 1866, but then published by Chatto & Windus as a yellowback in 1887. Contemporary critics was often taken aback by her gutsy heroines. The Saturday Review complained of A Ballroom Repentance of 1882: "It does not gratify us to read that a young lady 'heaves palpitating sighs,' or that 'her small white face is bathed in sweats.'” Nonetheless her novels were often advertised in such literary magazines as the Athenaeum and Scots Observer.
ROBERT EDWARD FRANCILLON (1841-1919)
Born in Gloucester, England, R. E. Francillon was an editor for the prestigious Tatler magazine and author of the seminal Gods and Heroes, or the Kingdom of Jupiter (1892), often characterized as one of the best introductions to Greek mythology for children and still in print today. Amazing prolific, he also turned his hand to novels which became part of the Chatto & Windus output.
CHARLES GIBBON (1843-1890)
Born on the Isle of Man, but raised in Scotland, Charles Gibbon is little known today, but was popular in the 19th century. By 1864 he had launched his writing career with the three-volume Dangerous Connexions. Chiefly known for his “charming” stories and romances, Charles Gibbon is represented by 16 titles in the Athenaeum’s rare book collection, all published by Chatto & Windus.
DAVID CHRISTIE MURRAY (1847-1907)
Born in Staffordshire, England, David Christie Murray became a journalist and writer. As a journalist Murray covered the Russo-Turkish War from 1877 to 1878, but then abandoned his career in journalism to embrace the novel. Although some of his early work was serialized in such British magazines as Chamber’s Journal and Cornhill Magazine, many other went directly to the yellowback publishing of Chatto & Windus. Murray was also a popular lecturer and traveled to Canada and the United States in 1884-1885. The Athenæum owns 14 books by David Christie Murray.
MRS. OLIPHANT (1828-1897)
Margaret Oliphant Wilson (born Margaret Oliphant Wilson) was a Scottish novelist and historical writer, who usually wrote as Mrs. Oliphant. Her fictional works encompass "domestic realism, the historical novel and tales of the supernatural". She wrote 120 works, including novels, books of travel and description, histories, and volumes of literary criticism. Although Mrs. Oliphant’s popularity waned in the 20th century, her reputation was revived, and the Athenæum owns both 19th century originals and 20th century reprints.
CHARLES READE (1814-1884)
Charles Reade triumphed as both a dramatist and a novelist, with his best-known work The Cloister and the Hearth (1861), a historical novel set in the 15th century. During the 19th century Reade was one of England’s most popular novels, turning his hand to serious novels dealing with social issues as well as the lighter, romantic volumes. He was not, however, like many novelists well regarded by critics. George Orwell stated in 1940 essay, “Since Charles Reade’s books are published in cheap editions one can assume that he still has his following, but it is unusual to meet anyone who has voluntarily read him.”
MRS. J. H. RIDDELL (CHARLOTTE RIDDELL) (1832-1906)
A prolific writer who produced 56 books, novels and short stories, Mrs. J. H. Riddell published her first novel in 1858 (The Moors and the Fens). In 1867 she assumed the co-ownership and editorship of the St. James’s Magazine, a leading literary magazine of the time. A canny manager of her own career, Mrs. Riddell also published ghost stories, like The Uninhabited House and Weird Stories, which are part of the Athenæum collection.
GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA (1828-1895)
Sala launched his career in journalism and magazine writing with contributions to Charles Dickens’s Household Words in the 1850s. As a “special correspondent,” a role he would play for others, Sala was assigned by Dickens to report on the Crimean War and thus traveled to Russia. Sala continued as a special correspondent with several periodicals, periodically gathering his various essays into a volume to be sold. For the Daily Telegraph he was in America from November 1863 to December 1864, reporting the progress of the Civil War. His Diary in the Midst of the War was later issued as an independent volume. There followed a long and sometimes provocative career which even included the wittily bawdy and pornographic. He was famous for his pithy quotes, such as “Men may come and men may go ..... but Pie goes on for ever” from his America Revisited (1882).
ANNIE THOMAS (AKA MRS. PENDER CUDLIP) (1838-1918)
A prolific writer of romantic fiction, Annie Thomas published over 100 novels and short stories and was recognized in Chapman & Hall’s “Select Library of Fiction” which also included Mrs. Oliphant, Anthony Trollope, and Victor Hugo. By age 24 in 1863 she had published her first novel The Cross of Honor. In addition to her novels, Thomas/Cudlip was a contributor to Appleton’s Journal, Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly and other popular magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. She also wrote for The Ladies’ Pictorial, where she contributed serial novels.
ANTHONY TROLLOPE (1815-1882)
Prolific and well-received during his lifetime, Anthony Trollope was the son of Fanny Milton Trollope, whose Domestic Manners of the Americans became an international bestseller. The young Trollope’s first published novel The Macdermots of Ballyclaran (1845) would become part of the set of Irish Novels and later would be re-published by Chapman & Hall as a Yellowback. Both The Warden and Barchester Towers would do more to establish Trollope’s reputation, however.
SARAH TYTLER, pseud. (AKA HENRIETTA KEDDIE) (1827-1914)
Tytler hailed from Scotland and moved to London in 1869. Her earliest writing appeared as short stories in Fraser’s Magazine, Blackwood’s Magazine, and Cornhill Magazine. The term “domestic realism” is often applied to her work. St. Mungo’s City, published by Chatto & Windus, takes the reader to Glasgow, but most of her novels focus on rural Scotland. In addition to her very popular fiction, Tytler excelled at children’s books and non-fiction titles intended for education. She even wrote a biography of Jane Austin (1880).