John Dicks’ Boy’s Herald
To Our Readers.- “The writers engaged upon this publication will not condescend to the violent vulgarity of many publications. On the other hand, they will not pander to that needless tameness, which, in its way, is nearly as injurious as any efforts of the most objectionable school of writers.”
John Thomas Dicks first volume, first issue of ‘BOY’S HERALD Entertaining, Instructive, and Useful,’ was published on Saturday, January 6, 1877. The periodical was a sixteen page penny weekly with a masthead by Frederick Gilbert. The first exciting romance was “The Young Rebels, A Story of the Monmouth Rebellion,” by Henry Baker boasting a large engraving by D. H. Friston. The editor was George Frederick Pardon who had been an editor at Cassell's.
On the fifth page was a short account of life of the hero of Waterloo, “Shaw The Life Guardsman,” followed by another serial, “Jem the Diver,” by A. W. Thompson, featuring a Frederick Gilbert illustration. The story begins at a boys school, Goldhawk Academy, but in Chapter II school days end, and by Chapter III the chums, Jem, George, and Harry are out in the noonday sun leading a troop of soldiers through the swamps, deserts and jungles of Africa.
The last serial was a sea story titled “Charley Lance ; Or, The Search for the Missing Man,” by George Manville Fenn. R. Huttula served as illustrator. The next-to-last page had Notices to Correspondents, Announcements, Ads, a short poem by J. R. W. (J. Redding Ware,) and an editorial, “To Our Readers.”
The last page had three columns, Games and Magic, Puzzles and Riddles, and a Comic Column with six comic drawings by Archibald Chasemore, “Our Lunatic Contributor” of the C. H. Ross edited comic periodical “Judy.” Chasemore kept the page through the periodicals run, probably with the help of Ross, who contributed Puzzle Pages to numerous annuals and periodicals including Beeton’s Boys Own Magazine.
Gratis ! With the first number was a “handsome coloured picture for framing” of THE BATTLE OF INKERMAN Death of Sir George Cathcart, and Defeat of the Russians. With the second number was promised, gratis, the complete story of ALADDIN; OR, THE WONDERFUL LAMP From the “Arabian Nights Entertainments,” at 32 pages with four illustrations.
“Our heroes,” promised the editor, “will be neither villains, nor mortals in training for cherubim. In a word, it is hoped they will be found to be hearty, honourable young Englishmen, neither given on the one side to felony, nor on the other to tears.”
He may have been referring to the Emmett’s robust war-weekly’s “Sons of Britannia” and “Young Englishman” with their rough boy heroes such as Tom Wildrake and Captain Tom Drake. Jack Harkaway and his author Bracebridge Hemyng had sailed off to America and Frank Leslie’s periodicals.
Among the many engagements “made and pending” were mentioned authors and artists William H. Ainsworth, George Manville Fenn, Dr. D. R. Griffiths, Emerson Brand, Compton Reade, A. W. Thompson, Evylyn Jerrold, H. D. Friston, Melton Prior, Adelaide Claxton, Charles H. Ross, Henry Baker, Charles Stevens, Edward Ellis, G. F. Pardon, Erskine Boyd, T. H. Reynoldson, Percival Skelton, R. Huttula, and John Dicks, (publisher.) This whole staff was the same as that of Dicks’ weeklies”Every Week” and
“Bow Bells.” The editor was anonymous but may have been Charley Ross or Emerson Brand. Brand edited “Every Week” while Ross handled many of the “Bow Bells” Christmas numbers.
The Boy’s Herald heroes would, “in the course of time, go over the world - rise above it as high as possible - plunge as far down into the crannies of earth as may be practicable - and wander over as many unknown, or scarcely traversed, places as time and opportunity will concede.”
Again the competition was mentioned ; “We hold, however, to be superior in the production of this work to some of our contemporaries. At the same time, no rivalry is sought with the gentlemen and ladies who treat those who are nearing the treshold of manhood as though they were still children.”
Frank Jay, writing in “Vanity Fair An Amateur Magazine,” edited by Joseph Parks, in 1918, said ; “From a literary point of view, “The Boy’s Herald” was a gem of the first water in the matter of boys literature.” Well he remembered “those happy irresponsible days, when we revelled in the reading of the stirring and glowing tales of life and adventure, serious and humorous, and now as I turn the leaves over, and review the pleasures of boyhood, I recall many incidents and happy associations of my boyhood days. I am the fortunate possessor of the entire run of this journal, 100 numbers in 4 vol’s, publishers binding as new, which cost me a great amount of trouble and much expense to obtain. The last number is dated Nov. 30, 1878, the following numbers became incorporated with No. 8 of the “Boy’s Halfpenny Journal” which, however did not survive long.
A full page notice in the last issue of “Boy’s Herald” stated that with the incorporation with “Boy’s Halfpenny Journal would be “presented without charge, A SUPPLEMENT, containing the conclusion of THE SAUCY SEA-LARK, and LOYAL AND TRUE; OR, THROUGH PERILS TO PLENTY.” Thankfully no reader was deprived of a satisfactory ending to his favourite serial.
Volume I No. 2 begat a serial titled BLACK-ADDER; Or, The Wreckers of the Channel by Anonymous. The tale never appeared on a cover, nor was it illustrated. This is a reprint of James Malcolm Rymer’s True Blue; or, Sharks Upon The Shore. A Tale Of The Sea, from Reynolds’s Miscellany of Vol.23, No.585.
The second serial to grace the cover of the Boy’s Herald is a story I really looked forward to, Runaway Jack; or, The Fool of the Family, by Charles H. Ross. The date was Saturday, April 14, 1877, Volume I. No.15. Frederick Gilbert filled the page with a lovely illustration of the text “Soft Sammy’s Delight at the Rival Ghosts.”
Gilbert’s Rembrant inspired art was sketchier than his Reynolds’s Miscellany pieces. He was a master of black-shadowed chiaroscuro and the engraver helped endow the picture with life and energy. The title and author are engraved into the illustration rather than the usual practice of including text at the bottom of a page.
On the correspondents page were “ANNOUNCEMENTS EXTRAORDINARY. In this number of the BOY’S HERALD is commenced a new tale of thrilling interest and startling events, by the eminent novelist, CHARLES H. ROSS under the title of RUNAWAY JACK ; OR, THE FOOL OF THE FAMILY.” Popular painter David Wilkie’s “touching and tenderly domestic” engraving of THE ONLY DAUGHTER was given away gratis with this number. It was drawn from the Original by permission, and measured 27 by 21 inches.
Announced as forthcoming in No. 21 was a New and Original tale by ARTHUR THOMPSON with illustrations by the celebrated artist D. H. Friston. Commencing with no. 27 would be a New Tale (Historical) by the Favourite Writer CHARLES STEVENS illustrated by R. Huttula.
The Puzzles and Comic Column page followed with five comic vignettes by Chasemore.
“Jack Lamb was a fool. He played fool’s tricks, and was always caught. It is very foolish to get caught,” begins our author.
Fourteen year old Jack Lamb is the ragged, hungry runabout son of a poor Reverend with a large family. Jack meets a “big lout of a boy” named Joe Parker and they play a practical joke on Soft Sammy, the village fool inhabiting the churchyard. Sammy is about sixty with “long streaming white hare and preposterously thin legs.” He is half-witted and attends funerals regularly.
Joe covers himself in a white sheet and creeps moaning towards Sammy. Sammy shows no fear so Jack dons a black rug and sneaks up on Joe scaring the pants off him and leaving Sammy laughing and clapping while he makes tracks for home. Jack chases him and touches his neck from behind. Sick with terror Joe Parker swoons away.
“Next day the case looked serious, and the doctor was sent for. He prescribed leeches, and blisters, and several bottles of very nasty physic; but it was of little avail. Joe never quite recovered his proper senses. The railway rug, dropped in the way, was never found.”
“Jack, very properly, was flogged for losing the rug, and altogether this joke seems to me to have turned out rather a dull one. But wait until you hear the next.”
End of Chapter I. So far nothing spectacular - but wait - Chapter XIX is titled The Opium Den !
May 26, 1877 announces that with this number will be given away No. 1 of Captain Marryat’s PETER SIMPLE, complete in 8 numbers illustrated. Each week until completion a number would appear gratis in the Boy’s Herald along with an un-named SUPERB COLOURED OLEOGRAPH. Rob The Rover by A. Thompson will appear next number.
June 2, 1877 ROB MARSTON begins with artwork by D. H. Friston. Friston was illustrator of a great lowlife serial in Dicks “Every Week” called “King of Scamps; or London Detectives.”
Volume II, No. 27 began a long-promised historical serial by Charles H. Stevens called COMRADES IN ARMS, A Tale of the Great Armada. Frederick Gilbert supplies another cover in a fine, black, melodramatic mood. Huttula later illustrated some numbers of this story. By this time Runaway Jack is shooting hippos and fighting Chinese pirates in a far-off jungle.
Comrades in Arms is top-notch Stevens, with blood, adventure - did I mention blood ? He penned “Alone in the Pirate’s Lair” for Edwin Brett, and “Caractucus,” “Spartacus,” and “King Arthur” for the Emmett’s variety of boys papers. His stories were grim and his characters believable. My own favourite Steven’s tale is “The Roman Standard Bearer,” a dreadful story of Julius Caesar, the Druids, and human sacrifice which was originally published in the Emmett brothers “Sons of Britannia,” August 19, 1871 Vol.3 No. 76, re-issued as a serial in Charles Fox’s “Boys Leisure Hour” 28TH of August, 1884. Conan the Barbarian would have run like a girl from Stevens’ muscular Ancient Britons !
Comrade In Arms first chapter ends with a wrecker looting the bodies of the drowned of gold coin. Our hero Roland Trevelyan takes action. “Seizing the pommel of his sword, Roland swung the weapon in the air, and the next instant Red Dan Penraven lay stretched on the beach with his head slashed.”
“Runaway Jack concluded in Vol.2, No. 28, Saturday, July 14, 1877. “FRED TARLETON,” an illustrated circus tale, “BLUNDERING TIM,” and “OWEN REDGRAVE” were in the next issue, no.29. Another Reynolds’s Miscellany reprint, (Volume 34. No. 877. April 1, 1865) “Owen Redgrave” in the original anonymous appearance was titled “The Buccaneers; or, The Hidden Treasure.” In penny numbers the author used the pseudonym Edward Ellis, most probably the hard-writing Charles H. Ross.
The new cover serial in Volume II No. 35 was “LEO THE ZINGARO” by Henry Baker, (He used the name Henry Rebak in Bow Bells,) illustrated by F. Gilbert. Another inside serial to appear was the anonymous boy’s school story “HORTON’S FAG; or, Jack is as Good as His Master.”
Percy B. St. John took the cover for No. 46, November 17, 1877 with a thrilling western “THE BOY SCOUTS, a Tale of Manitoba.” R. Huttula contributed fine artwork to a wonderful Canadian story. The last title in this volume was “JOHN NETHERWOOD at Rossal.” By an Old Boy, in no. 52.
Volume III No. 53, Jan. 5, 1878, began with a story of India in 1850 “HAPPY JACK; or, His Varied Experiences of Military Life. A Story Founded On Facts.” It was anonymous. No. 58 on February 9 showcased “KYD’S TREASURE” by Percy B. St. John with Huttula art. Vol. III No. 63 was “THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOWMAN ; Or, Mirth and Mystery” By the author of “The Young Rebels” (Henry Baker.)
The same issue had “DICK, THE FOUNDLING” an anonymous inside serial. No doubt this was by Charles Henry Ross, the resemblance of the plot to “CHARLEY WAG , the New Jack Sheppard” are startling, not only is the hero Dicky Dalton drawn out of the Thames into a boat on a dark and stormy night, Chapter I, but one of the main characters is named Tottleboy, spelled Toddleboy in “Charley Wag” and in Ross’s panel comic page of “Tommy Toddleboy’s Tailcoat !” Alas, again there is no proof Charley Ross was Edward Ellis, or wrote this tale, the demmed story is anonymous.
The microfilmed Boy’s Herald has a huge gap here but luckily I have the index pages to volume III with serial titles. In order these are “MR. TUMBUSTER AT OXFORD,” “WRECKS AND WRECKERS,” “HARRY BELMORE’S SCHOOLDAYS, A Tale of the Present Time,” and “DAYS OF SHAKESPEARE.” “Shakespeare” turned out to be “William Shakspeare : The Youth, The Lover, and the Poet. A Romance of Three Hundred Years Ago” by Vane Ireton St. John, from Reynolds’s Miscellany Vol. 32, No. 829, April 30, 1864.
Volume III began with “FRANK HOMESPUN,” next up was “THE MUTINY OF THE MARLBOROUGH; Or, ‘Tis a Long Lane That Has no Turning,” By Author of “Harry Belmore,” Vol. 4, No. 31, July 20, 1878, “GARIBALDI, His Trials Through Life,” “LOYAL AND TRUE; Or, Through Perils to Plenty. A Grave and Gay Irish Story,” by author of “Blundering Tim,” in No. 90, Sept. 21, 1878, “THE ROAD TO HAPPINESS,” and the final serial, “THE SAUCY SEA-LARK; Or, The Pride of the Station. A Tale of the African Squadron,” concluded as a supplement in the merger with “The Boy’s Halfpenny Journal.”
“The Boy’s Halfpenny Journal,” was primarily composed of reprints from the Dicks catalogue. The first issue began October 19, 1878 with “A POOR BOY’S TRIALS; or, The Victim of a Vitiated Society In Six Stages.” Possibly by E. F. Roberts who wrote many six part tales for Reynolds’s Miscellany. Next were “Rip Van Winkle,” “Philip Johnson; Or, The Bohemians,” and “The Octoroon; or, Life in Louisiana.” Boy’s Herald merged December 7, 1878, the title tale of No. 8 was “The Robin Redbreasts.” Next “The King’s Highway. A Romance of the London Road a Hundred Years Ago,” by Edward Ellis, “Daring Adventures of Captain John Smith; or, The Feathered Serpent,” by Percy B. St. John, “The Young Gamester,” “Solomon the Jew; or, The Vicissitudes of a Poor Boy,” “The Road to Ruin,” “The Seaside School,” “The Twin Brothers; or, Secret Service,” “The Captain of Blackrock Castle,” and “The Seagull; or, Secret Service.”
The choice of serials thought suitable for boys reprinted from Reynolds’s Miscellany in the Boy’s Herald is interesting. The majority of readers of RM were women (as were the purchasers of G. W. M. Reynolds “Mysteries of London” and “Mysteries of the Court of London”) and costermongers. “William Shakespeare” was basically a love story albeit a swashbuckling romance, “True Blue,” and “The Buccaneers” were more red-blooded boy’s fare.