Monday, October 5, 2009

Wild Will

Wild Will; Or, the Pirates of the Thames, By Percival Wolfe was published for the London Romance Company by News-Agents Publishing Company limited about 1865. It was a short PD in twelve 8 page penny numbers illustrated by Robert Prowse Sr. Wild Will carried on from Red Ralph; Or, The Daughter of Night A Romance of the Road In the Days of Dick Turpin, also by Percival Wolfe, published for the London Romance Company by the News-Agents' Publishing Company limited, 147 Fleet Street. Red Ralph ran about a year to a total of 412 pages.

There was no sign of Red Ralph in the sequel but the illustrations by Robert Prowse were stunning. Prowse was a giant. Perhaps the publishers hoped that Wild Will would emulate the success of Red Ralph. It ends rather suddenly with Wild Will captured by cannibals, rescued by the English and sent back to Britain in chains to be hung. "Alas poor Will! What greatness might he not have achieved had his talent and energies been
better applied?"

The ending is ambiguous;

"Jack Ketch, though well nigh frightened out of his wits, had sense enough to ply his hateful trade, and suddenly the combatants became conscious that Wild Will was swinging in the air. With one last tremendous effort a party of roughs broke through the soldiers, scrambled up and cut the rope."

There it ends. Either they were leaving room for a sequel or more probably low sales caused the publishers to order a quick halt to what promised to be a great tale. A copy
of "Wild Will" held by Indiana University has a note that Percival Wolfe is the pseudonym of Charles Henry Ross. On 1 Feb 1868 The Bookseller noted:

“Mr. C. H. Ross, described as a clerk, residing in Surrey Street, Strand, applied for his order of discharge from debts of £1008. The bankrupt stated that he was in receipt of a salary of £310 a year; he also earned about £120 a year as a writer for the periodical press, but he was in such delicate health that his medical man had forbidden him to further exercise his literary talents. Offered to set aside £50 a year. Ultimately the case went off, on an application for additional accounts.”

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