Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Elizabeth Caroline Grey Hoax

In my previous post on Edward Lloyd’s 1842 publication of Gentleman Jack; or, Life on the Road, I mentioned that the penny blood had somehow come to be associated with Elizabeth Caroline Grey, who appears in many catalogues of the eighteen-seventies and eighties as “Mrs. E. C. Grey.” Although her name never appeared on any title-page a large collection of Lloyd bloods have been attributed to her simply by following the “by author of” title-chains that did appear on title-pages. One example would be the penny parts work The Dream of a Life, which was “by the author of Vileroy; or, the Horrors of Zindorf Castle, The Ordeal by Touch, and Gentleman Jack” Before appearing in bound volume The Dream of a Life was serialized in Edward Lloyd’s People’s Periodical and Family Library, Vol. I No. 19, 13 February 1847.

It is hard to imagine that Elizabeth Caroline Grey, popular author of a large number of 3 volume silver fork novels, could have moonlighted as a penny-a-liner for Edward Lloyd. Helen R. Smith, in “New Light on Sweeney Todd, Thomas Peckett Prest, James Malcolm Rymer and Elizabeth Caroline Grey,” came to the conclusion that James Malcolm Rymer was the author of the string of novels confusingly attributed to Mrs. Grey, which I am in total agreement with. Rymer had an odd writing tell: the phrase “Pho! pho!” which appears in almost every one of his credited works, including Edith the Captive, The Dark Woman, Ada the Betrayed, Jane Brightwell, and Captain Hawke. “Pho! pho!” also appeared in Blueskin, a work usually attributed to Edward Viles, and in two works attributed to Mrs. Grey; Gentleman Jack and Claude Duval. It may seem silly, and it is still not proof, but it does buttress the idea that Rymer wrote Gentleman Jack and the other titles in the Grey title-chains.

Elizabeth Caroline Grey’s name never appeared in print on any of the Lloyd bloods, that attribution was made by a man named Andrew De Ternant in Notes & Queries in 1922. De Ternant even provided a ‘biography’ which has been repeated down the years so often that it has been reported as fact in reputable encyclopedias and Wikipedia to this day. My library’s catalogue entry for Gentleman Jack even provides Mrs. E. C. Grey’s DOB and DOD as 1798-1869.

Patrick Spedding has investigated the subject in a forthcoming work from The Papers of the Bibliographic Society of America entitled “The Many Mrs Grey: Confusion and Lies about Elizabeth Caroline Grey, Catherine Maria Grey, Maria Georgina Grey and Others,” in which he uncovers the fact that De Ternant was a notorious liar who invented in its entirety the “biography” of Mrs. Grey as told to him by a dead man who had worked for Edward Lloyd named Mr. Church. De Ternant provided much other dubious information on Lloyd authors including one story that I repeated myself in my recent post on Highwayman Literature, to wit; that Lloyd’s editor Thomas Catling, also deceased at the time, apparently told Andrew De Ternant he had seen John Frederick Smith, celebrated author of “Minnigrey,” working on the first fifty numbers of Black Bess in the office of Lloyd’s Weekly News at the rate of £3 10s.weekly. Thanks to Patrick Spedding this and all other statements by Andrew De Ternant in N&Q regarding penny bloods can safely be considered as malicious fabrications.

Ternant now joins a growing rogue’s gallery of hoaxers who have made life hell for historians and researchers of penny bloods; men like the Melbourne bookseller J. P. Quaine who sent collectors on a wild goose chase by inventing ‘ghost’ titles like The Skeleton Clutch; or, The Goblet of Gore, and Sawney Bean the Man-eater of Midlothian. The worst offender was popular anthologist Peter Haining who provided a spurious ‘biography’ of the fictional character Sweeney Todd, a story which spread like a virus on the internet, filled his Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Spring Heeled Jack with invented newspaper stories to pad what would have been a short book without them, and hoaxed Romany scholars with fabricated gypsy incantation that he claimed came from the Grimorium Verum, apparently a real book which has not survived, for which he gave a publication date of 1517.

Another claim of Peter Haining's was made in his book The Vampire Omnibus (1995) which reprints "The Skeleton Count; or, the Vampire Mistress," purportedly written by Elizabeth Caroline Grey for The Casket in 1825. This one is currently under investigation but undoubtedly, since there was no 'real' Mrs. Grey, will turn out to be another Haining hoax, possibly even a forgery.

My Thanks to Patrick Spedding for allowing me to read a draft of his forthcoming article “The Many Mrs Grey: Confusion and Lies about Elizabeth Caroline Grey, Catherine Maria Grey, Maria Georgina Grey and Others” and generously granting permission to publicize his findings.

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