W. H. Thwaites was not as prolific as most penny dreadful artists. Not much in the way of biography could be found for W. H. Thwaites but his career can be traced into the 1870’s. According to the article “Illustrated Journalism in England” from The Magazine of Art (1890) W. H. Thwaites was brought up in Mr. Vizitelly’s “wood-engraving establishment” at The Pictorial Times (1843-1845) where he concentrated on ‘figures.’
“The draughtsmen chiefly employed on the new venture were John Gilbert, W. H. Prior, and others who had been brought up in Mr. Vizitelly’s wood-engraving establishment, namely F. Danby (landscape), W. H. Thwaites (figures), R. Hind (figures), and Martin, son of John Martin the painter (figures and portraits).”
Care is needed in researching Thwaites past because there was another wood engraver and landscape painter of the same name active in the fifties and sixties in New York. In 1856 The Crayon wrote that the American Thwaites “has returned from a tour of studies in the White Mountains, and has brought with him a number of carefully studied drawings, in water colors and sepia, heightened with pencil. Mr. T.’s ability with water colors should make his works much sought after as are his designs in wood.” In 1890 the American Thwaites and Arthur Lumley’s illustrations appeared in E. D. E. N. Southworth’s The Hidden Hand published by Robert Bonner’s Sons, New York in a 50 cent paper edition. The result is that there is a lot of erroneous information spread on the internet regarding two separate gentlemen.
Our London-based Thwaites was a talented artist whose woodcut engravings adorned James Lindridge’s classic penny bloods Jack Rann, Alias Sixteen-String Jack (1845), Tyburn Tree; or, the Mysteries of the Past (1848), The Merry Wives of London, a Romance of Metropolitan Life (1850), and Jenny Diver, the Female Highwayman (1851) all published by George Purkess senior. In 1851 he illustrated Jonathan Wild; or, the Thief-taker’s Daughter by Ambrose Hudson, published by W. Winn. Jonathan Wild may actually be another pseudonymous Lindridge parts-work. Most famously Thwaites illustrated Pierce Egan the Younger’s Robin Hood (1850) and Wat Tyler (1851) as well as The Lamplighter (author unknown, 1855).
Rook the Robber; or, London Fifty Years Ago (serialized in the Halfpenny Gazette 15 Mar 1862) and The Felon's Daughter; or, Pamela’s Perils (according to advertising in Reynolds’s Miscellany 24 Oct 1863) were both illustrated by W. H. Thwaites and published by John Dicks in penny numbers as written ‘by the author of “Daughter of Midnight.”’ The Felon's Daughter was serialized in the Halfpenny Gazette under the author name ‘George Armitage’ before publication in penny parts. The Halfpenny Gazette was published by John Dicks and G. W. M. Reynolds. The Daughter of Midnight; or, Mysteries of London Life was serialized there 25 July 1863 as ‘by the author of “Ruth the Betrayer.”’ Ruth the Betrayer; or, the Female Spy was published by Dicks in 1863 under the name ‘Edward Ellis,’ a pen-name used by Charles Henry Ross and Ernest Warren. Thwaites supplied the wood engravings.
Much of Thwaite’s work through the fifties and sixties was done for John Dicks English Novels, such as Gabriel Alexander’s Adelaide; or, the Trials of a Governess (1865), and he illustrated several works by G. W. M. Reynolds; Pope Joan, The Soldier’s Wife, and The Young Fisherman and other Stories. Thwaites worked for the engraving department under foreman C. Bonner at Reynolds’s Miscellany until the paper closed in 1867 then possibly transferred his efforts to Dicks’ Bow Bells weekly. The last mention of ‘W. H. Thwaites’ I found was a listing as a stationer and bookseller in Newcastle-on-Tyne at 20 Northumberland Street (Bookseller 17 Dec 1871) but that could be another gentleman entirely.