Friday, September 16, 2011


Henry Downes Miles, novelist and essayist, was born in 1806 and died at Walford in 1889. He began working for the London press in 1827 and retired in 1871. In 1833 he was sub-editor of The Constitution newspaper. From there he moved on to The Crown and Bell’s Life. He was for many years editor of the Sportsman’s Magazine. His first known book was The Life of Joseph Grimaldi published in 1838 by Charles Harris at 33 Bow Street.

Miles’s most famous work was Pugilistica: the history of British boxing, being the only complete and chronological history of the prize ring. Pugilistica was first published in 1860 (“for the proprietor”) and went through numerous editions. Weldon& Co. published an edition in 1880 and in 1906 an edition was published in Edinburgh by John Grant. [Note the portrait of James Fig as drawn by Sir James Thornhill -- Sir James, accompanied by William Hogarth and Fig, drew the celebrated portrait of escape artist Jack Sheppard in the condemned cell.]

Miles’s The Life of Richard Palmer better known as Dick Turpin (often reprinted as “Dick Turpin”) published by Thomas White was serialized in 41 weekly numbers in 1839 and was in its fourth edition by 1845. Dick Turpin was published simultaneously by both W. M. Clark and Henry Lea. Miles’s Will Watch the Bold Smuggler was issued by the same publishers. Jerry Abershaw; or, the Mother’s Curse was published in 1847. Tom Sayers, sometime Champion of England was published by S. O. Beeton in 1866.

*Above: Blueskin: A Romance of the Last Century By the author of Black Bess; or, The Knight of the Road &c. Illustrated by Robert Prowse and others. Edward Harrison, Salisbury Square, Fleet Street. First advertised 2 Aug 1863

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