Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Clarkes of Paternoster Row – Part 1

[1] Uncle Tom’s Cabin, London: C.H. Clarke and Co. 1852
by Robert Kirkpatrick

Two Controversies.

CHARLES HENRY CLARKE achieved a degree of fame as the first publisher to issue Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in England in April 1852. He went on to become a prolific publisher of cheap popular literature, operating for many years out of 13 Paternoster Row.

His son, Charles Henry Montague Clarke, was also in the publishing business, at one point also claiming to be operating out of Paternoster Row. Both men were involved in controversies. The circumstances surrounding Clarke senior’s publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin were bitterly disputed; and Clarke junior was to become involved in a series of bogus literary and artistic societies and dubious vanity publishing schemes, and ended up in prison. 

This is their story.

[2] American poster for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


Charles Henry Clarke was born in 1821 in Hammersmith, London, the youngest son of James Clarke, one of Nelson’s captains at Copenhagen in 1801. By the time of the 1841 census, when he was still living with his parents and older brother George (a chemist) at Plantation Cottage, Chapel Street, Hammersmith, he was describing himself as a publisher, although in truth he was a printer and bookbinder — certainly, there is no record of anything he may have published under his own name until 1852.  

By 1851 Clarke had married (his wife, Julia Maria, was born in Hammersmith in 1823) and living at 17 Sudely Street, Islington, describing himself as a bookbinder and bookseller employing 45 people, and employing 15 year-old Emma South as a servant at home. His business premises were at 25 Bouverie Street, and he was in partnership with Frederick Naylor Salisbury, a printer originally from Suffolk (born Bury St. Edmunds, 1813), who also had premises in Bouverie Street.  

Clarke had earlier worked from 100 Chalton Street, Somers Town, and then at 54 Castle Street, Leicester Square and 23 Primrose Hill, Fleet Street, and had been in partnership with Rowland Bateman and Robert Hardwicke at 14 Clement’s Lane, Strand (dissolved in June 1848), and then with William Bennett, at Bouverie Street and Primrose Hill (dissolved in June 1852).

[3] Samuel Orchart Beeton
In early 1852 Clarke opened a publishing office at 148 Fleet Street, from where, in April of that year, he issued the first UK edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. At the same time, he and Salisbury were joined by Samuel Orchart Beeton, then aged 21, and later in the year the firm of Clarke, Beeton & Co. was established. Salisbury left the partnership in November 1854, and in May 1855 the remaining partnership between Clarke and Beeton was dissolved by mutual consent. [Source: London Gazette.]

[4] Henry Vizetelly
In February 1857, Beeton successfully sued Clarke over an alleged unpaid debt of £175, based on two bills of exchange, drawn in June 1852, payable by Clarke to the publisher Henry Vizetelly, and endorsed by Vizetelly to Beeton. Clarke argued that the bills were in part-payment for Vizetelly’s interest in his Readable Books series, and that Beeton had already paid Vizetelly out of the assets of his partnership with Clarke. But the jury, at the Court of Queen’s Bench, Westminster, found in Beeton’s favour. [Source: The Times]

Clarke went on to become a prolific publisher of cheap popular literature. He used the imprints of Charles Henry Clarke, Charles H. Clarke, and C.H. Clarke, and operated out of several addresses during his career, including 148 Fleet Street, 7 Gough Square, 9 Red Lion Court, 11 Red Lion Court, 13 Paternoster Row, 23A Paternoster Row, 48 Paternoster Row, 3 Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row, and 9 St. Bride’s Street. 

[5] Parlour Library
Amongst his works were several series such as The Library of North American Romance (abridged versions of American dime novels), The Standard Novel Library (which included novels by William Stephens Hayward, Captain Mayne Reid and Percy B. St. John), Clarke’s Popular Railway Reading (which included novels by C.H. Ross and Bracebridge Hemyng), The Mayne Reid Library and Captain Mayne Reid’s Celebrated Novels, The Dumas Historical Library, and The Parlour Library. He also published three books by his son, Charles Henry Montague, and several by his daughter-in-law, Mrs Charles Clarke.

He may also have been behind The Boys’ Weekly: A First-class Magazine for the Boys of Great Britain, launched in November 1867 by “the proprietors at 13 Paternoster Row”, although this appears to have lasted for just one issue. 

[6] Paternoster Row, early 19th century.
In the ten years after his split with Beeton he was not always financially secure. In June 1862 he was registered bankrupt, owing just under £4,000 to John Maw Darton and Frederick Hodge, publishers in Holborn Hill; and in August 1867 he was again bankrupted following a petition by George Wood Bayldon and James Bayldon, of Calder-grove paper Mills in Wakefield, and William Austin-Thompson, a paper merchant at 13 Paternoster Row. A third bankruptcy occurred in December 1869. [Sources: London Gazette]

These financial difficulties, which arose despite the profits he made from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, may well have later encouraged Clarke to provide moral, if not financial, support to struggling writers who were forced to apply to the Royal Literary Fund. Amongst the authors for whom he wrote letters of support to accompany their applications were William Stephens Hayward, Bracebridge Hemyng, Philip Henry Hemyng and George Emmett.

Throughout the period when he was struggling with bankruptcy Clarke was living at 22 Rosetta Villas, Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith. In 1861 his household comprised his wife, his son Charles Henry Montague, then a banker’s clerk, his daughter Clara, and Elizabeth Littlewood, a 59 year-old servant. Ten years later, still at the same address, his household comprised his wife, a second son, Frank Alan, aged 8, and Ellen Smith, a 17 year-old servant, suggesting at least of modicum of new financial stability.

His wife died in 1877, and he appears to have remarried in 1878, his wife, Sussanah, being 33 years his junior. At the time of the 1881 census, he and Sussanah were lodgers at 132 Goldhawk Road with George Chilton a greengrocer; in 1891 their address was 41 Gladesmore Road, Tottenham, where they were living alone, Clarke still describing himself as a publisher, although the date of his last book in the British Library Catalogue is 1886.

[7] Paternoster Row, late 19th century.
In 1901 he was living with his son in Essex. He died in April 1904, aged 83, with obituaries appearing in newspapers as far afield as America and New Zealand.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

[8] Titlepage of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, London: C.H. Clarke and Co. 1852
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s great anti-slavery novel, was first published as a serial, over 40 weeks, in the American abolitionist periodical The National Era, beginning on 5 June 1851. The first hardback edition, published by John P. Jewett & Co. of Boston, appeared on 20 March 1862. Within a few weeks, the first pirated edition appeared in England, published by Charles H. Clarke, although the circumstances surrounding this, and subsequent events, are shrouded in controversy.

The first account appears to have been written by Clarke himself and published as an advertisement in The Times of 15 September 1852:
An early copy was sent from America the latter end of last April to Mr Bogue, the publisher, and was offered by him to Mr Gilpin, late of Bishopsgate street. Being declined by Mr Gilpin, Mr Bogue offered it to Mr Henry Vizetelly; and by the latter gentleman it was eventually purchased for us. Before printing it, however, as there was one night allowed for decision, one volume was taken home to be read by Mr Henry Vizetelly, and the other by Mr Salisbury, printer, of Bouverie Street…
The week following the book was produced, and an edition of 5,000 worked off. It made no stir until the middle of June, although we advertised it very extensively. From June it began to make way, and sold at the rate of 1,000 per week during July. In August the demand became very great, which went on increasing to the 20th. at which time it became perfectly overwhelming. We have now about 400 people employed in some way or other upon the book, and about 17 printing machines, besides hand-presses.
He went on to list the sales figures:
Illustrated edition, 7s 6d, 5th thousand; original edition, 2s 6d, 30th thousand; Routledge and Co., Railway edition, 96th thousand; Routledge & Co., People’s penny edition, 30,000 weekly. Thus about 150,000 copies of this work are already in the hands of the public, while still the weekly returns of sale show no decline. In addition, we also beg to announce that 100,000 copies of the publishers’ trade edition (price 6d, handsomely printed in pocket size, and stitched, or in six penny numbers) are now in the hands of Messrs Piper, Brothers, & Co., for immediate issue to wholesale dealers in periodicals. He finished by pointing out that Harriet Beecher Stowe was to share in his success: Our editions are the real “author’s editions”; we are in direct negotiation with Mrs Stowe, and we confidently hope that when accounts are made up we shall be in a position to award that talented lady a sum not inferior in amount to her receipts in America.
Clarke later expanded on his “negotiation” with Mrs Stowe in The Literary World in December 1887:
… I was acquainted with the late Mr S.O. Beeton, and in the autumn of [1852] I commissioned him to proceed to America, and gave him carte blanche to make any arrangement he considered desirable with Mrs Stowe. This resulted in his drawing on me in her favour two sums of £250 each. These drafts I accepted and duly paid, and subsequently a further draft for £250 in the same way.
He then said that Beeton also paid several other American authors whose books Clarke had reprinted. (In fact, by the middle of 1853, Clarke had reprinted a further 28 American novels.)

Interestingly, in a “Notice” preceding the title page of a late 1852 edition, Clarke claimed to have given Stowe $2,500 as her part of the profits. According to Claire Parfait, however, in The Publishing History of Uncle Tom’s Cabin 1852-2002 (2007), the first English publisher to pay Beecher Stowe was Thomas Bosworth of 215 Regent Street, who even announced that Stowe had a direct interest in his edition in August 1852.

Finally, he wrote:
On Mr Beeton’s return, late in the autumn of 1852, I took him into partnership, the title of the firm being Clarke, Beeton and Co., but previous to this taking place I printed all my works in Bouverie Street, and issued from my publishing office in Fleet Street nearly three-quarters of a million copies of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.
A slightly different, and wildly inaccurate, account was given by the publisher Sampson Low in The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, written by Charles Edward Stowe and published in 1889:
The first edition printed in London was in April 1852, by Henry Vizetelly, in a neat volume at ten and sixpence, of which he issued 7,000 copies. He received the first copy imported, through a friend who had bought it in Boston the day the steamer sailed, for his own reading. He gave it to Mr V., who took it to the late Mr David Bogue, well-known for his general shrewdness and enterprise. He had the book to read and consider overnight, and in the morning returned it, declining to take it at the very moderate price of five pounds.
Vizetelly at once put the volume into the hands of a friendly printer and brought it out on his own account, through the nominal agency of Clarke & Co. The 7,000 copies sold, other editions followed, and Mr Vizetelly disposed of his interest in the book to the printer and agent, who joined with Mr Beeton and at once began to issue monster editions…
Another somewhat different account was given by Clarke’s son, Charles Henry Montague Clarke, in 1889 in The Literary World. According to Clarke jnr., an advance copy of the book was submitted to nearly every publisher of note in London, but each in turn either failed to appreciate its merits or was ignorant of the non-existence of any copyright in England in books originally published in America. The book ended up with the publisher David Bogue, who in turn handed it on to Henry Vizetelly to dispose of. Vizetelly showed it to Frederick Salisbury, Charles Henry Clarke’s partner in Salisbury, Clarke & Co., in Bouverie Street, asking £5 for it. Clarke bought it, and immediately printed off an edition bearing the imprint C.H. Clarke & Co., 148 Fleet Street.

According to Clarke jnr., sales were slow for some months, until, after large sums had been spent on advertising and the appearance of a favourable review in The Times, the demand increased to thousands of copies daily — edition succeeded edition as fast as they could be printed, and the whole resources of a printing establishment employing over three hundred hands failed to keep pace with the unprecedented demand. By Clarke jnr’s account, within twelve months Charles H. Clarke had printed and sold 995,000 copies. (This is in contrast to a claim made by the editor of The National Era in June 1853, who wrote that Clarke had, at that time, issued six editions comprising an aggregate sale of 597,000 copies.)

Clarke jnr. further stated that Salisbury, Clarke & Co. subsequently printed 40,000 copies for George Routledge, carrying his imprint, and similarly large editions were printed for other publishers. In the autumn of 1852 Samuel Beeton was taken into partnership by Clarke, and subsequent editions of the book carry the imprint of Clarke, Beeton & Co. He also repeated the earlier claim that Clarke was the first English publisher to recognise the right of American authors to a share in the profits of their work resulting from English reprints, and that he consequently gave Harriet Beecher Stowe £750.

Later, Clarke jnr. expanded on this narrative, and, as is often the case, the tale grew in the telling. In a letter published in Book Monthly in September 1906 (and subsequently reprinted in The Publishers’ Weekly on 23 March 1907), he stated that Vizetelly had acquired a two-volume copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin from the publisher David Bogue, who was opposed to issuing reprints and did not think highly enough of the book to make an exception.

He therefore passed it on to Vizetelly, who in turn gave it to Clarke and Salisbury, then in partnership with each other, warning them that a further copy was likely to arrive from America in the next mail, and that they needed to make a decision by noon the next day, otherwise Vizetelly would take it elsewhere. Clarke kept the first volume and split the other into two parts, giving one to Salisbury and the other to James Greenwood, who was acting as Clarke’s reader and literary adviser.

Having read their portions overnight, both Salisbury and Greenwood recommended immediate publication. The decision to do this was made on 31 March 1852, and on 15 April the first English edition, of 5,000 copies, priced at 2s 6d, was issued by Charles H. Clarke & Co. Unfortunately, sales were poor, until a lengthy review appeared in The Times in August, followed by other favourable reviews elsewhere, and sales quickly escalated.

The book was then pirated by other publishers. Clarke refers to one particular edition which included a preface written by Greenwood, which was protected by English copyright (a protection not offered, of course, to the American text itself). A great supply had been distributed to the booksellers, but none could be legally sold till a satisfactory agreement had been come to with Clarke. Clarke subsequently published a new edition with chapter headings written by Greenwood, and when this was pirated Clarke was able to invoke copyright law and acquire the entire print-run of the pirated edition for less than the cost of paper and printing, simply inserting a new title page and issuing it under his own imprint.

Finally, Clarke jnr. told that in the autumn of 1852
my father sent his confidential clerk, Mr S.O. Beeton, to America to interview Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe, and hand her an honorarium of a thousand guineas in recognition of the profit he had realised from her book. This is believed to be the first instance on record in which an English publisher recognised any moral obligation to share his profits with the author of a non-copyright reprint.
On Beeton’s return, he was taken into partnership, and the firm of Clarke, Beeton & Co. was formed. Clarke then provided Routledge with 400,000 copies for a shilling edition; 250,000 copies of a sixpenny edition were printed for another publisher; and, according to Clarke jnr., within twelve months no less than a million and a quarter copies of the book were produced by Clarke & Co., with a net profit of £18,000…

So, at the very least the honorarium paid to Beecher Stowe had increased from £750 to a thousand guineas; the number of copies printed and sold by Clarke had jumped from just under one million to a million and a quarter; and Henry Vizetelly had virtually been written out of the story. Clarke was still peddling this truncated version of events as late as 1921, in Chambers’s Journal, shortly before his death.

Yet Vizetelly had already given his own, rather more detailed account, initially in a letter to The Literary World in 1889 and later in his autobiography, Glances Back Through Seventy Years, published in 1893. To begin with, he claimed that the original imported copy had been sent to David Bogue from America by someone working for Putnam & Co. in New York, who suggested that as the book was so popular Bogue should reprint it and send him a trifle for his pains. Bogue, not being interested in publishing reprints of American books, passed the book on to Vizetelly for inclusion in his Readable Books, a series of cheap books Vizetelly was issuing from his premises in Gough Square, Fleet Street.

Wary of issuing what was a two-volume book for a shilling, he suggested entering into a partnership with Clarke and Salisbury, and they agreed to share the costs of publishing an edition by an equal three-way split.

Vizetelly said he changed the book’s original subtitle, Life Among the Lowly, to Negro Life in the Slave States of America, and that a writer, then little-known, but who is now widely appreciated, both as a journalist and essayist, wrote a preface to the work for the modest sum of two guineas.

According to Vizetelly, it was not advertising and favourable reviews which led to the book’s eventual success but the publication of a shilling edition, which came about as the result of a cunning pre-emptive strike on his part:
Although well advertised, the volume — of which 2500 copies had been printed — proved a failure, but a rather singular circumstance contributed to its eventual success. In the “Readable Book” series I had reprinted Curtis’s “Nile Notes”, much to the annoyance of Mr Richard Bentley, who had a half-guinea edition of the work. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” being advertised with both my own and Clarke’s imprint, Mr Bentley, by way of retaliation against me, I imagine, announced a shilling edition of the book. With the view of checkmating him, I had a cover printed with “Price one shilling” on it, and got Clarke to do up a copy of our edition in paper boards, trimming it as near to a foolscap 8vo as could be managed. I then sent the volume to Mr Bentley with my compliments, and a notification that the accompanying shilling edition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was on the eve of publication. This induced Mr Bentley to hold his hand, and as there was scarcely any sale for the book at half-a-crown in cloth, it was determined to work off the remaining sheets in paper boards at a shilling.
Note that Vizetelly claimed the first print run to have been 2,500 copies, compared with Charles Henry Clarke’s claim of 5,000 and Sampson Low’s claim of 7,000.

According to Vizetelly he then went abroad for two or three months, and on his return found that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a best seller. He subsequently asked Clarke for an account of the book’s sales, and was referred to Salisbury and Beeton. But he was rebuffed:
These gentlemen laughed at the idea of my asking for an account, told me that during my absence abroad they had paid my clerk for the work I had done in connection with the volume, and had also repaid to him the five pounds which had been forwarded to Putnam’s young man, and that they declined to recognise me any further in the matter.
Vizetelly immediately threatened legal action, giving them until noon the following day. Just before his deadline, Beeton called on him, offering at first £200 and then £300.
I replied that the extremist sum I had ever hoped to make out of my share of the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” reprint was £500, and that after the dishonourable way in which I had been treated, I was determined not to accept a penny less. Before the day expired I received the acceptance of Clarke, Salisbury and Beeton for the sum in question, and my connection with “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” thereupon ceased.
Vizetelly then paints another contradictory picture of the relationship between Clarke, Beeton and Beecher Stowe:
Beeton, greatly dreading that the firm in which he had become partner might be forestalled by some enterprising London publisher with regard to Mrs Stowe’s next book, hastened to America and offered that lady electrotypes from the engravings of an English illustrated edition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which he and his partners had produced, for republication in the United States, hoping by this economical sop to secure the early sheets of her new volume. The lady and her husband, however, laughed at him in a polite way, and hinted that a money payment on account of the large profits which had been made out of the English reprint of “Uncle Tom” would be better appreciated.
Consequently, in the words of Vizetelly, Beeton gave Mrs Stowe a few hundred pounds, in return for a promise of the early sheets for The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, her follow-up.

Clarke, Salisbury and Beeton then printed a first English edition of The Key of 50,000 copies, the bulk of which, by Vizetelly’s account, was later pulped, leading to the speedy liquidation of the partnership. (This was not the case, as the partnership remained string until it was dissolved in May 1855.)

Note that Vizetelly suggested that Beeton had become a partner in Clarke’s firm before he travelled to America.

This account of Vizetelly’s involvement was also reprinted in The New York Times in October 1901, and re-printed again via a letter to The Publishers’ Weekly from his son, Frank H. Vizetelly, on 30 March 1907, in a riposte to Charles Henry Montague Clarke’s account published a week earlier.

Yet another version of Beeton’s visit to America is found in The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton by Kathryn Hughes (2005). Initially, according to Hughes, Mrs Stowe refused to see Beeton, but then relented:
The young man’s opening gambit, of presenting her with the electrotype plates from the luxury British edition, was sadly misjudged. Included among these was a cover illustration comprising a highly eroticized whipping scene, exactly the kind of thing that Mrs Stowe had taken pains to avoid. “There is not one scene of bodily torture described in the book — they are purposely omitted,” she explained reprovingly to him in a later letter dated 27 September 1852.
[quoted in Mr & Mrs Beeton by H. Montgomery Hyde, 1951]

The initial offer of the original plates from Clarke’s illustrated edition was, of course, omitted from both his and his son’s accounts, and was also omitted by Beeton when he briefly referred to his visit to Mrs Stowe in his book The Dictionary of Universal Information (1858-62).

Kathryn Hughes further told that as Beeton was leaving Mrs Stowe he bumped into the publisher Sampson Low, who had also gone to America in order to persuade her to let him have the first option of publishing her next book. (Some sources say that Sampson Low spoke to Mrs Stowe before Beeton’s arrival.) In the end, Mrs Stowe agreed to furnish both Beeton and Low with advance pages, in conjunction with a third publisher, Thomas Bosworth. As Hughes pointed out, this shared arrangement was lucky, as the book was a commercial failure and all three firms lost money.

The only thing that can be said with any certainty about the pirating of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Charles Henry Clarke in 1852 was that it turned out to be a shrewd move, the book going on to become hugely successful, not just for Clarke but for the many other English publishers who pirated it in 1852 and in subsequent years. (At least 13 English and Scottish publishers released editions in 1852, including J. Cassell, H.G. Bohn, Gall & Inglis, George Vickers, Thomas Bosworth, Richard Bentley, Milner & Sowerby and Ingram, Cooke & Co.)

What at first glance was a simple and amicable agreement between Henry Vizetelly and Charles Henry Clarke turned into a bitter dispute, with wide disparities in the several accounts describing the book’s publication.

The full and true story will, perhaps, never be known.

[9] Uncle Tom and Topsy, American theatrical posters.
[Continue to Part 2 – HERE.]

[Charles Henry Montague Clarke and the Bogus Societies HERE.]

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