Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Clarkes of Paternoster Row – Part 2

[1] London: The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times, Saturday, 24 September, 1892, p.193, issue 1634.

by Robert Kirkpatrick

Part 2 – Charles Henry Montague Clarke and the Bogus Societies

On 14 June 1892 five men appeared before Bow Street Magistrates in London charged with fraud. They were all connected with a series of bogus literary and artistic societies, and vanity publishing companies, which fleeced gullible members of the public by taking subscriptions and fees for publishing their work, but giving very little in return.

The five men – Sir Gilbert Edward Campbell, Bart., Charles Henry Montague Clarke, William James Morgan, David William Tolmie and Edwin Sherwin – were later joined in the dock by two others, James Sidney Tomkins and William Nathan Steadman. Little is known about five of these men, but the first two, Campbell and Clarke, do have an intriguing history, explored later.

Steadman later found notoriety as a “bad” poet, using the name of William Nathan Stedman and self-publishing six volumes of poetry and essays between 1907 and 1916. More importantly in his book Sonnets, Lays and Lyrics (1911) he accused the former Prime Minister, William Gladstone, of being both Jack the Ripper and the Great Beast foretold in the Book of Revelation. He also claimed to have turned down the offer of the post of Poet Laureate, made after Alfred Lord Tennyson’s death, even though the offer came with “a premier’s daughter and £30,000.” [Sources: British Library – Untold Lives Blog; New Statesman.]

The frauds began in 1873, when Morgan and Tomkins established the Charing Cross Publishing Company, operating out of 5 Friar Street, London, which also became the home of The Charing Cross Magazine, The London and Brighton Magazine, The St. James’s Magazine, the London and Provincial Literary Society, the Eminent Authors’ Association, the National Artistic Union, Berners Gallery Limited, and the Church and State Association. The Charing Cross Publishing Company was superseded by the City of London Publishing Company, again started by Morgan and Tomkins. Other organizations which came and went included the Authors’ Alliance, the Berners Street Gallery Company, the Artists’ Alliance, the International Society for Literature, Science and Art, and the International Union of Literature, Science and Art. Some of these became public companies, offering a dividend of 8 per cent a year, thereby drawing in a number of people who bought shares and became directors or board members.

These various organizations had a bewildering range of addresses, the fraudsters renting a property (providing each other with glowing references) but paying little, if any, rent, being evicted, and immediately finding a new address. Amongst the addresses noted during the Bow Street and subsequent Old Bailey trials were 5 Friar Street, Broadway; 64 Bernard Street; 59 & 60 Chancery Lane; 9 & 10 Southampton Buildings; 70 Wardour Street; 20 York Buildings, Adelphi; 8 Raeburn Street, Brixton; 39 Great Marlborough Street; 22 Talgarth Road; 9 Prince of Wales Road; 8 Barnards Inn; 64 Berners Street; and 39 & 40 Temple Chambers.

9 & 10 Southampton Buildings and 59 & 60 Chancery Lane were, in fact, the same building but with different entrances – one witness told the Old Bailey that she followed Tomkins out of the office in Chancery Lane and saw him re-enter it through another entrance round the corner.

At a subsequent hearing at Bow Street on 21 June 1892, Sherwin was discharged, the prosecution accepting that he was a legitimate employee of Morgan and Tomkins, insofar as he had paid a fee of £100 to secure a post of secretary, and that he had remained in post in the hope of recouping his money. He was later called as a prosecution witness. Other prosecution witnesses told a similar story – for example, William Russell Locke, who applied for a paid post with the International Union of Art, Literature and Science. To quote the Publishers’ Circular of 9 July 1892:
In April 1891 his attention was directed to an advertisement for an assistant secretary. He applied for the post. In reply he received a letter saying he would be required to pay a premium of £50 for the appointment, which was described as a lucrative one. His duties would be to write at least 300 letters per week. Witness subsequently saw Steadman at the office of the Society in the Adelphi, and Steadman introduced Morgan to him as the curator of the Society. Morgan guaranteed that his salary would not be less than £150 for the first year, and an agreement was then entered into by witness, who paid a bonus of £50 for the appointment. For about four weeks witness was regularly paid his salary by Steadman, but after that he was unable to get his salary, and the excuse given was that Steadman was away ill. He afterwards sued Steadman for arrears of salary, and obtained judgment against him in default of appearance.
Witness afterwards saw Morgan and Steadman at York Place, Adelphi, and the latter paid him a few pounds on account of the judgment against him. Morgan then informed him that Steadman had nothing further to do with the Society, having been asked to resign by the council. Morgan reengaged witness to write letters for the Society at a salary of £1 per week and 15 per cent commission, and under this arrangement he continued to write letters up to April of the present year, when he asked Morgan to take his name off the prospectus. During the twelve months he was connected with the Society witness received about £51 salary and commission, just £1 more than the premium he had paid.
The letters Locke wrote were soliciting membership and subscription fees. Other people who were employed by one of the bogus societies as a secretary or assistant secretary were supposed to have been paid a basic salary plus a commission based on the responses to their letters, albeit after paying a fee or premium by way of security, or the purchase of a bond or an investment. Almost invariably they received payments for a few weeks but these then stopped.

Alongside the bogus societies ran a fraudulent publishing business. The Times of 12 July 1892 reported the evidence of James Saundells, a schoolmaster from Manchester, who in 1885 sent some poems and a play to the City of London Publishing Company:
Soon afterwards he received a letter intimating that the reader employed by the company had reported favourably on the poems, and stating that the company would be willing to publish them in book form to sell at 6s per copy for a sum of £40. They also offered to give him a royalty on copies in excess of 1,500. Witness was not a man of means, but several persons, including Lord Derby and Lord Selborne, subscribed the £40, and it was sent to the address given. As his poems were not published, although he frequently called upon the company to perform their part of the contract, witness took action against them in the High Court. He obtained a verdict for £40, with £460 damages, the latter sum to be reduced to £200 if the manuscripts were returned. As a matter of fact he never received costs, damages, or manuscripts.
Several other witnesses gave similar testimonies. The defendants, all of whom argued that the various societies were genuine, failed to have the case thrown out and they were committed for trial at the Old Bailey.

The Old Bailey Trial began on 19 September 1892. Soon after it began more financial information emerged. For example, Morgan and Tomkins opened an account at the Capital and Counties Bank in April 1885. A total of just over £425 was paid in and withdrawn, until November 1885 when the account was closed. In March 1886 the two men opened an account at the Royal Exchange Bank, paying in a total of £998 and withdrawing a similar amount up until May 1887. A second account at the same bank was opened in April 1887, and again all the money paid in – £438 – was quickly withdrawn until the account was closed in January 1888.

A third account, under the name of the Authors’ Alliance, with W.J. Morgan named as the managing Director and Charles M. Clarke as Chairman, was opened in December 1887 – up until the following December £429 was paid in and withdrawn. Other accounts were opened at the British Mutual Banking Company, three in the names of Morgan, one in the name of Steadman and one in the name of the International Society of Literature, Science and Art (Curator – W.J. Morgan). A total of £2,975 was paid in between March 1891 and June 1892, most of which was withdrawn via payments to all of the alleged fraudsters. Evidence was also given as to how Clarke in particular persuaded friends and acquaintances to cash cheques made payable to him from these various accounts which subsequently bounced.

The fraud was initially exposed in 1884 in the magazine Truth, owned and edited by the Liberal politician Henry Labouchere, with articles continuing to appear up until 1891. Stung by the exposure, the fraudsters struck back, the Old Bailey being read a letter, purportedly from the International Society for Literature, Science and Art, written by Sir Gilbert Campbell which concluded: 
The names of the ladies and gentlemen who have joined the Society, and who have taken no notice whatever of your Grub Street Sewage, are a sufficient guarantee for its position, without even your endorsement, and so Heave you, like some loathsome reptile, to swelter in your self-created garbage.
The defendants produced several witnesses who were perfectly happy with the services they received from the various societies – they were paid for work they carried out as employees, or for paintings that were sold at exhibitions, or for performing at concerts.

The defendants also turned upon each other. Morgan, who addressed the jury for three hours, argued that he had always done his best, and that no-one had ever complained about him. He denied having anything to do with the Authors’ Alliance, and argued that the Charing Cross Company had existed for seven years and that “the books published by the company spoke volumes”. (In fact, the company appears to have published around 13 books in 1876-81, four of which were translations of foreign novels.) He also pointed out that the National Artistic Union never got beyond the initial idea, and the few subscriptions and pictures sent were returned.

Tomkins argued that his position in the companies was simply that of an employee. He claimed to have been personally connected with only two of the companies – the Authors’ Alliance and the City of London Publishing Company. He said that the latter had been a successful company for 15 years (although only 10 books bearing its imprint are in the UK copyright libraries, all published in 1884-86). His only failing was that of being unable to pay a quarter’s rent.

Campbell stated that his name was used in some instances without his knowledge or permission, and that otherwise he believed all the companies he was involved in were genuine and bona fide. He had nothing to do with the Authors’ Alliance.

Clarke, in a written statement, said that he considered Morgan to be a perfectly honourable man. Clarke’s only connection with him was as a director of the Authors’ Alliance, although he had not given Morgan permission to use his name as a director. He claimed that he knew nothing of the cheques he had passed on that subsequently bounced until months later. He also pointed out that he had already spent seven weeks in prison, had incurred expenses of £150, and that he had been handcuffed and chained to a prisoner who had since been condemned to death for murder, suggesting that all this was punishment enough.

After two hours deliberation on 27 September 1892, the jury found the defendants guilty in varying degrees, with Campbell, Tolmie and Clarke convicted of conspiracy only, as they had not materially benefited from the frauds. The jury accepted that the Charing Cross Publishing Company was a genuine concern. Morgan was sentenced to 8 years penal servitude; Tomkins five years, and Steadman 15 months. Campbell, acquitted of obtaining money by false pretences, was still guilty of lending himself to the frauds, and because of his title and position he was given an exemplary sentence of 18 months imprisonment with hard labour. Tolmie was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour, and Clarke to four months with hard labour, the jury having recommended mercy in both cases. [Sources: The Times, The Publishers’ Circular, Old Bailey Transcripts.]

Charles Henry Montague Clarke was born on 21 April 1845 in Islington (although the census record for 1861, when he was still living with his parents and working as a Banker’s clerk, stated that he was born in Hammersmith). By 1871 he was married, to Marion, some four years his senior, living at 6 Vincent Terrace, Islington, and describing himself as a literary agent and author. Ten years later, living at 17 Thomas Place, Hackney, he described himself as a publisher and an L.L.D. and M.A., Philadelphia. Both of these qualifications were phony, the “American University of Philadelphia” being notorious for issuing fake diplomas. [Sources: Census records at and The New York Times.]

In the meantime, Clarke had been declared bankrupt in March 1869. The announcement, in The London Gazette, gave an indication of his precarious lifestyle, referring to
Charles Henry Montague Clarke (known as Charles M. Clarke) of No. 22, New-road, Shepherds Bush, in the county of Middlesex, and of Aldine-chambers, Paternoster Row, in the city of London, previously of No. 29, Alfred-street, Islington, formerly thereto of No. 14, Alfred-street aforesaid, before that of No. 11, Vere-street, Oxford-street, and previously to that of No. 1, Canonbury-villas, Islington, formerly of No. 12, Dagmar-road, South Hackney, all in the county of Middlesex, previously to then of No. 36, Basinghall-street, in the city of London, Literary Agent and Accountant to various Public Companies, having been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, filed in Her Majesty’s Court of Bankruptcy, in London, on the 13th of March 1869…
This prompted his father to write to the The Echo on 18 March 1869, the paper declaring Mr C.H. Clarke, publisher of Aldine Chambers, 13 Paternoster Row, requests us to state that he is not the Charles Henry Montague Clarke alluded to in the London Gazette of Tuesday. Ironically, as shown earlier, Charles Henry Clarke himself had had his own brushes with bankruptcy, in 1862 and 1867. [Sources: London Gazette.]

Both Charles Henry Montague Clarke and his wife were writers. Only three of Charles’s books are listed in the British Library Catalogue: Farrago, or Facts, Fun and Fancies; A Christmas Book (C.H. Clarke, 1864); The Sea-side Visitor’s Guide (“Published for the Proprietor at 13 Paternoster Row”); and Corns and Bunions; Their Causes and Cures (C.H. Clarke, 1878), although in 1895 he claimed to have written 32 novels. His wife, Marion Clarke (born Marion Doake in Dromara, Co. Down on 29 April 1841 – date and place of marriage not known, although it was prior to 1871) wrote 15 novels under her own name, including Out of Step, or The Broken Crystal - Cousin Dorry, or Three Measures of Meal - Polly’s Petition, or Bread for a Stone and No Security, or Rights and Wrongs. Her publishers included C.H. Clarke, the Sunday School Union and the Religious Tract Society.

In 1878 Clarke established the Literary Production Committee at 44 & 46 Ludgate Hill (later moving to 7 Gough Square and then 40 Southampton Buildings), ostensibly to help amateur and unknown authors, who could become honorary members on payment of five guineas a year. Within two years the membership fee had fallen to one guinea. Clarke was named as the Secretary, but the identity of anyone else involved – indeed, if there was anyone else – was never revealed. The Prospectus, circulated at the Committee’s formation and then reprinted at the back of its books, set out the Committee’s principle objects:
1. The careful perusal by one or more members of the Committee of every MS. submitted.
2. Advice as to construction of plot, style of diction etc.
3. Correction and revision (when required) by competent authors of standard reputation.
4. The introduction of suitable contributions to the editors of the leading magazines and journals.
5. The Publication of such works as the Committee may deem of sufficient interest to merit the attention of the public, whether of Divinity, Fiction, Poetry, Drama, History, Science or Travel.
The Prospectus went on to state: 
In cases where the merit of the MS submitted is deficient, and cannot be improved by revision, condensation, expansion, or reconstruction, a fee of from half a guinea, according to the length of the manuscript, will be charged to cover the trouble and expense of reading and cost of retransmission to the owner.
If the Committee thought highly enough of a work they would agree to publish it:
In all cases the copyright of the work will remain with the author… Further, the author will share equally with the Committee in the net profits (less 10 per cent commission) arising from the sale of his book.
In terms of the annual membership fee, the Committee’s Prospectus promised that all manuscripts submitted by members would be read, and advice and revision given free of charge; members’ contributions would have priority of consideration and publication; members would receive a free copy of every work published by the Committee; and stationery, books etc would be procured for members at cost price.

The Committee also offered to supply on short notice, at a small charge, original verses on any subject – Valentines, birthday odes etc; also to write to order descriptive articles, essays etc.

Later on, it extended its promised activities to advising in copyright law, translating from into foreign languages, compiling indexes, cataloguing libraries and valuing books for probate purposes.

While this may have appeared to be a similarly fraudulent enterprise to the others with which Clarke was involved, it did, eventually, begin publishing books. The first was The Story of Stella Peel by Harriet Louisa Childe-Pemberton, in 1880. On the page after the title page, there was an announcement of the award of prizes – £60, £25 and £15 – to the winners of a competition for amateur authors. The judges, who included Charles H. Clarke, John Bennett, Frederick Whymper, Percy B. John and Charles Henry Montague Clarke, awarded the prizes as follows: 
1st   • Miss M. Doake for her story May Darling
2nd • Miss May Probyn for her story Who Killed Cock Robin?
 3rd • Mrs Clutton-Brock for her story The Price of a Violin
Miss M. Doake was, in fact, Clarke’s sister-in-law. May Darling appears to have been her only novel, although she did co-write two novels with her sister (1873 and 1875), and she published a book of verse in 1913.

As well as being a judge for the literary prize, there is some indication that Charles Henry Clarke had another interest in the Literary Production Committee – at least one of his books, an edition of Robert the Rover by W. Stephens Hayward, issued in his Clarke’s Standard Novel Library (undated), carries an advertisement for the Committee, and the last page of the book itself bears the legend The Literary Production Committee, Printers, London.

The first two of the prize competition winners were subsequently published by the Committee, in 1881 and 1880 respectively. But the Committee went on to publish only a further twelve books – nine novels (including seven by Mrs Charles M. Clarke, although none of these are listed in any of the copyright libraries), a book of poems, a Sea-side Annual, and a New Year’s Address, and nothing further appeared after 1881. Disappointingly, a book advertised as forthcoming – The Embryo Author; A Complete Guide to Literary Success – by Charles Henry Montague Clarke himself, appears to have fallen by the wayside.

Clarke was also involved in what appears to have been an abortive attempt to establish a “Government Writers’ League”. A preliminary meeting was held at the Literary Production Committee’s office on 23 July 1878, with Clarke as Chairman, which heard how some writers employed in various Government offices were paid only 10d per hour while they were engaged in writing, rather than for every hour they were at work. While a resolution calling for an increase in pay and for a representative organisation to be formed was carried unanimously, it is not known what, if anything, subsequently transpired. [Source: The Times.]

After serving his prison sentence, Clarke appears to have struggled to earn a living, and was desperate enough to apply to the Royal Literary Fund for financial help in March 1895. He described himself as an author and Doctor of Law, living at 122 Greenwood Road, Dalston, his only income being £50 a year from some property in Ireland (presumably owned by his wife), and literary earnings over the preceding year of just £20. On his application form he listed 38 novels, six written in collaboration with his wife, plus contributions to newspapers and periodicals during thirty years which have been too numerous to catalogue for me, nor have I kept any record of them – at the best they were only of ephemeral interest.

In support of his application he wrote a letter (on notepaper from the Devonian Club, Ashley’s Hotel, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden), saying that 
For the past two years I have been in indifferent health and a martyr to rheumatic gout, hence I have been unable to do as much or as good work as previously, the result has been that my M.S.S. have been uniformly rejected by the Publishers, and I have drifted into debt…
He later provided a list of his debts, totalling £49, including £7.10 rent, £6.10 for warehousing furniture (he had presumably been evicted from a previous address) and £10.10 for articles he had pawned. His application was supported by letters from Andrew Chatto, the publisher; Sir George Measom, publisher and philanthropist; and C. Downey of Downey & Co., publishers. Despite these testimonials, the Royal Literary Fund rejected his application on the grounds of “insufficient literary merit”.

If there had been any estrangement between father and son as a result of the son’s activities, there appears to have been a rapprochement by the time of the 1901 census, with both of them living at 18 Sawbridge Road, Maldon St. Peters, Essex. Charles Henry Clarke, by then aged 79, was described as a retired publisher, with his son described as an Insurance Agent and author. Their financial position appears to have improved as the household also included Lizzie Carter, a 19 year-old housemaid. Ten years later, Charles Henry Montague Clarke was living alone at 27 Halford Square, Clerkenwell, describing himself as a journalist. He died in Holborn in 1921.

Sir Gilbert Edward Campbell was born on 29 April 1838 in Romsey, Hampshire, into an aristocratic Irish family originally from Donegal. After attending Harrow (1852-54) he joined the Army, ending up as a Lieutenant, and saw active service with the 92nd (Gordon Highlanders) Regiment of Foot in India in 1857-58.

In 1870 he married Esther Selina Baynham, and in the same year he joined the 2nd Royal Tower Hamlets (Queen’s Own Light Infantry) Militia as a Captain. A year later, his wife gave birth to a son, Claude Robert, who was destined to die in 1900 when, as a sailor, he was shipwrecked off Java Head, Sumatra. Sir Gilbert resigned his commission in August 1872, although nine months later he joined the 29th Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps as a Lieutenant. He resigned again in October 1875, only to join the 26th Surrey Rifle Volunteer Corps in August 1877. [Sources: London Gazette.]

At some point in the early 1870s he converted to Catholicism, and he became the President of the English Carlist Committee, dedicated to the accession of Don Carlos, Duke of Madrid, to the Spanish throne.

In April 1875 he was awarded a patent for “improvements in preserving meat, game and poultry”, but his financial position was insecure and in April 1876 he was declared bankrupt, following a petition by B.W. Fuse, an Oxford Street Jeweller, who had been owed £69 for goods supplied in 1873. Campbell’s address was given as 117 Ladbroke-grove-road, Notting Hill, and he was shown to have debts of £1,200 and assets of £800. In a second bankruptcy hearing in May 1876 he declared unsecured debts of £1,290 and secured debts of £6,000. Two months later his debts were amended to £4,843. The first creditors’ meeting wasn’t held until January 1878, and it took a further six years before any payments towards his debts could be made, with a dividend of only 9d in the pound. A further dividend, of 1s 6d in the pound, was announced in 1890. [Sources: London Gazette.]

Bankruptcy was not the only problem Campbell faced. In October 1881 he appeared in court charged with “being an insane person and not under proper control and threatening to commit suicide” at the Langham Hotel, Regent Street, following a dispute with the Alliance Insurance Company, which had denied him a payout. He was remanded to the House of Detention (a prison in Clerkenwell) for a week, although what, if anything, further happened is not known. [Source: London Daily News.]

In the second half of the 1880s Campbell began a career as a writer, mainly producing translations of French authors such as Victor Hugo and Emile Gaboriau, but also writing his own books, such as Mysteries of the Unseen, or Supernatural Stories of English Life (Ward, Lock & Co. 1889); Prince Goldenblade; A Rational Fairy Tale for Big and Little Folks (Ward, Lock & Co., 1889); and The Vanishing Diamond; A Story of the Himalayas (Ward, Lock & Vo., 1891). He also had stories in Ward, Lock’s Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1888, 1889 and 1891.

After being found guilty of conspiracy at the Old Bailey Trial in September 1892, The Times reported that Campbell was told by the Court that 
It was a sad thing to see a man with an honourable name – a baronet third in descent and one who had served his country – in the position in which he stood. It was necessary to pass a more severe sentence than if he were not Sir Gilbert Campbell, because men of good birth and position must be deterred from lending themselves to these shameful companies which were so constantly palmed off on the public. He would have to undergo 18 months’ imprisonment with hard labour.
After serving his sentence, Campbell slipped into obscurity, and apparently died in 1899.

[Read Part 1 – HERE.]

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