Among the minor novelists of the 1860s and 1870s Edmund Yates merits attention for several reasons. In addition to writing novels which at their best are lively and individual he is an important figure in the history of journalism; he also, in his own day, achieved varying degrees of fame or notoriety as playwright, lecturer, entertainer, and publicist. His own record of his multifarious activities, Edmund Yates: His Recollections and Experiences (1884), arguably ranks second only to Trollope’s among literary autobiographies of the Victorian period. As a man in a field dominated by women, he is able in his novels to give us the entrée to male preserves, notably the public service, clubland, and upper bohemia, which were barred to most other Victorian novelists or which they preferred not to advertise their familiarity with. For the critic and literary historian his novels afford a revealing instance of both the great gulf that divides the novelist with a gift for sedulously aping his betters from the novelist of real genius and, at a lower level, the gulf between the popular writer who can use modish plot formulae and narrative tricks with real conviction and the writer who appears to adopt them simply because they will sell or because he is too lazy, or too busy, to look for forms better suited to his own talents and interests. For the bibliographer Yates’s novels pose unusual problems and offer rich opportunities for speculation in that he was accused, after his death, of having entrusted large sections of some, and even the whole of one, to a ‘ ghost’, an unacknowledged collaborator.
In the comments that follow I look in turn at each of the points of special interest that I have mentioned.
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Yates’s energy, protean aptitudes, and experience of ‘all sorts and conditions of men’ were a byword even in his own day. By the time he died in 1894 the mid-Victorian period was already on the way to becoming proverbial for its production of men of his type: bustling to the point of brashness; feverishly athirst for fame and fortune; prodigiously versatile; often hard and ruthless but just as often kind and sentimental. This is the picture of Yates that his autobiography presents, and it is strikingly corroborated by T.H.S. Escott, Yates’s right-hand man during most of the last, highly successful years of his life, in his ‘appreciation and retrospect’ of Yates (New Review, July 1894, p. 88):
If among the novelists and publicists of our day there has ever been one pre-eminently the product of his age, the result and reflection of its most characteristic forces, that description assuredly belongs to the vigorous and versatile litterateur who recently has passed away. In its strenuous and aggressive energy, in its demonstrative ambition, its love of glare, glitter, luxury, and material comfort, its undaunted resolution to push its fortune and to proclaim its cleverness and merits, Edmund Yates was in harmony with, and was a favourable type of, the epoch in which he lived and died.
A bare chronicle of the main events of Yates’s life, which in some respects had just entered its most eventful phase at the time when his Recollections and Experiences came to a stop (1875), will suffice to indicate its fullness and manysidedness. Born on 3 July 1831, educated at Highgate School and in Germany (at Dusseldorf), Yates was only 17 when he began his working life as a clerk in the General Post Office. Later in the same year he began reading Pendennis as it appeared in monthly parts and decided to emulate Pen by becoming a writer and a bohemian. At the age of 20 he had a poem in the style of Thackeray accepted for publication in Ainsworth’s Magazine, and although Ainsworth never actually printed it other verses and prose sketches had been accepted and published by the time he was 21. Yates’s first book, a collection of his contributions to journals, was published in 1854 and a collection of his and Robert Brough’s light verses appeared the following year. At 22 he had married Louisa Katherine Wilkinson, daughter of a member of the Wilkinson’s Sword family, and they had four sons (including twins) within the next six years. Charles Dickens stood as godfather to one of them and Frank Smedley, also a well known novelist, to another. As a member of the Garrick and Fielding Clubs and a contributor to such papers as the Court Journal, the Illustrated London News, Bentley’s Miscellany,Chambers’s Journal and, later, Household Words, the doers of both bohemia and the upper strata of London literary life had opened to him. The affection of many literary and theatrical people for his mother, who had been a well known actress, and his late father, a famous manager of the Adelphi Theatre, had also helped. Yates’s parents had taken pains to keep him out of range of the scent of greasepaint while he was a boy, but as soon as he began working in London he became an avid theatregoer and frequenter of theatrical haunts. Before he turned 30 he had achieved modest success as a dramatist in his own right with four one-act plays, written in collaboration with a post-office colleague, Herbert Harrington. He had also edited no fewer than three short-lived journals.
More than any of his literary activities, however, it was his expulsion from the Garrick Club in 1858 (when he was still only 27) that brought his name into prominence. The expulsion resulted from a gossipy, but by no means malicious, article on Thackeray in the second number of Town Talk, one of the magazines edited by Yates. Thackeray, perhaps because of Yates’s known allegiance to Dickens (who had been the subject of a wholly laudatory article in the previous number of Town Talk), demanded an apology. Yates not only refused but responded in terms surprisingly disrespectful, considering his professed veneration for the author of Pendennis. The manner in which Thackeray subsequently had him hounded out of the Garrick and in which the quarrel continued to smoulder until Thackeray’s death at the end of 1863 is related in Yates’s Recollections and Experiences and has often been retold.1 It created a public breach between Thackeray and Dickens and even came to involve Anthony Trollope, Yates’s most famous colleague at the post-office, when Trollope innocently let fall to Yates some details of a Cornhill dinner presided over by Thackeray, details which Yates, characteristically, incorporated in a signed article in a New York paper.2 Trollope never forgave Yates, and Yates’s Recollections and Experiences, by way of retaliation, go out of their way to belittle Trollope.
Yates’s contentious article on Thackeray is a specimen of the style of gossip-column journalism which he claims to have invented3 and of which he later became the mid-Victorian age’s most famous and successful exponent. Since 30 June 1855 he had contributed a weekly column, ‘The Lounger at the Clubs’, to the Illustrated Times, and just before this he had briefly supplied a column of ’literary and artistic gossip1 to the Weekly Chronicle. From 1862 he also appeared weekly, as ‘The Looker-on in London’, in the Belfast Northern Whig, and from 1864, after leaving the Illustrated Times, he became ‘The Flaneur’ in the Morning Star. It was not, however, until the New York Herald employed him as its European correspondent at a salary of £1200 a year that he was able to accumulate enough capital to establish his own newspaper, with his own special insignia upon it.
By then (1873) Yates was a ripe 41: during the 1860s, when he was in his thirties, his journalistic career perhaps progressed less spectacularly than he would have hoped. He had for several years edited Temple Bar, a leading monthly, but his name never appeared on the title page as had that of his predecessor, his friend G.A. Sala; and he would surely have been mortified had he known that Maxwell, the proprietor of the journal, had approached Anthony Trollope to take over from Sala as nominal editor, with Yates continuing to do the real work as he had under Sala.4 More prestige attached to his editorship and part-ownership of Tinsley’s Magazine, founded in 1867, but the magazine did not thrive and Yates’s connexion with it ended after only two years and amid recriminations between him and the proprietor, William Tinsley.5
It was chiefly as a novelist that Yates made his mark during the 1860s. In the opening years of the decade he blossomed out as an ‘entertainer’, in imitation of his great friend Albert Smith, and also began a career as a public lecturer which was to culminate in a tour of the United States in 1872. As a dramatist he achieved moderate success as joint-author of Black Sheep (1868), adapted from one of his own novels, but Tame Cats, produced later the same year, flopped disastrously and is not mentioned in his Recollections.6 In contrast, his first novel, Broken to Harness, hastily written for serialization in Temple Bar was widely and justifiably praised for its freshness and verve. Broken to Harness (1864) was followed by a torrent of other novels, and though most of these were greeted less cordially, reviewers continued at least to expect better things from Yates than from the general run of popular novelists. Altogether Yates produced seventeen, or possibly eighteen, novels that were published in book form and at least one other that was serialized but apparently not reissued as a book. The best (and most popular) after Broken to Harness were Running the Gauntlet (1865), Land at Last (1866), and Black Sheep (1867). By 1872, Yates began to feel that after ‘writing novels for nearly ten years’ he had ‘pretty nearly told all [he] had to tell’ (Recollections, 2:235), and most reviewers obviously shared this opinion; but Yates was not the man to let mere lack of inspiration immobilize his pen: during the next three years, no fewer than eight new novels issued from it, in addition to the two he was working on when he pronounced himself all but written-out. At the same time his careers as journalist and lecturer had reached their peak, and another play (written in collaboration with A.W. Dubourg) had been produced.
In 1874 Yates and Grenville Murray established The World, a weekly newspaper dedicated to the style of ‘personal journalism’ that Yates had been perfecting in his various gossip columns for nearly twenty years. Its appeal was to men and women of the world: clubmen, sportsmen, hangers-on of the literary, theatrical, and artistic worlds, fashionable and would-be fashionable ladies. After a few months it became a conspicuous and continuing success, generating hosts of imitators and inaugurating, it is generally agreed, the most distinctive twentieth-century style of journalism. Yates bought Murray’s half-share of the paper at the beginning of 1875 for £3000 and remained editor and sole proprietor till his death in 1894. His editorial column, under the modest pen-name of ‘Atlas’, was a regular feature, and the paper seems to have absorbed nearly all of his literary energies for the remainder of his life. As a sideline he later (in 1879) established a monthly called Time, which he edited for two years, the young Oscar Wilde being one of his contributors. On the World he employed Bernard Shaw as theatre and, for a time, music critic. Shaw, who seems to have regarded Yates as a philistine but as a shrewd and loyal editor, severed his connexion with the World immediately after Yates’s death. All the evidence suggests that T.H.S. Escott’s tribute to Yates’s editorial talents was well merited:
An editor must have a power in his craft of no mean order when he can drive a team variously composed, and, as some might think, incongruously assorted, like that of which Edmund Yates in the World handled the ribbons so smoothly, so wisely, justly, with so few ugly jolts, and so little serious friction.
. . . As editor of his newspaper he showed himself a real leader of men. He always wished to requite loyalty with loyalty, to render service for service, to identify himself with the interests of those who worked for him, and to maintain their cause when others spoke disparagingly of their merits.7
It was his loyalty to a member of his staff that brought about the most sensational occurrence of Yates’s later life, an occurrence as widely and eagerly publicized as his expulsion from the Garrick Club. In 1883 the Earl of Lonsdale sued Yates for criminal libel because of an article in the World on his lordship’s supposed elopement with a young lady at a time when his wife was in a delicate state of health. Yates denied authorship of the article but refused to disclose the name of the ’regular contributor’ who had written it (and who had since been dismissed). On 2 April 1884 Yates was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, and following an unsuccessful appeal he was incarcerated in Holloway gaol on 16 January 1885. After serving just under two months of his sentence, he was released on grounds of ill-health. His friends who celebrated his release with a champagne party at the Criterion, were loud in their praise of his courageous adherence to the journalist’s code of secrecy; but his enemies, and the judge who sentenced him, found it difficult to muster much sympathy for an editor who had grown rich by printing such scurrilous and gratuitously hurtful stories as that of Lord Lonsdale’s amour (albeit that among newspapers of its kind the World had a reputation for moderation).8
The illness that brought about Yates’s release from prison may have been the heart condition that was to kill him nine years later. It was no doubt aggravated by his imprisonment, but the strenuous and luxurious life he lived, both before and after the success of the World, must also have contributed to his relatively early death (at the age of 63). In his later years, as well as running the World he lavished hospitality on his friends at his London house (first in Portland Place, later at Hyde Park Gate), at one or another of his country houses (at Brighton and on the Upper Thames),9 and on his well known steam yacht. He and his friends also made frequent trips to continental holiday resorts and he remained an inveterate theatregoer. It was at the Garrick Theatre on 19 May 1894, that he suffered the seizure from which he died the following day – at the Savoy Hotel where he and his wife were staying. Yates’s collapse at the theatre is vividly described by his old friend Clement Scott.10 Marie Corelli, who had met Yates on his last continental trip (when he was already gravely ill) and had seen him again in London, most recently on the day before he died, had been particularly impressed by his attentiveness to his beautiful wife, known as ‘the Duchess’;11 along with all his other friends she had also been charmed by his humour and gift for anecdote, which survived even in the shadow of death.
In his will Yates stipulated that his body was to be cremated: like his arch-rival Trollope, he had been a close friend of Sir Henry Thompson, the queen’s physician, who was a crusader for cremation.12 Yates’s estate was valued at £38,769/3/2. In accordance with his will, the World continued to be conducted by two of his sons after his death. His wife died early in 1900, and five years later a controlling interest in the World was sold to Alfred Harmsworth for £14,000. Harmsworth hoped that the paper might compete with Country Life as a ’town and country journal’, but it did not answer his expectations.13
As John Gross has observed,14 the face which gazes at us from the frontispiece to volume 2 of Yates’s Recollections, and which is reproduced on p. ii above, is not a particularly likeable or sensitive one. This portrait was engraved from a photograph taken when Yates was 34. Later portraits and photos (such as the one reproduced on p. iv above) are more flattering. But the weight of biographical evidence clearly confirms that the glint in the eye of the thirty-four-year old Yates could be not merely mischievous but mischief-making, and that the leering lips were not always good-humoured but could amuse themselves at other people’s expense. Doubtless Yates’s enemies – particularly Thackeray and his allies – sometimes fought unfairly, but the initial provocation nearly always came from Yates himself. Swinburne, who blamed Yates for savage attacks on him in both Tinsley’s Magazine and the World, characterized him privately as ‘cochon sublime’ and ‘blackguard’.15 Robert Louis Stevenson made himself ill celebrating the news of Yates’s conviction for libel.16 Even Yates’s friends felt constrained to admit that he was not everybody’s cup of tea. Harry Furniss, the caricaturist, who ‘liked’ him, spoke of his ‘repulsive manner and repellent pen’;17 Furniss also represented Albert Smith, the bosom friend of Yates’s younger days, as ‘pushing’, ‘rather vulgar’, and one of the most unpopular men in London.18 G.A. Sala, perhaps his closest friend, poked gentle fun at the ostentation and love of luxury that had begun to reveal themselves even before the success of the World.19 T.H.S. Escott, his right-hand man on the World, insisted in his review of Yates’s Recollections on his ‘genuine amiability’, ‘native kindliness’, ‘kindly, courteous, and considerate nature, strong and impetuous, but sympathetic even to tenderness’; but in his later obituary notice (quoted above) Escott admitted that Yates had had his share of abrasiveness and ostentation.20
Yates’s Recollections and Experiences were published in 1884, the year after Trollope’s An Autobiography, and the desire to emulate Trollope may have partly inspired them. As a record of mid-Victorian life, Yates’s book is at least as rich and varied as Trollope’s, and is also livelier and more graphic. In particular it provides a wealth of information – unusually precise, gracefully written, carefully ordered, and meticulously indexed – about the clubs, theatres, and other places of resort and entertainment that attracted the aspiring authors, journalists, artists, and young professional men of London in the 1850s and 1860s. It also offers a few glimpses of the early, struggling years of Yates’s married life, which make a refreshing contrast to the unrelenting catalogue of his public successes, culminating in the tinsel luxury of his last twenty years. With his wide curiosity, his taste for the raffish and outre, his fund of anecdote, and his combination of undignified self-revelation with touchy amour-propre, Yates can remind us of Boswell, as well as his more immediate mentor, Dickens. His autobiography is perhaps his best book.
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Its nearest rival, in my view, is his first novel, Broken to Harness (1864). Written, according to Yates, to fill an unexpected vacancy for a novel in Temple Bar – of which he was editor – Broken to Harness exhibits in their freshest and most engaging dress many of the subjects that reappear, and become worn threadbare, in his later novels. In particular, as the son of distinguished theatrical people, Yates likes to spice his fictions with thinly disguised, gossipy allusions to goings-on in the real world of theatre and opera, and in the genteel bohemia where successful performing artists, writers and painters rubbed shoulders with public servants, professional men, and gentlemen of leisure in search of the glamour of greasepaint and inkstains. This is his version of the milieu of Thackeray’s Pendennis, and in many of his novels -though not Broken to Harness – it is set back in more or less the same period, the period when Yates himself was first turned loose in London. Clubland is represented by the Retrenchment (Yates’s usual alias for the Reform), the True Blue (Carlton), the Minerva (Athenaeum), and others. There are knowledgeable accounts in several novels, including Broken to Harness, of most facets of journalism and of the sporting world of racetracks and cardsharps. And in Broken to Harness, and a few later novels, Yates also presents an insider’s account of public-service life: his Tin Tax office recalls the Weights and Measures department in his post-office colleague Trollope’s novel, The Three Clerks.
The central inspiration for Broken to Harness is journalistic. In the early 1860s – partly as a result of the spate of juicy divorce cases that followed the Marriage and Divorce Act of 1857 – the problems of marriage and the allure of marital infidelity became matters of acute public curiosity and anxiety. ‘Fast’ young women were widely accused of modelling themselves on the queens of the demi-monde who seemed to monopolize male eyes on the Row and in the Park. Landseer’s equestrian portrait of Catherine Walters, alias ’Anonyma’, alias ’Skittles’, was hung at the Royal Academy in 1861 under the title ’The Taming of the Shrew’ and immediately acquired a further sobriquet: ‘The Pretty Horse-Breaker’.21 Thereafter, for a time, she and all her sisters became pretty horse-breakers. Yates’s brainwave was to write a novel about a ‘bona-fide horse-breaker’ who actually does earn her living by breaking horses, and who is not ‘a daughter of Shame’ such as we find ’openly described or broadly hinted at in many novels’. His Kate Mellon is also the subject of an Academy Portrait in which the horse is more lifelike than its rider. Kate, too, is fast, slangy, and ostentatiously addicted to such mannish pleasures as tobacco, madeira, and Bell’s Life: in all of which she epitomizes the ‘horsey’ woman of the period. But since she is chaste – resentful of the merest hint of a double entendre – and has acquired ‘a reputation which was equivocal simply from her profession’, Yates wishes her other faults to be judged leniently, without stereotyped prejudice.
A similar manly tolerance appears to embrace Alice Townshend, who also smokes, rides, and drives a dogcart, and Barbara Churchill, who, without quite being ’fast’ herself, enjoys a small amount of fastness in others and proves liberated enough to walk out on her husband when mutual jealousy, an uncongenial manner of life, and an interfering mother-in-law make their marriage no longer to her taste. In affecting sympathy for the fast woman, or the one driven to compromising courses, Yates is adhering to the slightly daring, cynical, man-of-the-world point of view which characterizes the developing action of most of his novels, and which is clearly meant to contrast with the prudery of ‘goody-goody’ women novelists of the period. Typically, though, he takes pains to concoct a finale in which more conservative standards of feminine behaviour are implicitly affirmed. Kate Mellon kills herself horse-breaking, and the puzzle as to what sort of man might credibly and properly marry her – ‘break her to harness’ – is forgotten in the pathos of her deathbed. Death also takes Alice Townshend’s aged husband, leaving her free to marry her true love, Captain Lyster, to whom her loyalty will be unambiguous. Barbara Churchill, as she and her husband Frank go to take a last farewell of Kate, impulsively throws herself on his mercy only minutes after rejecting his cold demand that she return, penitent, to his hearth: ‘We cannot,’ she gushes, ‘go into the presence of Death with these wild words on our lips, this wicked rage at our hearts! Frank, Frank my darling! fancy if either of us were summoned while feeling so to each other. It is a horrible madness, this; a wild inexplicable torture; but let it end – oh, let it end! I will pray for forgiveness; I will be humble; I will do all you wish! Oh, Frank, Frank, take me once more to yourself!’ The woman, of course, has to surrender first – though Frank at least has the grace, immediately after, to ask her in her turn to forgive him. A bequest and a plum job in the Tin Tax Office ensure that the material discomforts of their previous married life will no longer put a strain on their relationship.
In a novel full of fast women, Yates strongly hints that his own belle ideale is Emily Murray, who wins the heart of the young Yatesian-Trollopian public servant James Prescott: ‘A plump rosy-rounded bud of woman; a thoroughly English girl, void of affectation, conceit, and trickery; clean, clear, honest, wholesome, and loving . . . what a pleasure it was to feel that you were talking to a lady! to know that no slanginess would offend the eye [sic] no questionable argot grate upon the ear . …’
Broken to Harness is subtitled ‘A Story of English Domestic Life’. At a time when the ’sensation novel’ was all the rage, and domesticism was looked upon as the wholesome alternative, Yates no doubt felt it politic to nail his colours to the approved mast. But the plot centring on the machinations of Mr Simnel and the mysterious parentage of Kate Mellon is tortuous – if hardly gory – enough for a sensation novel, and most of Yates’s later novels rely heavily on the stock sensational themes of murder, bigamy, and illicit passion.
Running the Gauntlet, Yates’s second novel (1865), reproduces many of the elements that had proved popular in Broken to Harness – particularly the scenes of theatrical, club, and upper-bohemian life. But with its rather Byronic hero, who has been demoralized by a squalid love affair and a weakness for ‘Kismet . . . the Mohammedan doctrine of fatalism’, and its winsome and virtuous heroine, married – like many of her successors -to a scoundrel, it marks a significant step away from the topical domestic realism of Broken to Harness towards the sensationalism of most of Yates’s later novels. The hero, Colonel Alsager, first sees the heroine, Lady Mitford, at the opening night of a play based on a current marital scandal. Later, in an episode decidedly reminiscent of Broken to Harness, he saves Lady Mitford’s life after the ponies pulling her phaeton have bolted. But in contrast to Kate Mellon (and to Alsager’s former love, who has married a rich man and, having blossomed out as an equestrienne in the Park, has acquired a deservedly dubious reputation), Lady Mitford is not ‘horsey’; if she had been, Alsager reflects, she might have controlled both her ponies and her husband more effectively. Charles Mitford had been her childhood sweetheart down in Devon, but by the time she married him she knew that he had taken to gambling and had even, before his unexpected accession to a baronetcy, been forced into exile after forging his name to a bill to pay a gambling debt: she had been romantic enough to believe that her love might reform him. Mitford neglects her and takes up with Alsager’s former mistress, now a widow. Alsager predictably falls in love with Lady Mitford, but, in a chapter entitled ’Love and Duty’, is gently rebuffed when he avows his passion. Mitford pursues his mistress to Baden (the first of many German settings in Yates’s novels), where he is killed in a duel with a Russian prince whom she had planned to marry. His widow, very consolate, is left free to plight her troth to Alsager. Along the way the unlamented Mitford had been blackmailed by a man who knew of a second bill to which he had forged his name and who had been trying to wrest it from the grasp of a mysterious cat-like woman, once in love with Mitford but now threatening him with the bill only in a vain effort to keep him faithful to his wife. The woman proves to be an actress and is later transformed, dizzyingly, from vengeful sensational villainess to toast of both the London and the New York stage: her appearances in Shakespeare at the Theatre Royal, Hatton Garden revive that house’s flagging fortunes, and at the end of the novel, with Alsager’s help, she becomes proprietor of the Parthenium Theatre.
I have given the plot of Running the Gauntlet in some detail because so many of its ingredients recur, often almost identically, in Yates’s later novels. Charles Mitford, the scion of a good family who becomes gambler and criminal, reappears with only slight modifications as Lionel Brakespere in Land at Last, Ramsay Caird in The Forlorn Hope, Stewart Routh in Black Sheep, Geoffrey Challenor in The Rock Ahead, and, several novels later, as Lord Pytchley in A Waiting Race, Philip Vane in Castaway, Lord Forestfield in Two, by Tricks, and George Heath in A Silent Witness. The women who are misguided enough to marry these wastrels are less uniform in character:
T.H.S. Escott observed that Yates’s ‘general method’ in his novels was to ‘select a strongly defined feminine character . . . and group round her incidents and personages, as the evolution of his characters or the unfolding of his plot required’, and this is reflected in the variety and individuality of his central female characters. But even so, aspects of the character and situation of Lady Mitford are replicated almost exactly in those of Lady Forestfield in Two, by Tricks (1874): Lady Forestfield, too, is unhappily married and is first sighted by the hero (who had himself had a guilty love affair in the past) at a theatre in London. Similarly, Lizzie Ponsford, the minor heroine of Running the Gauntlet, crops up again as Gertrude Lloyd, alias Grace Lambert, the heroine of The Rock Ahead: Gertrude, after fleeing from her husband, a murderer, becomes a famous opera singer and revives the flagging fortunes of the Grand Scandinavian Opera, whose singers and audience had deserted it en masse in favour of the rival Regent Theatre. The real-life model for this situation was the salvation of Covent Garden by Jenny Lind after the defection of its stars, and most of its audience, to Her Majesty’s in the late 1840s.
The half-dozen novels that followed Running the Gauntlet during the next four years show much the same mixture of social realism and romantic improbability. In the best of them, for example Kissing the Rod (1866) and Wrecked in Port (1869), the sensational absurdities are only incidental to the central interest, which lies essentially in the domain of social satire and even, at a superficial level, social history. But most of Yates’s novels, from Land at Last (1866) onward, display an increasing reliance on well-worn sensational themes and a corresponding carelessness about details – not only realistic details of setting and action, but even important details of characterization.
A number of the novels published between 1866 and 1870 acquire a certain interest from the suspicion that they were written in part, and one of them in toto, by Frances Hoey; but disregarding, for the moment, the question of possible joint-authorship, three of the novels deserve some comment in their own right: Land at Last, Black Sheep(1867), and Wrecked in Port (1869). As I have said, Land at Last and Black Sheep, along with Broken to Harness, were probably the best known of Yates’s novels in his own lifetime;22 they are also the first, and most original and exciting, of his many ’sensation novels’. Wrecked in Port is interesting for its divergences from both his usual social settings and his usual sensational plot-materials.
Land at Last had its origin, according to Yates, in a story told him by the painter W.P. Frith, R.A. at a time when Yates was in ’almost daily communion with [Frith] and other brethren of the brush’. But the incident that precipitates the main plot – the rescue of a young woman nearly dead from cold and starvation by a young artist – also suggests Henri Murger’s Scenes de la vie de Boheme, one of Yates’s favourite books,23 and the Titian Sketching Club, outside which the rescue takes place, is described as ‘the nearest thing to the Vie de Boheme of Paris of Henri Murger that we can show’. Subsequently the rescued woman, Margaret Dacre, becomes the artist’s model. She has deep violet eyes, very pale skin, long red hair, and thin lips with a bitter curve. The artist, Geoff Ludlow, tells her that the ’pre-Raphaelite fellows’ would be delighted to ‘get studies’ of her, and when he includes her in one of his own pictures – of a modern ’swell’ turning away from the eager gaze of a coquette to a governess sitting bashfully in an obscure corner – an artist friend thinks that he must be ’going in for the P.R.B. business’ himself. Margaret Dacre’s story is that she had been seduced and abandoned by an army officer in North Wales. Geoff falls in love with and marries her in spite of her past. They set up house in the village of Lowbar (Highgate) and after a proper interval produce a baby. But Margaret, ’as cold as ice, and as heartless as a stone’, is bored with suburbia and indifferent to both husband and baby.
Her state of mind at this stage is represented with considerable power and subtlety. She feels that Geoff deserves her love and her inability to love him makes her ’half angry with herself’, pricks what remains of her ‘conscience’. The treatment of the Magdalen in the novels she reads fills her with wonder and scorn:
There was a great run upon the Magdalen just then in that style of literature; writers were beginning to be what is called ’out-spoken’, and young ladies familiarised with the outward life of the species, as exhibited in the Park and at the Opera, read with avidity of their diamonds and their ponies, of the interior of the menage, and of their spirited conversations with the cream of the male aristocracy. A deference to British virtue, and a desire to stand well with the librarian’s subscribers, compelled an amount of repentance in the third volume which Margaret scarcely believed to be in accordance with truth. The remembrance of childhood’s days, which made the ponies pall, and rendered the diamonds disgusting, – the inherent natural goodness, which took to eschewing of crinoline and the adoption of serge, which swamped the colonel in a storm of virtuous indignation, and brought the curate safely riding over the billows, – were agreeable incidents, but scarcely, she thought, founded on fact. Her own experience at least had taught her otherwise ….
It turns out that Margaret is still in love with her seducer – and passionately so, despite her supposed coldness and heartlessness. The chance discovery that the seducer, Lionel Brakespeare, is in fact the younger son of a lord, disgraced and banished to Australia but now back in England, makes her recognize that it is he she still loves, that ’her infatuation about him was wilder, madder than it had ever been before’. If Geoff had had a ‘nature stronger and more violent than her own’, he might have held her by the ‘mingled charm and authority, the fierceness, the delight, the fear of a great passion, so preoccupying that she would have had no time for retrospect’; but his ‘hand’ is too ‘gentle and tender’ and its ‘touch had no potency for the perverted nature’. She abandons Geoff to return to the more virile embrace of Lionel, who, she now reveals, had married her before deserting her. Not surprisingly, this bolt from the blue strikes Geoff senseless, and he is still too ill to see her when, some months later, having been disowned and spurned by Lionel, she dies of rheumatic fever. On her deathbed she becomes, disappointingly, the conventional penitent Magdalen she had previously despised: her dying breath gasps out nothing but prayers for forgiveness and blessings on Geoff. Consolation awaits Geoff in the person of Annie Maurice, another Yatesian heroine of the Rosa Murray-Lady Mitford type, fond of riding but not at all ’horsey’ or ’fast’, and with no delicious, disreputable secrets in her past.
The reviewer of Land at Last in the Athenaeum praised the novel’s healthy tone, which he saw exemplified not only in the fate of Margaret Dacre but also in the immediate conversion, by love, of one of Geoff Ludlow’s artist friends from womanizing bohemian to devoted husband.24 For a modern reader, however, the most distinctive and memorable aspect of the novel is its ability to enter sympathetically and convincingly into the emotions of an unconventional and supposedly immoral woman. Yates had already shown his penchant for racy, unorthodox young women in Broken to Harness, and the resolute, independent, sometimes slightly ruthless heroines also constitute the chief strength of several of the novels that followed Land at Last – notably Kissing the Rod and The Rock Ahead. Some of these heroines bear a certain resemblance both to M.E. Braddon’s ’horsey’ young ladies (such as Aurora Floyd) and to Wilkie Collins’s hardheaded adventurers (such as Madeline Vanstone in No Name). Collins, however, allows his women a good deal more moral latitude, and lets them off a good deal more lightly at the end, than Yates does his. The most extreme example is probably Lydia Gwilt in Collins’s Armadale (1866), an ex-prostitute and possibly a murderer who almost atones for her sins and crimes by her fanatical loyalty to her husband.
Lydia, the villainous heroine of Collins’s most sensational novel, was probably the model for Harriet Routh, the central character of Yates’s best known sensation novel, Black Sheep. Harriet too becomes involved in a criminal conspiracy that includes murder, and like Lydia is largely redeemed, in the reader’s eyes, by the selfless conjugal fidelity which alone led her into crime. Unlike either Lydia or Margaret Dacre, however, Harriet has no sexual sins to expiate: when she married the scoundrely Stewart Routh she was barely out of school – where she had been a prize pupil – and had had no experience of men. But although, in this respect, Yates obviously plays safer than Collins, his choice of the wife of a murderer, professional thief and gambler as effective heroine of his novel does show a degree of boldness, which the reviewers clearly appreciated. It is paralleled to some extent by his choice as hero of a young man of good family who, like Stewart Routh, has gone astray, been disowned by his father, and become involved in crime – though unwittingly.
Both the plot of Black Sheep and much of the dialogue and description are unusually melodramatic, even for Yates. They show the unmistakable influence of Dickens and Wilkie Collins (and perhaps also, as I shall suggest shortly, of Mrs Cashel Hoey). Some of the minor characters are straight out of Dickens, the most obvious being Jim Swain, ‘Strike-a-light Jim’, the vagabond Cockney boy, who at one point even refers to his having been ’moved on’.25 Jim, rather surprisingly, is addicted to penny romances, and many of the women and servants in the novel are avid readers of sensational serials. They, presumably, would have tingled at Harriet Routh’s muted exclamations, ’An awful risk! A great risk!’, as she hints at the nature of her husband’s criminal plot; and they would have warmed at once to the ’dark, bad heart’, the ’fierce, vindictive, passionate, sensual nature’ of Stewart Routh, whose only virtue is his love for his wife and who eventually betrays even her. The popular success Yates achieved with the novel, and particularly with Harriet, affords an interesting illustration of the mid-Victorian reverence for, and implicit conviction of, feminine constancy. But it also attests the potent appeal of sentimental and melodramatic stereotypes: for in comparison with Margaret Dacre and the best of Yates’s ‘domestic’ heroines, Harriet is almost wholly a one-track character, with no real inner life or emotional conflicts, only a set of predictable and extravagant responses to circumstances which preclude any variety or complexity of response, and which are nearly always out of her control.
Of the dozen or so novels Yates wrote after Black Sheep, only Wrecked in Port and Dr, Wainwright’s Patient make any significant additions to his range of plots and character-types. In Dr, Wainwright’s Patient Yates gave vent to his sense of humour by naming all the characters after post-office colleagues, and one of the characters, accordingly, is a diminutive, soft-voiced, self-effacing curate, Mr Trollope. But the real Trollope pervades the novel much more conspicuously than the little curate. When Wrecked in Port began its serial run in All the Year Round, Trollope’s Phineas Finn had nearly completed its long unfolding in the pages of Saint Pauls, and Yates’s novel obviously owes to Phineas Finn its young hero who stands for parliament in the Liberal interest, is loved and encouraged in his political ambitions by a titled lady older than himself, and eventually marries a young woman of relatively humble station. The election scenes and some of the dialogues between the hero and the titled lady are decidedly reminiscent of the corresponding scenes in Phineas Finn: indeed they have the flavour of allusion, of intentional and advertised imitation, bordering on parody, which also spices Yates’s borrowings from Dickens (in Wrecked in Port one character is a bird-stuffer), and which is a part of the topicality of his novels, his journalistic habit of enlivening his fiction with descriptions of real people, places, and events under a thin disguise.
Unlike Phineas Finn, the hero of Wrecked in Port has an alternative career, as a journalist, which will enable him to support himself while sitting as a member of parliament – though for good measure his prosperity is further enhanced when the young lady he marries opportunely inherits £10,000. The account of Walter Jolly’s introduction to the world of journalism and his gradual rise to prominence is only one of many in Yates’s novels. All such accounts obviously draw to some extent on Yates’s own experience (as well as on his memories of Pendennis), but the settings for the journalistic episodes in Wrecked in Port –including the neighbourhood of the Cracksideum Theatre (the Adelphi), a Covent Garden coffee house, and Leicester Square – are given in a good deal more detail than those in other novels: so much so that they could almost be extracted from the novels as journalistic sketches in their own right. Wrecked in Port, like all Yates’s best novels, is also notable for its central female characters. Lady Caroline Mansergh inevitably suffers by comparison to Trollope’s Lady Laura Kennedy: in particular, by playing down the sexual element in her affection for Walter Jolly to such an extent that Walter remains unaware of it, Yates robs their relationship of most of the ambiguity and embarrassing poignancy which distinguish Lady Laura’s and Phineas Finn’s. But the fits of ‘ennui’ (a common female complaint in Yates) from which Lady Caroline seeks relief in the breezy youth of Walter and vicarious participation in politics are psychologically convincing and sympathetically drawn.
The most interesting female character, however, is Marian, Walter’s first love, who stays at Helmingham when he goes up to London to make his future. Just before Walter receives a journalistic appointment that will enable him to marry her, she accepts a proposal of marriage from a rich man much older than herself. Walter is enraged and deeply hurt, and the hatred becomes reciprocal when Walter and Marian’s husband find themselves rival candidates for the parliamentary seat of Helmingham. After her husband’s death Marian nevertheless offers herself and her fortune to her first lover; but he has by now fallen in love with another girl. Marian, loveless and pestered by fortune-hunters and sycophants, ages prematurely. Up to the time when she decides to jilt Walter, Marian is an impressive and in many ways likeable young woman. She has one great fault – a passion for money – but this, though apparently innate, had been aggravated by her family’s inability to afford a London doctor at the time when her father lay on his deathbed. Her insistence that Walter make his way in the world before she will marry him is not simply coldhearted and mercenary but derives from familiar acquaintance with the miseries of poverty, particularly for a woman. Recalling her mother’s humiliations, she writes to Walter: ‘I am stronger-minded happily – I wonder if you like to know that I am, or whether you, too, prefer the weaker, the more womanly type, as people say, forgetting that most of the endurance, and a good deal of the work, in this world, is our “womanly” inheritance . . . .’ But although this evidently makes sense to Yates as well as to Walter, it conveys to the practised reader of Yates (and of most mid-Victorian novelists) the unmistakable message that yet another attractive and intelligent young woman will be denied any happy endings because she has dared to think for herself and think practically. After her marriage, Marian, ‘bored out of her life’, takes to politics as a distraction in the same way as Lady Caroline had; but in Marian’s case we are left in no doubt as to the true cause of this unwomanly proclivity: ‘The evil passion of ambition, which had always been dormant in her, overpowered by the evil passion of avarice, began, now that the cravings of its sister vice were appeased, to clamour aloud and make itself heard.’
Yates’s novels after Wrecked in Port are nearly all routine tales of murder, revenge, bigamy, and mysterious family secrets, interspersed with his characteristic semi-documentary sketches of real-life places and social groups that particularly interested him. Occasionally he achieves a semblance of freshness by branching out into exotic settings, such as America in The Impending Sword and A Waiting Race, or into stock sensational themes that he hadn’t tried before, such as insanity and lunatic asylums (DrWainwright’s Patient) and faked suicide by drowning (The Yellow Flag). Dr Wainwright’s Patient also introduces one more heroine whose indiscretions and ambitions are presented realistically and not unsympathetically and who, remaining technically innocent, is allowed a happy ending: she is a milliner, who ‘walks out with’ and is attracted to a young gentleman of limited means but is offered a comfortable establishment by another gentleman, richer and older, if she will become his ‘lover’. The ‘position’ the older man offers her is ‘by no means new to the girl’s mind’; indeed, Yates adds, it is ‘unknown to a very small minority of innocents’ and is ‘regarded by young women in Daisy’s walk of life as one rather to be envied than shunned’. There will be no need, as the man himself points out, for him to ‘carry her off’ or have her ‘seized by my men in black masks as she walks home to her lodgings’: ‘This is the latter half of the nineteenth century, when such actions are not common.’ Unlike a young lady, Daisy knows what it is to be sexually accosted on the street – as an actual episode in the novel demonstrates. Far from being shocked by the older man’s proposition, she almost decides to accept the comfortable establishment and become his ‘lover’. But, just in time, she discovers the true state of her heart when the young gentleman falls ill, and she atones for her meditated betrayal of him, and of herself, by nursing him back to health. The young man comes into some money and marries her.
Taken as a whole, Yates’s fiction signally failed to fulfil the promise of his first three or four novels. Indeed, among the novelists of his age whose work can still be read with enjoyment and with a degree of serious historical and critical interest, he stands out as an example of talents that were never fully realized, nor even allowed proper scope. His talents were obviously not of the same order as those of George Eliot or Trollope or Meredith, the ‘major’ novelists who emerged during the late 1850s and 1860s: he had no serious and coherent vision of life to communicate. But with his unusual knowledge of and relish for out-of-the-way social groups and their distinctive argots, his journalist’s eye for the topical and power of vivid, succinct description, and his imaginative sympathy for deviant, even lawless lifestyles, Yates certainly had it in him to write at least one or two really memorable novels, as Wilkie Collins did and as Mrs Craik, Charlotte M. Yonge, M.E. Braddon, Mrs Henry Wood, Ouida, and Rhoda Broughton all did. None of these produced a great novel, but each possessed, or developed, a personal style and vision that bore fruit in at least one work – The Woman in White, The Moonstone, John Halifax, Gentleman, The Heir of Redclyffe, Aurora Floyd, East Lynne, Strathmore, Not Wisely but Too Well – which can confidently be classed both as original and as better than any subsequent imitations. By contrast, Yates, for all the fresh and provocative ideas that went into his fiction, wrote no novel which, as a whole, quite carries conviction, quite sustains a consistent and compelling illusion of reality; he was also an inveterate imitator, sometimes an ingenious and creative but more often a flat and slavish one.
Yates failed to do himself justice not so much because he lacked talent and originality as because he didn’t take himself, or the craft of fiction, seriously enough, perhaps didn’t take life itself seriously enough, to concentrate his abundant energy and imagination in a single endeavour, a single personal statement. The other novelists I have named all made the very best of their talents; Yates reserved his for his journalistic work. The lavish spread of interests, the non-committal, rather impersonal volatility that served him so well as a journalist certainly invigorated his novels, but also left them without the intensity and passion necessary to raise a novel safely above the level of triviality. Much of his fiction remains readable, and Broken to Harness and perhaps Running the Gauntlet and Land at Last almost qualify as serious popular novels. They are interesting enough to have deserved something better than total erasure from the pages of literary history. Yates himself, however, would not have been surprised at their fate – would probably not even have cared.
* * * * *
In discussing Yates’s novels I have tacitly assumed that they can be regarded as entirely his own work; but the story that Mrs (Frances) Cashel Hoey, another minor novelist, collaborated on four of them –Land at Last (1866), The Forlorn Hope (1867), Black Sheep (1867), The Rock Ahead (1868) – and wrote the whole of a fifth – A Righted Wrong (1870) – certainly cannot be ignored or perfunctorily rejected; and although, on the balance of evidence, I cannot accept it I believe that the facts need to be set down, not only for the sake of bibliographical accuracy but also because of the curious light the whole matter throws on Yates’s qualities as a novelist. Over and above this the story is well worth telling for the insight it may provide, particularly if it is true, into the ways of the Victorian literary market-place.
All of the evidence for and against the story comes from third persons, not from Yates and Hoey themselves. Nobody, as far as I know, claims to have precisely identified Hoey’s contributions, though one witness implies that he did so. My own reading of the novels in question, and of other novels by both Yates and Hoey, has elicited no clear evidence -stylistic, thematic, or structural – of joint authorship, but, while leaving me highly sceptical, it has not persuaded me that the possibility can be completely ruled out. A written confession by either Yates or Mrs Cashel Hoey might conclusively prove the case for collaboration, but I believe that nothing short of this – not even a manuscript partly in Mrs Hoey’s hand – would fully settle the question.
Before looking at the kinds of evidence presented by the novels, and the reasons why it is so unhelpful, I shall briefly summarize the nature and sources of the charges against Yates and Hoey. According to printed comments made over forty years later, the story of the alleged collaboration began circulating contemporaneously with the publication of the novels themselves. These comments were made, in two separate books, by T.H.S. Escott who, from the late 1860s on, had been one of Yates’s closest friends and most trusted colleagues and who had also known Mrs Hoey at the time. In one of the books, Escott mentions Yates’s old enemy, Trollope, as one of the people who spread the story. Escott speculates that Yates may even have told Trollope of his habit of ‘unfold[ing] the plots, incidents, and even portions of the dialogue’ of his novels to Hoey and inviting her criticisms and ‘suggestions for improvement not only in single episodes, but in the structure of the book’ – suggestions which Mrs Hoey, ’of course’, often ’submitted in writing’ after having been asked for them ’conversationally’.26 Here Escott may appear to be unwittingly lending a degree of credibility to the very story he is denying, but in another book, two years earlier, he had dismissed the story quite unequivocally as ‘pure fable’ and stated that he had heard a ‘detailed denial’ of it from both Yates and Hoey.27
By the time Escott took up the cudgels on their behalf, Yates and Hoey were both dead, and the story of their surreptitious collaboration, told from a distinctly hostile point of view, had at last appeared in print, in William Tinsley’s Random Recollections of an Old Publisher (1900).28 Tinsley had published three of the five novels in which he alleged that Hoey had had a hand, but he asserted that he had remained unaware of the collaboration until Hoey, feeling that she had not received her fair share of the financial rewards, told him of it herself. According to Tinsley, Yates had the privilege, as an established author, of sending his manuscripts direct to the printers, without first submitting them to the publisher, and the printers dishonestly colluded with Yates and Hoey in concealing the joint authorship from him. In the case of Black Sheep, which before being published in book form by Tinsley was serialized in Charles Dickens’s journal All the Year Round, Tinsley conjectures that Yates must have told Dickens that the two-thirds of the manuscript which were in Hoey’s handwriting had been penned by an amanuensis. No such explanation would have been required in respect of Land at Last, which though published not by Tinsley but by Chapman and Hall, had previously been serialized in Temple Bar, edited by Yates; but Tinsley does not speculate how Yates accounted for the presence of two different handwritings in the manuscript of The Forlorn Hope, which was also published by Chapman and Hall but apparently without prior serialization.
The credibility of Tinsley’s story rests chiefly on his having been in a position to corroborate Hoey’s account of the conspiracy, by checking the manuscripts of at least four of the five novels on which she claimed to have collaborated. There are, besides, marked similarities of plot, theme, and language between the five novels and some of those which Hoey published under her own name about the same time. And significantly the novel that Tinsley asserted had been written wholly by Hoey, A Righted Wrong, is the one that most closely resembles a novel openly avowed by Hoey: both A Righted Wrong and Hoey’s A House of Cards –published two years earlier – recount the heavily fatalistic tale of a lady’s vain attempt to immolate the shames and sorrows of a disastrous first marriage in a prosperous second one, and in both novels the lady’s unsuspected enemy is a precocious youth, innately malignant, vengeful, and utterly ruthless.
Such resemblances as these, however, could simply indicate that Yates’s novels were ’influenced’ by Hoey’s – as hers undoubtedly were by his. A House of Cards, Hoey’s first novel, was serialized in Tinsley’s Magazine of which Yates, already an established novelist, was editor; and in these circumstances A House of Cards may well have benefited as much from Yates’s advice, or even from his editorial pen, as he, in his own novels, benefited from Hoey’s. If Hoey had indeed written parts of Land at Last and The Forlorn Hope – both of which antedate A House of Cards – then it would be surprising if the plot formulae and the style she adopted for her first independent venture, destined for publication in a magazine edited by Yates, were not to some extent modelled on his (though A House of Cards in my opinion altogether lacks the journalistic flair and vigour of style that distinguish Yates at his best, and its plot, for all its Yatesian ingredients, hardly ever displays even Yates’s rather limited and evasive concern for moral issues).
A House of Cards makes no attempt to poach upon Yates’s most characteristic social preserves, such as the bohemia of struggling authors, painters, and theatrical people, the gambling dens and racetracks of England, and the life of students and other natives of Germany (as well as that of English visitors). These are worlds that Yates knew and loved and that he returned to in nearly all of his novels, including four of the five in which Hoey is alleged to have had a hand. In her own novels Hoey shows no interest in any of them, and it is most unlikely that she had any close familiarity with any of them. This being so, I find it impossible to credit Tinsley’s assertion that she wrote ‘quite two-thirds’ of Black Sheep, which in addition to its typically Yatesian settings exhibits his characteristic use of Dickensian characters and of imaginary names for places, literary journals, etc. (‘Cubittopolis’, ‘The Piccadilly’) and even introduces one of his favourite topics – the unfashionableness of beards during the period of his young manhood, a topic that comes-up in his Recollections and Experiences as well as many of his novels.29 For similar reasons (and because, as I have already suggested, they seem to evolve so naturally from Yates’s earlier novels) I also doubt that Hoey can have played more than a very minor part in the writing of Land at Last or A Rock Ahead. Her contribution to The Forlorn Hope, in which characteristically Yatesian settings, themes, and names are less pervasive, could have been larger: its most interesting character, the ennui-haunted Lady Kilsyth, has her ennui and much else in common with the heroine of A House of Cards. Equally, however, Yates could have written the whole of The Forlorn Hope himself.
Only A Righted Wrong, the novel that Tinsley credited to Hoey in toto, dispenses almost completely with the settings and other mannerisms that I have mentioned as Yates’s trademarks. Apart from one or two characters who recall characters in earlier novels of which Yates’s authorship is not disputed, and one or two short bursts of obviously masculine slang, the only distinctively masculine and Yatesian touch in the novel is an authorial aside about ‘the now celebrated, but then little heard-of Grammar school of Lowebarre’, which the novel’s precocious villain attends. ‘Lowebarre’, or ‘Lowbar’, is Yates’s fanciful name for Highgate and serves as a setting or is referred to in several of his novels. The description of the history and customs of Lowebarre Grammar School in A Righted Wrong unmistakably draws on an insider’s knowledge of Highgate School, which Yates himself attended: if it was not actually written by Yates, the facts on which it is based must almost certainly have emanated from him and have been included as a kind of certificate of his authorship of the novel. In a conspiracy like his and Hoey’s such stratagems would have been necessary
Possible signs of Hoey in A Righted Wrong are easy enough to detect once we begin to entertain the idea that she may have written it. The close similarities between its plot and that of her earlier novel A House of Cards I have already mentioned. In presenting the characters and establishing the precise historical period, descriptions of changing fashions in women’s costume play an unusually large part and observations of changing male fashions a correspondingly small one in comparison with most of Yates’s novels (though as a gossip columnist and a son of the theatre Yates had a good eye for both male and female fashions). The country-house setting of A Righted Wrong, in no way differentiated from that of most Victorian novels of upper middle-class life, is more typical of Hoey than of Yates. The choice of Melbourne as the scene of important events prior to the opening of the main action of the novel may reflect Hoey’s connexion with Australia, through her husband’s close association with Gavan Duffy, one of the leading political figures in Victoria (an association that led, soon after, to Mr Hoey’s appointment as secretary to the Victorian agent-general in London); but neither Yates nor Hoey ever visited Australia, and there is no attempt to particularize the Australian setting either in A Righted Wrong or in the later Yates novel Nobody’s Fortune. All in all, the internal evidence for attributing A Righted Wrong to Hoey would carry little weight – indeed would pass unnoticed – but for Tinsley’s assertion that it, and it alone, was written entirely by her: the fact that it shows fewer definitive signs of Yates’s hand than any of the other novels on which collaboration allegedly occurred certainly strengthens Tinsley’s whole case but by no means establishes it beyond doubt.
One minor fact that might be interpreted as lending weight to Tinsley’s allegations is the lack of any dedication on the title page of A Righted Wrong: all of Yates’s other novels were dedicated to mentors, friends, or admirers. It may also be significant that A Righted Wrong, alone among Yates’s novels, appears never to have been reprinted: this could have been because Mrs Hoey’s authorship of it had become so widely known or rumoured that any reissue, whether or not her name appeared as author, would have been potentially embarrassing for both Yates and Tinsley.
There remains the question why, if Tinsley’s story was true and he had proof that it was true, he waited thirty years to ventilate it. Part of the answer might be that rather than run the risk of antagonizing a rich and influential man and perhaps provoking an action for defamation, he preferred to delay his revelations till after Yates’s death. The simpler answer, however, is that on his own admission Tinsley had acquiesced in the alleged conspiracy between Yates and Hoey, indeed, as far as A Righted Wrong was concerned, had actually participated in it himself; for although he claims to have been outraged when Hoey told him about it, even to the point of meditating legal action against her and Yates, as well as against the printers, he did not scruple to pay Hoey ’a good sum of money’ to complete A Righted Wrong, nor to pass it off, when completed, as Yates’s work because, as he ingenuously explains, a book with Yates’s name to it would sell twice as well as one with Hoey’s. By the time his memoirs appeared Tinsley had long since retired from publishing and had nothing to lose, commercially at any rate, if his curious tale presented his own conduct in a somewhat ambiguous light. But the contradiction between his professed disapproval of the conspiracy and his readiness to profit by it himself hardly strengthens one’s faith in his strict veracity.
Nor, for that matter, does the personal grudge against Yates that he candidly acknowledges: at the time, presumably, when Tinsley was sliding towards the bankruptcy into which he finally tumbled in 1878, he approached Yates, by then making ‘about ten thousand pounds a year’ out of The World, for assistance. He was fobbed off with what he considered an insultingly meagre return for the great contributions he had made to Yates’s early career as novelist and journalist. In his eyes Yates’s meanness and ingratitude on this occasion obviously paralleled his scurvy treatment of Hoey. But even if Hoey had felt less than generously treated, even if she had come to resent an arrangement under which Yates received all of the credit and most of the profit for the work of her own pen, Tinsley does not make it clear why she should have chosen to dissolve a partnership which, however inequitable, had at least provided her with a source of income that she presumably found useful. It also seems surprising, if Mrs Hoey betrayed the conspiracy, and if Yates, as Tinsley’s account predicates, knew she had done so, that she and Yates should have remained friends and that she should later have become a frequent contributor to The World.30 This part of Tinsley’s story, reflecting an animus against Yates that presumably stemmed from what Tinsley considered Yates’s dilatoriness and extravagance as editor of Tinsley’s Magazine,31 is a good deal harder to swallow than Escott’s account of a partnership in which Hoey’s role was that of an unpaid adviser rather than a paid collaborator: of such a role, whatever she may have told Escott, one feels that she might well have been indiscreet enough to complain, or equally to boast – even to Tinsley.
On the whole, however, it is no more possible, on the available evidence, to dismiss Tinsley’s story out of hand than it is to accept it unquestioningly.
- See, for example, Raymund Fitzsimons, The Baron of Piccadilly (London, 1967), pp.152-8, and Albert Borowitz, ‘The Unpleasantness at the Garrick Club’, Victorian Newsletter, 53 (Spring 1978):16-23. A sequel to the quarrel, involving the successful attempt by Hepworth Dixon and J.C. Jeaffreson of the Athenaeum, allies of Yates’s during the Garrick affray, to keep Thackeray off the National Shakespeare Committee (formed in 1863 to arrange celebrations for the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s birth) is related in The Letters and Private Papers of W.M. Thackeray, ed. Gordon N. Ray (London, 1946), 4:416-17. [↩]
- The article was summarized, and castigated, by the Saturday Review: see ’Newspaper Gossip’, Sat. Rev., 9 (23 June 1860):799-800. [↩]
- See his Recollections and Experiences,1:278, where he asserts that his column ‘The Lounger at the Clubs’ inaugurated ’that style of “personal” journalism which is so very much to be deprecated and so enormously popular’. T.H.S. Escott (Masters of English Journalism, London, 1911, pp.260-5) and H.R. Fox Bourne (English Newspapers, London, 1887, 2:300-308) both divide the honour of having invented the new style between Yates and Grenville Murray. Escott does, however, credit Yates with the invention of the ’interview’ (Platform, Press, Politics and Play, Bristol, n.d. [l895?]). [↩]
- See Michael Sadleir, Trollope, a Commentary (London, 1945), p.205. [↩]
- See Tinsley’s Random Recollections of an Old Publisher (London, 1900), 1:324, 328-9, and Edmund Downey, Twenty Years Ago (London, 1905), pp.247-8. [↩]
- Yates’s friend Clement Scott tells an amusing anecdote about its miserable failure in his book The Drama of Yesterday and To-day (London, 1899), 1:589. [↩]
- ‘Edmund Yates, an Appreciation and a Retrospect’, New Review, 11 (July 1894): 97. [↩]
- The libel case was reported in the Times, 3 Apr 1884, p.3, 14 Jan 1885, p.3, 15 Jan 1885, p.3, 17 Jan 1885, p.10, and 11 Mar 1885, p.10. [↩]
- Judging by his letterheads, Yates’s permanent residence during at least the last ten years of his life was at Brighton, first at 3 Eastern Terrace, then at 2 Eaton Gardens, West Brighton. He rented various houses on the Upper Thames (usually in Bucks) for the summer. [↩]
- The Drama of Yesterday, 1:589-91. [↩]
- Marie Corelli, ‘The Last Days of Edmund Yates’, Temple Bar, 102 (July 1894):378-84. [↩]
- On Yates’s friendship with Thompson, see Corelli, ibid., pp.379-80. [↩]
- Reginald Pound and Geoffrey Harmsworth, Northcliffe (London, 1959), p.291. [↩]
- In The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters (Harmondsworth, 1973), p.110. [↩]
- See The Swinburne Letters, ed. Cecil Y. Lang (New Haven, 1959-62), 1:304, 3:180,270,322. The two offending articles were ‘Criticisms on Contemporaries, No.l, Mr. Algernon C. Swinburne’, Tinsley’s Magazine, 3 (Aug 1868):26-36, and ‘Portraits in Oil, LXXXVIII, The Bard’, The World, 29 March 1876. It is unlikely that Yates himself actually wrote either of them. [↩]
- See Borowitz, ‘The Unpleasantness at the Garrick Club’, p.23. I have not been able to trace the source of the story. [↩]
- Quoted in Borowitz, ibid., p.23. I have not found the source of the quotation. [↩]
- Some Victorian Men (London, 1924), p.165. [↩]
- See G.A. Sala, The Life and Adventures of George Augustus Sala (London, 1895), 2:16. [↩]
- See ‘Men of Letters on Themselves’, Fortnightly Review, 42 (Dec 1884):837,839, and ‘Edmund Yates, an Appreciation and a Retrospect’, pp.87,96. [↩]
- See Cyril Pearl, The Girl with the Swansdown Seat (N.Y., 1958), pp.108-120. [↩]
- Black Sheep was reprinted, in the series Half-Forgotten Novels, as late as 1905, with an introduction by E.A. Baker. Swinburne was looking for a copy of it in 1901: see The Swinburne Letters, 6:156. [↩]
- Cf. Recollections and Experiences, 1:289 and 2:84. [↩]
- Athenaeum, no.2003 (17 March 1866):362. [↩]
- Appropriately, the dedication to the novel reads: ‘In Memory of “The Growlery”.’ [↩]
- Escott, Anthony Trollope, pp.149-50. [↩]
- Masters of English Journalism (London, 1911), p.261. [↩]
- 1:137-43. [↩]
- Recollections and Experiences, l:49n. Yates novels in which changing fashions in beards are discussed include Running the Gauntlet, Land at Last, and Kissing the Rod [↩]
- See the entry on Mrs Hoey in Who Was Who. [↩]
- See Tinsley’s Random Recollections, 1:324,328-9. Edmund Downey, a close associate of Tinsley, was inclined to blame Tinsley’s timidity rather than Yates’s extravagance for the failure of the magazine: see his Twenty Years Ago (London, 1905), p.247. [↩]