Friday, September 27, 2013

E.D.E.N. Southworth in London

E.D.E.N. Southworth has been claiming my attention this summer. I revisited The Hidden Hand and, unexpectedly, was very happy to be able to use it for a chapter I was writing on highwayman Joseph Thompson Hare that should see the light of day at some point in 2014. Then, apropos of not very much except the need to scratch an itch, I got hold of a copy of E.D.E.N. Southworth: Recovering a Nineteenth-Century Popular Novelist (University of Tennessee Press), a great collection of essays edited by Melissa Homestead and Pamela Washington. What it revealed, amongst many other things, was how little I really knew about Southworth's extraordinary career, and how much of her work stills awaits recovery. Inspiring, and highly recommended.

During the course of these meanderings, I came across one particular surprise that I couldn't ignore: Southworth lived in London from 1859 to 1862. I knew that Southworth had been popular on this side of the Atlantic, of course, but I didn't know that she'd actually been a resident.

So I started searching for more information about her time in England. And I was even more surprised by one of the first things that popped up: a listing for Southworth in the 1861 census, at a Spa Villa in Croydon. Here she is (courtesy of my parents and their Ancestry subscription - thanks Mum and Dad):
E.D.E.N. Southworth, 45, Authoress (click to make bigger)
Her daughter is listed next: Lottie, 19, Scholar. Their presence in this document is compelling enough. But there's another delightful wrinkle: the Southworths are listed as visitors on this return. Spa Villa was actually the home of one George Stiff and his family:
George Stiff, 49, Newspaper Proprietor (click to make bigger)
Stiff is listed as a "Newspaper Proprietor": to be more specific, he was the proprietor of none other than The London Journal, one of the most significant publications in the field of nineteenth century popular fiction (and, happily, the subject of this fantastic book by Andrew King). Suffice to say that The London Journal was a very important English outlet for Southworth's serial publications, particularly at this moment. Quoting King, "Southworth was Stiff's special star." Let's assume, then, that this census taker interrupted some animated discussions between author and publisher about copyright and royalty payments. Here's the full record:

As it goes, one of Stiff's other special stars was Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who will be appearing in a post around these parts before too long. And I notice that the last time that E.D.E.N Southworth appeared on this blog it was as part of 2012's Countdown to Halloween. Now October's just around the corner again, which means only one thing: the Countdown to Halloween to 2013 starts soon...