Lucy Clifford in Tauchnitz Editions
As a writer, Lucy Clifford is probably best remembered today for ‘Mrs Keith’s crime’, her 1885 novel about a mother, dying of consumption, who decides to kill her also dying daughter. In personal terms she is remembered as the wife of the mathematician and philosopher, William Kingdon Clifford. William died early at the age of 33, but was already a professor at University College, London, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and had done ground-breaking work in algebra, geometry and philosophy. There is a type of algebra, still referred to as a Clifford algebra today, in his honour.
The two lives of William and Lucy are remembered in a book by Monty Chisholm and an associated website. They were married for only four years, between 1875 and his death in 1879, but Lucy chose to publish her novels under the name of Mrs. W.K. Clifford. She may well have been writing before his death, but I can’t find any published work before then. When she was left widowed with two small children, financial pressures may then have pushed her to publication, perhaps encouraged by her many literary connections, which certainly included George Eliot, Mary Braddon and Henry James.
A collection of stories for children, ‘Anyhow stories, moral and otherwise’ was published in the UK in 1882, followed by ‘Mrs Keith’s Crime’ in 1885. But perhaps surprisingly, she didn’t achieve publication in the Tauchnitz Edition (or as far as I can tell any of its competitors in continental publishing), until 1892. This was a particularly productive time in Mrs. Clifford’s writing career and Tauchnitz backed her strongly, publishing five of her books in an eighteen month period. This may also though have had something to do with the pressure that Tauchnitz was under at the time from the rival ‘English Library’ published by Heinemann and Balestier. A significant number of authors were defecting to the new series and Tauchnitz was keen to maintain a large publishing programme, forcing it to search out and back new talent.
The first to appear was an epistolatory novel, ‘Love letters of a worldly woman’, published as volume 2803 in the Tauchnitz series in February 1892. The first printing in Tauchnitz has a quotation on the back of the half-title page, with the back of the title page blank. Later reprints list 6 other Clifford titles on the half-title verso and move the quotation to the back of the title page. I have nicely bound copies of this book and two other later books, with the signature of the author’s daughter, Margaret Clifford. As they are all first printings and Margaret would have been a teenager when they were published, they may well have been first acquired by her mother.
It was followed by ‘Aunt Anne’, published in two volumes as volumes 2857 and 2858 of the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors in September 1892 and by ‘The last touches and other stories’, published in January 1893 as volume 2880. ‘Mrs Keith’s Crime’ appeared as volume 2913 in June 1893 and ‘A wild proxy’ as volume 2930 in August 1893. First printings in paperback should show the appropriate date quoted above at the top of the back wrapper, and bound copies should list only previously published titles on the back of the half-title. So ‘Aunt Anne’ should list only ‘Love letters …’, whereas ‘The last touches’ should list both ‘Love letters’ and ‘Aunt Anne’, and so on. In practice though, of these books, only ‘Mrs. Keith’s Crime’ is recorded as existing with a greater number of titles listed.
After this rush of titles (and with Heinemann and Balestier largely defeated as a serious rival), there seems to have been a pause, not just in Lucy Clifford’s appearances in the Tauchnitz series, but in her writing more generally. ‘A flash of summer’ was published in November 1896 as volume 3168 (listing five previously published works on the back of the half-title) and then nothing more until September 1901, with the publication of ‘A woman alone’ as volume 3525 (listing 6 other works). Both volumes were later reprinted. ‘Woodside Farm’ followed in June 1902 as volume 3584, ‘The modern way’ in February 1907 as volume 3945, ‘The getting well of Dorothy’ in May 1907 as volume 3967 and ‘Mere stories’, another collection of short stories, in October 1909 as volume 4146.
That brings us up to the First World War and another pause, certainly in the output of Tauchnitz volumes from 1914 onwards, but again as far as I can tell, in Lucy Clifford’s writing as well. By the time Tauchnitz was back up and running again after the war, it was in a very different political, social and literary landscape. ‘Eve’s Lover and other stories’ appeared in June 1924 as volume 4644, by which time its author was nearly 80 and from a different world to D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.
But Tauchnitz was slow to recognise the changing literary fashions, and still willing to publish two further works – ‘Sir George’s objection’ in April 1925 as volume 4680, and ”Miss Fingal’ in July 1928 as volume 4840. As with all Tauchnitz Editions, these 20th Century volumes are more commonly found in the original paperback form, rather than the bound editions from the 19th Century.
Lucy Clifford died in 1929, some 50 years after her husband, leaving behind a substantial body of work. The success of most 19th Century and early 20th Century writers can almost be measured by the volume of their output in Tauchnitz Editions, and on that measure Mrs. W.K. Clifford did pretty well. Fifteen volumes of her work were published over a period of more than 35 years, and no doubt tens of thousands of copies sold in Continental Europe. Most of them though are not easy to find today.