Tauchnitz authors – an incestuous lot

‘What’s the easiest way to make a small fortune?’ was the old question, to which the answer was ‘Start with a big one.’ That may be a bit too cynical, but it’s certainly true that the easiest way to become a billionaire these days is to have a parent who’s at least a multi-millionaire. Donald Trump may be a great businessman, but it didn’t half help that his father was very rich.

What was the easiest way to become a Tauchnitz author – that’s to say an author with a book published in the Tauchnitz series? At least in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, it was a pretty exclusive club. There was a real sense in which to become a Tauchnitz author was to be recognised as having reached a certain level in your profession.

The first step to joining the club was to get your book published in the UK or in the US. Tauchnitz only very rarely published new works independently. In almost all cases it was buying the continental rights for books that already had a UK or US publisher. Books from established writers might appear more or less simultaneously in UK / US editions and in the Tauchnitz Edition. But any new writer would usually have to demonstrate a certain level of either critical or sales success in the UK or the US first.

At least part of the answer to our question though, is that it certainly helped to have a parent, or a grandparent, or a brother or sister, or a husband or wife, or a cousin , who was already a member of that exclusive club. An astonishingly high proportion of new authors fell into that category.

Take parents first. Anne Thackeray and Florence Marryat were two of the most successful authors in the Tauchnitz series in the period from the 1860s right through to the 1890s. They certainly both repaid the trust put in them by Bernhard Tauchnitz, and in Marryat’s case ended up with far more novels to her credit in the series than her father did. But both entered the series only after their fathers had done.

Not many contemporary writers were more successful than those two, but two who perhaps might have been (in a period of dominance by female authors), were Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Ellen Wood (writing as Mrs. Henry Wood). Neither had an author for a parent, but they did both have sons who were to follow in their mother’s footsteps. Braddon’s son, W.B.Maxwell, went on to have more than twenty volumes published in the Tauchnitz series, well justifying his inclusion. Ellen Wood’s son, Charles William Wood, had a single volume, but would he have had even that in other circumstances? ‘Buried alone’ was published in 1869 as volume 1009 of the series. It appears to have been Wood’s first novel, written when he was quite young, but at a time when his mother was one of the most successful of Tauchnitz authors.

Other examples of parents and their children include Georgiana Craik (daughter of George Lillie Craik), E.M. Delafield (daughter of Mrs. Henry de la Pasture), Robert Bulwer-Lytton (son of Edward Bulwer-Lytton), Ella Hepworth Dixon (daughter of William Hepworth Dixon), Katherine Saunders (daughter of John Saunders) and ‘Lucas Malet’ (Mary St. Leger Kingsley, daughter of Charles Kingsley).

In a slightly different category, Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, whose ‘Letters to Her Majesty the Queen’ were published in 1885, was the daughter of two published Tauchnitz authors, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Victoria’s ‘Leaves from the Journal of our life in the Highlands’ and ‘More leaves from …’ had been published the previous year and ‘The principal speeches and addresses’ of Albert had appeared almost twenty years earlier, after his death.

Also slightly different was Hallam Tennyson, who in 1899 edited a memoir of his father, Alfred Lord Tennyson. Much of the content consisted of letters and poems written by his father, and the memoir was described on the title page only as being ‘by his son’, with no mention of Hallam Tennyson’s name.

Victoria and Albert

On then to husbands and wives. Victoria and Albert I’ve already mentioned as perhaps the highest profile example. But there were also Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Berta Ruck and Oliver Onions, Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. George Eliot managed the feat of having two partners join the club. George Henry Lewes, her long term (but married to someone else) partner had preceded her, with the publication of his novel ‘Ranthorpe’ in 1847. Then after Eliot’s death, her husband John Cross edited her papers, which were published as ‘George Eliot’s Life as related in her letters and journals’. A similar task was undertaken by Frances Kingsley, who edited ‘Charles Kingsley: his letters and memories of his life’ published in 1881. That indeed means that Lucas Malet was another Tauchnitz author with two parents as members of the club.

That’s probably enough for this post. But it’s far from the end of the story for relationships between Tauchnitz authors. I’ll come on next to brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, cousins and all sorts of other relationships. Authors were certainly not chosen, or created, at random.

Part 2 is now on this link.

Posted on January 24, 2020, in Vintage Paperbacks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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