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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.

Victoria and Albert in Tauchnitz Editions

Although it was based in Germany, sold books only outside Britain and the British Empire, and continued right through to the Second World War, the Tauchnitz Edition was in many ways a Victorian series.  Bernhard Tauchnitz was just three years older than Victoria and founded his firm in 1837, the year she came to the throne.  By the time Queen Victoria died in 1901, the Tauchnitz ‘Collection of British Authors’ had reached almost 3500 volumes.  Although it was to continue for another 40 years, the high point of the series came in Victoria’s reign and it was essentially on Victorian literature that it built its reputation.

Tauchnitz was undoubtedly an admirer of Victoria and of Victorian Britain and he cultivated links with the Royal Family as assiduously as he cultivated links with all his British Authors.  Perhaps surprisingly, both Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, were part of that select group, his British Authors.  It’s true that neither of them had  much of a reputation for literary prowess, but then that was probably not the criterion for their inclusion in the series.

Tauchnitz 850 Frontispiece

Portrait of Prince Albert as Frontispiece to Tauchnitz volume 850

It helped that Albert was German (and Victoria, his cousin, was at least half-German).  Indeed arguably Prince Albert and Bernhard Tauchnitz were the two most prominent Anglophile Germans of the Victorian era, building their respective businesses on the closeness of their links with Britain.  It is said that the hereditary Baronage granted to Tauchnitz  in 1860, was arranged indirectly by Prince Albert, who would surely have been well aware of the impact made by Tauchnitz in continental Europe.  The Baronage was granted by Ernst, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was Prince Albert’s brother.

Albert died though in 1861, leaving Victoria to 40 years of widowhood and leaving as a literary legacy only 20 years of formal speeches.   ‘The principal speeches and addresses of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort’ were published in the UK in 1862 by John Murray, along with an exceptionally fawning introduction.  The Tauchnitz Edition followed in 1866 as volume 850 of the series, with the same introduction and frontispiece and with a further preface written by Tauchnitz himself.  This refers to the necessity of including in the series a volume, which ‘contains the results of an essential portion of the intellectual life of a Prince whose memory is honoured not only in England, but in every civilised country of the Globe, and above all in Germany, the land of his birth’.  The wrappers of the original paperback edition were marked with the royal insignia.

Tauchnitz 850 title page

It seems unlikely that the book was a bestseller in continental Europe.   A relatively small number of copies are found in the main library collections, in comparison to other volumes from the same period.  They do though include a copy in Cornell University with wrappers dated August 1884, so it was clearly still selling some copies at that time.

In 1868, Victoria too became a published author in the UK when extracts from her journal were published by Smith, Elder & Co. under the title ‘Leaves from the Journal of our life in the Highlands’.  This covered her visits to Scotland with Prince Albert from 1848 to 1860.  ‘Our life’ here seems to mean both Victoria and Albert, rather than the royal we.   Publication in a Tauchnitz Edition did not immediately follow, although it’s hard to say whether this was because Tauchnitz could not obtain the rights, or because he did not want them.

But then in 1884, when Smith Elder brought out a second selection called ‘More leaves from the journal of a life in the Highlands …’, Tauchnitz was able to secure rights to both this and the earlier book.  In the second book, the extracts cover the period after Albert’s death, from 1862 to 1882 and the title refers to ‘a life’ rather than ‘our life’.   This later book is volume number 2228 in the Tauchnitz series and in paperback copies the rear wrapper is dated February 1884.  The earlier book is volume 2227, but was published by Tauchnitz about two weeks later and the rear wrapper is dated March 1884.  For both volumes, the first printing is distinguished in bound copies by having nothing on the back of the half-title at the front of the book.  Later reprints of each have a reference to the other book on the half-title verso.

Oddly neither book shows Queen Victoria’s name as the author.  No-one can have been in any doubt as to whose journal this was, so this must have been some obscure point of royal protocol, rather than an attempt to disguise the true author.  The first volume is dedicated to Albert, again without mentioning him by name, while the second is dedicated to ‘my devoted personal attendant and faithful friend John Brown’ and is signed by Victoria.

Tauchnitz 2228 Dedication

To complete the picture, it should be noted that two of Victoria and Albert’s daughters were also honoured as Tauchnitz authors.  ‘Letters to her Majesty the Queen’ by Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, appeared in 1885 as volumes 2348 and 2349 of the series.  Alice was Victoria’s second daughter, who had married a German prince and gone to live in Darmstadt.  Her marriage and departure came just after her father’s death and she wrote home regularly to her widowed mother, careful not to appear too happy.  In 1877, her husband became the Grand Duke of Hesse, but Alice died the following year. As well as Alice’s letters, the book contains a 75 page memoir written by her sister Helena, who had married another German prince.

Tauchnitz 2348 Title Page