George W. M. Reynolds

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George Reynolds on the first page of the first printing of Reynolds's Miscellany from 1846. The text of the first installment of Wagner the Wehr-Wolf begins at the bottom of the page.

George William MacArthur Reynolds (23 July 1814 – 19 June 1879) was a British author and journalist.

He was born in Sandwich, Kent, the son of Captain Sir George Reynolds, a flag officer in the Royal Navy. Reynolds was educated first at Dr. Nance's school in Ashford, Kent, and then passed on to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was intended for a career in the British Army, but on the death of his parents in 1829 and his subsequent inheritance, he decided to leave the military and devote himself instead to literary pursuits. He left Sandhurst on 13 September 1830 and for the next few years he traveled a great deal, particularly in France, and became a naturalised French citizen.[1] He took up residence in Paris in 1834, where he started a daily English newspaper. The venture failed, and Reynolds returned bankrupt to England in 1836.

Reynolds served as editor of The Teetotaler (a weekly journal advocating teetotalism) beginning in 1840.[2]

Novels[edit]

Reynolds was a prolific writer of popular fiction starting from The Youthful Imposter, published in 1835. Virtually forgotten now, in his lifetime he was more read than Dickens or Thackeray; in his obituary, the trade magazine The Bookseller called Reynolds "the most popular writer of our times" ("Obituary" 600). His best-known work was the long-running serial The Mysteries of London (1844), which borrowed liberally in concept from Eugène Sue's Les Mystères de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris). It sold 40,000 copies a week in penny instalments and over a million copies cumulatively before it was issued in bound volumes, enjoying an international circulation in French, German, Italian, and Spanish translations. Although (or perhaps because) it was outlawed by the authorities, the German version achieved the status of a cult favourite on the Russian black market.

The Mysteries of London and its even lengthier sequel, The Mysteries of the Court of London, are considered to be among the seminal works of the Victorian "urban mysteries" genre, a style of sensational fiction which adapted elements of the Gothic novel - with its haunted castles, innocent noble damsels in distress and nefarious villains - to produce stories which instead focused on the shocks of life after the Industrial Revolution: the poverty, crime, and violence of a great metropolis, complete with detailed and often sympathetic descriptions of the lives of lower-class lawbreakers and extensive glossaries of thieves' cant, all interwoven with a frank sexuality not usually found in popular fiction of the time.

An illustration from The Mysteries of London

The Mysteries of London, like most of Reynolds' works, was first published as a weekly penny dreadful or 'Penny Blood,' illustrated with lurid engravings and circulating mainly among readers of limited means and education. Although Reynolds was unusual in his religious skepticism (one of the main characters in The Mysteries of London was a clergyman turned libertine) and political radicalism, his tales were aimed squarely at the tastes of his mostly middle- and lower-class audience; they featured "hump-backed dwarves, harridans and grave-robbers [who] groped past against a background of workhouses, jails, execution yards, thieves' kitchens and cemeteries. His readers could depend on him to bring in the theme of maiden virtue rudely strumpeted as often as possible."

Reynold's novels remained in print on both sides of the Atlantic much longer than many of his contemporaries. An 1875 edition of Reynolds's Ciprina, published in Philadelphia, lists 40 novels including Mysteries of London under the heading "George W. M. Reynolds' Great Works," priced between 50 cents and $1.00. The Mysteries of the Court of London, translated into Marathi as well as Urdu, remained a best-seller in India well into the twentieth century. The Marathi translation was done by K.B. Mande in early 20th century and was titled "लंडन येथील बड्या लोकांची गुप्त कृत्ये", i.e. the secret deeds of the elites of London. It was very popular in the Marathi-speaking world, as is evident by numerous references to the text in early 20th-century Marathi literature.

Chartism[edit]

Reynolds was also a leading member of the Chartist movement in 1848. In 1846, he founded two magazines, Reynolds' Miscellany (RM) and The London Journal (LJ). In 1849, he founded "Reynolds's Political Instructor," which in May 1850 became Reynolds Weekly Newspaper, the leading radical newspaper of the post-Chartist era. It long survived him, ending publication in 1967 as the Sunday Citizen.

In 1854, he moved to Herne Bay where he became one of the town's Improvement Commissioners. Reynolds was an advocate of British Republicanism; much of his journalism, especially in the 1870s, "promoted a levelling agenda against traditional social hierarchies and accentuated the difficulties of the British throne". [3]

Bibliography[edit]

  • The Youthful Imposter (1835)
  • Pickwick Abroad; or, the Tour in France (1837-8)
  • Alfred; or, the Adventures of a French Gentleman (1838)
  • Grace Darling; or, the Heroine of the Ferne Islands (1839)
  • Robert Macaire in England (alt title: The French Bandit in London) (1839)
  • The Modern Literature of France (1839) Non-fiction
  • The Steam Packet: a Tale of the River and Ocean (1840)
  • Master Timothy's Bookcase (1842)
  • The Mysteries of London (1844–48) - weekly serial
  • Faust: A Romance of the Secret Tribunals (1847) (LJ)
  • Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf (1846-7) (RM)
  • The Days of Hogarth; or, the Mysteries of Old London (1847–48) (RM)
  • The Coral Island, or the Hereditary Curse (RM) (later widely pirated under the title The Mysteries of the Court of Naples) (1848)
  • The Mysteries of the Court of London (1848–56) - weekly serial
  • The Pixy; or, the Unbaptized Child (1848) (RM)
  • The Bronze Statue; or, the Virgin's Kiss (1849–50) (RM)
  • The Seamstress; a Domestic Tale (alt title: The White Slaves of England) (1851) (RM)
  • Pope Joan, the Female Pontiff (1851) (RM)
  • Kenneth, a Tale of the Highlands (1851-2) (RM)
  • The Necromancer (1851-2) (RM)
  • Mary Price; or the Memoirs of a Servant Girl (1852)
  • The Massacre of Glencoe, a Historical Tale (1852-3) (RM)
  • The Soldier's Wife (alt title: The Cat o' Nine Tails)(1852-3)
  • The Ryehouse Plot; or, Ruth, the Conspirator's Daughter (1853-4) (RM)
  • Joseph Wilmot; or, the Memoirs of a Manservant (1853-4)
  • Rosa Lambert; or, the Memoirs of an Unfortunate Woman (alt title: The Memoirs of a Clergyman's Daughter)(1854-5)
  • Agnes; or, Beauty and Pleasure (1854-5)
  • Ellen Percy; or, the Memoirs of an Actress (1854-5)
  • May Middleton; or, the History of a Fortune (1854-5) (RM)
  • Loves of the Harem (1855)
  • Omar, a Tale of the War (1855-6) (RM)
  • Leila; or, the Star of Mingrelia (1856) (RM)
  • The Empress Eugenie's Boudoir (1856)
  • Margaret; or, the Discarded Queen (1856-7) (RM)
  • The Young Duchess (sequel to Ellen Percy) (1856-7)
  • Canonbury House; or, the Queen's Prophecy (1857-8) (RM)
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1858-9)

Further reading, etc.[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Other Dickens", aired on BBC Radio 3, 1 July 2012
  2. ^ Reynolds, George W. M., ed. (1840-07-25). The Teetotaler I (5). London: United Temperance Association. Retrieved 2011-12-18. "DEVOTED TO TEMPERANCE, LITERATURE, AND SCIENCE. EDITED BY GEORGE W. M. REYNOLDS" 
  3. ^ Andrzej Olechnowicz, The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present. Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN 0521844614, (p. 190).

External links[edit]

Books available online[edit]

All titles marked (RM) and (LJ) above are available online at the British Periodicals website.

Mysteries of the Court of London (Dicks edition in 8 volumes; 4 series, 2 volumes each) online at books.google.com:

Mysteries of the Court of London (The privately printed edition of the "Mysteries" in 20 volumes (by a so-called "Oxford Society") was entitled "The Works of George W. M. Reynolds", online at www.archive.org (only 7 volumes of this edition):

Reviews and literary criticism[edit]

  • Frank Jay's discussions of Reynolds from Spare Moments Published between 1918 and 1921. Posted by Justin Gilbert at GeoCities.
  • G.W.M. Reynolds: Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Politics, and the Press, edited by Anne Humpherys and Louis James, Ashgate, 2008
  • Andrew King, The London Journal 1845-1883: Periodicals, Production and Gender, Ashgate, 2004
Media offices
Preceded by
New position
Editor of Reynold's News
1850–1879
Succeeded by
Edward Reynolds