Charles Warren Adams

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Charles Warren Adams (1833–1903) was an English lawyer, publisher and anti-vivisectionist, now known from documentary evidence to have been the author of The Notting Hill Mystery.[1] This is usually taken to be the first full-length detective novel in English.[2]


As a lawyer Adams became involved in bailing out the once famous London publishing firm of Saunders, Otley & Co. after the two proprietors had died. The effort was unsuccessful and liquidation ensued in 1869, but in the meantime the firm had published at least two works of Adams's own, written under the pseudonym Charles Felix. One was a crime novel entitled Velvet Lawn (1864), and the other The Notting Hill Mystery (1865 in book form), which is thought to have been the first detective story of novel length.

The Notting Hill Mystery had already appeared as a serial in Once A Week in 1862–63, illustrated by George Du Maurier (1834–1896), author of Trilby.[3] The Du Maurier illustrations also feature in the recent first Italian translation of the book[4] and the first German translation of the book, by Boris Greff und Matthias Marx, which was published in 2014.[5]

Life and libels[edit]

Adams first married in 1861 Georgina Alethe Polson (b. 1838), daughter of the Rev. Hugh Polson and Georgiana, only child of Charlotte Yonge and her first husband Captain George Crawley.[6] His wife died in 1880. Adams was the secretary of the Anti-Vivisection Society, on whose committee was Mildred Coleridge, great-grand niece of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and daughter of John Coleridge, 1st Baron Coleridge (1820–1894), who became solicitor-general in 1868, attorney-general in 1871 and lord chief justice in 1873. When she left home to live with Adams, there was consternation in her family. Her brother Bernard Coleridge wrote her a long letter attacking Adams. This led to acrimonious libel actions in 1884 and 1886, which Adams won. The couple were married on 24 June 1885.[7] They remained together until Adams's death in July 1903. His widow died in January 1929.[8]


  1. ^ Paul Collins: "Before Hercule or Sherlock, There Was Ralph". The New York Times Book Review, 7 January 2011.
  2. ^ Julian Symons: Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel (London: Faber and Faber, 1972). ISBN 978-0-571-09465-3. "There is no doubt that the first detective novel, preceding Collins and Gaboriau, was The Notting Hill Mystery" (p. 51).
  3. ^ Mike Ashly: "Introduction. Seeking the Evidence" In: The Notting Hill Mystery (London: The British Library, 2012.) ISBN 978-0-7123-5859-0. This facsimile edition is interleaved with the Du Maurier illustrations done for the original serial publication.
  4. ^ I misteri di Notting Hil (Castelvecchi, 2013).
  5. ^ Das Mysterium von Notting Hill (Berlin: Die Andere Bibliothek, 2014). ISBN 9783847730040; publisher's page: Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  6. ^ Letters of Charlotte Mary Yonge. Retrieved 26 June 2014. Archived 27 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ ODNB entry on Coleridge, John Duke, first Baron Coleridge by David Pugsley. Retrieved 16 December 2012. Pay-walled.
  8. ^ Mike Ashly...

External links[edit]