Herbert George Jenkins

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Herbert George Jenkins (1876 – 8 June 1923) was a British writer and the owner of the publishing company Herbert Jenkins Ltd, which published many of P. G. Wodehouse's novels.


Jenkins' parents came from Norfolk and, according to his obituary in The Times, he was educated at Greyfriars College. He began work as a journalist and then spent some 11 years at The Bodley Head before founding his own publishing house in 1912.[1] He remained unmarried and died at the age of 47, on 8 June 1923 after a six-month-long illness,[2] in Marylebone, London.

As publisher[edit]

Dust jacket of Piccadilly Jim, Wodehouse's first novel to be published by Herbert Jenkins

In 1912 Jenkins founded his own publishing company: Herbert Jenkins Limited. Its offices were in a narrow, 19th-century building with five floors in Duke of York Street, just off Jermyn Street in London.[3] It was a successful business from the start because of Jenkins' unique ability (at the time) to cater for the ever-changing public taste. He also had a good eye for new talent, not being discouraged if a manuscript had been rejected by other publishers. His publicity methods were innovative, too; with arresting advertisements and dust jackets, and a monthly publication called Wireless, which was widely circulated among his readers.[1] Jenkins' first publication was Willie Riley's first novel Windyridge, and the firm went on to publish most of Riley's 39 books, ending with The Man and the Mountain in 1961, the year of Riley's death. In 1915 Jenkins published A. S. Neill's first book, A Dominie's Log, launching his career as a famous teacher and writer of books on education. Herbert Jenkins Ltd published many of P. G. Wodehouse's novels, starting with Piccadilly Jim in 1918.

By the 1950s—long after Jenkins' death—the company was still being run as a 1930s business might have been. In 1964 it merged with Barrie & Rockcliffe to form Barrie & Jenkins,[3] which continued to publish Wodehouse's novels, but specialised in books about ceramics, pottery and antiques.[4] In 1969 the company published the first of George MacDonald Fraser's popular The Flashman Papers novels after it had been rejected by many other publishers.[5] Barrie & Jenkins had a short commercial history and was taken over by Hutchinson, who were themselves taken over by Century and then by Random House (now owned by Bertelsmann). It continues to exist as a specialist imprint mainly for hardback editions within the Random House stable.[4]

As a writer[edit]

Although Jenkins is best known for his light fiction, his first book was a biography of George Borrow. He was an admirer of the poet and visual artist William Blake and conducted research into his trial for high treason and the location of his lost grave,[2] writing a book on him in 1925.

His most popular fictional creation was Mr. Joseph Bindle, who first appeared in a humorous novel in 1916 and in a number of sequels. In the preface to the books, T. P. O'Connor said that "Bindle is the greatest Cockney that has come into being through the medium of literature since Dickens wrote Pickwick Papers".[6] The stories are based on the comedic drama of life at work, at home and all the adventures that take place along the way.

Jenkins also wrote a number of short stories about Detective Malcolm Sage, which were collected into one book in 1921. Sage has been compared to both Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes in his style of detective work. Three of the Sage stories were included in Eugene Thwing's 10-volume collection of vintage detective stories, The World's Best 100 Detective Stories (1929).

As was the norm at the time, many of his fictional works appeared first in pulp magazines. Two of his novels and several of his short stories were made into short movies.[7]

List of works[edit]

According to a bibliography compiled by the English Department at the Canadian Mount Royal College, Jenkins wrote the following works:[8]


  1. ^ a b "Obituaries – Mr Herbert Jenkins". The Times. 9 June 1923. p. 12. Retrieved 26 March 2012. (Subscription required for online access)
  2. ^ a b "Death of Well Known Author – The Creator of "Bindle."". Hull Daily Mail. 9 June 1923. p. 2. Retrieved 26 March 2012. (Subscription required for online access)
  3. ^ a b Leventhal, Lionel. "Tail Piece: A Profession for Gentlemen". Greenhill Books. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b "History of the Random House Imprints". Bibliographic Archive RandomHouse Database. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  5. ^ Taylor, D. J. (January 2012). "Fraser, George Macdonald (1925–2008)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 26 March 2012. ((subscription or UK public library membership required))
  6. ^ "Bindle: Some Chapters in the Life of Joseph Bindle". gutenberg.net.au. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  7. ^ "Herbert Jenkins". IMDb. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  8. ^ "Gaslight's Herbert Jenkins bibliography". English Department at Mount Royal College. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  9. ^ "Malcolm Sage, detective : Herbert George Jenkins". archive.org. Retrieved 26 March 2012.

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