James Payn, by W. & D. Downey, carbon print on card mount, 1890.
28 February 1830|
near Maidenhead, Berkshire, England
|Died||25 March 1898
Maida Vale, London, England
|Spouse(s)||Louisa Adelaide Edlin|
Payn's father, William Payn (1774/5–1840), was clerk to the Thames Commissioners and at one time treasurer to the county of Berkshire. Payn was educated at Eton, and afterwards entered the Military Academy at Woolwich; but his health was not equal to the demands of a military career, and he proceeded in 1847 to Trinity College, Cambridge. He was among the most popular men of his time, and served as president of the Union. Before going to Cambridge he had published some verses in Leigh Hunt's Journal, and while still an undergraduate put forth a volume of Stories from Boccaccio in 1852, and in 1853 a volume of Poems.
In the same year he left Cambridge, he met and shortly afterwards married Miss Louisa Adelaide Edlin (b. 1830 or 1831), sister of Judge Sir Peter Edlin, later chairman of the London Quarter Sessions. They had nine children, the third of whom, Alicia Isabel (died 1898), married The Times editor George Earle Buckle.
Editor and novelist
Payn then settled down in the Lake District to a literary career and contributed regularly to Household Words and Chambers's Journal. In 1858 he removed to Edinburgh to act as joint-editor of the latter periodical. He became sole editor in 1860, and conducted the magazine with much success for fifteen years. He removed to London in 1861. In the pages of the Journal he published in 1864 his most popular story, Lost Sir Massingberd. From this time he was engaged in writing novels, including Richard Arbour or the Family Scapegrace (1861), Married Beneath Him (1865), Carlyon's Year (1868), A County Family (1869), By Proxy (1878), A Confidential Agent (1880), A Grape from a Thorn, The Talk of the Town (1885), and The Heir of the Ages (1886).
In 1883 he succeeded Leslie Stephen as editor of the Cornhill Magazine and continued in the post until the breakdown of his health in 1896. He was also literary adviser to Messrs Smith, Elder & Company. His publications included a Handbook to the English Lakes (1859), and various volumes of occasional essays, Maxims by a Man of the World (1869), Some Private Views (1881), Some Literary Recollections (1884). A posthumous work, The Backwater of Life (1899), revealed much of his own personality in a mood of kindly, sensible reflection upon familiar topics. He died in London, on 25 March 1898.
A biographical introduction to The Backwater of Life was furnished by Sir Leslie Stephen.
- "The Critic on the Hearth," The Nineteenth Century, Vol. V, January/June 1879.
- "An Indo-Anglian Poet," The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. CCXLVI, January/June 1880.
- "Two Infant Phenomenons," The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. CCXLVI, January/June 1880.
- "Sham Admiration in Literature," The Nineteenth Century, Vol. VII, January/June 1880.
- "The Pinch of Poverty," The Nineteenth Century, Vol. VII, January/June 1880.
- "Success in Fiction," The North American Review, Vol. 140, No. 342, May 1885.
- "On Conversation," The Nineteenth Century, Vol. XLII, July/December 1897.
- "On Old Age," The Nineteenth Century, Vol. XLII, July/December 1897.
- "The Midway Inn," The Nineteenth Century, Vol. V, January/June 1879.
- "Uncle Lock's Legacy," Short Stories, Vol. XI, September/December 1892.
- "A Successful Experiment," Short Stories, Vol. XI, September/December 1892.
- "Rebecca's Remorse." In Short Stories from "Black and White," Chapman & Hall, 1893.
- "A Faithful Retainer." In Stories by English Authors, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901.
- Wilman, George (1882), "James Payn", Sketches of living celebrities, London: Griffith and Farran, pp. 77–80
- "Payn, James (PN849J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- ODNB biography, subscription required. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- Victorian memoirs mentioning Edlin:  Parliamentary question on his salary:  Letter to The Times 1 March 1894: . All retrieved 3 December 2010.
- "Personal Character of James Payn," The Literary Digest, 4 June 1898.
- Payn, John. "The Family Scapegrace." In My First Book, Chatto & Windus, 1897.
- . Accessed 18 May 2010.
- Weyman, Stanley J. "James Payn, Editor," The Cornhill Magazine, Vol. XXVIII, January/June 1910.
- "James Payn," The Bookman, June 1898.
- Stephen, Leslie. "James Payn," The Backwater of Life, Smith, Elder & Co., 1899.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Payn, James". Encyclopædia Britannica 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Atkinson, Damian. "Payn, James (1830–1898)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/21640. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Block, Jr., Ed. "Evolutionist Psychology and Aesthetics: The Cornhill Magazine, 1875–1880," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 45, No. 3, 1984.
- Brightfield, Myron Franklin. Victorian England in its Novels, 1840–1870, University of California Library, 1968.
- Haycraft, Howard & Kunitz, Stanley. British Authors of the Nineteenth Century, The H. W. Wilson Company, 1936.
- James, Henry. "The Late James Payn," The New England Quarterly, Vol. 67, No. 1, Mar. 1994.
- Lehmann, Rudolph Chambers. Memories of Half a Century: A Record of Friendships, Smith, Elder & Co., 1908.
- Melville, Lewis. "James Payn." In Victorian Novelists, Archibald Constable, 1906.
- Rideing, William H. "James Payn." In The Boyhood of Famous Authors, Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, 1897.
- Rideing, William H. "Reminiscences of an Editor," McClure's Magazine, February 1910 [Rep. in Many Celebrities and a Few Others, Eveleigh Nash, 1912].
- Russell, George W. E. "James Payn." In Selected Essays on Literary Subjects, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1910.
- Terry, R. C. Victorian Popular Fiction, 1860–1880, Humanities Press, 1983.
- Wegener, Frederick. "Henry James on James Payn: A Forgotten Critical Text," The New England Quarterly, Vol. 67, No. 1, Mar. 1994.
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