Pierce Egan the Younger

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Pierce Egan the Younger - as depicted in the Frontispiece to Robin Hood (1850 edn.)

Pierce Egan the Younger (1814 – 6 July 1880) was an English journalist and novelist. The son of Pierce Egan, the author of Life in London. he associated with his father in several of his works.

Early life[edit]

He was born in London, and his mother died when he was eleven years old.[1] Early on he showed a taste for drawing. He was educated to follow art professionally, frequented theatres, and made sketches during the performances. He etched these designs, which were published as frontispieces to the plays in George Bolwell Davidge's Acting Drama. His most ambitious work as an artist was a series of etchings to illustrate his father's serial The Pilgrims of the Thames in Search of the National (1837).

Journalist and serial writer[edit]

He contributed to the early volumes of the Illustrated London News, started in 1842, and from 7 July 1849 to the end of 1851 edited the Home Circle. In Nos. 53–119, vols, iii–v. of this work, ending 11 October 1851, reappeared, extended and recast, his 'Quintyn Matsys, the Blacksmith of Antwerp,' afterwards reissued separately in library form with illustrations. An early edition had been published about 1839.

He wrote in January 1857 for Reynolds's Miscellany, Nos. 444–8, a popular Christmas story called 'The Waits;' later republished in John Thomas Dicks's series of 'English Novels,' No. 106. Also in Reynolds's Miscellany was 'The False Step; or the Castle and the Cottage' (begun 21 Feb. 1867, ended 3 Oct., Nos. 450-82). He then transferred to The London Journal as a major contributor until the end of his life. Sir John Gilbert illustrated many of the works. On 5 Dec. 1857, in vol. xxvi. No. 667, appeared the first chapters of Egan's 'Flower of the Flock.' It ended in No. 689, and was next week followed by 'The Snake in the Grass' (8 May 1858, ending 27 Nov. 1858, in No. 720).

In 1858 and 1869 a new proprietor of the Journal dispensed with Egan's services and reprinted three novels by Sir Walter Scott. But the circulation diminished, so that Egan was again summoned to restore its popularity. This he attempted, somewhat hurriedly, with a slight story called 'The Love Test' (15 January 1869, in vol. xxix., completed in No. 746 on 28 March). After a short interval he began a new story, with his best power, 'Love me. Leave me Not' (22 Oct. 1859, ending 30 June 1860, Nos. 767-803).[2]

Further stories followed in his later life: My Love Kate; or the Dreadful Secret; The Poor Girl, followed by a companion novel entitled The Poor Boy,[3] and Snake in the Grass.

Other novels[edit]

Other novels were part publishing of weekly numbers, and later in volumes. Several of them contained woodcuts and etchings by the author. Among these were:

  • Wat Tyler in 3 books, 1841, re-published in 1851, full of slaughter, with love scenes; the novel originally began life as a story about Oliver Cromwell until Egan learned that another writer was authoring a book about Cromwell, so he changed the setting and characters to tie in with a novel about the leader of the Peasants' Revolt.[4]
  • Robin Hood and Little John; or, the Merrie Men of Sherwood Forest, serialized beginning in 1838, published in book form 1840;
  • Captain Macheath based upon John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1727), began its serialisation in 1841.[5]
  • Adam Bell, Clym o' the Cleugh, and William of Cloudeslie, a long story of woodland adventures, 1842;
  • Paul Jones, the privateer, 2 vols., with Egan's etched frontispiece and designs on wood, 1842.

Other early works were:

  • The London Apprentice
  • Edward the Black Prince; or, Feudal Days (c.1850)
  • Clifton Grey; or, Love and War (1854-55)

Egan's Robin Hood text was later translated and resumed into two French language parts by Alexandre Dumas (The Prince of Thieves, 1872, and Robin Hood the Outlaw, 1873; re-translated back into English in 1904). The first book of the Dumas interpretation was translated into Spanish by Colombia's Editorial Oveja Negra, but it was billed as being written by Sir Walter Scott, the author of Ivanhoe.

Personal life[edit]

He was singularly unobtrusive, and avoided conflicts. He married and had several children, enjoying a fair income derived from his literary work. He later developed a different style from his early feudal extravagances, of rural scenes intermingled with tragic incidents of town poverty and aristocratic splendor. Although the first edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography stated that 'he was a liberal in politics', recent research into Egan's novels has shown him to have been a radical writer, arguing against Old Corruption and advocating republicanism in the United Kingdom.[6] He died on 6 July 1880 at his residence, Ravensbourne, Burnt Ash, Lea, Kent.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anon. ‘Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries’ The York Herald, and General Advertiser 7 January 1826, p.3.
  2. ^ In rapid succession, with undiminished success, there followed 'The Wonder of Kingswood Chace' (6 Oct. 1860 to 6 July 1861, Nos. 817-56); 'Imogine: or The Marble Heart' (7 Sept. 1861 to 14 June 1862, Nos. 805-905); 'The Scarlet Flower,' in which he went back to cavalier days (7 June 1862 to 15 Nov., Nos. 904-27); 'The Poor Girl,' one of his best known novels (on 1 Nov. 1862 to 5 Sept. 1863); 'Such is Life ' (5 Dec. 1863 to 2 July 1864, Nos. 982-1012); 'Fair Lilias' (14 Jan. 1865 to 16 Dec. 1865, Nos. 1040-88); 'The Light of Love; or the Diamond and the Snowdrop' (28 April 1806 to 16 Feb. 1867, Nos. 1107-49); 'Eve; or The Angel of Innocence,' another widely popular work (18 May to 21 Dec. 1867, Nos. 1162-93). He wrote nothing in vol. xlvii., but resumed on 5 Sept. 1868 with 'The Blue-eved Witch; or not a Friend in the World' (ending 8 May 1869, Nos. 1230-65).
  3. ^ Of other works the titles and dates were: 'Mark Jarrett's Daisy, the Wild Flower of Hazelbrook' (25 Nov. 1871 to 25 May 1872, Nos. 1398-1424, in vol. lv.); 'Ever my Queen' (16 Feb. to 6 July 1873, Nos. 1462-1482); 'Her First Love' (21 March to 8 Aug. 1874, Nos. 1519-39, in vol. lx.); 'False and Frail' (13 Feb. to 19 June 1875, Nos. 1566-84); 'The Pride of Birth' (20 Nov. 1875 to 1 April 1876, Nos. 1606-25); 'Two Young Hearts' (25 Nov. 1876 to 14 April 1877, Nos. 1659-79); then, after short intervals, 'His Sworn Bride' (16 Dec. 1877 to 4 May 1878, Nos. 1714-34, in vol. lxvi.); 'Loved in Secret' (2 Nov. 1878 to 29 March 1879, Nos. 1760-81); and, his latest work of all, at first entitled 'A Shadow on the Threshold,' but the name having been anticipated elsewhere, it was changed to 'A Shadow on the Future' (13 Dec. 1879, ending on 6 March 1880, Nos. 1818-33, in vol. lxxi.)
  4. ^ Egan, Pierce 'To the Editor of The Times' The Times 6 November 1840, p.6
  5. ^ Anon. ‘Captain Macheath by Pierce Egan’ The Era 15 August 1841, p.6.
  6. ^ Stephen Basdeo 'Radical Medievalism: Pierce Egan the Younger's Robin Hood, Wat Tyler, and Adam Bell' in Leeds Working Papers in Victorian Studies, Vol. 15: Imagining the Victorians Stephen Basdeo & Lauren Padgett (eds.) (Leeds: LCVS, 2016), pp.48-64
  7. ^ "Obituary". The Cornishman (105). 15 July 1880. p. 6. 
Attribution

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Egan, Pierce (1814-1880)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.