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Thomas Cautley Newby

(1798—1882) publisher and printer


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Publisher from the late 1820s. In July 1847, when he accepted ‘Acton Bell's’ Agnes Grey and ‘Ellis Bell's’ Wuthering Heights for publication, his premises were at 72 Mortimer Street, Cavendish Square, London. He occupied a four-storeyed house at 30 Welbeck Street from 1850 until 1874, when he retired, selling his business to Messrs Morgan and Hebron. He died intestate in June 1882 at 12 Westbourne Gardens, Folkestone, the home of his son-in-law, Henry Bayly Garling, leaving a personal estate of only £38. Charlotte Brontë called him a shuffling scamp, but thought he might be a needy one too. He delayed publication of ‘Acton and Ellis Bell's’ novels until December 1847, after Currer Bell's Jane Eyre had proved to be a bestseller; he drove a hard bargain with his authors, demanding a £50 deposit which he failed to return despite selling at least the 250 copies which would have produced a profit of £100; the novels, which he printed as well as published, retained spelling and punctuation errors corrected by the authors in proof; and his advertisements implied that they were by the same author as Jane Eyre. Yet the good sales of her first novel encouraged Anne Brontë to give him Tenant, published in two editions in June and August 1848. He also wrote to ‘Ellis Bell’ on 15 February 1848, offering to take a second work, to be written in the author's own time, to ensure that it did not fall short of ‘his’ first achievement. But in June 1848 he caused great perturbation by informing Harper & Brothers (apropos of Tenant) that he, not Smith, Elder, would be publishing ‘Currer Bell's’ next work. Both Charlotte and Anne confronted him with his lies during their visit to London from 8 to 11 July 1848. Possibly the slightly revised ‘second edition’ of Tenant was a placatory gesture on his part. Since Newby had not acquired the copyright in Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights, though he blustered about possessing it, he could not prevent Smith, Elder from publishing the novels in Charlotte's edition of 1850. She did not want them to reprint Tenant, which seemed to her a misdirected effort on Anne's part. It was only after her sisters' deaths that George Smith obtained for Charlotte from the ‘Nubian desert’, as he called the elusive publisher, some of the money Newby owed them. She acknowledged a cheque for £30 from him on 18 March 1854. It was probably part of the proceeds of his sale of copyright in the Tenant to Thomas Hodgson, who published a corrupt ‘Parlour Library’ edition in February 1854, the text of which was used in at least thirteen subsequent editions. Smith, Elder bought rights in the book from Darton & Co. in 1859.

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From The Oxford Companion to the Brontes in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century).


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