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Clement King Shorter

(1857—1926) journalist and magazine editor


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Prolific journalist and editor. He was born in London, and in 1896 married Dora Sigerson (d. 1918). His second wife, whom he married in 1920, was Doris Banfield, by whom he had one daughter. From 1877 to 1890 he was a clerk at Somerset House, and from 1891 to 1900 he edited with enthusiasm the Illustrated London News. In 1893 he founded the Sketch, which he edited until 1900, when he founded the Sphere, an illustrated weekly. In 1903 he founded the Tatler. As well as numerous editions of the Brontë works, he published among other books George Borrow and his Circle (1913) and an edition of Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels. In August 1889 he visited Ellen Nussey and acquired some biographical information about Charlotte for his introduction to the Camelot Jane Eyre. In September 1890 he offered to assist Ellen's friend Sir George Morrison in editing Charlotte's letters. Ellen told him his assistance was not needed then, but in June 1892 she finally turned to him. He warned her that Revd A. B. Nicholls owned perpetual copyright, and would prevent separate publication of the letters; but Shorter would be willing to write a biography instead. In October 1892 he told Ellen that a friend of his would pay her £100 for her letters, and would not object to Shorter's writing the biography. The ‘friend’ was T. J. Wise, who persuaded Ellen that he wished to keep the letters safe for posterity in his library, which he intended to bequeath to the South Kensington Museum. She sold them to him for £125 on that understanding, and was horrified to discover in 1895 that he was already selling them piecemeal. She still trusted Shorter, and had already sent him an annotated copy of the incomplete Joseph Horsfall Turner edition of Charlotte's letters. In March 1895, realizing that he needed new material, Shorter visited Mr Nicholls in Ireland, won his trust, and gained access to almost all his Brontë manuscripts. On 23 November 1895 Shorter bought from him for £125 the copyright in all Charlotte's manuscripts that passed through his hands, over which Nicholls had any rights, or which he received from Ellen Nussey. Shorter also bought on Wise's behalf many of the precious manuscripts; others he was allowed to borrow on condition that he returned them, for in January 1896 Nicholls discovered that Wise had already sent a particularly sensitive letter for sale at Sotheby's. Though Shorter did not have access to Charlotte's letters to M. Constantin Heger, George Smith, or Elizabeth Gaskell for his Charlotte Brontë and her Circle (1896), it was a substantial achievement. He listed the Brontës' juvenilia, provided facsimiles of some of the diary papers, and printed very fair transcriptions of Charlotte's letters to Laetitia Wheelwright (see wheelwright family) and of some to W. S. Williams. In reproducing the correspondence with Ellen, he was too often hampered by her previous editing, since Wise had sold many of the originals. Shorter printed a number of Charlotte's letters to George Smith in his notes to the Haworth edition of the Life (1900), but was not allowed to use them for The Brontës: Life and Letters, 2 vols. (1908) (see Smith Letters, 1. 52–70).

From The Oxford Companion to the Brontes in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century).


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