13. Time Traveling With R.E. Prindle: George W.M. Reynolds, Lady Saxondale’s Crimes.

August 1, 2020

  1. Time Traveling With R.E. Prindle

by

R.E. Prindle

 

The deeper one gets into Reynolds the more deep it gets. The question becomes how did perhaps, after Walter Scott, the greatest English novelist of his or any other time get swept under the historical rug or in contemporary terms disappear down the memory hole. While I can only claim to have begun my study I am overwhelmed by George’s narrative abilities.

In my study I have been introduced to various writers of George’s period of which I had only known by name such as William Harrison Ainsworth, Bulwer-Lytton, Charles Lever, Captain Marryat, Dickens and Thackeray of course, and none can compare to him. This was a stellar cast in English literature, too. Of succeeding writers such as Trollope, Eliot, Collins, Mrs. Gaskell and a host of others appear as epigone to my mind. Apart from, perhaps, Thackeray, Reynolds is easily the most prolific.

He did however have one tragic flaw, if he liked something he read he either emulated or appropriated it. While perhaps not so obvious now as it was glaring at that time. A key example will appear in this essay, that of Georges appropriation of Harrison Ainsworth’s Ride of Dick Turpin from his novel Rookwood.

A word on Harrison Ainsworth as background. Ainsworth in his time was as famous as either Dickens or Reynolds with Dickens only, so far, surviving the test of time. This is difficult for me to understand. Dickens makes for painful reading. Ainsworth was prolific and had an extended career although dim at the end. He was from Manchester and a Midlands, almost regional author. He made his fame on what were called Newgate novels. Like others he was active as a magazine editor having an eponymous magazine, Ainsworth’s to showcase his writing. He was a very social type who enjoyed his fellowship of writers. He ran a literary salon out of his house in Kensal Green to which Reynolds was not invited.

As a writer, after Rookwood published in 1832 which established his reputation he was most successful from 1838 to 1845 when he issued his string of historical novels based on English history. These are quite good. Competent with flashes but not quite genius level. His account of the plague year of 1665 and London fire of 1666 is outstanding. His later career had its ups and downs but his histories of the John Law currency scandal in France and the South Sea Bubble in England are well worth reading.

Reynolds took up his pen in 1844 to successfully launch his career with his Masterwork, The Mysteries of London as Ainsworth’s masterly historical novels were appearing one after another. In reading both authors I sometimes have trouble distinguishing which author I’m reading; so, after several failed attempts, excluding his Dickens appropriation of Mr. Pickwick with his Pickwick Abroad, Reynolds probably adjusted his style to that of Ainsworth. While Ainsworth’s style is flat and Dickens slightly archaic I find Reynolds’ to be quite modern. While Ainsworth’s style is flat, mostly surface, Reynolds has an amazing depth as he strives for every nuance to bring his characters to life. Of course, his style changes slightly with the advancing years.

While I have not read every thing I have read much of the oeuvre and except for his historical novels which form a large part of his corpus he places his contemporary novels in the years from 1826 into the forties. He seems to set up those novels from 1826 into the forties, and then to their conclusions. As his mind was fixated on that period, other than age, a possible reason for his ceasing to write novels about 1860 was that his novels became dated. Strangely even though his works were selling very well when he stopped novel writing he sold his copyrights to his printer John Dicks and never looked back. By that time he was very well off, dying in the seventies with twenty thousand pounds in the bank.

Ainsworth himself in his later years after 1860 also struggled to appeal to contemporary readers. The late fifties to the break time of 1860 was when the Romantic period faded and Auguste Comte’s Positivism commanded and that was finished by Herbert Spencer. Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859 leading the scientific succession from Comte and Spencer. Spencer sat astride the succession.

The role of psychology was developing rapidly during the thirties, forties, and fifties and Reynolds who was deeply interested in human maturation was no mean psychologist. He is quite remarkable. The principal work I am studying here is Series III of the Mysteries of the Court of London.

The final two series have nothing to do with the Court but the title must have been worth something so he continued it much as Stiff attempted to do when Reynolds left Stiff’s Mysteries of London. I first came upon Reynolds through the first two series of The Mysteries of the Court of London that bowled me over. Gradually as my interest expanded I discovered the Valancourt edition of The Mysteries of London that really excited my interest. And then I came across a bibliography of his work that is as inclusive as any but still misses a number of his titles, many of them virtually unknown. Even with his two major works, the Mysteries the first two series of each are well known and until recently the latter two volumes of each are, if not unknown, neglected. Wildside Press began to publish Lady Saxondales’s Crimes of the Court but gave up after a combined edition of the first two volumes of the 1900 Oxford Society edition, presumably from lack of interest although they did publish all five volumes of the fourth series, The Fortunes of the Ashtons. Those volumes are out as remainders. When those have been gone through the volumes will be scarce.

The whole series of the Court was serialized from 1848 to 1856. I think most readers, as few as they may be, believe that Series I & II occupy that whole space and I did also. Actually the first two Series were finished sometime in 1852, Lady Saxondale would have been from perhaps l853-54 and the Ashtons from 1855 and 1856. Dicks then published all four series in eight volumes.

For as popular as Reynolds was said to be it seems odd that copies of early printings are impossible to find except in American editions that are slightly less difficult to find mostly in the odd volume. So for the two Mysteries one has to rely on The Oxford Society edition. They publish the four series in five volumes each instead of two as with Dicks.

This Oxford Society itself seems to have disappeared without a trace. Scholars in England have been unable to locate it, yet they published the last edition of the Mysteries of the Court while combining with the Richard Francis Burton Society of Boston. The edition was in multiple forms and apparently a fairly large number. The title page says that it was published for members of the Society but they had a deluxe edition of a thousand copies, a flexible leather covered ‘paper back’ edition and an edition of apparently ten volumes combining two volumes each listed as London and Boston. Either the Oxford Society Membership was very large or the publishers merely published under that name as no evidence of the society is known. In any event Reynolds sales continued until WWI when nearly all memory of him vanished under the Guns Of August.

As a note for those not familiar with Richard Francis Burton he was a noted Ethnologist and Anthropologist as well as one of the most famous of explorers that opened Europe to the world. His expeditions take a prominent place in the opening of Africa while his studies of Moslem literature have still a prominent place in Ethnic studies. His most famous work is A Secret Pilgramage to Mecca and Medina when he is alleged to have been the first European to penetrate to the Kabah. I have been able to learn nothing of the Burton Society of Boston.

There is no biography extant about Reynolds. Dick Collins’ short essay published as a preface in the Valancourt Edition of Reynolds’ title The Necromancer being the closest we have. However, Dick Collins points out that George was a highly auto-biographical writer so that armed with the few acts and hints Collins puts out it is possible to get a probable history of the writer.

This is possible because as he is an astute psychologist his works can be seen as essays in self-analysis. In Vol. III the depiction or analysis of Lady Saxondale is central from her first crime to the dissolution of her character. The maturations of all the characters are thoroughly examined while Freud would not have been disappointed in the results. I know, because I’m not. So, sometime in late 1853 Reynolds began the third series of the Court of London

Reynolds was a revolutionary. During the forties he had been a central participant in the evolutionary Chartist Movement of England. He does not seem to have been involved in Marxism. I have found no reference to the Communist Manifesto of 1847. Reynolds career as a violent revolutionist collapsed after the failed Revolution of 1848 in which he played a prominent part in England. He first became a revolutionist when he arrived in France in 1830. His analysis was that the violence of that revolution cleared away ancient customs allowing for a brave new world. From 1830 for the eighteen years to 1848 he was an active revolutionist using his literature to subvert the existing order. His major role in the 1848 revolution was his literary agitation against the Crown and the Aristocracy. All of his writing is subversive. As a violent revolutionist he did not endear himself to the other Chartist leaders.

One of his problems other than advocating violence was that he always had financial schemes that were probably on the edge of legitimacy. Accounts of such schemes fill his pages. His sons were later convicted for employing financial schemes. Con men abound with the most vile criminal figures in every book. Crime is the central theme of Lady Saxondale’s Crimes, indeed, crime is the last word in the title. Lady Saxondale tries to solve all her problems with criminal acts that get her in deeper and deeper blasting nearly all those around her.

Reynolds frequently mentions crimes committed in youth and how they are redeemed by virtue in maturity. Undoubtedly he is referring to himself. An interesting example in Crimes is Lady Bess who will figure in this analysis. Following his regular method she and her brother were orphans. Reynolds and his brother were orphaned. Their father died when Reynolds himself was eight and his mother died when he was sixteen. Orphans and sixteen year olds ramble through his pages.

His first book was written in 1832 when he was eighteen and published in 1835. It was a record of a crime he committed that scarred him for life. His mother died in March of 1830 and George was placed in the guardianship of his father’s best friend Duncan McArthur. He is the McArthur of Reynolds third name. He was a naval doctor living in Walmer. Dick Collins thinks it not unlikely that McArthur bought bodies from Resurrection Men. It was from these men that doctors obtained bodies for dissection and scientific experiments. Once again such doctors have prominent places in his novels. If Reynolds was aware of this and if McArthur indoctrinated him in these practices that he describes so well Georges’ mind was profoundly affected. Perhaps McArthur had an anatomical museum such as the one that Dr. Ferney has in Crimes that George describes so minutely.

George’s father probably appointed his friend as guardian to give his sons male guidance in case of his death. If so, he made the wrong choice. In another place, his novel the Steam Packet, George has a character, probably an alter ego and an orphan declare that his character hated his guardian who was overbearing and brutal who also was executor of his parents will and would never tell how much the legacy was or what it consisted of. In the dispute about how much George inherited if there was a will then it must have substantial enough for McArthur to possibly appropriate it for his own purposes which as executor he could do. In the absence of details one can only speculate but there does seem to be an issue here.

When George wrote his first version of the novel in 1832 he may have felt it too early to the crime depicted to publish so he waited for three years and then probably rewrote or edited it, as he had had time to think the material over.  The novel titled A Youthful Impostor involves a sixteen year old youth who is a cadet at the English military academy at Sandhurst in Berkshire as was Reynolds. Thus his obsession with sixteen year olds. One time coming back to the school from London to Hounslow his character was accosted on the road by two highwaymen as a third watched. After being bandied by the two, the third who watched from a distance thought he would be ideal for a swindling operation he had in mind. The Youth is recruited. In real life this would have been between September and December 1830. In the novel the swindle goes well and the youth is treated to a couple months of the highlife before the swindle goes sour. In real life this must have been the time that George became familiar with Long’s Hotel. Long’s was the posh hotel in London. Reynolds refers to it frequently in his novels.

The bubble must have burst in December so that Reynolds fled to the Continent to avoid prosecution. Then began his exile of five years. Collins believes that Reynolds was involved in criminal activities such as using loaded dice. As George believes that adult honesty redeemed criminal activity he must be referring to himself.

Fresh from a criminal milieu then, this sixteen year old set out to conquer the world by any means necessary. George is so familiar with con games, cheats and sponging that one thinks he must have experienced such activities. I think George did. He was especially solicitous of the gendarmes in Pickwick Abroad so that one imagines that he was quite familiar with them and probably saw first hand the insides of the jails he so minutely describes.

On the other hand George was a curious guy. He came, he saw, and picked a few pockets.

And so, Lady Bess of Crimes who had lost sight of her brother, she was told he was dead, is reunited with him; he is horrified to find that she is a lady highwayman living a life of crime. This is Geroge speaking through Lady Bess now, that when, she explained to her brother, when she was thrown destitute out on the world she had two evil choices, one was to sacrifice her chastity and live a life of degradation and shame from which she could never recover or take up a life of crime while retaining her precious chastity and therefore remain pure while the crimes she was committing could be readily forgiven an hence with her chastity secure she could reenter society as she will when the orphans are discovered to be of noble parentage on the bastard side.

So, while George had erred as the Youthful Impostor his own life had been redeemed by his success as an author and publisher. His crimes in his mind were swept under the rug. A little sophistry goes a long way. Sexual purity, by the way, obsesses George.

Reynolds writing also encompasses several genres from fairy tales to history to true romance, to crime and others. Per its title, Lady Saxondale’s Crimes is primarily a crime and mystery novel with a lot of romance. He does have an audience to maintain and this is the way he does it. Remember the episodes are published on a weekly basis so he has to follow a Perils of Pauline type cliffhanger formula.

The starting point for Lady Saxondale that develops into quite a string of crimes began when she presents her elderly husband with an heir to the title. From a first marriage he has a ne’er do well son name Ralph Farefield who is depending on his inheritance to bail a wastrel life out. When Lady Saxondale’s son is born who displaces him, Ralph determines to remove the baby. This introduces the criminal character Chiffin the Cannibal who is quite reminiscent of the Resurrection Man of Mysteries of London. The chief difference here is that Chiffen is a creation of George’s imagination rather then erupted from his subconscious as did Tony Tidkins, the Resurrection Man. While Tidkins was organic Chiffin has the manufactured feel, however quite good.

Having now read a few million of Georges twenty million plus words I am getting more comfortable with Reynolds’ mind. It now becomes apparent that he is creating his own universe. For instance, this is the first time I’ve noticed him do this, he takes a character from another novel and works him in. I had just finished his million worder Mary Price before beginning Crime. In Mary Price he introduces a ne-er do well strolling player by the name of Thompson who was still alive at novel’s end. In that novel we now learn he had become involved in a valuable secret that Harietta (Lady Saxondale) needs. Mary Price was begun in 1850 running concurrently with the second series of Mysteries of the Court. The first series of that novel terminated and was published in book form in 1853. The last we saw of Thompson he was in prison on some charge of flim flam. He was obviously an obscure personage as no one in Saxondale has ever heard of him nor is he known to be dead or alive.

Lady Saxondale actuates a dragnet at some expense to locate him. I imagine that if Reynolds could have planned his whole oeuvre consciously in 1844 he might have composed a huge panoramic novel. Subconsciously he has, as the novels can be integrated but with shifting casts of characters. Tony Tidkins, the Resurrection Man could have been kept alive thus appearing here obviating the need for Chiffin. The two characters are quite close with Chiffin doing some resurrection work.

Well, Ralph the Heir employs Chiffen to abduct and murder the infant which he promises to do. Circumstances prevent the murder. Lady Saxondale, Harriet is determined that Ralph shall not inherit. She sets out to find the child. The astute reader intuits that she will not find it but will find a substitute. The difficulty here is that the real baby has a strawberry birthmark on his shoulder. Harriet was an aristocrat you know; in those day an aristocrat could do and get away with anything they willed. Harriet appealed toa Dr. Ferney to create the strawberry on the substitute.

A reader familiar with Reynolds knows doctors, medical matters, are an obsession with him. This probably refers back to his guardian, Duncan McArthur. He creates many and Dr. Ferney, along with Tidkins, the Resurrection man, is perfect of his kind. Now, of course the reader can guess the baby is a duplicate but that’s about all. It’s pretty clear that one of the characters is going to be the real baby. Which one. George keeps his audience guessing, strings the issue out. However, Ferney’s depiction is wonderful. According to biographer Dick Collins, Georges guardian who you will remember had been his father’s best friend, Duncan McArthur had been a doctor in Walmer, Kent who also bought bodies from resurrection men. Collins speculates that George had even worked with Duncan, perhaps even accompanying him on a removal. At any rate George’s description of Dr Ferney seems really detailed, the kind of detail you can only get by having been involved.

George’s doctors always have a museum of embalmed body parts, the random head collection and the obsession with creating life. These doctors appear regularly. The description of Ferney’s collection is magnificent. Of course, Ferney falls deeply in love with Harriet having met her while grafting the strawberry on the substitute. Ferney’s crime haunts him carrying that frightful secret as a burden.

Ralph becomes desperate when he learns of the discovery of the child or replacement. He now has to murder the replacement, in the process he is discovered by Harriet and murdered in the crypt of the Saxondale private chapel. This is because Harriet has a vial of newly discovered chloroform acquired from Dr. Ferney. One whiff of which lays you out. She gave Ralph a whiff and shoved him into the pool and walks out locking the door behind her. Nobody ever visits the chapel so she thinks she is cool.

At this point she has launched herself into a life of hideous crimes that will unfold one after the other. If you think Harriet was alone in her crimes you are mistaken. There will be many crimes and many criminals. For the most attractive of them George reinvents the wonderful Lady Lade, Letitia Lade, from the first series of the Court of London. In that novel she was an associate of Tim Meagles who was a very close buddy of George IV as a young man. She was known as an Amazon and Diana the Huntress. Appellations of Lady Bess. She wears men’s clothes as does Lady Bess. Meagles was based on the relationship of the real life Beau George Brummell with George IV.

George Reynolds introduces Lady Bess, also known as Elizabeth Paton. She is a difficult character, as we will learn she was the sister of Francis Paton, presumably orphans, but we will learn further on that they are the natural children of Lord Everdean who mated with Lady Everton, a married lady to produce them out of wedlock. Lord Everdean finds it expedient to leave England for a decade or but when Lady Everton’s husband dies he returns to reconcile with that widowed Lady. He also reunites with his two children. He can forgive Lady Bess for her criminal activities because she has jealously guarded her virginity so that she is pure.

Lady Bess while not hardened ran with and commanded a ferocious gang led Chiffin the Cannibal. Bess is a lady highwayman. Reynolds is associated with the Newgate Calendar school of Penny Dreadful writers along with Ainsworth although neither really fits that description. The Newgate Calendar was a series of brief histories of famous crimes and criminals that writers mined for their own stories.

Reynolds is very familiar with the Newgate Calendar and especially likes the character of the highwayman, perhaps because of his youthful encounter. He also favors female characters dressed in men’s clothes. Lady Bess fits all his preferences. As her story begins she along with Chiffin are holding up a stages coach quite close to where she lives. Her victims are two lawyers, Marlow and Malton who will figure prominently in the novel. Things go wrong when Marlow punches Lady Bess and knocks her down thus capturing her. She talks them into taking her to her house, where she lives for crying out loud, to tidy up. Incredible as that sounds she has a hutch of carrier pigeons so that she pens a note in code, attaches it under a wing and sends it off. It seems that there is a criminal network that is connected by carrier pigeon from London to Dover.

Hang in now, don’t leave me, George, as I pointed out, was much influenced by Harrison Ainsworth. Ainsworth wrote a novel in 1832 titled Rookwood. This was one of the first Newgate novels from which he selected as a hero the legendary highwayman, Dick Turpin. In it Turpin commits a crime in London and to foil detection he set out on a wild non-stop ride to York two hundred miles distant. He rides his wonder horse Black Bess, hence Lady Bess is a tribute, at top speed the two hundred miles in eight hours, a seemingly impossible feat. That means he can claim to have been in York when the crime was committed in London. Confederates could claim that he had been seen in York during those eight hours.

Ainsworth’s depiction of Dick Turpin’s ride created a sensation while making his reputation. George was one of those in the admiring crowd. As ever George lifted the story, which was obvious to everyone, much as he had Dickens Mr. Pickwick for his own Pickwick Abroad. While it might appear that George was plagiarizing, and I suppose he was, he apparently wanted to emulate, or appropriate, that which he admired. Hence Lady Bess does a ride from London to Dover in five and half hours.

Now, Dick Turpin’s great horse, Black Bess, dropped dead after her grueling race of eight hours. George Reynolds’ objected to that in Lady Bess’ case although in Crimes of Lady Saxondale he has Count Christoval make a dash from Madrid to Barcelona, 300 miles, in an effort to save a man from hanging, in which the horse does drop dead at the end of the run. In his The Necromancer he has the devil, Danvers’, make a run from London to the Isle of Wight over hill and dale and water with no ill effects to his magic horse.

Lady Bess’ pigeon post is set up on a start, two relays and a finish system. Thus, while the two lawyers, Marlow and Malton, are waiting Lady Bess sends off her pigeon to the first relay station. Pigeons apparently fly sixty miles an hour thus arriving before Lady Bess.

The lawyers hear her horse clatter off realizing that they have been hoodwinked. Now Turpin was followed by a posse who were delayed by changing horses so the lawyers rode off after Bess but are no match for her. The first relay station prepares a horse for her so that she can jump off hers and remount within seconds. That station then sends the pigeon on to the second station signaling that Bess is on the way. The second station repeats sending the final message to the terminal point the Admiral Hotel in Dover.

Ainsworth had Turpin and Black Bess clatter noisily through towns; George notices this error so he has Bess ride around towns to avoid notice which she can do because she knows the whole of Kent like the back of her hand. Arriving at Dover at daybreak (4:00 AM in England at that season and latitude) she checks into the Admiral hotel whose owners are in cahoots and have prepared an alibi and set it up. Unlike the desperate characters of London who look and act vicious, these criminals in Dover maintain the appearance of respectability and hence can function within the law as well as without. When Marlow and Malton arrive and try to bring charges the magistrates blow them off as Bess couldn’t have been in two places at once. Bess wins that one

To follow the Lady Bess thread of the novel a little further, she had been separated from her brother Frank Paton a few years earlier. She had lost track of him but then she spots him walking down the street. He was wearing the livery of Lady Saxondale whose footman he was. Bess rescues him from service, which was considered an indignity, but he is aghast when he learns she is a criminal. Here George indulges in a little sophistry. In order to reconcile Frank she explains that when they were separated she had no means, having only the choice of sacrificing that greatest jewel that woman possesses, that is her virginity, and become a kept woman or worse or turning to crime which was a much lesser evil than becoming frail and living off her body. Frank thinks for a couple minutes and agrees. I offer no opinion of my own.

Some adventures intervene until their father, unknown to them, Lord Eagledean returns to England, tracks them down along with their mother who, it may be kept in mind, was seduced from virtue byhim making her a frail twice over. Eagledean is fabulously wealthy, we are talking millions of pounds, a multi-billionaire in today’s money, so the two orphans are now fabulously wealthy while being elevated to the nobility. Nice trick, Lady Bess becomes Elizabeth and amazingly drops her whole criminal psychology. She had maintained that jewel of womanhood so that probably redeemed her criminal career while making her acceptable to Eagledean.

Lord Eagledean is an enigmatic character. While he maintains that he is a virtuous, highly principled person who is highly censorious of other people’s conduct his methods hover around the unethical into hypocrisy. It is difficult to determine what Reynolds wants readers to think of the man. Is it Reynolds’ art that he preaches the contrast between Eagledean’s word an his actions so as to let the reader form his own opinion of the man or is he unaware of the contrast but wants the reader to take him at his word. Eagledean’s activities do take place at a very complex point in the story in which the ethics of all the characters have become ambiguous in their morality. This part of the story is actually quite frightening. It takes place in the latter half of vol. IV and there’s still five or six hundred pages to go.

In 14. I will begin an analysis of the principal character of the Crimes of Lady Saxondale. As guilty as Lady Saxondale became she is hardly more culpable than every other character in the novel. Indeed, Lady Saxondale’s Crimes is one long study of criminality of one degree or another. I think you will find the climax invigorating. It will take some effort on my part to capture the essence of Reynolds’ mind.

 

14. Time Traveling With R.E. Prindle follows.

2 Responses to “13. Time Traveling With R.E. Prindle: George W.M. Reynolds, Lady Saxondale’s Crimes.”

  1. Daughter of Babylon Says:

    All Saxons are Isaac’s Sons; he being the kid that nearly got shishkobobbed on top of Moriah around 2000 B.C. by his human sacrifice happy Dad, Abe.

    Another “peaceful” religion on a planet drowning in them.

    Because such conduct has been normalized in the bat shit crazy Collective Conscoius; the seminal moment of the Three “Great” (coughs) Monotheisms is regarded as a Marvelous Moment, rather than what it was…a monstrous act of extortion and loyalty testing by one of the Higher Ranking Annunaki; Enlil; better known as Jehovah or Yahweh.

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