Monday, October 20, 2008

Joseph Hannaford Bennett - Leonard Smithers

A little while ago now I was contacted by a charming gentleman who was engaged in research into the life of his uncle Joseph Hannaford Bennett (publisher, writer, translator, editor, man of letters), and as the said Joseph was a friend of Leonard Smithers and other 90s luminaries, he wondered if I might be able to add anything to his knowledge of his uncle. I was fairly hopeless but I have assured my corresponent that the folks who visit here are a very widely read and knowledgable kind of crowd and with his permission I paste below the potted biographical details which he has put together in the hope that there may be someone with something new to tell him - much of the information about Leonard Smithers is towards the end of the piece.

If you feel you might be able to help then please do click on the 'email me' link on the right and I have promised to pass on any responses garnered by this post.

from my correspondent:

(1867 – ?)

He was my uncle, my father’s second eldest brother,born 11 July 1867 in King Street, St Andrew, Plymouth, Devon. His middle name was bestowed to honour his grandmother, Elizabeth Hannaford, wife of his grandfather Henry Bennett. Although he gave his full name when he married, and was censused as Joseph H., he chose to call himself Hannaford Bennett in his business dealings and social life. Certain references to him in literary sources name him as J. Hannaford Bennett.
In 1871 the census shows Joseph H. living in Pentamar Terrace, Stoke Damerel, Devonport with his mother, his father, and his two brothers Frederick William and Alfred Henry. However, Joseph’s age was enumerated as 8, whereas, according to his birth certificate, he would have been only 4.
The beginning of my "biographising" this uncle was the 1881 census. At 14, Joseph resided with his mother and siblings at Hawthorn Villa, Woodside Road, in the parish of Hound. This is now part of Woolston in Southampton, Hampshire. On the night of this census his father, Joseph Henry Bennett, was on board HMS Hector, a vessel employed in the Coastguard Service at Southampton. Present were also Joseph’s siblings Frederick William, Edith Blanche, Maud Eliza and Eliza Augusta. His brother Sydney George and sister Florence, twins, were born in November of that year.
In view of the occupations he followed in his adult years, it seems logical that he received a good academic grounding. King Edward’s Grammar School was the most prestigious secondary school in Southampton, but there is no record of his having been a pupil there. There were private tutors in the town, but Southampton archivists can find no records of their pupils.
Joseph’s father, Joseph Henry Bennett, if he can be judged by the many years he spent at sea, away from his family, probably played a minor role in Joseph’s upbringing, and I know nothing of him following the record in the log of HMS Swiftsure of his going ashore at Callao in Peru in 1882. In 1891 Joseph’s mother Eliza was recorded in the census as a widow.
At some time between the 1881 and 1891 censuses, Joseph’s mother Eliza acquired a general store at 50 Edgecombe Street, East Stonehouse, Plymouth. Joseph may well have completed his secondary education there. His brother,my father Sydney George, attended the Stoke Grammar School, and perhaps Joseph did also. However, by the age of 24 in 1891 he had moved to London. The 1891 census records him living at 221 Hemberton Road, Lambeth, a boarder in the household of a W.C.Clement, a commercial clerk, born in the City. Also present M. Clement’s daughter Jeane Chatenet, born in Kilburn, and his son-in-law Alfred Chatenet, born in France.
M. Clement was probably of French origin, and Alfred possibly a connection with my uncle via the latter’s activity as a French translator.
Joseph’s profession was stated to be "Publisher, Bookseller", born in Plymouth.
In 1901, the latest of the census records I am able to access, Joseph was residing at 53 Hunter Street in St George Bloomsbury.
How Joseph contrived to set himself up in the publishing-bookselling business is at present a mystery. His aunt Elizabeth Ellen Bennett, who had married John Jones Shaddick in 1861, may have been able to assist him in this venture, although they had seven children to care for.
Bloomsbury at that time was part of the civil parish of St Pancras, and it’s worth noting that William Bennett, a son of the John Hastings Bennett
who was the brother of Henry, Joseph’s grandfather, had moved to St Pancras about the time of Joseph’s birth, so it’s quite likely that Joseph had contact with William and his family. On the other hand, of course, he was probably attracted to the area by its reputation.
Kelly’s London Directories show the following among the publishers listed:
1911,1913 and 1915 Bennett & Co at 8 Henrietta Street,Covent Garden,WC.
1916, J. & J. Bennett Ltd. So far I’ve been unable to discover the identity of the other "J".
1923, Bennett J., advertising agent, printer, publisher at 26/27 Avenue Chambers,Vernon Place WC1. This address was in Bloomsbury.
The Literary Year Book, 1923, page 423: " BENNETT,Mr Hannaford,110 St Martin’s Lane, WC was a partner in the publishing house of Messrs Henry & Co for many years previously to 1898, in which year he established an agency for supplying newspapers and periodicals with the best fiction and special articles."
To digress from his business life:
Joseph Hannaford Bennett, bachelor, married Ruth Penelope Fanny Carey, spinster, 18 September 1909 at St Mary Magdalene in the parish of Bermondsey, County of London. The witnesses were Emma Stephanie Carey and Douglas Walter Crichton, and the marriage ceremony was performed by James Pratt, Vicar of St Stephen’s, Coleman Street. Joseph named his father as Joseph Henry Bennett, "Gentleman", and Ruth her father as Richard Carey, Contractor. Given Joseph’s preference for Hannaford Bennett, thus categorizing his father may cast Joseph in a somewhat snobbish mould. In 1901 his mother was recorded in the census as a widow, her husband presumed dead. The marriage certificate should have stated "deceased", after his father’s name. Joseph also stated his age as 38. He was 42. Ruth was 23, her correct age! Joseph’s profession, "Publisher". Ruth was born in Bermondsey.
Joseph’s address at the time of his marriage was 34 Gloucester Road, Kew, and according to the local archivist he and Ruth were still there until 1931, when Joseph would have been 64. They are first listed in the street directories in 1910. Much to my regret, I have still to unravel the skein of their lives from that year, and to establish whether or not they had children. There’s no reason to believe that Joseph’s business and literary activities came to an abrupt halt in that year. I imagine it would have been difficult for him to leave London and its cultural attractions, but that has yet to be determined.
Connecting the name Hannaford Bennett with that of my uncle Joseph Hannaford Bennett seemed at first to be barking up the wrong tree.
Alfred Henry his eldest brother was a civil servant who worked in the Patents Office. Frederick William his next eldest sibling, born in 1870, in 1891 was a merchant seaman but at the time of the census was boarding in London. My father Sydney George also went to sea, joined the Rifle Brigade in 1903, was commissioned in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and served two tours of duty in France before being discharged in 1919 on the grounds of ill health contracted on active service. In 1901 Joseph’s sister Edith was an assistant teacher, Maud and Augusta were bookkeepers, and Florence was a dressmaker’s assistant living in a boarding house in London. Intelligent no doubt, but in view of "Hannaford" Bennett’s scholarship and literary output I felt doubtful that he was one and the same with my uncle. The latter’s marriage record, and other references to his full name in the course of his profession, finally dispelled all doubt.
The catalogue of the National Library of Australia, in Canberra, where I first lighted on the authorship of Hannaford Bennett, contains only two samples of his literary output. It was at this point, when I despaired of adding further to my knowledge of the man, that I received an email from David Wilkinson, of The Book Gallery in Truro, Cornwall. David told me that in the course of his research into the author Ranger Gull, he had come across my name in connection with my Hannaford Bennett problem. David suggested that it could be well worth my seeing "Publisher to the Decadents", authored by Professor Emeritus James Nelson, Pennsylvania State University Press 2000, as this work contains references to the friendship of Hannaford Bennett with Ranger Gull, but also in particular with Leonard Smithers, the very reputable-disreputable publisher and key figure of the 1890s.
For me this was an exciting development, and I lost no time in accessing James Nelson by email, and his book at the National Library. The photographs of Hannaford Bennett with Smithers are very poor reproductions in the book. James Nelson told me that the owner of the originals, would not allow him to borrow them in order to make good copies, but at least and at last I could see my uncle, if only in the photographic flesh.
Joseph’s close friendship with Leonard Smithers opened a window on the so-called Decadents and thereby on certain aspects of Joseph’s life that have proved most interesting for me to probe. More of that later in this account.
Under his nom de plume of Hannaford Bennett, Joseph, called by one chronicler "that ripe scholar", was a very industrious writer in both English and French. He must have devoted much of his time to his many Introductions to the volumes in the Carlton Classics series published by John Long. I have set down elsewhere what I have been able to glean of these and other works that he wrote or translated, mainly from searches on the Internet. It seems likely that he was the editor of the Carlton Classics. In 1917 he was Editor of Warner’s Library of the World’s Best…….
and of The English Illustrated Magazine from October 1901 to March 1903;
Joseph’s fortunes took a turn for the worse about 1912. The Times 0f 19 December in that year reported in its Law category that an action in May 1911 had been brought against Mr Joseph Hannaford Bennett, publisher, and against the author and printers, by Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson, a South African mining magnate, in respect of damages for "gross and obvious libels" appearing in a book entitled "Reminiscences of Kimberley". The author of this book was Louis Cohen, and it was published by Bennett & Co, London.
Joseph Robinson, born in 1845, was a very rich and much hated self-made man who began as a general trader, wool-buyer and stock-breeder, but on the discovery of diamonds in South Africa in 1867 he hastened to the Vaal River district where, by purchasing the stones from the natives and afterwards by buying diamond-bearing land, notably at Kimberley, he soon acquired a considerable fortune. (See the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition for more on Robinson. He died in 1929.)
Before Mr Registrar Hope, was an application for an order of discharge by Mr Joseph Hannaford Bennett, publisher,of Henrietta Street Covent Garden, who was adjudged bankrupt on 17 July 1912. Mr Tindale Davis "appeared for the bankrupt." The Official Receiver reported in regard to the bankrupt’s conduct and affairs that the only debt, in the amount of £1386 10s.3d. was due to the petitioning creditor, Sir J.B.Robinson
It appeared that Bennett began business under the style of Bennett & Co in May 1906. In 1909 he entered into an agreement with a printer under which they carried on another and distinct business on joint account as printers and publishers of a series of books.
The full account as reported in The Times is quite voluminous. The upshot was that because Joseph had apparently committed some kind of misdemeanour in regard to his statements of assets, the Registrar imposed a suspension of three years on the application.
Joseph appears to have been an avid theatre-goer, and even tried his hand at playwriting. In 1904 he was the Honorary Secretary of The Playgoers’ Club, as reported in The Times, 7 March of that year,whose members are noted as including J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan), H.B.Irving, Max Beerbohm and Hamilton Fyffe. The Times of May 24, 1920 carries a report on Three "First Nights" at the theatre, which includes "The Mystery of the Yellow Room," an adaptation by Mr Hannaford Bennett of "Le Mystére de la Chambre Jaune" a detective novel by M.Gaston Leroux, which has had a great vogue both in France and in this country. Among those who will take part in the production are Miss Daisy Markham, Miss Sybil Thorndike and Mr Franklin Dyall." Incidentally Gaston Leroux was the author of "Phantom of the Opera".
A startling contretemps arising from the production of "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" was reported in The Times of April 21,1921. In the King’s Bench Division an action was brought by Mr Wood-Ingram, an actor and theatrical manager, for alleged breach of contract against Mrs D.A.Moss, a married woman known on the stage as Daisy Markham; and against Mr Hannaford Bennett. The defendants were partners in producing plays, and in or about April, 1920, they were contemplating producing "The Mystery of the Yellow Room." To cut to the bone of the case, in June 1920 the plaintiff was given a fortnight’s notice, apparently because Daisy didn’t like him, and he took her and HB to court for breach of contract. Wood-Ingram lost the case.
I now turn to the friendship that developed between my uncle and Leonard Smithers. Professor Nelson was unable to add to what he had written in his book on Smithers regarding Joseph. Fortunately, for what it’s worth, Joseph himself described his first meeting with Smithers in "B’s (Hannaford Bennett’s) Recollections of the Nineties". This is part of the Dan Rider Collection held in the University of Reading in the UK:
"When I first came to know Leonard Smithers I was still an undergraduate at Oxford, during that decade which Mr Richard Le Gallienne had so picturesquely called "The Romantic Nineties."
I had obtained ‘sick relative’ leave of absence over the weekend, and after an afternoon’s racing at Kempton Park, was visiting a performance of Mr Oscar Wilde’s play, "The Importance of Being Ernest". In the bar, during an interval, I was introduced to Smithers, and my first impressions were very definite. He was very elegantly dressed, he had a broad North Country accent, and instead of buying the brandies and sodas which were the customary refreshment of those days, he ordered a bottle of champagne, the consumption of which caused us to miss some of the ensuing act.
He had never, he said, been to Oxford, and we arranged that he should come down for a weekend. He stayed at The Old Mitre, and was greatly impressed by the peaceful Oxford of those old pre-petrol, pre-Rhodes scholar days, which now seem almost incredibly distant.
He was also, I remember, moved by the sight of Mr Oscar Wilde, the playwright, in a Canadian canoe, accompanied by a slim youth who wore a wreath of roses around his hat which was known as a ‘gents straw boater’. (This was Lord Alfred Douglas.) Wilde was no lightweight, and the edge of his end of the canoe came perilously near the waters of the pellucid Cherwell, while his garlanded friend was perched high at the stern and paddled with difficulty.
Wilde was, in those days, a fairly frequent visitor to Oxford. Unfortunately, soon after, came the regrettable libel action against Lord Queensbery, the subsequent proceedings against Wilde, and his incarceration in Reading Gaol, which at any rate gave us that remarkable poem, ’The Ballad of Reading Gaol.’ This poem Smithers published, but it was Oscar Wilde’s swan song.
…(more from Hannaford Bennett on the current state of the theatre…)
After this visit to Oxford I met Smithers fairly regularly, at his business premises in The Royal Arcade, and subsequently at 5 Old Bond Street, both very elegant establishments. I used to meet Leonard Smithers there (The Café Royal) very regularly, and sometimes went to dine with him in the spacious house in Bedford Square in which at that time he lived. Fellow guests of mine on the first occasion that I dined there were Ranger Gull and Reginald Bacchus who lived together in a flat in Craven St., Strand…."
Leonard Charles Smithers (1861-1907),publisher and antiquarian bookseller,was born in Sheffield,Yorkshire. His father was a dentist. Leonard graduated in Law in 1884. He worked as a solicitor in Sheffield for a number of years. He married Alice Oldham in 1882 and they had two children, Lena, who died at the age of two in 1891 ,and a son Jack, born in that year.
Smithers was far more interested in books and art than in the legal profession.
Books of erotica appear to have been a major interest.
As his desire to pursue a career in books grew, Smithers came under the influence of the famous world traveller and diplomat Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, whose fascination with sexual customs or oriental peoples was well known. By 1888 Smithers, with the aid of a young Sheffield printer and book dealer, had established the Erotika Biblion Society, a fictitious organisation modelled on Burton’s Kama Shastra Society.
Smithers and Nichols moved their business to London in 1891. I’ll now refer the reader to the fascinating but ultimately tragic events in Smithers’ years as publisher and "the most learned erotomaniac in Europe" (Oscar Wilde), as described in James Nelson’s book and other literature, since this mini-biography is about Hannaford Bennett, not Smithers. Relatively little has been written about Smithers, says George Sims in "Leonard Smithers,a publisher of the 1890s". "His close friends, Teixera de Mattos, Reginald Bacchus, Ernest Dowson, Cyril Ranger Gull, Hannaford Bennett And his faithful secretary Florence Brimmacombe did not commit their opinions to paper".
Smithers’ son Jack : " Although much business was done in Cliffords’ Inn, none was done at Ashworth Mansions. The old coterie of friends and acquaintances of the Bedford Square period diminished - that is, the most prominent (Wilde, Dowson, Beardsley etc…) but others attended almost nightly; Reggie Bacchus, Hannaford Bennett, Ranger Gull, Alfred Cooper and many others."
Still another reference to Smithers and Hannaford Bennett: Smithers "also had another publishing link with the Amsterdam printers Binger Bros,who had an office at 110 St Martin’s Lane where,from 1898-1903,their agent was Smithers’ close friend Hannaford Bennett."
The Lutetian Society:
In late Victorian London a number of literary societies, for example the Kama Shastra Society, founded by Sir Richard Burton, published for distribution to their members unexpurgated editions of banned books, often in translation. One such was the Lutetian Society. Chantal Morel (1997 Bulletin of the Emile Zola Society) thought that Leonard Smithers may have been the man behind this society,and possibly Joseph Hannaford Bennett was among its translators. Certainly Teixeira de Mattos (born in Holland) was, and he was also a close friend of Smithers.
De Mattos assigned Germinal to Havelock Ellis…who signed the contract on or about 15 February 1894.The parties to the contract were Joseph Hannaford Bennett, publisher, London, Leonard Charles Smithers, publisher, London,and Havelock Ellis, Cornwall.
(From the long article by Denise Merkle of the University of Moncton,Canada,on the Lutetian Society.)
From highly impressive and successful beginnings in the publishing business, Smithers’ reputation and fortunes deteriorated steadily until he was declared bankrupt in 1900. In order to survive he vacated his fine premises and began pirating books to which he had no legal right. Suffering from what George Sims called ‘muscular rheumatism’, and driven to alcohol and narcotics abuse, Smithers died in poverty at 4 Kent House, Peterborough Road, Fulham, in September 1907, his wife lying in a drunken stupor in the next room. In this period of his final degradation he had been sustained by his friends Hannaford Bennett and Ranger Gull. At the time of his death his net worth was £99. He was survived by his wife, and his son Jack wrote a questionable book about his father.
So ended Joseph’s friendship with Smithers and possibly with the other moths who had for so long gathered around the latter’s flame. The "Decadent" period of English literature faded with the advent of the Great War, and I presume that Joseph continued to make a living from his writing and publishing.
In 1931, at 64 years of age, Joseph and Ruth relocated. At present I have no knowledge of where they went to live. I’ve searched the death indexes from that year until 1953, when he would have been 86. Joseph H. Bennett persons are numerous, and middle names are not given in the indexes. At 85 years of age I feel I should still maintain the rage in searching for answers.
Because of the rift between my father and his family, I have had almost no information which might lead me to a better knowledge of his brothers and sisters. In the case of Joseph Hannaford Bennett, he was living at 7 Cranbourne Avenue, Plymouth, in 1903, as my father, when enlisting in the Rifle Brigade, named him as next-of-kin at that address. When I discovered that Alfred Henry was employed at the Patents Office, I acted on a hunch that Joseph may also have worked there. The helpful person in that Office coulld tell me only that there had been a J.H.Bennett among the personnel, but that the record had been destroyed. Initials only, I was informed, which gave me little cause for elation given that there were and are so many J.H.Bennett persons in the world. There was even an F.W.Bennett among the Patents Office personnel, who may have been Frederick William! I’ll continue hunting for these particular needles in the genealogical haystack.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hannaford Bennett is mentioned in the Autobiography of Lord Alfred Douglas on p. 226. He is credited with introducing Douglas to T.W.H. Crosland at a music hall.

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