Remember the moral furore when Fay Weldom included references to Bulgari watches in her novel The Bulgari Connection ? She admitted being paid wheelbarrows of money for this blatant puff. But product placement in fiction is not new. Warreniana , the bestseller published in 1824 by the novelist, parodist and short story writer William Frederick Deacon (1799 – 1845), purports to be a collection of prose and verse by contemporary writers in praise of Warren’s Blacking– the boot polish bottled by the young Charles Dickens in the early 1820s. It is not known whether Deacon received a bung, but as the first edition appears to have been quite large, it is possible that the publishers were financially rewarded by Warren for printing an unusually large number of copies.
Deacon was primarily a comic writer. Few, if any, serious nineteenth century writers would ever consider augmenting their incomes from writing by referencing a commercial product. One that did, however, was American journalist, novelist and short story writer Charles Stokes Wayne, who under the pseudonym Henry Hazeltine decided to see what would happen if he mentioned the restorative effects of Sanatogen in his Confession of a Neurasthenic (1908). Continue reading