Tag Archives: Victoriana

The pioneers who gave us the first true Copyright Act

Talfourd and Mahon 001

Writers of all kinds should be grateful for the work done of their behalf by two men, the lawyer, MP, and writer, Thomas Noon Talfourd (1795 – 1854) and the Tory MP and historian Lord Mahon (1805 – 75), who were the driving forces behind the Literary Copyright Act of 1842. But this was not the first Act that granted authors rights over their work. The first to do so became law in 1709. Up to this time copyright was restricted to booksellers who, as publishers, would buy up all rights from authors for a fixed sum. The 1709 Act first made it legal to anyone to own a copyright—even authors, although it gave them a meagre fourteen years. A further Act of 1790 extended this period to 28 years. Although this was an improvement, it still meant that a young writer like Dickens, whose Pickwick Papers was dedicated to Talfourd in 1837, could not expect to profit from his early works beyond his mid fifties. It is probable that his friendship with the novelist prompted Talfourd to pursue legislation that would benefit writers like him and to this end he presented an initial version of the 1842 bill to Parliament in 1837.

This bill failed, but Talfourd remained determined. Further bills were presented and at last, in 1842, the Literary Copyright Act became law. This extended copyright to the life of the author plus seven years, and where copyright already existed in a work under earlier legislation, it was to be extended to that provided by the new Act. The Act was further amended in 1911 and several times since.

So here is a rather rare item –a letter from Lord Mahon to T. N. Talfourd written six years before the famous Act was passed. Although the issue of copyright is not mentioned in the letter, the contents do suggest that the two men, who shared literary interests, were on friendly terms. Talfourd had sought election to the Athenaeum, a prestigious London club which numbered many writers, artists and scientists among its members. He was unsuccessful on this occasion, not because, as Mahon explains, the committee doubted Talfourd’s ‘eminent qualification ‘, but because there were insufficient committee members present to vote.

Although Talfourd’s literary career was unremarkable, he became a guiding presence on the Bench and died at the comparatively early age of 59 while delivering judgement in court. [R.M.Healey]

Obscure Victorian magazines—number 3—The Pantile Papers

If we hadn’t found this letter among a pile of other manuscripts it is unlikely that anyone else would have written anything useful on E.S.Littleton or his short-lived literary magazine, The Pantile Papers. Having said that, at least one book dealer has recorded that this was a ‘very rare’ periodical. However, two examples are currently in the market---one single issue priced at £120; the other a complete run for £350. So perhaps it’s not so rare—but interesting at least.

According to a very brief notice in George Hull’s The Poets of Blackburn  Edward  Littleton was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, the son of a minister. In 1877 he published a slim volume entitled Hamand and other Poems and not long afterwards moved to Tunbridge Wells to set up a new ‘Monthly Literary Magazine and Review ‘which he christened The Pantile Papers in honour of the towns’s famous street, The Pantiles. Confusingly, the magazine’s editorial address appears on our featured letter  as 11, Stationer’s Hall Court, London EC, which could suggest that Littleton felt an address in the City might attract more contributors and readers.

Continue reading

Boozing with the Victorian Society in Crouch End, Hornsey and Harringay

Found in a box of books is this photocopy of a typewritten guide to a ‘pub crawl’ (walk no 41) of various late Victorian ‘gin palaces’ in North London arranged by the Victorian Society on 16th September 1966. The guides were two architects-- Roderick Gradidge and Ben Davis—both of whom had designed interiors for Ind Coope. Judging by their descriptions of the pubs they planned to visit, both were also passionate and knowledgeable fans of late Victorian architecture and design. The grand plasterwork of the ceiling cornices and Art Nouveau stained glass is pointed out as being of special interest. But the two men also emphasised the ways in which Victorian pub architects tried to make   their interiors both glamorous and homely as a way of getting their (mainly) lower middle class drinkers (mention is made of Mr Pooter’s ‘raffish’ friends) to spend hours away from their more humble abodes, much (we might add) in the way that the designers of Music Halls and northern shopping arcades  (one thinks of Frank Matcham ), and grand hotels, were doing in the same era. Here are the guides admiring the combination of grandeur and intimacy found in the Queen’s Hotel, Crouch End (below):

All the way round there were through views, glimpses of the other bars, and as a result one was able to feel that one was standing in one part of a single large space, large enough to tolerate the considerable height without become vertical. Since the space was so well subdivided…one could feel secluded in a sufficiently small and enclosed space, but since the proportion of the greater space was horizontal a feeling of repose was retained which could not have belonged to tall, restricted vertical rooms. This method of subdividing an area into small bars by means of partitions, which were half-glazed  with semi-obscured glass, and were not much above six feet high, was peculiar to Victorian pubs, and goes a long way to explaining the incomparable drinking atmosphere they provide...

Continue reading