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Henry Morley

Other Details
Published : 414 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 15/9/1822
Death : 14/5/1894
Views : 8340

Man of letters. Attended boarding schools in England, then for two years a Moravian school in Neuwied, Germany. Student at King's College, London, in faculties of arts and medicine. With two fellow students, brought out King's College Magazine, 1841-1842. L.S.A. 1843. Practised medicine, 1844-1848; then for two years conducted own school. On staff of H.W. and A.Y.R., 1851-1865; subeditor, then editor (1861-1867) of Examiner. Lecturer in English language and literature, King's College, 1857-1865; professor of English language and literature, University College, 1865-1889; held also other academic appointments. Hon. LL.D. University of Edinburgh, 1880. Contributed to  Fraser's, Athenaeum, Inquirer (Unitarian journal), Quarterly Review, Edinburgh Review, and other periodicals. Author of books of poems, fairy tales; biography of Bernard Palissy, of Jerome Cardan, of Corenlius Agrippa; Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair, 1858; Clement Marot, and Other Studies, 1871; English Writers, 10 volumes completed at time of his death. In latter part of his life, edited some 300 volumes of English and foreign casasics, constituting Morley's Universal Library, Cassell's National Library and other series.

Morley's acquaintance with DIckens came about through his connection with H.W. During the years that he knew Dickens, wrtoe Morley many years after Dickens's death, he acquired for him "a strong and well-grounded affection". "A thousand evidences of his worth have made his memory most dear to me" ("Introduction" to A Christmas Carol). Copies of his books that he presented to Dickens during the 1850s, however, Morley formally inscribed to the older writer with his "respect"—"hearty", "sincere" or "true" (Stonehouse, Catalogue of the Library of Charles Dickens, 1935)—rather than in more personal or familiar terms.

In a letter of 1850, Morley expressed high admiration of Dickens's writing, but stated at the same time that Dickens lacked "sound literary taste": "his own genius, brilliant as it is, appears often in a dress which shows that he has more heart and wit than critical refinement". In a later letter of the same year he remarked: "Dickens has great genius, but not a trained and cultivated reason" (Solly, Life of Henry Morley, pp. 149, 163). Thirty years later, those judgements remained essentially unchanged. In his history of Victorian literature, morley wrote of Dickens as a writer who "spent the figts of a rare genius in strenuous service ot humanity". Dickens's works, he stated, inevitably showed, "at times, some traces of the want of early culture"; to fastidious readers, his "generous emotions" appear occasionally to "outrun his judgement", and his writings seemed "at times, often perhaps" to be vulgar. The charge of vulgarity Morley countered by the general statement that in "a writer who deliberately gives his labour to the highest aims in life" there could be "no essential vulgarity. The complaint that Dickens based his novels on "accidental questions of the day and not upon essential truths" Morley held unjust, pointing out in Bleak House a deeper purpose than a mere attack on contemporary abuses. Morley mentioned also A Child's History of England; though commendable in intent, he wrote, the book required for its execution "much knowledge in which Dickens was deficient" (Of English Literature in the Reign of Victoria, chap. xii).

Morley's connection with H.W. resulted from Dickens's interest in certain papers on sanitation and health that Morley had written. Two of the papers, published in the Journal of Public Health, had been widely reprinted in newspapers, and Forster had agreed to publish the series in the Examiner. Dickens's request that Morley write for H.W. on matters of sanitation was enclosed in a letter from Forster that reached Morley on April 5 1850. Morley was not eager to become a contributor. "I don't care very much for Household Words", he wrote, having seen the first (and possibly the second) number; but for the sake of making Dickens's acquaintance and having "a second pulpit from which to preach health", he set to work to write some papers on the subject. He found the task uncongenial: " ... in the Journal of Public Health I had a sanitary assembly to speak to, in the Examiner I speak to people who are clever, liberal-minded, and love wit. Household Words has an audience which I cannot write for naturally". Finally he lighted on a device and style for an article that he thought would be "just what Dickens wants of me": written in the person of a garrulous old lady and stringing together "odds and ends ... bearing on sanitary discipline", the article required "no polished composition"—"only a quizzical slip-slop". It was Morley's first article published in H.W. During the following thirteen months, some thirty of Morley's contributions appeared in H.W., a few on sanitation, most of them on other subjects. Some of his papers were rejected, some returned for revision or rewriting; some were "mangled" at the editorial office. Particularly distressing to Morley was the mangling of his verses (Horne was the "mangler"). Many of his papers were much liked, wrote Morley, and requests for his contributions continued (Life of Henry Morley, pp. 149-151, et passim).

In June 1851, Morley was offered a position on the H.W. staff at a salary of five guineas a week. Reluctant to abandon his school and uncertain about trusting his livelihood to his pen, he sought the advice of Forster. Then, after much earnest thought, he accepted the position. It was thus, as Morley later wrote, Dickens's offer that brought about his giving up , "all I was then working for" ("lntroduction" to A Christmas Carol) to enter on the career of a journalist—forerunner to his career as author and university professor.

Morley was the one university-educated man on the H.W. staff. He was twelve and a half years younger than Wills, for whom he acted, he said, "as a sort of deputy-lieutenant" (Early Papers and Some Memories, p. 30). His main work was to write for the periodical on subjects of his own choosing and on matters that Dickens wanted discussed—the Charterhouse, for instance, the administration of the Royal Literary Fund, regulations concerning the sale of poisons. In addition, he manufactured articles from books, reports, and other materials that Dickens forwarded for the purpose; he contrived "chips" out of readers' letters to the editor; he revised or rewrote contributed papers to make them "suitable for the journal" (his "careful and valuable revision" was publicly acknowledged by the contributor Duthie); he helped in the planning of some of the Christmas numbers, and, as he said, made himself "generally useful". It was at his suggestion that the Household Words Almanac was brought out. Morley wrote more than 300 items for H.W.—more than did any other writer. The items constitute some 300 more pages than do Dickens's writings in the periodical.

Dickens valued Morley as a staff member and had high praise for some of his articles. That based on Edward R. Sullivan's Rambles and Scrambles in North and South America he thought "Quite a model" of what such a paper should be (to Wills, October 7 1852). "The Quiet Poor" and "Frost-Bitten Homes" affected him deeply; of the first he wrote to Morley: "I think it is absolutely impossible that it should have been better done" (Life of Henry Morley, p. 224). "A Home Question" Dickens thought "exceedingly well done" (to Macready, November 1 1854). Occasional articles of Morley's Dickens disliked: "The Stereoscope" was "dreadfully literal" and "Back Ways to Fame" "dreadfully heavy" (to Wills, August 5 1853; July 30 1854). Some of Morley's articles, like some of his narrative items, Dickens found unclear and confusing. Of Morley's writing in general he remarked in a letter to Wills, January 10 1856: "Morley always wants a little screwing up and tightening. It is his habit to write in a loose way".

The articles assigned in the Office Book jointly to Morley and Dickens were revised or added to by Dickens; they were not actual collaborations of the two writers. One of these—"The Wind and the Rain"—bears the additional Office Book notation "Rewritten by W.H.W.".

Four of Morley's articles motivated Dickens's writing a "chip" for the purpose of correction, disclaimer, or denial. In "Homoeopathy", November 15 1851, Dickens quoted from John Epps, Homeopathy and Its Principles Explained; to correct what had been called to his attention as an unfair description of homeopathic principles in "The Work of the World"; in "A Free (and Easy) School", December 6 1851, he stated that the prospectus of the school from which Morley had quoted (in the article of the same title) was not the prospectus of the school described in the article (although it was); in "The Ghost of the Cock Lane Ghost Wrong Again", January 15 1853, he denied the report that he had attended the seance described in Morley's article of similar title; in ''The Samaritan Institution", May 16 1857, he explained that ''The Predatory Art" had wrongly included the secretary of the Samaritan Institution among the notorious swindlers dealt with in the article.

Morley's articles on preventible factory accidents were denounced by millo-wners and ridiculed by newspapers favourable to mill-owner interests; they were abusively attacked by Harriet Martineau in The Factory Controversy. But they also brought to the H.W. office letters from readers in agreement with Morley's stand. Morley's paper on needy women sent to Australia under Sidney Herbert's Emigration Fund ("A Rainy Day on 'The Euphrates") was greatly liked by persons connected with the Fund. "They have bought up lots of the number containing it", wrote Morley, "to be sent with the girls to Sydney" (Life of Henry Morley, p. 214). Among other of Morley's contributions that called forth praise from readers was "Brother Mieth and His Brothers", an account of Morley's school days at Neuwied. At the insistence of a friend "who is just crazy about 'Brother Mieth", Mrs. Gaskell wrote to find out who had written the "charming" paper (Letters, No. 205a).

Occasional references to Morley's books appeared in H.W. Dodd, in ''The Soulages Collection", mentioned Morley's "admirable memoir" of Palissy; Costello, in "Witchcraft and Old Boguey", referred to Morley's biography of Cornelius Agrippa. Morley himself, in "A Piece of Work", mentioned two tracts on health and sanitation that he had published in "1847, though without stating that they were his writing.

Eighteen of Morley's H.W. contributions were reprinted in whole or part in Harper's, three of them acknowledged to H.W., and one—"Drooping Buds" credited to Dickens. Seven of his contributions were included in the Putnam volumes of selections from H.W.: Home and Social Philosophy, 1st and 2nd series, and The World Here and There. "My Wonderful Adventures in Skitzland" was included in Choice Stories from Dickens' Household Words, published in Auburn, N.Y., 1854. ''Drooping Buds", acknowledged to H.W., was issued in 1852 as a promotional pamphlet by the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond St. (Eckel, First Editions of the Writings of Charles Dickens). Morley reprinted various of his H.W. contributions in more than one collection of his writings.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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