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Edmund Yates

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Published : 104 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 3/7/1831
Death : 20/5/1894
Views : 4267

Journalist and novelist. Attended school in Highgate; spent a year in Düsseldorf learning German. Held position in General Post Office, 1847-1872. Early "longed for a literary life" and began writing for Court Journal; thereafter contributed to the lllustrated London News, Bentley's Miscellany, Chambers's, Welcome Guest, and other periodicals; wrote gossip column for Illustrated Times and for the Morning Star; served as dramatic critic of the Daily News; correspondent for the New York Herald. Editor of the Train, 1856-1858; thereafter of Town Talk, Temple Bar, Tinsleys', Time. Co-founder (with Grenville Murray) of the World, 1874. Author of several farces and some fifteen novels. Privately printed Mr. Thackeray, Mr. Yates, and the Garrick Club, 1859, his account of the notorious affair that led to the estrangement between Dickens and Thackeray. Contemporary opinion concerning Yates ranged from that of Renton, who thought Yates "that prince of journalists" (John Foreter and His Friendships, p. 256), to that of Swineburne, who regarded him as a blackguard and "cochon sublime" (Letters, I, 304).


Yates, in 1854, took upon himself his introduction to Dickens. Dickens gave him a kindly welcome as the son of the well-known actors Frederick and Elizabeth Yates, whose acting Dickens admired. The two men soon became close friends. An early mark of Dickens's friendship was his standing as godfather to the infant Charles Dickens Theodore Yates. Yates was often in Dickens's company; the two men frequently corresponded; they presented each other copies of their books. Yates dedicated his After Office-Hours to Dickens in "slight acknowledgment" of Dickens's "unvarying kindness" to him. In his Recollections and Experiences (chap. xi), Yates wrote of the similarity of views and sympathies that existed between him and Dickens, of his devotion to Dickens, of Dickens's great regard for him, of the pleasure that Dickens found in his society, and of the "exceptional insight into his inner life" that Dickens permitted him. Certain circumstances that thus came to his knowledge, wrote Yates, his delicacy prevented his revealing. The circumstances obviously concerned the Ellen Ternan affair. In the matter of Dickens's "domestic trouble" Yates warmly defended Dickens against what he termed the "lies" being circulated about him (Town Talk, June 19 1858). Dickens, in turn, served as Yates's adviser and public backer in the Garrick Club affair.

Yates held so high an opinion of H.W. that he considered his early writing clearly "not up to the Household Words standard", and he introduced himself to Dickens with no intention of asking to become a contributor (Recollections, p. 174). He did, somewhat later, contribute four items to the periodical. (A fifth item—"Patient and Faithful"—assigned to Yates in the Office Book is not by him but by Adelaide Procter). "Two in a Legion" Dickens accepted for H.W. "with pleasure"; he thought the framework opening of the story "excellent", but the story itself inadequately linked to the framework (to Yates, November 16 1857).

Though Yates was not—as he called himself—"a frequent contributor" to H.W., he was to its successor. The first novel published in A.Y.R. as Yates's writing was Black Sheep!. That novel, stated the publisher Tinsley, was "written quite two-thirds" by Mrs. Cashel Hoey; Tinsley was surprised that Dickens had been unaware of the dual authorship and of the deception practised on him (Random Recollections, I, 140-141). Yates's novels Wrecked in Port, Castaway, The Yellow Flag, and A Silent Witness appeared in A.Y.R. in following years.

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

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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