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Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald

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Published : 231 Articles
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Fitzgerald, Percy Hetherington I Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald (Percy) I 1834–1925, novelist, misc, writer. B.A. Trinity College, Dublin, 1855; M.A. 1863. Called to Irish bar; was for several years Crown prosecutor; turned to writing. Stated in 1882 (Recreations of a Literary Man, p. 6) that he had written "for almost every magazine that has been born, died, or exists"; e.g., Belgravia, Gent. Mag., Once a Week, Tinsleys', Cassell's, and, later, Cornhill. Published novels and collections of stories (C.B.E.L. lists 25 titles); books on the stage and biographies of theatrical personages, also biographies of literary and historical figures; books on Roman Catholicism. A prolific writer – and a hasty, slipshod one. Reviews in the Athenaeum, Saturday Review, and other periodicals pointed out the confusion, the padding, the lack of critical judgment, and the inaccuracy in various of his specimens of "book-making"; Crabb Robinson counted as wasted the day that he spent reading Fitzgerald's "paltry compilation" on Lamb and his friends (On Books and Their Writers, II, 819).



       Fitzgerald took the occasion of Dickens's being in Dublin in 1858, on a reading tour, to introduce himself to him. In the friendship that followed, wrote Fitzgerald, he became "a favourite" with Dickens, a friend with whom Dickens's relationship was most "close and familiar" and "confidential" – a relationship of "precious intimacy, lasting on nigh fifteen years" ("Preface," Life of Charles Dickens; Memories of Charles Dickens, p. 5). Dickens's letters do not support the extravagant claim, though they show Dickens to have had a kindly regard for the young man. Dickens welcomed Fitzgerald to Gad's Hill; he wrote him many letters; he expressed admiration of some of his writings and save him advice and encouragement in his literary work. He thought Fitzgerald "a very clever fellow." When his daughter Mary was approaching thirty with no prospects of marriage, Dickens hoped that she might become interested in Fitzgerald; Mary showed no interest.
      Fitzgerald dedicated to Dickens his novel Never Forgotten; he delivered a lecture on Lamb and Dickens as essayists (published 1864). After Dickens's death, he published The History of Pickwick, Bozland, Pickwickian Manners and Customs, and other volumes of Dickensiana, including an anthology, Pickwickian Wit and Humour. He wrote a laudatory life of "the Master" and also Memories of Charles Dickens. He used Dickens as literary capital for more than twenty periodical articles; one gave offence to Georgina Hogarth; another brought a public reprimand from Dickens's son Henry [Adrian, Georgina Hogarth and the Dickens Circle, pp. 235–36). He executed busts of Dickens, founded the Boz Club, and was first president of the Dickens Fellowship.
      Fitzgerald became a H.W. contributor through the intervention of Forster, to whose notice Fitzgerald had contrived to bring himself. Forster (as Fitzgerald several times related) took one of Fitzgerald's papers to the H.W. office and demanded that it be read and duly considered. The published paper was (according to Fitzgerald) "a striking success." Wills informed Fitzgerald that Dickens would be glad to receive further contributions, especially one for the 1856 Christmas number. Two of Fitzgerald's stories appeared in that number. Fitzgerald con¬tributed only one long item to H.W. – "Down among the Dutchmen." [XVI, 398–402. Oct. 24, 1857, and 11 following nos. (not consecutive), ending XVII, 526–28. May 15, 1858]. According to his own statement (in last instalment), his depiction of the Dutch was much resented by them, as being written in "an unfair and partial spirit."
       To A.Y.R. Fitzgerald contributed many long items, including several novels, among them Never Forgotten, The Second Mrs. Tilloison, The Dear Girl, and Fatal Zero. Of Never Forgotten Fitzgerald recorded with pride that Dickens revised "every line," added "little points" and "scraps of dialogue," and struck out what he himself had considered some of "the best bits"; the story "Howard's Son," he stated, Dickens also "corrected throughout," writing in "whole passages," deleting others, and altering and improving the punctuation (Life of Charles Dickens, II, 320n; I, 261–62). This alteration of his MSS Fitzgerald construed as a mark of Dickens's great interest in him, not as a mark of the inadequacy of the original writing. Other of Fitzgerald's papers – "School-Days at Saxonhurst," for example – also cost Dickens hours of editorial work to get into passable shape for publication. As an established contributor, Fitzgerald had the privilege of sending his MSS directly to the printer's; his slipshod writing made this an awkward arrangement. On Nov. 18, 1869, Dickens wrote to him: "For my sake – if not for Heaven's - do, I entreat you, look over your manuscript before sending it to the printer. Its condition involves us all in hopeless confusion .... " In a later letter, March 9, 1870, Dickens again reprimanded Fitzgerald for his carelessness and for his undertaking more writing than he could reasonably do well – specifically, his writing three works of fiction, each for a different periodical, at the same time.
      In various of his books, Fitzgerald recorded the praise that Dickens had given one or another of his writings. An article based on Fitzgerald's life of Sterne appeared July 2, 1864, in A.Y.R.; the book was there described as a "lively biography, bright, liberal, and very interesting." An article based on his biography of Garrick appeared in A.Y.R. March 21, 1868.
       The Woman with the Yellow Hair [The Woman with the Yellow Hair and Other Modern Mysteries Chiefly from "Household Words" [anon.]. London: Saunders, Otley, and Co., 1862] was published anonymously; Fitzgerald's authorship is established by his listing the book in the bibliography of his writings in Memoirs of an Author. Also listed in that bibliography is "Down among the Dutchmen," a H.W. contribution apparently not reprinted. The subject of Fitzgerald's H.W. article "Doctor Garrick" [XVI,166–68 Aug.15,1857] is referred to in the text of his Life of David Garrick, with footnote reference to the article.
      In the Office Book, Fitzgerald is recorded as author of "Pictures and Ballads"; his name is marked out and substituted by that of Thornbury.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Allibone

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

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