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Reverend James White

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Published : 42 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : N/A
Death : 26/3/1862
Views : 5231

Divine, author. Studied at University of Glasgow, then at Oxford; B. A. 1827. Curate in Suffolk, then vicar of Loxley, War. Resigned the living on his wife's inheriting a considerable property. Retired to Bonchurch, Isle of Wight; there devoted himself to writing. From 1828 to within a year of his death, contributed to Blackwood's more than a hundred essays, reviews, tales, poems. Author of some fifteen works: books of verse; The Earl of Gowrie, 1845; The King of the Commons, 1846; and other historical plays; various historical accounts of a popular nature, e.g., Landmarks of the History of England, 1855; The Eighteen Christian Centuries, 1858.


White was a friend of Dickens, a welcome guest at Dickens's home, and the recipient of friendly letters from him. "I knew him many years, and had a great affection for him", wrote Dickens to Alexander Duff-Gordon on White's death (Rolfe, "Additions to the Nonesuch Edition of Dickens' Letters", Huntington Library Quarterly, October 1941). White was very popular with Dickens, stated Forster, "for his eager good fellowship" (Life, Book VI, sect. iii); to enjoy that fellowship, Dickens took a house in Bonchurch for his summer holiday of 1849. Dickens admired White's writings. The Earl of Gowrie, of which White presented him a copy, Dickens praised to its author as "a work of most remarkable genius" (February 24 1846). He expressed high admiration, too, for certain of White's Blackwood's articles (to White, September 23 1849). White dedicated to Dickens John Savile of Haysted, 1847, with "the highest admiration and affection of his friend the author".

On February 5 1850, seven weeks before the first number of H.W. appeared, Dickens invited White to become a contributor to the periodical: "... if you would ever write anything for it, you would please me better than I can tell you". " ... [O]ur money", he added, "is as good as Blackwood's any day in the week". During 1850-1851, White did not write for Blackwood's—at least, he co¬tributed no prose items (Wellesley Index); in January 1852, he again began writing for that periodical, and in the summer of that year sent his first contribution to Dickens. Thereafter, he wrote more frequently for H.W. than he did for Blackwood's.

In a letter to White, October 19 1852, Dickens outlined the plan for the Christmas number of that year and asked whether White would write one of the stories. White sent him "The Grandfather's Story". It was, Dickens wrote to him (November  22 1852), "a very good story indeed" but he was at first doubtful about its suiting "the spirit of the Christmas number"; he did nevertheless use it for that number. Dickens asked White to contribute to the 1853 Christmas number and apparently expected him to write for that of 1858 (to White, September 30 1853 to Wills, October 2 1858); White contributed to neither. "The Scotch Boy's Story", White's contribution to the 1856 Christmas number, had been "greatly liked", Dickens wrote to White (February  8 1857). "When are you going to send something more to H.W.?" he added. One of Dickens's letters (March 7 1854) mentioned his liking "CIub Law": "It is most capitally done .... " On January 4 1856, Dickens sent to Wills a paper of White's that he had not read; but, he wrote, "I know the design and it is a good subject". Later in the same month he wrote to Wills that a certain paper by White was bad as a lead item. No paper by White appeared as lead item in 1856.

White's amusing "Ignoble Conduct of a Nobleman" brought Dickens a reprimand from a reader who took the story to be by Dickens and saw in it Dickens's tendency "to hold up to derision those of the higher classes". Dickens printed the letter ("Ready Wit", February 4 1854), remarking that the reader "thoroughly understands a joke, and possesses a quick wit and a happy comprehension".

 "Ground and Lofty Tumbling" is assigned to "White" with an initial that could be read as 'T' or "T"; it is probably by the Rev. James White. Some items are assigned merely to "White". Of these, four—the two stories in the Christmas numbers, "Club Law" and "Old Blois"—are established by Dickens's letters as by the Rev. James White. For certain others, the date of payment provides some confirmation of their being by the Rev. James WhIte: payment for "The Deluge at Blissford" and "Jane Markland" was made on the same date as for "The Little Oak Wardrobe": payment for "General and Mrs. Delormo" on the same date as for "Club Law".

According to Ley (Dickens Circle, p. 260), White wrote often for the regular numbers of A.Y.R.

Harper's reprinted two of White:s H.W. contributions, "The Grandfather's Story" and "Two College Friends", neither acknowledged to H.W., but the first credited to Dickens.

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

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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