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Richard H. Horne

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Published : 100 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 31/12/1802
Death : 13/3/1884
Views : 2734

Author. Student at Royal Military College, Sandhurst: withdrawn at end of probationary year for having, according to official record, "failed to pass probation" (Blainey, The Farthing Poet, p. 9). Thereafter served some months in Mexican navy. Began literary career as periodical contributor and journalist; contributed to more than fifty periodicals—British, Australian, and American. Editor, 1836-1837, of Monthly Repository. In 1833 published his first book, Exposition of the False Medium and Barriers Excluding Men of Genius from the Public; later prose writings included The Poor Artist, 1850; The Dreamer and the Worker, 1851; some books for children. Wrote poetic dramas: Cosmo de' Medici, 1837; The Death of Marlowe, 1837; and others. Best known to his contemporaries as author of Orion, "the farthing epic", 1843. With assistance of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Bell, wrote A New Spirit of the Age, 1844. Thought his genius unappreciated in England; went to Australia, 1852. There obtained some Government employment; wrote Australian Facts and Prospects and a lyrical drama, Prometheus, the Fire-Bringer. Returned to England, 1869. In 1874 granted Civil List pension of £50 a year "In recognition of his contributions to literature"; pension later augmented to £100 (ColIes, Literature and the Pension List).


Horne became acquainted with Dickens in the late 1830s; the two men were for some years good friends. Horne played a role in Dickens's presentation of Not So Bad As We Seem; he and his wife were at times Dickens’s guests at Devonshire Terrace and at Broadstairs. Horne presented to Dickens a copy of his plays The Death of Marlowe and Judas Iscariot, and also of his Ballad Romances (Stonehouse, Catalogue). Dickens expressed generous admiration of some of Horne's prose writings and poems, gave Horne helpful advice on proposed publications, and attempted to interest publishers in bringing out some of his books. Horne contributed to Bentley’s Miscellany under Dickens’s editorship and was engaged by Dickens as reporter for the Daily News. In 1862 Dickens wrote a letter in strong support of Horne's application for aid from the Royal Literary Fund (Fielding, "Charles Dickens and R. H. Home", English, Spring 1952). When Horne returned from Australia, however, Dickens refused to see him or to correspond with him, indignant at Horne's having contributed little to the support of his wife during his Australian years. Horne, commenting later on the talk about him and his "self-divorced wife" stated that he had refrained from making a public pronouncement on the matter: " ... I have never followed the bad example of Dickens in parading my private grievances" (draft of letter to Meredith, August 1 1875, Letters from George Meredith, pp. 10-11).

In A New Spirit of the Age, Horne devoted a long chapter to Dickens, analysing his strengths and weaknesses as a novelist. In later years, he wrote of Dickens in various periodical articles that recounted his recollections of famous contemporaries. His mentions of Dickens and his reference to Georgina Hogarth in "John Forster: His Early Life and Friendships", Temple Bar, April 1876, incensed Miss Hogarth (Adrian, Georgina Hogarth and the Dickens Circle, pp. 231-33).

Horne was at work on articles for H.W. some weeks before the first number of the periodical appeared. On May 18 1850, he was engaged for a three-month period as assistant to Wills. His duties were the writing of original material and the revising of contributed items. In mid-August, when this engagement was about to terminate, a sharp disagreement arose between Dickens and Wills concerning Horne's work. Wills stated that Horne was not giving five guineas' worth of service for his five-guinea weekly salary (Lehmann, ed., Charles Dickens As Editor, pp. 35-36). Dickens took the attitude that the criticism emanated from Wills's dislike of Horne, and, after conferring with Horne by letter, assured Wills that Horne was "willing and anxious" to render him assistance "in any way in which you will allow yourself to be assisted" (August 27 1850). In March of the following year, Wills returned to the charge. Dickens's letter to Horne, March 18,1851, is in reply to a letter in which Horne, obviously, had discussed the matter. Dickens's suggestion was that Horne "continue on the old terms, for at least another month". To mid-May of that year, the Office Book records no payment to Horne for individual items, indicating that to that date he continued a member of the staff.

Between that date and the date of his leaving for Australia (June 1852), Horne contributed to H.W about as many items as he had written for the periodical during the year that he was a staff member; he continued his connection with H.W also in other ways. It was through his agency that an occasional item not of his writing arrived at the editorial office, and it was to him that payment was made for several contributions not of his writing among them, some poems by Meredith and by OIlier. In addition, the record of his name in the Office Book jointly with that of Miss Tomkins for one poem, and jointly with that of Meredith for another, indicates that he revised the two poems. In what capacity he served as reviser whether as the friend of the two contributors or, at the request of Wills, as a former staff member—is not clear.

Before Horne left for Australia, Dickens entered on an engagement with him whereby Horne was to write for H.W articles connected with his voyage and his gold mining experiences. The arrangement proved unsatisfactory.

Dickens valued Horne as a writer for H.W. He hoped that Horne, on ceasing to be a staff member, would continue as contributor, promising him that "the rate of remuneration shall be higher in your case" (March 18,1851). (It was not). Of the four articles assigned in the Office Book jointly to Horne and Dickens, three Dickens merely revised or added material to. "One Man in a Dockyard", however, was an actual collaboration; the two writers made an excursion to Chatham to gather material for the article, and each wrote part of the article. Among Horne's articles that Dickens particularly liked was "The Hippopotamus" (to Wills, July 12 1850); Horne's suggestion of snails as the subject for a paper Dickens thought admirable (to Horne, April 6 1852). "Household Christmas Carols", "The Great Peace-Maker", and "The Camera Obscura" he called to F. M. Evans's attention (April 10 1852) as "remarkable poems".

Some of Horne's contributions Dickens did not care for, among them, apparently, "The New Zealand Zauberflüte", which seems to be the "New Zealand sketch" that he mentioned to Wills (August 10 1850) as weighing "frightfully" on his mind. In a letter to Wills, December 29 1852, Dickens dismissed one of Horne's poems as "very indifferent"; no poem assigned to Horne appeared in H.W after the date of the letter. The tedious "Digger's Diary", which Horne sent from Australia, Dickens was obliged to cut "to shreds" to make usable to the periodical (to Horne, March 2 1853).

Dickens's reference, by title or otherwise, to some twelve H.W items as by Horne confirms the Office Book ascription of those items; Horne's comment (Australian Facts and Prospects, p. 89n) that he had undertaken for H.W "to go through the Dust-heaps, the Dead-meat Markets and Horse-slaughterers' Yard of Smithfield, and the Gunpowder Mills at Hounslow" confirms his authorship of another four: "Dust", "The Cattle-Road to Ruin" —by implication also "The Smithfield Bull"—and "Gunpowder". A diary entry recorded in The Life of Richard Owen, I, 61, mentions Horne as author of "the 'Zoological Meeting", i.e., "Zoological Sessions".

Ten of Horne's H.W contributions were reprinted in whole or part in Harper's, five of them acknowledged to H.W, and one—"London Sparrows"—credited to Dickens. Three of his contributions were included in the Putnam volumes of selections from H.W.: Horne and Social Philosophy, 1st and 2nd series. H. B. Forman, in 1871, printed for private distribution "The Great Peace-Maker", stating that it had not been publicly claimed by Horne, but that at the time of its appearance "there was no doubt in literary circles as to the authorship".

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

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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