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William Moy Thomas

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Published : 39 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : N/A
Death : N/A
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Thomas, WilIiam Moy I Mr. Thomas, Thomas l, 1828–1910, journalist, scholar. Began study for the law, but soon turned his attention to writing; became private secretary to Charles Wentworth Dilke of the Athenaeum. Contributed to Athenaeum, Chambers's, Economist, N. & Q., and other periodicals. London correspondent for New York Round Table; on staff of Daily News; dramatic critic for Graphic and for Academy. First editor of Cassell's, in which his novel A Fight for Life appeared. Edited scholarly edition of William Collins's poems, 1856, and of Lord Wharncliffe's Letters and Works of Mary Wortley Montagu, 1861. Established certain biographical fads concerning Chatterton and Richard Savage. Mentioned by Hatton, Journalistic London (p. 62), as "a writer of rare acumen and large knowledge of books, plays and actors." 

      Thomas was introduced to Dickens in 1850 by Talfourd. Dickens came to think highly of Thomas's ability and judgement. In a letter of June 28, 1858, concerning an article on the Royal Literary Fund that Thomas was about to send to the North Brit. Rev., Dickens expressed himself as thoroughly confident that the article would be "manly and right." Thomas wrote for Social Notes, Oct. 25, 1879, an article on the social purpose in Dickens's novels. He served as one of the vice-presidents of the Dickens Fellowship.
      Some seven months after Thomas had begun contributing to H.W., Dickens wrote to ask Wills what had become of "the Alice-and-the-Angel [III, 1–9. March 29, 1851] man, whose name I always forget" (Aug. 31, 1851: MS Huntingdon Library). In later letters to Wills he suggested subjects that he thought Thomas would handle well. Thomas's paper on hops Dickens thought "extremely well done" [VI, 109–15. Oct. 16, 1852]; another (apparently "Market Gardens" [VII, 409–14. July 2, 1853]) he liked very much but would have wished to be "a little more picturesque" (to Wills, Oct. 12, 1852; June 18, 1853). "Miss Furbey" [IX, 417–21. June 17, 1854] Dickens found "very good indeed. Close, original, vigorous, and graphic." He suggested a slight alteration to give the story greater interest and "quiet pathos" (to Wills, May 30, 1854); as it appeared in H.W., the story incorporated Dickens's suggestion. In his preface to When the Snow Falls, Thomas stated that he was indebted to Wills for "the idea of the principal incident" in "The Two Rivers" (title "Somebody's Story" [Christmas 1852] in H.W.), and to Dickens for "the outline" of "The Last Howley of Killowen" [IX, 513–19. July 15, 1854]; Thomas thought that Dickens had received the outline "from a correspondent," as a suggestion for a H.W. story. Thomas did not contribute to H.W. during the last half year of its publication, but he did contribute to A.Y.R. A humorous article in the Queen, Dec. 21, 1861, depicted him in company with Dickens, Wills, Sala, Wilkie Collins, and Hollingshead, concocting the Christmas number of that year.
      "Market Gardens", which was not reprinted elsewhere, ends with the announcement: "... we intend to arouse [H.W. readers] at daybreak one fine morning, with a summons to accompany us to Covent Garden Market" ("Covent Garden Market" [VII, 505–11. July 30, 1853] appeared four weeks later). The comment confirms the Office Book ascription to Thomas of "Market Gardens."
      Of the items not reprinted, only one calls for comment – "Transported for Life" [V, 455–64. July 31, 1852 and the following no.]. This is an account of the transportation to Norfolk Island, then to Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania], of William Henry Barber (not named in the article). Barber, a solicitor convicted of complicity in a case of fraud and forgery, had been transported in 1844; he received a final unconditional pardon in 1848. (Dickens had in his library a copy of The Case of Mr. W. H. Barber [Stonehouse, Catalogue, p. 89]; at least six editions of The Case were issued in London in 1849.) The H.W. account, told in first person, is stated to have "been taken down from the lips of the narrator, whose sufferings are described; with the object of shewing what Transportation, at the present time, really is." Why Barber should have had his narrative "taken down," in place of writing it himself, is not clear; there seems no reason to assume the "Thomas" who took it down to be other than William Moy Thomas. W. L. Clay (The Prison Chaplain, p. 215n) referred to the article as a "painfully interesting narrative" giving "a good account of Norfolk Island" under the administration of Major Joseph Childs. Certain regulations as recorded in the article were no longer in force at the time that the article appeared in H.W.; this fact had apparently been called to the attention of Dickens or of Wills. In "Chip: Transportation for Life," Aug. 28, 1852, Wills recorded certain of the regulations that had superseded earlier ones.
      Harper's reprinted "A Guild Clerk's Tale" [II, 437–44. Feb. 1, 1851] with acknowledgment to H.W.; "A Leaf from the Parish Register" [VIII, 437–40. Jan. 7, 1854] without acknowledgment.
      See also T. M. Thomas (separate entry).
                                                                       D.N.B. suppl. 1901-1911

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

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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