Monday, May 2, 2016

Two Victorian British Authors

T.W. Speight
Thomas Wilkinson Speight
Railroad Man, Author
Born 1830, Liverpool, England
Died 1915

Thomas Wilkinson Speight, better known as T.W. Speight, was born in Liverpool in 1830. The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction (1989) states that he "was probably illegitimate," continuing, "[h]e was educated at a foundation school at Kendal in the Lake District" of northwestern England. Speight worked for the Midland Railway Company from 1847 to 1887. Even before reaching the end of the line as a railroad man, Speight had begun writing for publication. He contributed to All the Year RoundBelgravia, Cassell's MagazineGentleman's Annual, and other periodicals. From 1867 to 1912, he published more than four dozen short stories, serials, and novels, some of which are listed below. These were mostly thrillers, mysteries, historical romances, and sensation novels, what we might call, I think, suspense, crime, or even exploitation novels. Speight died in 1915. His only story for Weird Tales, "Mrs. Penleath's Strategem," was reprinted from Cassell's Magazine nearly forty years after his death.

T.W. Speight's Books-A Partial List
Brought to Light: A Story (1867)
Under Lock and Key (1869)
In the Dead of Night: A Novel (1874)
A Secret of the Sea: A Novel (1876)
The Mysteries of Heron Dyke: A Novel of Incident (1880)
For Himself Alone: A Tale of Reversed Identities (1884)
A Barren Title: A Novel (1885)
The Sandycroft Mystery (1890)
Burgo's Romance, complete in The Gentleman's Annual (Christmas 1893)
The Grey Monk (1895)
A Husband from the Sea (1895)
The Heart of a Mystery: A Novel (1896)
The Master of Trenance: A Mid-Century Romance (1896)
A Minion of the Moon: A Romance of the King's Highway (1896)
The Crime in the Wood (1899)
The Chains of Circumstance: A Novel (1900)
Juggling Fortune: An Everyday Romance (1900)
The Celestial Ruby (1904)
Ursula Lenorme, Lady Companion: Being a Record of Certain Experiences (1909)
A Bootless Crime
By Fortune's Whim
The Golden Hoop
A Late Repentance
A Match in the Dark
The Sport of Chance
The Web of Fate
Wife or No Wife?

T.W. Speight's Story in Weird Tales
"Mrs. Penleath's Stratagem" (Mar. 1953; reprinted in Weird Tales British edition #23, 1953; originally in Cassell's Magazine, July 1905)

* * *

Richard Marsh
Pseudonym of Richard Bernard Heldmann
Author, Editor
Born October 12, 1857, North London, England
Died August 9, 1915, Haywards Heath, Sussex, England

Richard Bernard Heldmann was born on October 12, 1857, in North London and was the son and grandson of men in the lace business. He began publishing adventure stories and boys' school stories in 1880. From October 1882 to June 1883, Heldmann was co-editor of the boys' weekly Union Jack. His employment ended abruptly. Only recently was it discovered that he passed forged checks in 1883. In April 1884, he began serving a sentence of hard labor because of it. Upon his release, Heldmann adopted the pseudonym Richard Marsh. (See the entry on John Flanders, from April 28, 2016, for a similar situation in the life of a writer in Weird Tales.) Marsh wrote prolifically in the same genres as T.W. Speight, including the sensation novel, a type pioneered by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. His most well-known book is The Beetle, from 1897. (Wikipedia has a list of his books. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database has a list of his genre works.) Marsh also contributed to Belgravia, Cornhill Magazine, Household Words, and The Strand Magazine. His work appears to have been neglected by American anthologists, but it is deserving of a second look. Richard Bernard Heldmann died on August 9, 1915, at age fifty-seven. Heldmann's grandson was author Robert Aickman (1914-1981).

Richard Marsh's Story in Weird Tales
"The Adventure of the Pipe" (Sept. 1927; originally in Cornhill Magazine, Mar. 1891)

The Beetle in a British edition from 1959 with cover art by R.W. Smethurst.

Text copyright 2016, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

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