English Literature Of The 19th Century:
Richard Doddridge Blackmore
Sir Walter Besant
Robert Louis Stevenson
Read More Articles About: English Literature Of The 19th Century
Sir Walter Besant
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Sir Walter Besant had been a worker in other fields before James Rice, editor of "Once a Week," took him into partnership in novel-writing. Good as their joint efforts were, Besant's chief fame is due to his later independent output. An astonishing material response to his "All Sorts and Conditions of Men" was the People's Palace, built and liberally furnished to provide recreation for the poor but honest inhabitants of East London. This in turn brought the philanthropic author his knighthood. Walter Besant was born at Portsmouth in 1838, and was educated at King's College, London, and Christ's College, Cambridge. He became professor in the Royal College of Mauritius for seven years. Then, returning to England, he published "Studies in Early French Poetry" (1868) and "French Humorists" (1873) . He was secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund and, with Professor Palmer, wrote a "History of Jerusalem" (1871). Meantime, his acquaintance with Rice had ripened into their well-known partnership, the results of which were "Ready-Money Mortiboy," "With Harp and Crown," "The Golden Butterfly," and "The Chaplain of the Fleet." The latter relates to the Fleet prison, into the foul atmosphere of which an innocent country girl, niece of the chaplain, brings an air of purity. After the death of Rice in 1882, Besant issued his famous novel, depicting the ordinary, dreary life of East London, which his hero and heroine undertake to relieve with a palace of pleasure. In other stories, as "The Children of Gibeon" (1884) and "The World Went Very Well Then" (1885) Sir Walter Besant pursued his philanthropic schemes. But in many more he treated a wide range of subjects and characters, sometimes the woman question or other problems of the time, some-times a miser or whimsical individual, sometimes the wrongs of the poor, and sometimes the sufficiency of a little for life's wants. Some of them are tragical or melodramatic, but most of them are pervaded with a cheerful humor, which is seen even in their titles, as "Call Her Mine" and the "Wapping Idyll."