THE BEADLE AUTHORS may be divided into four main groups, I. Beadle's own authors, who could be depended upon to turn out a Dime Library or a Half-Dime Library every few weeks. Here are included Albert W. Aiken, Joseph E. Badger, Jr., C. Dunning Clark, Jesse C. Cowdrick, Oil Coomes, Edward S. Ellis, Thomas C. Harbaugh, Prentiss Ingraham, Charles Morris, Mrs. Victor, Edward L. Wheeler, John H. Whitson, Frederick Whittaker, Edward Willett, and many more. 2. Authors who wrote an occasional book for Beadle. Here belong George Aiken, Mrs. Barritt, James L. Bowen, Ned Buntline, Banley Campbell, Joseph F. Henderson, J. E. Iliff, E. Z. C. Judson, Leon Lewis, C. B. Lewis, J. M. Merrill, and Mrs. Stephens. 3. American authors who had previously written for other publishers but whose works were reprinted by Beadle, and authors whose novels appeared as serials in various story papers, for which he acquired publication rights. Here, among others, are included Newton M. Curtis, Joseph H. Ingraham, Dr. J. H. Robinson, and Dr. W. M. Turner. 4. Foreign authors, mostly English but a few German, Swedish, and French. The great majority of the English reprints are love stories.
In the following section are given brief biographies of all of the Beadle authors about whom any information was available. Pseudonyms are listed in proper alphabetical sequence. Some will probably forever remain shrouded in mystery, for the death of Orville J. Victor in 1910 removed the last person acquainted with all of the authors of the Beadle era. Said Edmund Pearson in speaking of the Beadle pseudonyms: "A room in the psychopathic ward awaits any one who tries to unravel all their mystifications." I am still unconfined, but then I have not unmasked them all.
The biographies here given are of very unequal value for very little accurate information could be obtained about some of the writers. Memory is a treacherous thing. In published articles by various old dime-novel authors, written long after the dime novel had ceased to be, there are many errors in statement, often, apparently, former gossip having become mentally fixed as fact. The biographies also are of very unequal lengths. It was not intended that any should be of more than three or four hundred words, but in a few exceptional cases it was impossible to so condense a life of adventure. Of other writers the data were so scanty that everything known could be given in a single paragraph, yet these few words often required the greatest amount of research. Data were very scattered and it was sometimes necessary to search several years' files of daily papers for a single short item, and in many cases several weeks' search would bring forth not a single thing.
I have tried to be exact in all statements and have inserted everywhere the sources of my information. In most cases I have paid no attention to hearsay items and guesses. In the rare event that any such evidence is entered, its unreliability has been mentioned in a footnote. I shall doubtless be criticized because some of the biographical sketches may seem too long for the lists of novels which follow. However, I am sure that the reader desires some information about all of the authors and especially about those not found in the biographical dictionaries. Sketches of well-known authors, whose works were only reprinted by Beadle, are short. Being so well known, it was perhaps unnecessary to give any biographical data at all, but it seemed hardly fair not to give at least a word or two lest someone might think that I had classed them with the unknowns. Naturally I omitted their portraits, for one must leave something for the extra-illustrator. Of the less-known writers, portraits were inserted if obtainable. They may seem somewhat mid-Victorian to the readers of the Sunday newspaper supplements for they lack the modern set smiles and tooth displays.
No biographies are given under some of the names. These I have been unable to find, probably because many of them are pseudonyms. Some of these pen names have occasionally been given in newspaper articles and elsewhere as belonging to certain authors, but in doubtful cases which I could not verify, I have thought best not to pair them. This is especially true of names which have been assigned on internal evidence or on similarity of style. Even biographical dictionaries err, and the fact that a name, for example, occurs in Allibone, is not evidence that it is of a real person. Where there is no doubt as to the real name behind the false, cross references from the latter to the former are given, and under the true name the pseudonymous novels are listed. In cases where there seems to be insufficient evidence in support of the ownership of a pen name, the list is left under the pen name but the evidence is noted. Pseudonyms listed in biographical dictionaries or in magazines published during the lifetime of an author, especially if there is reason to suppose that he supplied the data, as in "Who's Who," are accepted as correct. However, biographies of dime-novel authors are rare in the biographical dictionaries. Some are given if, by chance, their works were reprinted in English editions, the passkey to admission among the elect. Allibone and others were strong on these and the London literary hacks, and often the reprints are listed while the original American editions are not. Cloth covers, also, were a badge of respectability, just as at present is publication in the "slicks."
Many of the pseudonyms here listed were determined from different printings of the same novel with different by-lines, from published biographies, or from correspondence with descendants of the various authors, the latter a laborious and often sterile undertaking. Internal evidence was not used except as a check on information obtained elsewhere. Luckily, Beadle did not use stock names. That was a device of other nickel-novel publishers although not invented by them. It was used even so long ago as 1830-40 by the Fraserians, whose common name was "Oliver Yorke." Beadle reprinted a few novels, apparently unknowingly, under wrong names—perhaps the stories were palmed off on the unsuspecting publisher. Thus F. Gerstacker's tales were printed under the name of Francis Johnson, and one of Gaboriau's was turned in under the name of the English writer Erskine Boyd. A story by John Lewis appeared several years after his death as by Henry J. Thomas, and there is a record(1) of another writer who tried to pass himself off as Charles B. Lewis (M. Quad) but was unmasked by Victor.
In some of the newspaper and magazine articles about the Beadle writers, a great point has been made of their failings. After all, the dime novelists were a pretty good group, morally, as compared with some of the famous English and French writers. Dickens had a child by Ellen Ternan, Charles Reade and Wilkie Collins had mistresses, and Alexandre Dumas himself claimed to have had 500 children—which is a hundred less than King Bango of Sangatanga had. A few of the Beadle writers committed suicide, it is true, but so far as morals go, they were pretty clean. A number drank but that seems to be the worst that can be said of them. So far as I know, none of the authors was hanged, and only a few were politicians.
A few biographies are given in the following pages of men who actually wrote nothing for Beadle but whose names appeared in the "bylines." They had to be included, of course, because nominally they were the authors. Frank Powell, Omohundro, and Cody (in part), may be mentioned. Following the biographies of the various authors are given lists of their novels published by Beadle. For the sake of brevity, only the numbers in each series are given, all titles except unnumbered booklets being omitted. Numbers in roman type represent first printings; italics are later editions.
Besides serials, Beadle's story papers carried also numerous series of unrelated short sketches, in many cases under a single general heading, for example, "Stories Told in the Roundhouse." These are, in general, not listed except in special cases where the sketches are of unusual interest as illustrative of western life or western characters.
Excerpts from some of the more popular Beadle authors are given after the lists of titles. These should give a fair idea of what the "dime novels" really were, although some of the authors wrote in such a variety of styles that two or more specimens should have been given but of necessity were omitted for lack of space. But even these few examples should be sufficient to enable the reader who has had no opportunity of seeing the originals to decide for himself whether the Beadle dime novels were really the corrupters of youth which they were once said to be. Perhaps to some of the oldsters these excerpts may bring back recollections of the carefree days of their youth.
|1||Letter to Frank Starr & Co., August 8, 1876, now in the Beadle collection of the New York Public Library. See also The Journalist, III, July 10, 1886, and XII, December 13, 1890, 38.|