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Rymer, James Malcolm.

A Rymer, an Errym, and Malcolm J. Merry
Once took a long trip to the vale of Glengarry;
There was room for but one,
Which troubled them none,
When they paid the one fare necessary.

Very little is known about James Malcolm Rymer except that he was a writer of thrillers during the 1840's, 1850's, and 1860's for the English bookseller and publisher, Edward Lloyd. In the London Directory for 1841 he is listed as a civil engineer, living at 42 Burton Street, and the British Museum catalogue mentions him in 1842 as editing the Queen's Magazine. There is even confusion as to the authorship of a number of novels, sometimes ascribed to him and sometimes to another English writer of potboilers, Thomas Peckett Prest. "Varney, the Vampire; or, The Feast of Blood," for example, is given by A. Block as one of Rymer's novels, while Summers says it is by Prest; and "Ada, the Betrayed; or, The Murder at the Old Smithy" (1843) is listed by Summers under the name of Rymer, with the comment that it is "also attributed to Thomas Peckett Prest."(1)

Rymer's novels appeared in England under his own name as well as under the anagrams Malcolm J. Errym and Malcolm J. Merry, and each of the three names has been regarded in various publications(2) as the author's true name. Rymer, however, is undoubtedly correct. Some of his stories, also, have been published under the names Nelson Percival, J. D. Conroy, Septimus R. Urban, and Bertha Thorne Bishop, but these names were possibly not of his own choice, being probably attached to his tales by the publishers.

Said Arthur E. Waite:

A writer named, or calling himself Malcolm J. Errym, was the general hack of booksellers during a decade of years at least. He contributed to Lloyd's Miscellany the following tales, whose tides, at least, are worthy of his predecessor, T. P. Prest:—"Ada, the Betrayed; or The Child of Mystery"; "Jane Brightwell; or, The Farmer's Daughter"; "Miranda; or, The Heiress of the Grange"; "Alice Home; or, The Revenge of the Blighted One"; "Woman's Life; or, The Trials of a Heart"; "Brentwood of Brentwood," etc. This writer subsequently covered himself with glory, in the estimation of his admirers, by the publication of "The Black Monk; or, The Secret of the Grey Turret," a romance in the style of Mrs. Radcliffe, abounding in horrors and mysteries, all subsequently "explained" in a manner more astonishing than any miracle. . . . About the year 1860 we find Errym retained on the staff of Reynold's Miscellany exclusively, and contributing romances of diverse character, from the horrors of haunted houses to the terrors of cannibalism at sea. In 1866 this engagement must have terminated, for in that year he was a voluminous contributor to the short-lived London Miscellany. About this time also he issued in succession the prolix "novels" by which he is now most known to fame. These were "Edith, the Captive," with its sequel "Edith Heron," occupying together 1,664 closely printed royal octavo pages in double columns, and detailing the adventures of the heroic highwayman Captain Hawk, who proves to be a peer, and of his affianced bride; "Nightshade; or, Claude Duval, the Dashing Highwayman"; "George Barrington," the hero in this instance being a pickpocket; and the "Dark Woman; or, Plot and Passion." Without much knowledge of English grammar, and rather less of syntactical rules, this author, like many others of his class, has contrived to interest an immense circle of readers; his stories are still in print, and a cheap edition has been recently issued by Dicks; they are the last publications of Malcolm Errym, and indeed, after such gigantic efforts, it would only be natural to suppose that "Like the burning peak, he fell into himself and was missing ever after."

George Augustus Sala gives this interesting picture:

When I was young, the penny-a-liner . . . rarely represented the appearance of one who was a favourite of Fortune. He was, in truth, usually a seedy, grubby person, who for all his laboriousness seldom seemed to obtain any advancement in his calling. . . I remember at the time of the murder of an Irish exciseman by that choice pair of rascals, George Frederick and Maria Manning—both of whom, by the way, I saw hanged over the gate of Horsemonger Lane Gaol—a penny-a-liner whose real name I have long since forgotten, but whom we used to call "Ada, the Betrayed," for the reason that he had once written a "penny dreadful" with the title just given, but which, after running through (our successful numbers of the Weekly Ghoul, came to a sudden termination. The proprietor of the Ghoul doped unawares to Texas, and "Ada, the Betrayed" like Lord Ullin in the ballad, was "left lamenting."

The crime of the Mannings brought for a while splendid grist to "Ada's" mill. Prior to the discovery of the exciseman's corpse under the stones of the kitchen in Bermondsey, he had been a man all tattered and lorn, but as soon as the remains of poor Patrick O'Connor had been identified through the dentist's number on the gold of the false teeth which he wore, the lucky reporter blossomed into a brand-new coat of Newmarket cut. New plaid pantaloons followed, a glossy silk hat shone upon his head, Wellington boots adorned his lower extremities, and the bows of a satin necktie floated on his chest. The only thing he lacked was a waistcoat; but alas! the Mannings were hanged ere "Ada, the Betrayed" had secured that much-coveted vest, and afterwards, murder being rare, he drifted gradually into his old and normal condition of dismal seediness.

Bringing together the little that is known about Rymer, we find that he was editing the monthly Queen's Magazine in 1842. He was writing for several of Edward Lloyd's publications from 1842 until about 1853 when he transferred to John Dicks. From 1858 to 1864 he wrote for Reynold's Miscellany and a number of serials appeared in that periodical under the name "Malcolm J. Errym." "The Life Raft; A Tale of the Sea" appeared in volume XXII (1858), "True Blue; or, Sharks upon the Shore" (XXIII, 1859), "The Tempter" (XXIII, 1859), "The Incendiaries" (XXIII, 1859), "The Young Shipwright" (XXIV, 1860), "Secret Service" (XXVI, 1861), "George Rarrington; or, Life in London 100 Years Ago" (XXVIII, 1862), "Rupert, the Forger" (XXIX, 1862), "May Dudley; or, The White Mask" (XXX, 1862), "Sea Drift" (XXX, 1862), and "The Golden Heart" (XXIV, 1864). Many of these novels were later reprinted in various forms by John Dicks, and with slight variations in title by different publishers in America.

In 1866 Rymer was writing for the London Miscellany, but thereafter none of his writings have been unearthed. He died in Shepherd's Bush, London, August 11, 1884, aged about 70 years.

It is possible that Rymer came to America for some years to write for American publishers, for some of his stories which appeared in Elliott, Thomes & Talbot's Novelette have scenes laid in America. These could hardly have been written by anyone not familiar with the localities, for they are too accurate to have been obtained from published descriptions. However, nothing is definitely known about such a visit.

Six pseudonyms were mentioned above. Four of them are tied together by a single story. Under the title "The Rift and the Spray," it was published by Frederic A. Brady, in 1860, as by Malcolm J. Errym. It appeared as "The Pirate Scud; or, The Rift and the Spray" in No. 85, American Tales, as by Malcolm J. Merry. As "The Smuggler Cutter" it appeared as by J. D. Conroy in No. 275 Dime Library, and as "The Rift and the Spray" it appeared in March, 1860, in the New York Mercury with the author's name as Septimus R. Urban.

"Nelson Percival" appeared as the author of "Ruth Ratcliffe; or, The Wreckers of St. Okos Bay" in the Constellation(3) The same story, under the title "Jack Robinson; or, The Pirates and Wreckers of St. Okos Bay" by Captain Merry, U.S.N., appeared in the Yankee Privateer (Boston). It also appeared as "The Wreckers of St. Okos Bay" by Malcolm J. Errym in the New York Press, and as "The Wreckers," by the same author, in Golden Prize.

Bertha T. Bishop was given as the author of "The Broker's Ward," No. 3, Frank Starr's Fifteen Cent Illustrated Novels, but the same story under the title "Blanche; or, The Lost Diamond," had been previously published in the New York Mercury as by Septimus R. Urban, which was one of Rymer's pen names.

REFERENCES: Haynes, Pseudonyms of Authors, New York, 1882; Arthur E. Waite, "By-Ways of Periodical Literature," Watford's Antiquarian, XI, March, 1887, 179—86; George Augustus Sala, London Up to Date, London, 2d ed., 1894, 287-88; Frank Jay, "Peeps into the Past," London Journal, November 30, 1918, 21; December 14, 1918, 29; Andrew Block, The English Novel, 1740-1850, London, 1939, 212; Montague Summers, Gothic Bibliography, London, (1941), 43-44, lists 28 titles, 1842-64.

Under the name "Bertha T. Bishop" were published:

Starr's Fifteen Cent Illustrated Novels. No. 3
Cheap Edition of Popular Authors. No. 17

Under the name "J. D. Conroy" was published:

Dime Library. No. 275

Under the name "Malcolm J. Merry" was published:

American Tales. No. 85

Under the name "Septimus R. Urban" were published:

Starr's Fifteen Cent Illustrated Novels. No. 15
American Tales. No. 77
Cheap Edition of Popular Authors. No. 19
Dime Library.
Nos. 766, 1068


1 Curiously enough, "Ada, the Betrayed," whose subtitle according to Waite was "The Child of Mystery," was reprinted as No. 61 of DeWitt's Ten Cent Romances, in 1870, with the title "Ada, the Betrayed, or, The Child of Destiny," and the author as J. H. Ingraham! What didn't the publishers of cheap books do in juggling names! An early American edition of "Ada, the Betrayed; or, The Child of Mystery" was published by Samuel French, 121 Nassau Street, New York, about 1847, as "By the author of 'Ella, the Outcast'."

Prest died in Islington, London, June 5, 1859, aged 49 years.

2 Arthur E. Waite called him Errym, Frank Jay said the true name was Merry, and the British Museum Catalogue and Summers give the name as Rymer.
3 These titles and authors appeared in the Correspondents' Column of the New York Weekly, XIII, March 19, 1859, consequently the dates of appearance of the story in the different periodicals must have antedated that issue.

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