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Victor, Orville J.


†(See the frontispiece in this volume for a portrait.)

Beside, he was a shrewd Philosopher
And had read ev'ry text and gloss over.
SAMUEL BUTLER, Hudibras, Part I, canto 1, line 127

Orville James Victor, author, biographer, historian, and editor, was born in Sandusky, Ohio, October 23, 1827. His grandfather, David Victor, came to America from Germany about 1760. His father was Henry Victor and his mother Gertrude Nash Victor. Henry Clay Victor, a naval engineer and the second husband of Orville's wife's sister, Frances Fuller (see Mrs. Barritt), was Orville's brother.

Orville was educated in the public schools of Sandusky; then, after a four years' course, was graduated from the Seminary and Theological Institute of Norwalk, Ohio, in 1847. He read law for a time in the office of Charles B. Squire of Sandusky, and at the same time contributed poems or sketches to Graham's Magazine and the Ladies' Repository. In 1851 he became associate editor of the Sandusky Daily Register, and continued in that position until the spring of 1856. In July, 1856, he was married to Metta Victoria Fuller (q.v.) and in the same month became associate editor of the newly established quarterly, the Cosmopolitan Art Journal, published in Sandusky and New York. He went to their New York office in 1858, and at the same time edited the United States Journal; the former position he held until 1861 and the latter to the end of 1860.

In December, 1860, his "Life of Joseph Garibaldi" (No. I, Beadle's Dime Biographical Library) appeared, although at that time he was not yet editor for the Beadle firm. He was not the inventor of the dime novel, as has so often been said,(1) for he did not become Beadle's editor until 1861, while the first dime novel had appeared in June, 1860. Victor himself stated(2) that he began to edit for Beadle in 1862, but in this as well as in several other dates in the same notice, he was mistaken, for there is a memorandum in the New York Public Library, in the handwriting of Erastus Beadle, directing Victor to prepare an advertisement for No. 3 of the American Library, which was to be published in London, May I, 1861; consequently Victor must have assumed the editorship at least that early. Erastus Beadle(3) was in Europe at this time, undoubtedly to oversee the newly established London branch of the firm, and it is quite possible that Victor was engaged when Erastus left for England.

In the autumn of 1861, Victor issued the first installment of his "History, Civil, Political and Military of the Southern Rebellion," and in the same year there was published by Beadle's London branch, "The American Rebellion: Some Facts and Reflections for the Consideration of the English People."(4) The "History of the Rebellion" was issued in monthly installments, and was not completed until 1868. It was published by J. D. Torrey and not by Beadle.

Victor visited London in the winter of 1863-64, probably in connection with the London branch of Beadle & Co., for Erastus was there also at that time. He remained the editor of Beadle's various publications until 1897(5) although he did find time to assume also the duties of editor of the Illuminated Western World(6) during its short life of 68 numbers from January 2, 1869 to April 16, 1870. This publication was a very attractive eight page sheet, published by French and Wheat in New York, and had illustrations in brilliant colors on the front and back pages of the first fifty-two numbers. In it appeared as serials Mrs. Victor's stories "The Figure Eight," "The Dead Letter," and "The Red Room." Victor also found time, during the thirty-six years that he was Beadle's editor, to produce a number of scholarly books. Besides eight of the biographies in Beadle's Biographical Library and Lives of Great Americans, and the books mentioned above, he also wrote "Incidents and Anecdotes of the War" (1862) and "A History of American Conspiracies; a Record of Treason, Insurrection, Rebellion, etc. in the United States from 1760 to 1860," published by J. D. Torrey in 1863.

Victor was highly esteemed by the New York publishers, and in 1894 he and John Elderkin were appointed as a committee to represent the publishing interests before Congress in an attempt to stop the proposed increase in postal rates on certain types of second class matter. After the death of William Adams, the last remaining member of the old firm of Beadle and Adams, Victor resigned and from January, 1898, to December, 1904, became editor of the Question Box of Lupton's People's Home Journal and Good Literature. In 1897, also, he began to rewrite his "History of the Southern Rebellion," the original stereotype plates of which had been destroyed by fire in 1873. From 1898 on he was listed in the New York City directories as publisher and newspaper correspondent, with offices at 156 Broadway.

Victor died at his home in Hohokus, New Jersey, March 14, 1910, at the age of eighty-three. Said Gilbert Patten:(7) "Mr. Victor taught me much . . . He was a cold-appearing, austere man, but one of the kindest and most helpful editors I've ever known. Even after I quit Beadle and Adams. . . he was still my staunch friend." And John H. Whitson,(8) another of the Beadle authors, paid this tribute to his memory:

"Orville J. Victor was the inspiration behind the Beadle publications. He was a real editor; the whitest one I ever knew. He never quibbled or unduly criticized. He paid all that Beadle and Adams would let him. He had fine literary taste, and was the author of a number of historical books. . . . I knew Victor only by correspondence; he in New York, I out in Western Kansas. In the spring of 1891, while I was sick of mountain fever in Garden City, Kansas, Beadle and Adams started a new library, to shut off competition. Victor wrote soliciting my help on it. And sent me encouraging letters, promising that as soon as I could write he would have a warm place for me; which he did.

"He was old-fashioned. When typewriters came into use he expressed the fear that they would lower the quality of the stories written on them. . . . I met Victor for the first and only time in New York about 1899-1900; long after Beadle's failure. He was old and tired. Was occupying a little office down, I think, on William Street. And was conducting some kind of insurance statistical service for the electrical companies, showing how much better electricity was, and safer, than fire. He spoke with feeling of his wife, long dead. I recall his remark, made almost with tears in his eyes, to the effect that love was a desolating thing when you had lost the object of your affection; that even in those late years he now and then turned suddenly, almost thinking he heard her step or her voice. Yet I think this gnawing life sorrow he suffered never crept into or injured his work. A great editor. Peace to his ashes."

See also Mrs. Metta V. Victor, above.

REFERENCES: Newsman, May, 1894; Nat. Cyc. Amer. Biog., IV, 1897, 522-23; Who's Who, 1901 et seq.; New York Tribune, March 17, 1910; Boston Evening Transcript, March 17, 1910; Pearson, Dime Novels, 1929, 28, 47-48, 49, 51, 98-99; Gilbert Patten, "Dime Novel Days," Saturday Evening Post, February 28, 1931, and March 7, 1931; Scribner's Dict. Amer. Biog., XIX, 1936, 26566; Kunitz and Haycraft, American Authors, 1938, 773-74; New York City Directories, 1860, et seq.; John H. Whitson's letter to Ralph Adimari; letters to me from Gilbert Patten.

Dime Dialogues. Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4
Young People's Handbook. No. 2
Dime Novels. No. 66
Saturday Journal. Nos. 310, 342, 355, 419
Pocket Novels. No. 237
Boy's Library (octavo). No. 222
Dime Biographical Library. Nos. 1, 4, 6, 9, 12, 14
Six Penny Biographies (London). No. 1
Special Publication
(London). "The American Rebellion, etc.," 1861
Men of the Time. (Edited by Victor.) Nos. 1, 2, 3
Lives of Great Americans. Nos. 2, 3, 4, 8, 11

† Under the name "Louis Legrand" were published:

Dime Dialogues. Nos. i, 2, 3, 4
Young People's Handbook. No. 2
Dime Novels. No. 66 (This is probably by Mrs. Victor.)
Saturday Journal. Nos. 310, 342, 355, 419
Pocket Novels. No. 237
Boy's Library (octavo). No. 222

† Correction made as per Volume 3.


Notes

1 For example in Scribner's Dict. Amer. Biog., XIX, 1936, 266; Pearson's Dime Novels, 49; and Kunitz and Haycraft's American Authors, 773.
2 Who's Who, II and following years.
3 Wilson's Copartnership Directory, New York, 1861-62, lists E. F. Beadle as "h. Europe (on vacation)."
4 This was reprinted in The Magazine of History, extra number 93, XXIV, No. 1, Tarrytown, N. Y., 1923.
5 The Fourth Estate, VII, May 13, 1897, 7. Newspaper Maker XV, April 29, 1897.
6 This periodical was sold to the Wide World, of Boston, and was continued, without colors, as Western World, but with the volume numbers of Wide World.
7 Gilbert Patten in litteris, March 24, 1943.
8 John H. Whitson in litteris, July 11, 1932.

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