Effingham Wilson
Standing studio portrait of Effingham Wilson, formally dressed in cravat, waistcoat and long jacket, between a chair and a bookcase
Effingham Wilson, 1862 photograph
Born28 September 1785
Died9 June 1868
38 Mildmay Park, Islington, London
Resting placeHighgate Cemetery
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Political partyLiberal
SpouseMartha Hunt Maria James
ChildrenHenry Schütz Wilson

Effingham William Wilson (28 September 1785 – 9 June 1868) was a 19th-century English radical publisher and bookseller. His main interests were in economics and politics, but he also published poetry.

Early life

Wilson was born at Ravensworth in the North Riding of Yorkshire, one of at least five sons to Joseph Wilson (born c.1734) and his wife Jane Hutchinson. Some of his relations had farmed under the Earl of Effingham, which resulted in Wilson's distinctive Christian name.[1] "His earliest years were most happily passed in the neighbourhood of the place of his birth" according to his biography.

When still a boy he was removed to Knaresborough, where he resided with his physician uncle, Dr. Thomas HutchinsonFSA (d. March 1797), to be trained in the medical profession.[2] Dr Hutchinson was "a man of taste and literature" and a friend of William and Dorothy Wordsworth.[3][4] He owned the skull of the murderer Eugene Aram, having taken the head from the gibbet where the murderer hung, and was assisted in the task by Wilson.[5]


After having been a passenger on the first train into London, Wilson founded Railway Magazine, the first railway-themed trade journal.

In 1848 Wilson wrote and published a pamphlet entitled A House for Shakespeare in which he proposed the creation of a national theatre company.[6] [7] This inspired the foundation of the Royal National Theatre.[7] His proposal was supported by Henry Irving, Charles Dickens and Matthew Arnold among others.[8]

Works by radicals

A strong advocate of freedom of the press, Wilson published material which other publishers found too politically dangerous.

Other publications included works by Benjamin Disraeli and Robert Owen.


Wilson published poetry, and was the publisher of the first free-standing works of both Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning.

Wilson also published Thomas Campbell and was an original publisher of William Hazlitt.


General Lafayette sent Wilson a bust of himself and an autographed letter after he published one of his works in translation in London.[27]


Grave of Effingham Wilson in Highgate Cemetery

He died on 9 June 1868 and was buried on the western side of Highgate Cemetery. His grave (no.10581) no longer has a legible inscription.

The obituary for Wilson in The Hornet said: "at the present time the firm of Effingham Wilson is known throughout the world as one of the foremost houses in the publishing trade."[28] Walter Bagehot, a close personal friend wrote that Wilson "was full of amenity, kindness and cheerfulness. He enjoyed excellent health throughout his long life, and used often to remark that he had lived sixty years in London without a headache."[29] He was a close personal friend of George Birkbeck.[29] His correspondences included John Stuart Mill and Charles Dickens.[30]


Wilson was twice married, and had a large number of children. He married, firstly in 1804, Martha Hunt. After her death, he married secondly, in 1822, Maria James. [31] The firm was continued by his son Henry Schütz Wilson (born 1824), being taken over by Isaac Pitman in 1932; which was taken over in turn by Pearson plc.

The third son of the second marriage, William Wilson (c.1826–1886), went into the family firm as a young man.[32] He is known as a poet (Gathered together: poems 1860), which included sonnets on contemporary celebrities.[33][34] He is also credited with the neologism "science-fiction" in 1851, in a book A Little Earnest Book upon a Great Old Subject, while discussing the poetry of Richard Henry Horne.[32][35]


  1. ^ Full text of "In memory of Effingham Wilson"
  2. ^ Illustrations of the literary history of the eighteenth century ..., Volume 1 By John Nichols, 459
  3. ^ Illustrations of the literary history of the eighteenth century ..., Volume 1 By John Nichols
  4. ^ Dorothy Wordsworth the Story of a Sister's Love By Edmund Lee, p174
  5. ^ Dobson, J (1952). "The college criminals. 2. Eugene Aram". Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 10 (4): 267–75. PMC 2377491. PMID 14924511.
  6. ^ The national stage: theatre and cultural legitimation in England, France ... By Loren Kruge
  7. ^ a b BBC News - The bumpy road to the National Theatre
  8. ^ "The Road to King's Reach – History of the NT". National Theatre. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  9. ^ a b Schofield, Philip; Zhai, Xiaobo (1 September 2022). Bentham on Democracy, Courts, and Codification. Cambridge University Press. p. 368. ISBN 978-1-009-03306-0.
  10. ^ Bentham, Jeremy (1821). The Elements of the Art of Packing, as Applied to Special Juries, Particularly in Cases of Libel Law. London: Effingham Wilson.
  11. ^ Macleod, Jock; Christie, William; Denney, Peter (20 December 2019). Politics and Emotions in Romantic Periodicals. Springer Nature. p. 221. ISBN 978-3-030-32467-4.
  12. ^ Wilson, Effingham (1831). New, useful & valuable books, published by Effingham Wilson. p. 1.
  13. ^ Ingelhart, Louis E. (17 September 1998). Press and Speech Freedoms in the World, from Antiquity Until 1998: A Chronology. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 259 note 80. ISBN 978-0-313-30851-2.
  14. ^ Hill, Rosamond Davenport; Hill, Florence Davenport (1878). The Recorder of Birmingham: A Memoir of Matthew Davenport Hill : with Selections from His Correspondence. Macmillan. p. 55.
  15. ^ Moore (of Liverpool.) (1822). Remarks on the consumption of public wealth by the clergy of every Christian nation, and particularly by the Established Church in England and Wales, and in Ireland; with a plan for altering its revenues, subject to existing interests, etc. By - Moore, of Liverpool. Effingham Wilson.
  16. ^ Thackeray, Francis (1823). Some Observations upon a pamphlet entitled, "Remarks on the consumption of Public Wealth by the Clergy of every Christian Nation"; and also upon an attack in the 74th Number of the Edinburgh Review upon the Church of England ... the whole being supplementary to "A Defence of the Clergy of the Church of England.".
  17. ^ Bentham, Jeremy (1828). A Fragment on Government; Being an Examination of what is Delivered on the Subject of Government in General, in the Introduction to Sir W. Blackstone's Commentaries: with a Preface, in which is Given a Critique on the Work at Large. By J. Bentham. London: W. Pickering & E. Wilson.
  18. ^ Marshall, Peter H. (1 January 1984). William Godwin. Yale University Press. p. 371. ISBN 978-0-300-10544-5.
  19. ^ "WPHP: Effingham Wilson [Royal Exchange]". womensprinthistoryproject.com.
  20. ^ "Three poems not included in the works of Lord Byron - Library | University of Leeds". explore.library.leeds.ac.uk.
  21. ^ a b Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson Baron (1981). The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson: 1821-1850. Vol. I. Harvard University Press. p. 44 notes. ISBN 978-0-674-52583-2.
  22. ^ Martin, Robert Bernard (1983). Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart. Faber & Faber. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-0-571-11842-7.
  23. ^ "Publisher: Saunders and Otley". www.victorianresearch.org.
  24. ^ Finlayson, Iain (2004). Browning: A Private Life. HarperCollins. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-00-255507-4.
  25. ^ The Photographic Experience, 1839Ð1914: Images and Attitudes. Penn State Press. p. 328. ISBN 978-0-271-04449-1.
  26. ^ Topp, Chester W. (1999). Victorian Yellowbacks & Paperbacks, 1849-1905. Hermitage Antiquarian Bookshop. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-9633920-3-9.
  27. ^ In memory of Effingham Wilson
  28. ^ In memory of Effingham Wilson
  29. ^ a b The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson: 1821-1850 By Baron Alfred Tennyson Tennyson, Cecil Y. Lang, Edgar Finley Shannon, p44
  30. ^ Additional letters of John Stuart Mill By John Stuart Mill, Marion Filipiu, p23
  31. ^ Worms, Laurence. "Wilson, Effingham (1785–1868)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38136. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  32. ^ a b Bleiler, Richard (2011). "William Wilson: The Creator of "Science-Fiction."". Science Fiction Studies. 38 (3): 562–564. doi:10.5621/sciefictstud.38.3.0562. ISSN 0091-7729. JSTOR 10.5621/sciefictstud.38.3.0562.
  33. ^ Reilly, Catherine (1 January 2000). Mid-Victorian Poetry, 1860–1879. A&C Black. p. 502. ISBN 9780720123180. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  34. ^ Buckingham, James Silk; Sterling, John; Maurice, Frederick Denison; Stebbing, Henry; Dilke, Charles Wentworth; Hervey, Thomas Kibble; Dixon, William Hepworth; Maccoll, Norman; Rendall, Vernon Horace; Murry, John Middleton (1860). Athenaeum: London Literary and Critical Journal. J. Francis. p. 543.
  35. ^ "SFE: Wilson, William". sf-encyclopedia.com.

Further reading