JOHN MAXWELL (1824-1895)
Victorian Publisher and Husband of Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Jennifer Carnell

John Maxwell was born in Limerick, Ireland in 1824. His parents died while he and and his four sisters were still young, and he was forced to make his own way in life when the trust fund which had supported them was exhausted.

Maxwell went to London at the age of 18 and opened an office in Southampton Street on the Strand, as he had been asked by the family of the Irish poet and novelist Gerald Griffin to oversee an 8 volume edition of his works. Quite why the young Maxwell was deemed suitable for the job is unclear, but they were published under the imprint of Maxwell & Co. in 1842.

Maxwell then worked briefly in journalism and in insurance, but at the age of 25 he was again working in publishing. A year earlier, in 1848, he married Mary Anne Crowley, the sister of the Irish painter N. J. Crowley. Maxwell and Mary Anne had seven children, but after the birth of their last child Mary became mentally unstable and the couple separated and after much research through directories I found she returned to Ireland to be cared for by her family.

In the early 1850s Maxwell worked as a newspaper agent and then as a contractor for advertisements; he continued to handle the advertising for magazines belonging to Ward, Lock & Co. in the 1860s and also published magazines under their imprint. Many of Maxwell's magazines were short lived, but his ambition was to bring low priced publications to the masses.

Braddon was given an introduction to Maxwell in April 1860 and met him at his office at 122 Fleet Street. By the end of 1860 Braddon and her mother had moved to London, and by February 1861 Braddon and Maxwell had become close and he was doing his best to promote her book of poems, Garibaldi. A few months later Braddon was pregnant with their first child, Gerald, who was born in March 1862.

This webpage was originally published in 2003, removed later, and republished in 2014.

Bibliography and Recommended Reading:
Jennifer Carnell, The Literary Lives of Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Sensation Press, 2000).
Robert Lee Wolff, Sensational Victorian: The Life and Fiction of Mary Elizabeth Braddon (New York: Garland, 1979).

An envelope sent by John Maxwell from France in 1888. It is addressed to Arthur Levy of 344 East 120th St, New York.


As well as Braddon, John Maxwell and his sons published many other authors and a few examples are shown below.

Talis Qualis, Or, Tales of the Jury Room by Gerald Griffin
The title page of the third volume. The young John Maxwell was sent to London by the family of Gerald Griffin to oversee an edition of Griffin's complete works. Setting himself up as Maxwell and Co., the volumes were published from 30 Southampton Street, the Strand in 1842.

Madeleine Graham by Emma Robinson
The one volume edition of Madeleine Graham, published in 1865. The price blocked on the spine: 6 shillings.
Maxwell published the novel as a three decker in the previous year.
Robinson, a friend of Braddon's, is best remembered as an author of historical novels, but Madeleine Graham was a modern and controversial novel; it was closely based on the 1857 Glasgow murder case of Madeleine Smith. Smith was accused of poisoning her former lover Emile L'Angelier with arsenic and the subsequent trial in Edinburgh and 'not proven' verdict transfixed the country.

Twice Round the Clock; Or, The Hours of the Day and Night in London.
Paperback edition published by John and Robert Maxwell in 1878.
An edition priced at half a crown.
This copy belonged to the book collector J. Maundy Gregory (Arthur Maundy Gregory)- a former spy, best remembered today as the first (and only so far) person to be prosecuted for selling peerages.
Internally the book is exactly the same as earlier and later editions by Maxwell and contains the same illustrations by William M'Connell.

The Morals of Mayfair. A yellowback edition of a novel by Annie Edwardes.
Published by J. & R. Maxwell
Published by Maxwell's sons, John and Robert, circa 1880.

The London Library was a series of novellas published by J. & R. Maxwell and George Vickers
The stories, each about 30 pages, were published weekly in 1880
The 13 issues in this volume, in an amateur binding, are:No. 80 'The Outlaw and the Indian'
No. 81 'The Rival's Plot'
No. 82 'Hunter Zeb'
No. 83 'Old Honesty'
No. 84 'Maggie and the Mohawks'
No. 85 'The Spirit of Evil'
An issue with no print number, 'Tim, the Scout'
No. 89 'Cougar Bill of Texas'
No. 90 'The Lake Fight'
No. 91 'Wild Tom of Wyoming'
No. 140 'The Desperate Temptress'
No. 145 'The Pirate Captain'
No. 148 'The Boy Miners'

Comic Critters by Max Adler
Published as a paperback in the Funny Folks Library by the Maxwells at 4 Shoe Lane in about 1880.
The paperback was sold at the time for 1d.

Vera Nevill; or, Poor Wisdom's Chance by Mrs. Lovett Cameron
A yellowback published by John & Robert Maxwell.

Respice Finem; Or, Love in Exile by G. Bianca Harvey
A yellowback edition of the novel published by Maxwell's sons, John and Robert, in 1885.

The Secret Seven: A Love Story by W. Stephens Hayward
Yellowback edition published by John and Robert Maxwell, circa 1885.
The publishers Griffith Farran eventually took over the titles of the Maxwell brothers, and this edition has their title page (c.1890) and the earlier Maxwell yellowback case.



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