Street View: 78
Address: 41 New Bridge Street, Blackfriars
Always Keep Your Temper
The Merchant Taylors’ School Register lists Henry Wix, born 3 June 1803, the son of the reverend Samuel Wix, as entering the school in February 1811. This date of birth in the register is almost certainly wrong. Henry was baptised by his father at All Souls, Inworth, Essex on 14 December 1804.(1) After having been at school for eight years, Henry was apprenticed to John Rivington, one of the many Rivingtons who ran a well-known publishing house from St. Paul’s Churchyard. Henry’s father had to pay £200 for the privilege of seeing his son instructed as a member of the Stationers’ Company, but it paid off and in 1826, Henry was duly given the freedom of the Company after his seven years of ‘servitude’. The first publication I found with his name in the imprint is from 1829, so there is a gap of a few years, but Henry may have lingered on as a servant to the Rivingtons until he had acquired enough money to set up on his own. The 1829 Post Office Directory does not yet list him, either at New Bridge Street or anywhere else, and the 1829 tax records for 41 New Bridge Street show an empty space. However, in the 1830 tax record Wix is listed at number 41. The last tax record for him there is 1844 and in 1845 Thomas Quartermaine is listed for the property. Quartermaine was the proprietor of the York Hotel, which Tallis lists for 39 New Bridge Street, and it looks as if Quartermaine was trying to get hold of the two houses between the large property of the Albion Life Assurance Company at number 42 and his own at the corner of Little Bridge Street. We will see if he succeeded in his plan when we write the post on his hotel, but first the career of Henry Wix.
Henry must have started his business early in 1829, or perhaps even in 1828, as on the 24th of February we find his first advertisement in The Morning Chronicle in which he announces John Halcomb’s Patriotic Address to the Inhabitant Householders of London and Westminster. That same year he also published Two Sermons; One on the General Errors, the Other on the Particular Pretensions, of the Romish Church, to which are Prefixed Some Thoughts on “Catholic Emancipation”. These sermons were by Edward Rice, but they could just as well have been by Henry’s father as Samuel Wix was opposed to Catholic emancipation.(2) The Two Sermons were co-published with the Rivingtons, suggesting that Henry’s apprenticeship with them led to a helping hand in the first years of his independent career. In 1832, he published, again together with the Rivingtons, his father’s Reflections Concerning the Expediency and Unchristian Character of Capital Punishments, as Prescribed by the Criminal Laws of England.
If you get the impression that Wix’s publications were all about religion, you would be wrong as he also co-published A History of English Gardening (1829), The Magazine and Review of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and Charles Caswell’s The Physiology of the Organ of Hearing (1833). Wix seemed to have terminated his business in 1844 or 1845 and in 1845 we find him listed at 65 St. Paul’s Churchyard – according to Tallis the address for the Religious Tract Society – as a member of the committee for the Booksellers’ Provident Fund which was being used to build a home for those in the book trade who had fallen on hard times.(3) In the 1851 census, we find Wix at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, living with his father, the vicar at St. Bart’s. Henry’s own occupation is given as ‘assistant to a bookseller’, but unfortunately it is not stated which bookseller. In 1861, the census still records Henry living with his father at St. Bart’s, but this time with ‘no profession or occupation’. The reverend Samuel Wix died later that year, leaving the tidy sum of £80,000.(4) Ten years later, Henry is found in Clay Street, Walthamstow as ‘independant’ with a coachman, a housekeeper and a house servant.
Wix died in 1881(5) and The Athenaeum wrote “We hear of the death, at the age of seventy-seven, of Mr. Henry Wix, many years ago a well-known bookseller in Bridge Street, Blackfriars. Mr. Wix will be remembered by many persons as the publisher of a hymnal which at one period had a very large sale.”(6) He was buried at Chingford and the inscription on his gravestone of polished grey granite reads “In affectionate remembrance / Henry Wix / Clay Hill House, Walthamstone / Died March 27, 1881 / In the 77th year of his age”.(7) Henry Wix was, however, more than just a bookseller who retired early because he had the financial means to do so; he was also a keen angler.
In 1844, he published a book after his own heart, Walton’s Complete Angler. This edition of Walton’s book on angling was published together with David Bogue of 86 Fleet Street whom we will come across again in a forthcoming blog post. Walton in his time had fished on the river Lea near Amwell Hill and The Amwell Magna Fishing Club was founded in 1831, starting out as a club mainly fishing for pike, but gradually changing into a group of keen fly fishers for trout. Wix was the secretary of the club from 1851 until 1874. For more on his contribution to the club and a lovely portrait of Wix as an angler all kitted out see their website.
In 1860, a small booklet of just 16 pages On Roach Fishing and its Peculiarities was published by H.W., initials in which we can recognise Henry Wix. Proof, if necessary, of Wix’s authorship is found in a copy of the book in the New York Public Library (online here) as that contains a letter by Wix of 7 May 1860 to Thomas Westwood, addressed from the vicarage at St. Barts where he was then still living with his father, in which he wrote, “I have the greatest pleasure in forwarding a copy of my little treatise on the ‘Peculiarities of Roach fishing'”. After apologising for the less than serious manner in which he pushed it “hastily through the press” as he intended it only as a bit of fun, he said that he “would prefer, that my name be not mentioned as regards this little work”. Was he ashamed of it? Or was it just false modesty? Whatever the reason for the use of his initials rather than his full name, he gave excellent advice at the end of the booklet, which, by the way, does not just apply to angling, namely Always Keep Your Temper.
(1) Thanks go to Feargal Starkey, archivist of the Amwell Magna Fishery, for providing the relevant information.
(2) Peter B. Nockles, ‘Wix, Samuel (1771–1861)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
(3) Gentleman’s Magazine, October 1845, p. 411.
(4) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861.
(5) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1881. He left an estate worth £45,000
(6) The Athenaeum, 9 April 1881.
(7) Fragmenta Genealogica, vol, XIII (1909).
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