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Bone-Hone Bookshop and After . . .

At least since the 1790s, John Bone—Hone's partner in the failed Tranquillity project—had been a friend of the Paineite bookseller and publisher Jeremiah Samuel Jordan, and the two were still on very cordial terms. (In 1804-05 the two shared quarters while Bone was writing his assessments of the Poor Laws.) [1] Sometime probably very late in 1807, Jordan, now resident in Kentish Town, let his bookselling shop—on rather generous terms apparently—to a new partnership of Bone and Hone. From these premises at 331 Strand, opposite Somerset House, Bone began issuing The Reasoner, a weekly paper of commentary on foreign affairs and "political economy," which listed Jordan as publisher. The periodical was unprofitable and lasted only until April 1808, but, while it was going on, the partnership also maintained the bookselling business, which they augmented on 28 December 1808 with a £233 purchase of new stock from Stationer's Court bookseller Benjamin Crosby at a book auction held in the Queen's Arms public house. [2] By early 1809, Bone and Hone could issue an impressive catalogue of their wares: well over 2400 titles of older books, most published in the eighteenth century, but with a few "antiquarian" works from the seventeenth and even the sixteenth centuries. [3] It is not clear whether the partnership dealt in newly published works as well; such books were not included in the printed catalogue. In any case, it looked as though Hone had finally gotten a stable, respectable, and potentially even profitable toehold in the book trade.

But appearances are deceiving. Unpaid bills began to pile up on the bookkeeper Hone's already cluttered desk, and on 16 October 1810, before going upstairs to discuss their financial situation, the partners told their shopman, Thomas Coram, to inform any creditors who might walk in that the proprietors were not at home. Shortly after noon, Crosby came in to inquire about a past-due payment. Apparently, having been told that Bone and Hone were not available, he took legal action, and, about two weeks later, a bankruptcy commission officially declared Bone and Hone to be bankrupts and published the required notice to all creditors. [4] It seems that the cash and loans Bone and Hone were advanced when taking over Jordan's business were attended with very high payments, and consequently, despite a reasonably active trade, the partners simply were not able to maintain a solvent and thriving business. A glance at the list of creditors who appeared during the subsequent meetings of the bankruptcy commission demonstrates just how desperate the situation had become. There were dozens of different bills to pay to booksellers, stationers, and others in "the trade" as well as to a carpenter, a watchmaker, and so on. Altogether, the outstanding debts totalled almost £2,000, over £700 of which was still owed directly to Jordan and another £150 or so to Crosby. Once again, Hone and Bone were forced to sell every bit of property they possessed, "wearing apparel and the wearing apparel of their wives and children only excepted." [5]

Yet another Hone-operated business had ended in disaster; he was not completely free from the bankruptcy proceedings for nearly three years (at which point the charges were dismissed, via the insolvent act, with the creditors having been paid a total of 6s/4d per pound of debt). But the joint endeavors of Bone and Hone, though financially catastrophic, were in other ways quite enriching to the younger partner. For one thing, Hone had gained a thorough knowledge of the personnel and procedures of the London book trade, and, always more reader than salesman, he had gained a reputation in antiquarian circles as a well-informed scholar of old books, prints, and other "antiquities." In addition, and probably due to Bone's LCS connections, Hone had come to be acquainted with some of the most prominent and active radicals of the day. For instance, the engraver Alexander Galloway, a high-ranking member of the LCS in the 1790s who had spent time in Cold Bath Fields prison with Bone, is listed as a creditor in the bankruptcy proceedings, having loaned the bankrupts over £60. The bankruptcy apparently did nothing to cool the friendly relations between these persons, for Hone and Galloway remained close for at least the next ten years. Hone at this time also became acquainted with Francis Place, the linen-draper whose papers are now a primary source of historical information about London radicalism from the 1790s through the 1820s. Together with Place and some other Westminster radicals, Hone planned the fête that was to celebrate Sir Francis Burdett's release from the Tower in June, 1810. [6] (By quietly taking an alternate route, Burdett disappointed the crowds who had gathered to cheer him home.) And finally, among the patrons of the bookshop, Hone could claim acquaintance and even friendship with Lady Augusta Murray, Sir Richard Phillips, Lord Skeffington, and, at the opposite end of the social spectrum, the radical Thomas Spence.

It was largely because of these connections—particularly those in the book trade—that Hone was able to keep something of a career going in the years after the dissolution of the Bone and Hone partnership in late 1810. The years from 1811 to 1814 mark another very sketchy period insofar as biographical information is concerned. [7] Hackwood claims that Hone, "by the goodwill of his bookselling brethren," took over a position as auctioneer to the book trades upon the retirement of John Walker. Hone was at this point (1811) established in quarters in Ivy Lane. With his brother Joseph as clerk, he sold off a number of large, private collections, but apparently not enough to keep his large family completely solvent and independent.[8] Despite some confusion in the dates, Hackwood's account does seem plausible. Hone was recognized as an expert in the valuation of old and rare books, and certainly he was familiar with the procedures of book auctions—the very title page of Bone and Hone's 1809 catalogue announces their shop as one "Where Libraries and Parcels of Books are bought, or taken in Exchange, on the most equitable Terms." And the bankruptcy proceedings more than once identify Joseph Hone as an "acceptor" for some of the outstanding bills against the debtors; it would seem that Hone and his brother were in some way professionally involved. Furthermore, Hone purchased his Freedom of the City of London through the Spectacle-Makers' Company in late June, 1813, the Company records listing him as an "Ivy Lane Bookseller." [9] Finally, Thomas Rees and John Britton recall that "The celebrated William Hone was for a short time auctioneer to the trade, but was irregular in his accounts"; though they provide no dates, the statement obviously comes from persons who know Hone and his businesses. [10] These facts, combined with some allusions to the book trade in the few surviving letters from the period, [11] would suggest that during these years Hone was probably able to keep up a position in the trade, primarily as an auctioneer, but perhaps with a small bookselling operation as well. He may also have done some occasional editing work.

This is not to say, however, that Hone and his family prospered once he was free from the failed Bone partnerships. In fact, for most of the time from the collapse of Tranquillity through the bankruptcy proceedings and Hone's subsequent bookselling operations, Sarah Hone and the children stayed with Sarah's mother in Lambeth. Despite the financial inconveniences, the family seems to have been reasonably content with this arrangement. In 1809-10, for instance, Hone felt comfortable enough to take in for some months a young black child who, it was said at the time, was the son of Toussaint L'Ouverture. John Toussaint and Hone's daughters Sarah, Fanny, and Matilda liked to play in the open areas near Mrs. Johnson's house in Lambeth Walk, and, after Toussaint had gone on to school, Hone maintained a brief correspondence with him. [12] The family also continued to grow. In addition to Sarah and Matilda, Fanny was born in 1805, William probably in 1807 or 1808, Alfred in early 1810, John in 1812, and Emma in 1814. It was becoming urgent that Hone find some employment to supply the basic needs of this large (and soon to be even larger) clan.


 

Notes:

1.
J. Ann Hone, "William Hone," pp. 56-57. [return]

2.
Queen's Arms sale notice in the Bankruptcy Proceedings, PRO B 3/268. [return]

3.
First Part of a Catalogue of Books, for 1809, in different languages, and various classes of literature, including a considerable number of works on trade and commerce, manufactures, money, coin, revenue, the affairs of the poor, assize and price of bread, public improvement, and other subjects of political economy. London: Bone and Hone, 1809. The Second Part of the Catalogue, if it ever existed, seems now to have been lost. [return]

4.
Coram deposition, PRO B 3/268; see also the Index to Bankrupts, Docket Book, PRO B 4/30. The legal notice appears in the London Gazette, 30 Oct.-3 Nov., 1810. [return]

5.
Statement of Bone and Hone, PRO B 3/268. The records of the bankruptcy, including such names as Thomas Hurst and Thomas Tegg, read like a Who's Who of the publishing and bookselling trade of the day. [return]

6.
As publisher, bookseller, and activist, Hone took part in several other political efforts during these years. He and Bone published speeches by Burdett and Whitbread, for example, and Hone was active in the "Old Price Wars" as well. See J. Ann Hone, "William Hone," pp. 57-58. [return]

7.
The years correspond to a less well-chronicled period in the history of London radicalism, which only compounds the problem. See J. Ann Hone, For the Cause of Truth, p. 220. [return]

8.
Hackwood, pp. 78-79. [return]

9.
Stamps for Freedoms; Spectacle Makers Company, 1765-1814, Guildhall MS 6031/3. See also the Spectacle-Makers Account Book, 1800-July 1819, Guildhall MS 6027/3, and the Minute Book, Guildhall MS 5213/4. Hone was not finally admitted to the freedom of the City until 24 June, 1818, at a period when he was once again trying to establish himself as a book auctioneer (see the Alphabet of Freedoms, CLRO CF1/1441). [return]

10.
Thomas Rees and John Britton. Reminiscences of Literary London from 1779 to 1853. (New York: Francis P. Harper, 1896. Rpt. Detroit: Gale, 1969), pp. 64-65. [return]

11.
See, for instance, the letters from John Venning to William Hone, 9 Feb. 1812, (Ogden MS 73, bk. 1, f. 38) and from Walter Honeywood Yate to Hone, 1812, (Yale, Beinecke Library, Osborne MS 43.275). The Beinecke Library also has a MS copy in Hone's hand of the introduction and a draft title page to The Lives of those Eminent Antiquaries, Elias Ashmole Esq. and Mr. William Lilly. This was apparently intended to be a reprint of the volume by Charles Burnam first published in the 1770s. Whether the volume ever appeared with Hone as editor is not clear, but, in any case, Hone's concern with Ashmole and Lilly offers another intriguing link between nineteenth-century radicalism and seventeenth-century culture. [return]

12.
Hackwood, pp. 83-84. [return]