Letters and Documents, 1780-1818
These letters and short documents reflect Hone's early public life, from the time of his initial professional employment up through the 1817 libel trials that vaulted him to fame. The letters show Hone's early endeavors to combine a philanthropic spirit with a profession that might sustain his rapidly growing family. The letter to Wakefield, for example, presents the plan for a new sort of asylum for the humane treatment of the mentally incompetent which, if brought to fruition, would have had Hone as its superintendent. In addition, Hone was always involved in the book trades, as a bookseller, an auctioneer for private libraries, and, increasingly, as a writer and publisher of social and political polemics. These endeavors eventually led to libel charges from the Attorney General and Hone's famous courtroom victories in December of 1817.
In addition to letters written by Hone, I have also included several selected letters written to Hone in order to provide a more comprehensive sense of the correspondence. Where highlighted, the dates of the letters (YYYY-MM-DD) will link to full-text reproductions; many of the more prominent correspondents are linked to the "Who's Who" document; and where it has seemed useful I have also linked to the appropriate bibliographical and biographical resources elsewhere in the Biotext.
1792; William Hone, "Verses on our Excellent Constitution";
British Library, Add. MS 40120, f. 2.
Very likely Hone's earliest publication, this short poem was written shortly after the French Revolution when, as Hone's autobiography puts it, his family "became politicians." The full publication, entitled "The Contrast," is described in A London Childhood.
1795-11-12; William Hone to "Mr. Bellamy";
University College, Ogden Manuscripts, 73 (2), loose sheet.
Letter in very neat secretarial hand, and signed "Wm. Hone, Jun." From 16 Albemarle St., Clerkenwell. Hone requests a prospectus for the Mirror. [It seems likely that the letter was composed in Hone's first job as a legal copyist.]
1797; WH, "Dear to my Soul is chill November's breeze";
Huntington Library holds a copy in Hone's hand (apparently copied much later).
A sonnet in a style resembling Charlotte Smith's. The sonnet was likely written during Hone's sojourn in Chatham in 1797. It was published in that year over the name "W. S. Hone" in The Monthly Visitor and Pocket Companion.
Published: The Monthly Visitor and Pocket Companion, London: 1797; p. 98 in the concluding poetry section called, "Parnassian Garland."
1806-06-08; John Venning to William Hone;
Location of original unknown.
Venning writes with high praise for the Tranquillity project, but also wonders if Hone is spending too much time and energy on such schemes.
Published: Hackwood, p. 76.
1810-10-23; William Hone to John "Toussaint L'Ouverture";
Location of original unknown
Hone offers fatherly advice to John "Toussaint L'Ouverture," a child--purportedly the son of the Caribbean revolutionary--who had lived in Hone's household for a short time.
Published: Hackwood, pp. 83-84.
- 1813-06-24; William Hone joins the Spectacle-Makers;
City of London Record Office (CLRO), CF1/1441
Record of Hone's membership in the Spectacle Makers, one of the guilds of the City of London.
1813-07-09; Walter Wilson to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 16-17.
Wilson and Hone clearly on close terms already, but here Wilson objects to some "bile" Hone had sent, and then he exhorts Hone to "become a good christian."
1813-08-23; Walter Wilson to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 18-19.
Wilson thanks Hone for handling some indiscreet behavior among his servants then supplies some casual discussion and description of life in Margate.
1813-12-00; William Hone to Edward Wakefield;
British Library, Add. MS 40856, ff. 2-3.
Heavily edited draft plans for an asylum for the insane, a project Hone forwarded jointly with Edward Wakefield and James Bevans. [For more on the asylum project, see the London Asylum fragment.]
1813-12-28; Edward Wakefield to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 20-21.
Wakefield's warm response to Hone's letter introducing the asylum project. (See the London Asylum fragment.)
1814-01-31; William Hone contract with Thomas Bluck for editorship of Critical Review;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 32-35.
Not actually a letter but a contract describing the terms under which Hone was to become literary editor of the Critical Review.
1814-02-16; Walter Wilson to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, f. 34.
Brief note regarding borrowed books.
1815-03-16; Thomas Vyse to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 39-40.
Vyse, the father of Edward Vyse, asks that Hone suppress images of his son's fatal wounds. (See Hone's reply, following.)
1815-03-16; William Hone to Thomas Vyse;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 41-42.
Thomas Vyse had objected to the publication of the coroner's engravings describing the gunshots that had killed his son Edward. Hone replies with a diplomatic note defending publication of the images. [The Vyse case was extensively reported in the Critical Review and in Hone's Circumstantial Report (1815).]
1815-08-30; Basil Montagu to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 41071, ff. 56-57.
Montagu gives Hone permission to publish a letter, but then advises Hone to be very cautious about publishing pamphlets critical of the Recorder. The immediate relevance is to the case of Elizabeth Fenning.
1815-09-15; regarding Edward Vyse;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, f. 38.
Draft of a letter—to whom is unclear—in which Hone describes the treatment of the jury by the Coroner.
1815-09-27; William Hone to John Marshall;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 45-46.
Hone asks fellow publisher John Marshall for a copy of the Recorder's charge to the jury in the case of Elizabeth Fenning. [Hone's involvement with the case is described in a biographical fragment.]
1815-09-27; William Hone to J. Moyes;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 47.
A hastily written note in which Hone asks Moyes (printer) for a quick estimate of printing costs for the Fenning pamphlet. [The reference is to Hone's Important Results of an Elaborate Investigation (1815).]
1815-12-16; John Borthwick Gilchrist to Black, Parbury & Allen;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, f. 51r.
Gilchrist asks his publisher to supply copies to Hone. (See below.)
1815-12-16; William Hone to to Messrs. Black, Parbury & Allen;
British Library (BL), Add. MS 40120, f. 51v.
Written on verso of note from John Borthwick Gilchrist to Black, Parbury & Allen; Hone requests 50 copies of Gilchrist's pamphlet on reform for resale in his bookshop.
1816-00-00; William Hone to William Augustus Dowling;
Hone Collection, Adelphi, Series 1A, Bx 1, f. 2.
Hone poses a set of queries regarding the trial of Captain Harrower (who had been found guilty in a bizarre trial for bigamy). Hone published an account of the trial with Dowling listed as the author of the work.
1816-04-04; William Hone to [Captain] Harrower;
Hone Collection, Adelphi, Series 1A, Bx 1, f. 3.
Draft letter with many crossings-out and and insertions; Hone appears to be cutting his professional ties with Captain Harrower, whose bigamy trial Hone had recently published.
1816-07-06; Major Cartwright to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 54-55.
Brief note regarding arrangments for a private meeting—significant chiefly because it suggests an already close association between Hone and Cartwright.
1816-10-30; William Hone to "the TRADE";
British Library, Add. MS 40108, ff. 146.
A printed card in which Hone announces his new business address at 67 Old Bailey, having shifted his bookselling operations from 55 Fleet Street.
1816-12-13; William Hone to Thomas Evans;
British Library, Add. MS 50746, ff. 1-2.
Hone's inquiry about whether his intention to publish extract of "Christian Policy" would interfere with Evans's plans for his own publication.
1817-04-30; William Hone to Mr. Glen;
Hone Collection, Adelphi, Series 1A, Bx 1, f. 3.
Asks for a loan of £15 until Saturday. Hone is very busy with The Reformists' Register and cannot stir from his premises without compromising the publication.
1817-05-05; Record of Hone's Incarceration;
PRO PRIS 4/29, pp. 250-51.
The entries from the record book of the King's Bench Prison which documents Hone's incarceration, the charges for which he was being held, and (added later) a note documenting his release on 2 July, 1817.
1817-05-08; William Hone to John Hunt;
British Library, Add. MS 38108, f. 189.
A long and grateful note to Hunt for various good services regarding Hone's arrest and imprisonment.
Published: Kent & Ewen, 345-46.
1817-06-06; Alexander Galloway to William Hone;
University College, Ogden MSS. 74, f. 28.
Galloway, a long-time acquaintance, is working with Hone to develop some mode of assistance to the wives and families of imprisoned radicals.
1817-06-26; William Hone to Francis Place;
British Library, Add. MS 37949, f. 46.
Hone is concerned with trial of T. J. Wooler; something has gone awry with a shorthand writer for Wooler's trial.
Published: Kent & Ewen, 346.
1817-07-03; Major Cartwright to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 61-62.
Cartwright requests a meeting with Hone to discuss a probable government entrapment scheme intended to tempt radical publishers into libellous publications and then arresting them.
1817-08-08; William Hone to Richard Carlile;
Hackwood, p. 116. Location of original unknown.
Hone asks for an interview with Carlile, having just heard that he plans to republish Hone's parodies. (Most likely, Hone wishes to stop Carlile's publication.)
Published: Hackwood, p. 116.
1817-11-22; Charles Pearson to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 69-70.
Pearson, a solicitor, has received notices regarding Hone's trial; he volunteers his support and assistance.
1817-11-23; William Hone to Attorney General Samuel Shepherd;
Public Record Office (PRO), Kew, TS/11/44, book 164, ff. 95v-97r.
A detailed explanation of Hone's position regarding his forthcoming trials; Hone offers to withhold sale and destroy copies of remaining parodies if trial stopped.
1817-11-23; William Hone to Attorney General Samuel Shepherd;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, f. 73.
draft of PRO letter of the same date (see above).
Published: Kent & Ewen, p. 347.
1817-11-27; Samuel Shepherd to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 74-75.
Shepherd's diplomatic reply to Hone's concern that he was mistakenly being held accountable for pirated copies of his parodies.
1817-12-15; William Hone to Attorney General Samuel Shepherd;
Public Record Office (PRO), Kew, TS/11/44, book 164, ff. 104v-105r.
Hone inquires about the order of his forthcoming trials—which work will be tried first?
1817-12-15; Samuel Shepherd to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 40120, ff. 76-77.
In reply to Hone's query (see above), Shepherd still uncertain about exact date of the trial, but tells Hone that he plans to try the Catechism first.
1817-12-23; William Hone to The Times;
An open letter to The Times in which Hone dissociates himself from any further publication of the liturgical Parodies, and discourages other printers from the same. [Hone received some criticism for this notice which seemed to undermine the position he had taken during his recent trials.]
Published: The Times, 24 December, 1817, p. 3.
1818-01-23; Prefatory "Address" to the 1818 edition of Three Trials;
Hone's prefatory Address to his edition of the Three Trials published in 1818. The Address presents Hone's difficult position of repudiating the publication of his own parodies while not undermining his argument against the government; Hone also sets forth his plans for his printing and bookselling enterprise and offers the first public announcement of his never completed History of Parody.
Published: The Three Trials of William Hone, London: Hone, 1818. pp. iii-iv.
1818-02-13; William Godwin to Joseph Planter;
Hone Collection, Adelphi, Series 1C, Bx 4, fol. 2.
Request from Godwin to Joseph Planter of the British Library requesting that Hone be granted admission to that institution.
1818-02-27; Alexander Galloway to William Hone;
University College, Ogden MSS. 74, f. 22.
An incidental note in which Galloway offers admiring comments about Hone's wife Sarah.
1818-04-24; Sarah Hone [sister?] to William Hone;
British Library, Add. MS 50746, ff. 5-6.
Familiar family-oriented letter most likely from Hone's sister Sarah (b. 1796) who was visiting relatives in the Bristol/Bath area.
1818-07-22; William Hone to William Upcott;
John Rylands University Library, Manchester, MS. 725, vol. 4.
Notes on Hone's forthcoming publication of the Three Trials.
Published: Kent & Ewen, 348.