jump to navigation
  • The Subscription List Swindle November 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    hartley book

    This particular swindle should have gone in the post on British provincial swindles, but Beach loves it so much that he kept it apart to do honour to its creator, Mr Hartley, somewhere still picking oakum in purgatory. First, though a little background on the subscription system. If, in the nineteenth century, a striving author wanted to publish a book, particularly one of local or specialisted interest, he would send out pamphlets to a series of notaries. Of five or six hundred gentlemen and ladies, perhaps half that number would reply that they would gladly give a sovereign towards the publication of the book. On publication or on news that enough money had been raised they would send the sovereign and then wait for the free copy of the book. Many nineteenth-century Victorian books have subscribers lists, essentially a way of thanking the good and their great for their assistance and these lists were one of the reasons that local lords, rectors, admirals and tycoons were so keen to give, because they could be seen giving. Now to the genius plot and hats off.

    A man has been apprehended in Manchester, who has been preying upon the nobility and gentry of the country for the last five or six years, and duping them of their guineas under a pretence that they have some time ago put down their names on his subscription list for a new work which he had published under the title of the Beauties of Yorkshire.

    The name is perfectly judged, because it is just the right title for so many of the triter local volumes that flooded the nineteenth century market.

    The Beauties of Yorkshire is stated to be quite an imaginary publication, no such work ever having issued from press. The imposter seems to have trusted to the oblivion which great men have, or are supposed to have, of such events in their lifetime as having written their names upon subscription lists for new books, the event certainly appears to have frequently justified his knowledge of human nature in that respect.

    Hartley would send a letter asking for a sovereign from some Lord from ‘six years ago’. A letter returns from the Lord saying he would be glad to do so if Hartley can show the Lord’s signature and Hartley cuts out the signature from the letter as proof! At the head of the article is a list of all those who he got sovereigns from. Incredibly Hartley insisted that his father had published the book, though no such book was forthcoming and then got off when no one would testify against him. He had netted 89 sovereigns, which while not enough to buy you an aircraft carrier would have bought you a few horses in 1849

    Anything else about John Hartley of Malham: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Story in Yor Her 12 May 1849, 3