William Harrison Ainsworth, 1805-1882


Biographical note

Novelist, son of a solicitor, was born in Manchester. He was destined for the legal profession, which, however, had no attraction for him; and going to London to complete his studies made the acquaintance of Mr. John Ebers, publisher, and at that time manager of the Opera House, by whom he was introduced to literary and dramatic circles, and whose daughter he afterwards married. For a short time he tried the publishing business, but soon gave it up and devoted himself to journalism and literature.

His first successful novel was Rookwood, published in 1834, of which Dick Turpin is the leading character, and thenceforward he continued to pour forth till 1881 a stream of novels, to the number of 39, of which the best known are The Tower of London [1840], Old St. Paul’s [1841], Lancashire Witches, and The Constable of the Tower. The titles of some of his other novels are Crichton [1837], Jack Sheppard [1839], Guy Fawkes, The Star Chamber, The Flitch of Bacon, The Miser’s Daughter [1842], and Windsor Castle [1843].

Ainsworth depends for his effects on striking situations and powerful descriptions: he has little humour or power of delineating character.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]


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