Lathom, Francis (DNB00)

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LATHOM, FRANCIS (1777–1832), novelist and dramatist, born at Norwich in 1777, is said to have been the illegitimate son of an English peer. In early life he wrote for the Norwich Theatre, and probably acted there, but after 1801 he retired to Inverurie, where he lodged with a baillie, and subsequently removed to Bogdavie, a farmhouse in Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, belonging to one Alexander Rennie. He was liberally provided with money and developed many eccentricities. He dressed, it is said, 'like a play-actor,' read regularly London newspapers, drank whiskey freely, interested himself in theatrical gossip, wrote novels, and sang songs of his own composition. He was known in Fyvie as 'Mr. Francis' or 'Boggie's Lord,' from the name of Rennie's farmhouse, and his reputed wealth exposed him to frequent risk of being kidnapped by those who were anxious to secure so profitable a lodger. In his last years he lived with Rennie at Milnfield farm in the parish of Monquhitter, and died there suddenly on 19 May 1832. He was buried in the Rennies' burial plot in the churchyard of Fyvie.

His writings, which met with some success, are:

  1. 'All in a Bustle; a comedy,' 8vo, Norwich, 1795; 2nd edit. 1800, never acted.
  2. 'The Midnight Bell; a German story,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1798?; another edit. 1800?; 2nd edit. 1825 (translated into French, 3 vols. 16mo, Paris, 1799).
  3. 'The Castle of Ollada,' 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1799?
  4. 'Men and Manners; a novel,' 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1799; another edit. 1800.
  5. 'The Dash of the Day; a comedy,' 2nd and 3rd edits. 8vo, Norwich, 1800, acted at Norwich.
  6. 'Mystery; a novel,' 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1800 (translated into French and German).
  7. 'Holiday Time, or the School Boy's Frolic; a farce,' acted at Norwich, 8vo, Norwich, 1800.
  8. 'Orlando and Seraphina, or the Funeral Pile; an heroic drama,' 8vo, London [Norwich printed 1800]; another edit. 1803, acted at Norwich.
  9. 'Curiosity; a comedy,' adapted from the French of Madame de Genlis, acted at Norwich (8vo, 1801). Genest describes it as 'a good piece; considerably better than Madame Genlis's original; the moral is excellent' (Hist. Account, x. 222–3).
  10. 'The Wife of a Million; a comedy,' acted at Norwich, Lincoln, and Canterbury, 8vo, Norwich [1802].
  11. 'Astonishment!!! a romance of a century ago,' 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1802.
  12. 'The Castle of the Thuilleries, or Narrative of all the Events which have taken place in the interior of that Palace. Translated from the French,' 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1803.
  13. 'Very Strange but Very True; a novel,' 4 vols. 12mo, 1803.
  14. 'Ernestina; a tale from the French,' 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1803.
  15. 'The Impenetrable Secret, Find it Out,' 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1805.
    1. 'The Mysterious Freebooter, or the Days of Queen Bess; a romance,' 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1806.
  16. 'Human Beings; a novel,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1807.
  17. 'The Fatal Vow, or St. Michael's Monastery; a romance,' 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1807.
  18. 'The Unknown, or the Northern Gallery,' 3 vols. 12mo, 1808.
  19. 'London, or Truth without Treason,' 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1809.
  20. 'Romance of the Hebrides, or Wonders Never Cease,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1809.
  21. 'Italian Mysteries, or More Secrets than One; a romance,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1820 (translated into French by Jules Saladin, 4 vols. 12mo, Paris, 1823).
  22. 'The One Pound Note, and other tales,' 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1820.
  23. 'Puzzled and Pleased, or the Two Old Soldiers, and other tales,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1822.
  24. 'Live and Learn, or the first John Brown, his Friends, Enemies, and Acquaintances, in Town and Country; a novel,' 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1823.
  25. 'The Polish Bandit, or Who is my Bride? and other tales,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1824.
  26. 'Young John Bull, or Born Abroad and Bred at Home,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1828.
  27. 'Fashionable Mysteries, or the Rival Duchesses, and other tales,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1829.
  28. 'Mystic Events, or the Vision of the Tapestry. A Romantic Legend of the days of Anne Boleyn,' 4 vols. 8vo, London, 1830.

[Lathom's Works; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iv. 259; Fyvie Parish Magazine, May 1892; information most kindly supplied by the Rev. A. J. Milne, LL.D., minister of Fyvie.]

G. G.