Rivington, Charles (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 48
Rivington, Charles

by Henry Richard Tedder
Contains subarticle James Rivington (1724–1803).

RIVINGTON, CHARLES (1688–1742), publisher, eldest son of Thurston Rivington, was born at Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in 1688. He was apprenticed to Matthews, a London bookseller, and made free of the city in 1711, when the premises and trade of Richard Chiswell (1639–1711) [q. v.] passed into his hands, and the sign of the ‘Bible and Crown’ was first affixed to the house in Paternoster Row. By 1715 Rivington had published editions of Cave's ‘Primitive Christianity,’ Nelson's ‘Thomas à Kempis,’ and other works, chiefly theological. ‘The Scourge, in Vindication of the Church of England’ (1720), is the earliest book known to bear the well-known sign of the Rivingtons. Charles Rivington brought out one of Whitefield's earliest works, ‘The Nature and Necessity of a new Birth in Christ’ (1737), and Wesley's edition of ‘Thomas à Kempis’ (1735). With Bettesworth he formed a ‘New Conger’ in 1736, in rivalry to the old ‘Conger,’ or partnership of booksellers which had existed in various forms from before 1700 (Murray, New English Dict. 1893, ii. 820; Nichols, Lit. Anecd. i. 340). He soon became the leading theological publisher, and carried on a large commission business in sermons. Writing to Aaron Hill, Samuel Richardson says that Rivington and Osborne ‘had long been urging me to give them a little book, which they said they were often asked after, of familiar letters on the useful concerns in common life’ (Correspondence, 1804, vol. i. p. lxxiii). This was the origin of ‘Pamela,’ commenced 10 Nov. 1739, and issued with the names of the two publishers on the title-page in 1741–1742.

Rivington died at his house in St. Paul's Churchyard on 22 Feb. 1742, aged 64. He married Eleanor Pease of Newcastle-on-Tyne, by whom he had thirteen children. Samuel Richardson acted as executor, and guardian to the children. The fourth son, John [q. v.], and the sixth son, James (see below), succeeded to the business.

James Rivington (1724–1803), the sixth son, soon left the firm and joined a Mr. Fletcher of St. Paul's Churchyard, with whom he brought out Smollett's ‘History of England,’ clearing thereby 10,000l. He took to horse-racing, and in 1760 settled as a bookseller in Philadelphia. The following year he opened a book store at the lower end of Wall Street, New York. In 1762 he commenced bookselling in Boston. He failed, and recommenced in New York, and in April 1773 began ‘Rivington's New York Gazetteer,’ supporting the British government, which brought him into trouble with the colonists. He returned to England, purchased a new press, was appointed, on going back to America, king's printer for New York, and started ‘Rivington's New York Loyal Gazette’ (1777), afterwards the ‘Royal Gazette.’ He was the publisher of Major André's ‘Cow Chase.’ About 1781 he is said to have turned spy, and to have furnished Washington with important information. He remained in New York after the evacuation by British troops, and changed the title of his paper to ‘Rivington's New York Gazette and Universal Advertiser;’ but his business declined, his paper came to an end in 1783, and he passed the remainder of his life in comparative poverty. He died at New York in January 1803. He married twice: first, a Miss Mynshull in England, and, secondly, Elisabeth van Horne of New York (d. July 1795), by whom he had children. A portrait, which has been engraved, is in the possession of Mr. W. H. Appleton of New York.

[S. Rivington's Publishing House of Rivington, 1894; Curwen's Hist. of Booksellers, 1873, pp. 296–300; Knight's Shadows of the Old Booksellers; Gent. Mag. 1742, p. 107; Timperley's Encyclopædia, 1842, p. 668; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. vols. i., ii., iv., viii.; and for James Rivington: Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biogr., New York, 1888, v. 267–8; Thomas's Hist. of Printing in America, 1874, 2 vols.; Duyckinck's Cyclopædia of American Literature, vol. i.; Sabine's American Loyalists, Boston, 1857, pp. 557–60.]

H. R. T.