Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Colburn, Henry
COLBURN, HENRY (d. 1855), publisher, began his career in the shop of Mr. William Earle, a bookseller in Albemarle Street, and was afterwards in the service of Mr. Morgan, who kept a circulating library in Conduit Street. With the assistance of Mr. Frederick Shoberl he started in 1814 ' The New Monthly Magazine and Universal Register,' in opposition to the old 'Monthly Magazine' of Sir Richard Phillips. Dr. Watkins and Alaric Watts were among the first editors. A new series was commenced in 1820 under the care of Thomas Campbell, the terms of agreement with whom are given by Beattie (Life, ii. 357). Bulwer Lytton (1832), Theodore Hook, and Harrison Ainsworth (3rd ser., 1836) successively filled the editorial chair. The magazine came to an end in 1875. Colburn succeeded to the proprietorship of Morgan's Library in 1816, and carried on the business with advantage until he resigned it to Messrs. Saunders & Otley, in order to devote himself entirely to the production instead of the circulation of light literature. Lady Morgan's 'France' (1817) was one of his earliest successful ventures. A furious attack in the ' Quarterly Review ' (April 1817), as not infrequently happens, did more good than harm to the book, which, however, owed much of its popularity to the skilful advertising of the publisher.
On 25 Jan. 1817 he brought out the first number of the ' Literary Gazette,' price one shilling. Mr. H. E. Lloyd, a clerk in the foreign department of the Post Office, and a Miss Ross appear to have been joint editors. The department of fine arts was under the care of William Paulet Carey [q. v.] After the twenty-sixth number (19 July 1817) W. Jerdan purchased a third share of the property and became sole editor. Messrs. Longman also purchased a third, and with a brilliant staff of contributors the periodical was rapidly successful, alike in a financial and a literary sense. In 1842 Jerdan became sole proprietor. The 'Gazette,' whose history is told in ; Jerdan's ' Autobiography ' (1852-3, 4 vols. 12mo), was incorporated with the ' Parthenon ' in 1862. It was the earliest weekly newspaper devoted to literature, science, and the arts which obtained repute and authority. At the suggestion of Upcott the topographer Colburn brought out the first edition of Evelyn's 'Diary' in 1818, a speculation only paralleled by his publication of Pepys's ' Diary ' in 1825. At the height of Hook's headlong London career Colburn offered him 600l. for a novel, and ' Sayings and Doings ' (1824) was the result. Six thousand copies of the three volumes are said to have been sold. On 31 Dec. 1827 Colburn wrote to Jerdan that he had joined the new literary journal, the 'Athenaeum,' 'in consequence of the injustice done to my authors generally (who are on the liberal side) by the "Literary Gazette"' (Autob. iv. 68). He was constantly speculating in journalism. In 1828 he founded the ' Court Journal ; ' in the following year he brought out the ' United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Gazette ; ' and he had some interest in the 'Sunday Times.' He was a man of keen business perception, but just and liberal in his transactions. His name is now chiefly remembered in connection with his magazine, and with the series of ' Colburn's Modern Standard Novelists' (1835-41, 19 vols. 12mo), containing works by Bulwer Lytton, Lady Morgan, R. P. Ward, Horace Smith, Captain Marryat, T. H. Lister, Theodore Hook, G. P. R. James, and G. R. Gleig. There were also numbered among 'my authors' Ainsworth, Disraeli, Banim, and all the fashionable novelists of the day.
In 1830 he took his printer, Richard Bentley (1794-1871) [q. v.], into a partnership, which was, however, dissolved in August 1832. Having first set up business again at Windsor for a short time, Colburn paid a forfeiture for breaking the covenant not to commence publishing within twenty miles of London, and opened a house in Great Marlborough Street. He finally retired from business in favour of Messrs. Hurst & Blackett, but kept his name attached to a few books. These were Warburton's ' Crescent and the Cross,' the ' Diaries ' of Evelyn and Pepys, Miss Strickland's ' Lives,' Burke's ' Peerage,' &c., the copyrights of which produced at Messrs. Southgate's, on 26 May 1857, about 14,000l. (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iii. 458). Colburn amassed a considerable fortune, his property being sworn as under 35,000l. He was twice married, the second time to Eliza Anne, only daughter of Captain Crosbie, who survived him. He died at his house in Bryanston 'Square on 16 Aug. 1855.
[Gent. Mag. November 1855; Curwen's History of Booksellers (1873), pp. 279-95; A. A. Watts, Alaric Watts, a narrative, 1884; P. J. Murray's Life of John Banim, 1857; Timperley's Encyclopaedia, 1839, p. 931.]