Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mudie, Charles Edward

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MUDIE, CHARLES EDWARD (1818–1890), founder of Mudie's Lending Library, son of Thomas Mudie, was born at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, on 18 Oct. 1818. He assisted his father, a secondhand bookseller, newspaper agent, and lender of books at a penny a volume, until 1840, when he set up as a stationer and bookseller at 28 Upper King Street (now Southampton Row), Bloomsbury. As a publisher he was known by the production of 'Poems by James Russell Lowell,' 1844 (the first appearance of Lowell's poems in England); of R. W. Emerson's 'Man Thinking, an Oration,' 1844; and of some one-volume novels. In 1842 he commenced lending books, and in course of time this department so increased that his premises proved inadequate, and in 1852 he removed to 510 New Oxford Street. He advertised extensively, and exerted himself to procure early copies of the most popular new books, often in very great numbers. He took two thousand four hundred copies of vols. iii. and iv. of Macaulay's 'History of England,' and two thousand of Livingstone's 'Travels.' A large new hall and a library were opened in the rear of the premises on 17 Dec. 1860, and soon afterwards branches were established elsewhere in London, as well as in Birmingham and Manchester. This large extension of his undertaking was, however, more than his capital sufficed to meet, and in 1864 he made over the library to a limited company, in which he held half the shares and retained the management.

Mudie possessed excellent qualities as a business man, and his knowledge of public requirements and the tact he displayed in meeting them enabled him to establish a library which soon numbered over 25,000 subscribers, and became almost a national institution. It was also peculiarly English, the circulating library of the Mudie pattern being almost unknown on the continent or in America. On 29 Nov. 1870 Mudie was elected a member of the London School Board for the Westminster district, and served for three years. In 1872 he published 'Stray Leaves,' a volume of poems, including one or two well-known hymns, which went to a second edition in 1873. He was eminently pious and charitable, labouring in the slums of Westminster, and preaching on Sundays in a small chapel. Anxious to avoid circulating literature that would be in any way immoral, he was often attacked for his method of selecting books. He wrote to the 'Athenæum' in 1860, vindicating himself from an attack made on him on that ground in the 'Literary Gazette.' Mr. George Moore, the novelist, issued in 1885 'Literature at Nurse, or Circulating Morals,' strictures upon the selection of books in circulation at Mudie's Library. Many catalogues of the library bearing Mudie's name have been printed; the first is dated 1857. Mudie died at 31 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, on 28 Oct. 1890. A portrait of Mudie is given in Curwen's 'History of Booksellers.' By his wife, Mary Ivingsford, daughter of the Rev. Henry Pawling of Lenham, Kent, he had eight children. Of these Charles Henry Mudie is noticed below; while Arthur Oliver Mudie, born 29 May 1854, of Magdalen College, Oxford, B.A. 1879, M.A. 1881, took, on the death of his brother, a share in conducting the business, and ultimately became the managing director.

Mudie, Charles Henry (1850–1879), philanthropist, was born at Adelaide Road, Haverstock Hill, on 26 Jan. 1850, and in early youth had the advantage of a long residence in Italy. He was educated at the London University school and, under the Rev. N. Jennings, at St. John's Wood. He is described under the name of 'Tom Holcomb' in an article by Mrs. Craik called 'A Garden Party ' in a Christmas number of 'Good Words.' On coming of age he took, part in the management of his father's business. He was a good musician, an amateur actor, a lecturer, and he devoted much time to the improvement of the poorer classes. He died on 13 Jan. 1879, having married, on 4 June 1874, Rebecca Jane, daughter of Edwin Lermitte of Muswell Hill, Middlesex (Charles Henry Mudie [by Mary Mudie, his sister], 1879, with portrait; Athenæum, 1879, i. 90).

[Bookseller, November 1890, p. 1232; Curwen's Booksellers, 1873, pp. 421–32, with portrait; Literary Gazette, 1860, v. 252, 285, 302, 398; Cartoon Portraits, 1873, pp. 72–3, with portrait; Illustr. London News, 3 Nov. 1890, p. 583, with portrait; Times, 30 Oct. 1890, p. 8; Athenæum, 1860 ii. 451, 594, 873, 877, 1890 ii. 588; Julian's Dict. of Hymnology, p. 774; F. Espinasse's Literary Recollections, 1893, p. 27; information from Arthur Oliver Mudie, esq.]

G. C. B.