Page:Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day.djvu/244

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Mr. William Harrison Ainsworth, whose novels were very popular only few years ago, and who is still a contributor to Mr. Mudie's bookshelves, was born at Manchester, in the year 1805. He was educated at the Free Grammar School of his native city, and, the son of a solicitor, was bred to the law. But at a very early age Mr. Ainsworth showed a taste for literature; before he left school he was a contributor to the pages of 'The Iris,' a journal then published in Manchester. He married the daughter of Mr. Ebers, a publisher in Bond-street, and at that time manager of the Operahouse. Ainsworth's first novel was 'Sir John Chiverton;' and of this, his first essay in fiction, no less an authority than Sir Walter Scott spoke in terms of high praise.

At Mr. Ebers's suggestion, Ainsworth appears to have tried his hand as a publisher; but he soon abandoned this, and devoted himself to literary pursuits. In 1834, 'Rookwood' appeared, and at once established his reputation as a writer of fiction. 'Rookwood' was followed, in 1837, by 'Crichton,' which was as successful as its immediate predecessor, and added to the author's fame. In the month of March 1839, Charles Dickens retired from the editorship of 'Bentley's Miscellany,' and wrote his successor in, in his humorous style, talking of the old and new coachman—'Bentley's' being the coach. 'The new whip' we quote the writer of a short biography of Ainsworth—'having mounted the box, drove straight to Newgate.' By the bye, Dickens had driven 'Bentley's' there before him; but the great humorist's thieves' story had a fine moral to it. 'He there took in Jack Sheppard and Cruikshank the artist; and, aided by that very vulgar but wonderful draughtsman, he made an efficient story of the burglar's or housebreaker's life.'

In such works of fiction as 'Jack Sheppard,' it soon became plain that Ainsworth's forte lay. He followed up his latest success with 'Guy Fawkes'