Ritchie, Leitch (DNB00)

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RITCHIE, LEITCH (1800?–1865), novelist, is said to have been born at Greenock in 1800. He was at first an apprentice in a banking office, but at an early age proceeded to London with letters of introduction to literary people. Soon recalled by his father to take a situation in a Glasgow firm trading with America and the West Indies, he commenced in 1818, with some friends, a fortnightly publication, ‘The Wanderers,’ which ran to twenty-one numbers (4 April 1818 to 9 Jan. 1819). The Glasgow firm becoming bankrupt, he again went to London, and, besides contributing to periodicals, brought out a volume entitled ‘Head Pieces and Tail Pieces, by a Travelling Artist,’ 1820. He now adopted literature as a vocation, sending articles to the ‘Foreign Quarterly Review,’ the ‘Westminster Review,’ and other serial works, and publishing ‘Tales and Confessions,’ 1829, and ‘London Night Entertainments.’

The ‘London Weekly Review,’ on which he had been employed, passing into other hands, he and the late editor, James Augustus St. John, took up their residence in Normandy, where Ritchie produced ‘The Game of Speculation,’ 1830, 2 vols. (reprinted in the ‘Parlour Library,’ No. 58, 1851), and ‘The Romance of History, France,’ 1831, 3 vols.; 2nd edit. 1872. This last work served to bring him to the notice of the literary world, and from this period he had abundant work. In addition to his other engagements, he, in connection with William Kennedy [q. v.], started a monthly periodical named ‘The Englishman's Magazine,’ which ran to seven numbers (April to October 1831), when his illness caused its abandonment.

He was next engaged by Charles Heath to write two series of books of travels, to appear under the titles of ‘Turner's Annual Tour,’ 1833–5, and ‘Heath's Picturesque Annual,’ 1832–45. In connection with this commission he visited many places abroad, the result being twelve illustrated volumes to which he supplied the letterpress. He also edited the ‘Library of Romance,’ 1833–5, in 15 vols. For some time he was editor of the ‘Era,’ a sporting and dramatic newspaper, and was subsequently first editor of the ‘Indian News and Chronicle of Eastern Affairs’ (No. 1, 11 June 1840), with the copyright of which he was eventually presented by the proprietor; Ritchie afterwards sold the newspaper.

The latter part of his life was spent in Scotland in editing ‘Chambers's Journal,’ and in assisting in the editing of other works brought out by his employers. On 19 June 1862 he was granted a civil list pension of 100l. Retiring to London, he died at 1 Earlswood Terrace, East Greenwich, on 16 Jan. 1865. He left a daughter, Mrs. Hughes, who resided at Perry Green, Great Hadham, Hertfordshire. Besides the works already mentioned, he was the author of: 1. ‘Schinderhannes, the Robber of the Rhine,’ printed in the ‘Library of Romance,’ No. 2, 1833; reprinted in the ‘Parlour Library,’ No. xiii. 1848, and as a separate volume 1878. 2. ‘The Magician,’ 1836, 3 vols.; reprinted in the ‘Parlour Novelist,’ 1846, and in the ‘Parlour Library,’ 1853. 3. ‘Beauty's Costumes, a Series of Female Figures in the Dresses of all Times, by Charles Heath, with descriptions by L. Ritchie,’ 1838. 4. ‘The Wye and its Associations: a Picturesque Ramble,’ 1841. 5. ‘A View of the Opium Trade, Historical, Moral, and Commercial,’ 1843. 6. ‘The British World in the East,’ 1847, 2 vols. 7. ‘Windsor Castle and its Environs, including Eton College;’ 2nd edit. 1848. 8. ‘Liber Fluviorum, or River Scenery of France, from Drawings by J. M. Turner, with descriptive letterpress by L. Ritchie,’ 1853; another edit. 1887. 9. ‘Wearyfoot Common,’ 1855. 10. ‘The New Shilling,’ 1857. 11. ‘Winter Evenings,’ 1859, 2 vols. 12. ‘The Midnight Journey, by L. Ritchie, and other Tales, by Mrs. Crowe and others;’ reprinted from ‘Chambers's Journal,’ 1871. He also edited ‘Friendship's Offering,’ 1824, and ‘The Poetical Works of T. Pringle,’ 1838 (2nd edit. 1839), with a sketch of Pringle's life.

[Times, 21 Jan. 1865, p. 9; Gent. Mag. March 1865, p. 390; Some Literary Recollections by James Payn, pp. 72–3; Chambers's Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen, 1870, iii. 287–288; Men of the Time, 1862, pp. 656–7; Scotsman, 20 Jan. 1865, p. 2.]

G. C. B.