Open main menu


CADELL, THOMAS, the elder (1742–1802), bookseller and publisher, was born of poor parents in Wine Street, Bristol, in 1742. In 1758 he was apprenticed to the great London bookseller and publisher, Andrew Millar, of the Strand. Cadell soon proved his capacity; in 1765 he became Millar's partner, and in 1767 took over the business altogether. He followed Millar's example of treating authors liberally, fully maintained the reputation of the publishing house, and brought out the best books of the day. Robertson, Gibbon, and Blackstone were among the writers whose works he published, and Cadell was intimate with Dr. Johnson, to whom he offered a large sum of money for a volume of ‘Devotional Exercises,’ which was declined ‘from motives of the sincerest modesty’ (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, ii. 552). Cadell was one of the original members of the famous dining club of booksellers which met monthly at the Shakespeare Tavern in Wych Street, Strand, and he was popular among his rivals in trade, whom he treated with unvarying fairness. For some years William Strahan (M.P. for Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, from 1780 to 1784) was Cadell's partner in his business, and subsequently Strahan's son Andrew took his father's place. Cadell retired from business in 1793 with a fortune, and was succeeded by his only son, Thomas Cadell the younger [see below]. His generous temperament is attested by his kindness to his own and Millar's chief assistant, Robin Lawless. On his retirement Cadell had Lawless's portrait painted by Sir William Beechey, and ‘always showed it to his friends as the chief ornament of his drawing-room.’ On the death, in 1788, of Millar's widow, who had married Sir Archibald Grant, Cadell acted as one of her executors. Subsequently Cadell was elected (30 March 1798) alderman of Walbrook ward in the city of London, and served the office of sheriff, 1800–1. During his shrievalty he was master of the Stationers' Company, and presented a stained glass window to the Stationers' Hall. He died on 27 Dec. 1802 at his house in Bloomsbury Place. He was treasurer of the Foundling Hospital and governor of many public charities. His portrait, by Sir William Beechey, still hangs in the court room of the Stationers' Company. His wife died in January 1786, but his son and a daughter survived him. The latter married Dr. Charles Lucas Edridge, rector of Shipdam, Norfolk, and chaplain to George III, and died on 20 Sept. 1829 (Nichols, Lit. Illustrations, viii. 552).

Thomas Cadell the younger (1773–1836), one of the court of assistants of the Stationers' Company, conducted the publishing business with all his father's success from 1793 till his death on 23 Nov. 1836. His father chose William Davies as his son's partner, and the firm was styled Cadell & Davies until the latter's death in 1819. In the ‘Percy Correspondence,’ printed in Nichols's ‘Illustrations,’ vols. vii. and viii., are many references to the dealings of this firm with Bishop Percy and his friends. Cadell married in 1802 a daughter of Robert Smith and sister of the authors of the ‘Rejected Addresses.’ By her he had a large family, but the business was not continued after his death. Mrs. Cadell died on 11 May 1848 (Gent. Mag. 1837, pt. i. p. 110; Nichols, Lit. Illustrations, viii. 110).

[Nichols's Literary Anecdotes is crowded with references to Cadell. A memoir is printed (vi. 441–3) from Gent. Mag. (1802), pt. ii. pp. 1173, 1222. A few additional facts are given in the last volume (viii.) of Nichols's Lit. Illustrations.]

S. L. L.