Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Timbs, John

741469Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 56 — Timbs, John1898James Ramsay MacDonald

TIMBS, JOHN (1801–1875), author, was born on 17 Aug. 1801 in Clerkenwell, and was educated at a private school at Hemel Hempstead. He was apprenticed to a printer and druggist at Dorking, and while there began to write, his first contributions appearing in the ‘Monthly Magazine’ in 1820. About that year he came to London, and was for some time amanuensis to Sir Richard Phillips [q. v.], publisher of the magazine. From that time he contributed to a large number of London publications, but chiefly to the ‘Mirror of Literature,’ which he edited from 1827 to 1838; the ‘Harlequin,’ which appeared between 11 May and 16 July 1829, and which was stopped by the commissioners of stamps insisting that it should be stamped as a newspaper; the ‘Literary World,’ which he edited during 1839 and 1840; and the ‘Illustrated London News,’ of which he was sub-editor under Dr. Charles Mackay [q. v.] from 1842 to 1858. He was also the originator and editor of the ‘Year Book of Science and Art,’ begun in 1839 after he left the ‘Mirror.’

His works, which run to over a hundred and fifty volumes, are compilations of interesting facts gathered from every conceivable quarter, and relating to the most varied subjects. In recognition of his antiquarian labours he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1854. He died in considerable poverty in London on 6 March 1875.

He edited ‘Manuals of Utility,’ 1847; the ‘Percy Anecdotes,’ London, 1869–70; and ‘Pepys's Memoirs,’ 1871. His own chief works, all of which were published in London and many ran into several editions, are:

  1. ‘A Picturesque Promenade round Dorking,’ 1822.
  2. ‘Cameleon Sketches,’ 1828.
  3. ‘Knowledge for the People,’ 1831.
  4. ‘Popular Errors Explained,’ 1841.
  5. ‘Illustrated Year-Book of Wonders,’ 1850; 2nd ser. 1850–1.
  6. ‘Wellingtoniana,’ 1852.
  7. ‘Curiosities of London,’ 1855.
  8. ‘Things not generally known,’ 1856; 2nd ser. 1859.
  9. ‘Schooldays of Eminent Men,’ 1858.
  10. ‘Painting popularly Explained’ (jointly with Thomas John Gulick), 1859.
  11. ‘Anecdote Biography,’ 1860.
  12. ‘Stories of Inventors and Discoverers,’ 1860.
  13. ‘Something for Everybody,’ 1861.
  14. ‘Illustrated Book of Wonders,’ 1862.
  15. ‘Anecdote Lives of Wits and Humourists,’ 1862, 2 vols.
  16. ‘International Exhibition,’ 1863.
  17. ‘Things to be remembered in Daily Life,’ 1863.
  18. ‘Knowledge for the Time,’ 1864.
  19. ‘Walks and Talks about London,’ 1865.
  20. ‘Romance of London,’ 1865, 3 vols.
  21. ‘English Eccentrics and Eccentricities,’ 1866.
  22. ‘Club Life in London,’ 1866, 2 vols.
  23. ‘Strange Stories of the Animal World,’ 1866.
  24. ‘Nooks and Corners of English Life,’ 1867.
  25. ‘Notable Things of our own Time,’ 1868.
  26. ‘Wonderful Inventions,’ 1868.
  27. ‘Lady Bountiful's Legacy to her Family,’ 1868.
  28. ‘London and Westminster,’ 1868, 2 vols.
  29. ‘Eccentricities of the Animal Creation,’ 1869.
  30. ‘Historic Ninepins,’ 1869.
  31. ‘Ancestral Stories and Traditions of Great Families,’ 1869.
  32. ‘Abbeys, Castles, and Ancient Halls of England and Wales,’ 1869, 3 vols.
  33. ‘Notabilia,’ 1872.
  34. ‘Pleasant Half-hours for the Family Circle,’ 1872.
  35. ‘Book of Modern Legal Anecdotes,’ 1873.
  36. ‘Doctors and Patients,’ 1873, 2 vols.
  37. Anecdote Lives of Later Wits and Humourists,’ 1874, 2 vols.
  38. ‘Anecdotes about Authors and Artists,’ 1886.

[Men of the Reign; Allibone's Dict. of English Lit.; Fox-Bourne's Newspaper Press, ii. 120; Annual Register, 1875, p. 138; Yates's Recollections, 1885, p. 207; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. iii. 220.]

J. R. M.