Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Japp, Alexander Hay

JAPP, ALEXANDER HAY (1837–1905), author and publisher, born at Dun, near Montrose, on 26 Dec. 1837, was youngest son of Alexander Japp, a carpenter, by his wife Agnes Hay. After the father's early death, the mother and her family moved to Montrose, where Alexander was educated at Milne's school. At seventeen Japp became a book-keeper with Messrs. Christie and Sons, tailors, at Edinburgh. Three years later he removed to London, and for two years was employed in the East India department of Smith, Elder and Co. Smith Williams, the firm's literary adviser, once took him to see Leigh Hunt. Returning to Scotland owing to illness, he worked for Messrs. Grieve and Oliver, Edinburgh hatters, and in his leisure in 1860–1 attended classes at the university in metaphysics, logic, and moral philosophy. He became a double prizeman in rhetoric, and received from Professor W. E. Aytoun a special certificate of distinction, but he did not graduate. At Edinburgh he was much in the society of young artists, including John Pettie [q. v.] and his friends. Turning to journalism, he edited the 'Inverness Courier' and the 'Montrose Review.' Having settled in London in 1864, he joined for a short time the 'Daily Telegraph.' While writing for other papers, he acted as general literary adviser to the publishing firm of Alexander Strahan, afterwards William Isbister and Co., and aided in editing their periodicals, 'Good Words,' 'Sunday Magazine' (from 1869 to 1879), as well as the 'Contemporary Review' from 1866 to 1872, while Dean Alford was editor. He also assisted Robert Carruthers [q. v.] in the third edition of Chambers's 'Cyclopædia of English Literature,' and his services were acknowledged by his being made LL.D. of Glasgow in 1879. In 1880 he was elected F.R.S. of Edinburgh.

In October of 1880 Japp started as a publisher, under the style Marshall Japp and Co., at 17 Holborn Viaduct; but bad health and insufficient capital led him to make the venture over to Mr. T. Fisher Unwin in 1882. From that year to 1888 he was literary adviser to the firm of Hurst and Blackett.

Japp was soon a versatile and prolific writer, often writing under pseudonyms as well as in his own name. In his own name he issued in 1865 ‘Three Great Teachers of our own Time: Carlyle, Tennyson, and Ruskin,’ of which Ruskin wrote to Smith Williams: ‘It is the only time that any English or Scotch body has really seen what I am driving at—seen clearly and decisively.’ As ‘H. A. Page’ he published ‘The Memoir of Nathaniel Hawthorne’ (1872; with several uncollected contributions to American periodicals); an analytical ‘Study of Thoreau’ (1878); and his chief book, ‘De Quincey: his Life and Writings, with Unpublished Correspondence’ (supplied by De Quincey's daughters) (2 vols. 1877; 2nd edit. 1879, revised edit. in one vol. 1890). In his own name Japp issued a selection of De Quincey's ‘Posthumous Works’ (vol. i. 1891; vol. ii. 1893) and ‘De Quincey Memorials: being Letters and other Records here first published’ (1891).

Japp's interest in Thoreau brought him the acquaintance of Robert Louis Stevenson. The two men met at Braemar in August 1881, and Japp's conversation attracted Stevenson and his father. Stevenson read to Japp the early chapters of ‘Treasure Island,’ then called ‘The Sea Cook,’ and Japp negotiated its publication in ‘Young Folks.’ Subsequently Stevenson and Japp corresponded on intimate terms; and Japp's last work, ‘Robert Louis Stevenson: a Record, an Estimate, and a Memorial’ (1905), was the result of the intercourse.

Japp essayed many forms of literature. Under a double pseudonym he issued in 1878 ‘Lights on the Way’ (by the late J. H. Alexander, B.A., with explanatory note by H. A. Page), a semi-autobiographical fiction. There followed ‘German Life and Literature’ (1880; studies of Lessing, Goethe, Moses Mendelssohn, Herder, Novalis, and other writers), and three volumes of verse: ‘The Circle of the Year: a Sonnet Sequence with Proem and Envoi’ (privately printed, 1893); ‘Dramatic Pictures, English Rispetti, Sonnets and other Verses’ (1894); and ‘Adam and Lilith: a Poem in Four Parts’ (1899; by ‘A. F. Scot’). Scientific speculation and observation are themes of his ‘Animal Anecdotes arranged on a New Principle’ (by ‘H. A. Page’) (1887), an attempt to show that the faculties of certain animals differ in degree rather than in kind from those of men; ‘Offering and Sacrifice: an Essay in Comparative Customs and Religious Development’ by ‘A. F. Scot’ (1899); ‘Some Heresies in Ethnology and Anthropology’ dealt with under his own name (1899); ‘Our Common Cuckoo and other Cuckoos and Parasitical Birds’ (1899), a criticism of the Darwinian view of parasitism; and ‘Darwin considered mainly as Ethical Thinker’ (1901), a criticism of the hypothesis of natural selection.

From 1884 till 1900 he lived at Elmstead, near Colchester, where he cultivated his taste for natural history. After three years in London he finally settled at Coulsdon, Surrey, in September 1903. There, busy to the last, he died on 29 Sept. 1905, and was buried in Abney Park cemetery. His temperament was almost morbidly sensitive, but he was generous to young authors. When past fifty he taught himself Hebrew. He left in manuscript a work on Hebrew rites and customs, as well as a study of social life in the middle ages.

Japp married (1) in 1863 Elizabeth Paul (d. 1888), daughter of John Falconer of Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire; (2) Eliza Love, of Scottish descent. By his first wife he had seven children, three of whom, a son and two daughters, now (1912) survive.

In addition to ‘H. A. Page’ and ‘A. F. Scot,’ he wrote under the pseudonyms ‘E. Conder Gray’ and ‘A. N. Mount Rose.’ In 1857 William McTaggart [q. v. Suppl. II] painted his portrait, which is in the possession of the family.

[Private information, based chiefly on an unpublished autobiographical fragment; obituary notices in Scottish Patriot, by R. W. J[ohnstone] (with portrait), and in Weekly Budget; Mr. Sidney Whitman in Westminster Gaz. 12 Oct. 1905; The Times, 2 Oct. 1905 (gives wrong date of birth); Nature, 1905, vol. 72; Athenæum, 7 Oct.; Montrose Review and Montrose Standard, 6 Oct.; Roll of Glasgow Graduates, ed. W. J. Addison; Graham Balfour's Stevenson, i. 191, 192 n.; Stevenson's Letters (ed. Colvin), ii. 45–6, 51–2–3, 74–5, and Preface to ‘Familiar Studies’; R. F. Sharp's Dict. of English Authors (appendix); Japp's works; Allibone's Dict. Eng. Lit. (suppl. vol. ii.). Cf. also Miss Betham-Edwards's Friendly Faces of Three Nations (1911) and Mrs. Isabella Fyvie Mayo's Recollections of Fifty Years (1911).]

G. Le G. N.