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Faulkner, George (1699?-1775) (DNB00)


FAULKNER, GEORGE (1699?–1775), bookseller, the son of a respectable Dublin victualler, is said to have been born in 1699, though, according to his own statement in Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes,' iii. 208-9, he was seventy-two years old in 1774, but the last date is possibly a misprint for 1771. The rudiments of education were imparted to him by Dr. Lloyd, then the most eminent schoolmaster in Ireland, and at an early age he was apprenticed to a printer named Thomas Hume of Essex Street, Dublin. In 1726, if not before, he was journeyman to William Bowyer [q. v.], the 'learned' printer, and he ever acknowledged the kindness with which he had been treated, in proof of which he left by his will ten guineas to Bowyer for a mourning wig. In conjunction with James Hoey he opened a bookselling and printing establishment at the corner of Christ Church Lane, in Skinner's Row, Dublin, where he commenced in 1728 to print the 'Dublin Journal.' At the dissolution of their partnership in 1730 he removed to another shop, taking the entire interest in the paper, and had the good fortune to be admitted to business relations with Dean Swift. In October 1733 he was reprimanded on his knees at the bar of the Irish House of Lords for having inserted in his paper about two years previously 'certain queries highly reflecting upon the honour of their house.' Two years subsequently Faulkner was involved in more serious troubles. He published in 1730 a small pamphlet written by Dr. Josiah Hort, then bishop of Kilmore, and entitled 'A New Proposal for the better Regulation and Improvement of the Game of Quadrille,' which contained a satiric reference to Serjeant Bettesworth. This publication was brought before the House of Commons and voted a breach of privilege, whereupon the publisher was committed to Newgate, being 'thrown into gaol among ordinary felons, though he prayed to be admitted to bail.' After a detention of a few days he was set at liberty, and each of the officers accepted in lieu of their fees a copy of the new edition of Swift's works which he had recently printed. The bishop, although very wealthy, never rendered his publisher any assistance towards meeting the heavy expenses in the matter, and for this neglect Dean Swift addressed him in May 1736 a letter of extreme indignation. An accident which injured one of Faulkner's legs while he was in London about this date necessitated its amputation, and Faulkner, who loved a reputation for gallantry, used to assert that the injury was caused during his escape from a jealous husband. His troubles through Hort's publications brought him much sympathy. His shop became the centre of resort for the most prominent characters in Dublin life, and under the patronage of his literary friends he undertook the publication of the 'Ancient Universal History,' the printing of which was concluded in 1774. This work, the largest published in Ireland to that date, was in seven folio volumes, and would have done credit to any printing press in Europe. Lord Chesterfield, during his viceroyalty of Ireland, paid great attention to Faulkner's opinions, and on one occasion proclaimed himself 'the only lieutenant that Faulkner ever absolutely governed.' The hints in government which the peer received from the publisher were partly repaid by suggestions for books, but Faulkner declined, much to the regret of his wife, the knighthood which Lord Chesterfield pressed upon him. An anonymous poem, which Mr. Gilbert asserts to have been written by a young parson called Stevens, was composed on this refusal; its title was 'Chivalrie no trifle; or the Knight and his Lady, a tale.' Faulkner projected a national work, 'Vitruvius Hibernicus,' which was to contain plans and descriptions of the principal buildings in Ireland, but the scheme was never brought to completion. In 1758 he was converted to Roman Catholicism, and speedily became a zealous advocate for the relaxation of the penal code. The laws of copyright did not extend to Ireland, and most of the chief English works were pirated in Dublin. When Richardson was about to publish his novel of 'Sir Charles Grandison,' it was arranged that Faulkner should simultaneously produce it in Ireland by means of proof-sheets sent to him from London. According to his own account, Faulkner found out that three other booksellers in his city had by some illicit means also obtained advance-sheets, and he accordingly withdrew from his bargain. Richardson, on the other hand, believed that the four booksellers were acting in collusion, and significantly reminded Faulkner that in 1741 he had pirated the novel of 'Pamela.' This difference led to several communications in the Dublin papers in October and November 1753, and Richardson issued 'An Address to the Public, 1754,' which is also found in the seventh volume of 'Sir Charles Grandison,' on the treatment which he had met with from the Dublin publishers. By 1762 Faulkner had become so well-known a character that Foote determined upon bringing him upon the stage, and he figured under the name of Peter Paragraph in Foote's play of the 'Orators,' first produced at the Haymarket in that year. The success of the piece and the circumstance that Faulkner did not endeavour to interfere with its performance in London, but consoled himself by printing the libel and making large profits from its sale, emboldened Foote to produce it at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. It was equally successful in Ireland, but the profits of the representation were exhausted by the damages which Faulkner obtained at the close of 1762 in his action against the author for libel. Foote's poetic 'Address to the Public after a Prosecution for Libel' is printed in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1763, p. 39, but he adopted a more direct mode of retaliation by mimicking on the Haymarket stage in 1763 the whole body of judge, jury, and lawyers in a 'diversion' called 'The Trial of Samuel Foote for a Libel on Peter Paragraph.' By a strange coincidence Foote himself subsequently lost one of his legs, when his remark was, 'Now I shall take off Faulkner to the life.' A quarrel between Faulkner and a man previously his friend. Gorges Edmond Howard, who practised as an attorney in Dublin, and longed to be considered a poet, was the cause of the appearance at Dublin in 1771 of a poetic 'Epistle to Gorges Edmond Howard, Esq.; with Notes Explanatory, Critical, and Historical. By George Faulkner, Esq., and alderman.' Robert Jephson was the principal author of this satire, which was composed in ridicule of the alderman's mode of literary composition; the sixth edition appeared in 1772; it passed through nine editions in all; was included in the fourth volume of Dilly's 'Repository,' and was followed by an epistle from Howard. Faulkner, who towards the close of his life became conspicuous as an Irish patriot, was fined in 1768 for not serving the office of sheriff, and in 1770 was sworn as an alderman of Dublin. His tastes were for good company, and, though the wits who met at his table sometimes used him as an object for ridicule, he could hit with vigour in retaliation. He told good stories about Swift, and provided his guests with abundant claret, of which he could drink deep without getting drunk. Richard Cumberland, indeed, asserts that when Faulkner became an alderman he grew grave and sentimental, so that he lost his engaging qualities; but in his letter, written shortly before his death, to Bowyer he boasts that though infirm he could still enjoy a good dinner from his love of good claret, which was 'lighter, cooler, and easier of digestion.' He died at Dublin on 30 Aug. 1775, and according to Gilbert his death was 'caused by a distemper contracted while dining with some friends at a tavern in the suburbs of the city.' He left no children, and his property passed to his nephew, Thomas Todd, who assumed the surname of Faulkner. Mary Anne Faulkner, the mistress of Lord Halifax [q. v.], is said to have been the printer's niece and adopted daughter.

Faulkner was called by Swift 'the prince of Dublin printers,' and there are numerous letters and references to him in the dean's works. He was the first to give 'a collected and uniform edition of Swift's writings,' and the edition which he issued in 1735 embodied the greatest number of the author's emendations in his large-paper copy of the first impression of 'Gulliver's Travels.' Though Swift affected to regret the appearance of this edition, he interposed on Faulkner's behalf when Benjamin Motte, a bookseller in London, endeavoured, by filing a bill in chancery in 1736, to prevent its sale in England. Swift's 'Directions to Servants' was printed after his death by Faulkner (1745), and in 1772 he published the dean's works in twenty octavo volumes, the notes in which were chiefly written by Faulkner, and have furnished the principal matter of all succeeding commentators. The letters from Lord Chesterfield to Alderman George Faulkner, Dr. Madden, &c, were printed in 1777 as 'a supplement to his lordship's letters,' and are included in vols. iii. and iv. of Lord Stanhope's edition. His paper was originally issued twice a week, but in 1768 it was brought out three times a week, and it was said to have circulated among the leisured and cultured classes, while the other journals were mostly used 'by traders and men of business.' About 1790 it became a violent government organ. His portrait is engraved in the 'Miscellaneous Works of Lord Chesterfield' (Dublin, 1777). He was of very low stature and with a very large head. His shop was at the corner of Parliament and Essex Streets, Dublin.

[Gilbert's History of the City of Dublin, ii. 30-53; Swift's Works,ed. 1883, passim; Chesterfield's Letters, ed. Mahon, iii. 292-3, iv. passim; Hill's Boswell, ii. 154-5, v. 44, 130; Napier's Boswell. ii. 567; Craik's Swift, pp. 437, 536; satirical prints at the British Museum, iv. 520, 586-7; Timperley's Dict, of Printers and Printing, pp. 640, 659, 686, 735; Cumberland's Memoirs, i. 231-4; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, ii. 177, iii. 208-9; Nichols's Illustrations of Literature, viii. 40; Gent. Mag. 1770, p. 455; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vols. ii. v.]

W. P. C.