Bibliographic Introduction to and Timeline of the Life of William North

Although North’s fiction, including The City of the Jugglers, is replete with self-referencing anecdotes, footnotes, asides, and, in the case of his posthumously published The Slave of the Lamp (1855), a “Memoir” ostensibly written by character Dudley Mondel, independently verifiable biographical facts about William North have been difficult to recover.  Included in the Spring 2009 special issue of the Victorian Newsletter on “The Elusive William North”—published in the aftermath of the 2008 Victorians Institute conference at which Patrick G. Scott’s facsimile reprint edition of The City of the Jugglers was first unveiled—Allan Life and Paige Life’s “North versus North: William North (1825-1854) in Light of New Documentation,” provides the most significant reconstruction of North’s life published to date.  Life and Life scoured census records, parish registries, court reports, period reminiscences, and the letters and journals of more fully documented authors and professional associates, marrying these sources’ arguably more objective details to the somewhat less reliable information provided in obituary notices and recollections reprinted in mid-century newspapers, as well as the subjective, often self-aggrandizing incidents that pepper North’s published writings.  From a somewhat more presentist perspective informed by late twentieth and early twenty-first century psychiatric diagnosis, they also speculate on the behavioral disorders that may have contributed to North’s troubled interpersonal and authorial history and led him, finally, to suicide.  A briefer account of North’s final years in America is also provided in Edward Whitley and Robert Weidman’s “The (After) Life of William North among the New York Bohemians,” also published in the spring 2009 VN special issue. 

The table that follows consolidates the facts adduced by both Life and Life (L&L) and Whitley and Weidman (W&W), eschewing both information which cannot be verified outside of North’s own writings and hypotheticals reliant upon assumptions, psychiatric or otherwise, that cannot be grounded in direct documentary evidence.  Some additional details about North’s formal schooling, discovered by the editor while researching this edition, are also included.

25 Sept 1825

William North born, son of John (b1795/96) and Rosamond (b1803) North; paternal grandfather William North (1768?-1835), “a prosperous blue and postern color manufacturer of City Road, London” and “a proprietor of houses” (L&L 58); maternal grandfather William Atkinson (1774/5-1839), a “prominent architect” who lived at Silvermere, “an estate near Walton-on-Thames and Richmond Park, Surrey” (L&L 59)

3 Nov 1825

William North christened at Old Church St. Pancras

1 Oct 1828

Eliza North (William’s sister) born at St. John’s Wood, Marylebone

20 Dec 1828

Eliza North christened at parish church of St. Marylebone

Summer 1836

John and Rosamond North separate, she suing for a restoration of conjugal rights, he seeking a divorce on the grounds of her adultery with his apprentice Mr. George

19 Jan 1837

Rosamond North, accompanied by a cab driver, forces her way into John North’s house in Wood Lane, St. John’s Wood, finds John North “‘enjoying a brandy and water,’ upstairs in his bedroom” with Miss Saunders; “Wielding a poker, John North pushed his wife twice and threw the cabman over the bannister” (L&L 60); North then files charges of assault against his wife in Kensington Petty Sessions  court; charges are dismissed but bail is required

28 Apr 1837

John and Rosamond North’s case appears in the ecclesiastical court, she now counterclaiming his adultery with Miss Saunders and altering her object from a restoration of conjugal rights to a separation with alimony; sentence is reserved, but alimony of £50 provisionally awarded

Autumn 1837

Life and Life assert that they are “reasonably certain” that William North, like his character Dudley Mondel from The Slave of the Lamp, was enrolled at age twelve at Temple Grove School (which is also mentioned in Anti-Coningsby); according to W. H. Waterfield’s Temple Grove Register 1905 (London: Spottiswoode), the headmaster at this period was Jonathan Thompson (p. 9), and a reminiscence from “about 1837” by Henry J. Coke included in the Register describes Temple Grove as “a typical private school of the period” and the students as “half-starved,” “exceedingly dirty,” and “systematically bullied” (pp. 7-8); William North’s name does not appear among the list of former students printed on pp. 21-109, although in his “Editor’s Notice” Waterfield admits himself “fully conscious of errors and omissions” (p. 3); Coke’s reminiscence also appears on pp. 11-12 of Meston Bachelor’s brief history of Temple Grove School, Cradle of Empire: A Preparatory School through Nine Reigns (London: Phillimore, 1981), which characterizes Thompson as “not altogether a success” (p. 11) during his term as headmaster (1835-1843); Bachelor’s text identifies students by name only incidentally when citing their published writings or oral testimony about their time at the school, and North remains unmentioned

20 Jan 1838

John and Rosamond North’s case resumes, sentence again reserved

25 Mar 1838

Rosamond North, aged 36 (note discrepancy with year of birth), issued certificate of death by typhus at number 2, South Street, Grosvenor Square

29 Mar 1838

John North secures license to marry Elizabeth Emily Saunders (b1816?)

31 Mar 1838

John North marries Elizabeth Emily Saunders at parish church of St. Luke

12 May 1841

William North begins his attendance at the University of Bonn, where he was enrolled in the faculty of arts (subject: philosophy); North took two lectures (experimental chemistry and comparative history of nations) in his first term and four lectures (history of the medieval and early modern period, Taciti Germania, logic, and a public lecture of unspecified subject) in his second term, compared to the typical load of six to ten lectures per term taken by contemporary students; he resided at Koblenzer Tor No. 20, and was once incarcerated overnight at the student’s jail, the carcer, for public disturbance, which was, apparently, a kind of rite of passage for first-year students (these details were unearthed by University of Bonn archivist Thomas Becker and communicated by email to the editor)

30 Mar 1842

William North leaves the University of Bonn; Life and Life make a plausible case for his brief attendance at the University of Berlin, now Humboldt University of Berlin, but North is not listed among enrolled students in either the summer or winter roster for 1842 (both of which the editor has examined), and so if he was present in Berlin it is likely that he was not formally registered

Nov 1844

William North publishes Anti-Coningsby; or, the New Generation Grown Old (London: TC Newby)


William North publishes a translation of Prince Puckler Muskau’s “Travels in Egypt” under the title Egypt and Mehemet Ali (London: TC Newby)

19 Aug 1845

Eliza North marries William Chapman Raymond, a “wealthy wharfinger” (L&L 79n20)

Oct 1845

William North publishes The Imposter; or, Born with a Conscience (London: TC Newby)


William North publishes The Anti-Punch; or, the Toy-Shop in Fleet Street.  A Romance of the Nineteenth Century (London: Dipple)

13 Apr 1847

William North imprisoned in Debtors’ Prison for London and Middlesex; he remains in prison through at least 8 July

Mar 1848

William North begins to contribute to The Puppet Show; he is recalled by its publisher, Henry Vizetelly, as “hare-brained” and perhaps “more fitted for Bedlam than to be left to roam at large down Fleet-street and the Strand” (L&L 80-81)

Aug 1848

William North publishes a translation of Alphonse de Lamartine’s Poetic Meditations (London: H. G. Clarke)

Aug 1848

William North meets, in the company of mutual friends, Dante Gabriel Rossetti


John North publishes The Perfect Law of Liberty, a text of the four synoptic gospels

Apr 1849

William North publishes an edition with Memoir of William Beckford’s Vathek: An Arabian Tale (London: George Slater) in Slater’s Shilling series of Popular and Classical Works

Jun 1850

William North publishes The City of the Jugglers; or, Free-Trade in Souls.  A Romance of the “Golden” Age (London: H. J. Gibbs)


William North is by now a regular visitor at the Rossetti home, where he is later remembered for regularly arriving around 11pm (L&L 80), for appearing as “a pale, rather fleshy young man, with bright eyes, a slightly high clear voice, and very pallid straight hair of a yellowish tinge” (L&L 75), and for behaving as a “genuine specimen of the tête montée [hot head]” (L&L 69)


William North publishes The Infinite Republic: A Spiritual Revolution (London: H. G. Clarke); French translation “by Henry de Beaufort” published in Paris by C. Nolet in 1855

30 Mar 1851

the census records that a 27-year-old “annuitant” named William North lodges at 34 Great Russell Street

25 Jul 1851

John North’s drafts a will that ignores both his children

28 Aug 1851

William North sends for his box, which is being held by the Rossetti family; he subsequently arranges to have his mail delivered to the Rossetti home by means of a message left by an unidentified “young lady with a child in a cab”; William Michael Rossetti later recalls “He was not ‘married,’ but perhaps he ought to have been” (L&L 88n23)

7 Nov 1851

William North, as editor, sends a prospectus for North’s Monthly Magazine to Dante Gabriel Rossetti; the magazine appears for only two numbers in Jan? and Feb? 1852

11 Mar 1852

William North announces, quite unexpectedly, to Dante Gabriel Rossetti that is he emigrating to the United States, leaving behind him, in William Michael Rossetti’s words, “two women who had some claim upon him” (L&L 87)

Mar 1852

William North arrives in New York City; once in the United States, he writes for The American Whig Review, Graham’s American Monthly Magazine, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, The Illustrated New York Journal, The Knickerbocker, Montgomery’s Pictorial Times, New York Daily Times, Pen and Pencil, Putnam’s Monthly Magazine, and The Saturday Press, in addition to those periodicals for which he also serves as editor (see below); he also associates with members of NYC’s fledgling bohemian scene as a member of the Ornithorhyncus Club (W&W 36)


William North edits The Hint, an illustrated comic newspaper that lasts through only six issues as a daily and two issues as a weekly

Spring 1853

William North appointed editor of the United States Review, a position he holds for a few months only (his contributions appear Jan through Sept)

Jun? 1853

William North publishes The History of Napoleon III (Cincinnati: W. Wallace Warden)

Apr 1854

William North’s The Automaton Man performed four time at Burton’s Theatre, New York; the text is never published

14 Nov 1854

William North commits suicide by taking prussic acid, leaving an estate consisting of numerous unpublished manuscripts, a letter, and 12 cents; he is at this period reportedly in love with Genevieve Genevra Fairfield, “daughter of poet Sumner Lincoln Fairfield and a published author in her own right” (W&W 32)


William North’s A Slave of the Lamp.  A Posthumous Novel “With a memoir of the author” published in New York by H. Long & Bro

27 Apr 1859

John North dies in his home at 15 Wood Lane, Shepherd’s Bush, leaving an estate valued at less than £5000


William North’s The Man of the World published in Philadelphia by T. B. Peterson and Bros.


Albert D. Pionke, Editor-in-Chief, The University of Alabama, June 2020

Citation: Pionke, Albert D. "Bibliographic Introduction to and Timeline of the Life of William North." William North’s The City of the Jugglers, edited by Albert D. Pionke et al, COVE Editions, 2020,