Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

Charles Wells (with an introduction by W.J. Linton)

47) Stories After Nature.

London 1822/1891

This revised reprint by the Chiswick Press from 1891 includes a preface by Linton.

The Stories after Nature of the mysterious Charles Jeremiah Wells, who became a kind of godfather of Pre-Raphaelite poetry in the 1870s, were originally published in 1822, more than twenty years before they were rediscovered by Thomas Wade and Linton, and nearly seventy years before they were reprinted by the Chiswick Press. One can assume that it was Richard Hengist Horne, a close school day friend of Wells, that had called Linton’s attention to him. 

“I had become acquainted with Wells in 1845 through reprinting some of his Stories after Nature, a little book I had picked up at a book-stall in 1842, and which had charmed me with its originality and freshness. In 1845 I was editing the Illustrated Family Journal, a weekly melange of Tales, Essays, and Verse, and in the latter half of the same year, I succeeded Douglas Jerrold as editor of the Illuminated Magazine, a monthly issue of the same character. In both these magazines I printed some of Wells’ Stories.  How he, then living in Brittany, got sight of the reprint, must, I think, have been through the younger Hazlitt, with whom he was in some way connected by marriage. He (Wells) wrote to me, thanking me for having used them, and sent me two other stories in manuscript.

One, Claribel, I printed; the second I returned, and have ever since regretted that I did so. (...) when in England he came to see me, and was very friendly, giving me a copy of the Joseph and his Brethren, published, if unsuccessful bringing out can be called publishing, two years after the death of Keats, under the pseudonym of H. L. Howard. (...) Both of Wells’ books I lent to Dante Rossetti, who much admired them and talked of illustrating the Stories for my engraving; the project, however, fell through. Except for the reprints of the few Stories in the two magazines, until the republication of Joseph and his Brethren, with a preface by Swinburne, in 1876, Wells remained unknown; his name again, followed by a line, ‘whose genius sleeps for its applause,’ and an admiring note to justify the line, in Wade’s Contention of Death and Love, in 1837, and some later praiseful words by Rossetti in a supplementary chapter to Gilchrist’s Life of Blake. So buried in neglect was the work of one who, in the words of so capable a critic as Swinburne, ‘will some day be acknowledged among the memorable men of the second great period in our poetry.’  A strange fight against oblivion has been the fate of Wells. I dare to claim some share in the endeavours at an honourable rescue. I lost sight of the man when, after a short stay in London, he returned to Brittany.” (Memories)