Victorian newspaper proprietor,
publisher and entrepreneur
Lloyd the man
Edward Lloyd comes across as intelligent, cheerful and inspiring of loyalty and affection among those who knew him. For example, Tom Catling, a long-term employee and later editor of Lloyd's Weekly, wrote warmly of him. His stories of life at the newspaper show Edward's propensity for both humour and humanity. He won the esteem of many who met him in the course of business.
This is greatly at odds with his reputation as it developed in the 20th century. Most commentators simply ignored him. Of those that mentioned him, many were contemptuous – his business practices were condemned as greedy, unscrupulous and mean, his private life as licentious, and his publications as worthless.
This change of attitude seems to have occurred some years after the turn of the century. In the 1906 obituary of Edward's daughter, Clara Coggin, a clergyman at St Margaret's described Edward as “a bright, genial and loveable man, who found a ready helpmeet in his wife in all his works of practical goodness about which there was no spice of egotism or pride”.
An author identified only as "GG", writing in the early 1900s, said that he was “held in universal admiration by all who came into contact with him”.
Henry Massingham, a few years before his appointment as the influential editor of the Daily Chronicle, described him as “one of the most notable of modern captains of industry” with “a reputation as one of the shrewdest and most long-headed organisers of modern industry”.
"Edward Lloyd was one of that brave, devoted and intelligent band of news vendors supporting with hard fighting such heralds of free speech as Hone, Horne, Hunt, Jerrold, Knight etc," the American Henry Llewellyn Williams wrote in The New York Times on 20 August 1904.
The London correspondent of the South Australian Chronicle wrote: “He was one of the great entrepreneurs of his age. … there was not a member of the [Daily Chronicle] staff who had not the profoundest respect for his clear sightedness, his genius for 'business,' his good sense and judgment. … Personally he was a very interesting man, his talk – shrewd, penetrating, and pertinent – being a reflection of his character.”
We have come across one derogatory item published by the Pall Mall Gazette two days after his death. This evening paper had published a fair and very full obituary on 9 April. On 10 April, it quoted an extract from the Newcastle Leader saying that Douglas Jerrold had established Lloyd’s Weekly with the help of Lloyd, a Shoreditch newsagent, and that the Daily Chronicle was unlikely ever to match the quality of the Clerkenwell News on which the national daily had been developed. In a letter to the Gazette on 15 April, Tom Catling made short shrift of this disparaging nonsense.
Lloyd may well have been abrasive in his early buccaneering days. His shameful treatment of Charles Dickens is a telling example. However, it should also be borne in mind that he was 22 at the time and had spent his life struggling to make a living in a hostile and sordid world.
His improved financial position in the early 1840s, no doubt helped along by the plagiarisms, led to his doing something odd and expensive in 1841 – he and his brother Thomas joined the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers (opticians). This had opened its doors to other professions due to a shortage of opticians. Edward registered as a “bookseller”. He was not alone – membership in that period included 34 booksellers and 14 publishers.
The Company’s records do not disclose why he or Thomas wanted to join. It might have been because he hoped it would help in moving to a City address, which he did in 1843, or it might have been as a joke or as an experiment in joining the business establishment. Or, of course, it could have been an example of pretentiousness.
That would be contradicted by his description of himself as a “bookseller” rather than the grander “publisher”. Yet he has been accused of telling a pretentious lie to the 1881 census by entering two of his sons as "farmer's sons". It is impossible to see Lloyd denying his life's work for the sake of petty snobbery, though a family member might have done so. He gave a full CV in his own entry in the same census. There is no evidence of falsehood on his part, only supposition reinforcing the prejudice behind the accusation.
In fact, he did have farms. In 1852, Douglas Jerrold's salary was supplemented by a weekly basket of fresh produce from "a small farm owned by Mr Lloyd" (per Catling). The Walthamstow estate included 90 acres of farmland where he employed nine men and three boys. Some of his family spent time at the farmhouses in childhood.
It is impossible to do more than speculate about Lloyd as a family man. He seems to have been solicitous for the welfare of them all, certainly in the disposition of his property. He and Maria brought up the three children already born to him when they met, treating the unambiguously illegitimate Frederick entirely equally with the others.
In relation to his sons, an account written in 1902 said: “Practical in everything, Edward Lloyd was so in the education of his sons. They were trained for a business life, that training including an almost invaluable Continental experience. Thus, as they became [?], they joined their father in the conduct of the ever-increasing business. The sons who have taken an active part were Frank, Herbert, Arthur, Harry and Fred.” Only Percy, his youngest son born in 1869, was educated at university.
The naming of three river barges after the first three of his children with Maria – Annie, Frank and Alice – suggests affection and good humour. The three were in their mid-teens at the time.
Since divorce was not an option in his time, no impropriety can now be deduced from his sequence of three relationships with women – a marriage in which husband and wife cohabited for 11 years before disability overtook the wife, a short-lived liaison that may well have ended through death and a second relationship-cum-marriage that lasted at least 39 years. Later Victorian values might have committed him to a life of celibacy after his separation from Isabella, but that was not expected of the common man in the 1830s or 1840s.
False allegations about Lloyd’s character and general assaults on his reputation are hard to rebut. Without hard information, bad motives will always be as easy to impute as good ones.
The family's suppression of Edward's life and career clearly contributed to his eclipse and allowed ill-informed criticism to take root decades later. Family reminiscences handed down to younger generations are frustratingly trivial – the silver pen awarded for best student of the year, the stamped coins, his destruction of the early works, the myths.
It is certain that Edward's children failed to pass any telling detail on to their own children. At least two grandsons (Teddy Bullen and Maurice Coggin) saw the family as a group of dull stuffy Victorians, including Edward. As both were rebelliously minded when young, they would have relished his rackety early life, not disowned it.