Victorian newspaper proprietor,

publisher and entrepreneur









Early Works

First 25 Years

Romances and Penny Bloods

Plagiarism, copyright

Who wrote Sweeney Todd?


Industrial innovation

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper

Daily Chronicle


Lloyd the Radical

Lloyd the Liberal: Lloyd's Weekly

Lloyd the Liberal: Daily Chronicle

Radicals and Chartists

Liberal Party

The Rise of Literacy


(with links for Edward's children)

Biography (with some myths)

Lloyd the Man

Edward's Will






Early publications c.1830-1855

Lloyd's first 25 years in business were marked by hectic productivity. Little is known of what he produced in his teenage years, but his focus would have sharpened in 1834 when he had a new family to support.

He turned to periodicals in earnest from that year. Most contained fiction, and some covered practical topics like housekeeping and gardening too. He was well aware of the potential interest among women readers.

His methods were open-minded and flexible. He would try a new title or topic and continue with it as long as there was a demand. If none, it was dropped. Serialised fiction ran for as long as the public showed an interest in the story. Some ceased after half a dozen episodes while others ran and ran: 92 for Sweeney Todd and 109 for Varney the Vampire.

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Romances and penny bloods

Lloyd started publishing stories in parts in 1835 with series featuring well-known pirates and highwaymen. These were followed in 1836 by the plagiarisms of Dickens and soon after by serialisations of original material. He called them romances, but the early focus on bloodthirsty goings-on stuck and they came to be known as "penny bloods".

Lloyd became the undisputed market leader. His romances were so prolific and successful that the new genre was known as the “Salisbury Square School of Fiction”, named after the address south of Fleet Street to which he moved in 1843.

The length of stories depended on their success week by week, ranging from 6 to 206 instalments. The best remembered is The String of Pearls (Sweeney Todd, 1846-47). He also brought vampires, already popular among the literati, to a mass market readership (Varney, 1845-47). These two and several others were re-issued later. Weekly numbers were also made available as a compendium at a higher price and some were made into bound volumes.

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Lloyd's detractors point to plagiarisms like "The Penny Pickwick" and "Oliver Twiss" as evidence of his poor character. In his defence, it can be said that this was common practice at the time and that sales at low price were not entirely to the detriment of authors whose works became popular with a wider public, albeit in a bastardised form.

Morally, plagiarism was and is roundly condemned as cheating but, contrary to popular belief, Lloyd would still be found blameless under copyright law. Copyright exists in the expression of ideas, not in the ideas themselves. Plot and characters can therefore be copied as long as the work is totally rewritten.

Commercially, Lloyd's Dickens imitations were a hit, selling as many as 50,000 a week and spawning some merchandising, such as songs, jokes and hats. The law was of little use to aggrieved authors and a legal action by Dickens's publishers in 1837 failed.

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The authors

Lloyd's most prolific and indispensable authors were James Malcolm Rymer (1814-84) and Thomas Peckett Prest (1810-59).

Rymer was an engineer and met Lloyd at the London Mechanics Institute. He often wrote under pseudonyms, including anagrams of his surname (Errym/Merry). John Sutherland remarks that he must have "turned out more serial low-grade fiction than will ever be traced" (The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction, 1989).

Helen Smith disagrees. His merits as an author deserve to be re-assessed. To have created the two great anti-heroes of early Victorian publishing was no mean feat. Robert Louis Stevenson was among his admirers. His talents included a fertile imagination and the ability to keep as many as ten serialisations going at a time without once confusing them.

Prest was a story-teller of imagination and a rather florid style. He would step in and carry on the story if one of Lloyd's other writers was temporarily unavailable.

Both Rymer and Prest sometimes stood in as editor of a periodical. They also wrote for other publishers.

Helen Smith also investigates Elizabeth Caroline Grey, another of Lloyd's authors, in some depth. She reproduces a list of other authors from The People's Periodical and Family Library (p.14).

Who wrote Sweeney Todd?

Authorship of The String of Pearls (Sweeney Todd) was long attributed to Prest. This was successfully challenged in 2002 by Helen Smith. Her certainty that Rymer was the author is based on Lloyd's business records and backed by textual analysis.

Lloyd published what is treated as the definitive version in The People's Periodical in 1846-47. This is judged to be superior to the longer single-volume version published in 1850.

The story itself was not original. According to Peeps into the Past, it was first written in the French "Fouché's Archives of the Police", then written by Prest in English under the title "A Terrific Story of the Rue de la Harpe, Paris". This was published in 1824 in Mary Elliott's The Tell Tale. She was a prolific author who wrote children's literature – the genre to which, chillingly enough, this terrifying story was assumed to belong. If this is the case, Prest would have been 14 at the time.

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