T.W. Robertson (1829-1871)

WHEN the great success of the Christmas numbers of Dickens's All the Year Round led to endless imitations of them, there was sent to the Illustrated Times office the Christmas number of a newly-fledged publication— Saturday Night, I think it was, a clever weekly edited by young Tom Hood. In this number was a pathetic story immeasurably superior, as I thought, to the rest of the contents, telling, if I remember rightly, of a once popular clown dying in the direst distress at this so-called merry Christmastide. The story so impressed me that I at once addressed a letter to T.W.R., the initials appended to it and my only clue to the author, at the publishing office of the periodical in question, asking the writer to favour me with a visit.

Months went by and I heard nothing, although the letter had not been returned through the post-office, when one day a youngish-looking fellow, whose shabby attire and careworn, dejected expression conveyed the idea that he was not one of the fortunate ones of this world, called upon me. Taking my almost forgotten letter from his pocket he handed it to me, with the remark that he was T.W.R., and had only received the communication the day before. I gathered from him that his name was Robertson, and that he had been on the `boards'. This, however, conveyed nothing whatever to my mind, he being then an utterly unknown scribe, though some years afterwards he was to become celebrated as the author of Caste and half-a-score of other clever social dramas, which secured him not only fame but fortune. There was an anxious, pleading look in my visitor's eyes, which had its effect upon me, and when, after a brief conversation, I gave him a commission to write a dozen or more theatrical sketches for the paper at three guineas each, I could not help observing the gleam of satisfaction that brightened up his doleful countenance.

From Vizetelly, Glances Back, ii. 120-121.

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