1825 William Greatheed Lewis edition Volume 1

Lewis, William Greatheed, ed.  Canterbury Tales and Other Poems.  London: Thomas Dolby, 1825. This edition is listed in Hammond as The Cumberland edition, but it was originally published by Thomas Dolby in 1825 and edited by William Greatheed Lewis.  Cumberland reissued the edition under his own name and without the title page.  Cumberland acquired Thomas Dolby’s list when Dolby became insolvent, and it seems Cumberland was in the habit of reissuing the work of other publishers under his own name.  It wasn’t until I was able to acquire a third copy of this edition that I was able to piece together as to why there was no editor,  title page,  or dedication page for the John Cumberland edition.  So far this is what I have been able to find: William Greatheed Lewis was the publisher of the Coventry Recorder who believed in such radical ideas as the emancipation of slaves and women’s suffrage.  He was convicted of sedition and sent to prison in 1821.  My speculation is that he worked on this edition of Chaucer from his jail cell. At the same time John Cumberland was known for “wholesale piracy”  and for being an “unscrupulous publisher.” (Cross 17)  [Gilbert B. Cross.  Next Week–East Lynne: Domestic Drama in Performance, 1820-74.  Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1977.] “One of the longest-lived names in the field was John Cumberland, whose extensive interests in dramatic publishing, having bought out the insolvent Thomas Dolby, began in 1826.  Cumberland’s editions followed the original formula.  At first he issued Dolby’s list under his own name.” (Stephens, 126) [Stephens, John Russell.  The Profession of the Playwright: British Theatre, 1800-1900.  Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1992.] I am also guessing, given their relative ages and the proximity of where they lived, that Lewis was either the cousin or nephew of Bertie Greatheed of Guy’s Cliff, Coventry.  (Greatheed was a minor dramatist who employed Sarah Siddons as a maid before she made it big on the London stage.)  Bertie Greatheed also spent time as a “privileged prisoner” of Napolean, and his publisher was Thomas Dolby–the original publisher of Lewis’s edition of Chaucer.  Dolby, like Lewis was also known as a radical publisher.


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