George du Maurier, illustrator of the first detective novel

Who wrote the first detective novel? That question was answered recently in the New York Times Book Review. He was Charles Warren Adams (1833-1903), according to Paul Collins in his article “Before Hercule or Sherlock, There Was Ralph” (Sunday, 7 January 2011). Adams’s novel was “The Notting Hill Mystery”, first published in eight parts in the journal Once a Week: An Illustrated Miscellany of Literature, Art, Science & Popular Information between November 29, 1862 and January 17, 1863. It was subsequently published in one volume by the journal’s publisher, Bradbury & Evans.

Author aside, then what about the seven illustrations accompanying the text? Several are signed “DM” at lower left and “Swain” at lower right? Who are they? “Swain” is Joseph Swain (1820-1909), one of the most active wood-engravers of 19th century Britain. “DM” is George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier (1834-1896), one of the great book illustrators of Victorian England.

Du Maurier was a certain interest of Morris L. Parrish, whose collection of Victorian novelists is one of the great strengths of the Library. For more on Parrish’s holdings of du Maurier, see the following note and list prepared by Alexander Wainwright:

[Transcription of caption]
It is unnecessary for us to state by what means the following papers came into our hands and it could be no compliment to the penetration of our readers if we indicated beforehand the nature of the mystery they are supposed to unravel. It will, however, require a very close attention to names and dates to comprehend the view of the compiler, as to the case he is investigating; and, so far, it is requisite to rely on the reader’s patience and discernment. The whole particular of the case will extend to some seven or eight numbers of “Once a Week,” and some things which are dark at first will appear clearer in the sequel. If the compiler has really discovered a new species or description of crime, it is natural that the evidence of it, which is circumstantial, should be somewhat difficult of acceptance. The illustrations are simply added to make the reader’s task more agreeable, but, of course, it is not pretended that they were made simultaneously with the events they represent.

[Once a Week, Nov. 29, 1862, p. 617]