Mark Lemon (1809 – 1870) was a writer, playwright, actor, a co-founder and editor of the satirical magazine Punch and a close friend of Charles Dickens.
Mark Lemon was born in London on 30 November 1809, the son of hop merchant Martin Lemon and Alice Collis. His parents married on 26 December 1808 at St Mary, Marylebone, London. His father having died in 1817, Lemon was just 15 when he was sent to live in Boston, Lincolnshire with his mother’s brother Thomas Collis.
Mark had a natural talent for journalism and the stage, and, at twenty-six, retired from less congenial business to devote himself to the writing of plays. More than sixty of his melodramas, operettas and comedies were produced in London, whilst at the same time he was contributing to a wide variety of magazines and newspapers.
He married Helen (Nelly) Romer, on 28 September 1839 in Kensington, London and had 8 children – sons Mark, Frank and Henry, and daughters Alice, Betty, Helen, Mary and Kate. Frank died shortly after he was born. Betty married Sir Robert Romer and their son was Mark Lemon Romer.
In 1841, Mark Lemon and Henry Mayhew conceived the idea of a humourous weekly paper to be called Punch, and when the first number was issued, in July 1841, were joint-editors and, with the printer and engraver, equal owners. The paper was for some time unsuccessful, Lemon keeping it alive out of the profits of his plays. On the sale of Punch, Lemon became sole editor for the new proprietors. It remained under his control until his death, achieving remarkable popularity and influence.
Two other long-running magazines in which Lemon played a significant part were the Illustrated London News, the first publication to make use of pictures as well as text in reporting, which was founded by his friend Herbert Ingram, and The Field, of which he was founder editor (1853 – 1857).
Mark Lemon and Charles Dickens.
In January 1851, Dickens comforted Lemon over the death of his two-year-old daughter, little knowing that three months later his own infant daughter Dora would die. Lemon returned the help by staying all night with Dickens and his deceased daughter.