William Harrison Ainsworth (4 February 1805 – 3 January 1882) was an English historical novelist born in Manchester. He trained as a lawyer, but the legal profession held no attraction for him. While completing his legal studies in London he met the publisher John Ebers, at that time manager of the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. Ebers introduced Ainsworth to literary and dramatic circles, and to his daughter, who became Ainsworth’s wife.

Ainsworth briefly tried the publishing business, but soon gave it up and devoted himself to journalism and literature. His first success as a writer came with Rookwood in 1834, which features Dick Turpin as its leading character. A stream of 39 novels followed, the last of which appeared in 1881.

Ainsworth died in Reigate on 3 January 1882.



Portrait of William Harrison Ainsworth (painted by his friend Daniel Maclise).

Literary Hub.

In 1835, the famous 19th Century historical gothic romance novellist William Harrison Ainsworth took up residence in Kensal Lodge with his ‘connections’, Mrs Touchet and her sister Miss Buckley, where he lived until 1841. The author had been recently propelled from obscurity to fame with his novel Rockwood which popularised the myth of Dick Turpin and his mare Black Bess. It was within Kensal Lodge that he wrote the novel Jack Sheppard amongst other works.

In 1841, he subsequently moved to the adjacent Kensal Manor House. For fourteen years, these two buildings successively became hubs of London literary life thanks to Ainsworth being a lavish entertainer. Many famous Victorian literary figures came to dine at the two buildings, including Thackeray, George Cruikshank (the artist and illustrator of Dicken’s work as well as some of Ainsworth), Benjamin Disraeli, and Charles Dickens.


Further Reading (external sources).

Click here to view the Wikipedia entry for William Harrison Ainsworth.