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Mogridge, George (1787–1854), children's writer and religious author, was born on 17 February 1787, at Ashted, a suburb of Birmingham. His father, Matthias, a successful canal agent, was brother of the Revd John Mogridge and grandson of the Revd Anthony Mogridge of Martley, Worcestershire, author of the manuscript volume ‘The conscience's recorder’, and descendant of John Mogridge, who in 1530 had founded an almshouse at Exeter. After attending a village school, George Mogridge boarded at Boarscote Boys' School, near Bromsgrove, from the age of five to fourteen, when he was apprenticed to a japanner in Birmingham. In his leisure time he read Chaucer, Spenser, and Ossian and attempted imitations of Gray and the English ballads; his first appearance in print was in a local newspaper with verse commemorating the raising of a statue to Nelson after Trafalgar, and Mogridge and his sister Mary also contributed to Ackermann's Poetical Magazine. For three years he single-handedly produced a manuscript serial, ‘The Local Miscellany’, a collection of secular and sacred poetry and prose for his friends.

At twenty-four Mogridge entered into partnership with his elder brother in the japan trade in Birmingham, and began writing a series of articles in the Birmingham and Lichfield Chronicle, under the pseudonym Jeremy Jaunt and under the heading ‘Local perambulations’, on pollution, poor road conditions, smallpox vaccination, and the anti-slavery cause. In 1812 Mogridge married Elizabeth Bloomer (d. 1822), with whom he had two sons, George and Matthias, and one daughter, Eliza. About 1825 he married Mary Ridsdale, with whom he had one son, Charles. Mogridge had little head for business, and by 1826, after the retirement of his brother, he was bankrupt; his pregnant second wife returned to Ashted with his three children, while he wandered alone, spending time in Herefordshire, as the guest of his uncle, the Revd J. W. Phillips, then tramping for two months in France, and arriving in London in July 1827 to take lodgings at Kingsland Road. The family, with the exception of the two older boys, was finally reunited at 3 Enfield Road, Kingsland Road.

Diffidently and under the signature X.Y.Z., Mogridge submitted four metrical tracts to the Religious Tract Society, two of which (‘Two Widows’ and ‘Honest Jack’) were approved and effectively launched his writing career. He had had an earlier success with the Houlston tract Thomas Brown (1820?), a sentimental, anonymous ballad about reforming the sabbath. Another anonymous Houlston success was The Juvenile Culprits (1829), a play teaching children the consequences of cruelty to insects and animals. The first Houlston publication to bear his name was The Churchyard Lyrist (1832), a volume of epitaphs. In 1833 Mogridge began writing as Old Humphrey for the Tract Society's new magazine the Weekly Visitor, contributing a regular ‘Observations’ column to this periodical and, after 1837, to its monthly sequel, The Visitor. As Ephraim Holding he wrote for Sunday school teachers and working men; as Old Father Thames he supported the ragged schools. Although he wrote 226 works (stories, collections, verses) for a range of publishers (RTS, Houlston & Son, Tegg, Grant, and Griffiths, Nesbit & Co., Sunday School Union, Working Men's Educational Union), Mogridge was never rich or even financially secure. Harvey Darton called him ‘a Proteus of the Early Victorian Juvenile Library’ (Darton, 230), as Mogridge used over twenty pseudonyms. In addition to Old Humphrey and Ephraim Holding, he also wrote as Peter Parley (for seven titles from Tegg, and over the objections of the American Samuel Griswold Goodrich, who claimed ownership), Grandfather Gregory, Amos Armfield, Grandmamma Gilbert, and Aunt Upton. His successful, widely marketed work was well suited to the tastes and capacities of the labouring classes.

George Mogridge died on 2 November 1854 at 4 High Wickham, East Hill, in Hastings, Sussex, where, emaciated by disease originating from a sprained ankle, he had travelled four times in the hope of a cure. He was buried there in All Saints' graveyard. His second wife transcribed all his works for the printers, edited several, and wrote Domestic Addresses (1863).

Patricia Demers

Sources  

C. Williams, George Mogridge: his life, character and writings (1856) · Memoir of Old Humphrey: with gleanings from his portfolio, in prose and verse, new edn (1860) · BL cat. · WorldCat · J. St John, The Osborne collection of early children's books, 1476–1910: a catalogue, 2 vols. (1958–75) · F. J. Harvey Darton, Children's books in England: five centuries of social life, rev. B. Alderson, 3rd edn (1982) · H. Carpenter and M. Prichard, The Oxford companion to children's literature (1984)

Likenesses  

R. Gover, engraving, repro. in Memoir of Old Humphrey, ed. Religious Tract Society · D. J. Pound, engraving (after A. Stanesby), repro. in Williams, George Mogridge

Wealth at death  

almost destitute: Williams, George Mogridge, 350–51