- Asa Briggs
Longman family (per. 1724–1972), publishers, had their origins at Winford near Bristol. The family tree has been traced back to Thomas Longman, a Somerset yeoman, whose third son, also named Thomas, born c.1612, was apprenticed to a Bristol 'sopemaker' in 1626, being made free in 1633. He married Ann, the daughter of Ezekiel Wallis, an alderman and one-time mayor of Bristol. There were three generations of Longman soapmakers before the advent of seven generations of Longman publishers. The local soap trade was in decline, however, after 1738. When Ezekiel Longman, sheriff, died in 1708, the London book trade, through which the Longmans made their way into history, was already flourishing, offering, if never without risk, expanding markets and rising profits.
Thomas Longman (1699–1755), the first in the line of publishers, was born at Bristol in 1699, the son of Ezekiel Longman's second marriage, and he was nine years old when his father died. No evidence survives about why in 1716 his guardians sent him to London to be apprenticed to a Lombard Street bookseller, John Osborn (d. 1734), at the sign of the Oxford Arms. In 1724, one year after his articles expired, Thomas (remembered in the firm as Thomas I), using an inheritance from his Bristol relatives, acquired for £2282 9s. 6d. a publishing house at the sign of The Ship. It had been in existence since 1640, owned by different families, the last of them that of William Taylor, remembered as publisher of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719). John Osborn was an executor. Taylor had moved premises to Paternoster Row, occupying a property later numbered 39, in 1711 and had also acquired the Black Swan, an adjacent property, at the corner of Paternoster Row and Ave Maria Lane.
The sense of a dynasty
Thomas, who did not immediately acquire all the Taylor copyrights—Robinson Crusoe was not one of them—always called himself a bookseller and not a publisher (the term was not then used in its current sense), and he never printed any of the books that bore his imprint, usually an imprint shared with others. From 1725, moreover, he was joined as a partner by John Osborn's son, also called John, who died without issue in 1733 six months before his father. There was one even closer family connection with the Osborns. Thomas married the elder Osborn's daughter, Mary (d. 1762), on 27 January 1731, in St Paul's Cathedral. They too had no children.
Almost at once Thomas had added to the shares in the titles of books he acquired from Taylor at a time when such shares were bought and sold at convivial but exclusive sales. He paid particular attention to science titles, beginning with an edition of the works of the chemist Robert Boyle, prepared by Peter Shaw, his doctor, who helped Mary through a serious illness in 1735. Seven years earlier he had been one of a consortium which published the influential Cyclopaedia of Arts and Sciences compiled by Ephraim Chambers, whom he is said to have treated with 'the liberality of a prince and the tenderness of a father' (H. Curwen, A History of Booksellers, 1873, 82). His best-remembered enterprise, however, is that of being one of a later consortium which produced Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. Thomas died on 18 June that year, nine years to the day from when the agreement with Johnson was signed.
It was Mary who on Thomas's death became the senior partner in what was by then a thriving business, alongside Thomas's nephew Thomas Longman (1730–1797), who was keenly interested in the theatre and married Elizabeth Harris, the sister of a proprietor and manager of Covent Garden. Without him the Longman business, thriving though it was, might have come to an end very near its beginning; and it was fortunate for its survival and further growth that he had no fewer than twelve children. His eldest son, Thomas Norton Longman (1771–1842), was an outstanding figure in the Longman line of publishers. The second son, George (1776–1822), provided further dynastic connection, highly valuable in trading terms. With the fortune bequeathed to him by his father, he went into business with the enterprising paper maker John Dickinson, and was the first Longman to become a member of parliament.
The connections continued and became more intricate. In 1843 William Longman (1813–1877) married Emma Pratt-Barlow, daughter of a rich railway director, whose brother had married John Dickinson's daughter, and in 1874 Thomas Norton Longman (1849–1930), eldest son of Thomas Longman (1804–1879), married Florence Pratt-Barlow, Emma's niece. Six years later Charles James Longman (1852–1934) married Harriet Ann, the daughter of Sir John Evans, who was a treasurer of the Royal Society and president of the Society of Antiquaries as well as a paper maker.
There was another connection, this time with printing. Mary (1801–1870), one of the daughters of Thomas Norton Longman (1771–1842), married Andrew Spottiswoode, later printer to Queen Victoria, a member of the famous printing house founded by his grandfather William Strahan, main printer for the early Longmans.
The name Norton had come into the Longman family in 1736 following the purchase by Thomas Longman (1699–1755) and Samuel Buckley from the Norton family, its patentees, of the royal grant and privilege of printing William Lily's Latin Grammar dating back to the sixteenth century. The last Thomas Norton Longman was always known in the business as Mr Norton.
Such family connections and convergences have often been noted, as they were in 1854 by a publisher very different from the Longmans, Charles Knight; and in 1924, the Publishers' Circular, a valuable periodical launched in 1837 by a group of publishers including William Longman, numbered Longman names, as Knight had done, like sovereigns. Five were called Thomas, and it was only because there were by then too many Longmans in the business that the last Thomas Norton Longman dropped the numbering.
Yet there remained a strong sense of family hierarchy. In 1924, at the time of the much celebrated bicentenary of the house, Harold Cox—the last editor of the Edinburgh Review, the quarterly which Longmans had owned throughout most of its history—suggested as a firm believer in the 'principle of heredity' that 'the example of the firm of Longmans' was of more than family interest. Through six generations (and there was to be a seventh) a single family had 'successfully administered an important and constantly expanding business', preserving 'the traditions on which the original success of the firm was based', but developing them 'to meet new needs or to seize new opportunities' (Cox and Chandler, 48).
Even more eloquently, Sir George Otto Trevelyan, the nephew of Macaulay, paid tribute at the time of the bicentenary to the house with which his own family had been and remained in such close dynastic connection. It was not, he said, 'a creature of the State, nor of the Church, nor of the Universities, nor of any corporate body'. Nor was it 'the creation of the money-making impulse'. The house stood both for 'self-help and the effort of the individual' and for 'family tradition, for ideals of public usefulness and assistance to the cause of literature and science, handed on from generation to generation' (Cox and Chandler, 56). In the Trevelyan family that cause was perpetuated by Sir George's son G. M. Trevelyan, who had already written several books for Longman by 1924, including his British History in the Nineteenth Century, published two years before. His English Social History (1944) was as much of a Longman bestseller as Macaulay's five-volume History of England (1849–61). The cheque for £20,000 paid to Macaulay by Longman on account in 1855 has been carefully preserved.
Dynastic links were present inside the Longman business at almost every level as well as between the Longmans and other families. Thus the Greens, father and son, Bevis (1793–1869) and William Ellerby (1836–1918), spanned almost a century of the business, and from 1889 to 1926 the imprint used by the Longmans was ‘Longmans Green’. Not until 1959 did it become ‘Longmans’. The success of the family, as the Longmans themselves appreciated, always depended on the taking in of ‘outsiders’, the first of them Owen Rees (1770–1837), a Welsh dissenter from a very different background from the Longmans, who was made a partner in 1797 before the death of Thomas Longman on 5 February 1797. There were many non-Longman partners in the nineteenth century, their names recorded in the successive imprints of the house. The longest list of names, six of them—Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green—was on the imprint between 1823 and 1825.
In briefly describing the house of Longman & Co. in 1859, the year of the retirement of Thomas Brown and the death of Cosmo Orme, The Times (6 September) claimed that 'perhaps nothing more has tended to raise the House to its present position than the plan adopted by the principals of introducing fresh blood from time to time'. It noted also, however, that 'like some of our other well-known institutions, its origin is lost in obscurity'. The family itself made every effort to find out, and this remark could not have been made ten years later.
In 1842, before the mid-Victorian boom years in the history of publishing, an obituary notice of Thomas Norton Longman in the Annual Register, in which the Longmans had had a share since 1805, described him as the head of a house 'which has for more than a century been distinguished as the Leviathan of publishing and bookselling'. The description was to become more familiar between 1851 and 1870, when the mid-Victorian publishing business was dominated by a few great leviathans, as they were called at the time, with the house of Longman heading or near the head of them.
The basis of the house's strength was capital. Thomas Norton Longman had left nearly £200,000 in 1842, when he died accidentally after falling from his horse on his way back from Paternoster Row to his house in Hampstead; and Bevis Green, who died in 1869, left about the same sum. Nevertheless, success depended not only on capital but on the display of publishing skills. A new phase in the history of the family began in 1842, when for the first time two sons, Thomas and William, succeeded to the control of the firm. They were given good advice by the aged Sydney Smith, then a canon of St Paul's living not far from Paternoster Row. 'You and your brother', he told them, 'are arrived at years of great maturity and are quite capable of conducting your own business … I expect you [both] to live together upon the strictest terms of friendship and to be ready to make mutual concessions' (Wallis, 19–20). They followed his advice, whether they needed it or not, and from the start divided their responsibilities in a sensible manner. By virtue of his age Thomas Longman (1804–1879) was chairman, but William, who was born on 9 February 1813, was a more dynamic businessman, although, like earlier Longmans, he was singled out by contemporaries less for his dynamism than for his 'courtesy, geniality, kindliness and ready hospitality'. The latter quality had always been stressed by his father, who generously entertained his authors as well as published them.
In 1873 it was said of William by Henry Curwen, author of an early history of the book trade, that he succeeded through a combination of enterprise and discretion, and the former quality was evident in 1863 when he arranged the acquisition of the business of J. W. Parker, not the first or last of Longman acquisitions, which greatly strengthened the Longman list of authors. John Stuart Mill was one of them, and his Subjection of Women (1869) and his revealing Autobiography (1873) were major Longman publications in a completely different genre from John Henry Newman's Apologia pro vita sua (1854), a book published by Longman at Newman's own request.
In the Parker list there were three historians very different from Macaulay and from each other—J. A. Froude, who became a close friend of the Longman family, H. T. Buckle, and W. E. H. Lecky. Two other of Longman's highly successful mid-Victorian publications were P. M. Roget's Thesaurus (1852), frequently re-edited, first in dynastic fashion by his son and grandson, and Gray's Anatomy (1863), a far less original work, but one which was also to go through many new and distinctly different editions, including a lavish centenary edition in 1958. In this and other books the Longmans paid particular attention to illustrations.
The mid-Victorian theological list was extremely varied, and while it included Newman, with very different religious views from those of the family, it also included the highly controversial works of J. W. Colenso, deposed for heresy—and reinstated—bishop of Natal: Colenso had written many successful mathematical textbooks at various levels for Longman, to whom he sold the copyright for £10,000. Education was already a Longman speciality, but the width of their publishing list is demonstrated by the presence in it of the novelist Anthony Trollope (The Warden); the traveller Richard Burton (Longmans did not publish his erotica); the sociologist, would-be psychologist, Herbert Spencer; the philologist Max Müller; the soldier Evelyn Baring, later Lord Cromer, whose Staff College Essays appeared in 1870 when he was a lieutenant; the man of many parts Sir John Lubbock, later Lord Avebury, qua anthropologist; and the widely read writer on cookery Eliza Acton.
Longman was the second of the publishing leviathans to be described at length in a series of three anonymous articles in The Critic in 1860, written by a well-known Victorian journalist, Francis Espinasse. (Murray was the first, Blackwood the third.) He traced the story of the dynasty back to Bristol and described its association under Thomas Norton Longman and Rees with an at least equally remarkable list of pre-Victorian authors, some of whom had already become leading names in English literature—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, and Sir Walter Scott. The second edition of the Lyrical Ballads (1800), with its famous preface, had already joined Johnson's Dictionary in a Longman hall of fame. And before Macaulay there had already been one other long-remembered record payment, that of £5000 presented to Tom Moore for his now largely forgotten Romantic poem Lalla Rookh (1817), which went through six impressions in its first year. Espinasse ended his article with a reference to a new edition of Johnson's Dictionary. Only the house of Longman had survived from the original consortium.
A regular Longman publication that survived all rival publications was the Edinburgh Review, the whig quarterly through which Macaulay came to fame. Launched in 1802 in association with the Scottish firm of Archibald Constable, it remained in joint Constable–Longman hands after only a short break until it became Longmans' exclusive property in 1826 after the collapse of the Constable business. Edited by Francis Jeffrey, it had established substantial political importance before the advent of its Victorian editor Henry Reeve, a personal friend of the Longman family, who stayed in his chair for forty years from 1855. In unpublished memoirs the last Thomas Norton Longman could write in 1921, eight years before the review ceased to appear, that the family had been fortunate in all 'our editors, and all has been such smooth running that there is little or nothing to report'.
Into the twentieth century: 1877–1906
This last Thomas Norton Longman, son of Thomas Longman (1804–1879), was one of a new generation of Longmans who took over at Paternoster Row following the death of the first William Longman on 13 August 1877. He had joined the business as a young man of twenty and had become a partner in 1873. Four years later William's son, Charles James Longman, with impeccable whig first names, became a partner too. A third Longman, George Henry (1852–1938), also entered the business and became a partner in 1879. He took little part in the literary side of the house, but had responsibility for foreign trade and, loosely, for financial affairs before the advent of professional accounting. A fourth Longman, Hubert Harry Longman (1856–1940), was not much involved in the business at Paternoster Row, but for a time was given charge of the Ship Binding Works at Great Saffron Hill, conveniently not far away. This was a subsidiary company, formed in 1887. Hubert Harry's main interest was in Liberal politics in Surrey, and he was the only Longman to be made a baronet—in 1909.
Effectively publishing control of the house of Longman was now in the hands of Thomas Norton Longman and Charles James Longman (1852–1934), the latter the junior but the more powerful of the two. Known as CJ, he was educated at Harrow School and at University College, Oxford; he was also known in the book trade as Black Longman on account of his square-cut black beard. He could be autocratic in his treatment of employees and even of authors. It was reputed that he lost the young Winston Churchill, whose first books were published by Longman, because Churchill lit a cigar in his presence. It was CJ, however, who was largely responsible for the negotiations leading up to the acquisition in 1890 of the house of Rivington (founded in 1711), which involved more complex issues than the acquisition of J. W. Parker in 1863. CJ was surprised to be approached by Francis Hansard Rivington about a take-over since Rivington had been in charge of the business for thirty-nine years.
The Rivington deal strengthened the Longman theological list even more than the Parker deal had done, and Longmans were now the publishers of Newman the Anglo-Catholic as well as of Newman the Roman Catholic. They were placed in direct contact too with the high-church party in Oxford. Yet this was not the only new link forged during the period. CJ was a close friend of the novelist Rider Haggard, and it was through this and similar links that Longmans published Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). On very different fronts CJ fostered the increase in the number of school textbooks and the expansion of the overseas side of the business, two developments which converged with the development of English language teaching. A key appointment was that of J. W. Allen in 1884, who arrived at Paternoster Row with teaching experience with the Liverpool school board. His experience and acumen added to Longman family profits, but he did not become a partner until 1918 on the death of W. E. Green, who left him his shares.
The head of the house of Longman, the last Thomas Norton Longman, claimed in typewritten memoirs that as 'Longman the 5th' he had the right to have the casting vote on all details relating to the form and price of any book: 'my very blood is printer's ink and my very bones are made of a mixture of type and paper'. In one of his very first business transactions, however, that with Disraeli, then Lord Beaconsfield, he yielded to the author in 1880 on many points in relation to the publishing of Disraeli's Endymion. He confessed that he was surprised too by the immediate great success of The Voyage of the Sunbeam (1877) written by Anna Brassey, daughter-in-law of the great contractor: it sold a quarter of a million copies in a popular edition and was translated into every European language.
Like his cousin, Thomas Norton Longman later put much of his trust in the unremitting literary advice given to the house by Andrew Lang: Lang had been at Oxford with Frederick William Longman (1846–1908), who because of an accident became a lifelong invalid and could not take part in the business. Lang also wrote a regular column, 'At the sign of The Ship', for Longman's Magazine, founded in 1882, priced 6d., and edited by CJ, which lasted until 1905 without ever acquiring the reputation and prestige of the Cornhill or Macmillan magazines.
Scientific and medical books fell within Thomas Norton's range of responsibilities, with CJ cultivating the history side of the business. In 1881 the English Historical Review was launched, edited by a Longman author, Mandell Creighton, later bishop of London, to be followed in 1905 by a new twelve-volume series on the political history of England, the first of many later Longman series. One of these was to be the responsibility of Cyprian Blagden, formerly a public schoolmaster, an inspector of schools, who came to know more about the history of the Longman business than any member of the family. In his penetrating booklet Fire More than Water (1959) he claimed that those Longmans who had controlled the business during the 107 years since 1842 had provided no new 'publishing answers'. They had provided the old answers 'over and over again under new conditions and with changing problems' (Blagden, 29). There was limited truth in the remark as far as the first seventy years were concerned, for by 1964 the house of Longman was making more of its longevity than of its enterprise, and at the end of the First World War Thomas Norton and CJ were still in charge at the top. Thomas Norton retired a year later; CJ, increasingly conservative, not until 1928: in his last years he refused to keep a telephone in his room. He died in 1934.
It made very little difference to the daily business routines of the family when in 1889 Longmans Green became a family company, or, indeed, when in 1926 a limited liability company transformed the partners into directors. Each lunchtime they held a meeting to discuss business after a boy employee had taken round the relevant papers to each director's room, using the words 'Mr Green desires your presence' long after the last Green had died. No formal votes were taken at the meetings.
Nevertheless, emphases were changing, with an increased concentration on education and on overseas expansion. School textbooks became increasingly profitable after the Education Acts of 1870 and 1902, and so did textbooks in English and vernacular languages for overseas, some of them produced abroad. There had been an early Longman connection with America when Thomas Longman (1730–1797) was chairman, and in 1889 a branch of Longmans Green was opened in New York. By 1918 it had built up a substantial independent business, not only in textbooks. A branch in Toronto followed in 1922. In India branches had been opened in Bombay in 1895 and in Calcutta in 1906. Blagden headed the Indian operations from 1941 to 1948.
The sixth generation: 1906–1946
Two new Longmans arrived in Paternoster Row in 1906—Robert Guy Longman (1882–1971), the younger son of George Henry Longman, and his cousin William Longman (1882–1967), the son of C. J. Longman, the first of them educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, and the second at Harrow School and University College, Oxford. They both became partners three years later, once again specializing in their interests. Robert Guy was a highly intelligent and sensitive publisher with a lively interest in music and literary tastes of his own. It was he who encouraged novelists as different as Elizabeth Bowen, Stella Gibbons, and Mary Renault and the American author and playwright Thornton Wilder. He did not retire until 1948. William, always known in Paternoster Row as Mr Willie, concentrated on finance and accounts, inheriting a traditional and ritualized system, but, following the Companies Act of 1914, one required to follow standard procedures of accounting.
William was a shy man, who by the time when he retired in 1964 after thirty years as chairman was something of a recluse. Yet, like his father, he was involved in the higher politics of publishing. C. J. Longman had been first president of the newly formed Publishers' Association in 1896 and again from 1902 to 1914, and had given his full support to the net book agreement, regulating the retail prices of books, which had been initiated by Frederick Macmillan. William, who was president from 1929 to 1931, was described by a fellow publisher, Stanley Unwin, as the best president the association ever had.
In their own publishing Robert Guy Longman and William Longman had to help steer their ship, still the Longman publishing logo, through the troubled seas of two wars and unprecedented depression. There was one family tragedy too. Eight weeks after the beginning of the First World War William's younger brother Frederick (1890–1914) was killed in action. During the depression the house of Longman had to turn for financial assistance to an outsider, Kenneth Boyd Potter, a member of a shipping family with its own rich and varied dynastic history, who became a director, bringing in necessary capital in 1926 and playing a bigger part than any of the Longmans when it became a public company in 1948. He was one of three directors who then disposed of some of their shares as part of a capital reorganization, William receiving £57,252 for his and Robert Guy £72,996.
It would have been impossible to foresee this outcome on 29 December 1940 when at the height of the German air assault on Britain 39 Paternoster Row was totally destroyed along with neighbouring buildings. The fires that burnt there, started by incendiary bombs, were far more devastating than those of an earlier fire in 1861 which led the Longmans to have built on the site an imposing new building in Portland stone ‘in the Renaissance style’. Literature, supported by the Arts and Science, was represented in the keystone of the main arch. It was with these two fires in mind—and the great fire of London of 1666—that Blagden wrote Fire More than Water, noting that fires had their phoenixes, a lesson of 1940 as much as of 1861.
In 1939 part of the Longman business had already been transferred to Wimbledon, and it was to suburban houses there that Robert Guy and William Longman now moved out, carrying on their business as far as possible as usual after a back list of nearly 6000 titles had been reduced to twelve. And there was further fire to come, for in April 1941 the old Ship Binding Works was put out of action. Even then the trials were not over, but in 1947 it was possible for the Longmans and their employees to return to London, this time to the West End not the City—first to 6 and 7 Clifford Street, and next, in 1961, to 48 Grosvenor Street, not far away. These had been eighteenth-century domestic houses, built about the time when Thomas Longman started his business in 1724.
There was no one single domestic residence passed on from one generation to another. The first Thomas Longman had lived and worked in Paternoster Row. So, too, had several of the later members of his family. Thomas Norton Longman (1771–1842) was the first to move out from the City to Mount Grove, Hampstead, in 1798: all his children were married in Hampstead parish church, and a bust in memory of him was placed there, donated by J. R. McCulloch, the political economist, and other friends.
After his marriage in 1838 Thomas Longman (1804–1879) moved to a Nash house in Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park, moving again further out of London ten years later, but keeping a London house in Sussex Gardens, where the youngest of his five daughters was born. It was the daughters whom he commemorated in a stained glass window in the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, complete with ships and black swans. Thomas moved later to Hampshire, where in 1860 he built an imposing new house at Farnborough Hill, designed in deep rose brick by Henry Edward Kendall, and set in a substantial estate. It too incorporated a frieze of stone terracotta panels depicting in high relief ships in full sail and swans swimming on water surrounded by palm trees. It was not bequeathed to any of his children, however, and two years after his death in 1879 it was acquired by the exiled French Empress Eugénie, who lived there until her own death in 1920.
Thomas Longman's brother, William, who produced an even larger family consisting of seven daughters and three sons, lived in Hyde Park Square in London before acquiring houses first in Chorleywood and later in Berkhamsted, so that the Longman family, while mostly retaining London houses, was now scattered geographically. It was not until 1908 that the last Thomas Norton Longman, Thomas Longman's eldest son, acquired a substantial country house, Shendish, near Apsley, Hertfordshire, which had been built by Charles Longman, the Dickinson partner, in 1853 and which was occupied after his death in 1873 by his son Arthur (1843–1908), also a partner in the Dickinson paper business. Thomas Norton Longman retired to Shendish in 1919 exactly fifty years after his first arrival at Paternoster Row. He was buried there in a churchyard which was built at the expense of the Longman, Dickinson, Pratt-Barlow, and Evans families.
Charles James Longman, Thomas Norton Longman's nephew, had a country house in Hertfordshire, Upp Hall, Braughing, near Ware, coincidentally not far from Harlow, where the Longman business was to move in 1968. His elder son, William, recorded that CJ was the last member of the family to live in style. He had four children, three of whom were given public-school and university educations, and possessed a town house, complete with mews and a coachman, as well as his country estate, where he employed seven domestic servants, two gardeners, two labourers, and two gamekeepers.
The gamekeepers were more than status symbols, for most of the Victorian Longmans, beginning with Thomas Longman (1804–1879), were keenly interested in sports, a few of them more than they were in the business. The first William, deeply involved as he was in business affairs and in his own historical researches, which led him to write several books mainly on medieval English history and the architecture of St Paul's, was a founder member of the Alpine Club and its president from 1871 to 1874. C. J. Longman was an association football blue at Oxford and champion of England at archery in 1883, and along with his partner, the last Thomas Norton Longman, produced many books on different sports in their Badminton Library, begun in 1885 with the duke of Beaufort as its editor. CJ himself contributed the volume on archery. The series was supplemented later by a monthly Badminton Magazine. George Henry Longman captained the Eton cricket eleven and Cambridge University, played regularly for the Gentlemen against the Players, and sponsored a Longman cricket club for employees of the business. Arthur Longman (1843–1908), like his father a partner in Dickinson & Co., was master of the Old Berkeley hunt.
The last of the Longmans, Mark Frederick Kerr Longman (1916–1972), was more interested in the arts than in sports, but he had a country house at Bishopstone, on the top of a hill near Salisbury, an eighteenth-century rectory with Victorian connections. It is reputed to have been the model for Anthony Trollope's Plumstead Episcopi in The Warden, which was published by Mark's great-grandfather in 1855.
The last of the Longmans
Mark was the son of Henry Kerr Longman, who never entered the Longman business, but who came to its rescue as a stockbroker when for the only time in its history it faced banking problems in 1932. Mark's three forenames all came from the female side of his inheritance. In 1874 George Henry Longman had married Mary Frances Kerr, the daughter of Lord Frederic Kerr, whose brother was called Mark, and since the last Thomas Norton Longman had no male heir—he had four daughters—and William Longman had no children, it was through Henry Kerr Longman that the two of the last generation of Longmans entered the publishing business. Of his five sons, John Cecil Longman (1912–1965), who never intended to become a publisher, was made a director on the same day as his younger brother Mark, and their cousin, Thomas Michael Longman (1917–1978), only son of Robert Guy Longman. Thomas Michael was the only member of the family to leave the house of Longman. In 1959, unhappy about the decision of his fellow directors not to allow him to extend the theological side of their business, he set up a publishing business of his own, taking with him as partners two of his house colleagues, G. C. Darton and John Todd.
Mark Longman had joined the house straight from Cambridge in 1938, returning after war service in 1946. Described in the headline of his Times obituary (6 December 1972) as an 'outstanding publisher', he had become head of what was now simply called Longmans in 1964. An effective chairman and a brilliant speaker, he was president of the Publishers' Association from 1969 to 1971, following in the footsteps of an earlier generation of Longmans. He was also an energetic president of the National Book League, believing strongly in the future of the book in an age of new electronic media.
There were great hopes for the future of the Longman business when it moved out in 1967 to a new building in Harlow New Town. It was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd and proudly named Longman House. The warehouses had moved out earlier in 1959. The business was still expanding on the educational side with non-Longmans, like John Chapple and John Newsom, who inspired the move to Harlow, playing a major part. The expansion overseas, particularly in Commonwealth countries, had been so substantial that in 1966 a Longman Group of companies was constituted, their locations ranging from Nigeria to Australia, the Caribbean to the Pacific, with Mark as its first chairman. Exports and overseas sales then accounted for three-quarters of the Longman total. They depended on enterprise on the periphery rather than at the centre, where there was a shortage of family capital. In 1968, therefore, Mark initiated and carried through friendly negotiations that resulted in the take-over of the Longman Group by the Financial and Provincial Publishing Company, owned by S. Pearson & Son, and two years later Pearson Longman Ltd was formed. The pedigrees of the Longman and Pearson families, the latter with its origins in Bradford in 1856, sharply contrasted, but the first chairman of Pearson Longman, Patrick Gibson, had been at Eton with Mark and was proud to link the two family names in the company's new title.
In the same year Mark became vice-chairman of Penguin, and after the death of Sir Allen Lane, founder in 1936 of the famous paperback business, he played a major part in arranging a merger between Pearson Longman Ltd and Penguin. It was not to last, but both companies continued to operate within the Pearson Group, a large conglomerate, dealing in many other products besides books, including porcelain and wine, until Pearson Longman, which flourished in the 1980s under the leadership of Tim Rix, a non-Longman and a non-Pearson, ceased to exist in 1994. That decision was taken not at Harlow but by the Pearson Group in London.
Mark's widow, Lady Elizabeth Lambart, daughter of the tenth earl of Cavan, who had seen Mark through a long and crippling illness, survived this last landmark event in the Longman story. She had worked briefly inside Longmans as a secretary, and she was proud of the part that Mark, her second cousin, had played not only within the business, but within publishing as a whole. He was also chairman of the Fine Art Society, and his portrait by Graham Sutherland is a worthy memorial.
- H. Cox and J. E. Chandler, The house of Longman: a record of their bicentenary celebrations (1925)
- C. J. Longman, The house of Longman, 1724–1800: a bibliographical history with a list of signs used by the booksellers of this period (1936)
- C. Blagden, Fire more than water (1959)
- P. Wallis, At the sign of The Ship, 1924–1974 (1974)
- A. Briggs, ed., Essays in the history of publishing (1974)
- U. Reading, business archive
- BL, letters to Harvey Napier, Add. MSS 34619–34626, passim [Thomas Longman]
- CUL, letters to Sir George Stokes [William Longman]
- Herts. ALS, letters to Lord Lytton [Thomas Longman]
- U. St Andr. L., corresp. with James David Forbes [Thomas Longman]
- C. Moore, bust, 1845 (Thomas Norton Longman), parish church St John, Hampstead
Wealth at Death
approximately £200,000—Thomas Norton Longman: 1842
£200,000—William Longman: probate, 12 Sept 1877, CGPLA Eng. & Wales
under £100,000—Thomas Longman: probate, 28 Oct 1879, CGPLA Eng. & Wales