Charles Knight, an English publisher and author, born at Windsor, March 15, 1791, died at Addlestone, Surrey, March 9, 1873. His father was a bookseller at Windsor, and he succeeded to the business. His first publication, which he edited in conjunction with Mr. E.
II. Locker, was " The Plain Englishman," a periodical (3 vols., 1820-'22). At Windsor, in 1823, he commenced " Knight's Quarterly Magazine," and continued it in 1824 in London, whither he then removed. This work, in 3 vols. 8vo, contains the earliest literary productions of Macaulay, Praed, Moultrie, and others. In 1827-8 he published a continuation of the " London Magazine," in which a few years earlier had appeared Carlyle's " Life of Schiller " and De Quincey's " Confessions of an English Opium-Eater." Soon afterward he became connected with the society for the diffusion of useful knowledge, as their publisher and agent, and immediately undertook a series of valuable works, under the sanction of the society, but generally at his own risk and expense. Foremost were the " Penny Magazine," in three series (1832-45), which at one time had a circulation of nearly 200,000 copies weekly; the "British Almanac" and "Companion to the Almanac," begun in 1828 and still continued; the "Penny Cyclopaedia" (30 vols, small fol., 1833-'56), since condensed as the " National Cyclopaedia;" the " Library of Entertaining Knowledge," to which he contributed a volume on "The Elephant" (1831); the "Pictorial History of England," by Craik and Macfarlane, with its continuation entitled " History of the Thirty Years1 Peace," by Mr. Knight and Miss Martineau (1840-'50); and the " Gallery of Portraits of Distinguished Men." Several of the above works were edited by Mr. Knight, and all enjoyed much of his supervision.
He also edited the " Pictorial Bible " (4 vols. 4to, 1838); the " Pictorial Book of Common Prayer" (1838); the "Store of Knowledge" (1841); "London Pictorially Illustrated" (6 vols., 1841-'4; abridged into the "Cyclopaedia of London," 1851); "Old England, a Pictorial Museum of National Antiquities" (2 vols, fol., 1845); the " Weekly Volume," a series extending to 126 vols. (18mo, 1843-'5); "Half Hours with the Best Authors " (4 vols., 1847-'8); " The Land we Live in" (4 vols., 1848); "Cyclopaedia of the Industry of All Nations" (1851); "Half Hours of English History" (2 vols., 1853); "Geography of the British Empire" (2 vols., 1853), etc. He won a position as a Shakespearian scholar by his " Pictorial Shakspere," including a biography and a " History of Opinion, with Doubtful Plays and Index" (8 vols. 8vo, 1839-'41; library edition, 12 vols. 18mo, 1842-'4; national edition, with biography and "Studies," 8 vols. 8vo, 1851-'3); "Plays and Poems, with Glossarial Notes" (7th ed., 1 vol. 8vo, 1857); " Companion Shakspere" (8 vols. 12mo, 1855-7), etc.
In 1854, having purchased the plates of the "Penny Cyclopaedia," Mr. Knight began the " English Cyclopaedia," based upon that work, but greatly enlarged and modified (22 vols. 4to, usually bound in 11, with a separate volume of indexes). His own writings more especially are: "Results of Machinery" (1830), and "Rights of Industry, Capital, and Labor" (1831), amalgamated and enlarged under the title of " Knowledge is Power " (1855); "Life of Caxton" (1844), enlarged under the title of " The Old Printer and the Modern Press" (1854); "Varieties" (1844); "New Lamps for Old: Remarks on Mr. Collier's Discovery of the Annotations on Shakspere" (1851); "Once upon a Time" (1854), a collection of his miscellaneous works; and " The Struggles of a Book against Excessive Taxation," and " The Case of the Authors as regards the Paper Duty," pamphlets which largely contributed to the repeal of the English duty upon paper, as proposed in Mr. Gladstone's budget of 18G0. In 1856 appeared the first volume of " The Popular History of England, an Illustrated History of Society and Government from the Earliest Period to our own Times." This work, the most important of Mr. Knight's writings, was completed in 1862 in 8 vols. 8vo, bringing the British annals down to the final extinction of the corn laws in 1849. The new editions of this work contain an appendix, giving a chronological account of public events, legislation, and statistics until the time of publication.
He also wrote an autobiography, " Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century" (3 vols., 1863-'5; abridged American ed., 1 vol., New York, 1874); " School History of England" (1865); "Begg'd at Court" (1867); "Questions on School History" (1868); and " Half Hours with the best Letter Writers " (2 vols., 1866-'8). Mr. Knight's whole life was one of useful and intellectual labor, and it is not too much to say that he was the founder of that description of literature, cheap yet good, which has exercised a very beneficial influence on the minds of his countrymen during the last 50 years. His success as a man of business was not equal to his enterprise. About the year 1860 he received the appointment, through the influence of Lord Brougham, of publisher of the "London Gazette," almost a sinecure, at £1,200 a year. His statue was erected at Windsor in 1874.