Richard Marsh


Country:United States

Lifetime: 1857 - 1915 Passed: ≈ 107 years ago

Richard Marsh  was the pseudonym of the English author born Richard Bernard Heldmann. A best-selling and prolific author of the late 19th century and the Edwardian period, Marsh is best known now for his supernatural thriller novel The Beetle, which was published the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula , and was initially even more popular, outselling Dracula six times over. The Beetle remained in print until 1960. Marsh produced nearly 80 volumes of fiction and numerous short stories, in genres including horror, crime, romance and humour. Many of these have been republished recently, beginning with The Beetle in 2004. Marsh's grandson Robert Aickman was a notable writer of short "strange stories".


Richard Bernard Heldmann was born on 12 October 1857, in North London, to lace merchant Joseph Heldmann  and Emma Marsh (1830–1911), a lace-manufacturer's daughter. Heldmann began publishing fiction during 1880, in the form of boys' school and adventure stories for magazine publications. The most important of these was Union Jack, a quality boys' weekly magazine associated with authors G. A. Henty  and W.H.G. Kingston . Henty promoted the young Heldmann to the position of co-editor in October 1882, but Heldmann's association with the publication was ended abruptly in June 1883. After this, Bernard Heldmann published no further fiction under that name, and began to use the pseudonym "Richard Marsh" a few years later.


For a long time the reasons for the end of Heldmann's business relationship with Henty and his adoption of a pseudonym were a mystery, with some scholars suggesting that Heldmann was anxious to obscure his father's German-Jewish origins. It has been discovered recently that in fact Heldmann had been sentenced to eighteen months' hard labour at the West Kent Quarter Sessions on 10 April 1884  for issuing a series of forged cheques in Britain and France during 1883.


Heldmann adopted his pseudonym on his release from jail, and fictions by "Richard Marsh" began appearing in literary periodicals during 1888, with two novels being published in 1893. Marsh wrote and published prolifically during the 1890s and the early years of the 20th century. He died from heart disease in Haywards Heath in Sussex on 9 August 1915. Several of his novels were published posthumously.


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