John Gladstone Steele »

The Revd Canon John Gladstone Steele AM (BSc, PhD University of Queensland, ThL Australian College of Theology) is a retired Anglican priest and physicist who writes on Australian history and art.

Copyright Information

This article is copyright © 2004 Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, and is the result of the independent labour of the scholar or scholars credited with authorship.  The material contained in this document may be freely distributed, as long as the origin of information used has been properly credited in the appropriate manner (e.g. through bibliographic citation, etc.).      John Steele thanks other Australian descendants of Anne Ker who collaborated in his research since 1980, especially Frank Uhr and the late Ruth Smith. The late Iris Bancroft and the late Rex King made heirlooms available. Rachel Howard kindly provided encouragement and made available a facsimile of ‘A Ker-ish Trick’. The matter contained within this article provides bibliographical information based on independent personal research by the contributor, and as such has not been subject to the peer-review process.

Referring to this Article

J. G. STEELE. ‘Anne and John Ker: New Soundings’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 12 (Summer 2004).

Online: Internet (date accessed):

Anne and John Ker

New Soundings


Biography with Reference to ‘A Ker-ish Trick’ and ‘The Heiress di Montalde’

As a descendant of Anne Ker, I have researched her family history including her novel The Heiress di Montalde (1799) and her husband John Ker’s poem ‘A Ker-ish Trick’. These, along with other memorabilia that included Anne’s sampler, were handed down by her descendants, who emigrated to Australia in 1825-46. [1]

Rachel Howard has contributed to this journal a comprehensive article on Anne Ker and her novels. [2] The article reproduces ‘A Ker-ish Trick’, prefatory material in Anne Ker’s novel Edric, the Forester (1817, but expected in December 1804). The interpretation of this poem requires, firstly, an understanding of John Ker’s relationship to the Dukes of Roxburgh, who bore the family name Ker until the Fourth Duke died in 1805. The Fifth Duke, whose surname was Innes rather than Ker, was confirmed in the title in 1812 and he adopted the name Innes-Ker. The title page of Edric, the Forester makes the claim that John Ker was ‘of His Grace the Duke of Roxburgh’s family’, and in his poem prefacing that book John wrote

Fleurs-I envy not that pretty place,
Although I am one of the race;

John considered the family seat of Floors (or Fleurs) near Kelso in Roxburghshire as part of his heritage. He knew it well, and identified himself as one of the Kers, who saw it as their home, but he never aspired to own it. He felt its beauty, as did Sir Walter Scott who referred to Floors as ‘altogether a kingdom for Oberon or Titania to dwell in’. [3]

Furthermore, the interpretation of ‘A Ker-ish Trick’ requires a knowledge of the very public dramas concerning the succession of the Fifth Duke of Roxburgh in 1812 and the subsequent administration of the estate of the Third Duke. From the evidence presented here, it will emerge that John Ker was probably a son of the unmarried John Ker, Third Duke of Roxburgh (1740-1804), the famous book collector and close friend and contemporary of George III. It will be shown that on his deathbed the Duke provided a secret annuity for a person residing in London whose name was revealed only to a lawyer. In his poem, John alluded to his dependence on income from the Duke’s estate. The administration of the estate was delayed by protracted litigation. John lamented that he failed to obtain charity from the Fifth Duke. The pertinent biographical details are presented here below in chronological sequence. Personal names are spelt as they appear in source documents.

In 1755, the Third Duke acceded to his title. In 1761, at the age of twenty-one, he travelled on the Continent and courted Christiana, eldest daughter of the Duke of Mecklenburgh-Strelitz, then aged twenty-seven. Soon after, Christiana’s sister Charlotte became engaged to George III, and at the royal marriage on 8 September 1761 Duke John’s two sisters, Lady Essex and Lady Mary Ker, were bridesmaids. [4] Duke John and Christiana broke off their engagement, as etiquette did not allow the elder sister to live in the realm as subject to the younger. It was said that the lovers thenceforth devoted themselves to celibacy. [5] Given the probability that John was a son of Duke John, he may have been conceived during the engagement of John and Christiana. Many children of royalty and the nobility were conceived or born out of wedlock. In an era when marriages were ‘arranged’ by parents or dictated by politics, premarital and extramarital adventures occurred, and were the stuff of many plots and subplots in Anne Ker’s novels. George IV as Prince of Wales is said to have fathered six illegitimate children by different mothers.

Anne Ker’s sampler records her birth thus: ‘Anne Phillips Born Novr. 17. 1766 in the Parish of St Luke Chelsea’; the sampler has as its central motif the chained lion rampant from the arms of the Phillips family of London. [6] She was baptised as Ann Phillips at St Luke’s Chelsea on 7 December 1766. [7] Her parents John and Ann Phillips lived at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. [8]

On 1 November 1788, John Kerr, widower, and Anne Phillips were married in the parish of St Pancras, London. [9] At the time of her marriage Anne added to her sampler the date 1788, the initials ‘A. K.’, as well as a royal crown and a ducal coronet considered to be symbols of her husband’s ancestry. In proximity to these symbols are two chevrons, each ‘charged with three stars or mollets’, from the arms of the Border Kers. [10] The pair was recorded as having been residents of the Parish of St Pancras, which was included in the district of Holborn. John and Anne were to live at Holborn for much of their life together. [11] The marriage ceremony took place at the Kentish Town chapel of ease, by banns rather than licence, and the Curate officiated. The witnesses who signed the marriage register were Benjamin Mence (Vicar) and a Mary Morgan; these functioned as witnesses at many other weddings recorded in the register. Since no members of the Ker or Phillips families signed as witnesses, the marriage was a low-key affair, perhaps even a clandestine one. Secret marriages were not uncommon amongst royalty and the nobility; HRH the Duke of Gloucester married the Dowager Duchess Maria Waldegrave (née Walpole), a subscriber to Anne’s novels, secretly in 1766, and the Prince of Wales married the widow Maria Fitzherbert secretly in 1785. Clandestine marriages feature in Anne’s novels, with the marriage of Sebastian and Adelaide in The Heiress di Montalde (1799) and that of Henry and Elinor in Adeline St Julian (1800).

In 1799, Anne dedicated The Heiress di Montalde to HRH the Princess Augusta Sophia (the king’s daughter, born 1768), and subscribers included the Duke of Roxburgh, his sister Lady Mary Ker and HRH the Duchess of Gloucester (the king’s sister-in-law). Given the probability that John Ker was the son of Duke John and Christiana, this list includes his cousin, father, and aunt, and a kinswoman by marriage, respectively. Subscribers to The Mysterious Count (1803) included Lady Mary Ker, and HRH the Princess of Wales (Caroline, the ‘official’ wife of the future George IV). HRH the Duchess of Gloucester and her daughters HRH the Princess Sophia (surnamed Hanover) of Gloucester and the Duchess of Grafton (Charlotte Maria Fitzroy, née Waldegrave)-kinsfolk to the king and presumably to John Ker-were also subscribers. (Charlotte’s cousin and brother-in-law Earl Waldegrave had been a subscriber to John Phillips’s Treatise on Inland Navigation [London, 1785]).

Duke John died in 1804. On his deathbed at his house at St James’s Square, London on 18 March, he gave instructions to Mr James Dundas, an Edinburgh lawyer appointed to be a trustee for the Duke’s estate. He told Dundas where he would find a sealed parcel, and desired Dundas to bring it to him. The Duke explained that the reason for wishing to have the sealed parcel was in order to see whether it contained a bond of annuity in favour of a particular person in London for whom he intended to provide. The parcel contained a sealed letter addressed to Dundas, in which was enclosed a bond of annuity in favour of the person named by the Duke. [12] Dundas gave this testimony on 17 February 1812 at an appeal by Lady Essex and Lady Mary Ker against the validity of the deathbed deposition that formed part of the will, and the appeal was dismissed. The secrecy surrounding this bond and the name of the beneficiary suggests that the beneficiary was an illegitimate child. The deathbed deposition dated 19 March 1804 was recognised as part of a much longer will, and probate was granted on 23 March 1811. The will stipulated that the trustees were to pay annuities granted during the Duke’s life or by his will. Annuities to factors and servants mentioned specifically in the deposition ranged from £40 to £300. In order to give evidence, Dundas renounced his role as executor prior to probate, thereby giving up a legacy of £1,000. [13]

Louisa Peterson, widowed daughter of John and Anne Ker, was married by banns at St James’s Church, Piccadilly on 1 January 1811, near the former home of the late Duke John. John and Anne signed the register as witnesses to the marriage. It seems that they lived comfortably at this time, perhaps enjoying the annuity provided by the late Third Duke and paid out of his deceased estate. Anne may have had access to the Duke’s library which was still at the house in St James’s Square. [14]

The Fourth Duke had also died in 1805 and the succession to the title of Fifth Duke of Roxburgh was finally decided by the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords on 9 May 1812. [15] The title and the property entailed with it went to the seventy-six-year-old Sir James Innes (later Innes-Ker, 1736-1823) rather than to Major-General Walter Ker of Littledean. Litigation over the succession bankrupted Walter Ker; Littledean was sold and the Fifth Duke graciously maintained him. [16] The administration of the estate of the deceased Third Duke was assigned to John Wauchope, the remaining executor after the withdrawal of James Dundas. The famous library was auctioned for £24,341 at the house in St James’s Square in May-July 1812. The Duke’s will had authorised his trustees to sell his house and contents to meet his obligations. The proceeds of the sale are thought to have been applied to legal costs. [17] Litigation over the Duke’s will persisted; it was perhaps during this period that the payment of the annuity to John Ker came under threat.

A Ker-ish Trick

From internal evidence, the poem was written after the failure of Major-General Ker’s claim to the title and the Floors estate, rather than in 1804 when the publication of Edric, the Forester was mooted. The poem was written between 1812 and 1817, and reveals that John Ker visited ‘Floors’ and obtained a verbal promise of financial support.

There is a man on Scottish ground,
Caus’d me to lose two hundred pound;
Surely, how could such things be?
Why, in promising to provide for me!

The man who made this promise appears from internal evidence to have been the Fifth Duke, then aged between seventy-six and eighty-one. The ‘two hundred pounds’ may represent the secret annuity provided by the Third Duke; if so, it should have been paid from the deceased estate of the Third Duke and it is unlikely that the Fifth Duke had a direct interest in it, or even knowledge of it. John would have seen the promise as an attractive alternative to the trouble and expense of pursuing his own claim in the courts. The elderly Duke, preoccupied with his new properties, his new wife of 1807, and his son and heir born in 1816, might easily have forgotten the promise.

And though in me there was no pride,
In fine grand coach I once did ride;
And for my fare for four miles round,
It cost me just two hundred pound;

The description of the coach is consistent with the idea that John’s host was the Fifth Duke rather than the Duke’s factor or solicitor, or the executor of the Third Duke’s estate. Roads and drives with a circumference of four miles encircled the Floors estate.

Now could I find HIS number out,
Although my wife has got the gout,
She says, on crutches she would stride,
And travel o’er the country wide,

The mention of Anne’s gout accords with her letters to the Royal Literary Fund in 1820-21, and confirms that the illness handicapped her as early as 1817. [18] Anne was more inclined to litigation than her husband:

To summons for such imposition,
Or try by way of a petition.
But lawyers say we were not right-
It should have been in black and white,

John and Anne consulted lawyers who lamented the lack of a written promise from the Fifth Duke. They may not have been aware of the existence of the ‘bond of annuity’ signed by the Third Duke.

So Ker was left by side the Tweed,
And Sawny drove away with speed.

The gate to the Floors estate on the edge of Kelso was at the East Lodge, beside the Tweed. [19] ‘Sawny’ was a nickname for a Scotsman. The Fifth Duke was born and lived in Scotland. Although John is believed to have stayed frequently at Floors, he was apparently not invited to remain on this occasion.

Fleurs-I envy not that pretty place,
Although I am one of the race;
But from my heart I wish I’d seen
A man live there from Little Dean
And why so wish? Because, some say,
He’d not have sent me empty away.

John Ker felt sure that he would have received some immediate support from Major-General Ker of Littledean, if the latter had succeeded to the title of Fifth Duke of Roxburgh and lived at Floors. The inference is that the ‘man on Scottish ground’, ‘Sawny’, who promised but failed to help, was the successful claimant to the title.

Now if there’s left a Ker of Linton
Who at these lines should take a hint on,

The village of Linton is six miles south-east of Floors and three miles east of the ruins of Cessford Caste, the principal seat of the Kers of Cessford until 1650. On 11 December 1811, the Court of Sessions in Scotland affirmed that Major-General Walter Ker was the undoubted heir-male of the ancient family of Ker of Cessford. [20] The Dukes of Roxburgh retain the title Marquess of Bowmont and Cessford and the unicorn’s head crest granted c. 1500 to the Cessford Kers by James IV of Scotland. The phrase ‘a Ker of Linton’ was chosen to facilitate rhyming, but it was probably intended to mean a Cessford Ker as distinct from a Ker of the Ferniehirst line whose ancient seat Ferniehirst Castle was near Jedburgh. [21]

Or noble Scot that’s fat on taper,
May cure J. Ker with HASE’S paper.

The poem ends with an appeal for donations in the form of ‘Hase’s paper‘. Henry Hase was Chief Cashier of the Bank of England in 1807-29. During those years, his name appeared for legal reasons in the promissory clause on the Bank’s notes. ‘Fat on taper’ suggests a plentiful supply of the wax candles used by nobles to seal documents. John is believed to have possessed a signet ring with the Cessford crest and Roxburgh motto, but was thin on resources. [22] He clung to his hope that the Fifth Duke would take the hint. The flippant tone suggests that the writer was mocking himself, and that (unlike his wife, who was livid) he bore no grudge against anyone. The fact that Anne Ker published Edric, the Forester in 1817 at her own expense shows that she was not yet entirely destitute. Perhaps she had received a legacy from the estate of her father who died in 1813 (RLF).

In 1818, Lady Essex Ker, after persistent litigation, obtained the residue of her brother’s estate, then amounting to about £200,000 pounds. This would have involved the overturning of the clause in the Duke’s deathbed deposition requiring his sisters to receive only the income from the residue of his estate during their lifetime, after which the residue itself was to be paid to three other specified beneficiaries. [23] Lady Essex Ker had expended £35,000 in legal fees, and John Ker could hardly have contested the will in such an environment. The only winners were the lawyers, and the Mostyn family who inherited the estate of Lady Essex Ker in 1819. [24]

The Heiress di Montalde (1799)

Anne Ker’s autobiographical references in The Heiress di Montalde are of uneven credibility, but the incorrect data are nonetheless revealing, and may shed light on her marriage and the birth of her child Louisa.

On the one hand, she reveals herself as ‘Miss P–‘, the narrator of the story. [25] In a footnote (I, 2), she identifies her father as the canal writer John Phillips, the author of A General History of Inland Navigation (1792). She claims that she went with her father to France in the spring 1787 (I, 9), when he was studying canals including the Canal of Languedoc (the Canal du Midi). At one stage in the novel, Miss P– is in a library; asked if she likes to read she replies ‘I am exceedingly fond of that amusement, my Lord’ (I, 217). Miss P– is addressed as ‘My dear Anne’ (I, 219). This much is credible. On the other hand, she falsifies her age, the date of her return from the Continent, and possibly the reason for her going there. She gives her age as eighteen in the spring of 1787, but she was actually twenty then (I, 14). She claims to have spent two-and-a-half years on the Continent, not returning to England until about October 1789 (II, 189), but she was actually married near London on 1 November 1788. She states that she had been to the Continent partly for the recovery of her health (I, 1), but the main reason may have been to obscure the relationship between the birthdate of her child Louisa (presently unproven) and the date of her marriage.

A Louisa, daughter of John and Ann Carr, was born on 6 December 1786 and baptised in the parish of St Pancras on 4 March 1787. [26] This was the same venue as the apparently secret marriage of John Kerr and Anne Phillips on 1 November 1788, when John was described as a widower. ‘John Carr’ and ‘John Kerr’ may have been different people, but it is plausible that they were one and the same person, and that Louisa Carr was a child of John’s first marriage to another Ann. Another scenario might be that John was in a relationship with Anne Phillips when Louisa was born. Anne may have gone to the Continent with her father soon after Louisa was baptised, and returned to London prior to her marriage in November 1788, by which time she was aged almost twenty-two and could marry without her father’s consent. (Her father may have remained abroad.) It may be coincidence, but in The Heiress di Montalde Anne receives a note addressed to ‘Miss Anne Elinor P–‘ (I, 222), while in Adeline St Julian a heroine named Elinor has a clandestine marriage. This Louisa is considered to be the daughter who married at St James’s, Piccadilly in 1811. John and Anne were in attendance and signed their names in the same handwriting as at their own marriage but spelt their surname as ‘Ker’ instead of ‘Kerr’.

Postscript to Part I

Anne and John were in reduced circumstances when Anne applied for help from the Royal Literary Fund in 1820-21, saying that she was ‘destitute of friends’. At that time, their daughter Louisa was living on the Continent; Louisa’s son Cornelius William Uhr was born in Bremen in May 1819 and baptised in London in September 1821. [27] Anne died at Southwark leaving an estate of under £200; administration was granted to her husband John Ker on 5 December 1823. [28] Louisa’s married daughter Mary Louisa Jones emigrated to Australia in December 1824, taking with her a copy of The Heiress di Montalde. This copy contains Anne Ker’s signature as well as a printed portrait of Anne, presumably the frontispiece cut and pasted from a copy of Modern Faults (1804). An album that belonged to Mary Louisa Jones contains a portrait that could be a likeness of Anne Ker, and a lithograph of ‘Lord Waldegrave’s in Rockingham’, Northamptonshire. A manuscript copy of ‘A Ker-ish Trick’ handed down since early days in Australia may indicate that a copy of Edric, the Forester found its way to Australia. Seven children of Louisa’s two marriages migrated to Australia, taking with them heirlooms associated with Anne and John Ker, including Anne’s sampler and a signet ring engraved with a unicorn’s head and the motto of the Dukes of Roxburgh.

J. Ker: Publisher and Bookseller of the Gothic

J. Ker of 4 Greek Street, Soho Square, has been mentioned as a well-known publisher of bluebooks-slim inexpensive books of Gothic fiction with blue paper covers that proliferated in the early 1800s. [29] This was the period when Anne Ker flourished as a Gothic novelist. Her fifth novel Modern Faults (1804) was published by ‘J. Ker, 34 Great Surrey Street, Black Friars Road’. It is tempting to float the hypothesis that J. Ker, the publisher, should be identified with John Ker, the husband of Anne Ker, the novelist.

John Ker intriguingly referred to himself as ‘J. Ker’ in the text of his poem ‘A Ker-ish Trick’, and in his signature at the end of the poem. This was published in the prefatory material of Anne Ker’s novel Edric the Forester (1817). [30] The title page declared the Kers’ family relationship to the aristocracy, a connection that may have been kept hidden from the book trade. It seems that John and Anne Ker were ready to unveil the fact that the publisher J. Ker was none other than the son of a deceased duke-a revelation like the denouement of a Gothic mystery. In Edric the Forester, Edric and his army attempt to take St Egbert’s Castle. The story ends with the revelation that Edric, separated at birth from his family, is actually the heir to Castle St Egbert. For those who read between the lines, Edric was John Ker, and Castle St Egbert was Floors Castle in Roxburghshire.

Apart from his poem and his novelist wife, John Ker had other associations with books and the book trade, and these tend to support the hypothesis. His probable father, John Ker, Third Duke of Roxburgh (1740-1804) was a noted collector of rare books and kept an extensive library in London. His father-in-law, John Phillips, was an author of non-fiction, including the best-selling A General History of Inland Navigation (1792) which ran to five editions; the fifth, in 1805, was published by B. Crosby & Co., of Stationers’ Court, Paternoster Row (next to Stationers’ Hall between Ludgate Street and Amen Corner), London. Phillips was editor of an annual publication, Crosby’s Builder’s New Price Book, until his death in 1813. Crosby and Co. were also the sole sellers of Anne Ker’s self-published novel The Mysterious Count (1803).

The hypothesis can now be regarded as proven thanks to Angela Koch’s research concerning the bluebooks published by J. Ker, c.1800-04. Koch has opened an extensive window on the bluebooks in her checklist published previously in Cardiff Corvey. [31] Details in the checklist reveal additional links between J. Ker and Anne Ker, in respect of business and private addresses, choice of printers, and the publishing by J. Ker of bluebooks that were probably written by Anne Ker. It emerges that the identification of J. Ker-publisher and bookseller-with John Ker, husband of Anne Ker, is now irresistible. As a result, the biography of John and Anne Ker is more fully known.

Of the 217 bluebook titles catalogued by Koch, 14 were associated with J. Ker as publisher and/or seller. The 14 titles are listed in the appendix to this paper; each title is headed by its number in the Koch checklist and followed by data abridged from the checklist. Ten of these bluebooks were published with J. Ker as the principal publisher, at one or other of his various addresses in the suburbs of London. Five distinct addresses are specified, ranging from Soho and Holborn north of the Thames to Blackfriars Road and the Elephant & Castle on the south side. In Table I (below), these ten bluebooks are grouped by their locations without implying any chronological sequence, and Anne Ker’s novel Modern Faults is also included.

J. Ker’s Address

Koch #

Title & Earliest Known/Inferred Date



4 Greek Street, Soho Square


The Castle of St Gerald, or the Fatal Vow

Most booksellers

90 High Holborn


Clairville Castle, or the History of Albert and Emma [.]

Kemmish, 17 King-Street [now Newcomen Street], Borough

Kemmish, Wilmott & Hill, Perks, Elliot, Barfoot, Dixon, Evans, Howard & Evans, Neil, Champante & Whitrow.

90 High Holborn


Duncan, or the Shade of Gertrude [.].

Neil, Chalton-Street, Sommers Town

Neil, Hughes, Muggeridge, Wilmot & Hill, Perks, Elliot, Barfoot, Dixon, Evans, Howard & Evans.

40 London Road, near the Elephant & Castle, Southwark


Cronstadt Castle, or the Mysterious Visitor [1803]


Kemmish, Hughes, Muggeridge, Perks, Elliot, Barfoot, Dixon, Wilmot & Hill, Hodgson, Evans.

40 London Road, near the Elephant & Castle, Southwark


The Prophetic Warning, or the Castle of Lindendorff [.] by a young gentleman of note. 1800


Kemmish, Hughes, Wilmot & Hill, Barfoot, Perks, Dixon, Hodgson, Evans.

2 Green-Walk, Bear-Lane, Christ-Church, Surrey


Lilly of Navarre, or Banditti of the Forest

By Sarah Wilkinson [1804]

Cranwell, Long-Lane [now named West Smithfield], West Smithfield

Hughes, Muggeridge, Elliot

2 Green-Walk, Bear-Lane, Christ-Church, Surrey


The Three Ghosts of the Forest [.] 1803

Shury, Berwick-Street, Soho

Hughes, Muggeridge, Elliot

20 Green-Walk, Bear-Lane, Christ-Church, Surrey


Alphonso & Elinor, or the Mysterious Discovery (1802)

Tibson, Bridge-Road, Lambeth

Tibson, Elliott

34 Great Surrey Street, [portion of] Black Friars Road


The Midnight Bell, or the Abbey of St Francis [.] by the authoress of Alphonso and Elinor, Three Ghosts of the Forest, etc. [1802]


Kemmish, Hughes, Muggeridge, Elliot, Wilmot & Hill, Dixon, Barfoot,

34 Great Surrey Street, [portion of] Black Friars Road

Modern Faults, a Novel, Founded upon Facts. By Mrs Ker. 1804

M’Gowen, Church Street [now Burrell St], Blackfriars Road


34 Great Surrey Street, [portion of] Black Friars Road


The Spectre, or the Ruins of Belfont Priory. By Sarah Wilkinson [1806]34


Kemmish, Hughes, Muggeridge, Elliot

Table I: Ten Bluebooks and a Novel, Published by J. Ker

Since the known or inferred dates of publication fall between 1800 and 1806, it is likely that most of the five addresses were occupied concurrently. Other publishers, printers or sellers of bluebooks had only one address, or rarely, two concurrent ones, throughout the period. With outlets in four suburbs concurrently J. Ker had what might now be described as a chain of bookstores. His address at 90 High Holborn was on the north side of that important thoroughfare about midway between the present Procter Street and Red Lion Street. Directly opposite his shop was Red Lion Yard at 254 High Holborn. A little to the south were Lincoln’s Inn Fields. [32] Publishers and booksellers in this area profited from the sale of law books and stationery, and J. Ker at this address was described as ‘publisher and stationer’ (Koch, Item 63). John and Anne Ker lived at Holborn from the time of their marriage in 1788 until they took up residence near the Elephant & Castle during the 1810s. [33]

J. Ker’s address at 4 Greek Street, Soho Square, was on the east side of Greek Street, four doors from the square (Horwood). Nearby at 7 Berwick Street was the printery of D. N. Shury who printed for J. Ker the bluebook The Three Ghosts of the Forest (1803) and for Anne Ker the novels The Mysterious Count (1803) and Edric the Forester (1817) (Horwood). Later discussion will suggest that Anne Ker was the author of The Three Ghosts of the Forest.

South of the Thames, 40 London Road was a few doors from the Elephant & Castle, and on the north side of the road. Around 1800, this area was semi-rural, with ribbon development along main roads, and open fields at the back of the development (Horwood). Subdivision of rural land near Newington Road would create the plot of land where John and Anne resided by 1820.

2 Green Walk, Bear Lane, Christ-Church was in the Parish of Christ-Church, the parish church of which was on Blackfriars Road. This section of Blackfriars Road was then known as Great Surrey Street. Bear Lane is one block east of the church, and Green Walk (now Hopton Street) was at the end of Bear Lane north of the Church Street (now Burrell Street) intersection. 34 Great Surrey Street, Blackfriars Road, was on the east side of Blackfriars Road twelve doors south of Church Street. J. Ker’s two addresses near Christ Church are associated with six of his publications including Anne Ker’s Modern Faults (1804), printed at 15 Church Street by John MacGovern. Another printer of significance to J. Ker was Ann Kemmish, 17 King Street (now Newcomen Street), off High Street, Borough (Horwood). Kemmish printed five bluebooks for J. Ker, sold them at her premises, and republished one of them, Clairville Castle, herself (Koch, Item 43).

Among the sellers of J. Ker’s bluebooks the most frequently-named were S. Elliott of High Street, Shadwell (300 metres from St George’s in the East); T. Hughes of 1 Stationers’ Court, Ludgate Street and 15 Paternoster Row (opposite Canon Alley); and N. & J. Muggeridge of Borough. These were strategically located in the City, and in suburbs where J. Ker seems not to have had a shop of his own. By 1809, John and Anne Ker’s daughter Louisa Peterson and her family lived in Cannon Street adjactent to the church of St George in the East, then patronised by wealthy merchants, near Shadwell. [35]

Just as the topographical details lend support to the identification of J. Ker with Anne’s husband John Ker, the internal evidence of the publications gives further support. Before examining this evidence, it is well to be aware of certain aspects of the literary phenomenon known as the Gothic, particularly in the bluebook form:

  1. In nearly all bluebooks the author was anonymous.
  2. Some authors of bluebooks condensed their own longer works, but some plagiarised the works of others.
  3. Attempts to prove connexions between titles, dramatis personae, and topics are hazardous. The literary critics of the day found this difficult to grasp. A modern commentator writes ‘Gothic thrives so much on convention that to cite direct sources is often impossible when so many works share the same stock episodes, characters, and even phrases’. [36]
  4. With this caveat, the trend of Gothic was strongly influenced by Matthew Lewis’s novel The Monk (1796) and Francis Lathom’s The Midnight Bell (1798). In 1799-1804, when J. Ker and Anne Ker flourished, these models had an influence both on their writings and on the titles they chose for their works.
  5. For both novels and bluebooks, the title was a key element in the marketing strategy; even if a work was original, the title was chosen to attract readers aroused by the horror, mystery, and salacious doings found in the works of Lewis and Lathom.

Bearing in mind these cautions, I would propose that Anne Ker is the ‘authoress’ of three of J. Ker’s bluebooks: The Midnight Bell, or the Abbey of St Francis (1802) claimed on its title page to be ‘by the authoress of Alphonso and Elinor, The Three Ghosts of the Forest, etc.‘. Was Anne Ker the real authoress? The following facts establish that this might very likely be the case:

  1. All three titles were published by J. Ker about 1802-03, although the exact chronological sequence is uncertain.
  2. The Three Ghosts of the Forest was printed at the same printery and in the same year as Anne Ker’s The Mysterious Count (1803).
  3. While forests were a stock subject in bluebooks, it may be relevant to note that a spirit in the Forest of Amans featured in Anne Ker’s Adeline St Julian, that the Forest of Amiens featured in both Emmeline; or, the Happy Discovery (1801) and Modern Faults, and that the hero of Edric, the Forester was raised in a forest.
  4. The title Alphonso and Elinor reflects the names of two personae in Anne Ker’s Adeline St Julian (1800).
  5. The name Elinor is not widely used in Gothic literature (but compare the use of ‘Ellinor’ in Arthur and Ellinor-Koch, Item 183), yet it occurs in Anne Ker’s part-autobiographical novel The Heiress di Montalde (1799), where the narrator is revealed as Anne Elinor Phillips.
  6. J. Ker might well have encouraged Anne Ker to turn an episode from Adeline St Julian into a bluebook. He was unlikely to publish a plagiarised version of her novel, for fear of the potentially acid rebuke of which she was capable.
  7. The Midnight Bell, or the Abbey of St Francis is suggestive of Anne’s title Adeline St Julian, or the Midnight Hour.

With respect to (d), it is admitted here that the choice of the name Alphonso was characteristic of the Gothic. The name was known also from Lewis’s popular drama Alfonso, King of Castile, first performed at Covent Garden on 15 January 1802. Points (d) and (e) should be taken together. With regard to (g), this observation is not without interest. Lathom’s Midnight Bell is indicative of the Gothic motif of bells ringing at midnight, while Lewis used similar phrases such as ‘the Castle-Bell announced the hour of midnight’ in The Monk. Montague Summers is no doubt correct in asserting that the bluebook The Midnight Bell was derived from Lathom’s work of the same name. [37] But it is possible that only the title was derived from Lathom (and the notorious Lewis) as a deliberate marketing ploy, and that the text of the bluebook was derived from one of Anne Ker’s own works. All in all, the idea that Anne Ker was the ‘authoress’ of these three bluebooks is attractive.

Another bluebook title of interest is The Prophetic Warning, or the Castle of Lindendorff (1800) with the extension ‘An Original Romance. By a Young Gentleman of Note’. The title suggests an affinity with Lewis’s The Monk, which features a Castle of Lindenberg. Indeed a bluebook entitled The Castle of Lindenberg (1799), printed and sold by Simon Fisher, consists of the Raymond and Agnes episode from The Monk, and later editions attributed the original authorship to ‘the late G. M. [sic] Lewis, Esq.’ (Koch 184; Lewis died in 1818). The most notable young gentleman and Gothic author in the year 1800 certainly was Matthew Lewis, then aged twenty-five. Whoever the real author of The Prophetic Warning might have been, J. Ker certainly used clever marketing on its title page.

Among the 150 or so bluebooks in Koch’s checklist that can be dated, only 11 were initially published before 1801; The Prophetic Warning stands among the earliest seven per cent of the bluebooks of known date. During 1799-1801 only 18 bluebooks of known date were issued, the majority published by Ann Lemoine of White Rose Court, Coleman Street, and S. Fisher, printer of 10 St John’s Lane, Clerkenwell. Did not Ann Lemoine, of Huguenot descent, have the peculiar advantage of a surname that evoked the French-language title of The Monk (Le Moine)? J. Ker needed inspired salesmanship for the next heady phase of his career, and the spectre of Anne Ker was arguably prompting him in the wings.

Interestingly, the bluebook Edmund and Albina (1801-Koch, Item 65) was published by both J. Ker and Ann Lemoine in the same year. In 1799, Lemoine had published Kilverstone Castle (Koch, Item 91) with a three-page teaser at the end entitled ‘Edmund and Albina. A Fragment’, presumably a preview of the bluebook.

What else may we surmise concerning J. Ker? We may speculate that the ‘young gentleman’ was J. Ker himself, a man not lacking in literary ability. If he cheekily described himself as a ‘young gentleman of note’ (he was then aged about 38) the phrase would have been recognizable to his close friends; the same self-mocking humour is evident in his later poem ‘A Ker-ish Trick’.

Conclusion to Part II
Although the identification of J. Ker with John Ker, husband of Anne Ker, has not been proved absolutely, there is abundant evidence supportive of such a contention—through shared family connections and interests, publishing history, and the proximity of business and residential addresses. Many are likely to agree that the identification has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. Moreover, further light has been shed on the dark and misty world of the Gothic and the obfuscations of its authors and publishers.

1. John Gladstone Steele, The Petersons and the Uhrs: An Australian Family since 1825 (Brisbane, 2003).

2. R. A. Howard, ‘Anne Ker: A Biographical and Bibliographical Study’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 11 (Dec 2003). Online: Internet (June 2004):

3. John Talbot White, The Scottish Border and Northumberland (London: Eyre Methuen, 1973), p. 124.

4. Sidney Lee, ‘John Ker’, DNB; George Edward Cokayne (ed.), The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, 13 vols (1887–98; revised edn, Gloucester: A. Sutton, 1982), V, 225

5. Gentleman’s Magazine 74 (1804), 383

6. Sampler, in private collection.

7. Register of Baptisms, St Luke’s.

8. Rate Books, 1767–69; W. H. Godfrey, Survey of London: The Parish of Chelsea, edd. M. H. Cox and P. Norman (London: Batsford for the London City Council, 1909), II, 83.

9. Register of Marriages, St Pancras.

10. Walter Riddell Carre, Border Memories, ed. J. Tait (Edinburgh and London: J. Thin, 1876), p. 97.

11. Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Letters of Administration, Public Record Office, London PROB 6/199, f. 137 (5 Dec 1823).

12. Thomas S. Paton, et al., Reports of Cases Decided in the House of Lords upon Appeal from Scotland, 6 vols (Edinburgh and London: T. & T. Clark, 1849–56), V, 553.

13. Will of John Duke of Roxburghe, PRO, PROB 11/1520, ff. 309–19; Carre, p. 110.

14. Register of Marriages, St James’s Church; Arthur Irwin Dasent, The History of St James’s Square (London: Macmillan and Co., 1895), pp. 135–37, 255; Complete Peerage, V, 224

15. Sir James Balfour Paul (ed.), The Scots Peerage Founded on Wood’s Edition of Sir Robert Douglas’s Peerage of Scotland, 9 vols (Edinburgh: Douglas, 1904–14), VII, 353.

16. Carre, pp. 111–12.

17. Anon., Floors Castle (Derby: Pilgrim Press Ltd, 1979), p. 16.

18. Archives of the Royal Literary Fund, 1790–1918 (RLF), 145 reels (London: World Microfilms Publications, 1982), Reel 12 (Case 424). Original letters held at the British Museum Library, Department of Manuscripts.

19. Mathew Stobie, Plan of Fleurs, the Seat of His Grace John Duke of Roxburgh (1798).

20. Scots Peerage, VII, 354.

21. Carre, pp. 95 and 101.

22. A copy of the ring impression is held by the author.

23. Will of John Duke of Roxburghe, PRO, PROB 11/1520, ff. 309–19.

24. Gentleman’s Magazine 89 (1819), 286.

25. See Anne Ker, The Heiress di Montalde; or, the Castle of Bezanto, 2 vols (London: For the Author, 1799), I, 1. Subsequent references are from this edn, and are given in the text.

26. Register of Baptisms, St Pancras.

27. RLF; Baptism Register, St George’s in the East

28. Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Letters of Administration, PRO, PROB 6/199, f. 137.

29. Montague Summers, The Gothic Quest. A history of the Gothic Novel (1938; New York: Russell & Russell, 1964), p. 83.

30. See Howard, Section IV, Item 4.

31. Angela Koch, ‘ “The Absolute Horror of Horrors” Revised. A Bibliographical Checklist of Early-Nineteenth-Century Gothic Bluebooks’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 9 (Dec 2002). Online: Internet (July 2004):

32. Details taken from Richard Horwood, Map of London, Westminster & Southwark Shewing every House, 1792–9. Subsequent references to this map will be given parenthetically in the text as Horwood.

33. Register of Marriages, Parish of St Pancras; Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Letters of Administration, PRO, PROB6/199, f. 137 (5 Dec 1823); RLF, Reel 12 (Case 424).

34. The dating of this item is taken from Franz Potter, ‘Writing for the Spectre of Poverty: Exhuming Sarah Wilkinson’s Bluebooks and Novels’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 11 (Dec 2003). Online: Internet (July 2004):

35. Land Tax Books for St George’s in the East, Guildhall Library.

36. Howard Anderson, ‘Introduction’ to M. G. Lewis, The Monk (1796; Oxford: OUP, 1973, rptd 1998), p. xiii.

37. Summers, p. 84.

14 Bluebooks with J. Ker as Publisher and/or Seller, Abridged from the Koch Checklist

Koch 7
London: Printed [by Tibson, Lambeth] for & Sold by J. Ker, No. 20, Green-Walk, Bear-Lane, Christ Church, Surry; and to Be Had of S. Tibson, at the Surry Printing-Office, Bridge-Road, Lambeth; and S. Elliott, No. 9, High Street, Shadwell, n.d.
42p. 12mo. Frontispiece bears legend: ‘Is it possible that thou art Alphonso exclaimed a voice which seemed familiar to his ears’. 6d.

Koch 37
London: Published and Sold by J. Ker, No. 4, Greek-Street, Soho Square; and to Be Had of most Booksellers in Town and Country, n.d.
34p; pp. 33–34: ‘The Value of Time’. 12mo. Frontispiece. 6d.

Koch 43
London: Printed [by A. Kemmish, King-Street, Borough] for, and Sold by J. Ker, No. 90, High Holborn. Sold also by Wilmott and Hill, 50, Borough; Perks, Stationer, 21, St. Martin’s Lane; T. Elliot, High-Street, Shadwell; Barfoot, Norton-Falgate; Dixon, Rochester; T. Evans, 79, Long-Lane; Howard and Evans, 42, Long-Lane, West-Smithfield; Kemmish, 17, King-Street, Borough; Neil, 448, Strand; and Champante and Whitrow, Jury Street, Aldgate, n.d.
38p; pp. [34]-38: ‘Ogus & Cara Khan, or the Force of Love. 8vo. Frontispiece bears legend: ‘Bernard and Emma taking farewell of their Cottage to escape the snares of Morenzi. 6d.
*Further edn: London: A. Kemmish, n.d.

Koch 47
Surry: Printed by A. Kemmish, 17, King-Street, Borough-for and Published by J. Ker, 40, London Road, near the Elephant and Castle, Southwark-Sold also by Hughes, Stationer’s Court-N. and J. Muggeridge, Borough; Wilmott and Hill, 50, Borough; A. Kemmish, King-Street, Borough; Perks, Stationer, 12. St. Martin’s Lane; Elliott, High-Street, Shadwell; Barfoot, Norton-Falgate; Dixon, Rochester; Hodgson, 20, Strand; T. Evans, 79, Long-Lane, West-Smithfield, &c., [1803].
38p; pp. [34]-38: The Unfortunate Victim. 12mo. 6d.

Koch 60
London: Printed [by T. Plummer, Seething-Lane, Tower-Street] for Tegg and Castleman, No. 122, St. John’s-Street, West Smithfield; T. Hurst, Paternoster-Row; T. Brown, Edinburgh; and B. Dugdale, Dublin. And Sold by Champante & Whitrow, Aldgate; Wilmot and Hill, Borough; T. Hughes, Queen’s-Head-Passage, London; J. Belcher, Birmingham; T. Troughton, Liverpool; I. Mitchell, Newcastle upon Tyne; B. Sellick, Bristol; E. Peck, York; M. Swindells, Clarke, and Co., Manchester; T. Binns, Leeds; J. Dingle, Bury St. Edmund’s, and All Other Booksellers in the United Kingdom, [1803].
36p. 12mo. Frontispiece. Quotation from Virgil. 36p. 12mo. [1s].
*Bound to this without title page: Highland Heroism; or the Castles of Glencoe and Balloch. A Scottish Legend of the Sixteenth Century (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803]). 36p. 12mo.
Further edns: London: Dean & Munday, n.d.; London: J. Ker, n.d.; On single edition of Highland Heroism, see Item 62 of the main Koch checklist.

Koch 63
London: Printed [by Neil, Chalton-Street, Sommers Town, and No. 448, Strand] for and Sold by J. Ker, Publisher and Stationer, No. 90, High Holborn; Sold also by A. Neil, 448, Strand; T. Hughes, Stationers’-Court; M. &. J. Muggeridge, and Wilmott & Hill, Borough; Perks, 21, St. Martin’s Lane; S. Elliott, High-Street, Shadwell; Barfoot, Norton Falgate; Dixon, Rochester; T. Evans, 79, and Howard & Evans, Long-Lane, West Smithfield, n.d.
40p. 12mo. Frontispiece bears legend: ‘Lord Pevensey sacrificing the Thane of Fife in his jealous rage’. 6d.

Koch 65
London: Printed by T. Maiden, Sherbourne-Lane, for Ann Lemoine, White-Rose Court, Coleman-Street, and Sold by T. Hurst, Paternoster-Row, 1801.
48p. 12mo. Frontispiece bears legend: ‘Albina rescued from the Ruffians’. Quotation from Shakespeare. 9d.
*Further edn: London: J. Ker, 1801.

Koch 112
London: Printed [by A. Kemmish, King-Street, Borough] for, & Sold by J. Ker, 34, Great Surrey-Street, Blackfriars Road; Hughes, Stationer’s Court; N. & J. Muggeridge, Borough; S. Elliot, Shadwell; Willmot and Hill, Borough; Dixon, Bookseller and Stationer, Rochester; J. Barfoot, 27, Norton-Falgate; and A. Kemmish, Printer, 17, King-Street, Borough, [1802].
40p. 12mo. Coloured frontispiece bears legend: ‘Just as she approached the Tomb, the same mysterious form issued form thence and slowly glided by her’. 6d.

Koch 140
Southwark: Printed by Ann Kemmish, 17, King-Street, Borough, for and Sold by J. Ker, 40, London-Road, near the Elephant and Castle, Southwark. Sold also by T. Hughes, Stationers’ Court; Wilmott and Hill, Borough; Kemmish, King-Street Borough; Barfoot, Norton-Falgate; Perks, 12, St. Matin’s Lane; Dixon, Rochester; Hodgson, 20, Strand; T. Evans, Long-Lane, Smithfield, &c., &c., n.d.
38p; pp. 35-38: ‘Rinaldo and Adeline; or the Ghost of St. Cyril’. 12mo. Frontispiece bears legend: ‘The spirit of the Marchioness warning Edwin, and Mathilda of her Brother Alfreds [sic] treachery. 6d.
*Further edn: London: J. Ker, 1800.

Koch 159
London: Printed, by C. and W. Galabin, Ingram-Court, for M. Tuck, Circulating Library, near the Adam and Eve, Peckham; and Sold by Champante and Whitrow, Aldgate; J. Cleverly, No. 6, Barbican; Kerr, No. 36, Blackfriers [sic]-Road; T. Evans, Long-Lane, Smithfield; and All Other Booksellers in Town and Country, n.d.
44p. 12mo. Frontispiece. 6d.

Koch 163
London: Printed [by T. Plummer, Seething-Lane, Tower-Street] for Thomas Tegg and Co. No. 122, St. John’s-Street, West Smithfield; T. Hurst, Paternoster-Row; T. Brown, Edinburgh; and B. Dugdale, Dublin. And Sold by Champante & Whitrow, Aldgate; Wilmot and Hill, Borough; T. Hughes, Queen’s-Head-Passage, London; J. Dingle, Bury; T. Gibbons, Bath; T. Lamb, T. Matthews, and Messrs Cowley and Richardson; Bristol; Messrs. Clarke & Co. M. Swindale, and J. Reddish, Manchester; N. Rollaston, Coventry; T. Richards and W. Gray, Plymouth; Harrod and Turner, Nottingham; T. Binns, Leeds; T. Newling and M. Wood, Shrewsbury; W. Troughton and W. Jones, Liverpool; J. Legg, Gosport; T. Crooks, Rotherham; J. Belsher, Birmingham; and Every Other Bookseller in England, Scotland and Ireland, [1803].
72p. 12mo. Frontispiece. Quotation from Hamlet. [1s].
*Further edns: London: J. Ker, n.d.; London: Tegg & Co., 1802.

Koch 167
London: Printed by D. N. Shury, Berwick Street, Soho; for, and Sold by J. Ker, No. 2, Green Walk, Bear Lane, Christ Church, Surry; also Sold by T. Hughes, Paternoster Row; N. and J. Muggeridge, Borough; and S. Elliot, High Street, Shadwell, 1803.
36p; pp. 34-36: ‘The Miraculous Preservation of Androcles’. 12mo. Frontispiece.

Koch 196
WILKINSON, Sarah [Scudgell].
London: Printed [by J. Cranwell, Long-Lane] for J. Ker, No. 2, Green-Walk, Bear-Lane, Christ-Church, Surry. Sold also by T. Hughes, Stationers [sic]-Court, Ludgate-Street; N. and J. Muggeridge, Borough; and S. Elliott, High-Street, Shadwell, [1804].
38p. 12mo. Frontispiece. 6d.

Koch 207
[WILKINSON, Sarah Scudgell].
London: Printed by A. Kemmish, 17, King-Street, Borough-for and Sold by J. Ker, 34, Great Surrey-Street, Blackfriars Road. Also Sold by T. Hughes, Stationer’s Court; N. and J. Muggeridge, Borough; A. Kemmish, King-Street, Borough; and S. Elliot, High-Street, Shadwell, n.d.
40p; pp. 31-35: ‘Eugenia; or, the Carnival of Venice’; pp. 36-40: ‘The Treacherous Lover; or, the Fatal Effects of Deception’. 8vo. Frontispiece. Quotation from Blaine. 6d.