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Joseph Henry Shorthouse (9 September 1834 – March 1903) was an English novelist.[1] His first novel, John Inglesant, was particularly admired, as a "philosophical romance".

Joseph Henry Shorthouse
J H Shorthouse.jpg
Born(1834-09-09)9 September 1834
Birmingham, England
Died4 March 1903(1903-03-04) (aged 68)
EducationGrove School, Tottenham



Shorthouse was born in Great Charles Street, Birmingham, on 9 September 1834. He was the eldest of the three sons of Joseph Shorthouse (1797–1880) and his wife, Mary Ann, née Hawker, and grew up in Calthorpe Street, Edgbaston. His father had inherited a family chemical works manufacturing vitriol, and his mother's father had founded the first glasshouse in Birmingham.[1] Both families were Quakers. He was educated partly at home and partly at Grove School, Tottenham, and became a chemical manufacturer. He married a childhood friend, Sarah Scott (1832–1909), eldest daughter of John and Elizabeth Scott, at the Friends' meeting-house in Warwick on 19 August 1857.

Two events of importance ensued. He and his wife joined the Church of England in 1861, and he had the first of many attacks of epilepsy in January 1862. Shorthouse later identified himself with "the new Oxford school of High Churchmen", but he preferred the freedom and reason of the Anglican church to the authority over private judgement that he saw exercised by Roman Catholicism.[1]

Shorthouse's health began to deteriorate in 1900 and he died at his home, 60 Wellington Road, Edgbaston, on 4 March 1903. He left no children.[1]

John InglesantEdit

Shorthouse spent ten years up to 1876 working on his first book, John Inglesant, which initially appeared privately. It was eventually noticed by Mrs Humphry Ward and through her intervention by Alexander Macmillan, who published it commercially in 1881. A story of 17th-century religious intrigue and faith, it hinges on the story of a man who fights on the Royalist side in the Civil War, moves between Anglican and Catholic circles, and forgives the man who murdered his brother.[1]

It at once made him famous. Though said to be deficient in its structure as a story and unappealing to the populace, it fascinated people by the charm of its style and a "dim religious light" with which it was suffused, and by occasional striking scenes. More recently it has been described as "one of the best examples of the philosophical romance in English literature".[2] Shorthouse dedicated it to Rawdon Levett, his friend and fellow teacher at King Edward's School, Birmingham.[3] Other admirers of the work included T. H. Huxley, Charlotte Yonge and Edmund Gosse. He was invited to breakfast by the prime minister, Gladstone, at 10 Downing Street.[1] The book sold 9000 copies in its first year.[2]

Other worksEdit

Shorthouse's other novels, The Little Schoolmaster Mark (1883), Sir Percival (1886), The Countess Eve (1888), A Teacher of the Violin (1888) and Blanche, Lady Falaise (1891)[4] have some of the same characteristics, but were unsuccessful compared with the first. Shorthouse also wrote literary essays, including one called "The Platonism of Wordsworth".

The Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of J. H. Shorthouse was edited by the author's wife and published in 1905.[5] A biographical study of Shorthouse appeared in 1995.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barbara Dennis, ‘Shorthouse, Joseph Henry (1834–1903)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 Nov 2012: doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/36077
  2. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  3. ^ A Great Schoolmaster, The Mathematical Gazette, William John Greenstreet (ed.), B. Bell & Sons, London, 1923.
  4. ^ NNDB Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  5. ^ London: Macmillan. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  6. ^ Charles W. Spurgeon: J. Henry Shorthouse, the Author of John Inglesant (Parkland, FL: Dissertation Com) Retrieved 9 December 2015.


  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). "Shorthouse, Joseph Henry". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource.

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