Thomas Cadell the elder (17421802; fl. 17651802)



  • Bookseller
  • Publisher

Thomas Cadell the elder, bookseller and publisher; at 141 Strand, opposite Catherine Street (1776–1802).

Dictionary of National Biography (1885–1900)

CADELL, THOMAS, the elder (1742–1802), bookseller and publisher, was born of poor parents in Wine Street, Bristol, in 1742. In 1758 he was apprenticed to the great London bookseller and publisher, Andrew Millar, of the Strand. Cadell soon proved his capacity; in 1765 he became Millar's partner, and in 1767 took over the business altogether. He followed Millar's example of treating authors liberally, fully maintained the reputation of the publishing house, and brought out the best books of the day. Robertson, Gibbon, and Blackstone were among the writers whose works he published, and Cadell was intimate with Dr. Johnson, to whom he offered a large sum of money for a volume of ‘Devotional Exercises,’ which was declined ‘from motives of the sincerest modesty’ (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes , ii. 552). Cadell was one of the original members of the famous dining club of booksellers which met monthly at the Shakespeare Tavern in Wych Street, Strand, and he was popular among his rivals in trade, whom he treated with unvarying fairness. For some years William Strahan (M.P. for Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, from 1780 to 1784) was Cadell's partner in his business, and subsequently Strahan's son Andrew took his father's place. Cadell retired from business in 1793 with a fortune, and was succeeded by his only son, Thomas Cadell the younger [see below]. His generous temperament is attested by his kindness to his own and Millar's chief assistant, Robin Lawless. On his retirement Cadell had Lawless's portrait painted by Sir William Beechey, and ‘always showed it to his friends as the chief ornament of his drawing-room.’ On the death, in 1788, of Millar's widow, who had married Sir Archibald Grant, Cadell acted as one of her executors. Subsequently Cadell was elected (30 March 1798) alderman of Walbrook ward in the city of London, and served the office of sheriff, 1800–1. During his shrievalty he was master of the Stationers' Company, and presented a stained glass window to the Stationers' Hall. He died on 27 Dec. 1802 at his house in Bloomsbury Place. He was treasurer of the Foundling Hospital and governor of many public charities. His portrait, by Sir William Beechey, still hangs in the court room of the Stationers' Company. His wife died in January 1786, but his son and a daughter survived him. The latter married Dr. Charles Lucas Edridge, rector of Shipdam, Norfolk, and chaplain to George III, and died on 20 Sept. 1829 (Nichols, Lit. Illustrations , viii. 552).

Thomas Cadell the younger (1773–1836), one of the court of assistants of the Stationers' Company, conducted the publishing business with all his father's success from 1793 till his death on 23 Nov. 1836. His father chose William Davies as his son's partner, and the firm was styled Cadell & Davies until the latter's death in 1819. In the ‘Percy Correspondence,’ printed in Nichols's ‘Illustrations,’ vols. vii. and viii., are many references to the dealings of this firm with Bishop Percy and his friends. Cadell married in 1802 a daughter of Robert Smith and sister of the authors of the ‘Rejected Addresses.’ By her he had a large family, but the business was not continued after his death. Mrs. Cadell died on 11 May 1848 ( Gent. Mag . 1837, pt. i. p. 110; Nichols, Lit. Illustrations, viii. 110).

[Nichols's Literary Anecdotes is crowded with references to Cadell. A memoir is printed (vi. 441–3) from Gent. Mag. (1802), pt. ii. pp. 1173, 1222. A few additional facts are given in the last volume (viii.) of Nichols's Lit. Illustrations.]

A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1726 to 1775, by Henry Plomer et al. (1932)

CADELL (Thomas), bookseller and publisher in London, Strand, 1742–1802. Son of Thomas Cadell, a bookseller in Wine Street, Bristol, where he was born in 1742. In 1758 he was sent to London and apprenticed to Andrew Millar. Nichols has described him as a man "eminently characterized by the rectitude of his judgement, the goodness of his heart, the benevolence of his disposition, and the urbanity of his manners". He rose rapidly in his profession, was admitted as a partner in the firm in 1765, and succeeded to the business on the retirement of Millar in 1767. On April 1st, 1769, he married the daughter of Mr. Thomas Jones of the Strand. [Middlesex Journal, No. 1. Tues. April 4, 1769, third leaf, col. 3.] Like his predecessor he was a generous patron of authors. Cadell was one of the coterie of booksellers who met at the Chapter Coffee House and arranged the publication of several great undertakings, including The Works of the English Poets to which Dr. Johnson wrote the prefaces, Blackstone's Commentaries, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, and Cook's Voyages. From 1780 to 1784 William Strahan was his partner and was succeeded in that position by his son Andrew. Cadell retired from business in 1793 and was elected Alderman of the Ward of Walbrook in 1798. He died in 1802 at his house in Bloomsbury, and one of his last acts was to present a stained-glass window to the Company of Stationers, of which he had been a liveryman for thirty-seven years. [Timperley, 1842, pp. 804, 805.]

Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History, ed. Ian Maxted (2005–)

CADELL, Thomas I, bookseller, Strand 1767-1780K; 141, Strand 1781L-1845P. Trading: as Thomas Cadell 1767-1793; as Cadell and Davies 1793-1819; as Thomas Cadell 1819-1845P. B. 1742, Wine Street, Bristol, s. of Thomas C., bookseller; d. 27 Dec. 1802, Bloomsbury Place. App. Andrew Millar 1758, free Sta. Co. 1765, livery 1765, master 1799. Partner with Millar 1765. Succ. to his business and his support for literature 1767. Warehouse destroyed by fire 2 Mar. 1776. William Strahan partner 1780-84, Andrew Strahan partner 178593. Retired leaving shop to only son Thomas with William Davies as partner 1793. Knew Johnson, Hume and many other notables. Publ. Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 1776-88, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations 1776. One of publishers of Johnson's English Poets. His business described as "the first in Great Britain and perhaps in Europe". Gave window to Sta. Co. hall 1801. Member of the Shakespeare dining club. Alderman Walbrook ward 1798, sheriff 1800. Treasurer of Foundling Hospital and associated with many other charities. Died of asthmatic attack. Married 1769, wife d. 31 Dec. 1785, sister Sarah d. July 1781. Imprint(s): Kress: 1775: A7098, 7110, 7121-4, 7131, 7173-5(R); 1776: A7195, 7210, 7226-9, 7241, 7235, 7243-4, 7250, 7261(S), 7262(S), 7267, 7268-9(R); 1777; B5, 6, 9, 18, 47(S), 71-2, 74: 1778: B97, 145, 147(D), 148(D), 150(D), 154(S); 1779: B198, 215; 1780: B269, 282, 310, 311, 326, 340; 1781: B352, 432(R); 1782: B438, 456, 492, 512, 518, 526(R), 527, 528; 1783: 8587, 600,6246, 645, 654(S), 661-2, S5030; 1784: B712, 714, 770, 789(S), 804-5; 1785: B837, 840, 939, 973, 975-8; 1786: B1128, 1129(S); 1787; B1199, 1225, 1245, 1258, 1274, 1334; 1788: B1365, 1432, 1445, 1451, 1492; 1789: B1520, 1697, 1722(S), S5250; 1790: B1984(S), 1988(S); 1791: B2032, 2161, 2182(S), 2203-4, 2209(S), 2234; 1792: B2358, 2389(S), 2411(S); 1793: B2618(S); 1794: B2822(S), S5459(S). (D=publ. with J. Dodsley, R=printed by R. Raikes, Gloucester, S=publ. with William or Andrew Strahan.). DNB; Plomer; Humphries and Smith; Nichols vi, 441-3, iii, 388, 606; Timperley 736, 804-5; Brown; Musgrave.

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