I've written about him and his publications about whist and quadrille many times. The most important essay was a series (parts one, two, and three) establishing conclusively that it was he and not Anna Letitia Barbauld who wrote Short Rules for Short Memories at the Game of Whist under the pseudonym "Bob Short".
The rabbit hole is the Withy biography. I happened on some fascinating sources and wanted to pull them together, much as I did for bookseller Francis Cogan. The most important source is an article in Miscellanea, Genealogica et Heraldica, volume III, new series, edited by Joseph Jackson Howard, London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1880. The article is called "Pedigree of Withy of Berry Norbert and Westminster" and includes information compiled by the Vicar of All Saints', Lambeth and transcribes genealogical information from the Withy family bible. It is available for download from Google Books.
I have a couple of other interesting sources that I will save for a later part.
Here is the first part of a chronology of what I've learned about Withy:
1732-12-11 Robert Withy is born, the son of Hilborne (an upholsterer) and Elizabeth Withy of Coleman Street, London.
1747-07-07 Hilborne binds Robert as an apprentice to the bookseller John Rivington for £105. [McKenzie, Stationers' Apprentices]
1754-09-03 Withy is free of the Stationers' Company. [McKenzie]
1755 Withy begins a bookselling and print-selling career. Some of his imprints are at the sign of the Dunciad in Cornhill. See this lovely broadside advertising his business. Other imprints show Withy in partnership with John Ryall at Hogarth's Head opposite Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. A broadside from that business survives as well. [ESTC]
There are 107 entries in ESTC listing Withy as a publisher. I haven't gone through these in detail to find out what role he played or how many were in partnership with John Ryall. The first 101 are dated from 1755 to 1767, when, as we shall see, Withy left the trade.
1756-02-01 Withy marries, as is noted in the London Evening Post of February 3:
Sunday last Mr. Robert Withy, a bookseller in Fleet-Street, was married to Miss Amelia Hope, daughter of Roger Hope, Esq; of Windsor, an agreeable lady with a handsome fortune.One the one hand, this is clearly our Robert Withy. On the other, the marriage does not show up in Miscellanea (which complies both parish records and the Withy family Bible), which notes two marriages, the first of which is the listed immediately below. What is the story of this ignored marriage? A mystery!
1758-03-16 Withy marries Mary, daughter of William and Elizabeth Johnson. The couple had thirteen children from 1759 to 1778, most of whom died in child birth or infancy. There were two sons name Robert who did not survive, followed by a third Robert (born 1768-06-20) who went on to become an attorney and author. [Miscellanea]
1762-03-02 Thomas Dale becomes an apprentice of Withy. [McKenzie]
1766-08-20 Withy leaves the print-selling trade, selling his remaining inventory at auction. The 19 page catalogue survives, titled:
A Catalogue of the Remaining Part of the Stock in Trade, of Mr. Robert Withy, of Cornhill, Print-Seller, who is going into another branch of business: Consisting of a great variety of prints, elegantly framed and glazed for furniture, and in portfeuilles; maps and plans upon rollers; drawing-books copper plates perspective machines, and other effects...which will be sold at auction by Samuel Paterson, at Essex-House in Essex Street, in the Strand, on Wednesday August the 20th, 1766, and the two following days, to begin each day exactly at twelve o'clock. [ESTC, ECCO]1767-05-21 Withy sells his books and copyrights at a bookseller trade sale. [ESTC] From this point, Withy became a stock broker and auctioneer.
1768-02-04 Withy anonymously places an advertisement in the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser:
An estate for seven years to be sold. To prevent trouble, none need apply who cannot deposit four thousand pounds, five hundred of which to be advanced on making out the title, which is a very good one, and the remainder not to be paid till the deeds are executed. Enquire of C. D. at Baker's Coffee-House, Exhcange Alley.Nonetheless trouble ensued, although I don't fully understand the story. This account is taken from The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, Volume 42, 1768 (available on Google Books). The magazine was published monthly according to act of Parliament, but the annual bound issue contains a supplement which includes a section "Proceedings in the last Session of Parliament." The proceedings intersperse testimony relating to several investigations, but here's what seems to be relevant to Withy:
- On February 9, Charles Say, the proprietor of Baker's Coffee-House and the publisher of the Gazetteer testified that Withy delivered copy for the advertisement to his clerk Hugh Jones.
- Samuel Purney, keeper of the Coffee House, said that Withy asked him to delivery any letters which came in response to the advertisement to Withy's home. Purney did so.
- On February 11, Withy admitted placing the advertisement, but said that he had received no replies.
- Purney testified that Withy had frequently ordered letters directed to C. D. to be sent to him, and that some had been delivered since February 4.
- Withy then opened up. He said that he had received letters from John Reynolds with relation to the borough of Milborne-Port; and that he received instructions from Reynolds to place the advertisement and to refer replies to Reynolds. Withy thought the meaning of the advertisement was an interest in some borough. He received replies from three attorneys, Hickey, Seagrave, and Coulthurst, all whom he referred to Reynolds.
- Withy said he was present at a meeting between Reynolds and Hickey, that Hickey made a deposit for a borough of Redding, and that Hickey identified his principal as Mr. Nightingale.
- Parliament ordered Reynolds, Hickey, Seagrave, and Coulthurst to attend the next day, and ordered Withy to be taken into custody to ensure his appearance the next day.
- On February 12, Hickey, Seagrave, and Coulthurst, and Withy appeared, though the Serjeant at Arms was told Reynolds was out of town. There was much testimony, including Withy recanting some details of his earlier testimony.
- The upshot was that John Reynolds was charged with "being guilty of corrupt practices relating to several boroughs", Withy was to be held in custody until Monday February 15 to be further examined, and a host of others were ordered to appear at the same time.
1778-01-07. Wife Mary dies delivering twins.
1781-01-31 Withy advertises a card with rules for whist in the Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser:
No Puff Poz. This day is published, neatly printed on a card. The fourth edition, with additions. Price on 2d. or 1s. a dozen. A New Year's gift for grown masters and misses. Hoyle Abridged; or Twelve short standing rules for short memories, at the Game of Whist. By Bob Short. Printed for the benefit of Families to prevent Scolding, and sold by the author, at Baker's Coffee-house, Exchange-alley, where he attends daily to answer all questions relating to the game of whist. Advice to the poor gratis...N. B. Signed by the author in such a manner as to defy all counterfeits.There is one surviving card in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. One side has "Twelve Short Standing Rules for short Memories at the Game of Whist" beginning with "Lead from your strong suit." and "Lead thro' on honour." The other side has an advertisement for Withy's business:
Robert Withy, Stock Broker and Auctioneer, begs leave to inform his friends and the public that he continues to buy and sell by commission, at public or private sale, estates, life annuities, mortgages, reversions, government and all other securities, also the same valued, and lives insured on the most reasonable terms.
The utmost value given for household furniture and other effects, to be remov’d or sold on the premises. All orders directed for him at Baker’s Coffee House, Change Alley, or at his house...This takes us to the beginning of his writing about whist. More soon..