Charlotte M. Brame (Later known as Bertha M. Clay) [1836-1884]
In the words of the Albert Johansson, the prodigious chronicler of The House of Beadle of Adams, Charlotte M. Brame was “a writer of mushy love stories for the English lower classes” (40) in the mid to late nineteenth century. She certainly wrote love stories, and they were intended for working-class audiences, but I prefer to refer to her work simply as romance.
Brame was born in Hinckley, England in 1836 to Benjamin and Charlotte Agnes Law. She was only seventeen when she published her first short story. She was married to Philip E. Brame, a jeweler in London with whom she had nine children, of which four lived to adulthood. She lived in various places in England including London, Brighton, and Manchester. She died in her hometown of Hinckley on November 25, 1884 at the age of 48.
During her lifetime her work appeared primarily in story papers. They were reprinted in book form, later in romance series and libraries devoted to her, such as the Bertha M. Clay Library. Her most well-known work was Dora Throne. [Now available in full text in Project Gutenberg!] This name was so associated with her that occasionally her name is not given at all on the title page, only the acknowledgment “by the author of Dora Thorne” and sometimes the author was given as “Dora Thorne.”
She published under her own name until 1876 when Street & Smith published Thrown on the World; or, the Discarded Wifeunder the name Bertha M. Clay. In order to circumvent agreements she had made with British publishers, this new name was developed to use on her American publications. Her initials, CMB, were flipped to BMC, and, hence, Bertha M. Clay became her new American pen name. Street & Smith had had a long-standing agreement with Brame to publish her work in the United States. Once she died, on November 25, 1884, Street & Smith continued the use of Bertha M. Clay as a house name. Various writers, perhaps as many as a dozen, such as Frederick V. Dey and John R. Coryell were published under this name. In America, her works appeared in numerous series and story papers including Street & Smith’s New York Weekly, the Bertha Clay Library, Eagle Library, Eagle Series, George Munro’sSeaside Library and Fireside Companion, Westbrook’s Hart Series and two novels in Beadle & Adams Waverly Library.
Her pen names include Charlotte M. Brame (or alternately Braeme, as it was often misspelled in the United States), Bertha M. Clay, Dora Thorne, By the Author of Dora Thorne, Florence Norton, CMB and Caroline M. Burton. There are hundreds of titles credited to these names. Arlene Moore has documented over 500 titles. Brame herself is credited with writing 73 pieces, including short stories, novelettes, and novels which appeared in British story papers (Moore 11). After Brame’s death other writers, including men, wrote under the name Bertha M. Clay. There writers included William J. Benners, William Cook, John Coryell, Frederick Dacre, Frederick Dey, Charles Garvice, Thomas C. Harbaugh, and Thomas W. Henshaw (Moore 11).
Johannsen, Albert. The House of Beadle & Adams. 3 Vols. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950.
Moore, Arlene. “Searching for Bertha M. Clay.” Dime Novel Roundup. February 1991: 10-15.
House of Beadle & Adams Online — The Authors and Their Novels — Brame (Includes a photograph of Brame and additional biographical information.).