William Wirt Sikes Edit Profile
He was the seventh of eleven children, of whom only six survived to adulthood. Sikes himself was seriously ill as a child and almost lost his hearing, so he was largely educated at home. At fourteen he went to work for a printer and learned how to set type.
He supported himself thereafter by typesetting, contributing to local newspapers, and giving temperance lectures. In 1856 he was working at the Utica Morning Herald as a typesetter and contributor. He published a book of stories and poems, A Book for the Winter-Evening Fireside, in 1858.
He spent time in Chicago working at newspapers there, and around 1860 worked on a paper called City and Country in Nyack, New York. In 1862 he was given the job of canal inspector in Chicago for the state-owned Illinois and Michigan Canal. Between 1865 and 1867 he went to New York City to work on newspapers there.
He took a special interest in the lives of the poor there. He continued to write, publishing stories in The Youth's Companion, Oliver Optic's Magazine, and others. He published two novels, The World's Broad Stage (serialized in the Toledo Blade) and One Poor Girl (1869).
Sikes produced a biographical and critical piece on the Wiertz Museum for Harper's Magazine in 1873 which was later reprinted by the museum. In June 1876 Sikes was appointed U.S. Consul at Cardiff, Wales. Over the next few years Sikes produced a number of pieces on Welsh folklore, mythology, and customs, collected as British Goblins.
Welsh Folk-Lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends, and Traditions (1880) and Rambles and Studies in Old South Wales (1881). He also wrote Studies of Assassination (1881). He died in Cardiff in 1883 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Brookwood, Surrey.
Sikes is said to have used as many as thirty pseudonyms for his prolific output, as well as material published under his own name. As "Burton Saxe" he wrote the dime novel The Black Hunter. Or, The Cave Secret (American Tales #22, 1865).
In George Presbury Rowell's memoir Forty Years an Advertising Agent, he recalls a column in the New York Tribune, "wherein certain literary characters were reviewed in grades and classes, beginning with - I don't remember whom, Thackeray perhaps, and descending, as the editor expressed it, 'down to Wirt Sikes'".
Married Jeanette A. Wilcox, 1855. Married second, Olive Logan, December 19, 1871.