Silas Kitto Hocking (1850-1935) was a Cornish-born minister who started writing while living in Liverpool in 1878. His first novel, "Alec Green", was a moderate success but his second book, "Her Benny", about street children in Liverpool propelled him to national fame. Hocking wrote fifty books in all, becoming the first author to sell over a million copies in his lifetime. Hocking was deeply concerned about the welfare of children and Her Benny reflects his deeply held beliefs. Child poverty was not just a Liverpool problem. Children begging, street-trading and stealing were to be found in every town and city and their exploits highlighted in the works of Charles Dickens and other writers.Hocking's perspective was to look for the good in such children. 'They are not all bad, as many may think.' he wrote. ' Many of them try hard to earn an honest living, though they find it a difficult matter, especially when at home they receive no encouragement, while in the street temptation is continually put their way. 'The hero and heroine of the story, "Little Nell and Benny Bates" were based on actual children.
Forced to sell matches and carry bags on the streets to support their drunken father, Benny and Nell decide to flee after a particularly severe beating. They are sheltered by their friend Joe Wragg, a nightwatchman, until one fateful night...The book is set 'on the western side of Scotland Road - that is to say, between it and the docks - there is a regular network of streets, inhabited mostly by the lowest classes of the Liverpool poor ...the children that seem to swarm in this neighbourhood are nearly all of a pale, sallow complexion and of a stunted growth. Shoes and stockings and underclothing are luxuries that they never know, and one good meal a day is almost more than they dare hope for. Cuffs and kicks they reckon upon every day of their lives; and in this they are rarely disappointed!'
Silas Kitto Hocking was a Methodist minister who came to public attention with the publication of Her Benny. Hugely popular, he became the first author to sell one million books in his lifetime.