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Ennever & Enever family history & ancestry. Click here to return to the home page WJ Ennever (1869-1947). From the portrait by J Seymour R.A., exhibited in the Royal Academy.

William Joseph Ennever (1869-1947), founder of The Pelman Institute and Pelmanism

WJ Ennever photograph Your Mind & How to Use It Definition of Pelmanism

A drawing of the Bloomsbury Street offices from an advert in The Times 28th January 1918.
Pelman Institute
"Farmer X., having developed the "will to more" (sic) by the aid of the "little grey books" focusses his powers upon a weak-minded hen......with astounding results!"  Punch Almanack 1919.
Pelmanism in the farmyard

William Joseph Ennever would have been expected to have followed in his father's and grandfather's footsteps by joining the family's well-established pianoforte manufacturing business.  Instead he ran away to sea and spent three years travelling to many countries which brought him into contact with "all sorts and conditions of men".  On his return he held various administrative positions and became a journalist on several newspapers.  He was then asked to manage a popular course in memory training by a Professor Loisette.  From these beginnings grew the work he has become identified with.

His claim to fame is that he founded the Pelman Institute in 1898, aged 29, and subsequently established branches in India, Australia, South Africa, Canada, France and America and was responsible for the word "Pelmanism" being introduced to the English language.

William Joseph is described in the "New Century Cyclopaedia of Names" Vol 2. as the "English journalist who originated the mnemonic training system known as Pelmanism".  There is some doubt as to this and this is explored further in the history of The Pelman Institute and Pelmanism.

He had married Mary Margaret Oldacres Lawson in 1895 and had only the one child, Kathleen, in 1904.  Two months after Kathleen's birth Mary died of a pulmonary embolism and he then married Emmy Elvira Jacobson in 1906.  This marriage ended in divorce a few years later on the grounds of "desertion and adultery".

He travelled extensively as part of his work and can be found sailing from London to Boston in 1902 aboard the SS Caledonian, from Liverpool to New York in 1903, from Southampton to New York in 1905 and in 1919 from England to New York with his ex-wife Emmy Elvira, from whom he was finally divorced in 1914.  He is also recorded as sailing alone as a tourist from Sydney to California in Dec 1927 aboard the SS Tahiti and again in February 1930 from Southampton to the USA and then from Havana, Cuba to the USA in April 1930. 

Pelman Institute, Limited Cumulative Preference Share Certificate dated 1920
Pelman Institute, Limited Cumulative Preference Share Certificate
Interestingly, he is travelling alone in February and is recorded as single while in April he is accompanied by a June Ennever and is recorded as married.  There is no trace of this marriage nor do his family believe that he did in fact ever remarry.

W J Ennever's portrait
Pelman Inst

He had achieved considerable success with his training system and in 1905 the business was taken over by a limited company, registered as Pelman Schools, Limited, which in 1920 was merged into the Pelman Institute, Limited.  Shortly before its formation William Joseph had disposed of his shareholding in Pelman Schools, Limited, for a reported £100,000.  This would be the equivalent of nearly £3m today (2009).

The success of Pelmanism and "the little grey books" was at its height after the First World War and was even featured in a Punch magazine cartoon by W Heath Robinson in 1919, one of the great late-Victorian / early-twentieth century illustrators.  A further indication is that his portrait was painted and exhibited at The Royal Academy and this can just be seen hanging above the fireplace in the "Chief Consultant's Offices" in the London Headquarters. The portrait, featured in John Karp's excellent biography and the photograph (left), is believed to have been destroyed in the Second World War was also featured in The Illustrated London News in 1919.

The Illustrated London News 17/5/1919
W J Ennever's portrait
The Times 29/12/1921
Pelman Inst

The Times reported that William Joseph had resumed control of the Pelman Institute in 1921 "to safeguard the interests of tens of thousands of students all over the world" while by 1938 Ennever had established The Institute of Personology in The Strand, London (see here).  A 'Picture Post' advertisement from late 1938 makes no reference to the Pelman Institute or Pelmanism and it would appear, therefore, that he anticipated what was to become public knowledge in 1940 and was attempting to use his knowledge to rebuild his reputation and his wealth.

The Times reported that in 1940 that Ennever was declared bankrupt with liabilities amounting to £16,092 and assets which had realised just £106.  He attributed his insolvency to his inability to meet supplemental demands for income-tax and other causes.  The London Gazette also contains several notices related to his bankruptcy proceedings in 1940 and 1941.

The Times 24/4/1941
Times article

William Joseph died in 1947 on the way to University College Hospital and his address was recorded as both Caroline Terrace, Sloane Square and The Devonshire Club, St James', London S.W.1 while his will left the sum of just £139.1.9d.  He was privately educated and his hobbies were quoted as travel and golf.

You can read more about Pelmanism and The Pelman Institute's mind training courses and their materials including the "little grey books" here.  W J Ennever's biography, written in conjunction with his family by John Karp, is available here.



1 "Your Mind and How to Use It" by WJ Ennever
2 Newspapers: The Times & The London Gazette (various dates)

If anyone has any further information on the life or career of William Joseph Ennever or of the history of the The Pelman Institute I would be delighted to hear from you.  I would also like to thank Patricia Hill, John Karp and Simon Ennever for their helpful contributions.

Author:  Barry Ennever

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