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Title: A History of Booksellers, the Old and the New
Author: Curwen, Henry
Language: English
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  “In these days, ten ordinary histories of kings and courtiers were
  well exchanged against the tenth part of one good History of
  Booksellers.”--THOMAS CARLYLE.





“History” has been aptly termed the “essence of innumerable
biographies;” and this surely justifies us in the selection of our
title; but in inditing a volume to be issued in a cheap and popular
form, it was manifestly impossible to trace the careers of all the
eminent members, ancient and modern, of a Trade so widely extended;
had we, indeed, possessed all possible leisure for research, every
available material, and a space thoroughly unlimited, it is most
probable that the result would have been distinguished chiefly for
its bulk, tediousness, and monotony. It was resolved, therefore, in
the first planning of the volume, to primarily trace the origin and
growth of the Bookselling and Publishing Trades up to a comparatively
modern period; and then to select, for fuller treatment, the most
typical English representatives of each one of the various branches
into which a natural division of labour had subdivided the whole.
And, by this plan, it is believed that, while some firms at present
growing into eminence may have been omitted, or have received but
scant acknowledgment, no one Publisher or Bookseller, whose spirit
and labours have as yet had time to justify a claim to a niche in the
“HISTORY OF BOOKSELLERS,” has been altogether passed over. In the
course of our “HISTORY,” too, we have been necessarily concerned with
the manner of the “equipping and furnishing” of nearly every great
work in our literature. So that, while on the one hand we have related
the lives of a body of men singularly thrifty, able, industrious, and
persevering--in some few cases singularly venturesome, liberal, and
kindly-hearted--we have on the other, by our comparative view, tried to
throw a fresh, at all events a concentrated, light upon the interesting
story of literary struggle.

No work of the kind has ever previously been attempted, and this fact
must be an apology for some, at least, of our shortcomings.

  H. C.

  _November, 1873._




  THE BOOKSELLERS OF OLDEN TIMES                                       9

  THE LONGMAN FAMILY                                                  79
      _Classical and Educational Literature._

  CONSTABLE, CADELL, AND BLACK                                       110
      _The “Edinburgh Review,” “Waverley Novels,” and
        “Encyclopædia Britannica.”_

  JOHN MURRAY                                                        159
      _Belles-Lettres and Travels._

  WILLIAM BLACKWOOD                                                  199
      “_Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine._”

  CHAMBERS, KNIGHT, AND CASSELL                                      234
      _Literature for the People._

  HENRY COLBURN                                                      279
      _Three-Volume Novels and Light Literature._

      _Religious Literature._

  BUTTERWORTH AND CHURCHILL                                          333
      _Technical Literature._

  EDWARD MOXON                                                       347
      _Poetical Literature._

  KELLY AND VIRTUE                                                   363
      _The “Number” Trade._

  THOMAS TEGG                                                        379
      _Book-Auctioneering and the “Remainder Trade.”_

  THOMAS NELSON                                                      399
      _Children’s Literature and “Book-Manufacturing.”_

  SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, AND CO.                                         412
      _Collecting for the Country Trade._

  CHARLES EDWARD MUDIE                                               421
      _The Lending Library._

  W. H. SMITH AND SON                                                433
      _Railway Literature._

  PROVINCIAL BOOKSELLERS                                             441
      _York: Gent and Burdekin. Newcastle: Goading, Bryson,
        Bewick, and Charnley. Glasgow: Fowlis and Collins.
        Liverpool: Johnson. Dublin: Duffy. Derby: Mozley,
        Richardson, and Bemrose. Manchester: Harrop, Barker,
        Timperley, and the Heywoods. Birmingham: Hutton,
        Baskerville, and “The Educational Trading Co.” Exeter:
        Brice. Bristol: Cottle._




Long ages before the European invention of the art of printing, long
even before the encroaching masses of Huns and Visigoths rolled the
wave of civilization backward for a thousand years, the honourable
trades, of which we aim to be in some degree the chroniclers, had their
representatives and their patrons. Without going back to the libraries
of Egypt--a subject fertile enough in the pages of mythical history--or
to the manuscript-engrossers and sellers of Ancient Greece--though by
their labours much of the world’s best poetry, philosophy, and wit was
garnered for a dozen centuries, like wheat ears in a mummy’s tomb, to
be scattered to the four winds of heaven, when the Mahometans seized
upon Constantinople, thenceforth to fructify afresh, and, in connection
with the art of printing, as if the old world and the new clasped
hands upon promise of a better time, to be mainly instrumental in the
“revival of letters”--it will be sufficient for our present purpose
to know that there were in Rome, at the time of the Empire, many
publishing firms, who, if they could not altogether rival the magnates
of Albemarle Street and the “Row,” issued books at least as good,
and, paradoxical as it may seem, at least as cheaply as their modern

To the sauntering Roman of the Augustan age literature was an
essential; never, probably, till quite modern times was education--the
education, at all events, that supplies a capability to read and
write--so widely spread. The taste thus created was gratified in many
ways. If the Romans had no Mudie, they possessed public libraries,
thrown freely open to all. They had public recitations, at which
unpublished and ambitious writers could find an audience; over which,
too, sometimes great emperors presided, while poets, with a world-wide
reputation, read aloud their favourite verses. They had newspapers, the
subject-matter of which was wonderfully like our own. The principal
journal, entitled _Acta Diurna_, was compiled under the sanction of
the government, and hung up in some place of frequent resort for the
benefit of the multitude, and was probably copied for the private
accommodation of the wealthy. All public events of importance were
chronicled here; the reporters, termed _actuarii_, furnished abstracts
of the proceedings in the law courts and at public assemblies; there
was a list of births, deaths, and marriages; and we are informed
that the one article of news in which the _Acta Diurna_ particularly
abounded was that of reports of trials for divorce. Juvenal tells
us that the women were all agog for deluges, earthquakes, and other
horrors, and that the wine-merchants and traders used to invent false
news in order to affect their various markets. But, in addition to
all these means for gratifying the Roman taste for reading, every
respectable house possessed a library, and among the better classes the
slave-readers (_anagnostæ_) and the slave-transcribers (_librarii_)
were almost as indispensable as cooks and scullions. At first we
find that these slaves were employed in making copies of celebrated
books for their masters; but gradually the natural division of labour
produced a separate class of publishers. Atticus, the Moxon of the
period, and an author of similar calibre, saw an opening for his
energies in the production of copies of favourite authors upon a
large scale. He employed a number of slaves to copy from dictation
simultaneously, and was thus able to multiply books as quickly as they
were demanded. His success speedily finding imitators, among whom were
Tryphon and Dorus, publishing became a recognized trade. The public
they appealed to was not a small one. Martial, Ovid, and Propertius
speak of their works as being known all the world over; that young and
old, women and girls, in Rome and in the provinces, in Britain and in
Gaul, read their verses. “Every one,” says Martial, “has me in his
pocket, every one has me in his hands.”

 “Laudat, amat, cantat nostros mea Roma libellos:
  Meque sinus omnis, me manus omnis habet.”

Horace speaks of the repugnance he felt at seeing his works in the
hands of the vulgar. And Pliny writes that Regulus is mourning
ostentatiously for the loss of his son, and no one weeps like
him--_luget ut nemo_. “He composes an oration which he is not content
with publicly reciting in Rome, but must needs enrich the provinces
with a thousand copies of it.”

School-books, too, an important item in publishing eyes, were in demand
at Rome: Juvenal says that “the verses which the boy has just _conned
over_ at his desk he stands up to repeat,” and Persius tells us that
poets were ambitious to be read in the schools; while Nero, in his
vanity, gave special command that his verses should be placed in the
hands of the students.

Thus, altogether, there must have been a large book-buying public, and
this fact is still further strengthened by the cheapness of the books
produced. M. Geraud[1] concludes that the prices were lower than in our
own day. According to Martial the first book of his Epigrams was to be
bought, neatly bound, for five denarii (nearly three shillings), but
in a cheaper binding for the people it cost six to ten sestertii (a
shilling to eighteenpence); his thirteenth book of Epigrams was sold
for four sestertii (about eightpence), and half that price would, he
says, have left a fair profit (Epig. xiii. 3). He tells us, moreover,
that it would only require one hour to copy the whole of the second

  “Hæc una peragit librarius hora.”

This book contains five hundred and forty verses, and though he may
be speaking with poetical licence, the system of abbreviations did
undoubtedly considerably lessen the labour of transcribing, and
it would be quite possible, by employing a number of transcribers
simultaneously, to produce an edition of such a work in one day.

In Rome, therefore, we see that from the employment of slave
labour--and some thousands of slaves were engaged in this work of
transcribing--books were both plentiful and cheap.[2]

[Illustration: William Caxton. The first printer at Westminster.


[Illustration: Caxton’s Monogram.

(_Facsimile from his Works._)]

In the Middle Ages this state of things was entirely altered. Men
were too busy in giving and receiving blows, in oppressing and being
oppressed, to have the slightest leisure for book-learning. Slaves,
such as then existed, were valued for far different things than
reading and writing; and even their masters’ kings, princes, lords,
and other fighting dignitaries, would have regarded a quill-pen, in
their mail-gloved hands, as a very foolish and unmanly weapon. There
was absolutely no public to which bookmakers could have appealed, and
the art of transcribing was confined entirely to a few monks, whose
time hung heavily upon their hands; and, as a natural result, writers
became, as Odofredi says, “no longer writers but painters,” and books
were changed into elaborate works of art. Nor was this luxurious
illumination confined to Bibles and Missals; the very law-books were
resplendent, and a writer in the twelfth century complains that in
Paris the Professor of Jurisprudence required two or three desks to
support his copy of Ulpian, gorgeous with golden letters. No wonder
that Erasmus says of the _Secunda Secundea_ that “no man can carry it
about, much less get it into his head.”

At first there was no trade whatever in books, but gradually a system
of barter sprung up between the monks of various monasteries; and with
the foundation of the Universities a regular class of copyists was
established to supply the wants of scholars and professors, and this
improvement was greatly fostered by the invention of paper.

The booksellers of this period were called _Stationarii_, either from
the practice of stationing themselves at booths or stalls in the
streets (in contradistinction to the itinerant vendors) or from the
other meaning of the Latin term _statio_, which is, Crevier tells us,
_entrepôt_ or depository, and he adds that the booksellers did little
else than furnish a place of deposit, where private persons could send
their manuscripts for sale. In addition to this, indeed as their chief
trade, they sent out books to be read, at exorbitant prices, not in
volumes, but in detached parts, according to the estimation in which
the authors were held.

In Paris, where the trade of these _stationarii_ was best developed,
a statute regarding them was published in 1275, by which they were
compelled to take the oath of allegiance once a year, or, at most, once
every two years. They were forbidden by this same statute to purchase
the books placed in their hands until they had been publicly exposed
for sale for at least a month; the purchase money was to be handed over
direct to the proprietor, and the bookseller’s commission was not to
exceed one or two per cent. In addition to the _stationarii_, there
were in Paris several pedlars or stall-keepers, also under University
control, who were only permitted to exhibit their wares under the free
heavens, or beneath the porches of churches where the schools were
occasionally kept. The portal at the north end of the cross aisle in
Rouen Cathedral is still called _le Portail des Libraires_.

[Illustration: Wynkyn de Worde. 1493-1534. The second printer at

(_From a drawing by Fathorne._)]

[Illustration: Headpiece of William Caxton.]

In England the first stationers were probably themselves the engrossers
of what they sold, when the learning and literature of the country
demanded as the chief food A B C’s and Paternosters, Aves and Creeds,
Graces and Amens. Such was the employment of our earliest stationers,
as the names of their favourite haunts--Paternoster Row, Amen
Corner, and Ave Maria Lane--bear ample witness; while the term
stationer soon became synonymous with bookseller, and, in connection
with the Stationers’ Company, of no little importance, as we shall soon
see, in our own bookselling annals.

In 1292, the bookselling corporation of Paris consisted of twenty-four
copyists, seventeen bookbinders, nineteen parchment makers, thirteen
illuminators, and eight simple dealers in manuscripts. But at the time
when printing was first introduced upwards of six thousand people are
said to have subsisted by copying and illuminating manuscripts--a fact
that, even if exaggerated, says something for the gradual advancement
of learning.

The European invention of printing, which here can only be mentioned;
the diffusion of Greek manuscripts and the ancient wisdom contained
therein, consequent upon the capture of Constantinople by the Turks;
the discovery of America; and, finally, the German and English
religious Reformations, were so many rapid and connected strides in
favour of knowledge and progress. All properly-constituted conservative
minds were shocked that so many new lights should be allowed to stream
in upon the world, and every conceivable let and hindrance was called
up in opposition. Royal prerogatives were exercised, Papal bulls were
issued, and satirists (_soi-disant_) were bitter. A French poet of this
period, sneering at the invention of printing, and the discovery of the
New World by Columbus, says of the press, in language conveyed by the
following doggerel:--

 “I’ve seen a mighty throng
  Of printed books and long,
  To draw to studious ways
  The poor men of our days;
  By which new-fangled practice,
  We soon shall see the fact is,
  Our streets will swarm with scholars
  Without clean shirts or collars,
  With Bibles, books, and codices
  As cheap as tape for bodices.”

In spite of this feeling against the popularization of learning and the
spread of education--a feeling not quite dead yet, if we may trust the
evidence of a few good old Tory speakers on the evil effects (forgery,
larceny, and all possible violation of the ten commandments) of popular
education--a feeling perhaps subsiding, for a country gentleman of
the old school told us recently that he “would wish every working man
to read the Bible--the Bible only--and _that_ with difficulty”--a
progressive sign--the world was too well aware of the good to be
gathered from the furtherance of these novelties to willingly let them
die, and though the battle was from the first a hard one, it has been,
from first to last, a winning battle.

[Illustration: Richard Pynson. Died about 1530.]

[Illustration: Monogram used by Richard Pynson.]

It will be essential throughout this chapter, and indeed throughout the
whole work, to bear in mind that it was not till quite modern times
that a separate class was formed to buy copyrights, to employ printers,
and to sell the books wholesale, to which their names were affixed
on the title-pages--to be in fact, in the modern acceptation of the
word, Publishers. There was no such class among the old booksellers;
but they had to do everything for themselves, to construct the types,
presses, and other essentials for printing, to bind the sheets when
printed, and finally, when the books were manufactured, to sell them
to the general public. For long, many of the booksellers had printing
offices; they all, of course, kept shops, at which not only printed
books but stationery was retailed; bookbinders were not unfrequent
among them; and, to very recent times, they were the chief proprietors
of newspapers, a branch of the trade that appears, from some modern
instances, to be again falling in their direction.

In England the printing press found a sure asylum, but at first the
books printed were very few in number and the issue of each book small.
The works produced by Caxton consisted almost entirely of translations.
“Divers famous clerks and learned men,” says one of the early printers,
“translated and made many noble works into our English tongue. Whereby
there was much more plenty and abundance of English used than there
was in times past.” Wynkyn de Worde followed closely in his master’s
footsteps; but soon a new source of employment for the press was
discovered, and De Worde turned his attention to the production of
_Accidences_, _Lucidaries_, _Orchards of Words_, _Promptuaries for
Little Children_, and the like. With the Reformation came of course a
great demand for Bibles, and, between the years 1526 and 1600, so great
was the rush for this new supply of hitherto forbidden knowledge that
we have no less than three hundred and twenty-six editions, or parts of
editions, of the English Bible.

In the “Typographical Antiquities” of Ames and Herbert are recorded
the names of three hundred and fifty printers in England and Scotland,
who flourished between 1474 and 1600. Though these “printers” were
also booksellers, their history belongs more properly to the annals
of printing. We will, therefore, confine ourselves to a preliminary
account of the Stationers’ Company, and then enter forthwith upon such
biographical sketches as our space will allow, of the men who may be
regarded, if not uniformly in the modern sense as publishers, at any
rate as the representative booksellers of old London.

The “Stationers or Text-writers who wrote and sold all sorts of books
then in use” were first formed into a guild in the year 1403, by the
authority of the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen, and possessed
ordinances made for the good government of their fellowship; and thus
constituted they assembled regularly in their first hall in Milk Street
under the government of a master and two wardens; but no privilege or
charter has ever been discovered, under which, at that period, they
acted as a corporate body. The Company had, however, no control over
printed books until they received their first charter from Mary and
Philip on 4th May 1557. The object of the charter is thus set forth in
the preamble: “Know ye that we, considering and manifestly perceiving
that several seditious and heretical books, both in verse and prose,
are daily published, stamped and printed, by divers scandalous,
schismatical, and heretical persons, not only exciting our subjects
and liege-men to sedition and disobedience against us, our crown
and dignity; but also to the renewal and propagating very great and
detestable heresies against the faith and sound Catholic doctrine of
Holy Mother the Church; and being willing to provide a proper remedy
in this case,” &c. The powers granted to the Company by this charter
were, verbally, absolute. Not only were they to search out, seize, and
destroy books printed in contravention of the monopoly, or against the
faith and sound Catholic doctrine of Holy Mother Church; but they might
seize, take away, have, burn, or convert to their own use, whatever
they should _think_ was printed contrary to the form of any statute,
act, or proclamation, made or _to be_ made. And this charter renewed
by Elizabeth in 1588, amplified by Charles II. in 1684, and confirmed
by William and Mary in 1690, is still virtually in existence. It is
scarcely strange that such enormous powers as these were but little
respected; indeed Queen Elizabeth herself was one of the first to
invade their privileges, and she granted the following, among other
monopolies, away from the Stationers’ Company:--

  To Byrde, the printing of music books.
  To Serres, psalters, primers, and prayer books.
  To Flower, grammars.
  To Tothill, law books.
  To Judge (the Queen’s Printer), Bibles and Testaments.
  To Watkin and Roberts, almanacs and prognostications.
  To Vautrollier, Latin Testaments and other Latin books.
  To Marsh, school-books.
  To Day, A B C’s and catechisms.

(This last had his printing office in Moorgate Street, ornamented with
the motto, “Arise, for it is Day!”)

The Stationers’ Company, sorely damaged in trade by the sudden
and almost entire loss of their privileges, petitioned the Queen,
representing that they were subject to certain levies, that they
supplied when called upon a number of armed men, and that they expected
to derive some benefit when they underwent these liabilities. As a
reply they were severely reprimanded for daring to question the Queen’s
prerogative, upon which they petitioned again, but more humbly, that
they might at least be placed on an equal footing with the interlopers,
and be permitted to print something or other. Her Majesty was shortly
pleased to sanction an arrangement by which they were to possess the
exclusive right of printing and selling psalters, primers, almanacs,
and books tending to the same purpose--the _A B C_’s, the _Little
Catechism_, Nowell’s _English_ and _Latin Catechisms_, &c.

Ward, and Wolf a fishmonger, however, disputed the power of the
Company, declaring it to be lawful, according to the written law of
the land, for any printer to print all books; and when the Master and
Wardens of the Company went to search Ward’s house, preparatory to
seizing, burning, or conveying away his books, they were ignominiously
defeated by his wife. The Lord Treasurer likewise sent commissioners
thither, “but they, too, could bring him to nothing.”

Learning from this how useless the tremendous powers conferred upon
them by their charter really were, the Stationers’ Company took a wiser
course and subscribed £15,000 to print the books in which they had the
exclusive property.

[Illustration: Richard Grafton, English Printer and Historian. Died
after 1572. The first printer of the Common Prayer.]

[Illustration: John Wight or Wyghte. Was living in 1551. A printer of
law books.]

The “entry” of copies at Stationers’ Hall was commenced in 1558, but
without the delivery of any books, and these entries seem originally to
have been intended by the booksellers of the Company to make known to
each other their respective copyrights, and to act as advertisements
of the works thus entered. Half a century later, Sir Thomas Bodley
was appointed librarian at Oxford, and so great was his zeal for
obtaining books that he persuaded the Company of Stationers in London
to give him a copy of every book that was printed, and this voluntary
offering was rendered compulsory by the celebrated Licensing Act of
1663, which prohibited the publication of any book unless licensed
by the Lord Chamberlain, and entered in the Stationers’ Registers,
and which fixed the number of copies to be presented gratis at
three. In the reign of William and Mary the liberty of the press was
restored, but in the new Act the door was unfortunately thrown open
to infractions of literary property by clandestine editions of books,
and in the following reign the property of copyright was secured for
fourteen years, though the perpetuity of copyright was still vulgarly
believed in, and, by the better class of booksellers, still respected.
The number of compulsory presentation copies was gradually increased
to eleven, forming a very heavy tax upon expensive books, and was only
in our own times reduced to five. At present the registration of books
at Stationers’ Hall is quite independent of the presentations, which
are still compulsory. The fee for the registration or assignment of a
copyright is five shillings.

By the end of the last century all the privileges and monopolies of
the Company had been shredded away till they had nothing left but
the right to publish a common Latin primer and almanacs. In 1775 J.
Carnan,[3] an enterprizing tradesman, questioning the legality of
the latter monopoly, published an almanac on his own account, and
defended himself against an action brought by the Company in which the
monopoly was declared worthless. As, however, the Company still paid
the Universities for the lease of the sole right to publish almanacs,
they endeavoured to recover their privilege by Act of Parliament, but
were defeated by Erskine in a memorable speech, who showed that, while
supposed to be protectors of the order and the decencies of the press,
the Company had not only entirely omitted to exercise their duties,
but that, even in using their privileges, they had, to increase their
revenue, printed, in the “Poor Robin’s” and other almanacs, the most
revolting indecencies; and the question was decided against them.


  Rayne Wolfe.
  Paul’s Churchyard.

  King Henry VIII.’s

[Illustration: 1547.]

[Illustration: John Day or Daye. “A famous printer. He lived over


The “earliest men of letters”--if we accept the word in its modern
meaning of those who earn their bread by their pens--were the
dramatists; but the publication of their plays was a mere appendix
to the acting thereof, and Shakespeare never drew a penny from the
printing of his works. The Elizabethan dramatists--the Greenes and
Marlowes--led a life of wretchedness only paralleled later on by the
annals of Grub Street. As the use of the printing press expanded,
however, a race of authors by profession sprang into existence. At
the time of the Commonwealth James Howell, author of the “Epistolæ
Ho-elianæ,” who was thrown into the Fleet prison, appears to have made
his bread by scribbling for the booksellers; Thomas Fuller, also, was
among the first, as well as the quaintest, hack-writers; he observes,
in the preface to his “Worthies,” that no stationers have hitherto
lost by him. His “Holy State” was reprinted four times before the
Restoration, but the publisher continued to describe the last two
impressions, on the title-page, as only the third edition, as if he
were unwilling that the extent of the popularity should be known--a
fact probably unprecedented. But still the great writers had either
private means, or lived on the patronage of rank and wealth; for the
reward of a successful book in those days did not lie in so much hard
cash from one’s publisher, but in hopes of favour and places from
the great. The famous agreement between Milton and Samuel Simmons, a
printer, is one of the earliest authenticated agreements of copy money
being given for an original work; it was executed on April 27th, 1667,
and disposes of the copyright of “Paradise Lost” for the present sum
of five pounds, and five pounds more when 1300 copies of the first
impression should be sold in retail, and the like sum at the end of
the second and third editions, _to be accounted as aforesaid; and
that_ (each of) _the said first three impressions shall not exceed
fifteen books or volumes of the said manuscript_. The price of the
small quarto edition was three shillings in a plain binding. Probably,
as Sir Walter Scott remarks, the trade had no very good bargain of it,
for the first impression of the poem does not seem to have been sold
off before the expiration of seven years, nor till the bookseller (in
accordance with a practice nor confined solely to that age) had given
it five new title-pages. The second five pounds was received by Milton,
and in 1680, for the present sum of eight pounds, his widow resigned
all further right in the copyright, and thus the poem was sold for
eighteen pounds instead of the stipulated twenty. The whole transaction
must be regarded rather as an entire novelty, than as an example of a
bookseller’s meanness--a view too often unjustly taken.

The first “eminent man of letters” was Dryden, who serves us as a
connecting link between those who earned their livelihood by writing
for the stage and those who earned it by working for the booksellers,
and the first “eminent publisher” was Jacob Tonson, his bookseller.
Dryden, like his predecessors, commenced life as a dramatist, but
in his times plays acquired a marketable value elsewhere than on
the stage. Before Tonson started, Dryden’s works--almost entirely
plays--were sold by Herringman, the chief bookseller in London, says
Mr. Peter Cunningham, before Tonson’s time; but now only remembered
because Dryden lodged at his house, taking his money out in kind, as
authors then often did.

[Illustration: Jacob Tonson.


(_From the Portrait by Kneller._)]

Jacob Tonson, born in 1656, was the son of a barber-surgeon in Holborn,
who died when his two sons were both very young, leaving them each a
hundred pounds to be paid them on their coming of age. The two lads
resolved to become printers and booksellers, and, at fourteen, Jacob
was apprenticed to Thomas Barnet. After serving the usual term of seven
years he was admitted to the freedom of the Stationers’ Company, and
immediately commenced business with his small capital at the Judge’s
House, in Chancery Lane, close to the corner of Fleet Street. Like
many other publishers he began trade by selling second-hand books and
those produced by other firms, but he soon issued plays on his own
account; finding, however, that the works of Otway and Tate, which
were among his first attempts, had no very extensive sale, he boldly
made a bid for Dryden’s next play, but the twenty pounds required by
the author was too great a venture for his small capital, so “Troilus
and Cressida; or Truth found too Late,” was published conjointly by
Tonson and Levalle in 1679. This connection with Dryden, which lasted
till the poet’s death, was of only less importance to the furtherance
of Tonson’s fortune than a bargain concluded four years later with
Brabazon Aylmer for one-half of his interest in the “Paradise Lost,”
which Dryden told him was one of the greatest poems England had ever
produced. Still he waited four years before he ventured to publish, and
then only by the safe method of subscription, and in 1788 the folio
edition came out, and by the sale of this and future editions Tonson
was, according to Disraeli, enabled to keep his carriage. The other
moiety of the copyright was subsequently purchased. There is a pleasant
description of Tonson, in these early days, in a short poem by Rowe:--

 “While in your early days of reputation
  You for blue garter had not such a passion,
  While yet you did not live, as now your trade is,
  To drink with noble lords and toast their ladies,
  Thou Jacob Tonson, wert, to my conceiving,
  The cheerfullest, best honest fellow living.”

From John Dunton, the bookseller, we get the following
description:--“He was bookseller to the famous Dryden, and is himself
a very good judge of persons and authors; and, as there is nobody more
competently qualified to give their opinion upon another, so there is
none who does it with a more severe exactness, or with less partiality;
for, to do Mr. Tonson justice, he speaks his mind upon all occasions,
and will flatter nobody.”

Not only did Tonson first make “Paradise Lost” popular, but some years
afterwards he was the first bookseller to throw Shakespeare open to a
reading public.

Then, as now, however, the works in most urgent demand were
“novelties,” and with these Dryden supplied his publisher as fast
almost as pen could drive upon paper. From the correspondence between
Dryden and Tonson, printed in Scott’s edition of the poet’s works,
they seem to have been privately on very friendly terms, falling
out only when agreements were to be signed or payments to be made.
Tonson was at this time publishing what are sometimes known as
_Tonson’s_, sometimes as _Dryden’s_, _Miscellany Poems_, written, so
the title-pages averred, by the “most eminent hands.” _Apropos_ of
this, Pope writes, “Jacob creates poets as kings create knights, not
for their honour, but for their money. I can be satisfied with a bare
saving gain without being thought an eminent hand.” The first volume of
the “Miscellany” was published in 1684, and the second in the following
year, and of this second, Dryden writes, after thanking the bookseller
for two melons--“since we are to have nothing but new, I am resolved
we shall have nothing but good, whomever we disoblige.” The third
“Miscellany” was published in 1693, and Tonson sends an earnest letter
of remonstrance anent the amount of “copy” received of the translation
of Ovid:--“You may please, sir, to remember that upon my first proposal
about the third ‘Miscellany,’ I offered fifty pounds, and talked of
several authors without naming Ovid. You asked if it should not be
guineas, and said I should not repent it; upon which I immediately
complied, and left it wholly to you what, and for the quantity too;
and I declare it was the furthest in the world from my thoughts that
by leaving it to you I should have the less.” He proceeds to show that
Dryden had sold a previous, though recent translation to another
bookseller at the rate of 1518 lines for forty guineas, while he adds,
“all that I have for fifty guineas are but 1446; so that if I have no
more, I pay ten guineas above forty, and have 72 lines less for fifty
in proportion. I own, if you don’t think fit to add something more, I
must submit; ’tis wholly at your choice, for I left it entirely to you;
but I believe you cannot imagine I expected so little; for you were
pleased to use me much kindlier in Juvenal, which is not reckoned so
easy to translate as Ovid. Sir, I humbly beg your pardon for this long
letter, and, upon my word, I had rather have your good will than any
man’s alive.”

These were hard times for Dryden, for through the change of government
he had been deprived of the laureateship, and it is little likely that
Tonson ever received his additional lines or recovered his money.
Frequent at this period were the bickerings between them. On one
occasion, the bookseller having refused to advance a sum of money, the
poet forwarded the following triplet with the significant message,
“Tell the dog that he who wrote these lines can write more:”--

 “With leering looks, bull-faced and freckled fair,
  With two left legs, with Judas-coloured hair,
  And frowsy pores that taint the ambient air.”

The descriptive hint is said to have been successful. On another
occasion, when Bolingbroke was visiting Dryden, they heard a footstep.
“This,” said Dryden, “is Tonson; you will take care not to depart
before he goes away; for I have not completed the sheet which I
promised him; and, if you leave me unprotected, I shall suffer all the
rudeness to which resentment can prompt his tongue.” And yet, almost
at this period, we find Dryden writing, “I am much ashamed of myself
that I am so much behindhand with you in kindness.”

[Illustration: Richard Jones, Jhones, or Johnes, English Printer. Was
living in 1571.]

[Illustration: John Dunton.


Dryden’s translations of the classics had been most successful in
selling off the “Miscellanies” very rapidly, and Tonson now induced the
author, by the offer of very liberal terms, to commence a translation
of Virgil. As usual, the preliminary terms were to be settled in a
tavern--a custom between authors and booksellers that seems to have
been universal. “Be ready,” writes Dryden, “with the price of paper,
and of the books. No matter for any dinner; for that is a charge to
you, and I care not for it. Mr. Congreve may be with us as a common
friend.” There were two classes of subscribers, the first of whom paid
five guineas each, and were individually honoured with the dedication
of a plate, with their arms engraved underneath; the second class paid
two guineas only. The first class numbered 101, and the second 250,
and the money thus received, minus the expense of the engravings, was
handed over to Dryden, who received in addition from Tonson fifty
guineas a book for the _Georgics_ and _Æneid_, and probably the same
for the _Pastorals_ collectively. But the price actually charged to
the subscribers of the second class appears to have been exorbitant,
and reduced the amount of Dryden’s profits to about twelve or thirteen
hundred pounds--still a very large sum in those days. Frequent,
however, were the disputes between them during the progress of the
work. The currency at this time was terribly deteriorated. In October,
1695, the poet writes, “I expect fifty pounds in good silver: not such
as I have had formerly. I am not obliged to take gold, neither
will I; nor stay for it beyond four-and-twenty hours after it is
due.” Good silver, however, was very scarce, and was at a premium of
forty per cent; so after a year’s wrangling he had to put up with the
fate of all who then sold labour for money. “The Notes and Queries,”
continues Dryden, perhaps as a gibe at Jacob’s parsimony, “shall be
short; because you shall get the more by saving paper.” Again he
attacks him, this time half playfully:--“Upon trial I find all of your
trade are sharpers, and you not more than others; therefore I have
not wholly left you.” Tonson all along wished to dedicate the work to
King William, but Dryden, a staunch Tory, would not yield a tittle of
his political principles, so the bookseller consoled himself by slyly
ordering all the pictures of Æneas in the engravings to be drawn with
William’s characteristic hooked nose; a manœuvre that gave rise to the

 “Old Jacob, by deep judgments swayed,
    To please the wise beholders,
  Has placed old Nassau’s hook-nosed head
    On young Æneas’ shoulders.

 “To make the parallel hold tack,
    Methinks there’s little lacking;
  One took his father pick-a-back,
    And t’other sent his packing.”

In December, 1699, Dryden finished his last work, the “Fables,” for
which “ten thousand verses” he was paid the sum of two hundred and
fifty guineas, with fifty more to be added at the beginning of the
second impression. In this volume was included his Ode to St. Cecilia,
which had first been performed at the Music Feast kept in Stationers’
Hall, on the 22nd of November, 1697.

In 1700 the poet died, but Tonson was by this time in affluent

About the date of Dryden’s death, probably before it, as his portrait
was included among the other members, the famous Kit-Cat Club was
founded by Tonson. Various are the derivations of the club. The most
circumstantial account of its origin is given by the scurrilous writer,
Ned Ward, in his “Secret History of Clubs.” It was established, he
says, “by an amphibious mortal, chief merchant to the Muses, to
inveigle new profitable chaps, who, having more wit than experience,
put but a slender value as yet upon their maiden performances.”
(Tonson must have been a rare publisher if he found “new chaps” to be
in any way profitable.) With the usual custom of the times, Tonson
was always ready to give his author, especially upon concluding a
bargain, wherewithal to drink, but he now proposed to add pastry in
the shape of mutton pies, and, according to Ward, promises to make the
meeting weekly, provided his clients would give him the first refusal
of their productions. This generous proposal was very readily agreed
to by the whole poetic class, and the cook’s name being Christopher,
called for brevity Kit, and his sign the Cat and Fiddle, they very
merrily derived a quaint denomination from puss and her master, and
from thence called themselves the Kit-Cat Club. According to Arbuthnot,
their toasting-glasses had verses upon them in honour of “old cats and
young kits,” and many of these toasts were printed in Tonson’s fifth
“Miscellany.” At first they met in Shire Lane, (Ward says Gray’s Inn
Lane), and subsequently at the Fountain Tavern in the Strand. In a
short time the chief men of letters having joined the club, “many
of the quality grew fond of sharing the everlasting honour that was
likely to crown the poetical society.” Sir Godfrey Kneller, himself
a member, painted portraits of all the members, commencing with the
Duke of Somerset, and these were hung round the club-room at Tonson’s
country house at Water Oakeley, where the members of the club were in
after-times wont to meet. The tone of the club-room became decidedly
political, and interesting as it is, our space forbids us to do more
than give the following lines from “Faction Displayed” (1705), which,
by-the-way, quotes Dryden’s threatening triplet, already alluded to:--

 “I am the Touchstone of all modern wit;
  Without my stump, in vain you poets writ.
  Those only purchase everlasting fame
  That in my ‘Miscellany’ plant their name.
  I am the founder of your loved Kit-Kat,
  A Club that gave direction to the state.
  ’Twas here we first instructed all our youth
  To talk profane and laugh at sacred truth;
  We taught them how to toast and rhyme and bite,
  To sleep away the day, and drink away the night.”

By this time Tonson had taken his nephew into partnership, had left his
old shop in Chancery Lane, and changed his sign from the “Judge’s Head”
to the “Shakespeare’s Head;” and he and his descendants had certainly a
right to the latter symbol, for the editions of Rowe, Pope, Theobald,
Warburton, Johnson, and Capell, were all associated with their name.
The following schedule of the prices paid to the various editors
possesses some bibliographical interest:--

                                  £   _s._  _d._

  Rowe                            36   10    0
  Hughes                          28    7    0
  Pope                           217   12    0
  Fenton                          30   14    0
  Gay                             35   17    6
  Whalley                         12    0    0
  Theobald                       652   10    0
  Warburton                      500    0    0
  Capell                         300    0    0
  Dr. Johnson, for 1st edition.  375    0    0
        ”      for 2nd edition.  100    0    0

Upon Dryden’s death Tonson had looked round anxiously for a likely
successor, and had made humble overtures to Pope, and in his later
“Miscellanies” appeared some of Pope’s earliest writings; but Pope soon
deserted to Tonson’s only rival--Bernard Lintot, who also opposed him
in an offer to publish a work of Dr. Young’s. The poet answered both
letters the same morning, but unfortunately cross-directed them: in the
one intended for Tonson he said that Lintot was so great a scoundrel
that printing with him was out of the question, and in Lintot’s that
Tonson was an old rascal.

Jacob Tonson died in 1736, and is reported on his death-bed to have
said--“I wish I had the world to begin again, because then I should
have died worth a hundred thousand pounds, whereas now I die worth only
eighty thousand;”--a very improbable story, for, in spite of Dryden’s
complaints, Tonson seems to have been a generous man for the times,
and to have fully earned his title of the “prince of booksellers.” His
nephew died a few months before this, and was succeeded by his son,
Jacob Tonson the third, who carried on the business in the same shop
opposite Catherine Street in the Strand, until his removal across the
road, only a short time before his death. He died in 1767, when the
time-honoured name was erased from the list of booksellers.

Bernard Lintot, or, as he originally wrote his name, Barnaby Lintott,
was the son of a Sussex yeoman, and commenced business as a bookseller
at the sign of the Cross Keys, between the Temple Gates, in the year
1700. He is thus characterized by John Dunton--“He lately published
a collection of _Tragic Tales_, &c., by which I perceive he is angry
with the world, and scorns it into the bargain; and I cannot blame him:
for D’Urfey (his author) both treats and esteems it as it deserves;
too hard a task for those whom it flatters; or perhaps for Bernard
himself, should the world ever change its humour and grin upon him.
However, to do Mr. Lintot justice, he is a man of very good principles,
and I dare engage will never want an author of _Sol-fa_,[4] so long as
the play-house will encourage his comedies.” The world, however, did
grin upon him, for in 1712 he set up a “Miscellany” intended to rival
Tonson’s, and here appeared the first sketch of the “Rape of the Lock,”
and this introduction to Pope was to turn out of as much importance in
his fortunes as the previous connection with Dryden had been to Tonson.

A memorandum-book, preserved by Nichols, contains an exact account of
the money paid by Lintot to his various authors. Here are the receipts
for Pope’s entire works:--

                                                       £   _s._  _d._
  1712, Feb. 19. Statius, first book; Vertumnus and
          Pomona                                       16    2     6
  1712, March 21. First edition of the Rape             7    0     0
  1712, April 9. To a Lady presenting Voiture upon
          Silence to the author of a Poem called
          Successio                                     3   16     6
  1712-13, Feb. 23. Windsor Forest                     32    5     0
  1713, July 22. Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day              15    0     0
  1714, Feb. 20. Additions to the Rape                 15    0     0
  1715, Feb. 1. Temple of Fame                         32    5     0
  1715, April 31. Key to the Lock                      10   15     0
  1716, July 17. Essay on Criticism                    15    0     0

In 1712 Pope, mindful of Dryden’s success, commenced his translation
of Homer, and in 1714 Lintot, equally mindful probably of the
profits Tonson had derived from Virgil, made a splendid offer for
its publication. He agreed to provide at his own expense all the
subscription and presentation copies, and in addition to pay the author
two hundred pounds per volume. The Homer was to consist of six quarto
volumes, to be delivered to subscribers, as completed, at a guinea a
volume, and through the unremitting labours of the poet’s literary and
political friends, six hundred and fifty-four copies were delivered at
the original rate, and Pope realized altogether the munificent sum of
five thousand, three hundred and twenty pounds, four shillings.

It was probably just after the publication of the first volume, in
August, 1714, that Pope wrote his exquisitely humorous letter to the
Earl of Burlington, describing a journey to Oxford, made in company
with Lintot. “My lord, if your mare could speak, she would give an
account of what extraordinary company she had on the road; which since
she cannot do, I will.” Lintot had heard that Pope was “designed for
Oxford, the seat of the Muses, and would, as my bookseller, by all
means accompany me thither.... Mr. Lintot began in this manner: ‘Now,
damn them, what if they should put it in the newspapers, how you and I
went together to Oxford? What would I care? If I should go down into
Sussex, they would say I was gone to the Speaker. But what of that?
If my son were but big enough to go on with the business, by God! I
would keep as good company as old Jacob.’... As Mr. Lintot was talking
I observed he sat uneasy on his saddle, for which I expressed some
solicitude. ‘’Tis nothing,’ says he; ‘I can bear it well enough, but
since we have the day before us, methinks it would be very pleasant for
you to rest awhile under the woods.’ When we alighted, ‘See here, what
a mighty pretty Horace I have in my pocket! what if you amused yourself
by turning an ode, till we mount again? Lord, if you pleased, what a
clever Miscellany might you make at leisure hours.’ ‘Perhaps I may,’
said I, ‘if we ride on; the motion is an aid to my fancy, a round trot
very much awakens my spirits; then jog on apace, and I’ll think as hard
as I can.’

“Silence ensued for a full hour, after which Mr. Lintot tugged the
reins, stopped short and broke out, ‘Well, sir, how far have you gone?’
I answered, ‘Seven miles.’ ‘Zounds, sir,’ said Lintot, ‘I thought you
had done seven stanzas. Oldworth, in a ramble round Wimbleton hill,
would translate a whole ode in half this time. I’ll say that for
Oldworth (though I lost by his Sir Timothy’s), he translates an ode of
Horace the quickest of any man in England. I remember Dr. King would
write verses in a tavern three hours after he could not speak; and
there’s Sir Richard, in that rambling old chariot of his, between Fleet
ditch and St. Giles’s pound shall make half a job.’ ‘Pray, Mr. Lintot,’
said I, ‘now you talk of translators, what is your method of managing
them?’ ‘Sir,’ replied he, ‘those are the saddest pack of rogues in the
world; in a hungry fit, they’ll swear they understand all the languages
in the universe. I have known one of them take down a Greek book upon
my counter and cry, Ay, this is Hebrew. I must read it from the latter
end. My God! I can never be sure of those fellows, for I neither
understand Greek, Latin, French nor Italian myself.’ ‘Pray tell me next
how you deal with the critics.’ ‘Sir’, said he, ‘nothing more easy.
I can silence the most formidable of them; the rich ones for a sheet
a-piece of the blotted manuscript, which costs me nothing; they’ll go
about to their acquaintance and pretend they had it from the author,
who submitted to their correction: this has given some of them such
an air, that in time they come to be consulted with, and dictated to
as the top critic of the town. As for the poor critics, I’ll give you
one instance of my management, by which you may guess at the rest. A
lean man, that looks like a very good scholar, came to me t’other day;
he turned over your Homer, shook his head, shrugged up his shoulders,
and pished at every line of it. One would wonder, says he, at the
strange presumption of some men; Homer is no such easy task, that every
stripling, every versifier--He was going on, when my wife called to
dinner. ‘Sir,’ said I, ‘will you please to eat a piece of beef with
me?’ ‘Mr. Lintot,’ said he, ‘I am sorry you should be at the expense
of this great book; I am really concerned on your account.’ ‘Sir, I am
much obliged to you; if you can dine upon a piece of beef, together
with a slice of pudding.’ ‘Mr. Lintot, I do not say but Mr. Pope, if he
would condescend to advise with men of learning--’ ‘Sir, the pudding
is on the table, if you please to go in.’ My critic complies, he comes
to a taste of your poetry, and tells me in the same breath that the
book is commendable and the pudding excellent. These, my lord, are a
few traits by which you may discern the genius of Mr. Lintot, which I
have chosen for the subject of a letter. I dropt him as soon as I got
to Oxford.”

Pope’s _Iliad_ took longer in coming out than was expected. Gay writes
facetiously, “Mr. Pope’s _Homer_ is retarded by the great rains that
have fallen of late, which causes the sheets to be long a-drying.”
However, in 1718, the six volumes had been completely delivered to the
subscribers, and three days afterwards Tonson announced, as a rival,
the first book of Homer’s _Iliad_, translated by Mr. Tickell. “I send
the book,” writes Lintot to Pope, “to divert an hour, it is already
condemned here; and the malice and juggle at Button’s (for Addison had
assisted Tickell in the attempted rivalry) is the conversation of those
who have spare moments from politics.”

Lintot intended to reimburse his expenses by a cheap edition, but here
he was anticipated by the piratical dealers, who caused a cheap edition
to be published in Holland; a nefarious proceeding that Lintot met by
bringing out a duodecimo edition at half-a-crown a volume, “finely
printed from an Elzevir letter.”

The _Odyssey_ was published in 1725, likewise by subscription, and
Pope gained nearly three thousand pounds by the transaction, avowing,
however, that he had only “undertaken” the translation, and had been
assisted by friends; and “undertaker Pope” became a favourite byword
among his many unfriendly contemporaries. Lintot was, however,
disappointed with his share of the profits, and, pretending to have
found something invalid in the agreement, threatened a suit in
Chancery. Pope denied this, quarrelled, and finally left him, and
turned his rancour to good account in the pages of the _Dunciad_.

By this time Lintot’s fortunes were firmly assured. Pope was, says Mr.
Singer, “at first apprehensive that the contract (for the _Iliad_)
might ruin Lintot, and endeavoured to dissuade him from thinking any
more of it. The event, however, proved quite the reverse. The success
of the work was so unparalleled as to at once enrich the bookseller,
and prove a productive estate to his family,” and he must have
certainly been progressing when Humphrey Walden, custodian of the Earl
of Oxford’s heraldic manuscripts, made, in 1726, the following entry
in his diary: “Young Mr. Lintot, the bookseller, came inquiring after
_arms_, as belonging to his father, mother and other relations, who
now, it seems, want to turn gentlefolks. I could find none of their
names.” “Young Mr. Lintot” was Bernard’s son and successor--Henry.

There was scarcely a writer of eminence in the “Augustan Era,” whose
name is not to be found in Lintot’s little account book of moneys paid.
In 1730, however, he appears to have relinquished his business and
retired to Horsham in Sussex, for which county he was nominated High
Sheriff, in November, 1735, an honour which he did not live to enjoy,
and which was consequently transferred to his son. Henry Lintot died in
1758, leaving £45,000 to his only daughter, Catherine.

Edmund Curll is, perhaps, as a name, better known to casual readers
than any other bookseller of this period, and it is not a little
comforting to find that the obloquy with which he has ever been
associated was richly merited. He was born in the west of England, and
after passing through several menial capacities, became a bookseller’s
assistant, and then kept a stall in the purlieus of Covent Garden. The
year of his birth is unknown, and the writer of a contemporary memoir,
_The Life and Writings of E. C--l_, who prophesied that “if he go on
in the paths of glory he has hitherto trod,” his name would appear in
the _Newgate Calendar_, has unluckily been deceived. He appears to
have first commenced publishing in the year 1708, and to have combined
that honourable task with the vending of quack pills and powders for
the afflicted. The first book he published was _An Explication of
a Famous Passage in the Dialogue of St. Justin Martyr with Typhon,
concerning the Immortality of Human Souls_, bearing the date of 1708;
and, curiously enough, religious books formed in aftertime a very large
portion of his stock, side by side, of course, with the most filthy and
ribald works that have ever been issued.

In 1716 began his quarrel with Pope, originating as far as we know
in the publication of the _Court Poems_, the advertisement of which
said that the coffee-house critics assigned them either to a Lady
of Quality, Mr. Gay, or the translator of _Homer_. It is not clear
now whether Pope was really annoyed by the appearance of the volume,
or whether he had first secretly promoted it, and then endeavoured
to divert suspicion. At all events, he had a meeting with Curll at
the “Swan Tavern,” in Fleet Street, where, writes the bookseller,
“My brother, Lintot, drank his half-pint of old hock, Mr. Pope his
half-pint of sack, and I the same quantity of an emetic powder; but
no threatenings past. Mr. Pope, indeed, said that no satire should
be printed (tho’ he has now changed his mind). I answered that they
should not be wrote, for if they were they would be printed.” Curll,
on entering the tavern, declared he had been poisoned, and for months
the town was amused with broadsides and pamphlets relative to the
affair. Pope afterwards published his version of the story in his
_Miscellanies_; the “Full and True Account” is, however, as gross and
unquotable as Curll’s own worst publication.

Later on in the same year the bookseller fell into a fresh scrape. A
Latin discourse had been pronounced at the funeral of Robert South by
the captain of Westminster School, and Curll, thinking it would be
readily purchased by the public,

                        “did th’ oration print,
  Imperfect, with false Latin in’t,”

and thereby aroused the anger of the Westminster scholars, who enticed
him into Dean’s Yard on the pretence of giving him a more perfect copy;
there, he met with a college salutation, for he was first presented
with the ceremony of the blanket, in which, “when the skeleton had
been well shook, he was carried in triumph to the school, and, after
receiving a mathematical construction for his false concords, he was
re-conducted to Dean’s Yard, and on his knees asking pardon of the
aforesaid Mr. Barber (the captain whose Latin he had murdered) for his
offence, he was kicked out of the yard, and left to the huzzas of the

No sooner was Curll out of one scrape than he fell into another; for,
still in this same year, he was summoned to the bar of the House of
Lords for printing and publishing a paper entitled _An Account of the
Trial of the Earl of Winton_, a breach of the standing orders of the
House. However, having received kneeling a reprimand from the Lord
Chancellor, he was dismissed upon payment of the fees.

While the authorities were quick enough to punish any violation of
their own peculiar privileges, they were graciously pleased to wink
at the perpetual offences Curll was committing against public morals,
for Curll was a strong politician on the safe party side, and in his
political publications had in view the interests of the government.
However, he was attacked on all sides by public opinion and the press.
_Mist’s Weekly Journal_ for April 5, 1718, contained a very strong
article on the “Sin of Curllicism.” “There is indeed but one bookseller
eminent among us for this abomination, and from him the crime takes
its just denomination of Curllicism. The fellow is a contemptible
wretch a thousand ways; he is odious in his person, scandalous in his
fame; ... more beastly, insufferable books have been published by this
one offender than in thirty years before by all the nation.” Curll,
“the Dauntless,” did not long remain in silence, and his reply is
characteristically outspoken, for the writer was never a coward. “Your
superannuated letter-writer was never more out than when he asserted
that Curllicism was but of four years’ standing. Poor wretch! he is but
a novice in chronology;” and then, after threatening the journalist
with the terrors of an outraged government, he concludes “in the words
of a late eminent controvertist, the Dean of Chichester.”

Curll was fond of the dignitaries of the Church, and endeavoured
to play a shrewd trick upon one of them; he sent a copy of Lord
Rochester’s _Poems_ (certainly not the most innocent book he published)
to Dr. Robinson, Bishop of London, with a tender of his duty, and a
request that his lordship would please to revise the interleaved volume
as he thought fit; but the bishop, not to be caught, “smiled” and said,
“I am told that Mr. Curll is a shrewd man, and should I revise the book
you have brought me, he would publish it as approved by me.”[5]

Public dissatisfaction seems to have been expressed more forcibly
against Curll than heretofore, and to have taken the form of a
remonstrance to government, for he published _The Humble Representation
of Edmund Curll, Bookseller and Citizen of London, containing Five
Books complained of to the Secretary_. As the books were eminently of a
nature requiring an apology, we cannot do more than give their titles:
1. _The Translation of Meibomius and Tractatus de Hermaphroditis_; 2.
_Venus in the Cloister_; 3. _Ebrietatis Encomium_; 4. _Three New Poems,
viz. Family Duty, The Curious Wife, and Buckingham House_; and 5. _De
Secretis Mulierum_. At last the government did interfere, as we learn
from a notice in _Boyer’s Political State_, Nov. 1725:--

“On Nov. 30, 1725, Curll, a bookseller in the Strand, was tried at the
King’s Bench Bar, Westminster, and convicted of printing and publishing
several obscene and immodest books, greatly tending to the corruption
and depravation of manners, particularly one translated from a Latin
treatise entitled _De Usu Flagrorum in Re Venereâ_; and another from
a French book called _La Religieuse en Chemise_.” In the indictment
Curll is thus accurately summed up: _homo iniquus et sceleratus ac
nequiter machinans et intendens bonos mores subditorum hujus regni
corrumpere et eos ad nequitiam inducere_; and in the _State Trials_ we
read the following report of the sentence:--

“This Edmund Curll stood in the pillory at Charing Cross, but was
not pelted or used ill; for being an artful, cunning (though wicked)
fellow, he had contrived to have printed papers dispersed all about
Charing Cross, telling the people how he stood there for vindicating
the memory of Queen Anne.”

It does, in fact, appear that he received three sentences at once, and
that not until Feb. 12, 1728. For publishing the _Nun in her Smock_,
and the treatise _De Usu Flagrorum_, he was sentenced to pay a fine of
twenty-five marks each, and to enter into recognizances of £100 for
his good behaviour for one year; but for publishing the _Memoirs of
John Ker of Kersland, Esq._ (a political offence), he was fined twenty
marks, and ordered to stand in the pillory for the space of one hour.[6]

In 1729 Curll was again pilloried--this time by Pope in the _Dunciad_,
in connection with Tonson and Lintot:

 “With authors, stationers obey’d the call
  (The field of glory is a field for all);
  Glory and gain th’ industrious tribe provoke,
  And gentle Dulness ever loves a joke;
  A poet’s form she placed before their eyes,
  And bade the nimblest racer seize the prize.

         *       *       *       *       *

  ----Lofty Lintot in the circle rose:
  ‘The Prize is mine, who ‘tempts it are my foes;
  With me began this genius, and shall end.’
  He spoke, and who with Lintot shall contend?

    “Fear held them mute. Alone untaught to fear,
  Stood dauntless Curll: ‘Behold that rival here!
  The race by vigour, not by vaunts, is won:
  So take the hindmost, hell,’ he said, ‘and run.’
  Swift as a bard the bailiff leaves behind
  He left huge Lintot, and outstript the wind.
  As when a dab-chick waddles through the copse
  On feet and wings, and flies, and wades, and hops,
  So labouring on with shoulders, hands, and head,
  Wide as a windmill all his figure spread,
  With arms expanded Bernard views his state,
  And left-legged Jacob seems to emulate.”

And finally Curll stumbles into an unsavoury pool:--

 “Obscene with filth the miscreant lies bewrayed,
  Fallen in the plash his wickedness had laid;
  Then first (if poets aught of truth declare)
  The caitiff vaticide conceived a prayer.”

In reference to Curll there is a note to this passage, “He carried the
trade many lengths beyond what it ever before had arrived at; he was
the envy and admiration of all his profession. He possessed himself
of a command over all authors whatever; he caused them to write what
he pleased; they could not call their very names their own. He was
not only famous among them; he was taken notice of by the state, the
church, and the law, and received particular marks of distinction from

We have no space to discuss the vexed question as to how the letters
of Pope published by Curll came into his hands--the discussion would
occupy a volume and remain a moot question after all. But we are
disposed to believe with Johnson and Disraeli that “being inclined
to print his own letters, and not knowing how to do so without the
imputation of vanity, what in this country has been done very rarely,
he contrives an appearance of compulsion; that when he could complain
that his letters were surreptitiously published, he might decently
and defensively publish them himself.” The letters at all events were
genuine, and Pope in a feigned or real indignation caused Curll to
be brought for a third time (the second had been for publishing the
Duke of Buckingham’s words) before the bar of the House of Lords for
disobeying its standard rules; but on examination the book was not
found to contain any letters from a _peer_, and Curll was dismissed,
and boldly continued the publication till five volumes had been issued.

In spite, or perhaps on account of the unblushing effrontery with
which he run amuck at everything and everybody, Curll was a successful
man, as his repeated removals to better and better premises plainly
testifies. Over his best shop in Covent Garden he erected the Bible as
a sign. He has had many apologists, among others worthy John Nichols,
as deserving commendation for his industry in preserving our national
remains, but the scavenger, when he gathers his daily filth, lays
little claim to doing a meritorious action, he only works unpleasantly
for his daily bread; and it has been the repeated cry of publishers,
even in our own times, in reproducing an immoral book, that they were
wishing only for the preservation of something rare and curious. It
were not well that any book once written should ever die,--that any one
link in the vast chain of human thought should ever be irrecoverably
lost, but the publisher of such a book must, at least, bear the same
penalty of stigma as the author, for he has not even the author’s
self-vanity as an excuse, but only the still more wretched plea of
mercenary motive. We will conclude our notice of Curll by an extract
from “John Buncle,” by Thomas Amory, who knew him personally and
well. “Curll was in person very tall and thin--an ungainly, awkward,
white-faced man. His eyes were a light gray--large, projecting,
goggle, and purblind. He was splay-footed and baker-kneed.... He was
a debauchee to the last degree, and so injurious to society, that by
filling his translations with wretched notes, forged letters, and bad
pictures, he raised the price of a four-shilling book to ten. Thus, in
particular, he managed Burnet’s ‘Archæology.’ And when I told him he
was very culpable in this and other articles he sold, his answer was,
‘What would I have him do? He was a bookseller;--his translators, in
pay, lay three in a bed at the Pewter Platter Inn, in Holborn, and he
and they were for ever at work deceiving the public.’ He, likewise,
printed the lewdest things. He lost his ears for the ‘Nun in her Smock’
and another thing. As to drink, he was too fond of money to spend any
in making himself happy that way; but, at another’s expense, he would
drink every day till he was quite blind and as incapable of self-motion
as a block. This was Edmund Curll. But he died at last as great a
penitent, I think, in the year 1748 (it was 1747), as ever expired. I
mention this to his honour.”[7]

Thomas Guy, more eminent certainly as a very successful money-maker,
and a generous benefactor to charitable institutions, than as a
bookseller, was born in Horsley-down, the son of a coal-heaver and
lighterman. The year of his birth is uncertain, but in 1660, he
was bound apprentice to John Clarke, bookseller, in the porch of
Mercers’ Chapel, and, in 1668, having been admitted a liveryman of the
Stationers’ Company, he opened a small shop in “Stock Market” (the site
of the present Mansion House, then a fruit and flower market, where,
also, offenders against the law were punished) with a stock-in-trade
worth above £200. From the first, Guy’s chief business seems to have
been in Bibles, for Maitland, his biographer relates, “The English
Bibles, printed in this kingdom, being very bad, both in the letter
and the paper, occasioned divers of the booksellers in this city to
encourage the printing thereof in Holland, with curious types and
fine paper, and imported vast numbers of the same to their no small
advantage. Mr. Guy, soon becoming acquainted with this profitable
commerce, became a large dealer therein.” As early as Queen Elizabeth’s
time, the privilege of printing Bibles had been conferred on the
Queen’s (or King’s) printer, conjointly, of course, with the two
Universities, and the effect of this prolonged monopoly resulted, not
only in exorbitant prices, but in great typographical carelessness,
and, says Thomas Fuller, under the quaint heading of “Fye for Shame,”
“what is but carelessness in other books is impiety in setting forth
of the Bible.” Many of the errors were curious;--the printers in
Charles I.’s reign had been heavily fined for issuing an edition in
which, the word “not” being omitted, the seventh, commandment had been
rendered a positive, instead of a negative injunction. The _Spectator_
wickedly suggests that, judging from the morals of the day, very many
copies must have got abroad into continuous use. In the Bible of 1653,
moreover, the printers allowed “know ye not that the _un_righteous
shall inherit the kingdom of God” to stand uncorrected. However, the
Universities and the King’s printer still possessed the monopoly, and
this new trade of good cheap Bibles “proving not only very detrimental
to the public revenues, but likewise to the King’s printer, all ways
and means were devised to quash the same, which, being vigorously put
in execution, the booksellers, by frequent seizures and prosecutions,
became so great sufferers, that they judged a further pursuit thereof
inconsistent with their interests.” Defeated in this manner, Guy
cautiously induced the University of Oxford to contract with him for an
assignment of their privilege, and not only obtained type from Holland,
and printed the Bible in London, but was, later on, in 1681, according
to Dunton, a partner with Parker in printing the Bible, at Oxford
(Parker could have been no connection of the famous publishing family).

[Illustration: Thomas Guy, founder of Guy’s Hospital. 1644-1724.

(_From the statue by J. Bacon, R.A._)]

[Illustration: Guy’s Hospital.

(_Bird’s-eye view from a Print, 1738._)]

Guy seems to have contracted in his early days very frugal and
personally pernicious habits. According to Nichols, he is said to have
dined every day at his counter, “with no other table-cloth than an old
newspaper,” and if the “Intelligence” or the “Newes” of that period
really served him for a cloth, the dish that contained his meat must
have been uncommonly small. “He was also,” it is added, “as little
nice in his apparel.” It was probably, too, in the commencement of his
career, that, looking round for a tidy and inexpensive helpmate,
he asked his servant-maid to become his wife. The girl, of course,
was delighted, but, alas! presumed too much upon her influence over
her careful lover; seeing that the paviours who were repairing the
street, in front of the house (an order was issued, in 1671, to every
householder to pave the street in front of his dwelling, “for the
breadth of six feet at least from the foundation”) had neglected a
broken place, she called their attention to it, but they told her that
Guy had carefully marked a particular stone, beyond which they were not
to go. “Well,” said the girl, “do you mend it; tell him I bade you,
and I know he will not be angry.” When Guy saw the extra charge in the
bill, however, he at once renounced his matrimonial scheme.

The Bible trade proved prosperous, and Guy, ready for any lucrative and
safe investment for his money, speculated in Government securities,
and, according to Nichols and Maitland, acquired the “bulk of his
fortune” by purchasing seaman’s tickets; but the practice of paying the
royal sailors by ticket does not seem to have existed later than the
year 1684; so that if he dealt in them at all it must have been a very
early period in his career, when it appears unlikely that he would have
had much spare cash to invest. Maitland adds “_as well as in Government
securities_, and this was probably the manner in which the ‘bulk of his
fortune’ was really acquired.”

That his finances were in a healthy condition, is apparent, from his
appearance in Parliament as member for Tamworth, from 1695 to 1707.
According to Maitland, “as he was a man of unbounded charity, and
universal benevolence, so he was likewise a good patron of liberty,
and the rights of his fellow-subjects; which, to his great honour,
he strenuously asserted in divers parliaments.” An honourable
testimony to his character, supported also by Dunton: “Thomas Guy, of
Lombard-street, makes an eminent figure in the Company of Stationers,
having been chosen sheriff of London, and paid the fine.... He is a man
of strong reason, and can talk very much to the purpose on any subject
you can propose. He is truly charitable.”

Throughout his life, he was very kind to his relatives, lending money
when needed to help some, and pensioning others. To charities, whose
purpose was pure benevolence, apart from sectarian motive, his purse
was ever open, and St. Thomas’s Hospital and the Stationers’ Company
were largely indebted to his generosity.

In his latter days, Guy was able to multiply his fortune many fold.
The South Sea Company was a good investment for a wary, cool-headed
business man, and he became an original holder in the stock. “It no
sooner received,” says Maitland, “the sanction of Parliament, than the
national creditors from all parts came crowding to subscribe into the
said company the several sums due to them from the government, by which
great run, £100 of the Company’s stock, that before was sold at £120
(at which time, Mr. Guy was possessed of £45,500 of the said stock)
gradually arose to above £1,050. Mr. Guy wisely considering that the
great use of the stock was owing to the iniquitous management of a few,
prudently began to sell out his stock at about £300 (for that which
probably at first did not cost him about £50 or £60) and continued
selling till it arose to about £600 when he disposed of the last of his
property in the said company,” and then the terrible panic came.

He was between seventy and eighty years of age when he determined to
devote his fortune to building and endowing a hospital which should
bear his name, and, dying in 1724, he lived just long enough to see
the walls roofed in. The cost of building “Guy’s Hospital” amounted to
£18,793, and he left £219,499 as endowment. At Tamworth, his mother’s
birthplace, which he represented in Parliament for many years, he
erected alms-houses and a library. Christ’s Hospital received £400 a
year for ever, and, after many gifts to public charities, he directed
that the balance of his fortune, amounting to about £80,000, should
be divided among all who could prove themselves in any degree related
to him. Guy’s noble philanthropy would be unequalled in bookselling
annals, but that Edinburgh, happily boasting of a Donaldson, can rival
London in the generosity of a bookseller.

We have had occasion to quote several times from “Dunton’s Characters;”
and, as the author was himself a bookseller, and was, moreover, the
only contemporary writer who thought it worth his while to preserve any
continuous record of the bookselling fraternity, we must give him a
passing notice here. John Dunton, the son of a clergyman, was born in
1689, and, after passing through a disorderly apprenticeship, commenced
bookselling “in half a shop, a warehouse, and a fashionable chamber.”
“Printing,” he says, “was the uppermost in my thoughts, and hackney
authors began to ply me with specimens as earnestly and with as much
passion and concern as the waterman do passengers with oars and sculls.”

Having some private capital he went ahead merrily, printing six
hundred books, of which he repented only of seven, and these he
recommends all who possess to burn forthwith. Somewhat erratic in his
habits he went to America to recover a debt of £500, consoling his
wife, “dear Iris,” through whom he became connected with Wesley’s
father, by sending her sixty letters in one ship. Here he stayed for
nearly a twelvemonth, pleasantly viewing the country at his leisure,
and cultivating a platonic friendship with maids and widows. At his
return he found his business disordered, and sought to make amends by
another voyage to Holland. By this time he had pretty nearly dissipated
his capital, but luckily came “into possession of a considerable
estate” through the death of a cousin. “The world,” he says, “now
smiled on me, and I have humble servants enough among the stationers,
booksellers, printers, and binders.”

Of all his publications, the only one that attained any fame was the
“Athenian Mercury,” which reached twenty volumes. His three literary
associates in this work were Samuel Wesley, Richard Sault, and Dr. John
Norris, and with his aid they resolved all “nice and curious questions
in prose and verse,” concerning physic, philosophy, love, &c. They were
afterwards reprinted in four volumes, under the title of the _Athenian
Oracle_, and form a curious picture of the wants, manners, and opinions
of the age; but the work is, perhaps, chiefly to be remembered as one
of the earliest periodicals not professing to contain “news.”

Dunton now, finding that he did not make much money by bookselling in
London, went over to Dublin for six months with a cargo of books and
started as auctioneer, naturally falling foul of the Irish booksellers,
whom he dressed off in a tract entitled “The Dublin Scuffle.” He
returned to England complacently believing that he had done more
service to learning by his auctions “than any single man that had come
into Ireland these hundred years.”

In London, however, he was by this time so involved in commercial
difficulties, that he was fain to give up bookselling altogether, and
take to bookmaking instead; and his pen was so indefatigable that he
soon bid fair to be the author of as many volumes as he had published.
The book that concerns us most here is the “Life and Errors of John
Dunton, written by himself in Solitude,” in which is included the
“Lives and Characters of a Thousand Persons now living in London.” In
this latter part he was obliged, “out of mere gratitude,” “to draw
the characters of the most eminent of the profession in the three
kingdoms;” consequently we find some half-dozen lines of “character”
given to every bookseller of his time in London, “gratitude” compelling
him, however, to be almost invariably laudatory; the other parts of the
“three kingdoms” are thus summarily and easily dealt with, “Of three
hundred booksellers now trading in country towns, I know not of one
knave or a blockhead amongst them all.” The book, however rambling and
incoherent, contains much worth preservation, and is not unpleasant
desultory reading.

Dunton’s own “character” has been preserved elsewhere than in his _Life
and Confessions_. Warburton describes him as “an auction bookseller
and an abusive scribbler;” Disraeli, “as a crack-brain, scribbling
bookseller, who boasted that he had a thousand projects, fancied he had
methodised six hundred, and was ruined by the fifty he executed.” His
greatest project, by the way, was intended “to extirpate lewdness from
London.” “Armed with a constable’s staff, and accompanied by a clerical
companion, he sallied forth in the evening, and followed the wretched
prostitutes home to a tavern, where every effort was used to win the
erring fair to the paths of virtue; but these he observes were perilous
adventures, as the cyprians exerted every art to lead him astray in the
height of his spiritual exhortations.”

There is something so Quixotic about his schemes, so complacent about
his marvellous self-vanity, that we are really grieved when we find him
ending his life, as most “projectors” do, with _Dying Groans from the
Fleet Prison; or, a Last Shift for Life_. Shortly after this, in 1733,
his teeming brain and his eager pen were at rest for ever.

Another bookseller, also a “man of letters,” but of very different
calibre from poor John Dunton, must have a niche here, not because he
was eminent as a publisher, but because he was, taken altogether, the
most famous man who has ever stood behind a bookseller’s counter. One
of our greatest novelists, his general life is so well known, that we
will only treat here of his bookselling career. Samuel Richardson,
born in 1689, was the son of a joiner in Derbyshire; a quiet shy boy,
he became the confident and love-letter writer of the girls in his
neighbourhood, gaining thereby his wonderful knowledge of womankind.
Fond of books, and longing for opportunities of study, he was, at the
age of sixteen, apprenticed to John Wilde, of Stationers’ Hall, but
his master, though styling him the “pillar of his house,” grudged him,
he says, “every hour that tended not to his profit.” So Richardson
used to sit up half the night over his books, careful at that time to
burn only his own candles. On the termination of his apprenticeship,
he became a journeyman and corrector of the press, and six years later
commenced business in an obscure court in Fleet-street, where he filled
up his leisure hours by compiling indices, and writing prefaces and
what he terms “honest dedications” for the booksellers.

Through his industry and perseverance his business became much
extended, and he was selected by Wharton to print the _True Briton_;
but, after the publication of the sixth number, he would not allow his
name to appear, and consequently escaped the results of the ensuing
prosecution. Through the friendly interest of Mr. Speaker Onslow he
printed the first edition of the _Journal of the House of Commons_,
completed in twenty-six folio volumes, for which, after long and
vexatious delays, he received upwards of £3000. He also printed from
1736 to 1737 the _Daily Journal_, and in 1738 the _Daily Gazette_.

In 1740 Mr. Rivington and Mr. Osborne proposed that he should write
for them a little volume of letters, which resulted in his first novel
_Pamela_, the publication of which will be treated in our account of
the Rivingtons. This was followed by _Clarissa_, one of the few books
from which it is absolutely impossible to steal away, when once the
dread of its size has been overcome. Though famous now as the first
great _novelist_ who had written in the English tongue, Richardson was
not then above his daily work. He writes to his friend Mr. Defreval,
“You know how my business engages me. You know by what snatches of time
I write, that I may not neglect that, and that I may preserve that
independency which is the comfort of my life. I never sought out of
myself for patrons. My own industry and God’s providence have been my
sole reliance.” In 1754, he was, to the great honour of the members,
chosen master of the Stationers’ Company, the only fear of his friends
being that he would not play the _gourmand_ well. “I cannot,” writes
Edwards, “but figure to myself the miserable example you will set at
the head of their loaded tables, unless you have two stout jaw-workers
for your wardens, and a good hungry court of assistants.”

[Illustration: Samuel Richardson, Bookseller and Novelist. 1689-1761.

(_From a Picture by Chamberlin._)]

The honourable post he occupied shows his position in the trade at this
time. This was improved in 1760, by the purchase of a moiety of the
patent of law-printer, which he carried on in partnership with Miss
Lintot, grand-daughter of Bernard Lintot. He died in the following
year, leaving funeral-rings to thirty-four of his acquaintances, and
adding in his will, “Had I given rings to all the ladies who have
honoured me with their correspondence, and whom I sincerely venerate
for their amiable qualities, it would, even in this last solemn act,
appear like ostentation.” It is impossible in treating of Richardson
not to refer to his vanity; but the love of praise was his only fault,
and it has grown to us, like the foible of a loved friend, dearer than
all his virtues. It is not unpleasant to think that the ladies of
that time, by the way in which they petted, coaxed, and humoured him,
conferred an innocent pleasure upon the truest of all the delineators
of their sex, except perhaps Balzac, who, if he knows it better, is
more unfortunate in his knowledge. With all Richardson’s vanity, he
drew a portrait of himself that is not far removed from caricature.
“Short, rather plump than emaciated, notwithstanding his complaints;
about five feet five inches; fair wig; lightish cloth coat, all black
besides; one hand generally in his bosom, the other a cane in it,
which he leans upon under the skirts of his coat usually, that it may
imperceptibly serve him as a support, when attacked by sudden tremors
or startlings, and dizziness which too frequently attacks him, but,
thank God, not so often as formerly; looking directly foreright as
passers-by would imagine, but observing all that stirs on either side
of him without moving his short neck; hardly ever turning back; of a
light brown complexion; teeth not yet failing him; smoothish face and
ruddy cheeked; at some times looking to be about sixty-five, at other
times much younger; regular even pace, stealing away ground rather than
seeming to rid it; a gray eye, too often over-clouded by mistiness from
the head; by chance lively--very lively it will be, if he have hope of
seeing a young lady whom he loves and honours; his eye always on the
ladies; if they have very large hoops, he looks down supercilious, and
as if he would be thought wise, but, perhaps, the sillier for that; as
he approaches a lady, his eyes are never set upon her face but upon her
feet, and thence he raises it pretty quickly for a dull eye; and one
would think (if one thought him at all worthy of observation) that from
her air and (the last beheld) her face, he sets her down in his mind as
so and so, and then passes on to the next object he meets.”

Among other letters to Richardson we come across an affecting one
from Dr. Johnson: “I am obliged to entreat your assistance, I am under
arrest for five pounds eighteen shillings.” As round Pope and Dryden
formerly, so it is now round Johnson that the booksellers of the next
decade cluster; and from the moment when first he rolled into a London
bookseller’s shop, his huge unwieldy body clad in coarse country
garments, worn and travel-stained, his face scarred and seamed with
small-pox--to ask for literary employment, and to be told he had better
rather purchase a porter’s knot, the future of the trade was very much
wrapt up in his own. Forced by hunger to work for the most niggardly
pay, he was yet not to be insulted with impunity. “Lie there, thou
lump of lead,” he exclaims as he knocked down Osborne of Gray’s Inn
Gate, with a folio. “Sir,” he explains to Boswell afterwards, “he was
impertinent to me, and I beat him.”

[Illustration: Edward Cave, founder of the “Gentleman’s Magazine.”

[Illustration: The King’s Printing House, Blackfriars.

(_From a drawing made about 1750._)]

Among the earliest of Johnson’s employers was Edward Cave. The son
of a shoemaker at Rugby, he contrived, in spite of the contumely
excited by his low estate, to pick up much learning at the Grammar
School, and after narrowly escaping an university training, and for a
while obtaining his livelihood as clerk to a collector of excise and
apprentice to a timber merchant, he found more congenial employment
in a printing office, and conducted a weekly newspaper at Norwich.
Returning to London, he contrived by multifarious work--correcting for
the press, contributing to _Mist’s Journal_, writing news letters, and
filling a situation in the Post Office simultaneously--to save a small
sum of money sufficient to start a petty printing office at St. John’s
Gate. He was now able to realize a project he had before offered
to half the booksellers in London, of establishing the _Gentleman’s
Magazine_, and to Cave must be conceded the honour of inventing that
popular species of periodical literature. The first number was printed
in 1731, and its success induced several rivals to enter the field,
but only one--_The London Magazine_--and that a joint concern of the
leading publishers, was at all able to hold any opposition to it; and
the _London Magazine_ ceased to exist in 1785, while the _Gentleman’s
Magazine_ has only quite recently displayed a sudden rejuvenation. In
its early days Johnson was the chief contributor to its pages. He had
a room set apart for him at St. John’s Gate, where he wrote as fast as
he could drive his pen, throwing the sheets off, when completed, to the
“copy” boy. The _Life of Savage_ was written anonymously, in 1744, and
Mr. Harte spoke in high terms of the book, while dining with Cave. The
publisher told him afterwards: “Harte, you made a man very happy the
other day at my house by your praise of _Savage’s Life_.” “How so? none
were present but you and I.” Cave replied, “You might observe I sent a
plate of victuals behind the screen; there lurked one whose dress was
too shabby for him to appear; your praise pleased him much.”

In 1736, Cave began to carry out his scheme of publishing the reports
of the debates in Parliament in the monthly pages of his magazine. With
a friend or two he used to lurk about the lobby and gallery, taking sly
notes in dark corners, remembering what they could of the drift of the
argument, and then retiring to a neighbouring tavern to compare and
adjust their notes. This rough material was placed in the hands of an
experienced writer, and thus dressed up, presented to the readers of
the magazine. In 1738, the House complained of the breach of privilege
committed by Cave, and, among other debaters, Sir William Younge
earnestly implored the House to put a summary check to these reports,
prophesying that otherwise “you will have the speeches of the House
every day printed, even during your session, and we shall be looked
upon as the most contemptible assembly on the face of the earth.”
After this check some expedient was necessary, and the proceedings in
Parliament were given as _Debates in the Senate of Great Lilliput_, and
were entrusted to Johnson’s pen. On one occasion a large company were
praising a speech of Pitt’s; Johnson sat silent for a while, then said,
“That speech I wrote in a yard in Exeter Street.” It had been reprinted
_verbatim_ from the magazine, and had been drawn up entirely from
rough notes and hints supplied by the messengers. When congratulated
on his uniform political impartiality, Johnson replied: “That is not
quite true, sir; I saved appearances well enough, but I took care that
the Whig dogs should not have the best of it.” Cave’s attention to
the magazine was unremitting to the day of his death; “he scarce ever
looked out of the window,” says Johnson, “but for its improvement.”

In 1749, the first popular review was started, by Ralph Griffiths; but
before the time of the _Monthly Review_ there had been various journals
professing to deal only with literature. In 1683, had been published
a _Weekly Memento for the Ingenius, or an Account of Books_, and,
in 1714, the first really critical journal, under the quaint title,
_The Waies of Literature_, and these had been succeeded by others.
Still, the _Monthly Review_ was a very great improvement. Among the
chief early contributors was Goldsmith, who escaped the miseries of
ushership, and the weariness of a diplomaless doctor, waiting for
patients who never came, or, at all events, never paid, to live as a
hack writer in Griffiths’ house. Here, induced by want, or kindliness
to a fellow-starver, he got into trouble by borrowing money from his
master to pay for clothes, and appropriating it to other purposes.
Termed villain and sharper, and threatened with the Roundhouse, he
writes: “No, sir; had I been a sharper, had I been possessed of less
good nature and native generosity, I might surely now have been in
better circumstances; I am guilty I own of meanness, which poverty
unavoidably brings with it.”

As to the payment for periodical writing in that day, we are told
by an author who recollected the _Monthly Review_ for fifty years,
that in its most palmy days only four guineas a sheet were given to
the most distinguished writers, and as late as 1783, when it was
reported that Doctor Shebbeare received as much as six guineas, Johnson
replied, “Sir, he might get six guineas for a particular sheet, but not
_communibus sheetibus_;” and yet he afterwards explains the fact of so
much good writing appearing anonymously, without hope of personal fame,
“those who write in them write well in order to be paid well.”

Of all the booksellers of the Johnsonian era, Robert Dodsley, however,
was _facile princeps_. Born in the year 1703, he commenced life as a
footman, but a poem entitled _The Muse in Livery_, so interested his
mistress, the Hon. Mrs. Lowther, that she procured its publication
by subscription. After this he entered the service of Dartineuf, a
celebrated voluptuary, the reputed son of Charles II., and one of the
most intimate friends of Pope. Here he wrote a dramatic satire, _The
Toy Shop_, with which Pope was so pleased, that he interested himself
in procuring its acceptance at Covent Garden. The piece was successful,
and Pope, adding a substantial present on his own account of one
hundred pounds, Dodsley was enabled to open a small bookseller’s shop
in Pall Mall, then far from enjoying its present fashionable repute.
In this new situation, without any apprenticeship whatever, he soon
attracted the attention not only of celebrated literary men, but his
shop became a favourite lounge for noble and wealthy _dilettanti_.
In 1738, began his first acquaintance with Johnson, who offered him
the manuscript of _London, a Satire_. “Paul Whitehead had a little
before got ten guineas for a poem, and I would not take less than Paul
Whitehead,” and without any haggling, the bargain was concluded. Busy
as he soon began to be in his shop, Dodsley did not neglect original
composition. He produced several successful farces, and in 1744,
edited and published the work by which his name is best known now, _A
Collection of Plays by Old Authors_, which did much to revive the study
of Elizabethan literature, and was most fruitful in its influence on
later generations.

In about the following year Dodsley proposed to Johnson that he should
write a dictionary of the English language, and after some hesitation
on the author’s part, the proposal was accepted. The dictionary was
to be the joint property--as was then beginning to be the case with
all works of importance--of several booksellers, viz.: Robert Dodsley,
Charles Hitch, Andrew Millar, Messrs. Longman, and Messrs. Knapton; the
management of it during publication being confided to Andrew Millar.
The work took eight years, instead of the three on which Johnson
had calculated, of very severe study and labour, and the £1575 which
was then considered a very handsome _honorarium_, was all drawn out
in drafts, for at the dinner given in honour of the completion of
the great work, when the receipts were produced it was found that he
had nothing more to receive. Johnson, after sending his last “copy”
to Millar, inquired of the messenger what the bookseller said. “He
said, ‘Thank God I have done with him.’” “I am glad,” said the Doctor
smiling, “that he thanks God for anything.”

Andrew Millar was by this time the proprietor of Tonson’s shop in
Fleet Street, and was a man of great enterprise. He was the publisher,
among other authors, of Thomson, Fielding, and Hume, and Johnson
invariably speaks well of him. “I respect Millar, sir; he has raised
the price of literature:” “and,” writes John Nichols, “Jacob Tonson and
Andrew Millar were the best _patrons_ of literature, a fact rendered
unquestionable by the valuable works produced under their fostering
and genial hands.” Literature now was rapidly changing its condition.
Johnson had discovered that the subscription system was essentially a
rotten one, and that the real reading public, the author’s legitimate
patrons, were reached of course through the medium of the booksellers:
“He that asks for subscriptions soon finds that he has enemies. All
who do not encourage him defame him:” and then again--“Now learning
is a trade; a man goes to a bookseller and gets what he can. We have
done with patronage. In the infancy of learning we find some great men
praised for it. This diffused it among others. When it becomes general
an author leaves the great and applies to the multitude.” As to what
the booksellers of the eighteenth century were, and as to how they
compare with the publishers of the nineteenth century, we will quote
from an unedited letter of Mr. Thomas Carlyle, dated 3rd May, 1852,
addressed to Mr. John Chapman, bookseller (Emerson’s first English
publisher, we believe), now Dr. Chapman:--

“The duties of society towards literature in this new condition of
the world are becoming great, vital, inextricably intricate, little
capable of being done or understood at present, yet all important to
be understood and done if society will continue to exist along with
it, or it along with society. For the highest provinces of spiritual
culture and most sacred interests of men down to the lowest economic
and ephemeral concerns, where ‘free press’ rules supreme, society was
itself with all its sovereignties and parliaments depending on the
thing it calls literature; and bound by incalculable penalties in many
duties in regard to that. Of which duties I perceive finance alone,
and free trade alone will by no means be found to be the sum....
What alone concerns us here is to remark that the present system of
book-publishing discharges none of these duties--less and less makes
even the appearance of discharging them--and, indeed, as I believe,
is, by the nature of the case, incapable of ever, in any perceptible
degree, discharging any of them in the times that now are. A century
ago, there was in the bookselling guild if never any royalty of
spirit, as how could such a thing be looked for there? yet a spirit
of merchanthood, which had its value in regard to the prosaic parts
of literature, and is even to be thankfully remembered. By this solid
merchant spirit, if we take the victualling and furnishing of such an
enterprise as Samuel Johnson’s _English Dictionary_ for its highest
feat (as perhaps we justly may); and many a _Petitor’s Memories_,
_Encyclopædia Britannica_, &c., in this country and others, for its
lower, we must gratefully admit the real usefulness, respectability,
and merit to the world. But in later times owing to many causes, which
have been active, not on the book guild alone, such spirit has long
been diminished, and has now ‘as good as disappeared without hope of
reinstation in this quarter.’”

To return to Dodsley, we find that in 1753 he commenced the _World_, a
weekly essay ridiculing “with novelty and good humour, the fashions,
follies, vices, and absurdities of that part of the human species
which calls itself the World”. Three guineas was allowed as literary
remuneration for each number, but Moore, the editor, a receiver
of this allowance, obtained much gratuitous assistance from Lord
Chesterfield, Horace Walpole, and other men of wit and fashion. Another
periodical, but a bi-weekly, the _Rambler_, all the work of Samuel
Johnson, appeared without intermission for the space of two years,
and in its gravity, its high morality, and its sententious language
presents a curious contrast to its livelier companion. Dodsley, after
having published Burke’s earliest productions, entrusted to his care
the management of a very important venture, the _Annual Register_,
which was to carry Dodsley’s name up to our own times. In the same
year, 1758, his last play _Cleone_, in which he ventured to rise to
tragedy, after having been declined by Garrick was acted at Covent
Garden amidst the greatest applause, and for a number of nights, that,
in those times, constituted a wonderful “run.” And the author, fond
to distraction of his last child, “went every night to the stage side
and cried at the distress of poor Cleone;” yet when it was reported
that Johnson had remarked that if Otway had written it, no other of his
pieces would have been remembered, Dodsley had the good sense to say
“it was too much.”

A long and prosperous career enabled Dodsley to retire some years
before his death, which occurred at Durham, in 1764.

Thomas Cadell, who had served his apprenticeship to Andrew Millar, was
now taken into partnership, and in a few years he and the Strahans
quite filled the place that Dodsley and Millar had previously occupied.
Together they became the proprietors of the copyright of works by the
great historical and philosophical writers who shed a lustre round
the close of the eighteenth century, and among their clients we find
the names of Robertson, Gibbon, Adam Smith and Blackstone. For the
_History of Charles V._ Robertson received £4500, then supposed to be
the largest sum ever paid for the copyright of a single work, and out
of Gibbon’s _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_ the booksellers are
said to have cleared £60,000. Cadell retired with an enormous fortune,
and was honoured by being elected Sheriff of London at a very critical
and important time. Alexander Strahan, became King’s printer, and left
a fortune of upwards of a million. His business was eventually carried
on by the Spottiswoodes.

[Illustration: Thomas Cadell.


The practice, we have already referred to, of booksellers fraternising
pleasantly together for the purpose of bringing out expensive editions
at a lessened risk, led to many famous associations, the earliest
of which, the “Congers,” will be dealt with hereafter in connection
with the history of families still represented in the trade, but the
“Chapter Coffee House” is too important to be passed over altogether.

There is an amusing account of the Chapter Coffee House in the first
number of the _Connoisseur_. It “is frequented by those encouragers of
learning, the booksellers.... Their criticisms are somewhat singular.
When they say a good book, they do not mean to praise the style or
sentiment, but the quick and extensive sale of it.... A few nights ago
I saw one of these gentlemen take up a sermon, and after seeming to
peruse it for some time, with great attention, he declared it was ‘very
good English.’ The reader will judge whether I was most surprised or
diverted, when I discovered that he was not commending the purity or
elegance of the diction, but the beauty of the type, which, it seems,
is known among the printers by that appellation.... The character of
the bookseller is generally formed on the writers in his service. Thus
one is a politician or a deist; another affects humour, or aims at
turns of wit or repartee; while a third perhaps is grave, moral, and

In this Coffee House the associated booksellers met to talk over their
plans, and many a germ of most valuable projects was originated here;
the books so published coming in time to be called “Chapter Books.”
Among the chief members of the association were John Rivington, John
Murray, and Thomas Longman, James Dodson, Alderman Cadell, Tom Davies,
Robert Baldwin (whose name, if not family, figured in bookselling
annals for a century and a half), Peter Elmsley, and Joseph Johnson.
Johnson was Cowper’s publisher; the first volumes of the poems fell
dead, and he begged the author to think nothing further of the loss,
which they had agreed to share. In gratitude Cowper sent him the _Task_
as a present; it was a wonderful success, and altogether Johnson is
said to have made £10,000 out of Cowper’s poems. He assisted in the
publication of the _Homer_ without any compensation at all. The most
important “Chapter books” were Johnson’s _English Poets_, including his
_Lives of the English Poets_, for which latter he received two hundred
guineas, and a present of another hundred, and, on their re-publication
in a separate edition, a fourth hundred. “Sir,” observed the Doctor to
a friend, “I have always said the booksellers were a generous set of
men. Nor in the present instance have I reason to complain. The fact
is, not that they paid me too little, but that I have written too much.”

Of course when the booksellers met, the literary men were not far
absent. “I am quite familiar” (writes poor Chatterton in his sad,
boastful letters, meant to cheer up the hearts of the dear ones at
home, while his own heart was breaking in London) “at the Chapter
Coffee House, and know all the geniuses there. A character is now quite
unnecessary; an author carries his character in his pen.”

Later on, the Chapter Coffee House became the place of call for poor
parsons, who stood there ready for hire, on Sunday mornings, at sums
varying from five shillings to a guinea. Sermons, too, were kept in
stock here for purchase, or could be written, there and then, to order.

At the very close of the last century a fresh band of “Associated
Booksellers” was formed, consisting of the following: Thomas Hood
(father of the poet), John Cuthel, James Nunn, J. Lea, Lackington,
Allen and Co., and others. The vignette which ornamented their books
was a Beehive, with the inscription of “Associated,” and thus they got
the title of the “Associated Busy Bees.”

Two of the principal booksellers towards the end of the last century,
require, from the magnitude of their business, a somewhat lengthier

George Robinson, born at Dalston near Carlisle, received his business
training under John Rivington. In 1764 he started as a wholesale
bookseller in Paternoster Row, and, by 1780, he could boast of the
largest wholesale trade in London. Nor were the higher branches of his
calling neglected, and in the purchase of copyrights he rivalled the
oldest established firms. Among his publications we may mention the
_Critical Review_, the _Town and Country Magazine_, and the _New Annual
Register_; the _Modern Universal History_ (in sixty volumes), the
_Biographica Britannica_, and Russell’s _Ancient and Modern Europe_;
_Bruce’s Travels_ and the _Travels of Anacharsis_; the illustrated
works of Hogarth, Bewick, and Heath; and the lighter productions of
Macklin, Murphy, Godwin, Mrs. Inchbald, Mrs. Radcliffe, Dr. Moore, and
Dr. Wolcot.

For the _Mysteries of Udolpho_ Mrs. Radcliffe received five hundred
guineas, the largest sum that had at that time been given for a
novel, and Peter Pindar (Dr. Wolcot) made a still better bargain for
his poems. They had already acquired a prodigious popularity, and in
selling the copyright a question arose, as to whether they should be
purchased for a lump sum or an annuity. While the treaty was pending
Wolcot was seized with a violent and rather ostentatious attack of
asthma, which sadly interrupted him in discussing the arrangements, and
he was eagerly offered an annuity of £250. The arrangement was made by
Walker, a partner with Robinson in this transaction. Walker soon called
to inquire after his friend’s illness, “Thank you, much better,” said
Wolcot, “I have taken measure of my asthma, the fellow is troublesome,
but I know his strength and am his master.” Walker’s face grew longer,
and when he rejoined his wife in the next room, the doctor heard a
shrill, feminine expostulation, “There, you’ve done it, I told you he
wouldn’t die!” He outlived all the parties concerned, and was in his
own case, perhaps, scarcely justified in originating the famous saying,
“that publishers quaff champagne out of the skulls of authors.”

This over-eager parsimony was not in any way due to Robinson; his
generosity to his authors was well known, and his house became a
general rendezvous for the literary men of the day, who were heartily
welcome whenever they chose to turn up, provided always that they did
not come late for dinner. After Robinson’s death in 1801, his son and
brother carried on the business, but met with reverses, principally
through loss of stock at a fire; but the wonderful prices that were
realized at the auction, consequent on their declared bankruptcy,
fairly set them afloat again. One bookseller, alone, is said to
have invested £40,000 at the sale, and even the copyright of Vyse’s
_Shilling Spelling Book_ was sold for £2,500, with an annuity of fifty
guineas a year to the old schoolmaster Vyse.

James Lackington, in his _Memoirs and Confessions_ has left plenty of
material, had we space, for an amusing and instructive biography. He
was born at Wellington in 1746, and his father, a drunken cobbler,
would not even pay the requisite twopence a week for his son’s
education. Loafing about the streets all day as a child, he thought he
might turn his wanderings to account by crying pies, and as a pie-boy
he acquired such a pre-eminence that he was soon engaged to vend
almanacs. At fourteen he left this vagrant life to be apprenticed to a
shoemaker, and his master’s family becoming strong adherents to the new
sect of Methodists, he too was converted, and would trudge, he says,
through frost and snow at midnight to hear “an inspired husbandman,
shoemaker, blacksmith, or a woolcomber” preach to ten or a dozen
people, when he might have quietly stopped at home to listen to “the
sensible and learned ministers at Taunton.”

However, what he heard “made me think they knew many matters of which I
was totally ignorant,” and he set to work arduously at night to learn
his letters, and when he was able to read, he bought Hobbe’s _Homer_ at
a bookstall, and found that his letters did but little in assisting his
comprehension; however, in his zeal for knowledge he allowed himself
“but three hours’ sleep in the twenty-four.” The art of writing was
acquired in a similar manner, and then he started on a working tour,
making shoes on the road for sustenance, but suffering many hardships
and miseries. To make matters worse, at Bristol he married a young
girl of his own class, whose ill-health, though he was passionately
fond of her, added no little to his troubles. Accordingly he went
to London, that for her sake he might earn higher wages, and not
altogether unhopeful of the fortunes he had heard were to be gained
there by dogged hard work and endurance. They arrived with the typical
half-crown in their pockets, and then Lackington, anxious to obtain
the small legacy of £10 he had left at home, went for it personally;
“it being such a prodigious sum that the greatest caution was used
on both sides, so that it cost me about half the money in going down
for it, and in returning to town again.” After working some time as a
journeyman bookseller he opened a little cobbler’s shop; and, thinking
he knew as much about books as the keeper of an old bookstall in the
neighbourhood, wishing also to have opportunity for study, he invested
a guinea in a bagful of old books. To increase his stock he borrowed £5
from a fund “Mr. Wesley’s people kept to lend out, for three months,
without interest, to such of their society whose characters were good,
and who wanted a temporary relief.... In our new situation we lived in
a very frugal manner, often dining on potatoes and quenching our thirst
with water; being absolutely determined, if possible, to make some
provision for such dismal times as sickness, shortness of work, &c.,
which we had frequently been involved in before, and could scarcely
help expecting not to be our fate again.” He soon found customers,
and “as ‘soon laid out the money’ in other old trash which was daily
brought for sale.”

[Illustration: James Lackington, Bookseller.


In a short time he had realized £25, and was able to take a book-shop
in Chiswell Street; and here he almost immediately lost his wife, which
for a time involved him in the deepest distress, but in the following
year he married again, and then resolved to quit his Wesleyan friends,
a sect he thought incompatible with the dignity of a bookseller;
indeed “Mr. Wesley often told his society in Broadment, Bristol, in
my hearing, that he could never keep a bookseller six months in his
flock.” From this time success uniformly attended his undertakings,
and was due, he says, primarily to his invariable principle of selling
at very low figures and only for ready-money. When he began to attend
the trade sales he created consternation among his brethren. “I was
very much surprised to learn that it was common for such as purchased
remainders to destroy or burn one-half or three-fourths of such books,
and to charge the full publication price, or nearly that, for such as
they kept on hand.” With this rule he complied for a short time; but
afterwards resolved to keep the whole stock. The trade endeavoured to
hinder his appearance at the sale-rooms, but in time they were forced
to yield, and he continued to sell off remainders at half or a quarter
the published price.[8] “By selling them in this cheap manner, I have
disposed of many hundred thousand volumes, many thousand of which
have been intrinsically worth their original prices.” Such a method
attracted a crowd of customers, and he soon began to buy manuscripts
from authors. As to how his circumstances were improving we read, “I
discovered that lodgings in the country were very healthy. The year
after, my country lodging was transformed into a country house, and in
another year the inconveniences attending a stage coach were remedied
by a chariot,” on the doors of which “I have put a motto to remind me
to what I am indebted to my prosperity, viz.:--Small Profits do Great
Things.” Again, he was very fond of repeating, “I found all I possess
in small _profits_, bound by _industry_ and clasped with _economy_.”

The shop in Chiswell Street was now changed into a huge building at the
corner of Finsbury Square, grandly styled the “Temple of the Muses;”
above it floated a flag, over the door was the inscription “Cheapest
bookshop in the world,” and inside appeared the notice that “the lowest
price is marked on every Book, and no abatement made on any article.”
“Half-a-million of volumes” were said, according to his catalogue,
“to be constantly on sale,” and these were arranged in galleries and
rooms, rising in tiers--the more expensive books at the bottom, and
the prices diminishing with every floor, but all numbered according to
a catalogue, which Lackington compiled himself, and even the first he
issued contained 12,000 volumes. During his first year at the “Temple
of the Muses” he cleared £5000. In 1798, he was able to retire with
a large fortune, and he again joined the Methodists, building and
endowing three chapels for them, in contrition for having maligned them
in his rambling _Memoirs_. Latterly he was fond of travelling, and made
a tour of bookselling inspection through England and Scotland, seeing
discouraging signs in every town but Edinburgh, “where indeed a few
capital articles are kept.” “At York and Leeds there were a few (and
but very few) good books; but in all the other towns between London and
Edinburgh nothing but trash was to be found.” In Scotland, he looked
forward with great curiosity to seeing the women washing soiled linen
in the rivers, standing bare-legged the while, and indeed this incident
seems to have afforded him more gratification than any in his travels
except the following: “In Bristol, Uxbridge, Bridgewater, Taunton,
Wellington, and other places, I amused myself in calling on some of
my masters, with whom I had, about twenty years before, worked as a
journeyman shoemaker. I addressed each with ‘Pray, sir, have you got
any occasion?’ which is the term made use of by journeymen in that
useful occupation, when seeking employment. Most of these honest men
had quite forgotten my person, as many of them had not seen me since I
worked for them; so that it is not easy for you to conceive with what
surprize and astonishment they gazed on me. For you must know that I
had the vanity (I call it humour) to do this in my chariot, attended
by my servants; and on telling them who I was all appeared to be very
happy to see me.”

James Lackington died in his country house in Budleigh Lutterton, in
Devonshire, in 1815. His life is an eminent example how a man of no
attainments or advantages can conquer success by sheer hard work and

Lackington was not the only man of his time who perceived that the
conditions of literature were displaying at least a chance of change;
that the circle of the book-buying public was incessantly enlarging,
and that, by supplying the best books at the cheapest remunerative
rates, not only would the progress of education be accelerated, but
that the very speculation would bring fortune as well as honour to
the innovators in the Trade. One of the first booksellers to adopt
this principle was John Bell, whose name is still preserved in
_Bell’s Weekly Messenger_. His _British Poets_, _British Theatre_ and
_Shakespeare_, published in small pocket volumes, carried consternation
into the trade, but scattered the English classics broadcast among
the people. He was the first to discard the long s. He was soon
rivalled by Cook and Harrison, and all three were distinguished, not
only by publishing in little pocket volumes, exquisitely printed, and
embellished by the best artists for the many, what had before been
produced in folios and quartos for the few, but as the inventors of the
“number trade,” by which even expensive works were sold in small weekly
portions to those to whom literature had hitherto been an unknown
luxury. Such were the _Lives of Christ_, _The Histories of England_,
_Foxe’s Book of Martyrs_, _Family Bibles with Notes_, and _The Works
of Flavius Josephus_. Many of these “number books,” though of no
great literary merit, exhibited every possible attraction on their
copious title-pages, and were announced with the then novel terms of
“beautiful,” “elegant,” “superb,” and “magnificent.”

[Illustration: Andrew Donaldson.

(_From an Etching by Kay. 1789._)]

[Illustration: Stationers’ Hall, near Paternoster Row.

(_From an Etching by R. Cole. 1750._)]

But the pioneer to whom the cheap book-buying public is most indebted
was Alexander Donaldson, who, though an Edinburgh man, fought out his
chief battles among his London brethren. Donaldson’s contemporaries in
Edinburgh in the middle of the eighteenth century were Bell, Ellis,
and Creech, the only bookseller worth recording before that date being
Alexander Ramsay, the poet. Donaldson having struck out the idea of
publishing cheap reprints of popular works, extended his business by
starting a bookshop in the Strand, London--a step that brought him into
collision with the London publishers--and authors, for Johnson calls
him “a fellow who takes advantage of the state of the law to injure
his brethren ... and supposing he did reduce the price of books is no
better than Robin Hood who robbed the rich in order to give to the
poor.” In 1771, Donaldson reprinted Thomson’s _Seasons_, and an action
at law was brought against him by certain booksellers. He proved that
the work in question had first been printed in 1729, that its author
died in 1748, and that the copyright consequently expired in 1757; and
the Lords decided in his favour, thereby settling finally the vulgar
and traditional theory that copyright was the interminable possession
of the purchaser. To follow this interesting question for a moment. In
Anne’s reign it was decided that copyright was to last for fourteen
years, with an additional term of fourteen years, provided that the
author was alive at the expiry of the first. In 1773-4, following upon
Donaldson’s prosecution, a bill to render copyright perpetual passed
through the Commons, but was thrown out in the Lords, and in 1814 the
term of fourteen years and a conditional fourteen was extended to
a definite and invariable period of twenty-eight years. Finally in
1842, the present law was passed, by which the term was prolonged to
forty-two years, but the copyright was not to expire in any case before
seven years after the author’s death.

Donaldson left a very large fortune, which was greatly augmented by his
son, who bequeathed the total amount, a quarter of a million, to found
an educational hospital for poor children in Edinburgh, under the title
of “Donaldson’s Hospital.”

During the period under review the localities affected by the
bookselling and publishing trade had greatly changed and altered. The
stalls of the “Chap. Book” venders had disappeared from London Bridge
and the Exchange, and even Little Britain had been entirely vacated.
Little Britain, from the time of the first Charles to Mary and
William, was as famous for books as Paternoster Row afterwards became.
But, even in 1731, a writer in the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ says, “The
race of booksellers in Little Britain is now almost extinct; honest
Ballard, well known for his curious divinity catalogues (he was said
to have been the first to print a catalogue), being then the only
genuine representative ... it was, in the middle of the last century, a
plentiful and learned emporium of learned authors, and men went thither
as to a market. This drew to the place a mighty trade, the rather
because the shops were spacious and the learned gladly resorted to
them, where they seldom failed to meet with agreeable conversations.”
The son of this Ballard died in 1796, and was by far the best of the
Little Britain booksellers. When the “trade” deserted Little Britain,
about the reign of Queen Anne, they took up their abode in Paternoster
Row, then principally in the hands of mercers, haberdashers, and
lace-men--a periodical in 1705 mentioning even the “semptresses of
Paternoster Row;” for the old manuscript venders, who had christened
the whole neighbourhood, had died out centuries before. It now became
the headquarters of publishers and more especially of old booksellers,
but with the introduction of magazines and “copy” books, that latter
portion of the trade migrated elsewhere, and the street assumed its
present appearance of wholesale warehouses, and general and periodical
publishing houses. It was not long indeed before the tide of fashion
carried many of the eminent firms westward, and the movement in that
direction is still apparent.




The family of Longman can trace a publishing pedigree back to a date
anterior to that of any other house still represented amongst us--the
Rivingtons only excepted. As in the previous chapter, we shall select
one member--necessarily that one to whom most public interest is
attached--as the typical representative of the firm, touching lightly,
however, upon all. And, in accordance with the scheme of the present
volume, our remarks will primarily be devoted to a narrative of their
business connections with that branch of literature--classical and
educational works--with which the name of Longman is more immediately

For the whole of the seventeenth century the Longman family occupied
the position of thriving citizens in the busy seaport town of Bristol,
then the Liverpool of the day, and acquired some considerable wealth
in the manufacture of soap and sugar, achieving in many instances the
highest honours in civic authority. Ezekiel Longman, who is described
as “of Bristol, gentleman,” died in the year 1708, leaving, by a second
marriage, a little boy only nine years of age, who, as Thomas Longman,
is afterwards to be the founder of the great Paternoster Row firm.

By a provision of his father’s will, Thomas was to be “well and
handsomely bred and educated according to his fortune;” this, we
presume, was duly accomplished, and in June, 1716, we find that he was
bound apprentice for seven years to Mr. John Osborn, bookseller, of
Lombard Street, London--a man in a good, substantial way of business,
but not to be confused with the other Osbornes of the time. Unlike
Jacob, Longman served his seven years, and reaped a due reward in the
person of his master’s daughter; and, as at the expiry of his time, the
house of William Taylor (known to fame as the publisher of _Robinson
Crusoe_) had lost its chief, Osborn being appointed executor for the
family, we find that in August, 1824 “all the household goods and books
bound in sheets” according to valuation were purchased by Longman for
£2,282 9_s._ 6_d._--a very considerable sum in those days, and, towards
the end of the month, £230 18_s._ was further paid for part shares in
several profitable copyrights.

In acquiring this business Longman took possession of two houses, both
ancient in the trade, the _Black Swan_ and the _Ship_, which, through
the profitable returns of _Robinson Crusoe_, Taylor had amalgamated
into one; and here on the self-same freehold ground, the immense
publishing establishment of the modern Longmans is still standing.

The first trade mention we find of his name occurs in a prospectus
dated Oct., 1724, of a proposal to publish, by subscription, _The Works
of the Honourable Robert Boyle, Esq._ (the father of chemistry, and
brother of the Earl of Cork), “to be printed for W. and J. Innes, at
the West End of St. Paul’s Churchyard, J. Osborn, at the _Oxford Arms_,
in Lombard Street, and T. Longman, at the _Ship_ and _Black Swan_,
in Paternoster Row.” In a few months after this Osborn followed his
daughter to the Row, and, adding his capital to that of his son-in-law,
remained in partnership with him until the end of his days.

In 1726, we find their names conjointly prefixed to the first edition
of Sherlock’s _Voyages_, and between that date and 1730 to a great
variety of school books.

All the works of importance, many even of the minor books, were, at
that time, published not only by subscription in the first instance,
but the remaining risk, and the trouble of a pretty certain venture,
were divided amongst a number of booksellers: and the share system was
so general that in the books of the Stationers’ Company there is a
column ruled off, before the entries of the titles of works and marked
“Shares,” and subdivided into halves, eight-twelfths, sixteenths,
twenty-fourths, and even sixty-fourths. Much of the speculative portion
of a bookseller’s business in those days consisted, therefore, not in
the original publication of books, but in the purchase and sale of
their shares, and to this business we find that Thomas Longman was
especially addicted. As early as November, 1724, he bought one-third of
the _Delphin Virgil_ from Jacob Tonson, junior; in 1728 a twentieth of
Ainsworth’s _Latin Dictionary_, one of the most profitable books of the
last century, for forty pounds, and, much later on, one-fourth part of
the _Arabian Nights’ Entertainment_ for the small sum of twelve pounds.

The chief interest of the career of the house at this period lies in
their connection with the _Cyclopædia_ of Ephraim Chambers, which was
not only the parent of all our English encyclopædias, but also the
direct cause of the famous _Encyclopédie_ of the French philosophers.
Longman’s share in this work, first published in 1728, cost but fifty
pounds, and consisted, probably, only of one sixty-fourth portion; as,
however, the proprietors died off, Longman steadily purchased all the
shares that were thrown on the book-market, until, in the year 1740,
the Stationers’ book assigns him eleven out of the sixty-four--a larger
number than was ever held by any other proprietor.

One of the few direct allusions to Longman’s personal character relates
to his kindness to Ephraim Chambers. A contemporary writes in the
_Gentleman’s Magazine_:--“Mr. Longman used him with the liberality of
a prince, and the kindness of a father; even his natural absence of
mind was consulted, and during his illness jellies and other proper
refreshments were industriously left for him at those places where
it was least likely that he should avoid seeing them.” Chambers had
received £500 over and above the stipulated price for this great work,
and towards the latter end of his life was never absolutely in want of
money; yet from forgetfulness, perhaps from custom, he was parsimonious
in the extreme. A friend called one day at his chambers in Gray’s Inn,
and was pressed to stay dinner. “And what will you give me, Ephraim?”
asked the guest; “I dare engage you have nothing for dinner!” To which
Mr. Chambers calmly replied, “Yes, I have a fritter, and if you’ll stay
with me I’ll have two.”

After the death of his partner and father-in-law, who bequeathed him
all his books and property, Thomas Longman seems to have prospered
amazingly. In 1746 he took into partnership one Thomas Shenrell; but,
except for the fact that this name figures in conjunction with his
for the two following years, then to disappear for ever, little more
is known. In 1754, however, he took a nephew into partnership, after
which the title-pages of their works ran:--“Printed for T. and T.
Longman at the _Ship_ in Pater-Noster-Row.” Before this, however, he
is to be found acting in unison with Dodsley, Millar, and other great
publishers of the day, in the issue of such important works as Dr.
Samuel Johnson’s _Dictionary of the English Language_. On the 10th of
June, 1855, only _two_ months after the publication of the dictionary,
he died, and Johnson is obliged to put off his well-earned holiday-trip
to Oxford. “Since my promise two of our partners are dead (Paul
Knapton was the second) and I was solicited to suspend my excursion
till we could recover from our confusion. Thomas Longman the first had
no children, and left half the partnership stock to his nephew and
namesake, the rest of the property going to his widow.”

Thomas Longman, the nephew, was born in 1731, and, at the age of
fifteen, entered the publishing firm as an apprentice, and at the date
of his uncle’s death was only five-and-twenty.

Under his management the old traditions were kept up--more copyrights
of standard books were purchased, the country trade extended, and
more than this the business relations of the house were very vastly
increased in the American colonies. One of Osborn’s earliest books,
by-the-way, had been entered at Stationers’ Hall in 1712 as _Psalms,
Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testament. For the
edification and comfort of the Saints in Public and Private, more
especially in New England_. The nephew probably followed up the
colonial trade of his uncle and master, for at the first commencement
of hostilities in that country he had a very large sum engaged in that
particular business, and, to the honour of the succeeding colonists,
several of his correspondents behaved very handsomely in liquidating
their debts in full, even subsequent to amicable arrangements and to
the peace of 1783.

As in the case of the founder of the house, the folio _Cyclopædia_,
still the only one in the field, occupied the chief attention of
the firm. Already in 1746 it had reached a fifth edition; “and
whilst,” adds Alexander Chalmers, “a sixth edition was in question
the proprietors thought that the work might admit of a supplement in
two additional folio volumes. This supplement, which was published
in the joint names of Mr. Scott and Dr. Hill, though containing a
number of valuable articles, was far from being uniformly conspicuous
for its exact judgment and due selection, a small part of it only
being executed by Mr. Scott, Dr. Hill’s task having been discharged
with his usual rapidity.” There the matter stood for some years,
when the proprietors determined to convert the whole into one work.
Several editions were tried and found wanting, and finally Dr. John
Calder, the friend of Dr. Percy, was engaged, but provisionally only,
for the duty. He drew up an elaborate programme, containing no less
than twenty-six propositions. The agreement, as it illustrates, in
some degree, the relative positions of authors and publishers, may
be quoted. Dr. Calder agreed to prepare a new edition of _Chambers’s
Cyclopædia_ to be completed in two years. He received £50 as a
retaining fee upon signing the agreement, and £50 a quarter until
the work was finally out of the printer’s hands. In spite of this
retaining fee the proprietors appear to have been smitten with fear,
perhaps dreading a repetition of Dr. Hill’s inaccuracies, and sent
round a specimen sheet to the eminent _literati_ of the day, asking
their opinions upon the matter and the style. All the verdicts were
unfavourable, one contemptuous critic complaining that the author had
twice referred favourably to the _Encyclopædia Britannica_, “a Scots
rival publication in little esteem.” Dr. Johnson cut away a large
portion of his sheet as worthless; but, at poor Calder’s request, who
began to be perplexedly alarmed by all these adverse reviews, explained
this superfluity as arising simply from _trôp de zèle_. “I consider
the residuum which I lopped away, not as the consequence of negligence
or inability, but as the result of superfluous business, naturally
exerted in the first article. He that does too much soon learns to do
less.” Then apologizing for Calder’s turbulence and impatience, the
kindly doctor prays “that he may stand where he stood before, and be
permitted to proceed with the work with which he is engaged. Do not
refuse this request, sir, to your most humble servant, Samuel Johnson.”
Again and again the doctor interposed his influence, but in vain, and
Abraham Rees, a young professor in a dissenting college near town,
was engaged, and a new issue of the _Cyclopædia_ (still Chambers’s),
in weekly parts, was commenced in 1778, running on till 1786,
attaining a circulation of four or five thousand, then a large one,
for each number; and Longman, as chief proprietor, must have profited
exceedingly by the work.

In the books of the Stationers’ Company we find repeated entry of
Longman as publisher or shareholder in such miscellaneous works as
_Gil Blas_, _Humphrey Clinker_, and _Rasselas_; and, true to the old
traditions of the firm, educational works were by no means neglected.
Among others we note a record of _Cocker’s Arithmetic_, since
proverbially and bibliographically famous.

Cocker was an unruly master of St. Paul’s School, twice deposed for
his extreme opinions, but twice restored for his marvellous talents of
teaching. “He was the first to reduce arithmetic to a purely mechanical
art.” The first edition, however, was published only after his death
by his friend “John Hawkins, writing master”--a copy sold by Puttick
and Simpson, in 1851, realized £8 10_s._ The fifty-second edition was
published in 1748, and the last reprint, though at that time the work
was in Longman’s hands, bears “Glasgow, 1777,” on the title-page.

 “Ingenious Cocker now to rest thou’rt gone,
  No art can show thee fully, but thy own,
  Thy rare arithmetic alone can show
  The vast _sums_ of thanks we for thy labour owe.”

In those days the publishers clave together in a manner undreamt of
in these latter times of keener competition. Nichols, in speaking
of James Robson (a Bond-street bookseller), and a literary club of
booksellers, observes that Mr. Longman, with the late Alderman Cadell,
James Dodsley, Lockyer, Davies, Peter Elmsley, Honest Tom Payne of
the Mew’s Gate, and Thomas Evans of the Strand, were all members of
this society. They met first at the “Devil’s Tavern,” Temple-bar, then
moved to the “Grecian,” and finally from a weekly gathering, became a
monthly meeting at the “Shakspeare.” Here was originated the germ of
many a valuable production. Under their auspices Davies (in whose shop
Boswell first met Johnson) produced his only valuable work, the _Life
of Garrick_. Poor Davies had been an actor till Churchill’s satire
drove him off the stage--

  “He mouths a sentence as curs mouth a bone.”

From this he fled to the refuge of a bookselling shop in
Russell-street, Covent-garden. He is described variously as “not a
bookseller, but a gentleman dealing in books,” and as “learned enough
for a clergyman.” Here he strived indifferently well till we come upon
his epitaph--

 “Here lies the author, actor Thomas Davies,
  Living he shone a very _rara avis_;
  The scenes he played life’s audience must commend--
  He honour’d Garrick, Johnson was his friend.”

At this club meeting, too, Johnson’s _Lives of the Poets_ were first
resolved on, and by the club clique the work was ultimately produced.

William West, a bookseller’s assistant, who died at a great age at the
Charter House, in 1855, has left in his _Fifty Years’ Reminiscences_,
and in the pages of the _Aldine Magazine_, a number of garrulous,
amusing, but sometimes incoherent stories of the old booksellers.
West says he knew all the members of the club, and bears witness
that “Longman was a man of the most exemplary character both in his
profession and in his private life, and as universally esteemed for his
benevolence as for his integrity.” He mentions in particular Longman’s
generosity in offering George Robinson any sum he wished on credit,
when his business was in a critical condition.

West adds, “I was in the habit of going to Mr. Longman’s almost daily
from the years 1785 to 1787 or 1788, for various books for country
orders, being what is termed in all wholesale booksellers’ shops ‘a
collector.’ Mr. Norton Longman had been caused by his father wisely
to go through this same wholesome routine of his profession; and I am
informed that the present Mr. L. (Thomas Norton Longman), although at
the very head of the book trade, has pursued a similar course with his

Longman--and this brings us to the subject--had married a sister of
Harris, the patentee, and long the manager of Covent Garden Theatre.
By her he had three sons, and of these Thomas Norton Longman, born in
1771, about 1792 began to take his father’s place in the publishing
establishment; and about this time Thomas Brown entered the office as
an apprentice. In 1794, Mr. Owen Rees was admitted a member, and the
firm’s title was altered to “Longman and Co.;” and at this time, too,
the younger Evans, “rating,” we are told, “only as third wholesale
bookseller in England,” became bankrupt, and the whole of his picked
stock was transferred to 39, Paternoster Row. The stock was further
increased by a legacy from the elder Evans to Brown’s father in 1803.
This elder Evans, as the publisher of the _Morning Chronicle_, had
incurred the displeasure of Goldsmith, who, mindful of Johnson’s former
valour, “went to the shop,” says Nichols, “cane in hand, and fell upon
him in a most unmerciful manner. This Mr. Evans resented in a truly
pugilistic method, and in a few moments the author of the _Vicar of
Wakefield_ was disarmed and stretched on the floor, to the no small
diversion of the bystanders.”

[Illustration: Thomas Longman.


Seven years, however, before this, Thomas Longman the second died, on
the 5th February, 1797. Of the position to which he had attained it is
sufficient to mention that when the Government were about to impose
an additional duty on paper, subsequent to that of 1794, the firm of
Longman urged such strong and unanswerable arguments against it and its
impolicy that the idea was relinquished; and at this time the house had
nearly £100,000 embarked in various publications.

Longman left his business to his eldest son, and to his second son,
George, he bequeathed a handsome fortune, which enabled him to become a
very extensive paper manufacturer at Maidstone, in Kent, and for some
years he represented that borough in Parliament. As a further honour,
he was drawn for Sheriff of London, but did not serve the office.

Edward Longman, the third son, was drowned at an early age in a voyage
to India, whither he was proceeding to a naval station in the East
India Company’s service.

At the time of Thomas Norton Longman’s accession to the chiefdom of
the Paternoster Row firm, the literary world was undergoing a seething
revolution. Genius was again let loose upon the earth to charm all men
by her beauty, and to scare them for a while by her utter contempt for
precedent. The torpor in which England had been wrapped during the
whole of the foregone Hanoverian dynasty was changing into an eager
feeling of unrest, and, later on, to a burning desire to do something,
no matter what, and to do it thoroughly in one’s own best manner, and
at one’s own truest promptings. No man saw the coming change more
clearly than Longman; and anxious to profit by the first-fruits of
the future, yet careful not to cast away in his hurry that ponderous
ballast of dictionary and compilation, he soon gathered all the young
writers of the day within the precincts of his publishing fold.

Down at Bristol, the ancestral town of both Longman and Rees, Joseph
Cottle had been doing honest service--without, we fear, much profit--in
issuing the earliest works of young men who were to take the highest
rank among their fellows. Cottle had published Southey’s _Joan of
Arc_ in 1796, and in 1798 had issued the _Lyrical Ballads_, the joint
composition of Coleridge and Wordsworth. When, in 1800, Longman
purchased the entire copyrights of the Bristol firm, at a fair and
individual valuation, the _Lyrical Ballads_ were set down in the bill
at exactly nothing, and Cottle obtained leave to present the copyright
to the authors. In connection with Cottle and Longman, we must here
mention a story that does infinite credit to both. At the very close
of the eighteenth century, Southey and Cottle in conjunction prepared
an edition of Chatterton’s works, to be published by subscription for
the benefit of his sister, whose sight was now beginning to fail her.
Hitherto, though much money had been made from the works of the “boy
poet,” they had been printed only for the emolument of speculators.

The edition unfortunately proved a failure, but Longman and Rees
entered into a friendly arrangement with Southey, and he was able to
report in 1804 that Mrs. Newton lived to receive £184 15_s._ from the
profits, when, as she expressed it, she would otherwise have wanted
bread. Ultimately, Mary Ann Newton, the poet’s niece, received about
£600, the fruits of the generous exertion of a brother poet, and of
the good feeling of a kind-hearted publisher.

The first edition of the _Lyrical Ballads_ did eventually sell out, and
then Wordsworth, detaching his own poems from the others, and adding
several new ones thereto, obtained £100 from Longman for the use of two
editions, but the sale was so very slow that the bargain was probably

In this same year 1800 the house of Longman also published Coleridge’s
translation of Schiller’s _Wallenstein_, written in the short space of
six weeks. Very few copies were sold, but after remaining on hand for
sixteen years, the remainder was sold off rapidly at a double price.

Southey (a Bristol man himself) met, too, with much kindness from the
firm, but after his first poem with but little, as a poet, from the
public. We have seen before that “the profits” on _Madoc_ “amounted
to exactly three pounds seventeen shillings and a penny.” No wonder
that he writes to a friend, “Books are now so dear that they are
becoming articles of fashionable furniture more than anything else;
they who do buy them do not read, and they who read them do not buy
them. I have seen a Wiltshire clothier who gives his bookseller no
other instructions than the dimensions of his shelves; and have just
heard of a Liverpool merchant who is fitting up a library, and has
told his bibliopole to send him Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope, and
if any of those fellows should publish anything new to let him have
it immediately. If _Madoc_ obtains any celebrity, its size and cost
will recommend it to those gentry _libros consumere nati_, born to
buy octavos and help the revenue.” Southey’s prose, however, proved
infinitely more profitable, and for some years he was the chief
contributor to Longman’s _Annual Review_ started in 1802, the same
year as the _Edinburgh Review_. About this time Longman first went to
Scotland, paid a visit to Walter Scott, and purchased the copyright
of the _Minstrelsy_ then publishing; and in the following year Rees
crossed the borders, and returned with an arrangement to publish the
_Lay of the Last Minstrel_ on the half-profit system, Constable having,
however, a very small share in it. Scott’s moiety of profits was £169
6_s._, and success being then ensured, Longman offered £500 for the
copyright, which was at once accepted. They afterwards added £100,
“handsomely given to supply the loss of a fine horse which broke down
suddenly while the author was riding with one of the worthy publishers”
(Owen Rees).

Already in the first few years of the century we find the house
connected with Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge, and Scott, but it was
by no means entirely to poetry that Longman and Rees trusted. In 1799
they purchased the copyright of Lindley Murray’s _English Grammar_, one
of the most profitable school books ever issued from the press--for
many years the annual sale of the _Abridgment_ in England alone was
from 48,000 to 50,000 copies. Chambers’ _Cyclopædia_ was entirely
re-written, re-cast, and re-christened, and again, under the management
of Abraham Rees, after whom it was named, came out in quarto form in
parts, but at a total cost of £85. The ablest scientific and technical
writers of the day were retained, and among them we find the names
of Humphry Davy, John Abernethy, Sharon Turner, John Flaxman, and
Henry Brougham. For the first twenty years of this century Rees’ _New
Cyclopædia_ filled the place that the _Encyclopædia Britannica_--“a
Scots rival in little esteem”--was afterwards to occupy.

In 1803, we find the trade catalogue has extended so much in bulk and
character that it is divided into no less than twenty-two classes.
Among their books we note Paley’s _Natural Theology_ (ten editions
published in seven years), Sharon Turner’s _Anglo-Saxon History_,
Pinkerton’s _Geography_, Cowper’s _Homer_, and Gifford’s _Juvenal_.

About this time too, they engaged very extensively in the old book
trade, a branch of the business discarded about the year 1840. In
a catalogue of the year 1811 we find some very curious books. Here
are the celebrated _Roxburgh Ballads_, now in the British Museum; a
Pennant’s _London_, marked £300; a Granger’s _Biographical Dictionary_,
£750; Pilkington’s _Dictionary of Painters_, £420; two volumes of
_Cromwelliana_, £250; an extraordinary assemblage of Caxtons, Wynkyn de
Wordes, and other early printed books, one supposed to date from 1446;
a unique assemblage of _Garrickiana_, and many other articles of a
matchless character.[9]

Longman was himself indefatigable in business, for fifty years
unremittingly he came from and returned to Hampstead on horseback; but
as the rious branches of the trade clearly prove, the superintendence
of so vast a business was altogether beyond the power of any single
man; and perhaps nothing tended more to raise the firm to the eminent
position it soon attained than the plan of introducing fresh blood
from time to time;--the new members being often chosen on account of
the zeal and talent they had displayed as servants of the house. In
1804 Thomas Hurst, with the whole of his trade and connection, and
Cosmo Orme (the founder of the hospital for decayed booksellers) were
admitted. In 1811, Thomas Brown, whom we have already noticed as an
apprentice, became a member of the firm, and until his retirement
in 1859, took the sole management of the cash department, with so
regular and just a system that an author could always learn what was
coming to him, and when he was to receive it--a plan _not_ invariably
adopted in a publisher’s counting-house. The firm was in 1824 further
strengthened by the admission of Bevis Green, who had been apprenticed
to Hurst in 1807. The title of the firm at this, its best known, period
was, therefore, “Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green.” When,
however, Thomas Roberts entered, the title was changed to “Longman,
Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green;” but we are anticipating, for
Roberts died as recently as 1865, having acquired some distinction in
private life as a Numismatist. For the sake of convenience, and for the
sequence of the story, it will, perhaps, be as well to consider the
firm as represented, as in fact from his leading position it was by
Thomas Norton Longman, touching only upon the others individually when
some directly personal interest arises. Before all these partnerships,
however, were accomplished facts Longman had taken a much more
precious, and even more zealous partner in the person of Miss Mary
Slater of Horsham, Sussex, whom he had married as far back as the 2nd
July, 1799.

Wordsworth of course continued his connection with the firm, though his
profits were absolutely _nil_. Though a poetic philosopher he was not
quite proof against the indifference of the public. In the edition
of the _Lyrical Ballads_ published in 1805 we find the significant
epigraph, _Quam nihil ad genium, Papinique tuum_. In 1807, he published
two new volumes, in which appeared many of his choicest pieces, and
among them his first sonnets. Jeffrey, however, maintained that they
were miserably inferior, and his article put an absolute stop to
the sale. Wordsworth had, perhaps deprived himself of all right to
complain, for his harshest reviewer did him far more justice than
he was wont to deal out to his greatest contemporaries. In 1814, we
find Longman announcing, “Just published, the _Excursion_, being a
portion of the _Recluse_, by William Wordsworth, in 4to., price £2
2_s._, boards.” Jeffrey used the famous expression--“This will never
do;” and Hogg wrote to Southey that Jeffrey had _crushed_ the poem.
“What!” retorted Southey, “Jeffrey _crush_ the _Excursion_! Tell him he
might as easily crush Skiddaw!” Wordsworth, who had invariably a high
value of his own works, even of his weakest ones, writes also,--“I am
delighted to learn that the Edinburgh Aristarch has declared against
the _Excursion_, as he will have the mortification of seeing a book
enjoy a high reputation to which he has not contributed.” For a while,
however, Jeffrey’s curse was potent, and it took six years to exhaust
an edition of only 500 copies. We need scarcely follow Wordsworth’s
various publications (do their dates not lie on every table of every
drawing-room in the land?), but the whole returns from his literary
labours up to 1819 had not amounted to £140; and even in 1829 he
remarks that he had worked hard through a long life for less pecuniary
emolument than a public performer earns for two or three songs.

Longman had at one time an opportunity of becoming Byron’s publisher,
but declined the _English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_ on account of
the violent attacks it contained upon his own poets--those of the Lake
school. With Scott we have seen that he had had dealings, and in these,
at all events, Sir Walter’s joke, that _Longmanum est errare_, did not
hold good. Before the collective edition of 1830, 44,000 copies of the
_Lay of the Last Minstrel_ were sold. Though Longman was inclined to
believe that Scott was not the author of _Waverley_, he was equally
anxious to secure the publication of some of that extraordinary series
of romances; and at a time when the Ballantynes were in trouble,
purchased _Guy Mannering_ by granting bills in advance for £1500, and
taking a portion of their stock, to the extent of about £600 more. The
_Monastery_ was also published by him in 1820, and he is said, though
the authority is more than dubious, to have paid Scott upwards of
£20,000 in about fifteen years.

What Scott was to Constable, and Byron to Murray, that was Moore
to Longman. “Anacreon Moore,” as he loved to be called, had gained
a naughty reputation from _Mr. Thomas Little’s Poems_, and, in
1811, we find him writing to Longman--“I am at last come to a
determination to bind myself to your service, if you hold the same
favourable disposition towards me as at our last conversation upon
business. To-morrow I shall be very glad to be allowed half-an-hour’s
conversation with you, and as I dare say I shall be _up all night
at Carlton House_, I do not think I could reach your house before
four o’clock. I told you before that I never could work without a
retainer. It will not, however, be of that exorbitant nature which
your liberality placed at my disposal the first time.” Soon after
this the Prince Regent threw over his old Whig friend, but Moore was
so successful in his political warfare that he more than gained as a
poet what he lost as a courtier, and his _Two-penny Post Bag_ went
through fourteen editions. He was, however, anxious to apply his genius
to the creation of some work more likely to raise his reputation than
the singing of lascivious songs, or the jerking off of political
squibs. Accordingly Perry, the editor of the _Morning Chronicle_, was
sent to discuss preliminary matters with Longman. “I am of opinion,”
said Perry, “that Mr. Moore ought to receive for his poem the largest
price that has been given in our day for such a work.” “That,” replied
Longman promptly, “was £3000.” “Exactly so,” rejoined the editor, “and
no smaller a sum ought he to receive.” Longman insisted upon a perusal

“Longman has communicated his readiness to terms, on the basis of the
three thousand guineas, but requires a perusal beforehand; this I have
refused. I shall have no ifs.”

Again Moore writes, “To the honour and glory of romance, as well on
the publisher’s side as on the poet’s, this very generous view of the
transaction was without any difficulty acceded to;” and again, “There
has seldom occurred any transaction in which trade and poetry have
shone so satisfactorily in each other’s eyes.” So Moore left London
to find a quiet resting-place “in a lone cottage among the fields in
Derbyshire,” and there _Lalla Rookh_ was written; the snows of two
or three Derbyshire winters aiding, he avers, his imagination, by
contrast, to paint the everlasting summers and glowing scenery of the
East. The arrangement had hitherto been verbal, but on going up to
town, in the winter of 1814, he received the following agreement from


    “That upon your giving into our hands a poem of yours of the
    length of _Rokeby_, you shall receive from us the sum of £3000.
    We also agree to the stipulation that the few songs which you
    may introduce into the work shall be considered as reserved for
    your own setting.”

Soon Moore writes to say that about 4000 lines are perfectly finished,
but he is unwilling to show any portion of the work until the 6000 are
completed, for fear of disheartenment. He requests Longman, however,
“to tell our friends that they are done, a poetic licence to prevent
the teasing wonderment of the literary quidnuncs at my being so long
about it.” Longman replies that “we are certainly impatient for the
perusal of your poem, but solely for our gratification. Your sentiments
are always honourable.” At length, after very considerable delays on
the part of the author, the poem appeared, and its wonderful success
fully justified the publisher’s extraordinary liberality. Moore drew a
thousand pounds for the discharge of his debts, and left, temporarily
only, we fear, £2000 in Longman’s hands, the interest of which was to
be paid quarterly to his father.

This was Moore’s greatest effort; nor did he attempt to surpass it. One
substantial proof of admiration of the poet’s performance should not
be overlooked: “The young Bristol lady,” says Moore in his diary, Dec.
23rd, 1818, “who inclosed me three pounds after reading _Lalla Rookh_
had very laudable ideas on the subject; and if every reader of _Lalla
Rookh_ had done the same I need never have written again.”

As it was, however, he was soon obliged to set to work once more--this
time as a biographer. The lives of Sheridan, Fitzgerald, and many
others, bear testimony to his industry; but in spite, perhaps because,
of their pleasant gossiping tone, they are far from accurate. At one
time he had so many lives upon his hands together, that he suggested
the feasibility of publishing a work to be called the _Cat_, which
should contain nine of them. His _Life of Byron_ we have already
alluded to, but we must again call attention to Longman’s generosity in
allowing him to transfer the work to Murray. Longman was not less eager
in his kindness to his clients in private than in business relations.
His Saturday “Weekly Literary Meetings” were about the pleasantest and
most sociable in London. As early as 1804 we find Southey writing to
Coleridge: “I wish you had called on Longman; that man has a kind heart
of his own, and I wish you to think so; the letter he sent me was a
proof of it. Go to one of his Saturday evenings, you will see a coxcomb
or two, and a dull fellow or two; but you will, perhaps, meet Turner
and Duppa, and Duppa is worth knowing.” Throughout the day the new
publications were displayed in a separate department for the use of the
literary men, and house dinners were of frequent occurrence; the whole
of the “Lake School” were steady recipients of Longman’s hospitality
whenever they came to town.

As, perhaps, the strongest proof of a man’s kindliness of heart,
Longman is invariably represented as being “almost adored by his
domestics, from his uniform attention to the comforts of those who have
grown gray in his service.” He was a liberal patron of the “Association
for the Relief of Decayed Booksellers,” and was also one of the
“Court of Assistants of the Company of Stationers,” but, with the
characteristic modesty of his disposition, paid the customary fine to
be allowed to decline the offices of warden and master of the company.

For many years the “House” had been London agents and part proprietors
of the _Edinburgh Review_, and when the commercial crash of 1826
destroyed Constable’s huge establishment, the property was virtually
in their own hands, and the number for December, 1826, is printed
for “Longman, Rees, Orme, Browne, and Green, London, and Adam Black,
Edinburgh;” and if we “read between the lines” of the new designation
we learn that Hurst had been concerned in some bill transactions,
and had been this year compelled to retire (he died an inmate of the
Charter House, in 1847), and we may also gather something of the strong
connection that was to be formed with the house of Adam Black.

Jeffrey retired from the editorial chair in 1829, but Macney Napier,
the editor of the _Encyclopædia Britannica_ was appointed in his
stead, and the literary management of the journal was still continued
in Edinburgh. Sydney Smith ceased to write for the _Review_ in 1827;
but in 1825 an article was contributed on Milton, by a young man of
five-and-twenty; and Mr. Thomas Babington Macaulay, who, as Moore said,
could do any mortal thing but forget, was destined to be, not only the
most brilliant of the daring and talented band of Edinburgh Reviewers,
but eventually, one of the most powerful contributors to Longman’s
fortune and reputation.[10]

To return again to educational works, we find that in Mangnall’s
_Questions_ a property had been acquired that fully rivalled Murray’s
_Mrs. Markham_. A type now of a hideously painful and parrot-like
system of teaching (what negations of talent our sisters and mothers
owe to this encyclopædic volume we shudder to sum up!) it was imitated
and printed in every direction. Poor Miss Mangnall! who recollects
now-a-days that in 1806 she commenced her literary life with a volume
of poems? A very similar book, but on scientific questions, was _Mrs.
Marcet’s Conversations_, which was not only profitable to Longman,
but American booksellers, up to the year 1853, had reaped an abundant
harvest from the sale of 160,000 copies.

The attempts already made by Constable and Murray to promote the
sale of cheap and yet excellent books, led Longman to establish his
_Cabinet Encyclopædia_. The management was given to Dr. Lardner,
then a professor at the London University, and all, or nearly all,
Longman’s literary connections were pressed into service on his staff
of contributors. In the prospectus we see the names of Scott, Moore,
Mackintosh, Coleridge, Miss Edgeworth, Herschell, Long, Brewster, De
Morgan, Thirlwall, and, of course, Southey. The _Times_ gave more
than a broad hint that some of the names were put forward as lures,
and nothing else. Southey was anxious that this “insinuation” should
be brought before a court of law, where the writer may be “taught
that not every kind of slander may be published with impunity.” The
proprietors, however, contented themselves with publishing books, most
indubitably written by the authors whose names they bore. The first
volume was published in 1829, and at the close of the series, in 1846,
one hundred and thirty-three volumes had been issued, the whole of
which were eminently successful, and some few of them, such as Sir John
Herschell’s _Astronomy_, in particular, have since been expanded into
recognised and standard works.

Another valuable work which has been a constant source of wealth to
the firm, somewhat similar in scope to the preceding, was McCulloch’s
_Commercial Dictionary_, first published in 1832; in which year the
present Mr. Thomas Longman was admitted a partner, being joined by his
brother, Mr. William Longman, in 1839. With young Mr. Thomas Longman,
Moore appears to have been particularly friendly, addressing him always
as “Dear Tom.” As far back as 1829, we see the poet requesting that
some one might be sent over to have “poor Barbara’s” grave made tidy,
for fear that his wife Bessy, who was about to make a loving pilgrimage
thither, might be shocked, and we read afterwards that “young Longman
kindly rode over twice to Hornsey for the purpose.” In Moore’s diary,
too, for 1837, we find many regrets for the loss of Rees--a man “who
may be classed among those solemn business-ties, the breaking of which
by death cannot but be felt solemnly, if not deeply.” And again, later
on, in 1840: “Indeed, I will venture to say that there are few tributes
from authors to publishers more honourable (or I will fairly say more
deserved) than those which will be found among my papers relative to
the transactions for many years between myself and my friends of the

Thomas Longman the third was now an old man, but still constantly
attentive to business. In his time he had seen many changes, but none
more striking than those that occupied his latter days. _Madoc_ was
still lying on his shelves, but Southey was poet-laureate. Scott and
Byron had in succession entranced the world. They had now withdrawn,
and no third king arose to demand recognition. It was in the calm that
followed that Wordsworth obtained a hearing. In 1839, the University
of Oxford conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, amid the
enthusiastic applause of a crowded theatre. Younger men were coming
to the fore, and though his contemporaries were fast dying off, still
Longman was as eager for business as ever, and as ready, when it was
over, for his chief pleasure--the enjoyments of domestic life; for his
favourite pursuits--the love of music and the culture of fruits and
flowers. As far as health and activity went, though in his 72nd year,
he was still in the prime of life, when, on his usual ride to town, his
horse fell, near the Small-pox Hospital, St. Pancras, and he was thrown
over the animal’s head and struck the ground with such violence as to
fracture his skull and injure his spine; and in a few days afterwards
he died at his residence, Greenhill House, Hampstead, on 28th August,
1842--leaving a blank, not only in his own family circle, but in the
hearts of all who had known him as a master, or had reaped a benefit
from the uniform generosity of his business dealings.

Mr. McCulloch and many of his literary clients erected a monument, the
bust of which, by Mr. Moore, is said to be a good likeness, to his
memory--an affectionate tribute seldom paid by men-of-letters to a
publisher--now standing in Hampstead church.

His personalty was sworn under £200,000, and was principally left to
his widow and family. The former, however, did not long survive her
sorrow, but died some ten weeks after her husband.

Their second son, Mr. Charles Longman, of Two Waters, joined Mr.
Dickenson, in the trade of wholesale stationers and paper-makers,
in which they have since then attained a pre-eminence. Their eldest
daughter married Mr. Spottiswoode, the Queen’s printer, and the third
daughter is the wife of Reginald Bray, Esq., of Shere.

The succession of a Thomas Longman to the chiefdom of the house is,
Mr. Knight says somewhere, as certain as the accession of a George was
in the Hanoverian dynasty: and the present Mr. Longman, aided by his
brother William, took command of the gigantic firm in Paternoster Row.
The very year of their father’s death was a year to be long remembered
in the annals of the firm for an unusually successful “hit,” in the
production of the _Lays of Ancient Rome_. Not even in the palmy days
of Scott and Byron was such an immediate and enormous circulation
attained. In 1844, Macaulay ceased to contribute to the _Edinburgh
Review_--nearly twenty years from the date of his first contributions;
receiving latterly, we believe, £100 as a minimum price for an article.
A collective edition of these essays was published in America; and
within five years sixty thousand volumes were sold, and, as many of
these were imported into England, Macaulay authorised the proprietors
of the _Review_ to issue an English edition, which certainly proved
the most remunerative collection of essays ever published in this or
any other country. The English edition contains twenty-seven essays,
in some editions twenty-six. The Philadelphia edition contains eleven
additional essays.[11]

These essays were all very excellent, but Macaulay’s admirers regretted
with Tom Moore, “that his great powers should not be concentrated
upon one great work, instead of being scattered in Sibyl’s leaves,”
and great was the satisfaction in 1841, when it was known that he was
engaged upon a History of England, and the publication of the work was
looked forward to with the greatest eagerness; and in 1849 the first
two volumes appeared. Success was immediate--“Within six months,”
says the _Edinburgh Review_, “the book has run through five editions,
involving an issue of above 18,000 copies.” By 1856, the sale of
these two volumes had reached nearly 40,000 copies, and in the United
States 125,000 copies were sold in five years. For the privilege of
publication for ten years, it is said that Mr. Longman allowed the
author £600 per annum; the copyright remaining in Macaulay’s possession.

This success, however, was nothing to that achieved by the third and
fourth volumes; and the day of their publication, 17th Dec., 1855, will
be long remembered in the annals of Paternoster Row. It was presumed
that 25,000 copies would be quite sufficient to meet the first public
demand; but this enormous pile of books, weighing fifty-six tons, was
exhausted the first day, and eleven thousand applicants were still
unsatisfied. In New York one house sold 73,000 volumes (three different
styles and prices) in ten days, and 25,000 more were immediately issued
in Philadelphia--10,000 were stereotyped, printed, and in the hands
of the publishers within fifty working hours. The aggregate sale in
England and America, within four weeks of publication, is said to have
exceeded 150,000 copies. Macaulay is also stated to have received
£16,000 from Mr. Longman for the copyright of the third and fourth

Upon the death of Mr. Macney Napier, the editorship of the _Review_ was
transferred to Mr. Empson, Jeffrey’s son-in-law; while he in turn was
succeeded by Sir George Cornewall Lewis, who finally gave place to Mr.
H. Reeve.

In the way of cheap literature the “Travellers’ Library,” commenced
in 1851, is deservedly worthy of notice. In this year occurred the
unusual phenomenon of a pamphlet, bearing on its title-page the joint
names of Mr. Longman and Mr. Murray. This was a reprint of some
correspondence with Earl Russell, in his official capacity, as to the
injustice of the State undertaking the publication of school-books
at the national expense, and compelling the government schools to
adopt them--thus creating a perfect monopoly and interfering with
private enterprise. The books in question were published by the Irish
Educational Commissioners, but more than three-quarters of them were
eventually sold in England--many of them, especially the collection of
poetry, were, it was further urged, pirated from copyright works. The
correspondence was long and protracted on the side of the publishers;
and as is often the case in an important public question, Earl
Russell’s replies consisted of the merest acknowledgment. Mr. Longman
had, however, an opportunity of a pleasant revenge. Tom Moore had
left all his papers, letters, and journals to the care of his friend,
Earl Russell--a man who, as Sydney Smith said, thought he could do
anything--“build St. Paul’s, cut for the stone, or command the Channel
Fleet.” The one thing apparently he could not do was the editorship
or composition of a Poet’s Life. The material, indeed, was ample, and
seems to have been printed pretty much as it came to hand. However, the
sum which Mr. Longman gave for the papers appeared, together with the
pension, an ample provision for the devoted “Bessy.”

Among the later efforts of the firm we may here mention the issue of
many finely illustrated works, and we must also chronicle the fact
that in 1863--the business connections and stock of the Parkers were
added to the enormous trade of the leviathan firm. Giving a glance
at the changes that have taken place in the members of the firm, we
have merely space to note that at Cosmo Orme’s death in 1859 Mr. Brown
retired, and at his decease on the 24th of March, 1869, left an immense
fortune, more than £100,000 going in various legacies, of which the
Booksellers’ Provident Retreat and Institution each received £10,000,
the Royal Literary Fund £3000, and the Stationers’ Company in all
£10,000, the balance after the various legacies, and there were no
less than sixty-eight legatees, going to the grandchildren of Thomas
Norton Longman. The personalty of Mr. B. E. Green, who died about the
same date, was sworn under £200,000. Two of the former assistants, Mr.
Dyer and Mr. Reader, have, on the good old system, been admitted to
the firm, which now stands “Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.” Mr.
Roberts, as before stated, died in 1865.

Both the Messrs. Longman are well known for their literary talents--Mr.
Thomas Longman as editor of a magnificent edition of the New Testament;
and Mr. William as an historical author. The first of his works was, we
believe, privately printed, _A Tour in the Alps, by W. L._ Mr. William
Longman has always been an enthusiastic Alpine traveller. He has,
however, more recently published a _History of the Life and Times of
Edward III._, in two volumes, and at our present writing a new work has
just appeared in which he says playfully, “I trust authors will forgive
me, and not revenge themselves by turning publishers;” and he adds
heartily and generously, “There is, nevertheless, some advantage in a
publisher dabbling in literature, for it shows him the difficulties
with which an author has to contend--the labour which is indispensable
to produce a work which may be relied on--and it increases the sympathy
which should, and which in these days does, exist between author and
publisher.” These latter lines surely form a very fitting sentence with
which to conclude our short history of the house of Longman.





From 1790 to 1820 Edinburgh richly deserved the honourable title of
“Modern Athens.” Her University and her High School, directed by men
pre-eminently fitted for their duties, capable of firing their pupils’
minds with a noble purpose, endowed with a lofty ideal of a master’s
responsibilities--in fact, possessed of all the qualities that Dr.
Arnold afterwards displayed elsewhere--attracted and educated a set
of young men, unrivalled, perhaps, in modern times for genius and
energy, for wit and learning. Nothing, then, was wanting to their due
encouragement but a liberal patron, and this position was speedily
occupied by a publisher, who, in his munificence and venturous spirit,
soon outstripped his boldest English rival--whose one fault was, in
fact, that of always being a Mæcenas, never a tradesman.

Archibald Constable was born on the 24th of February, 1776, at Kellie,
in the parish of Carnbee in Fifeshire. He was the son of Thomas
Constable, who, through his sagacity in rural matters, had risen
to the position of land steward or baillie to the Earl of Kellie.
The first thirteen or fourteen years of Archibald’s life were passed
beneath his father’s roof, and his education, such as the parish school
of Carnbee then afforded, consisted of a course of reading in the
vernacular tongue, writing, arithmetic, and some elementary lessons
in trigonometry, and beyond this humble curriculum, we believe his
subsequent acquisitions did not much extend. Still, though he never
attained any proficiency in academical studies, his native talents and
address generally enabled him to both surmount and conceal it.

From an early age Archibald was possessed of a desire to enter upon a
bookseller’s useful career--a desire in his case not altogether unmixed
with the hope of acquiring literary distinction. In 1788 therefore,
he became apprenticed to Mr. Peter Hill, bookseller of Edinburgh, the
old friend and correspondent of Burns. While a lad in Hill’s shop he
seems to have devoted his leisure hours to the acquisition of that
knowledge of the early and rare productions of the Scottish press, and
of all publications relating generally to the history, antiquities,
and literature of Scotland, for which, throughout his subsequent
career, he continued to exhibit a strong predilection. About the time
of the expiration of his apprenticeship he married the daughter of
David Willison, a printer, who, though previously very averse to the
match, was subsequently of some service in enabling him to start for
himself. Having hired a small shop in the High Street, afterwards
rendered conspicuous by his celebrity as a publisher, he issued, in
November, 1795, the first of his Sale Catalogues of rare and curious
books, which soon drew to his shop all the bibliographers and lovers
of learning in the city. In this line of trade he speedily acquired
considerable eminence, not so much by the extensiveness of his stock,
for his capital was of the smallest, as by his personal activity, his
congenial curiosity, and his quick intelligence. Here it was that
Heber, in the course of his bibliomaniacal prowlings, came across
Leyden, perched perpetually on a ladder reading some venerable folio,
which his purse forbade him to purchase, but which through Constable’s
kindness was placed in this manner at his disposal. Heber soon brought
him under Scott’s notice, and thus had the pleasure of introducing
the two most promising young men of the day to each other. Constable
had, however, an ambition too strong to be satisfied with the routine
business of a second-hand book-shop. Even before his shop in the High
Street was fairly opened, he had himself offered a book to the trade--a
reprint of Bishop Beveridge’s _Private Thoughts on Religion_, struck
off coarsely upon a whitey-brown sort of “tea-paper;” but still it was
his first, and, as Archibald proudly said, “it was a pretty enough
little bookie!”

[Illustration: Archibald Constable.


Among other publications in which from his first outset he had
been engaged, and which at the time he esteemed as by no means
inconsiderable, were Campbell’s “History of Scottish Poetry,” Dalzell’s
“Fragments of Scottish History,” and Leyden’s edition of the “Complaint
of Scotland.” In 1801 he acquired the property of the _Scots Magazine_,
a miscellany which had commenced in 1739, and which was still esteemed
as a repository of curious facts. This congenial publication engaged
at first a considerable share of his personal attention, and, aided
by the talents of Leyden, Murray, and Macneil, its reputation as a
critical journal was raised into some importance.

Of all the extraordinary geniuses with whom Constable came into
contact, none were more conspicuous to those near enough to judge than
Leyden, his first editor of the periodical. A poet, an antiquarian,
an Orientalist, he will long be distinguished among those whom the
elasticity and ardour of genius have raised to distinction from an
obscure and humble origin. The son of a day labourer at Denholm,
he had, by sheer force of will, worked his way to the college of
Edinburgh, where he at once obtained the friendship of many eminent
literary men. His acquaintance with Scott soon introduced him into the
best society in Edinburgh--which was then the most intellectual society
in Europe--and here his wild uncouthness of demeanour did not at all
interfere with the general appreciation of his genius, his gigantic
endowments, and his really amiable virtues. Fixing his ambition on the
East, where he hoped to rival the achievements of Sir William Jones, he
obtained in 1802 the promise of some literary appointment in the East
India Company’s service; but when the time drew near it was discovered
that the patronage of the season had been exhausted, with the exception
of one surgeon-assistant’s commission, and he was informed that if he
wished to accept it he must qualify within six months. He grappled
at once with the task, and accomplished what takes other men three
or four years in attainment within the incredibly short space of six
months. He sailed for India in 1803, and died in 1811, at the early age
of thirty-six, having in the seven years of his sojourn achieved the
reputation of the most marvellous of Orientalists. His poetical remains
were collected and given to the public in 1821, and exhibit in some
instances a power of numbers which for mere melody of sound has seldom
been surpassed in the English language.

In 1802, Constable commenced the _Farmer’s Magazine_, under the
management of an able East Lothian agriculturist, Mr. R. Brown, then
of Markle. This work enjoyed a reputation contemporary with the whole
of his business life. Altogether, Constable was making fair way as a
publisher, when, in 1802, the _Edinburgh Review_ burst like a bombshell
upon an astonished world, and gave him just reason to believe that his
professional fortune was thoroughly ensured in the most glorious manner.

The origin of the _Review_, like the beginnings of all things, is
wrapped in doubt and mystery. Hitherto in the critical department of
English literature, a review had been little more than a peg upon which
to hang books for advertisement, and in which the general bearings
of science, literature, and politics were left almost untouched. In
Scotland, criticism was at a still lower ebb, for the country had
possessed no regular review at all since the old _Edinburgh Review_ had
expired in 1756, after a flickering existence of a twelvemonth.

“One day,” writes Sydney Smith, “we happened to meet in the eighth
or ninth storey (it was the third) of a flat in Buccleuch-place, the
elevated residence of the then Mr. Jeffrey. I proposed that we should
get up a review. This was acceded to with acclamations. I was appointed
editor, and remained long enough in Edinburgh to edit the first number
of the _Edinburgh Review_. The motto I proposed was--

  ‘Tenui musam meditamur avenâ.’

  ‘We cultivate literature upon a little oatmeal.’

But this was too near the truth to be admitted, and so we took our
present grave motto from Publius Lyrus, of whom none of us had, I am
sure, read a single line; and so began what has since turned out to be
a very important and able journal. When I left Edinburgh it fell into
the stronger hands of Lord Jeffrey and Lord Brougham, and reached the
highest point of popularity and success.”

It was resolved to bring out the first number of the work in June,
1802; but its outset was surrounded with many difficulties, arising
from want of experience in its chief conductors. The meetings of the
conspirators were held in a little room off Willison’s (Constable’s
father-in-law’s) office in Craig’s-court, to which each man was
requested to steal singly, by whichever way would be least suspicious;
and there they examined and criticised each other’s productions, and
corrected the proof sheets as they were thrown off. Here it was that
Jeffrey once rushed down excitedly into Willison’s printing-office,
crying, “Where is your pepper-box, man--your pepper-box?” In vain the
printer declared he had no such useful article on the premises; Jeffrey
persisted that the proof sheets must have been dusted with commas from
a pepper-box, so lavish had the printer been with his points. Through
various delays, typographical and otherwise, the first number, as we
have seen, did not appear until the following November.

Lord Brougham, in the first volume of his recently-published
autobiography, flatly contradicts this account. “Nothing,” he says,
“can be more imaginary than nearly the whole of it.” Still, when
Sydney Smith published his version of the history, neither Lord
Brougham nor any other person interested took the trouble to contradict
it; and we are inclined to accept rather an account written within a
short time of the foundation of the _Review_ than to receive another
version written by an octogenarian at an interval of more than half a
century. A letter, moreover, of Sydney Smith’s, first published in the
_Athenæum_ of April 1st, 1871, shows clearly that the proprietors of
the journal presented him “with books to the value of £100 (corrected
to £114) as a memorial of their respect for having planned and
contributed to a work which to them has been a source of reputation as
well as of emolument.” On the other hand, Sydney Smith’s editorship
certainly did not extend beyond the first number, and was probably even
in that subject to the direction of Jeffrey.

The list of contributions to the first four numbers may, however, be
accepted as indisputable evidence of Brougham’s enormous powers of
work. To these four numbers he contributed twenty-one articles, besides
portions of four others. Smith contributed eighteen, Jeffrey sixteen,
and Horner seven. Brougham, too, kept up this rate of contribution more
steadily than any of his colleagues. To the first twenty numbers he
contributed no less than eighty articles, Jeffrey seventy-five, Smith
twenty-three, and Horner fourteen. By this time the new periodical was
fairly launched, and the additional services of such men as Playfair,
Thomas Brown, Walter Scott, Hallam, Murray, and Stodhart, had been

The extensive circulation and reputation of the _Edinburgh Review_
was, Scott himself says, due to two circumstances; first that it
was entirely uninfluenced by the booksellers; and, secondly, the
regular payment of editor and contributors: Jeffrey receiving, from
the commencement of his labours, £300 per annum (afterwards increased
to £800), whilst every contributor was compelled, even if wealthy, to
accept a minimum bonus of £10 (afterwards raised to £16) per sheet.

Never before had the enterprise of young and almost unknown men started
so ambitious a scheme, and never since have pluck and learning,
talent and genius been so amply rewarded. They found the world of
English society, English literature, and English politics warped and
dwarfed--scared by the French Revolution and the American Republic
into a dormant state of Toryism--they found matters thus, and in
an incredibly short time they almost changed the current of the
national thought. Jeffrey, with his clear, legal mind, his startling
and brilliant manner of expression, his sarcasm cold and sharp-edged
as a Toledo blade, unfortunately only too capable of wounding too
deeply--won the position of the greatest English critic of all time,
and of the most eminent Scottish lawyer of the day--achieving the
highest honours open to the advocates of Edinburgh. Brougham, with his
ponderous learning, his marvellous versatility, his immense powers of
work, became not only the first English lawyer, but one of the first
English statesmen of his time. Sydney Smith, the wittiest man certainly
of his century, might have attained the highest honours open to his
calling, had he not preferred the more humble and more praiseworthy
career of being a liberal clergyman at a time when the wearers of his
cloth were one and all rank Tories to the backbone.

Constable, who had at first been rather startled and alarmed at the
design of the _Edinburgh Review_, was not prepared, any more than
the projectors themselves, for its immediate and splendid success.
Without a publisher of his cast of mind the work, however, might
have encountered some difficulties, and he was not slow to perceive,
nor backward to follow, that line of conduct towards its conductors,
without the observance of which the new relations between them could
not long have been sustained harmoniously. The present proprietors of
the work became, some years after its commencement, sharers of the
property, but the publishing department remained, we believe, under his
direction for many years.

In 1804 Constable assumed as partner Alexander Gibson Hunter, of
Blackness, and from that time the business was carried on under the
title of Archibald Constable and Co. In the following year, 1805,
he added to the list of his periodicals the _Medical and Surgical
Journal_, a work projected in concert with Dr. Andrew Duncan, and
which existed till 1855, when it was united to the _Medical Journal of
Science_. It was in this year, also, that the firm published a poem,
which was eventually to do more for the enlargement of their business
and the honour of their name than even the famous _Review_ itself.

Walter Scott, as we have seen, while still unknown to fame, had been a
frequent visitor at Constable’s old book-shop. The publishers of the
first edition of the _Lay of the Last Minstrel_ were Longman and Co. of
London, and Archibald Constable and Co. of Edinburgh; the latter firm
taking but a small venture in the risk. The profit was to be divided
equally between the author and the publishers, and Scott’s portion
amounted to £169 6_s._ Longman, when a second edition was called for,
offered £500 for the copyright, which was immediately accepted, but
they afterwards added, as the Introduction says, “£100 in their own
unsolicited kindness.” In the history of British poetry nothing had
ever equalled the demand for the _Lay of the Last Minstrel_. 44,000
copies were disposed of before Scott superintended the edition of 1830,
to which the biographical introductions were prefixed.

In the ensuing year Constable issued a beautiful edition of what
he termed _Works of Walter Scott, Esq._, comprising the poem just
mentioned, the “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,” “Sir Tristram,” and
a series of “Lyrical Ballads.”

In 1806 it was rumoured that Scott had a new poem in hand. Longman
at once opened negotiation as to its purchase, but in vain; and in a
short time the London publishers heard with a feeling of jealousy, not
unmixed with honest amazement, that Constable had offered one thousand
guineas for a poem which had not yet been completed, and of which he
had not even seen the scheme.

It may be gathered from the Introduction of 1830 that private
circumstances of a delicate nature rendered it desirable for Scott to
obtain the immediate command of such a sum; the price was actually paid
long before the poem was published; and it suited well with Constable’s
character to imagine that his readiness to advance the money may have
outstripped the calculations of more experienced dealers.

The bargain having, however, been concluded he was too wary to keep the
venture entirely to himself, and he consequently tendered one-fourth of
the copyright to Mr. Miller of Albemarle Street, and to Mr. Murray,
then of Fleet Street, London, and in both cases the offer was eagerly

_Marmion_, the poem in question, which had been announced by an
advertisement in 1857, as _Six Epistles from Ettrick Forest_, met with
an immense success, and 2000 copies, at a guinea and a half each, were
disposed of in less than a month.

As an instance of the freedom Constable left to Jeffrey in the
conduct of the _Review_, we are not a little astonished to read that
the venture, in which he had risked so much, was attacked in a most
slashing manner in his own journal. Jeffrey, thinking nothing of so
ordinary a circumstance, sent the article to Scott with a note stating
that he would come to dinner on the following Tuesday. Scott, though
wounded by the tone of the _Review_, did his best to conceal it. Mrs.
Scott, however, was very cool in her manner, and, as Jeffrey was
taking leave, could no longer restrain her pique, and in her broken
English--“Well, guid night, Mr. Jeffrey; dey tell me you have abused
Scott in the _Review_; and I hope Mr. Constable has paid you well for
writing it.” This anecdote, insignificant in itself, prepares us to
some extent for the coldness between them, which led Scott to originate
the _Quarterly Review_.

Emboldened still further by the success of _Marmion_, Constable now
engaged Scott to edit the works of Swift, and as Scott had several like
engagements on hand--he held, in fact, five separate agreements at the
same time, for the London publishers--offered him £1500 for his new

Constable was at this time in an apparently assured line of success.
Though of a very sanguine nature--a quality without which no projector
could possibly succeed--he was one of the most sagacious persons who
ever followed his profession. A brother poet of Scott says of him: “Our
butteracious friend turns up a deep draw-well;” and another eminent
writer still more intimately connected had already christened him “the
Crafty”--a title which, of all the flying burrs, was the one that
stuck the firmest. His fair and handsome physiognomy was marked by an
unmistakable and bland astuteness of expression. He generally avoided
criticism as well as authorship, both being out of his “proper line.”

But of this “proper line,” and his own qualification for it, his esteem
was ample. The one flaw, and the fatal flaw, in his character as a
business man was his hatred of accounts, for he systematically refused
during the most vigorous years of his life to examine or sign a balance
sheet. Scott, in describing his appearance, says, “Ay, Constable is
indeed a grand-looking chield. He puts me in mind of Fielding’s apology
for Lady Booby--to wit that Joseph Andrews had an air which to those
who had not seen many noblemen, would give an idea of nobility.” His
conversation was manly and vigorous, abounding in Scotch anecdotes
of the old times, and he could, when he had a mind, control the
extravagant vanity which at times made him ridiculous. His advice was
often useful to Scott, and more than one of the subjects of the novels,
and many of the titles, were due to his recommendations. Cadell, his
partner, says that in his high moods he used to stalk up and down the
room exclaiming, “By God! I am all but the author of the Waverley

Of course, as a successful publisher, Constable was overwhelmed
with the manuscripts of embryo genius. One or two stories are worth
repeating of the men who applied to him, but in vain. Hogg, the Ettrick
Shepherd, had already sold a volume of minor poems to Constable, when
setting to work in earnest he went to him again; but “the Crafty” was
too wise to buy a pig in a poke, and refused to have anything to do
with the matter until he had seen the MS. This reasonable request the
poet refused with, “What skill have you about the merit of a book?” “It
may be so, Hogg,” replied the Jupiter Tonans of Scottish publishers;
“but I know as well how to sell a book as any man, which should be some
consequence of yours, and I know too how to buy one.” Hogg, however,
easily found another publisher, and the _Queen’s Wake_ was soon as
widely popular as its great merits deserved.

The other refusal, unfortunately, did not end in the same happy manner.
Robert Tannahill, a Scotch weaver, whose songs in their artless
sweetness, their simplicity of diction, their tenderness of sentiment,
have long since won distinction, came up to Edinburgh very poor in
purse, but rich in the future that poetic aspirations imaged forth.
He put his manuscripts into Constable’s hands, offering the whole of
them at a very small price. Day after day he waited for an answer,
with a mind alternating between hope and fear. Constable, who always
distrusted his own judgment in such matters, and who, perhaps, at the
moment had no one else to consult, eventually returned the poems.
Tannahill in a madness of despair put a period to his existence, adding
one to those “young shadows” who hover round the shrine of genius, as
if to warn all but the boldest from attempting to approach it.

The business of Constable’s house was now so large and extensive
that he thought it a hardship that so much of his wares should pass
through the hands of English agents, who not only absorbed a large
share of his profits, but who could not be expected to serve him with
the same zeal as his own immediate followers. He and his Edinburgh
partner, therefore, in 1808, joined with Charles Hunter and John Park
in commencing a general bookselling establishment in London, under the
designation of Constable, Hunter, Park, and Hunter.

Shortly after this a breach that had been created between Scott and
Constable widened until at last they parted. Scott always maintained
that the quarrel was directly caused by the intemperate language of
Hunter, Constable’s original partner; but the severance was probably in
reality due to the influence of a third person--James Ballantyne--and
was, perhaps to a certain extent, influenced by a feeling of pique
at Jeffrey’s recent conduct. In 1808 he took a part, perhaps as a
suggester, certainly as a zealous promoter, in the establishment of
the _Quarterly Review_, as a political and literary counterpoise to
the _Edinburgh Review_. Already, in 1805, he had become a partner in
the printing house of James Ballantyne and Company, though the fact
remained for the public, and for all his friends but one, a profound
secret. “The forming of this connection,” says Lockhart, “was one of
the most important steps in Scott’s life. He continued bound by it
during twenty years, and its influence on his literary exertions and
his worldly fortunes was productive of much good and not a little
evil. Its effects were in truth so mixed and balanced during the
vicissitudes of a long and vigorous career, that I at this moment
doubt whether it ought, on the whole, to be considered with more
of satisfaction or regret.” Scott’s wish, openly expressed in his
correspondence, of thwarting Constable in his attempts to obtain a
monopoly of Scottish literature, resulted in the establishment of a
new and rival bookselling firm, under the title of John Ballantyne
and Co., to which he appears to have supplied the whole capital--at
any rate he subscribed his own half, with one-fourth, the portion of
James Ballantyne, and not improbably also the other fourth for John

John and James Ballantyne were the sons of a merchant at Kelso, and
here it was they went to school with Walter Scott, and thus commenced
an acquaintance so fraught with interest to all three. Early in life
James Ballantyne, though not bred to the trade, nor “to the manner
born,” opened a printing house at Kelso and started the _Kelso Mail_
newspaper, in which his brother John soon joined him. Having made some
improvements in the art of printing, which rendered their provincial
printing famous, they were persuaded to move to Edinburgh, and here
they founded a press which, rivalling in its productions the works of
a Baskerville or a Bensley, is at this present time as famous as ever.
From their first start their old connection with Scott was serviceable,
and in 1800 they printed his first important work, the _Minstrelsy of
the Scottish Border_, and from the time, 1805, when he first became
commercially interested in their business, they were firm friends and
faithful allies. Scott, to his dying day, certainly reciprocated their
kindly feelings, though Lockhart, his biographer, has since his death
said very harsh things of the evil resulting from the connection. It
is only fair to the Ballantynes to remember that both before and
after the period of partnership with him, their house was eminently
successful. In the meantime, Constable was busy publishing the works of
Dugald Stewart, who at this time occupied the same place in metaphysics
as Sir Walter did in poetry. The _Philosophical Essays_, published
in 1810, excited great, and even popular, attention. He also became
the proprietor of the _Encyclopædia Britannica_, for which he paid an
enormous price, and to which he published an excellent supplement. We
shall, however, treat more fully of the _Encyclopædia_ in connection
with Mr. Adam Black. We may here mention, as among Constable’s other
successful publications, Wood’s excellent edition of Douglas’s
_Scottish Peerage_, and Chalmers’ _Caledonia_.

The London branch was found to be unattended with the expected
advantages, and was given up in 1811. In the early part of this same
year Hunter retired from the Edinburgh house, upon which Constable,
acting upon the liberal view he always entertained as to the value
of his stock, and being, perhaps, not unwilling to impress the world
with an exalted idea of his property, allowed his partner a greater
amount of actual cash (£17,000 is understood to be the sum) than
was really his due. Robert Cathcart, of Drum, writer-to-the-signet,
and Robert Cadell, then a clerk in his employ, were admitted as
partners. Cathcart, however, dying the following year, Cadell remained
Constable’s sole partner.

Constable had, of course, felt considerably hurt at Scott’s desertion.
Sometimes it is related he would pace up and down the room, as was
his wont, raving grandiloquently of those who kick down the ladder by
which they have risen. But now that Hunter had left the firm, and now
that it was found that the new _Quarterly_ did not in the least damage
the value of the old one, a reconciliation could not but take place
between men who had formerly been so friendly, and on the publication
of the _Lady of the Lake_, Constable willingly gave the Ballantynes the
value of his experience and trade knowledge, though he was not directly
interested in the work.

The new poem was published just before the season for excursions, and
thousands rushed off at once to view the scenery of Loch Katrine; and
it is a well-ascertained fact that from the date of the appearance of
this volume, assisted by subsequent of his publications, the post-horse
duty in Scotland rose in an extraordinary degree.

Scott now found out that his move to the Ballantynes had not been
attended with the success he expected. John Ballantyne proved but an
irregular hand at book-keeping, and James was too much addicted to good
cheer (or Lockhart sadly belies him) to be really serviceable as a
business man. In vain did Scott write amusing letters of remonstrance;
the publisher’s business was neglected, and the firm, as booksellers,
fell into difficulties. Constable was appealed to, and, finally, for
£2000 consented to purchase most of the stock, and a complete business
reconciliation was effected between him and Scott. The Ballantynes,
however, still maintained their printing house, in which Scott was
secretly the principal proprietor, and at which he insisted that all
his own works should at all times, no matter who the publisher, be

About the year 1805 Scott had written a third part of a novel, which
was advertised by John Ballantyne, under the title of _Waverley_,
but he was unwilling to risk the loss of his poetical reputation by
attempting a new style of composition. He, therefore, threw aside the
work, and stumbling upon it in 1811, when his poetical reputation
was beginning to wane, and soon after he had threatened, half in fun
and half in earnest, “If I fail now I will write prose for life,”
he at once completed the story. The current rumour of the new novel
having been rejected by several London publishers, is entirely untrue.
The work was printed by the Ballantynes, and through the whole
series the greatest secrecy as to the author’s name was preserved.
James Ballantyne himself transcribed the “copy,” and copied Scott’s
corrections on to a duplicate proof sheet; nor was there a single
instance of treachery throughout the whole time of the secret.

When the printed volumes of _Waverley_ were put into Constable’s hands,
he did not for a moment doubt its authorship, but at once offered £700
for the copyright: this, we must remember, for a work to be published
anonymously, at a time when Miss Edgeworth, the most popular novelist
of her day, had never realized a like sum. The offer was, however,
declined, and ultimately an arrangement was come to by which author and
publisher were to share the profits.

_Waverley_ took two or three months to win public favour, and then a
perfect _furore_ set in. Sloop-load after sloop-load was sent off to
the London market, and on the rumoured loss of one of these vessels,
half London was in despair. The interest, too, excited by public
curiosity as to the author’s name, was carefully fostered, and in a
short time 12,000 copies were disposed of.

Scott employed part of his literary gain in purchasing a property
within three miles of Melrose, and gradually enlarged the
dwelling-house until it became a castellated mansion of considerable
size. The desire of becoming an extensive landed proprietor, became
with him a far stronger passion than any craving for literary fame.
It was more his desire, according to James Ballantyne himself, to
“add as much as possible to the little realm of Abbotsford, in order
that he might take his place, not among the great literary names
which posterity is to revere, but among the country gentlemen of

Under the influence of this infatuation, Scott produced a series of
novels, of which it will suffice to state the names and dates.

To _Waverley_ succeeded, in 1815, _Guy Mannering_; in 1816, _The
Antiquary_, and the first series of the _Tales of My Landlord_,
containing _The Black Dwarf_ and _Old Mortality_; in 1818, _Rob Roy_
and the second series of the _Tales of My Landlord_, containing the
_Heart of Mid Lothian_; and, in 1819, the third series, containing the
_Bride of Lammermoor_ and a _Legend of Montrose_. _Ivanhoe_ was to
have been issued as a separate work, by another anonymous author, so
as to spur the interest of a public that might possibly be flagging;
but the publication of a novel in London, pretending to be a fourth
series of the _Tales of My Landlord_, determined him to produce it as
the veritable production of the author of _Waverley_. This was followed
in quick succession by _The Monastery_ and _The Abbot_, in 1820;
_Kenilworth_ and _The Pirate_, in 1821; _The Fortunes of Nigel_ and
_Hallidan Hill_, a dramatic poem, for the copyright of which Constable
gave £1000, in 1822; _Peveril of the Peak_, _Quentin Durward_, and
_St. Ronan’s Well_, in 1823; _Red Gauntlet_, in 1824; and _Woodstock_,
in 1825.

The vast amount of business arising from these publications, produced
in Constable’s mind a conviction that he was a wealthy and prosperous
man. Though never possessed of much free capital, he saw around him
every day such proofs of an enlarging amount of stock, that nothing
less than the demonstration of figures--a demonstration he cordially
hated--could have given him greater assurance of his affluent
condition. Like Scott, he, too, was intoxicated with success. He had
a magnificent way of transacting all business, and living rather like
a princely father of letters, than a tradesman aiming at making them
subservient to his use, he was led into an expenditure beyond his means.

Another error lay in his yielding to Scott’s desire for money, and
the means of raising money by pre-payment for literary work yet to be
accomplished. Of Scott’s profits on his works, Lockhart makes the
following statements: “Before Sir Walter went to London, in November,
1821, he concluded another negotiation of importance with the house of
Constable and Co. They agreed to give, for the remaining copyright of
the four novels published between December, 1819, and January, 1821--to
wit _Ivanhoe_, _The Monastery_, _The Abbot_, and _Kenilworth_--the
sum of five thousand guineas. The stipulation about not revealing
the author’s name under a penalty of £2000, was repeated. By these
four novels, the fruits of scarcely more than a twelve months’
labour, he had already cleared at least £10,000 before this bargain
was completed.... I cannot pretend to guess what the actual state of
Scott’s pecuniary affairs was at the time when John Ballantyne’s death
relieved them from one great source of complication and difficulty....
He must (in his improvements at Abbotsford) have reckoned on clearing
£30,000, at least, in the course of two years, by the novels written
within the period, and the publishers, as we have seen, were willing
to give him £6000, within the space of two years, for works of a less
serious sort, likely to be despatched at leisure hours, without at all
interfering with the main manufacture. But, alas! even this was not
all.... Before _The Fortunes of Nigel_ issued from the press, Scott
had exchanged instruments, and received his bookseller’s bills for no
less than “four works of fiction,” not one of them otherwise described
in the deeds of agreement. And within two years all this anticipation
had been wiped off by _Peveril of the Peak_, _Quentin Durward_, _St.
Ronan’s Well_, and _Red Gauntlet_; and the new castle was at that time
complete, and overflowing with all its splendour; but by that time the
end was also approaching!”

To return for a moment to Constable’s life as apart from the author of
_Waverley_; he had, as we have seen, entertained in early years strong
literary aspirations, and he repeatedly expressed a touching regret at
the nonfulfilment of his hopes. The only literary efforts that have
been distinctly traced to his pen consist of an edition of _Lamont’s
Diary_, in 1810; a compilation of the poetry contained in the Waverley
Novels, and the composition of a small volume which appeared in 1822,
under the title of _Memoirs of George Heriot_, jeweller to King James,
containing an account of the hospital founded by him at Edinburgh. In
1816 he lost his wife, and in 1818 he married Miss Charlotte Neale,
who survived him. In the early part of 1822 his health suffered so
severely that he was obliged to sojourn in the south for a while. In
1823, though professedly a Whig in politics, he was included by the
liberal policy of the Government in a list of new magistrates for the
city of Edinburgh; and in the same year he moved from the warehouse,
which he had occupied for twenty years in the High Street, to an
elegant mansion in the New Town, adjacent to the Register House, which
had become his own through his second wife.

Constable had at this time all the personal and outward appearance of
a successful man. He was stout and portly in body, and rather defiant
and imperious in his manner. Among the trade he was known as the “Czar
of Muscovy;” of the London potentates, John Murray had earned the
_sobriquet_ of the “Emperor of the West,” and Longman and his string
of partners as the “Divan.” Constable had christened John Ballantyne
the “Dey of Algiers,” but, as John complained, had subsequently deposed
him. The “Czar,” however, was too fond of these nicknames. Longman was
one day dining with him: “What fine swans you have on your pond there,”
quoth the Londoner. “Swans,” cried Constable, “they are only geese,
man! There are just five of them, if you please to observe, and their
names are Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown.” This skit cost “the
Crafty” a good bargain.

About the year 1825, Constable devised a scheme greater than any he
had yet floated, and the adoption of which was eventually destined
to effect an entire revolution in the bookselling trade. After long
study of the annual schedule of tax-payers, he established his
premises clearly enough. There was undoubtedly an immense majority
of respectable British families who never thought of buying a book.
“Look,” he cried to Scott, “at the small class of people who pay the
powder tax, what a trifle it is to each, and yet what a fortune it
would bring to a bookseller! If I live for half-a-dozen years,” he
continued, “I shall make it as impossible that there should not be
a good library in every decent house in Great Britain, as that the
shepherd’s ingle nook should want the ‘saut poke.’”

“Troth,” said Scott, “if you live you are indeed likely to be

  ‘The great Napoleon of the realms of _print_.’”

“If you outlive me,” retorted Constable, “I bespeak that line for my
tombstone.... At three shillings or half-a-crown a volume every month,
which must and shall sell, not by thousands, and tens of thousands, but
by hundreds of thousands, and, ay, by millions! Twelve volumes in the
year, a halfpenny of profit on every copy of which will make me richer
than all the copyrights of all the quartos that ever were, or ever will
be, hot-pressed! Twelve volumes so good that millions must wish to
possess them, and so cheap that every butcher callant may have them if
he pleases to let me tax him sixpence a week!”

Scott saw the feasibility of the scheme, and it was decided to start at
once with a life of the “other Napoleon,” and a portion of one of the
“Waverley Novels.”

But, alas! before the plan could be carried into execution, the crisis
came. Lockhart received a letter from London stating that Constable’s
London banker had thrown up his book, and he galloped over at once to
Sir Walter’s, who smiled, re-lit his cigar, took the news coolly, and
declined to believe it, and for the moment he was right.

Lockhart’s account of the terrible failure in which Scott was involved
is this: Whenever Constable signed a bill for the purpose of raising
money among the bankers, for fear of accident, or any neglect in taking
the bill up before it fell due, he deposited a counter-bill, signed
by Ballantyne, on which, if need were, Constable might raise a sum of
money equivalent to that for which he had pledged his word; but these
counter-bills were allowed to lie in Constable’s desk till they assumed
the size of a “sheaf of stamps;” and when the hour of distress came,
Constable rushed with these bills to the money-changers, and thus the
Ballantynes who were liable to Constable for, say £25,000, were legally
liable for £50,000. Constable, in his turn, carried on the same game
with the London house of Hurst, Robinson, and Co., his agents--and upon
a much larger scale. They neglected their own business of bookselling
and entered heavily into speculation in hops, and in the panic of the
close of 1825, availed themselves of Constable’s credit, and he of the
Ballantynes, and the loss descended upon their principal partner, Scott.

This account has been contradicted by the representatives of John
Ballantyne, in two pamphlets, refuting Lockhart’s history of the
affair, and proving their side of the question by reference to the old
account books; Cadell, Constable’s quondam partner, and certainly not
biassed in his favour, throws his vote in with the Ballantynes. The
responsibilities they undertook were solely at the bidding of Scott,
and for his benefit; and in proof of this, they quote a clause from
the last deed of partnership, dated 1st April, 1822.

“The said Sir Walter Scott shall remain liable for such bills and debts
as there shall be due and current.”

When the persons most interested differ vitally, it is hard to decide;
however, the result of it all was, that when Hurst, Robinson, and Co.
stopped payment in London, Constable failed for upwards of a quarter
of a million, and the Ballantynes were also bankrupt to the extent
of £88,607 19_s._ 9_d._ It was in the middle of January, 1826, that
the actual crash came. Splendid and magnificent to the very last,
Constable rushed off to town as fast as post-horses could carry him.
He drove straight to Lockhart’s house, “and asked me,” says that
gentleman, “to accompany him as soon as he could get into his carriage
to the Bank of England, and support him (as a confidential friend of
the author of the ‘Waverley Novels’) in his application for a loan
of £100,000 to £200,000 on the security of the copyrights in his
possession”--a proposal that would have rather startled the old lady
of Threadneedle-street, who was, at that time of unparalleled panic,
according to Mr. Huskisson’s subsequent confession in the House, on the
very verge of suspending payment herself. When Lockhart refused--and,
of course, without direct instructions from Sir Walter, he could not
hazard such a step--Constable became livid with rage, stamped on the
ground, and swore that he could and would go alone.

How Scott bore the blow, and, what he dreaded infinitely more than the
mere loss of money--the exposure it entailed of his connection with the
printing house, we all know; how he declined to accept any compromise;
how he sold off his Abbotsford estate, which he had devoted all the
efforts of his genius to acquire, and which he loved so well; how he
slaved and toiled until the incredible sum was repaid--but, alas! at
the expense of a life more precious than all the lucre of creditors;
and how his last words on his death-bed were his best epitaph:--“My
dear, be a good man, be virtuous, be religious--be a good man! Nothing
else will give you any comfort when you come to lie here.”

Our matter, however, is with Constable. He saw his fortunes--the strong
up-buildings of a gloriously successful lifetime--dashed to the ground
at one blow. With a young family growing up around him, sick in body
and weary in soul, he too had to begin life afresh. All his “sunshine”
friends fell off, Scott was alienated, and his stock, which he had been
wont to contemplate as a mine of wealth, was sequestered, and sold
for a tithe of its value.[13] Cadell, his late partner, purchased the
copyrights of the “Waverley Novels” for £8,500, and, securing Scott’s
countenance, set up as a fortunate rival.

Constable, however, went manfully to work at his proposed Miscellany.
Captain Basil Hall, in kindly consideration, made him a present of his
_Voyages_, and this was brought out in 1827, for the small sum of one
shilling, and proved fairly successful. This same year, by-the-by,
was commenced the _Library of Useful Knowledge_, by the Society for
the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, who, following Constable, had the
“honour of leading the way in that fearful inroad upon dearness of
the good old times of publishing, which first developed itself in the
wicked birth of what the literary exclusives called the _Sixpenny

Constable’s prospects were brightening; he had now gathered round him
all the younger literary men of the day, when, in the midst of his
struggles, his old disease of dropsy again attacked him, and he died on
the 21st July, 1827.

His widow and family were left in sorry circumstances, but his son
Thomas eventually attained the position of an eminent and well-known
printer in Edinburgh. The Ballantynes, with whom he had been so
intimately connected, disproved many of Lockhart’s assertions, by
showing that, by dint of hard work and good business habits, they were
capable of success, unaided by the help of Sir Walter Scott.

Constable, if not the most successful, was certainly the most eminent
of the Scotch publishers. It is pleasant where the two lives have
been so curiously blended to be able to quote Scott’s estimate of his

“His vigorous intellect and vigorous ideas have not only rendered
his native country the merit of her own literature, but established
there a court of letters which commanded respect even from those most
inclined to dissent from many of its canons. The effect of these
changes operated, in a great measure, by the strong sense and sagacious
calculation of an individual who knew how to avail himself, to an
unhoped-for extent, of the various kinds of talents which his country
produced, will probably appear much clearer to the generation which
shall follow the present.”

The remaining portion of this chapter will in itself bear ample
testimony to the truth of this prediction; for we shall have to touch
upon two distinct lives, and two long and very successful lives, to
trace the progress of the chief works which passed out of Constable’s
hands so shortly before his death.

Robert Cadell had been admitted a partner in the house upon his
marriage with Constable’s daughter, but she died childless long before
the failure, and Cadell was soon married again to a Miss Mylne. Thus
the family ties were severed, and, when the crash came, Cadell felt no
hesitation in entering the field as a rival to his late partner.

The stock of the Waverley Novels was sold off, far below the market
value, and the London publishers, judging from this that the intrinsic
worth of the copyright had irretrievably declined, allowed Cadell, as
we have seen, in conjunction with Scott, to become the purchaser at the
low price of £8500. The success of the republication was astounding,
and showed what real life and vivacity was still left in the copyright.
By this scheme the whole of the novels were reprinted in five-shilling
volumes with excellent illustrations, giving for ten shillings in two
volumes what had been originally published in three at a guinea and a

After Scott’s death the debt still amounted to £54,000; his life was
insured for £22,000, there was £2000 in hand, and now Cadell most
handsomely advanced £30,000 in order that the remaining debt might be
liquidated, taking as his only security the right to the profit that
might accrue from the copyright property. The family, dreading that
the term of copyright might expire before the sum could be returned,
endeavoured to obtain a special additional term, and on more than one
occasion Serjeant Talfourd introduced a bill into the House of Commons
to this effect, but without success. Fortunately, however, the event
showed that Cadell was commercially fully justified in his generosity,
for before his death not only had he been reimbursed his £30,000, but a
handsome profit had been earned “for the benefit of all whom it might

According to Mr. James Mylne, one of Cadell’s executors, the following
is the total sale of Scott’s works from the time they came into
Cadell’s hands until his death:--


  Waverley Novels              78,270 sets

  Poetical Works               41,340  ”

  Prose Works                   8,260  ”

  _Life_ by Lockhart           26,060  ”

  _Tales of a Grandfather_
      (as a separate work)     22,190  ”

  Selections                    7,550  ”

and, as a test of the popularity of the _People’s Edition_ of the
writings and _Life_, he states that the following numbers originally
printed in weekly sheets were issued:

  Novels         7,115,197
  Poetry           674,955
  Prose            269,406
  Life             459,291
  Total Sheets   8,518,849

Robert Cadell died on January 21st, 1849, after a long career rendered
prosperous by this splendid property, and on March 26th, 1851, the
novels, poems, prose works, and the “Life” by Lockhart were put up to
auction at the London Coffee House by Mr. Hodgson. The sale brought
together the largest “trade” gathering that has ever been witnessed;
there were publishers from the “Row” and Albemarle Street, booksellers
from Ave Maria and Ivy Lanes, and speculators from every corner of
the kingdom. The stock had been valued at £10,193 3_s._, a very low
figure, and it was announced that this would be sold only with the
copyrights, and that the trustees retained the right of bidding. After
much disputing as to these restrictions £5000 was offered, and quickly
rose by leaps of £500 to £10,500, when Mr. Bohn and the “Row” retired,
and the struggle lay between Mr. Virtue and some imaginary bidder,
visible only to the eyes of the auctioneer. At £13,500 the copyright
was “bought in” making the price, including the stock, £23,693 3_s._

This afforded a wonderful contrast to the former sale at £8500, more
especially when we consider that the copyright of the earlier novels
had only five or six years more to run.

In a few weeks after this it was announced in the _Scotsman_ that
the whole of the copyrights were transferred to the hands of another
eminent publishing firm in Edinburgh--Messrs. A. and C. Black, who, in
conjunction with their friends, Messrs. Richardson Brothers, became the
possessors at the price of £27,000.

Leaving the Waverley Novels for a time, it will be necessary to bring
up the narrative of the career of Mr. Adam Black to the period when he
was able to become the owner of the most valuable literary property
that has ever existed.

Adam Black, the son of Charles Black, a builder of Edinburgh, was born
in that town in the year 1784, and was educated primarily at the High
School, on his entrance as a pupil at which, tradition says, he was
accompanied by his father, who, having just left his employment for
the purpose, appeared in full working garb, the mason’s white leathern
apron included. At the University his talents speedily procured him
admittance into that clique of young Liberals who were afterwards to
effect such a change in Edinburgh, indeed in cosmopolitan politics.
After serving his apprenticeship to the book trade, in partnership
with his nephew, the bookselling business of Adam and Charles Black
was founded. In 1817 he married Isabella, only daughter of James Tait,
architect (sister of William Tait, the well-known originator of _Tait’s
Magazine_), and at the time of Constable’s failure was in a steady and
prosperous way of business. This disaster was the means of making many
fortunes, and in 1826 the _Edinburgh Review_ appeared under the joint
proprietorship of Thomas Norton Longman and Adam and Charles Black.
As we have followed the career of the _Review_ in our history of the
Longman family, it will be unnecessary to enter fully into the changes
of management and the success of later numbers.

Another work, however, afterwards thrown on the market, which also
became the property of Messrs. A. and C. Black, is of such literary
importance that we must again for a moment retrace our steps, in order
to keep up the proper sequence of our narrative.

The idea of a compilation that should embrace all human knowledge is of
very great antiquity. Pliny, in fact claims the name of “Encyclopædia”
for his _Natural History_; but it was not till the sixteenth century
that any attempt was made at arranging the matter in a systematic
manner, though the Arabians are said to have had a true _Encyclopædia_
centuries before that date. It was long, however, before the idea
occurred of employing the lexographic plan as a basis of a universal
_répertoire_ of learning, and the first great step in advance was
the _Lexicon Technicum_ of Dr. Harris, completed and published at
London in the year 1710. The _Cyclopædia_ of Ephraim Chambers, with
which we have previously dealt, appeared in 1728, and for a long time
was the supreme authority; through its success at home and abroad a
new impulse was given to the desire for such publications. In France
the _Encyclopédie_ was projected by the Abbé de Gua, and was based
originally on an unpublished translation of Chambers’s _Cyclopædia_,
made by an Englishman named Mills. In consequence of a quarrel with the
publishers, De Gua threw it up, and it was then transferred to Diderot
and D’Alembert; to become the text-book of the French philosophers.
The publication of the seventeen volumes extended from 1751 to 1765,
and six years after the latter date appeared the first volume of the
_Encyclopædia Britannica_.

The plan and all the principal articles of this now important work were
in this first edition devised and written by William Smellie.

Smellie began life as a compositor, and he used to lay down his
composing-stick for an hour or two daily to attend the classes of the
Edinburgh University. At the age of nineteen he was engaged by Murray
and Cochrane as corrector of their press in general and conductor and
compiler of the _Scots Magazine_ at a salary of sixteen shillings a
week. If the saying that “Edinburgh never had a Grub Street” is true,
it must have arisen rather from the perseverance of the writers than
from the uniform generosity of the publishers.

The agreement upon which the _Encyclopædia_ was undertaken was still in
existence when Kerr wrote Smellie’s _Life_; as a literary curiosity we
quote it:--

  “Mr. Andrew Bell to Mr. William Smellie.

    “SIR,--As we are engaged in publishing a ‘Dictionary of the
    Arts and Sciences,’ and as you have informed us that there
    are fifteen capital sciences, which you will undertake for,
    and write up the sub-divisions and detached parts of them,
    conforming to your plan, and likewise to prepare the whole work
    for the press, &c., &c. We hereby agree to allow you £200 for
    your trouble.”

The first proprietors were Andrew Bell, engraver, and Colin
Macfarquhar, printer. The publication was commenced in weekly numbers
in 1771, and completed in 1773, by which time the bulk in all consisted
only of three small quarto volumes. A second edition was called for in
1776, and Smellie was offered a share in the property, but he declined
to have anything more to do with it, as upon the recommendation of “a
very distinguished nobleman” it was resolved to introduce a complete
system of biography. The proprietors engaged, instead, James Tytler, a
laborious miscellaneous writer, and a man of extraordinary knowledge.
A large proportion of the additional matter, by which the work was
extended from three to ten volumes, was due to his pen, but the payment
for this labour is said to have been very small, and the unfortunate
author was not able to support his family in a style superior to that
of a common labourer. At one time, during the progress of the work, he
lived at the village of Duddingston, in the house of a washerwoman,
whose tub inverted formed the only desk at his disposal, and one of his
children was frequently despatched with a parcel of “copy” upon which
their next meal depended.

This second edition consisted of 1500 copies, and extended to ten
volumes quarto. The third edition, to which Tytler also contributed,
was commenced in 1789. Till then it had been considered in the south as
“a Scots rival of little repute” (to Chambers’s _Cyclopædia_), but in
this edition, beside the method and comprehensiveness of the plan, it
rose greatly above its former level in its practical and speculative
departments. It was completed in 1797, in eighteen volumes, to which
Professor Robison supplied two supplementary volumes to complete the
series he had commenced when the principal work was far advanced.
The sale of this edition extended to ten thousand copies, and the
proprietors are said to have netted £42,000 of clear profit, besides
being paid for their respective work--the one as printer, the other as
engraver. Much of this, of course, was due to poor Tytler’s labours,
who was still living in the utmost penury. He was, however, perfectly
regardless about poverty, having no desire to conceal it from the
world. He would finish his frugal meal of a cold potato before the eyes
of a stranger with as much nonchalance as if it had been a sumptuous
repast. He had that contentment with poverty which is so apt to make
it permanent, and this, in addition to his imprudent and intemperate
habits, cut off all chance of a higher social position. As a proof of
his extraordinary stock of general knowledge, his biographer relates a
characteristic anecdote.

“A gentleman in this city of Edinburgh once told me he wanted as much
matter as would form a junction between a certain history and its
continuation to a later period. He found Tytler lodged in one of those
elevated apartments called _garrets_, and was informed by the old woman
with whom he resided, that he could not see him, as he had gone to
bed rather the worse for liquor. Determined, however, not to depart
without his errand, he was shown into Mr. Tytler’s apartment by the
light of a lamp, where he found him in the situation described by the
landlady. The gentleman having acquainted him with the nature of the
business which brought him at so late an hour, Mr. Tytler called for
pen and ink, and in a short time produced about a page and a half of
letterpress, which answered the end as completely as if it had been the
result of the most mature deliberation, previous notice, and a mind
undisturbed by any liquid capable of deranging its ideas.”

On the death of Macfarquhar the whole work became the property of
Andrew Bell.

The fourth edition, augmented to twenty volumes, was completed in 1810,
under the able superintendence of Dr. James Millar; but the editor
was prevented from availing himself of Professor Robison’s excellent
supplementary articles by a temporary separation of that property from
that of the principal work. This issue consisted of three thousand five
hundred copies.

With the completion of this edition the progress of improvement was
for a time suspended; but in 1814 the copyright of the work was
purchased by Archibald Constable, who, with the enterprise that always
distinguished him, at once projected a supplement, which extended to
six volumes. It was placed under the skilful management of Professor
Macney Napier, and the publication lasted from 1815 to 1824. Many
very distinguished authors were engaged as contributors, among whom
we may specially mention Arago, Biot, and Dugald Stewart; and all the
resources of the proprietors were devoted to this favourite undertaking.

In 1829 the whole of the copyrights (including that of Professor
Robison’s supplementary articles) passed into the hands of Messrs. A.
and C. Black, assisted by their friends; and we are now able to resume
our narrative at the point we left it.

The property was at first a joint stock concern, resembling the
original proprietorship, and was, we believe, owned in equal shares
by Mr. Abraham Thomson, as the binder; Mr. Thomas Allan, as the
printer; and Messrs. A. and C. Black, as publishers. Mr. Thomson died
shortly afterwards, and the Messrs. Black became the possessors of his
interest in the work. Some years afterwards, the share held by Mr.
Allan, who was a banker in Edinburgh, and also printer and proprietor
of the _Caledonian Mercury_, also fell into the hands of the Messrs.
Black. At this time the new edition was in midway progress, and the
enormous expense necessary to complete the work rendered the venture
single-handed something more than hazardous. But the ability, tact,
immense energy, and unceasing labour of Mr. Adam Black, then in the
prime of life, proved equal to the task he had undertaken, and in
this case it may truly be said that for years he went on literally
scattering bread upon the waters, and most deservedly did he obtain his
reward. Previously, we believe, to the completion of this edition, Mr.
Charles Black, who had long been in delicate health, died.

Upon Jeffrey’s retirement in 1829, Macney Napier, Professor of
Conveyancing in the University of Edinburgh, was promoted to the
editorship of the _Edinburgh Review_, and Mr. Black also secured
his services for the management of the seventh edition of the
_Encyclopædia_. Napier was assisted by James Brown, LL.D., as
sub-editor, and on his shoulders most of the hard work fell. Brown,
who was trained as an advocate at the Scottish bar, relinquished this
for literature. His thorough scholarship enabled him to undertake
almost any department of literary work, and rendered him invaluable
for the revisal of such a work as the _Encyclopædia_. He was also a
ready and slashing political writer, at a time when political feeling
was rampant. Remarkable alike for his mental activity and his personal
irascibility, the one great difficulty lay in managing the Doctor. As
an instance of this, the article “Alphabet” was entrusted to Brown for
the new edition of the _Encyclopædia_. He was at the same time editor
of the _Caledonian Mercury_, and on the appearance of something in that
paper which led to a quarrel with Mr. Allan, the proprietor, who was
also a shareholder in the _Encyclopædia_, Brown declined to go on with
“Alphabet.” The part in which this was to appear was due, and Brown
was inflexible. The subject was a difficult one, peculiarly suited to
Brown’s abilities, and it was not easy elsewhere to find so competent
a writer. In these circumstances, Mr. Black adopted the experiment
of passing over that part and bringing out the succeeding one. Thus
circumvented, Brown came to terms, and things again went on smoothly.
But, notwithstanding his proverbial kindliness of disposition, he
was hasty in coming to conclusions, and was always getting into
scrapes of one kind or another; and a duel, in which he and Charles
Maclaren, editor of the _Scotsman_, figured as principals, furnished
the Edinburgh _gamins_ with a popular street song. He escaped all
duellistic dangers, however, but his unremitting labours brought on a
stroke of apoplexy, of which he died in 1841.

The great feature of the new edition was the preliminary
“Dissertations,” which were commenced by Professors Stewart and
Playfair, who were both carried off in the midst of their labours. Sir
James Mackintosh, who undertook to complete his friend’s “History of
Ethical and Political Philosophy” (the Metaphysical portion had been
completed by Stewart) was also summoned from his labours before the
Political division was commenced; and the “History of the Physical
Sciences” was brought down by Professor Leslie to the commencement of
this century.

“The ‘Dissertations’ produced by these four extraordinary men are still
regarded with peculiar pride in Scotland; indeed, few nations can boast
of such an intellectual group living at the same time, and adorning the
same society; and yet, with powers of mind not far from equality, how
various were their gifts, and how diversified their genius!”[14]

The seventh edition was commenced in monthly parts in March, 1830, and
finished in January, 1842. Of its success it is almost unnecessary to
speak; with confidence reposed in the proprietors sufficient to command
the services of such writers as Young, Malthus, Macculloch, Mill,
Roget, Wilson, Empson, De Quincey, and Tytler, while the editor can
count on the aid of friends like Scott, Playfair, Stewart, Leslie, Lord
Jeffrey, Sir William Hamilton, and Sir John Barrow, it is not difficult
to anticipate the result. The mere cost of presentation copies
amounted to £416 16_s._, and the amount of duty on the paper employed
exceeded £6000; while, to go into heavier matters, the total expense
of the twenty-one quarto volumes was, in a trial in the Jury Court of
Scotland, proved to have been no less a sum than £125,667 9_s._ 3_d._
This amount, of course, includes every item of expenditure, among which
the following are the most important:--

                                     £     _s._  _d._

  Contributions and Editing        22,590    2    11
  Printing                         18,610    1     4
  Stereotyping                      3,317    5     8
  Paper                            27,854   15     7
  Bookbinding                      12,739   12     2
  Engraving and Plate-printing     11,777   18     1

The literary contributions to the first volume of “Dissertations” alone
cost upwards of £3450.

The work was eminently successful, and this immense expenditure shows
us something of what “success” means in this instance. The commercial
management of an undertaking like this was sufficient to occupy the
attention of a man of extraordinary diligence; but Mr. Black found
time, not only to contribute several articles to his _Encyclopædia_,
but to take a very warm and prominent interest in the government of his
native city; and from 1843 to 1848 he occupied the highest position to
which a citizen of Edinburgh can aspire--that of Lord Provost.

Enterprise and success, more especially when they are mingled with
real desert, and caused by honest service, are qualities of which the
Scotch, perhaps more than any other nation, are peculiarly proud; and
when the representation of Edinburgh became vacant in 1856, a large and
influential party at once nominated Mr. Adam Black to fill the post.
Mr. Adam Black was a thorough-going Liberal and a Nonconformist, and
a party of the electors received his nomination in a spirit of the
greatest bitterness, and an opposition candidate was brought forward.
The election came off on the 8th February, 1856, and Mr. Black, the
friend of political freedom when friends were few, the champion of
religious charity and goodwill when enemies were many, was rewarded for
his consistency and his many services by a larger number of votes than
had been polled for twenty years--no weak test of popular approbation.
As a contemporary opinion, we may quote the _Scotsman_ of that
date:--“Honour to the candidate! Sincerely reluctant to compete for the
honour, no sooner was he embarked, and saw that the great principles
and the reputation of the city were concerned and imperilled in his
person, than he threw himself into the work with a vigour that made
even the youngest and most energetic of his supporters stand aside. We
don’t care who knows it: Mr. Black was the most effective member of his
own committee--in word and in act, by day and by night, the veteran was
ready with guidance and warning and incentive. In all his many battles
in the public cause, he never made a better fight than when achieving
this victory which so gloriously crowns his career.”

In the House Mr. Black distinguished himself by his assiduity to
business, and in 1864 he introduced his Copyright Bill, which, though
it contained much that was good, was ultimately thrown out.

Upon completion of the seventh edition, a number of cheap reprints were
issued of the most famous articles of the “Encyclopædia,” and met with
a very favourable reception.

We have seen that in 1851 the Messrs. Black, in conjunction with
Messrs. Richardson Brothers, became possessed of the Waverley Novels.
Ultimately, the Messrs. Black purchased, it is said, the Messrs.
Richardsons’ share, and are now believed to be the sole proprietors of
Sir Walter Scott’s works. In the management of this property Mr. Adam
Black exhibited the same rare sagacity, and reaped the same successful
reward as in the former important work. In the middle of 1852, he
announced that 120,000 complete sets of the Waverley Novels had been
sold in this country alone since their first publication; and in 1858
an ingenious mathematician computed that the weight of the paper used
for them was upwards of 3500 tons.

Among the most important editions issued by Messrs. Black we may
instance the following:--

                                                     £  _s._   _d._

  A Re-issue of the “Cabinet Edition” in 1853-54 at   3   15     0

         ”                  ”          ” 1860     ”   3   10     0

  The “People’s Edition” in 5 vols.    ” 1855     ”   2    2     0

  “Railway Edition” in 25 vols.        ” 1858-60  ”   1   17     6

  New Illustrated Edition in 48 vols. founded on
    “Author’s Favourite”               ” 1859-61  ”  10   13     0

  “Shilling Edition” in 25 vols.       ” 1862-63  ”   1    5     0

At our present writing a beautiful new edition, the “Centenary,” is
being published.

The moment that the copyrights of the earlier novels expired the market
was flooded with cheap reprints; but the Messrs. Black were equal
to the occasion. They issued a trade reminder to the public that the
edition of 1829 was thoroughly revised by the author, was altered in
almost every page and largely augmented by notes, and that it still was
copyright, and as a death-blow to the reprints by rival houses they
brought out the “sixpenny edition” in monthly volumes, each volume
containing a complete tale with all the matter that had appeared in
the more expensive editions. Thanks to former stereotypes they were
thus enabled to present a series of the cheapest and most valuable
books that any house in the country has yet been able to produce.
The publication lasted from November, 1866, to November, 1868, and
the complete issue consisted of twenty-five volumes, and thus the
public were able to purchase for twelve shillings and sixpence what
had originally cost upwards of forty pounds. Constable himself in his
wildest dreams of cheap publishing never imagined such a marvellous
feature as this.

As a proof of their popularity we quote from a contemporary writer
in the _Illustrated Times_, 25th of September, 1867. The writer was
travelling down to Wales, and, at the London station, he said, “‘Boy,
where are the Scott novels?’ ‘Don’t keep them,’ he replied. ‘Don’t keep
them! Why not?’ ‘Because, if we did, we should not sell anything else.’
Here then, to begin with, is a small fact worth reflection. Some of
the novels were first published fifty years ago. Can you point out any
other series of books, or even any single book, a sixpenny edition of
which Mr. Smith would be afraid to lay upon his bookstalls for fear the
public might refuse to buy anything else?” At every station the writer
made the same inquiry and met with the same result.

As through the business talents of the publishers, the printed works
of Sir Walter Scott were reduced in price, so through the fame of the
author did the autograph remains rise to a very wonderful fictitious
value. Mr. Cadell made a remarkable collection of all the manuscripts
he could purchase, and on the 9th of July, 1868, his collection was
sold for £1073; while even a corrected proof of “Peveril of the Peak”
realized £25.

The seventh edition of the “Encyclopædia Britannica” was finished,
as we have previously stated, in 1842, and met with, not only an
immediate, but also a continuous sale, but human knowledge refuses
to be stereotyped, and at the close of 1852 the eighth edition was
commenced, occupying nine years in the publication. The proprietors
justly claim for it the proud title of “the largest literary enterprise
ever undertaken by any single house in Great Britain.” The editorial
charge was entrusted to Dr. Thomas Stewart Trail, professor of
medical jurisprudence in the University of Edinburgh; and, among the
more important new contributors, we may mention Archbishop Whately,
Professor Blackie, and Dr. Forbes, the latter of whom contributed
a new “Dissertation” to the introductory volume. Lord Macaulay
contributed five of the leading biographies “as a token of friendship
to the senior proprietor.” “Any article of any value in any preceding
edition,” says the editor, “has been reprinted in this--in all cases
with corrections, and frequently with considerable additions. Besides
these, it has received so great an accession of original contributions,
that nine-tenths of its contents may be said to be absolutely new,”
and this will probably apply with the same force to the ninth edition,
which is to be commenced next year.

Long before this date Mr. Adam Black was assisted in his business by
his sons. He retired from the house in 1865, and now laden with honours
in public, and successes in business, life, he may fairly claim to
be the Nestor of publishers. He must have seen many changes in the
literary world, and marked many vicissitudes in the “realms of print;”
but the changes as far as they operated for him were for the better,
and vicissitudes seem invariably to have kept outside his charmed

In the year 1861, a very valuable work--the “Collected Writings of the
late Thomas De Quincey”--came into the hands of Messrs. Black; but,
as the public are almost entirely indebted to the laborious care and
patient perseverance of another publisher, Mr. James Hogg, then of
Edinburgh, for the production of this collection, which then consisted
of fourteen volumes, we have thought it better that this account should
form a kind of supplement to our present chapter.

For a period of about forty years De Quincey had been an extensive
contributor to periodical literature, and it is scarcely surprising
that, during such a length of time, the sources even where many of his
contributions originally appeared had been forgotten, and that the very
existence of a few had altogether escaped the author’s recollection.
Various attempts had been made to induce De Quincey to draw together
and revise a selection from the more important of his scattered
writings, but from his varying state of health and, consequent on this,
his inveterate habit of procrastination, the work was always postponed;
and from his advanced years, all hope was given up of the collected
works ever appearing under the superintendence of the author.

In the year 1845, the well-known periodical, _Hogg’s Instructor_, was
started under the management and sole responsibility of Mr. Hogg.
Sixteen volumes of the _Instructor_ as a weekly serial were published,
and among many other contributors of note was the “Opium-Eater,” and
from the commencement of their intercourse De Quincey and Mr. Hogg
became firm friends.

About this time several volumes of De Quincey’s writings had been
collected and published by Messrs. Ticknor and Fields, of Boston, U.S.,
without, of course, the advantage of the author’s own revisal; and, as
the papers had been originally hurriedly written for magazines, and
as, during the lapse of time, many changes had become unavoidable,
the author felt that, in justice to himself, extensive additions
and, in some cases, suppressions were necessary. Arrangements were
accordingly entered into for bringing out the collected works at home
in a thoroughly revised and amended form, Mr. Hogg undertaking all the
responsibility, and engaging to give his aid both in collecting the
materials, and in generally seeing the volumes through the press. On
the announcement of the publication it was confidently predicted by
some of those who had been engaged in the previous attempts that not
a single volume would ever appear. In order to afford ample time for
the thorough revision of the work it was arranged that the publication
should be spread over three years. The first volume appeared in 1853;
but, instead of three years bringing the series to a close, eight
years had elapsed before the thirteenth volume was completed, and
then De Quincey died--the remainder of the thirteenth, and the whole
of the fourteenth, being due to Mr. Hogg. During these eight years
almost daily interviews or correspondence occurred between De Quincey
and Mr. Hogg. To use the author’s words, “the joint labour and patient
perseverance spent in the preparation of these volumes was something
perfectly astounding.” In addition to the frequent and protracted
interviews, the correspondence which passed during the progress of the
work would fill a goodly volume.

In order to account for the delays which so frequently occurred, De
Quincey remarks upon one occasion:--“I suffer from a most afflicting
derangement of the nervous system, which at times makes it difficult
for me to write at all, and always makes me impatient, in a degree not
easily understood, of recasting what may seem insufficiently or even
incoherently expressed.” But, while suffering under this cause, he
laboured under a daily and more formidable bar to progress, as annoying
and perplexing to himself as to others. For many years he had been in
the habit of correcting manuscript or of jotting down on loose sheets,
more frequently on small scraps of paper, any stray thoughts that
occurred to him, intending to use them as occasion might afterwards
offer. These papers, however, instead of being methodically arranged
and preserved, were carelessly laid aside, and were soon mixed up with
letters, proofs, old and new copy, newspapers, periodicals, and other
confusing litter, and the numerous volumes he received from literary
friends and admirers, all huddled together on chairs, tables, or
wherever they at the moment might be stowed. Placing a high value on
many things in this heterogeneous mass, and feeling assured in his own
mind that strange hands would only render confusion worse confounded,
he would allow no one to endeavour to put the things in order. Indeed,
if anything could have ruffled his gentle nature into the use of an
angry word it would have been the attempt to meddle with these papers.
They very rapidly increased, and every search after missing copy or
proofs made matters worse. When a dead block occurred his invariable
practice was to build them up, as they lay, against the wall of the
room, and, as a consequence, everything went astray. A few extracts
from notes to Mr. Hogg will show the labour, suffering, and worry
which this state of chaos entailed:--“My dear Sir,--It is useless to
trouble you with the _ins_ and _outs_ of the process--the result is,
that, working through most part of the night, I have not yet come to
the missing copy. I am going on with the search, yet being walled up
in so narrow an area (not larger than a postchaise as regards the free
space), I work with difficulty, and the _stooping_ kills me. I greatly
fear that the entire day will be spent in the search.”

“Yesterday, suddenly, I missed the interleaved volume. I have been
unrolling an immense heap of newspapers, &c., ever since six a.m. How
so thick a vol. _can_ have hidden itself, I am unable to explain.”

“The act of _stooping_ has for many years caused me so much illness,
that in this search, all applied to papers lying on the floor,
entangled with innumerable newspapers, I have repeatedly been forced
to pause. I fear that the seventeen or eighteen missing pages may have
been burned suddenly lighting candles; and I am more surprised at
finding so many than at missing so few.”

“I am utterly in the dark as to where this paper is--whether _chez
moi_, or _chez la presse_ (I use French simply as being the briefest
way of conveying my doubts). Now mark the difference to me, according
to the answer. 1. On the assumption that the paper is in _my_
possession, then, of course, I will seek till I find it, and no labour
will be thrown away. But 2. On the counter assumption that the paper
is all the while in the possession of the press, the difference to me
would be this: That I should be searching for perhaps half a day, and,
as it is manifestly not on my table, I should proceed on the postulate
that it must have been transferred to the floor, consequently the work
would all be unavoidably a process of stooping, and all labour lost,
from which I should hardly recover for a fortnight. This explains to
you my earnestness in the matter. Exactly the same doubt applies (and
therefore exactly the same dilemma or alternative of stoop or stoop
not) to some other papers.”

How keenly De Quincey felt in consequence of these continually
recurring delays, the following sentences will show:--“It distracts
me to find that I have been constantly working at the wrong part. It
is most unfortunate, nor am I able to guess the cause, that I who am
rendered seriously unhappy whenever I find or suppose myself to have
caused any loss of time to a compositor, whose time is generally his
main estate, am yet continually doing so unintentionally and in most
cases unconsciously. It seems as if to the very last my destiny were to
cause delays.”

The frequency of the communications and personal interviews which
occurred during the eight years in which the works were in progress
may be inferred from the following:--“My dear Sir,--I have been in
great anxiety through yesterday and to-day as to the cause of a
mysterious interruption of the press intercourse with me. Now, it
has happened once before that we were at cross purposes, each side
supposing itself stopped by the other. As the easiest way, therefore,
of creeping out of the mystery I repeat it to you.”

Notwithstanding the continual interruptions and the difficulty of
dragging the volumes through the press, the cordial and friendly
feeling which existed between De Quincey and Mr. Hogg was never
interrupted by a single jarring word.

Since the fourteen volumes passed into the hands of Messrs. Black, they
have added other two volumes, made up of biographies contributed by De
Quincey to the “Encyclopædia Britannica,” and a number of papers which
remained in Mr. Hogg’s hands.





The foundation of the great publishing houses of London is co-temporary
in date with the origin of the private banks and famous breweries; for,
as in the case of these establishments, the connections requisite were
so extensive, and the needful capital, to render venture a success,
so large, that in many instances the present great publishing firms
have been the work of three, in some cases even of five, generations.
There have, of course, been isolated exceptions, as in the instance
of Archibald Constable, of Edinburgh; but these rare cases, though
often beneficial to the world at large, have seldom been individually

John McMurray, the founder of the great London house of Murray, was
born in Edinburgh about the year 1795, of very respectable parents,
who not only gave him a good education, but enlisted for him the
sympathies of Sir George Yonge, then an official in high favour.
Through Sir George’s influence a commission was obtained in the Royal
Marines, and in 1762, we find from the Navy List, that John McMurray
joins his frigate full, probably, of hopeful anticipations of the
promotion that sometimes came so speedily in the days of the old French
wars. The Peace of Paris, however, was signed in the following year,
and, spite of patronage and merit, McMurray was, in 1768, still a
second lieutenant, and, in point of seniority, thirty-fourth on the
list. Disgusted with a profession from which he could hope so little,
and eager for a more useful career in life, in this same year he
embraced an opportunity that seemed to give him a chance of exchanging
the lounging idleness of Chatham barracks for the busy activity of
London business, in a trade very congenial to his tastes, and not
unaccompanied with hopes of solid emolument.

Among the friends he had made either afloat or at his Chatham quarters
was William Falconer, who, a sailor boy “before the mast,” had in
the very year of McMurray’s first entry into the service, published
the beautiful poem of the “Shipwreck.” This poem attracted great
attention, and the author was promoted to the more honourable than
lucrative position of midshipman. Fellow-townsmen--and in those days
blood was thicker than water--and in some degree fellow-students, for
both were lovers of books, they became firm friends; and McMurray’s
first thought, when the offer of a bookseller’s business was put before
him, was to secure the aid of his literary friend in his new venture;
and an interesting letter, still preserved, gives the history of his
commencement as a bookseller. Addressed to “Mr. William Falconer, at
Dover,” it runs as follows:--

  “Brompton, Kent, 16th Oct., 1768.

    “DEAR WILL,--Since I saw you, I have had the intention of
    embarking in a scheme that I think will prove successful,
    and in the progress of which I had an eye towards your
    participating. Mr. Sandby, bookseller, opposite St. Dunstan’s
    church, has entered into company with Snow and Denne, bankers.
    I was introduced to this gentleman about a month ago, upon
    an advantageous offer of succeeding him in his old business,
    which, by the advice of my friends, I propose to accept. Now,
    although I have little reason to fear success by myself in this
    undertaking, yet I think so many additional advantages would
    accrue to us both, were your forces and mine joined, that I
    cannot help mentioning it to you, and making you the offer
    of entering into company. He resigns to me the lease of the
    house; the goodwill ----; and I only take his bound stock, and
    fixtures, at a fair appraisement, which will not amount to more
    than £400, and which, if I ever mean to part with, cannot fail
    to bring in nearly the same sum. The shop has long continued
    in the trade; it retains a good many old customers; and I am
    to be ushered immediately into public notice by the sale of a
    new edition of Lord Lyttelton’s ‘Dialogues;’ and afterwards
    by a like edition of his ‘History.’ These works I shall sell
    by commission, upon a certain profit without risque; and Mr.
    Sandby has promised to continue to me, always, his good offices
    and recommendations. These are the general outlines; and if you
    entertain a notion that the conjunction would suit you, advise
    me, and you shall be assumed upon equal terms.

    “Many blockheads in the trade are making fortunes; and did we
    not succeed as well as they, I think it must be imputed only to
    ourselves.... Consider what I have proposed, and send me your
    answer soon. Be assured in the meantime that I remain, dear Sir,

      “Your affectionate and humble Servant,
            “JOHN MCMURRAY.

    “P.S.--My advisers and directors in this affair have been
    Thomas Cumming, Esq., Mr. Archibald Paxton, Mr. Samuel
    Paterson, of Essex House, and Messrs. J. and W. Richardson,
    printers. These, after deliberate reflection, have unanimously
    thought that I should accept of Mr. Sandby’s offer.”

From some reason or other the offer was declined; perhaps, as
Falconer’s biographer asserts, he was at this time (though absent for
a while at Dover) living with his pretty little wife in an attic in
Grub Street, toiling at his “Marine Dictionary,” and with no prospect
of raising the money requisite for the partnership proposed; perhaps
he had already accepted the pursership of the “Aurora” frigate. At
all events, immediately after the publication of the third edition of
his “Shipwreck,” which was to have contained some lines addressed to
McMurray, which, in the hurry of departure were omitted, he sailed in
the “Aurora” for India. The Cape was safely reached, but after leaving
it the “Aurora” was never heard of again. Ship, crew, and passengers
were all lost, and, through the untimely death of the author, the
“Shipwreck” acquired a melancholy and almost prophetic interest, which
speedily exhausted the third and many future editions.

In the meantime John McMurray had commenced bookselling in earnest. It
was at a time when, through Wilkes and Bute, national feeling seems to
have run very high, and to be a Scotchman was hardly a recommendation
to a beginner, and we find that, though McMurray headed all his trade
bills with a ship, as a proud testimony to his naval antecedents, he
found it convenient to drop the Scotch prefix of Mc. The following copy
of a trade card issued at the time is the first record we have of this
alteration of title.

  JOHN MURRAY (successor to Mr. SANDBY),
  Bookseller and Stationer,
  At No. 32, over-against St. Dunstan’s Church,
  in Fleet Street,

    Sells all new Books and Publications. Fitts up Public or
    Private Libraries in the neatest manner with Books of the
    choicest editions, the best Print, and the richest Bindings.


    Executes East India or Foreign Commissions by an assortment of
    Books and Stationary suited to the Market or Purpose for which
    it is destined; all at the most reasonable rates.

Murray found that Sandby’s connection at Fleet Street was a good
one--Mr. William Sandby, indeed, could have been no ordinary
bookseller, for his father was a prebendary of Gloucester, and his
brother a master of Magdalen College, while he was accepted as partner
in a wealthy banking firm--the trade were inclined to “back him
up,” and he was able to extend his business considerably in India
and Edinburgh, where he had many friends. The new edition of Lord
Lyttelton’s “History” was brought out in stately quarto volumes, as
befitted the rank of the author, and was completely issued in 1771-2,
and, published “with a certain profit, without risque,” must have
proved much more remunerative than the original “Henry II.” was to
Sandby, who generously offered to pay for the author’s corrections, and
who found to his cost that not a single line was left as originally

Murray seems to have kept up his connection with Edinburgh, for in 1773
we find him London agent for the _Edinburgh Magazine and Review_, and
in the following year, when it was proposed to separate the _Magazine_
from the _Review_, Stuart writes to Smellie:--“Murray seems fully
apprised of the pains and attentions that are necessary, has literary
connections, and is fond of the employment; let him, therefore, be the
London proprietor.” Murray consented to “take a share,” if his advice
were attended to; but the scheme of a review came to nothing, and
even the existing _Edinburgh Magazine and Review_ died, in 1776, of a
violent attack on Lord Monboddo’s “Origin of Language.” Murray offered
his condolence in the following laconic note:--

    “DEAR SMELLIE,--I am sorry for the defeat you have met with.
    Had you praised Lord Monboddo instead of damning him, it would
    not have happened.

      “Yours, &c.
            “JOHN MURRAY.”

Murray, now that the Edinburgh scheme had come to nothing, commenced in
1780 a volume of annual intelligence of his own under the title of the
_London Mercury_; and in January, 1783, with the assistance of a staff
of able writers, among whom were Dr. Whittaker and Gilbert Stuart, who
had lately come from Scotland, he started the _English Review_.

A great portion of Murray’s retail stock was medical books, and for
many years the house had a reputation in the medical world. Of the
books, however, which he published, those more latterly issued proved
by far the most successful, such as Langhorne’s “Plutarch’s Lives,”
Mitford’s “Greece,” and, in 1791, a thin octavo in which the elder
Disraeli first gave the public his “Curiosities of Literature”--all of
them works which have since been annual sources of revenue to the firm.

Murray found time, however, amidst all this business, to indulge
his own literary tastes and aspirations, which had at one time been
strong. Some of his pamphlets--such as the “Letter to Mr. Mason on his
Edition of Gray’s Poems, and the Practice of Booksellers” (1777); his
“Considerations on the Freight and Shipping of the East India Company”
(1786), and “An Author’s Conduct to the Public, stated in the Behaviour
of Dr. William Cullen” (1784)--acquired much transient reputation.

After a career, as successful we imagine as his wishes could desire,
John Murray died on the 6th November, 1793, leaving behind him a
widow, two daughters, and an only son, and bequeathing to the latter a
business which was destined to carry the name of John Murray wherever
the English language was spoken, and wherever English books were read,
as the most venturesome and yet the most successful publisher who has
ever, in London at all events, encouraged the struggles of authorship
and gratified the tastes of half a world of readers.

John Murray, the son, the more immediate object of our memoir, was
born in 1778, and was consequently only fifteen at the time of his
father’s death. He had been educated primarily at the High School of
Edinburgh, doubtless with a view of keeping up the Scotch connection,
and had afterwards been removed to “various English seminaries”--among
others to Dr. Burney’s academy at Gosport, where, through the
carelessness of a writing-master, while making a pen with a penknife,
he lost the sight of one of his eyes. The founder of the house not
only left the business to his son, but left also a council of regency
to manage affairs until he came to the natural years of discretion. By
a last will, dated about one month before his death, the elder John
Murray appointed four executors--among them his widow, Hester Murray,
and Archibald Paxton, who in his letter to Falconer he had named as one
of his principal advisers in adopting the bookselling trade. For a year
or two after 1793 the name of “H. Murray” figures at the top of the
bills and trade circulars, and then disappears from them, Mrs. Murray
having, it seems, in 1795, married “Henry Paget, Lieutenant in the
West Norfolk Militia,” and retired entirely from the management of the
business. Murray was still too young to carry on the shop unaided, so
his guardians admitted Mr. Highley, for a long time chief factotum in
the shop and manager of the medical department, to a partnership with
him. By the agreement the title of the new firm was to be “Murray and
Highley;” the latter was solely to conduct the business, and to receive
half the profits until young John came of age, after which they were to
enjoy equal powers and “share and share” alike.

[Illustration: John Murray--reading a newspaper.


Mr. Highley, who seems to have been a steady, plodding man with
much latent exertion against all speculative venture, did little to
increase the standing of the firm; probably he imagined that the trade
in medical books, as it was attended with the least risk, was the most
remunerative portion of the business. His worthy soul was vexed at the
anger excited by Whitaker’s slashing articles in the _English Review_.
“Enraged authors,” it appears, took to sending huge parcels of defiant,
contemptuous, and, worse still, unpaid MSS. to the publisher of the
_Review_, complaining of the treatment which their books suffered at
the hands of his critics, and “enraged authors” seem at this time to
have been about the only readers of the savage periodical in question.
One of the last numbers contains a notice that all unpaid post parcels
may be inquired for again at the General Post Office; and soon after
Mr. Highley eased his shoulders of this burden by merging the _English
Review_ in the _Analytical_.

Young Murray was at this time of a very different temperament to his
partner--full of youth, fire, and energy, and uncommonly gifted with
that speculative spirit which must have caused the elder man many a
time to shake his head sagely, and to lift his gravely deprecating
eyebrows. In fact, youth and age can never see matters with the same
eyes;--the one looks as through a telescope magnifying all things
within vision some hundred-fold; the other peers cautiously through
spectacles, misty and begrimed, more used in guiding immediate
footsteps than in gazing far ahead. Murray had attained his majority
in 1799, and in four years the two partners resolved to sever their
connection in a pleasant and friendly manner. By the formal deed of
separation, dated 25th March, 1803, Highley retained all the medical
business. But the principal act of parting was of anything but a formal
nature. They drew lots for the old house and Murray was fortunate
enough to secure the winning prize. Highley moved to No. 24, Fleet
Street, but was able afterwards, in 1812, when Murray migrated to
Albemarle Street, to move back again, and here he increased his medical
connection, leaving a thriving business to his son.

In this very year of separation the _Edinburgh Review_ was started, and
Murray was probably reminded of the scheme in which his father had once
been concerned with Smellie to produce a periodical under a similar
title, but the time was not yet ripe for his own projects.

In 1806, at the age of twenty-four, he married Miss Elliot of
Edinburgh, a young lady descended from one of the best-known publishers
in the Modern Athens, and this, perhaps, drawing his attention to
household matters, led to the publication of Mrs. Rundell’s “Domestic
Cookery Book.” It is said that the receipts came from the note-book
of the mother of the late Admiral Burney, with whose family, be it
remembered, he had been at school at Gosport. This was the first and
one of the most lucrative “hits” that Murray made, and perhaps in the
important items of £ _s._ _d._ rivalled “Childe Harold” itself. Byron
sings of it in playful jealousy:--

 “Along thy sprucest book-shelves shine
  The works thou deemest most divine,
  The Art of Cookery and mine,
                    My Murray!”

Murray’s ambition however was not to be satisfied with the sop of
a successful cookery book. His marriage may be supposed to have
strengthened his interests in the Scotch metropolis, for in the
following year we find Constable offering him a fourth share in Scott’s
forthcoming poem of “Marmion.” “I am,” writes Murray on the 6th Feb.,
1807, “truly sensible of the kind remembrance of me in your liberal
purchase. You have rendered Mr. Miller no less happy by your admission
of him; and we both view it as honourable, profitable, and glorious to
be concerned in the publication of a new poem by Walter Scott.” For an
account of the success of “Marmion” we must refer the reader to the
life of Archibald Constable; it is enough for our present purpose to
know that Murray afterwards said that this fourth share, for which he
paid £250, brought him in a return of fifty-fold.

The publication of “Marmion” was followed by a connection with Scott,
who in the succeeding year edited for him Strutt’s “Queen Hoo Hall.”

Scott had before this been concerned with Campbell in a projected
series of “Biographies of the Poets,” which had however come to
nothing. Murray now thought that Scott’s talents, and more especially
perhaps his name, would bestow certain success upon the project; and we
find Campbell, who had just made a “poet’s marriage”--with love enough
in his heart and genius enough in his brain, but “with only fifty
pounds in his writing desk”--inditing to Scott as follows:--

    “MY DEAR SCOTT,--A very excellent and gentlemanly man--albeit
    a bookseller--Murray of Fleet Street, is willing to give for
    our joint ‘Lives of the Poets,’ on the plan we proposed to the
    trade a twelvemonth ago, a thousand pounds.... Murray is the
    only gentleman in the trade except Constable.... I may perhaps
    also except Hood. I have seldom seen a pleasanter man to deal
    with. Our names are what he principally wants, especially
    _yours_.... I do not wish even in confidence to say anything
    ill of the London booksellers beyond their deserts; but I can
    assure you that to compare this offer of Murray’s with their
    usual offers is magnanimous indeed. Longman and Rees and a
    few of the great booksellers have literally monopolized the
    trade, and the business of literature is getting a dreadful
    one indeed. The Row folks have done nothing for me yet; I know
    not what they intend. The fallen prices of literature--which
    is getting worse by the horrible complexion of the times--make
    me often rather gloomy at the life I am likely to lead. You
    may guess, therefore, my anxiety to close with this proposal;
    and you may think me charitable indeed to retain myself from
    wishing that you were as poor as myself, that you might have
    motives to lend your aid.”

Scott, however, was too busy on higher paid work and was obliged to
decline the offer, and for the present Campbell went back to his
“hack-work.” Poor Campbell had suffered much from the publishers. His
“Pleasures of Hope” had been rejected by every bookseller in Glasgow
and Edinburgh; not one of them would even risk paper and printing
upon the chance of its success. At last Messrs. Mundell and Son,
printers to the University of Glasgow, with much reluctance undertook
its publication, upon the liberal condition of allowing the author
fifty copies at trade price, and, in the event of its reaching a
second edition, a gratuity of ten pounds. A few years afterwards, when
Campbell was present at a literary dinner party, he was asked to give
a toast, and without a moment’s hesitation he proposed “Bonaparte.”
Glasses were put down untouched, and shouts of “The Ogre!” resounded.
“Yes, gentlemen,” said Campbell gravely, “here is to Bonaparte; he has
just shot a bookseller!” Amid shouts of applause, for the dinner was in
“Bohemia,” the glasses were jangled and the toast was drank, for the
news had but just arrived that Palm, a bookseller of Nuremburg, had
been shot by the Emperor’s orders.

Constable scarcely thought, when he offered the fourth share of
“Marmion” to Murray, that he was fostering a dangerous rival. Yet in
the very year after the publication of “Marmion” he was projecting a
rival quarterly, and the following letter to Canning, first printed in
“Barrow’s Autobiography,” shows that Murray is entitled to the whole
credit of the new scheme.

  “September 25th, 1807.

    “SIR,--I venture to address you upon a subject that is perhaps
    not undeserving of one moment of your attention.

    “There is a work entitled the _Edinburgh Review_, written with
    such unquestionable talent that it has already attained an
    extent of circulation not equalled by any similar publication.
    The principles of this work are, however, so radically bad,
    that I have been led to consider the effect which such
    sentiments, so generally diffused, are likely to produce, and
    to think that some means equally popular ought to be adopted
    to counteract their dangerous tendency. But the publication in
    question is conducted with so much ability, and is sanctioned
    and circulated with such high and decisive authority by the
    party of whose opinions it is the organ, that there is little
    hope of producing against it any effectual opposition, unless
    it arise from you, sir, and from your friends. Should you, sir,
    think the idea worthy of encouragement I should, with equal
    pride and willingness, engage my arduous exertions to promote
    its success; but as my object is nothing short of producing a
    work of the greatest talent and importance, I shall entertain
    it no longer, if it be not so fortunate as to obtain the high
    patronage which I have thus, sir, taken the liberty to solicit.

    “Permit me to add, sir, that the person who thus addresses
    you is no adventurer, but a man of some property, including a
    business that has been established for nearly half a century. I
    therefore trust that my application will be attributed to its
    proper motives, and that your goodness will at least pardon its

      “I have the honour to be, Sir, &c., &c.,
            “JOHN MURRAY.”

Canning read the letter, and though for the present it was put away
in his desk unanswered, the contents were not forgotten, for a few
years before this he had heard Murray’s name mentioned in a very
honourable way. Some Etonians, among them Canning’s nephew, had started
a periodical called the _Miniature_, which brought them some fame,
but left them under a pecuniary loss. Murray, with his usual good
nature, and with something of the tact which afterwards made him so
many powerful friends, took all copies off their hands, paid all their
expenses, and though he found little demand for the work, offered
to print a new edition. This was a trait of character that, with a
clear-headed, far-seeing man like Canning, would probably go far. As
yet, however, the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, though he
gave the matter careful consideration, did not care to commit himself
upon paper.

Two months, however, before this letter Scott and Southey had been
corresponding about the _Edinburgh Review_, Southey stating that he
felt himself unable to contribute to a periodical of such political
views, and Scott heartily agreeing in deprecating the general tone of
the _Review_.

Early in 1808, a very severe article came out in the _Review_ anent
“Marmion.” Murray pricked up his ears, and, as he afterwards told
Lockhart, “When I read the article on ‘Marmion,’ and another on general
politics in the same number of the _Review_ I said to myself, ‘Walter
Scott has feelings both as a gentleman and as a Tory, which those
people must now have wounded. The alliance between him and the whole
clique of the _Edinburgh Review_, the proprietor included, is shaken,’”
“and,” adds Lockhart, “as far at least as the political part of the
affair was concerned, John Murray’s sagacity was not at fault.”

Murray saw that the right way to approach Scott was through the
Ballantynes’ printing press, in which Scott at this time was a
secret partner, and in which he always expressed openly the greatest
interest. So urgent did Murray’s tenders of work become that a meeting
at Ferrybridge, in Yorkshire, was arranged; and here Murray received
from Ballantyne the gratifying news that Scott had quarrelled with
Constable, and that it was resolved to establish a rival firm. Murray,
who never wasted an opportunity from lack of decision, posted on to
Ashestiel and had an interview with Scott himself, and the proposal of
a new quarterly Tory periodical was eagerly snatched at. Strangely
enough Murray arrived just as Scott, after reading an article on
Spanish matters, had written to have his name erased from the list
of subscribers to the _Edinburgh_. Murray was able to announce, too,
that Gifford, the editor of the late _Anti-Jacobin_, had promised
co-operation, and in a letter to Gifford we see Scott’s satisfaction
clearly enough:--

“John Murray of Fleet Street, a young bookseller of capital and
enterprize, and with more good sense and propriety of sentiment than
fall to the share of most of the trade, made me a visit at Ashestiel a
few weeks ago, and as I found he had had some communication with you on
the subject, I did not hesitate to communicate my sentiments to him on
these and some other points of the plan, and I thought his ideas were
most liberal and satisfactory.”

Soon after Canning wrote to the Lord Advocate on the subject, and
the Lord Advocate communicated with Scott, who recommended that in
all things save politics the _Edinburgh_ should be taken as a model,
especially in the liberal payment of _all_ contributors, and in the
unfettered judgment of the editor. Gifford was unanimously fixed on as
fitted for the editorial chair. That he possessed vigour was apparent
from his success--a plough-boy, a sailor, a cobbler, then a classical
scholar, the translator of “Juvenal,” the biting satirist of the
“Baviad and Mæviad,” the brilliant editor of the _Anti-Jacobin_, who so
well suited to out-rival Jeffrey?

All the talent available was secured. Scott came to town to be present
at the birth of the expected prodigy, and well he might, for three
of the articles in the first number were his own. Rose, and young
Disraeli, and Hookham Frere, and Robert Southey--the future back-bone
of the _Review_--were all represented, and on 1st February, 1809, the
first number of the _Quarterly Review_ was published. According to
tradition there were high jinks at Murray’s shop in Fleet Street when
the first numbers arrived from the binders; a triumphal column of the
books “was raised aloft in solemn joy in the counting-house, the best
wine in the cellar was uncorked, and glasses in hand John Murray and
assistants danced jubilant round the pile.” The pile, however, did not
long remain, as so many famous columns have done to mock the hope of
its builders, but the whole issue was sold almost immediately, and a
second edition was called for.

To the second number Canning himself contributed, and received his
payment of ten guineas per sheet. Barrow, too, was introduced, who
contributed, in all, no less than one hundred and ninety-five articles,
“on every subject, from ‘China’ to ‘Life Assurance.’” After Barrow and
Croker, Southey was, perhaps, the most prolific; to the first hundred
and twenty-six numbers he contributed ninety-four articles--many of
them of great permanent value--and to him Murray uniformly exhibited
a generosity almost without parallel. For an article on the “Lives
of Nelson,” he received twenty guineas a sheet, double what Southey
himself acknowledged to be ample, and he was offered £100 to enlarge
the article into a volume, and having exceeded the estimated quantity
of print, Murray paid him double the amount stipulated, adding another
200 guineas when the book was revised for the “Family Library.” For the
review of the “Life of Wellington,” Southey got £100, and he thought
the sum so large that he himself calls it “a ridiculous price;” yet
this ridiculous price he continued to receive, and he was in the habit
of saying that he was as much overpaid for his articles by Murray,
as he was underpaid for the rest of his work for other publishers.
“Madoc,” of which he had great hopes, brought him £3 19_s._ 1_d._ for
the first twelvemonth, and the three volumes of the “History of the
Brazils,” scarcely paid their expenses of publication.

Of the other contributors it is unnecessary to speak fully here; but
the _Review_, now that it was established, gave Murray at once a
pre-eminence in the London trade, by bringing him into connection with
the chief Conservative statesmen, and with the principal literary men
in England.

The alliance that Murray had formed with the Ballantynes was soon
dissolved, for Murray, though venturous enough, was a man of business,
and their loose, slip-shod way of general dealings, did not at
all satisfy his requirements. William Blackwood, then a dealer in
antiquarian books, was chosen instead as Edinburgh agent, and, in
conjunction with him, Murray purchased the first series of the “Tales
of My Landlord.” This was in 1816, and some payments for _Quarterly
Review_ articles was well-nigh the last business communication between
Scott and Murray.

Now that Murray had so completely rivalled Constable in one line--that
of the _Review_--he wished to rival him in another. Constable had
made an apparent fortune out of Scott’s poetry, in which Murray had
in one case, to the extent of one quarter, participated. Scott had,
it is true, left Constable, but was for the present unalienable from
the Ballantynes, who at this moment enjoyed the dubious services of a
London branch.

Looking round among the young and rising writers of the day, for one
who was likely to enhance the fame and increase the wealth of his
house, Murray mentally selected Lord Byron, then known, not only as
the noble poetaster of the “Hours of Idleness,” but as the bitterest
satirist who had dipped pen in gall since Pope had lashed the
hack-writers of his time in the “Dunciad.” Murray made no secret of his
wish to secure Byron as a client, and the rumour of this desire reached
the ears of Mr. Dallas, the novelist, who happened at that very moment
to be seeking a publisher for a new poem in two cantos, by his distant
cousin and dear college chum, Lord Byron. Byron had just arrived from
the East, bringing with him a satire, entitled “Hints from Horace,” of
which he was not a little hopeful, and also, as he casually mentions,
a “new attempt in the Spenserian stanza.” Dallas read the “new
attempt,” and, enthralled by its beauty, forthwith undertook securing
its publication. But, even in those days of venturous publishers and
successful poems, the matter looked easier than it proved. Longman
declined to publish a poem by a writer who had so recently lashed his
own favourite authors. Miller, of Abermarle Street, a notable man in
his day, and generous withal (had he not given the widow of the late
Charles James Fox £1500 for her defunct husband’s historical fragments,
and did he not eagerly snatch at one-fourth share of “Marmion?”) would
have none of it, his noble patron, Lord Elgin, being abused in the very
first canto. Dallas then appears to have heard a rumour of Murray’s
willingness; the manuscript was taken to him, and £600 was offered,
there and then, for the copyright. Byron was at that time unwilling to
receive money for work done solely for love and fame; he had lately
attacked Scott in a directly personal manner, as “Apollo’s venal son:”--

 “Though Murray with his Miller may combine
  To yield thy Muse just half-a-crown per line!”

and generously made a present of the copyright to Dallas--a brother
author, less gifted in purse and brain--and thus the bargain was
concluded. This was the commencement of a friendship between author
and publisher which has, perhaps, only one parallel in literary
annals--that of Scott and Constable. From the letters between Byron
and Murray we can discern clearly that the connection, tinged as it
was with much generous feeling on both sides, was far from being of a
purely commercial nature.

“Childe Harold,” for this, of course, is the poem referred to, was
“put in hand” at once. Quartos were then in vogue for all books
likely to attract attention, and Murray insisted that profit as well
as portliness was to be found therein. Byron was for octavos and
popularity; but as he said wofully at the end of one of his letters,
“one must obey one’s bookseller.” During the progress of the printing,
Byron would lounge into the shop in Fleet Street, fresh from Angelo’s
and Jackson’s. “His great amusement,” says Murray, “was in making
thrusts with his stick, in fencer’s fashion, at the ‘sprucebooks,’ as
he called them, which I had arranged upon my shelves. He disordered a
row for me in a short time, always hitting the volume he had singled
out for the exercise of his skill. I was sometimes, as you will guess,
glad to get rid of him.” As for correction, Byron was willing enough to
defer at any time to Murray’s advice, upon all questions but politics,
though only to a limited extent: “If you don’t like it, say so, and
I’ll alter it, but _don’t_ suggest anything instead.” In one letter we
find a strange absence of a young writer’s anxiety anent the importance
of typography. “The printer may place the notes in his _own way_,
or in any _way_, so that they are out of my way.” In another: “_You
have looked at it?_ to much purpose, to allow so stupid a blunder to
stand; it is not ‘courage,’ but ‘carnage,’ and if you don’t want to
see me cut my own throat see it altered!” Again, but later, “If every
syllable were a rattlesnake, or every letter a pestilence, they should
not be expunged.” “I do believe the Devil never created or perverted
such a fiend as the fool of a printer.” “For God’s sake,” he writes in
another place, “instruct Mr. Murray not to allow his shopman to call
the work ‘Child of Harrow’s Pilgrimage!!!’ as he has done to some of
my astonished friends, who wrote to inquire after my sanity on the
occasion, as well they might!” To John Murray we imagine Lord Byron
must have appeared as much of a contradiction as he did to the world

Byron was extremely anxious that no underhand means should be used
to foster the success of “Childe Harold.” “Has Murray,” he writes to
Dallas, “shown the work to any one? He may--but I will have no traps
for applause.” On receipt of a rumour from Dallas, he indites a stormy
letter to Murray, absolutely forbidding that Gifford should be allowed
to look at the book before publication. Before the letter arrived,
however, Gifford had expressed a very strong opinion, indeed, as to the
merit of the poem, which he declared to “be equal to anything of the
present day.” Byron wrote again to Murray, “as never publisher was
written to before by author:”--“It is bad enough to be a scribbler,
without having recourse to such shifts to escape from or deprecate
censure. It is anticipating, begging, kneeling, adulating--the devil!
the devil! the devil! and all without my wish, and contrary to my

In the early spring of 1812, “Childe Harold” was ready, and three
days before its appearance, Byron made his maiden speech in the House
of Lords; a speech which was received with attention and hailed with
applause, from those whose applause was in itself fame. It is needless
here to recapitulate the success of “Childe Harold,” how, on the day
after publication, Lord Byron awoke, and, as he himself phrased it,
found himself famous.

The publication of “Childe Harold,” was not the only important event
of this year, 1812, to the subject of our memoir. In this same year,
Murray purchased the stock-in-trade of worthy Mr. Miller, of 50,
Albemarle Street, and migrated thither, leaving the old shop, east of
Temple Bar, to be re-occupied by-and-by (in 1832) by the Highley family.

Here it was, at Albemarle Street, that Murray attained the highest
pinnacle of fame on which ever publisher stood. His drawing-room,
at four o’clock, became the favourite resort of all the talent in
literature and in art that London then possessed, and there _were_
giants in those days. There it was his “custom of an afternoon,” to
gather together such men as Byron, Scott, Moore, Campbell, Southey,
Gifford, Hallam, Lockhart, Washington Irving, and Mrs. Somerville; and,
more than this, he invited such artists as Laurence, Wilkie, Phillips,
Newton, and Pickersgill to meet them and to paint them, that they
might hang for ever on his walls. Famous tales, too, are told of the
“publisher’s dinners;” of tables surrounded as never any king’s table
but that of the “Emperor of the West’s” had ever been. As Byron makes
Murray say, in his mock epistle to Dr. Palidori--

 “The room’s so full of wits and bards,
  Crabbes, Campbells, Crokers, Freres, and Wards,
  And others, neither bards nor wits,
  My humble tenement admits
  All persons in the dress of gent,
  From Mr. Hammond to Dog Dent.
  A party dines with me to-day,
  All clever men who make their way;
  Crabbe, Malcolm, Hamilton, and Chantrey
  Are all partakers of my pantry.

         *       *       *       *       *

  My room’s so full--we’ve Gifford here,
  Reading MS. with Hookham Frere,
  Pronouncing on the nouns and particles
  Of some of our forthcoming articles.”

Mr. Planché, in his recently-published “Recollections,” gives us an
amusing account of one of these literary réunions; this time, however,
at the house of Horace Twiss. Murray, James Smith, and others remained
in the dining-room very late, and the party grew noisy and merry, for
Hook was giving some of his wonderful extempore songs. Pressed for
another, he declared that the subject should be “John Murray;” but the
“Emperor of the West” objected most vehemently, and vainly chased Hook
round the table in furtive endeavours to stop a recitative, of which
Planché only remembers the beginning:--

 “My friend, John Murray, I see, has arrived at the head of the table,
  And the wonder is, at this time of night, that John Murray should be
  He’s an excellent hand at supper, and not a bad hand at lunch,
  But the devil of John Murray is, that he never will pass the punch!”

Among the many instances of Murray’s munificence was the offer of £3000
to Crabbe for his “Tales of the Hall,” and the copyright of his prior
works. Some zealous friends, however, thought this too small a sum,
and opened negotiations with another firm, but the other firm offered
considerably less; and Crabbe, fearing that Murray might consider the
bargain as out of his hands entirely now, went straightway to Albemarle
Street with Rogers and Moore as mediators. Murray, however, assured
them that he had from the first considered the matter as entirely

Lord Byron’s personal connection with the Albemarle Street clique
was of comparatively short existence, for, in 1816, he left England
for the last time; but to the time of his death he kept up a regular
correspondence with Murray of the frankest and most cordial kind. Now,
Murray hearing that Lord Byron was in difficulties, sends him a draft
for £1500, promising another for the same amount in the course of a few
months, and offering to sell the copyright of his works for his use,
if that were not sufficient. Then, again, in a freak, Byron presents
Murray with “Parisina” and the “Siege of Corinth,” and returns the
cheque for £1000 which the publisher had forwarded.

“Your offer is liberal in the extreme, and much more than the two poems
can possibly be worth; but I cannot accept it, nor will not. You are
most welcome to them as an addition to the collected volumes, without
any demand or expectation on my part whatever.

“P.S.--I have enclosed your draft, _torn_, for fear of accidents by the
way. I wish you would not throw temptation in mine; it is not from a
disdain of the universal idol, nor from a present superfluity of his
treasures, I can assure you, that I refuse to worship him; but what is
right is right, and must not yield to circumstances.”

The following is in a somewhat different tone:--

“You offer 1500 guineas for the new canto of (”Don Juan“). I won’t take
it. I ask 2500 guineas for it, which you will either give or not, as
you think proper. If Mr. Moore is to have 3000 for “Lalla,” &c., if Mr.
Crabbe is to have 3000 for his prose or poetry, I ask the aforesaid
price for mine.” (“Beppo” was eventually thrown into the bargain.)
“You are an excellent fellow, _mio caro_ Murray, but there is still
a little leaven of Fleet Street about you now and then--a crumb of
the old loaf.... I have a great respect for your good and gentlemanly
qualities, and return your friendship towards me; and although I think
you are a little spoiled by ‘villanous company,’ with persons of
honour about town, authors, and fashionables, together with your ‘I
am just going to call at Carlton House, are you walking that way?’--I
say, notwithstanding ‘pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and the musical
glasses,’ you deserve the esteem of those whose esteem is worth having.”

Now, like a spoiled child, Byron wishes back all his copyrights, and
intends to suppress all that he has ever written, and Murray has to
chide him and coax him, with much disinterestedness, urging him to
labour steadily for a few years upon some work worthy of his talents,
and fit to be a true monument of his fame.

Some of Byron’s letters are in an earnest, many in a playful, mood,
most in prose, but sometimes the poet breaks into a charming doggerel
of delicious “chaff.” Here is one specimen:--


 “Strahan, Tonson, Lintot of the times,
  Patron and publisher of rhymes,
  For thee the bard of Pindus climbs,
                        My Murray.

 “To thee, with hope and terror dumb,
  The unfledged MS. authors come;
  Thou printest all--and sellest some--
                        My Murray.

 “Upon thy tables’ baize so green,
  The last new _Quarterly_ is seen,--
  But where is thy new magazine,
                        My Murray?

 “Along thy sprucest bookshelves shine
  The works thou deemest most divine,--
  The ‘Art of Cookery,’ and mine,
                        My Murray.

 “Tours, Travels, Essays, too, I wist,
  And Sermons to thy mill bring grist;
  And then thou hast the ‘Army List,’
                        My Murray.

 “And Heaven forbid I should conclude
  Without the ‘Board of Longitude,’
  Although this narrow paper would,
                        My Murray!”

      VENICE, March 25, 1818.

There was no end to Byron’s wit and playfulness. Sometimes Murray would
act as a mentor and adviser in more serious matters, but his advice
would be pleasantly turned off with a jest. At the time when Byron was
most calumniated, when there were cruel stories afloat about the life
he led and the opinions he held (though none so cruel as have since
been promulgated by a well-known American authoress), Murray’s soul was
comforted by the present of a Bible--a gift from the illustrious poet.
“Could this man,” he asked, “be a deist, an atheist, or worse, when he
sent Bibles about to his publishers?” Turning it over in wonderment,
however, some inquisitive member of his four-o’clock clique found a
marginal correction--“Now Barabbas was a robber,” altered into “Now
Barabbas was a _publisher_.” A cruel stab, a “palpable hit,” maybe,
at some publishers, but, as regards Murray, an uproarious joke to be
gleefully repeated to every comer. As a refutation of this playful
libel, and as the clearest and most succinct way of showing what
amounts of money Byron really did receive, we append the following

  1807 _Hours of Idleness_
  1809 _English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_
  1812 _Childe Harold_, I. II.[A]                   600
  1813 _The Gaiour_                                 525
    ”  _Bride of Abydos_                            525
  1814 _Corsair_[15]                                525
    ”  _Lara_                                       700
  1815 _Hebrew Melodies_[16]
  1816 _Childe Harold_, III.                      1,575
    ”  _Siege of Corinth_                           525
    ”  _Parisina_                                   525
    ”  _Prisoner of Chillon_                        525
  1817 _Manfred_                                    315
    ”  _Lament of Tasso_                            315
  1818 _Beppo_                                      525
    ”  _Childe Harold_, IV.                       2,100
  1819 _Mazeppa_                                    525
    ”  _Don Juan_, I. II.                         1,525
  1820 _Don Juan_, III. IV. V.                    1,525
    ”  _Marino Faliero_
    ”  _Doge of Venice_                           1,050
  1821 _Sardanapalus_, _Cain_, and _Foscari_      1,100
    ”  _Vision of Judgment_[17]
  1822 _Werner_; _Deformed Transformed_; _Heaven
          and Earth_, to which were added _Hours
          of Idleness_, _English Bards_, _Hints
          from Horace_, &c.                       3,885
       Sundries                                     450
  1822 _Don Juan_, VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. XI.
  1823 _Age of Bronze_, _The Island_, and more
          cantos of _Don Juan_
                         Total                  £19,340
  _Life_, by Thomas Moore                         4,200

Murray’s kindness to Byron may be said to have displayed itself
even after his death. In 1821, Byron had given his friend Moore his
autobiography, partly as a means of justifying his character, partly to
enrich his friend. Moore, pressed as usual for money, made over the MS.
to Murray for the sum of 2000 guineas, undertaking to edit it in case
of survivorship. He subsequently intended to modify the transaction by
a clause to be inserted in the deed, by which he, Moore, should have
the option of redeeming it within three months after Byron’s death.
When Byron did die, in 1824, the MS. was given to Gifford to read, and
found to be far too gross for publication, and, spite of Moore’s wish
to modify it, Sir John Hobhouse and Mrs. Leigh insisted upon its being
destroyed. Murray offered to give it up upon repayment of the 2000
guineas; and after an unpleasant scene in Murray’s shop, the MS. was
destroyed by Wilmot Horton and Colonel Doyle, with the full consent of
Moore, who repaid Murray the sum advanced by a draft on Rogers.

No sooner had it been burnt than it was found that, through the want of
the clause above named, Moore’s interest in the MS. had entirely ceased
at Byron’s death; and though Moore, nobly and firmly, refused to
receive the money back from Byron’s friends, he chose to consider for a
time that Murray had wronged him.

He took a proposal to Longman of a “Life of Byron,” and the matter
was partially arranged, when Moore, urged on both by his feelings
and his friends, seeing Murray in the street, started after him.
“Mr. Murray, some friends of yours and mine seem to think that we
should no longer continue on these terms. I therefore proffer you
my hand, and most heartily forgive and forget all that has passed.”
Murray’s face brightened into smiles, and on parting he said, “God
bless you, sir, God bless you!” Longman agreed, upon this, that Murray
was the publisher to whom a life of Byron most properly belonged,
and Murray eventually gave £4200 for one of the most delightful and
entertaining biographies in our literature--a companion volume, in
every way, to Boswell’s “Johnson” and Lockhart’s “Scott.” Murray, in
this transaction, seems to have behaved with generous firmness. Now
that Byron was dead, the autobiography would certainly have proved
the most remunerative of all his works; and Moore himself, in his
Diary, ultimately confessed that “Murray’s conduct” had been admirable

In this year, 1824, not only did Murray lose the services and the
friendship of his best client, Lord Byron, who died at Missolonghi on
the 19th of April, but Gifford, the able editor of the _Quarterly_,
was incapacitated for further work, and resigned his post. Mr. John
Coleridge, then a young barrister, succeeded, but though accomplished,
clever, and able, he was “scarcely strong enough for the place;”
Southey found out his incapacity for saying “no,” and under his
auspicious reign began to make the _Review_ a quarterly issue of
his own miscellaneous works. Strangely enough in the mourning coach
that followed Gifford to his grave Murray drove with the man who was
destined as an editor to rival the powers of the upbuilder of the
_Quarterly’s_ reputation--this of course was John Gibson Lockhart,
a young Edinburgh advocate, the son-in-law of Scott, and more than
that, the author of “Peter’s Letters,” of “Valerius,” of “Reginald
Dalton,” the translator of “Frederick Schlegel,” and the “Ancient
Spanish Ballads,” and the noted contributor to _Blackwood_. Moore
first heard of the arrangement down at Abbotsford, when Scott, after
dinner, hopeful of his daughter’s interests, and proud, may be, of
his son-in-law, grew confidential. “Lockhart was about to undertake
the _Quarterly_, has agreed for five years; salary £1200 a year, and
if he writes a certain number of articles it will be £1500 a year.”
In this year, though the prospects of the _Quarterly_ were ably
secured, Murray met with the only really adverse turn of fortune, to
which through a long career, and a bold one, he was ever subject. The
terrible commercial crisis which had been so long overhanging, burst
at last into a deluge of ruin--Constable’s house was swept away, the
Ballantynes were for the moment overthrown, and Scott had to give up
his lordly estates of Abbotsford, and generously work his life out
to redeem a name on which he deemed a commercial slur had been cast.
Murray, though he suffered by the panic, as all must suffer in the
time of a general epidemic, was not severely hurt. Still, looking back
now with the wisdom of wiseacres, who think we could have prophesied
easily the actual events that did occur, the time does seem a strange
one in which to start a new venture. This was nothing less than the
establishment of a new Conservative journal, which was to rival the
_Times_ as the _Quarterly_ rivalled the _Edinburgh_. According to
the current rumour, it was young Disraeli (now the wily and veteran
leader of the Conservative party) who first proposed the scheme;
and, according to current rumour still, it was under his editorship,
and with Dr. Maginn as chief foreign correspondent, that the
_Representative_ (price sevenpence daily) was started on the 26th of
January, 1826. The journal was able, well-informed, and well-written,
but the _Times_ had a monopoly, and the Conservative party were not
strong enough to support a first-rate organ of their own, and after
a brief existence of six months, the _Representative_ gave up the
struggle. Murray was wont in future days, when rash young speculators
urged the necessity of embracing some opening for a new daily paper, to
point to a ledger on his book-shelves and say grimly, “Twenty thousand
pounds lie buried there!”

The question as to who was the actual editor of the _Representative_
has never been definitely settled. Mr. Disraeli, until the last year,
never disclaimed the supposed connection, and silence was considered
as proverbially affirmative. Lockhart, too, has been put forward
as a claimant. The nearest approach to any opinion that might have
been final was given by the late James Hannay in the pages of the
_Edinburgh Courant_. “We had the best authority for what we said--nay,
the only authority--since even to Mr. Murray the question of the
_Representative’s_ editorship is not a personal one. We now add that
Mr. Disraeli’s long silence in the matter admits of an explanation
which will gratify his admirers of all parties. He hesitated to come
forward with any eagerness to make a denial, which might have been
interpreted as springing from a wish to disclaim newspaper association,
but when the story was passing into literature in such a book as the
biography of an eminent British writer, it was time to protest against
any further propagation of the story, once and for all.” But this “best
and only authority” did nothing to render the question less intricate,
for when Mr. Grant published the first instalment of his “History
of the Newspaper Press,” he thoroughly outdid Hannay, and with that
ingenuous facility of arbitrating over moot points, and that mysterious
power of catching rumours, as boys catch moths, and pinning them down
in his collection under the general label of “facts,” gave full details
of Mr. Disraeli’s connection with the _Representative_, the amount of
his salary, together with a luxurious description of the splendours of
his editorial offices! Mr. Disraeli roused at last, replied curtly that
the whole narrative was entirely imaginary, and utterly devoid of fact
or foundation in any one point. He has since then in a letter, upon
a similar question, written by his solicitor to the _Leisure Hour_,
declared that:--

“Mr. Disraeli never in his life required or received any remuneration
for anything he ever wrote, except for books bearing his name.

“Mr. Disraeli never was editor of the _Star Chamber_, or any other
newspaper, journal, review, or magazine, or anything else.”

To return, however, to legitimate book-publishing. About this time
Campbell’s old scheme of “Biographies of the Poets” was revived,
re-appearing under the title of “Specimens of the British Poets;” and
Murray was so pleased with the work that he made the stipulated sum of
£500 into double that amount. To Allen Cunningham, too, he gave £50 per
volume additional for his “Lives of the British Artists,” and made the
payment retrospective.

We could repeat five hundred anecdotes of his liberal and kindly
generosity, but our space only permits us to record another, which it
is very pleasant to read about.

It was twenty-two years since the obscure Fleet Street bookseller had
embraced the “glorious and profitable” opportunity of taking a fourth
share in “Marmion,” and since then Sir Walter Scott had achieved an
unparalleled position in the world of English letters, had written
innumerable works, and had earned unheard-of sums--and had been
completely ruined. With the aid of his creditors, Scott was now seeking
to recover all his copyrights for a final edition of his collected
works. All had been bought back save this fourth share of “Marmion.”
Lockhart was commissioned by his father-in-law to inquire on what
terms the share might be re-purchased, and this was Murray’s immediate

  “Albemarle Street, June 8th, 1829.

    “MY DEAR SIR,--Mr. Lockhart has this moment communicated
    your letter respecting my fourth share of the copyright of
    ‘Marmion.’ I have already been applied to by Messrs. Constable
    and Messrs. Longman to know what sum I would sell this share
    for; but so highly do I estimate the honour of being, even in
    so small a degree, the publisher of the author of this poem,
    that no pecuniary consideration whatever can induce me to part
    with it.

    “But there is a consideration of another kind, which until now
    I was not aware of, which would make it painful to me if I were
    to retain it longer. I mean the knowledge of its being required
    by the author, into whose hands it was spontaneously resigned
    in the same instant that I read his request.

    “The share has been profitable to me fifty-fold beyond what
    either publisher or author could have anticipated, and,
    therefore, my returning it on such an occasion, you will, I
    trust, do me the favour to consider in no other light than as
    a mere act of grateful acknowledgment, for benefits already
    received by

      “My dear Sir,
  “Your obliged and faithful Servant,
            “JOHN MURRAY.”

This noble act, we must remember, was performed at a time when the
future was anything but bright, or at all events when the present
was dismally gloomy. “Lydia Whyte,” writes Tom Moore, “told me that
Murray was very unsuccessful of late. Besides the failure of his
_Representative_, the _Quarterly_ did not look very promising, and he
was about to give up the fine house he had taken in Whitehall, and
return to live in Albemarle-street.”

Constable had, some years previous, hit upon the idea of appealing to
a public that should be numbered, not by tens of thousands, but by
hundreds of thousands, ay, and by millions! and had just commenced his
“Miscellany.” Murray, quick to receive a good idea, started at once
into competition with his “Family Library,” Lockhart commencing the
series with a “Life of Napoleon” and the “Court and Camp of Bonaparte.”
Cunningham followed with his “Lives of the British Painters,” and
Southey revised his “Life of Nelson,” and expanded another review
article into a “Life of Wellington,” on terms equally munificent with
the other.

Cheap editions of Byron were multiplied by the score; Landor received
a thousand guineas for his “Journals of African Travel,” and Napier
another thousand for his first volume of the “History of the Peninsular
War.” If Murray neglected opportunities, he generally managed to
retrieve them. He might have had the “Bridgewater Treatises;” and he
says, “The ‘Rejected Addresses’ were offered me for ten pounds, and
I let them go by as the kite of the moment. See the result! I was
determined to pay for my neglect, and I bought the remainder of the
copyright for 150 guineas.” Murray might have added that he generously
gave the Smiths a handsome share in the ultimate profits.

Sometimes, too, he had the sagacity to buy the _failures_ as well as
the successes of other publishers. Constable produced a little “History
of England,” in one small volume, which fell still-born from the press.
Murray purchased it for a trifle, re-christened it with his usual
happiness, and as “Mrs. Markham’s History of England” the work has been
an annual source of revenue to the house, as the present Mr. Murray’s
last trade sale list would tell us.

Murray was never dazzled by the fame of his Byrons, his Moores, his
Campbells, and his Crabbes, but always recollected that “taste” is
flitting, while works that only aid the necessities of mankind are
always saleable. The “Army and Navy List” and the “Nautical Almanack”
are every whit as profitable to-day as in the first year of their
publication. Moore tells a story that shows he could still occupy his
mind as well as fill his purse with “Mrs. Rundell’s Cookery Book.”
“Called at Murray’s,” he writes in his “Diary,” for 1831: “mentioned to
him Lady Morgan’s wish to contribute something to his ‘Family Library,’
and that she has materials ready for the lives of five or six Dutch
painters. ‘Pray, isn’t Lady Morgan a very good cook?’ I answered I
didn’t know; but why did he ask? ‘Because,’ said he, ‘if she would do
something in that line--’ ‘Why, you don’t mean,’ said I, ‘that she
should write a cookery book for you?’ ‘No,’ answered John, coolly, ‘not
so much as that; but that she should re-edit mine’ (Mrs. Rundell’s, by
which he had made heaps of money). Oh, that she could have heard this
with her own ears! Here ended my negotiations for her Ladyship.”

It was not merely to Englishmen that Murray extended a helping and a
generous hand. When the first volume of the “Sketch Book,” originally
published in America, made its appearance in London, it was declined
by Murray, and Irving was about to publish it on his own account; but
after all arrangements had been made the printer failed. Lockhart had
praised the book in _Blackwood_; and Scott, seeing at once its sterling
worth, with his usual kindliness, pressed its merits upon Murray, who
gave Irving £200 for it, afterwards more than doubling the amount.
Murray’s transactions with Irving exhibit a singular phase of the
international copyright law. This is how their account stands--

  “Sketch Book”               467
  “Bracebridge Hall”         1050
  “Tales of a Traveller”     1575
  “Life of Columbus”         3150
  “Companions of Columbus”    525
  “Conquest of Grenada”      2100
  “Tour on the Prairies”      400
  “Abbotsford and Newstead”   400
  “Legends of Spain”          100
               Total        £9767

These sums of money having been paid, Mr. Bohn reprinted the volumes in
a cheap edition. A law suit was of course the result, in which Murray’s
expenses ran up to £850, and Mr. Bohn’s were probably as heavy. The
question, however, was settled amicably, without being fought to the
bitter end, and Irving received no more money from this side the

Most of the famous men with whom Murray had been connected had by this
time disappeared, many of them having shed their rays meteor-like, and
having done the duty unto which they were created in a momentary flash.
The seething excitement called into being by the throes of the first
French Revolution had subsided, and there were neither readers left
to appreciate true poetry, nor true poets remaining, with strength of
voice left in them to bring back memories in passion-laden melodies of
the troublous times they sprung from. All, on the contrary, was quiet
and easeful--a happy time for commerce, but a barren hour for art.

Murray, skilled as any pilot in watching the direction of the wind,
turned his attention to the publication of travels and expeditions--the
very books for a fireside afternoon, when the wind is howling outside,
and the snow-storm beating on the windows--and very soon Albemarle
Street was as famous for its “Travels” as it had previously been for
its “Belles-Lettres.” Among the most valuable and successful of these
were the expeditions of Mungo Park, Belzoni, Parry, Franklin, Denham,
and Clapperton.

Murray had just launched his “Classical Handbooks,” under the
editorship of his son--had just made, in trade parlance, “another great
hit” in Lady Sale’s “Journal in Afghanistan”--when an attack of general
debility and exhaustion compelled him to leave business and success
alone--and for ever. He rallied so often that no serious results were
anticipated by his family or physician; but after a very short illness
he died suddenly on the 27th June, 1843, in the fifty-sixth year of his
age, leaving three daughters and one only son. To his widow, in a will
dated only seven days before his death, he bequeathed the whole of his

A gentleman by manners and education; generous and open-handed, not for
purposes of display, often not from mere trade motives, but from a true
desire to return to genius and industry something of what he derived
from them; an excellent man of business, with more powers of work than
most men, understanding better than any how to measure the calibre
of an author’s genius, and to gauge the duration of his popularity;
skilful in timing a publication, so as to ensure a favourable
reception, and yet honestly abhorring any recourse to the low art of
puffing--such was John Murray as a publisher; the best representative
of an honourable calling, and one who by his own influence tended
not a little to make the years of his own working life the best
representative period of English literature.

Mr. John Murray, who succeeded at once to his father’s business, was
born in the year 1808, and was consequently, in 1843, admirably
fitted, by years and professional training, to take the management
of so important a concern. He was educated at the Charterhouse and
at Edinburgh University, and had had, moreover, all the advantages
that foreign travel could bestow. As early as 1831, we hear of “Mr.
John Murray, Jun.,” at Weimar, presenting Goethe with the dedication
of Byron’s “Marino Faliero,” and being received, together with that
mocking and yet reverent tribute, in a gracious, kindly manner.

Mr. Murray thoroughly followed his father’s idea, that the age had now
come for the cheap publication of useful and practical books, and in
the first year of his accession, issued the prospectus of his “Home
and Colonial Library,” which, being published at half the price of the
“Family Library,” was at least twice as successful, and was continued
for upwards of six years. During these early years Mr. Murray made one
mistake, and achieved one great success. The mistake was, however, in
common with every publisher in London, for “Eöthen” went the rounds
of the metropolitan book market, and was eventually published by a
personal friend of Mr. Kinglake’s. Mindful of his father’s precedents,
Murray soon secured the copyright. The success, on the contrary,
consisted in accepting what other publishers had refused, and issued
from Albemarle Street, Campbell’s “Lives of the Lord Chancellors” has
proved one of the most successful biographical works of the time. In
travel, biography, history, and science, the present Mr. Murray has
fully sustained the name of the old house, and it is sufficient here
to mention only the names of Hallam, Barrow, Wilkinson, Lyell, Gordon
Cumming, Layard, Murchison, and Sir Robert Peel, to see how much we owe

On Lockhart’s death, in 1854, the Reverend Whitwell Elwin was selected
to fill the editorial chair of the _Quarterly_, and since that date
the political opinions of the periodical have been considerably
modified; at any rate, men of all parties have been allowed to write
conscientiously in its pages, and it is even rumoured, that before
this, its old opponent, Lord Brougham, contributed at least one article
(that on _Chesterfield_, in vol. lxxvi.).

Among the most successful library books that Mr. Murray has recently
published, we must instance those by Mr. Smiles and Dr. Livingstone,
and, more especially, those by Mr. Darwin.

Mr. Murray’s name is, however, most familiar to us now as the publisher
of the famous _Handbooks_ for travellers, the series now extending, not
only through the outer world, but embracing our English counties; these
latter, it is said, owing much to Mr. Murray’s personal editorship.

In closing our short sketch of the “House of Murray,” we cannot refrain
from re-echoing a wish that has been often uttered before, that the
present representative may find time amidst his professional labours,
to edit the letters and to write a worthy life of the great John
Murray. No book that has ever been issued from Albemarle Street could
be more popular or more welcome.




We have already, in our account of Archibald Constable, shown how
deeply the brilliant writers--who for a while gave a bold literary
supremacy to the northern capital--were indebted to the daring spirit
and the generous purse of one Scottish publisher; we have here to
follow the narrative of a rival’s life--a life at outset very similar,
but soon diverging widely, and which, actuated by very different
principles, and aiming at very different results, was destined to open
the arena of literary struggle to those whom honest political feeling
had for a moment rendered dumb and inactive.

William Blackwood was born at Edinburgh, on the 20th Nov., 1776, of
parents in an humble position in life, who, however, with the honest
endeavour of most of their class in the north, contrived to give him a
very excellent elementary education. From his earliest days, William
had exhibited a strong love for books, and at the age of fourteen he
was apprenticed to Bell and Bradfute, of his native city; nor, indeed,
did his education suffer from this premature removal from school;
there is much leisure in a bookseller’s shop, even for an industrious
boy, and opportunity of more various reading than comes within the
reach of many sixth-form scholars and university undergraduates. “It
was here,” says an obituary notice, “that he had so largely stored
his mind with reading of all sorts, but more especially with Scottish
history and antiquities, that on establishing himself in business, his
accomplishments attracted the notice of persons whose good opinion
was distinction.” Before the expiry of his time, in 1797, he must
also have displayed a talent for business life, for we find that
he was immediately engaged by Messrs. Mundell & Co., then largely
employed in the book trade at Edinburgh, to take the sole management
of a branch house at Glasgow; and being thus, at the early age of
twenty years, thrown almost entirely upon his own resources, and with
his own judgment for his only guidance, he acquired that decision of
character which distinguished him throughout after-life, and which
was so instrumental in the fortunes of his house. In spite, however,
of all his efforts, the firm of Mundell & Co. did not prosper at
Glasgow--it was they, the reader may, perhaps, remember, who purchased
the “Pleasures of Hope,” for only fifty printed copies of the work,
from Campbell--and after his year’s service was over, he returned to
Edinburgh, and re-entered the employment of Bell and Bradfute, with
whom he remained for another year. In 1800, he entered into partnership
with Mr. Ross, bookseller and bookseller’s auctioneer; but the
auctioneering part of the business proved distasteful to him, and the
old book trade presented a much more suitable field for his talents.
With the energy of youth he started for London, and was initiated into
the mysteries of bibliography by Mr. Cuthell, “famous,” as Nichols
says, “for his catalogues.” Here he stayed for three years, and then,
in 1804, came back to Edinburgh and opened an old-book shop, in South
Bridge Street. For several years he almost confined his attention to
the sale of rare and curious books, more especially those relating to
the antiquities and early history of Scotland. His shop, like that
of Constable, soon became a regular literary haunt, and he speedily
acquired a reputation second to none of his own line in Edinburgh, and
in the matter of catalogues, he rivalled Cuthell, his master; that one
published in 1812 being the first in which the books were regularly
classified, and “continues,” says Mr. Chambers, “to be an authority
to the present day.” The old-book trade was at that time in its most
flourishing condition, Dibdin was firing the minds of curiosity-seekers
with a love for rare quartos and folios; Heber, and many more after
his kind, were spending the main portion of their time, and the vast
bulk of their fortunes, in the acquisition of immense libraries; and
the old-booksellers of the day were making large incomes. Blackwood’s
success by no means satisfied his ambition, but enabled him to enter
the field of publishing as a rival to Constable, who was now at the
height of his glory. As early as 1811, we find him bringing out “Kerr’s
Voyages,” a work of considerable importance and expense, and which was
shortly succeeded by Macrie’s “Life of Knox.”

Blackwood’s sojourn in London, and the credit attracted by his
enterprising book-catalogues, led the way to his being appointed agent
to several of the London booksellers, among others, to John Murray,
and to them, conjointly, the tale of the “Black Dwarf” was offered
when Scott considered it desirable to bring it out in other hands, and
with a title-page apparently by another author. Blackwood wrote to say
that, in his opinion, the unravelling of the end of the story might be
improved, and offered to pay for cancelling the proofs. Gifford, too,
to whom Murray had shown it, was of a like opinion. Scott differed most
essentially; witness his letter to Ballantyne:--


    “I have received Blackwood’s impudent letter. G---- d---- his
    soul, tell him and his coadjutor that I belong to the Black
    Hussars of Literature, who neither give nor receive criticism.
    I’ll be cursed but this is the most impudent proposal that ever
    was made.”

This, of course, brought the proposal to a close for the time, though,
as Lockhart says, “Scott did both know and appreciate Blackwood better
in after times.”

Blackwood was now, from the profits of the old-book trade and the
success of his own publishing ventures, in a fair way to success, and
in 1816 he took the bold step of selling off all his old stock and
migrating to Prince’s Street. “He took possession,” says Lockhart, in
“Peter’s Letters,” “of a large and airy suite of rooms in Prince’s
Street, which had formerly been occupied by a notable confectioner, and
whose threshold was, therefore, familiar enough to all the frequenters
of this superb promenade.... Stimulated, I suppose, by the example and
success of John Murray, whose agent he is, he determined to make, if
possible, Prince’s Street to the High Street, what the other had made
Albemarle Street to the Row.” It was not without much forethought,
we may be sure, that this step was undertaken, and the speedy
establishment of the famous magazine clearly shows us what was the
chief motive to such a venturous change.

The magazine literature of the day was wofully weak. The vitality with
which Cave had endowed the _Gentleman’s Magazine_, had long since died
away. No more such “hack-writers” as Johnson and Goldsmith came forward
to enliven its pages, at the meagre payment of four guineas a sheet,
and now it only--

 “Hopped its pleasant way from church to church,
  And nursed its little bald biography.”

Such was the type of English periodical literature, and the Scotch
were certainly no better off. The _Scots Magazine_ stood Constable,
it is true, in good stead, but only as a nursery ground, from which
writers might be trained for transplantation to a stronger soil. Vastly
different was the condition of the rival quarterlies; but still, in
Scotland at all events, the _Edinburgh_ carried everything after its
own desire. Wit the writers had in plenty--learning, too, and the gift
of open-speaking; but to fairness, biassed as they were by party ties,
they never laid the least claim, and yet all Edinburgh was enthralled
by the opinions of the _Edinburgh Review_, for intellectual attainments
at that time commanded for their possessors the leading place in the
society of the Modern Athens, and, as the principles advocated in its
pages were decidedly opposed to those of the existing administration,
the success it indubitably had attained, the vast following it was
gathering, not only irritated but alarmed the Scotch Tory party.

Of course, the actual inventorship of the new project is a disputed
point, but the evidence seems to tell us that, however the idea of
a new Conservative organ had been talked over in literary coteries
(and what scheme has not been planned a thousand times before
execution whenever literary men meet together?), the plan had long
been entertained and spoken of by Blackwood; and, as he proceeded to
carry it into execution, the scheme may to all intents and purposes be
regarded as his own.

Two gentlemen were engaged--Pringle and Cleghorn--who had received
their training in the enemy’s camp, as editors in chief, and with the
assistance of Hogg, and the promised support of Scott and many other
men of talent, the first number of the _Edinburgh Monthly Magazine_
was issued on All-Fools’ Day, 1817--an ominous day for Blackwood, for
he soon discovered that the prophets he had summoned to curse, heaped
blessings on the heads of his opponents. This first number differed
but little from other periodicals of its class. Only half the space
was devoted to original matter, and the very opening pages contained a
panegyric upon Horner, then lately deceased, an _Edinburgh Reviewer_--a
Whig, and not much else. “You can’t say too much about Sydney Smith and
Brougham,” said Scott to Jeffrey; “but I will not admire your Horner.
He always puts me in mind of Obadiah’s bull, who, although, as Father
Shandy observed, he never produced a calf, went through his business
with such a grave demeanour that he always maintained his credit in
the parish.” Nor was this the worst. In No. 3 a violent defence of the
_Edinburgh_ was undertaken warmly. This was too much for Blackwood; he
gave his editors notice of a coming change, and after much chaffering
he was glad to pay £125 down, and get rid at once of them and the
magazine; and--somewhat, doubtless, to his chagrin--they immediately
returned to Constable and took charge of the _Scots Magazine_, which,
under the title of _Constable’s Edinburgh Magazine_, made a futile
effort to re-juvenate itself.

With the sixth number of the _Edinburgh Monthly Magazine_ had appeared
a notice stating that “this work is now discontinued, this being the
last number of it;” but in the following month, with an alteration in
the title, it arose, Phœnix-like, from the ashes, and, as _Blackwood’s
Edinburgh Magazine_, No. 7, created a sensation which has never
perhaps been equalled. There was, to commence with, a monstrous list
of all possible and impossible articles, chiefly threatened attacks
upon the _Edinburgh_, then a violent attack upon their former defence
of the _Edinburgh Reviewer’s_ onslaught upon Burns and Wordsworth;
but the great feature in No. 7 (No. 1 in reality of _Blackwood_) was
the “Translation from an Ancient Caldee Manuscript,” in which the
circumstances of the late feud, and Constable’s endeavours to repair
the fortunes of his old magazine, and the resuscitation of “Maga”--the
birth, that is, of the genuine “Maga”--are thrown into an allegorical

“The two beasts (the two late editors), the lamb and the bear, came
unto the man who was clothed in plain apparel, and stood in the door
of his house; and his name was as if it had been the colour of ebony
(_Blackwood_), and his number was the number of a maiden when the days
of her virginity have expired (_No. 17, Prince’s Street_), ... and they
said unto him, Give us of thy wealth, that we may eat and live, and
thou shalt enjoy the fruits of our labour for a time, times or half a

“And he answered and said unto them, What will ye unto me whereunto I
may employ you?

“And they proffered unto him a Book, and they said unto him, Take thou
this, and give us a piece of money, that we may eat and drink and our
souls may live.

“And we will put words into thy Book that shall astonish the children
of thy people. And it shall be a light unto thy feet and a lamp unto
thy path; it shall also bring bread to thy household, and a portion to
thy maidens.

“And the man hearkened unto their voice, and he took their Book, and he
gave them a piece of money, and they went away rejoicing in heart. And
I heard a great noise, as if it had been the noise of many chariots,
and of horsemen prancing upon their horses.

“But after many days they put no words in the Book, and the man was
astonied, and waxed wroth, and said unto them, What is this that ye
have done unto me, and how shall I answer those to whom I am engaged?
And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

“And the man wist not what for to do; and he called together the
friends of his youth, and all those whose heart was as his heart,
and he entreated them, and they put words into the Book; and it went
abroad, and all the world wondered after the Book, and after the two
beasts that had put such amazing words into the Book.

“Then the man who was crafty in counsel and cunning in all manner of
work (_Constable_), when this man saw the Book, and beheld the things
which were in the Book, he was troubled in spirit and much cast down.

“And he hated the Book and the two beasts that put words into the Book,
for he judged according to the reports of men; nevertheless, the man
was crafty in counsel, and more cunning than his fellows.

“And he said unto the two beasts, Come ye and put your trust under the
shadow of my wings, and we will destroy the man whose name is as ebony
and his Book.

“And the two beasts gave ear unto him, and they came over to him, and
bowed down before him with their faces to the earth....

“Then was the man whose name is as ebony ‘sore dismayed,’ and appealed
to the great magician who dwelleth by the old fastness hard by the
river Jordan which is by the Border (_to Walter Scott_), and the
magician opened his mouth and said, Lo! my heart wisheth thy good, and
let the thing prosper which is in thy hands to do it.

“But thou seest that my hands are full of working, and my labour is
great. For, lo! I have to feed all the people of my land, and none
knoweth whence his food cometh, but each man openeth his mouth and my
hand filleth it with pleasant things. (_This is more than a shrewd
guess of the authorship of the Waverley Novels._)

“Moreover, thine adversary also is of my familiars (_Constable, his

“Yet be thou silent, peradventure will I help thee some little.”

Chapter II. shows us Blackwood gazing despondently from his inner
chamber, when a veiled figure appears, who

“Gave unto the man in plain apparel a tablet containing the names of
those upon whom he should call; and when he called they came, and
whomsoever he asked he came....

“And the first which came was after the likeness of the beautiful
leopard, from the valley of the palm-trees, whose going forth was
comely as the greyhound, and his eyes like the lightning of fiery flame
(_Professor Wilson, author of the ‘Isle of Palms.’_)...

“There came also from a far country, the scorpion which delighteth to
sting the faces of men, that he might sting sorely the countenance of
the man which is crafty, and of the two beasts (_Lockhart_).

“Also the great wild boar from the forest of Lebanon, and he roused up
his spirit; and I saw him whetting his dreadful tusks for the battle”
(_James Hogg_).

Then come Dr. Macrie, Sir William Hamilton, Arthur Mower, “and the
hyæna that escheweth the light, and cometh forth at eventide to raise
up and gnaw the bones of the dead, and it is as a riddle unto a vain
man (_Riddell, the legal antiquarian_).

“And the beagle and the slowhound after their kind, and all the beasts
of the field, more than could be numbered, they were so many.”

In Chapter III., Constable finds that the “bear” and the “lamb” are
unprofitable servants, and he, too, calls for aid, but Jeffrey--“the
familiar spirit unto whom he had sold himself”--Leslie, and
Playfair--contributors to the _Edinburgh_--refuse to come. In Chapter
IV., Constable does get aid from Macney Napier, and others.

“And when I saw them all gathered together, I said unto myself, Of a
truth the man which is crafty hath many in his host, yet, think I,
that scarcely will these be found sufficient against them which are in
the gates of the man who is clothed in plain apparel....

“Verily the man which is crafty shall be defeated, and there shall not
escape one to tell of his overthrow.

“And while I was yet speaking, the hosts drew near, and the city was
moved; and my spirit failed within me, and I was sore afraid, and I
turned to escape away.

“And he that was like unto the messenger of a king, said unto me, Cry:
and I said, What shall I cry? for the day of vengeance is come upon all
those that ruled the nation with a rod of iron.

“And I fled into an inner chamber to hide myself, and I heard a great
tumult, but I wist not what it was.”

It is very hard for us now to duly appreciate the crushing effect of
this Caldee manuscript.

It is certainly humorous, after a fashion now so prevalent in America,
and undoubtedly witty.

Among the Edinburgh people of that time, when every man knew his
neighbour, the effect was absolutely prodigious. A yell of despairing
pain arose from one portion of the Whig party, who, if they had no
administrative power in their hands, had hitherto held a patent of all
literary ability; and from the other portion came an equally discordant
cry, which eventually culminated in a fierce accusation of blasphemy
and irreligion. Perhaps, however, the strongest test we can apply to
the power of this galling squib is the fact that every title bestowed
in its pages has “stuck” to the individual against whom it was directed.

Blackwood was alarmed at the commotion he had caused, withdrew the
obnoxious article from the second edition, suppressed it in what he
could of the first, and in the second number inserted the following
announcement:--“The editor has learnt with regret that an article in
the first edition of last number, which was intended merely as a _jeu
d’esprit_, has been construed so as to give offence to individuals
justly entitled to respect and regard; he has, on that account,
withdrawn it in the second edition, and can only add that, if what has
happened could have been anticipated, the article in question certainly
never would have appeared.” It was, however, too late, war had been
declared to the knife, and Blackwood was nothing loath to continue the

“The conception of the Caldee MS.,” says Wilson’s son-in-law, Professor
Ferrier, “and the first thirty-seven verses of Chapter I., are to be
ascribed to the Ettrick Shepherd; the rest of the composition falls to
be divided between Professor Wilson and Mr. Lockhart, in proportions
which cannot now be determined.” Again, Mrs. Gordon tells us that this
audacious squib was composed in her grandmother’s house, 23, Queen
Street, where Wilson lived, “amid such shouts of laughter as made the
ladies in the room above send to inquire and wonder what the gentlemen
below were about;” and yet she adds, as if to protect her father from
suspicion of a share in it, that she “cannot trace to her father’s hand
any instance of unmanly attack, or one shade of real malignity.” Very
probably not; but at the same time the fun of the squib is decidedly in
Wilson’s favourite manner. “An old contributor to _Blackwood_,” who,
in 1860, furnished a most interesting and full account of Maga and
Blackwoodiana to the columns of the _Bookseller_, asserts, in reference
to Hogg’s claim, “on the best authority (that of the man who did write
it), that there is no foundation whatever for any such pretext. The
hare was started by Wilson at one of those _symposia_ which preceded
and perhaps suggested the _Noctes_. The idea was caught up with avidity
by Hogg, and some half-dozen verses were suggested by him on the
ensuing day; but we are, we believe, correct in affirming that no part
of his _ébauche_ appeared in the original or any other draft of the
article.” It is to be wished that this writer, whose article evidently
exhibits personal knowledge, and, apart from a running attack upon
Hogg, due impartiality, had, in putting forward a new version of the
story, in contradiction to those already given, been enabled to give us
the name of the writer, apparently, from the wording of the context, a
new claimant.

Not only were Blackwood’s “enemies” discomforted, but even his friends
were sore dismayed. The first number of _Blackwood_ bore the imprint
of John Murray, but the “Caldee MS.” caused him to withdraw his name,
but after passing through the hands of three different London agents,
the sixth again appeared under his countenance. This number, however,
contained some unpalatable strictures on Gifford and the _Quarterly
Reviewers_, and the Albemarle Street patronage was again withdrawn,
only to be renewed in the eleventh number; but by the time it reached
the seventeenth he washed his hands of it entirely, and in future it
appeared without the ornamental appendage of any London bookseller’s
name; the agency, distinctly one of sale only, was given to Cadell and
Davies, who found it profitable enough to occupy the greater part of
their attention. Cadell, naturally as nervous as Murray of giving, or
being in any way instrumental in giving, offence, kept a stereotyped
reply in readiness for any angry victim who rushed into his shop for
redress--“I know nothing of the contents of the magazine; I am merely
the carrier of a certain portion of its circulation to its English

From the commencement of the new series--from the foundation that is
of _Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine_--Blackwood’s fortunes and even the
story of his life are inextricably bound up in the progress of the
periodical; for he did not again, once he had got rid of Pringle and
Cleghorne, entrust its charge and conduct to the care of any editor.
For a long time Wilson was supposed to occupy the editorial chair.
This supposition is treated in a letter, printed by his daughter: “Of
_Blackwood_ I am not the editor, although I believe I very generally
got both the credit and discredit of being Christopher North. I am one
of the chief writers, perhaps the chief writer, but never received one
shilling from the proprietor, except for my own compositions. Being
generally on the spot, I am always willing to give him my advice, and
to supply such articles as are most wanted, when I have leisure.” “From
an early period of its progress,” says Lockhart, speaking of Blackwood
and the magazine, “it engrossed a very large share of his time; and
though he scarcely ever wrote for its pages himself (three articles,
we believe, he did contribute), the general management and arrangement
of it, with the very extensive literary correspondence which this
involved, and the constant superintendence of the press, would have
been more than enough to occupy entirely any man but one of his
first-rate energies.”

Before we follow up the chronicle of the life of _Blackwood_ and its
proprietor, it will be necessary to take a retrospective glance at
the causes which rendered it possible to convert the snug, orthodox,
and more than slightly Whiggish _Edinburgh Monthly Magazine_ into
the slashing, defiant, jovial, dare-devil of _Blackwood’s Edinburgh
Magazine_. This change was chiefly due to the influence of two men,
Wilson and Lockhart, who, together with Hogg, had, under the old
régime, contributed all there was of wit and sparkle. With these three
writers, and the promise of further support, Blackwood had changed his
mind as to putting his ill-fated periodical to the untimely end he had
announced; and we have seen something, and shall see more, as to how
far this determination was justified by success. In the meantime, it is
essential to know a little of these two men, to whom primarily all the
success was due.

John Wilson, the great Tory champion, was descended, not from a county
family, but from a wealthy Paisley manufacturer; and, after taking all
possible prizes at Glasgow University, went to conquer fresh worlds at
Oxford, where he not only won the Newdigate prize of £50 by one of the
best prize poems extant, in fifty lines, but excelled in all sports, to
which a magnificent frame, a temper universally good, a wild exuberance
of animal spirits, and a thirsty love of adventure could contribute.

Strange tales are told of his Oxford escapades; of recess rambles
with strolling players; of wanderings, when smitten by the charms of
a gipsy-girl, for weeks together with her tribe; of sojournings as a
waiter at a country inn, to be close to one of the fair waitresses.

However, his dreams of adventure were surrendered only after having
planned an expedition to Timbuctoo, and he purchased an estate at
Windermere, to be near the Lake school of poets, with whom he soon
threw in his fortune. After the publication of the “Isle of Palms,”
and the “City of the Plague,” he joined the Scotch Bar, and in the
Parliament House struck up an acquaintance with another briefless
barrister--Lockhart, seven years younger than himself.

John Gibbon Lockhart was also educated at Glasgow University, where
gaining the “Snell” foundation, he was sent, at sixteen, to Balliol;
after taking a first-class degree he travelled on the Continent,
returning only when it was necessary to enter at Edinburgh as an
advocate. Silent in private life, he found he could not speak at all in
public; and many years afterwards, when making a speech at a farewell
dinner, given in honour of his departure to undertake the editorship of
the _Quarterly_, he broke down, as usual, and stuttered, “Gentlemen,
you know I can’t make a speech; if I could, we shouldn’t be here.”

Briefless both, and both endowed with strong literary tastes, they
became sworn friends, though Wilson, with his splendid physique, his
loose-flowing yellow hair, his deep-blue eyes, his glowing imagination,
his eloquent tongue, and his defiance of all precedent, was as opposite
a being as well could be imagined to Lockhart, who, to borrow Wilson’s
own words, had “an e’e like an eagle’s, and a sort of lauch about the
screwed-up mouth o’ him that fules ca’d nae canny, for they couldna
tholl the meaning o’t; and either set dumb-foundered, or pretended to
be engaged to sooper, and slunk out o’ the room.”

With two such men as these it was little wonder that Blackwood resolved
to continue the battle. The weapon, however, which had been so
successfully used in the onslaught upon the _Edinburgh Review_ became
in the hands of young writers flushed with victory, instruments of
aggression against those who had never offended; and, as it happened
that the writers who were most personal in their attacks upon friend
and foe alike were also the cleverest and most brilliant, Blackwood’s
position became one of difficulty. Lockhart “who stung the faces
of men”--and sometimes their hearts--cared little as to who his
shafts were directed against so long as they were sharp and biting.
Cameleon-like he appeared in a thousand different forms. Now as the
“veiled editor” himself, now the Dr. Morris of “Peter’s Letters,”
and now as Baron Lauerwinkel, stabbing his contemporaries under the
guise of a German commentator. Against all the members of the “Cockney
School,” a personal invective was habitually employed by him, at which
in these calmer days of drier criticism we can only stand aghast. He
says of Leigh Hunt, “The very concubine of so impure a wretch would be
to be pitied; but, alas, for the wife of such a husband!”--and so forth.

In the February number of _Maga_ a new contributor, Billy Maginn, made
his first bow to the public as Mr. Ensign O’Doherty. Maginn was at this
time a rollicking young Irishman of marvellous classical and literary
acquirements, who at four-and-twenty had achieved the difficult honour
of taking a degree of Doctor of Laws at Dublin, never before earned
by one so young. He had a wonderful gift of improvising in either
verse or prose, and his talents were so versatile, his reading, though
desultory, so universal, that he could immediately treat any subject,
no matter what, in a sparkling and dashing manner. When, however,
under the influence of liquor, he was perfectly unmanageable; and his
writings bore every stamp of his own character. One of his first
squibs in _Blackwood_ was a Latin version of “Chevy-chase,” which, in a
foot-note expressed more than a doubt as to the Hebraical knowledge of
Professor Leslie--an Edinburgh Reviewer who had recently been appointed
to the University Chair of Philosophy. The enraged professor summoned
the aid of the law. Blackwood accepted the challenge and inserted
another article by Maginn, which stated that the professor “did not
even know the alphabet of the tongue which he had the imprudence to
pretend to criticise,” and charged him, in addition, of stealing his
pet theories respecting heat, from an old volume of the “Philosophical
Transactions.” The damages awarded amounted to £100, but as all the
legal talent in Edinburgh was engaged in what was regarded as a party
trial, the costs were unusually heavy. Nothing scared, however,
Blackwood welcomed the writer to Edinburgh when he chose to cast off
his incognita.

The magazine was thriving now, and circulated throughout the kingdom.
Blackwood, busy as he was with its management, found time to push his
general publishing business steadily forward. The issue of Brewster’s
“Edinburgh Encyclopædia” was continued, and Lockhart’s talents were
utilized beyond the pale of _Maga_. In 1818 Schlegel’s “History of
Literature,” translated by Lockhart, was published; and in 1819
appeared Lockhart’s “Peter’s Letters to his Kinsfolk, by Dr. Peter
Morris”--a series of sketches of all things Scotch, from which we
extract an account of Blackwood and his shop:--

“First there is as usual a spacious place set apart for retail
business, and a numerous detachment of young clerks and apprentices,
to whose management this important department of the concern is
entrusted. Then you have an elegant oval saloon, lighted from the roof,
where various groups of loungers and literary dilettanti are engaged
in looking at, or criticising among themselves, the publications just
arrived by that day’s coach from town. In such critical colloquies,
the voice of the bookseller himself may ever and anon be heard
mingling the broad and unadulterated notes of its Auld Reekie’s
music; for, unless occupied in the recesses of the premises with some
other business, it is here that he has his usual station. He is a
nimble, active-looking man of middle age, and moves from one corner
to another with great alacrity, and apparently under the influence of
high animal spirits. His complexion is very sanguinous, but nothing
can be more intelligent, keen, and sagacious than the expression of
the physiognomy; above all the gray eyes and eye-brows, as full of
locomotion as those of Catalani’s. The remarks he makes are in general
extremely acute--much more so indeed than any other member of the trade
I ever heard speak upon such topics. The shrewdness and decision of the
man can, however, stand in need of no testimony beyond what his own
conduct has afforded--above all in the establishment of his magazine
(the conception of which I am assured was entirely his own)--and the
subsequent energy with which he has supported it through every variety
of good and evil fortune. It would be unfair to lay upon his shoulders
any portion of the blame which any part of his book may have deserved;
but it is impossible to deny that he is well entitled to whatever merit
may be supposed to be due to the erection of a work founded in the main
upon good principles, both political and religious, in a city where a
work upon such principles must have been more wanted, and, at the same
time, more difficult than in any other with which I am acquainted.”

On leaving the shop, Dr. Peter is taken to dine at “a house in the
immediate neighbourhood, frequently alluded to in the magazine as
the great haunt of his wits.” This was Ambrose’s, mentioned in the
“Caldee MS.”--“as thou lookest to the road of Gabriel and the land of
_Ambrose_.” At this favourite tavern, at the _noctes cœnæque deum_,
was foreshadowed what was destined to be by far the most interesting
portion of the earlier series of _Blackwood_.

The first trace we can find in the magazine of these famous _réunions_
is in the number for August, 1819, where a work on military matter
is reviewed by two different critics while enjoying their evening
glasses at Ambrose’s. This was followed up next month by a paper which
occupied the whole of the number, entitled “Christopher in the Tent”--a
sketch, suppositious, of course, of a country expedition of the whole
staff--full of rollicking humour and uproarious fun, with etchings by
Lockhart and jokes by all.

In the following year, 1820, the first of Blackwood’s really classic
novels appeared in the magazine. This was the “Ayrshire Legatees,” by
John Galt; and the editor, quick to perceive talent and eager to retain
it, published in rapid succession a series of tales and sketches by the
modern Smollet.

This year, too, was an important one for both of the chief
contributors. Lockhart, whose rising merits had long since attracted
the attention of Scott, married the “Great Magician’s favourite
daughter;” and Wilson, to the terror of half Edinburgh, became a
candidate for the chair of Moral Philosophy at the University.
Curious reports were spread of half true tales of youthful adventure,
of bull-hunts by the shores of Windermere; of cock-fights in his own
drawing-room; of a thousand escapades of one kind or another; and these
were capped by a rumour that he was not very sound in either religion
or morals; and even Tory counsellors shrunk from supporting a man who
was said to be a fast liver and a free thinker. The Whigs started
an excellent rival, Sir William Hamilton, and the contest was very
keen. “I wad like to gie ye ma vote, Mr. Wulson,” said an Edinburgh
magistrate, “but I’m feared. They say ye dunna expect to be saved by
grace.” “I don’t know much about that, baillie; but if I am not saved
by grace I am sure my works won’t save me.” “That’ll do, that’ll do;
I’ll gie you my vote.” Others were of a like mind, for Wilson was a man
whom to know was to love, and the election was secured.

Immediately after the election Wilson returned to Elleray to
recruit; and here an event happened which not only shows his natural
impetuosity, but which might have been of very serious consequence,
and, as a version of the story has recently appeared in “Barham’s
Life,” it may not be altogether out of place to give the correct
version here.

Lord M----r and three Oxford friends, one of whom had just been
ordained, had started in their own coach upon a rollicking tour
homewards; their journey, even in those free-and-easy times, was marked
by a blackguardism of conduct almost unparalleled.

At York they halted for a few days--few because the inhabitants would
stand their presence no longer, and, after paying £150 for their hotel
bills, and for the Vandalism they had committed in the town, they
drove on to Windermere, and put up at the Ferry Hotel. Here they stayed
for nearly four days, disporting themselves like Yahoos. Wilson, as is
well known, was “Admiral of the Windermere Fleet,” and chanced, while
they were in the neighbourhood, to hold a regatta, giving his friends
a tea at Ullock’s Hotel, Bowness, when the amusements of the day were

Hither the travelling adventurers came by water; at the landing stage,
however, one of the number, seeing a fisherman washing his nets in
the lake, crept behind him, and with a shove and a hoarse laugh sent
him into the water. Westmoreland blood is not easily cooled, and the
peasant, seizing his attacker, ducked him within an inch of his life.
Nothing daunted the other three proceeded to the hotel, and entered a
room where tea was laid out for a large party; to knock the tray over,
to pull the cloth off, to dance upon the tea-pot till it was flattened,
and the crockery till it was smashed into a thousand smithereens, was,
of course, only the work of an instant. Hearing the clatter, Mrs.
Wilson hurried downstairs, and Lord M----r, mistaking her for the
landlady, seized her by the neck, and tried to ravish a kiss. At this
critical moment the Professor entered--one blow “from the shoulder”
laid the noble lord at his feet; then, like a genuine old heathen
warrior, placing one foot upon the neck of the prostrate wretch--“if
you other two scoundrels are not out of this room in an instant, I’ll
squeeze the man’s breath out of his body.” They heard--and fled.
Wilson, in a fury of excitement, took boat to Belle Isle, and urged Mr.
Curwen to act as his friend. Mr. Curwen represented that Lord M----r
was utterly beneath contempt--that no professor of moral philosophy
had ever been engaged in a cause of honour; that all his friends had
been representing him as a quiet, orderly man--in fact, brought forward
a thousand arguments which might have been of the utmost weight to a
reasonable being--but not just at present to Wilson; he flung out of
the room, crossed the lake, and sought a gallant naval officer, Captain
Br----, who, a true Sir Lucius O’Trigger, said the matter was in good
hands, and looked up his pistols. They adjourned to Elleray to wait the
expected challenge: but on the evening of the following day, getting
tired of inaction, they set out on a drive to see why the storm did
not commence. Further search was endless. Lord M----r and his friends
had taken to their coach and fled; they could not, however, get their
horses out of the stables until they had paid an hotel bill of £120
and £20 to the landlord of Ullock’s Hotel for damages. Thus the affair
ended happily, and Wilson was able to return peaceably to Edinburgh to
fulfil his new duties.

Few men ever undertook so important a charge with so little
preparation. “But there was,” says one who listened to him, “a genius
in Wilson; there was grandeur in his conceptions, and true nobility
in the tone and spirit of his lectures. I can compare them to nothing
save the braying of the trumpet that sent a body of high-bred cavalry
against the foe. ‘Charge! and charge home!’ Wilson’s action upon the
better and more pure-minded of his pupils was pre-eminently beneficial.
His lectures deeply influenced their characters for humanity, for
unselfishness, for high and honourable resolve to fight the battle of
life; like the old Danish hero ‘to dare nobly, to will strongly, and
never to falter in the path of duty.’ Such was Wilson’s creed; and,
till 1850, when he was found stricken down in his private room, ten
minutes after the class hour, he astonished and delighted all that was
intellectual in Edinburgh by these, aptly termed, ‘volcanic lectures on

Much work, however, had to be gone through before that date; his
private fortune had been lost some years back by the failure of a house
of business, and he was one of those men whom, the more work is thrown
on them the more they are able to go through with.

In 1822 appeared the first specimen of his power as a novelist in the
“Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life,” which went rapidly through
edition after edition; and in the March of this year appeared also the
first number of the _Noctes Ambrosianæ_--a curt dialogue between the
editor and Ensign O’Doherty; it was not for seventeen numbers that
Wilson, almost sorry, commenced that wonderful series that became
one of the literary wonders of the day; and for thirteen years as
Christopher North he continued to delight the world, and it is as
Christopher North, in his shooting-jacket, with gun or fishing-rod,
by the lochs or by the moors, amid the scenery which he has so
marvellously limned, and the emotions to which he has given utterance,
that he will be remembered to all time.

In 1824 we see that Carlyle gets his first pleasant encouragement
in _Maga_, and Moir’s most famous production, the “Autobiography of
Mansie Wauch,” appears. Moir--a young surgeon of only nineteen when
he first appeared in the pages of the original _Edinburgh Monthly
Magazine_--had at once attracted the attention of William Blackwood--“a
man,” says Moir’s biographer, “of rare sagacity, courage, and
persevering energy.” As “Delta,” in the pages of _Maga_, the popularity
of Moir’s softer and sweeter pieces was very great; and when “Mansie”
appeared, “there were districts,” says Aird again, “where country
clubs, waiting impatiently for the magazine, met monthly as soon as it
was issued, and had ‘Mansie’ read aloud by one of their number, amid
explosions of congregated laughter.”

Lockhart, too, had since his marriage been wielding his pen as freely
as ever. “Valerius” and “Adam Blair” had both been successful ventures
for Blackwood; and were succeeded in 1822 by the “Spanish Ballads,”
which have so much of the true ring of original poetry about them, that
Lockhart’s friends always regretted that he did not devote his time
more exclusively to the composition of some original poetical work. In
1825 the editorship of the _Quarterly_ was offered him, and Blackwood
lost one of his earliest and strongest supporters. Shortly after this
the other satirical spirit of the periodical--Billy Maginn--also moved

But Blackwood was too firmly established now to dread the loss of any
single contributor save one. The famous _Noctes_ were, in reality,
only just commencing; and there it is that the character of the
Ettrick Shepherd most shines--vicariously, however, for his popularity
is chiefly due to the piquancy and vitality with which the genius
of Wilson endowed him. Whatever is best in the national genius of
Scotland, in humour, poetry, imagination, and fervour, are poured forth
in the quaint and broad language of the Shepherd. But enough of the
_Noctes_; are they not still familiar volumes upon the tables of all
who read?

This year (1826), in which Blackwood was at the height of his success,
was fatal, as we have before seen, to Constable; and with his failure
disappeared for ever that rival to _Maga_, Constable’s _Edinburgh
Monthly Magazine_.

In being thus minute in the history of the magazine, we can scarcely
be said to be neglecting the history of its proprietor, for their
careers were inextricably bound up together, and Blackwood looked upon
it as a father might upon a darling son. In the exulting vanity of his
success, he was induced, about 1825, to print for private circulation,
an alphabetical list of contributors, and sent Wilson a proof, who,
by way of remonstrance, dashed in the names of such celebrities as
Omai the Otaheitan, and Pius VII., with the names of some of the most
egregious fools and mountebanks he had ever met with, and returned it
to the printer, who duly furnished Blackwood with a revise; and the
absurd incongruity of the names showed him the incautious impropriety
of which he had been guilty. Two impressions only were reserved, one
for Blackwood and one for the professor.

As an editor, the punctuality and alacrity with which he acknowledged
the communications of his contributors was wonderful; “and,” says the
“Old Contributor,” “along with the mail coach copy of the magazine,
or by an early post after its publication, came a letter to each
contributor, full of shrewd hints for his future guidance, and often,
not merely suggesting the subject for a future paper, but indicating
with delicate hesitation the mode in which he fancied it might be
discussed with the best advantage.... The ‘pudding’ was invariably
associated with praise. At the head or foot of the welcome missive
was a cheque for your article, the amount of which was not carved and
patted like a pound of butter, into exact weight, but measured with no
penurious hand.... He hated a cockney as Johnson hated a Scotsman, and
considered all writers on this side the border, who did not contribute
to _Maga_, as falling within this category.”

In 1827, Blackwood brought out two books, which were alike only in
achieving, each of them, a vast popularity. One was “The Youth and
Manhood of Cyril Thornton,” by Captain Hamilton, and the other “The
Course of Time,” by Pollok, a Scottish, if not a British, classic. The
_Edinburgh Encyclopædia_ was continued till its final completion in
eighteen quarto volumes, and not the least important of his publishing
successes was the reproduction of the chief distinct works of Wilson,
Lockhart, Hogg, Moir, Galt, and other writers connected with the
magazine. He also continued to the close of his career, to carry on an
extensive trade in retail bookselling.

In addition to these heavy labours, he still found opportunity during
some of the best years of his life to take a prominent part in the
affairs of the city of Edinburgh, for which he was twice a magistrate,
“and in that capacity,” says Lockhart, “distinguished himself by an
intrepid zeal in the reform of burgh management, singularly in contrast
with his avowed sentiments respecting constitutional reform.” Here he
often exhibited in the conduct of debate and the management of less
vigorous minds, a very rare degree of tact and sagacity.

To return to the magazine. After Lockhart and Maginn left Edinburgh,
the bitterly personal tone by which it had been so frequently
disfigured, was almost entirely dropped; and this negative fact, aided
by the positive one of the great popularity of the _Noctes_, raised the
circulation immensely.

In 1826, an early Elleray friend of Wilson’s, De Quincey, “the
opium-eater,” began to discourse of things German in the pages of
_Maga_; and in 1830, the “Diary of a Late Physician” was commenced.
This, one of the most successful works of modern fiction, had, Warren
tells us, “been offered successively to the conductors of three leading
magazines in London, and rejected as ‘unsuitable for their pages,’
and ‘not likely to interest the public.’... I have this morning been
referring to nearly fifty letters which he (Blackwood) wrote to me
during the publication of the first fifteen chapters of his ‘Diary.’
The perusal of them occasioned me lively emotion. All of them evidence
the remarkable tact and energy with which he conducted his magazine....
He was a man of strong intellect, of great personal sagacity, of
unrivalled energy and industry, of high and inflexible honour in every
transaction, great or small, that I ever heard of his being concerned

Contemporary with the publication of the “Diary,” was that of the
successful books “Tom Cringle’s Log” and “Sir Frizzle Pumpkin’s Nights
at Mess,” the first by Michael Scott, and the second by the Reverend
Mr. White. In May, 1832, appeared Wilson’s review of Mr. Tennyson’s
first volume; in which the affectations of Mr. Tennyson’s earlier
writings were ridiculed, but his more worthy pieces were praised in
no niggardly terms. At the moment Mr. Tennyson was irritated, but
his anger soon evaporated in some not very pungent lines to “Rusty,
Crusty Christopher,” which he has long since seen fit to suppress; and,
eventually, he exhibited a due acknowledgment of the truth of Wilson’s
criticism, by removing several pieces and altering others. “Stoddart
and Aytoun,” writes Wilson in this same review, “he of the ‘Death Wake’
and he of ‘Poland,’ are graciously regarded by old Christopher; and
their volume--presentation copies--have been placed among the essays of
those gifted youths, of whom, in riper years, much may be confidently
predicted of fair and good”--a sentence worth quoting, when it is
remembered that Aytoun afterwards married Wilson’s daughter, and in a
few years occupied his position in the pages of _Maga_ itself.

In 1833, Blackwood was still full of schemes and enterprises; he
commenced the publication of Alison’s “History of Europe.” Only the
first two volumes were published, and then not altogether successfully,
when Blackwood was stricken down by a mortal disease, a tumour in the
groin, which, in a weary illness of four months, exhausted his physical
energies, but left his temper calm and unruffled, and his intellect
vigorous to the last. He was attended by Moir--the sweet-toned “Delta”
of his magazine--who had another dying patient scarce a hundred yards
off. This was Galt, who had been personally estranged from Blackwood
by rough advice and strictures as to one of his stories. Now, however,
that they lay dying so near each to each, the old friendliness
returned, and Moir bore pleasant messages and hopeful wishes from one
bedside to another. They never met again. Galt lingered on for years,
but Blackwood died on the 10th of September, 1834, in the fifty-seventh
year of his age.

We have already given his character as described by those who knew him
best, and it were idle to add any weaker testimony.

He left a widow and a family of seven sons and two daughters, many of
them very young; and the management of the business devolved upon the
two elder, Robert and Alexander, who had for some years been associated
with their father.

Until 1845, these gentlemen were at the head of the flourishing
business, and with such a start they could not fail to succeed.
The magazine, in spite of all rivals, continued to be as great a
favourite as ever, though in a year or so after the death of the
elder Blackwood, Wilson withdrew almost entirely from its pages, and
his position was eventually occupied by his son-in-law, Professor
Aytoun. Many new contributors, without distinction of sect or party,
were added to the staff; and even Douglas Jerrold and Walter Savage
Landor--ultra-radicals, both--were made free of its pages. John
Sterling, “our new contributor,” as Wilson fondly called him, fully
retained the old reputation for deliciously sparkling poems and essays;
and Lord Lytton, in the “Poems and Ballads of Schiller,” kept alive
the cosmopolitan spirit of poetry inaugurated by Lockhart. In 1845,
Alexander Blackwood died, and was shortly afterwards followed by his
brother, when John, the third son, the present proprietor of the
business and the present editor of _Blackwood_, who was born in 1818,
succeeded. So popular had _Maga_ become in the colonies, and more
especially in the United States, that a reprint of it was regularly
published there every month. Mr. John Blackwood took counsel with the
American lawyers, obtained an American contributor, and then threatened
the Yankee publisher with all the terrors of the law, if the number
were pirated as usual--a successful step, for ever since that date a
tribute tithe has been regularly paid for the right of republication. A
branch house was started in London; the firm was also increased by the
return from India of William Blackwood, who was a major in the Indian

In 1848 Lord Lytton commenced the “Caxtons,” and novel after novel from
his pen appeared in _Maga_ to be anonymously successful even to the day
of his death. For a period of twenty-five years, some of the finest
novels and life-pictures in the language have made their first way to
public favour through the medium of the magazine; and Mrs. Oliphant
and George Eliot owed their first encouragement to the discernment
of Mr. John Blackwood. That _Maga_ is still _facile princeps_ of the
monthly literature is evident enough even from a bare mention of latest
ventures, from the talent of “Earl’s Dene” and the wit of the “Battle
of Dorking.”

Alison’s “History of Europe” very soon proved its worth in the eyes of
the public; and among other more recent successes of the house we may
mention the novels of George Eliot, particularly “Middlemarsh,” which
came out in an altogether novel form.

As we shall not have another chance of returning to modern magazine
literature, we may not inappropriately close the chapter with a
short account of one or two of the most successful of the high-class

It was not to be expected that the marvellous success of _Blackwood’s
Edinburgh Magazine_ would be allowed to pass unchallenged. The honour
as well as the fortunes of the Southron publishers forbade it. In
1820, the _London Magazine_, a name borrowed from an old and defunct
periodical, was established by Baldwin, Craddock, and Joy, under the
editorship of John Scott, formerly of the _Champion_ newspaper. Many
men of talent joined the staff, but Scott’s old colleague, Wainwright,
afterwards infamous as the insurance murderer, aided and abetted his
chief in a series of very offensive personal articles. In two or three
of them a fierce attack was made upon Sir Walter Scott, as being a mere
pretender to the authorship of the Waverley Novels (which, as Scott was
doing his utmost to hide his light under a bushel, was scarcely called
for); and in addition to this the writers made an onslaught on all who
were supposed to be connected with Blackwood or his magazine. Lockhart,
with all the sensitiveness of your true satirist, called immediately
for an apology, and was evaded by a demand that he should first disavow
his connection with Blackwood. This was out of the question, and Mr.
Christie, to whom Lockhart had entrusted negotiations, feeling that
Scott was shuffling, and that he himself was being trifled with, let
drop some expressions on his own account calculated to give offence.
A meeting was arranged. Christie fired down the field, but Scott, not
perceiving this, aimed deliberately at his opponent, but missed his
mark. Christie, seeing his adversary again prepare to fire in his
direction, did not a second time waste his powder, and the result was
that Scott was mortally wounded.

Dreadful as was the catastrophe, and the sensation it made at the time,
it tended to soften the asperities of the press, and was instrumental
in bringing a better spirit to critical discussion.

After Mr. Scott’s death, the proprietorship of the _London Magazine_
was transferred to Taylor and Hessay, the poetical publishers. The
first of these gentlemen was the original proclaimer of Francis as the
author of the “Letters of Junius;” the second will ever be remembered
for his kindliness to John Keats. Mindful of the success of Blackwood,
they retained the editorship in their own hands, and, again like him,
were most liberal in their payments--a pound a page for prose, and
two pounds for verse, was the _honarium_ of ordinary contributors;
Charles Lamb receiving, very fitly, two or three times that amount. It
is Charles Lamb’s name that is now most intimately connected with the
_London Magazine_, for here it was that the famous “Essays of Elia”
first appeared. Among the other contributors we find many celebrated
names; Hazlitt furnished all the articles upon the drama, Mr. Carlyle
contributed the “Life and Writings of Schiller” to the last three
volumes, and here De Quincey first published his “Confessions of
an English Opium-Eater,” filled with the weirdest fancies and the
loveliest word-pictures in our literature. Here, too, Tom Hood fleshed
his maiden sword; and among the other writers we find the names of
Keats, Landor, Hartley Coleridge, Barry Cornwall, and Bowring. Such
an array of talent did not, however, avail, without steady editorial
skill, to win a wide popularity, and in 1825 the publication was

We have seen that Maginn had accompanied Lockhart to the south. In
1827 the _Standard_ newspaper was founded, and he was installed in the
editorial chair, where for some seven or eight years he drew £500 a
year. His unrivalled facility in dashing off slashing articles upon any
subject, quickly raised his income to eighteen or nineteen hundred;
but his ever-increasing habits of intemperance rendered regularity of
work impossible. Together with Lockhart and other writers, he planned
a London monthly rival to _Blackwood_, and in 1829 an East India
merchant of the name of Fraser was found willing to make the necessary
advances, and _Fraser’s Magazine_ was started. An editor was kept to
correct the proofs, and to go to prison, as occasion might require;
but Maginn contributed a large proportion of the first three numbers,
and was virtually the manager. Hogg, who, as Wilson said, had made a
perfect stye of every magazine in the kingdom, was invited up to town.
Its rollicking tone, untempered by any genuine humour, was wofully
overdone, and smacked of the reeking laughter of the pothouse. Maginn,
having no one to direct his shafts, attacked every one right and left,
and selected a series of literary and political butts for continuous
practice, among whom were Professor Wilson, Tom Campbell, and Lord
Ellesmere, who were insulted in the most audacious manner; and language
and criticism like this gave constant rise to cudgellings, law-suits,
and duels. Maginn, however, had plenty of courage--was as reckless with
his pistol as his pen. Captain Berkeley having called at the office,
seen Fraser, and horsewhipped him for a libel, was challenged by the
writer of it--Maginn--who, sobered down for the moment, stood his fire
for three rounds with the utmost nonchalance. In spite of the humour of
Thackeray and the philosophy of Carlyle, lately admitted to its pages,
_Fraser’s Magazine_ was commercially not successful until Maginn and
Hogg were banished from the staff. When, however, it got into better
hands, and led a cleanlier life, an ample field was found for its

Thackeray, whom we mentioned above, was instrumental in effecting a
thorough change in periodical literature. When under his direction,
the _Cornhill_ was started, to give for a shilling all that had before
been given for two shillings and sixpence, the bookselling world was
incredulous of success, and the book-buying world scarcely hopeful.
More than 100,000 copies of the first number were sold, and as soon as
it was seen that a vastly wide-spread circulation is infinitely more
valuable than a narrower sphere at a much higher rate, a crowd of other
shilling magazines were produced, among which it is enough to mention
_Temple Bar_, _London Society_, _Macmillan’s_, _Belgravia_, and a score
of others, some of which were doubtless successful, but many more or
less ephemeral. One detrimental fact has of course arisen from such a
multiplicity of organs; the available talent of the day, such as it
is, cannot now be concentrated. The same curse haunts the theatre; at
present one “star” is as much as the greediest can expect on one stage.





We have already seen, in our short sketches of the Bells, the Cookes,
the Donaldsons, and the Constables, some endeavour--neither faint
nor altogether unsuccessful, yet not more than a trial venture, for
education was still a monopoly of rank and riches--to render books the
property and the birthright of the people. In our present chapter,
however, we come to a new phase in the history of bookselling. The
schoolmaster, as Brougham said, was abroad; the repressive taxes on
knowledge either were, or were about to be, removed; learning, or a
smattering of learning, was within the reach of most. The battle of
future progress was to be fought out with the pen, just as the triumphs
of early civilization had been achieved with the lance and with the
sword. The public writer henceforth was to occupy the preacher’s
pulpit, and his congregation, far above the limits of any St. Peter’s
or St. Paul’s, was to be told only by millions. Books were to be no
longer the curious luxuries of the rich man’s library, or the hoarded
and hardly-earned treasures of the student’s closet, but were to be
fairly placed at the disposal of the many.

Talent certainly, if not genius, is only the product of the
requirements of the time and place; and as soon, therefore, as cheap
books were in real request, men thoroughly competent and thoroughly
earnest came forward to supply the want--fighting bravely, with all the
strong energy of their wills, to do the work that each had chosen, and
yet each as certainly acted upon invisibly, insensibly, and inevitably,
by the true, if word-worn, laws of supply and demand.

The means by which this end was to be attained were many, and the
labourers in the new fields of cheap literature numerous; but in our
present chapter, as elsewhere, we have selected the representative
men and the typical means. The names of Chambers, Knight, and Cassell
(the latter certainly in a less degree) are inextricably woven into
the movement, of which at present we have only seen the commencement;
and the plan by which the most expensive treasures of literature, the
choicest garnerings of our knowledge, were placed at the disposal of
the meagrest purse, was almost universally that of distribution into
small weekly or monthly parts, at an infinitesimal cost--a method that
may with justice be styled the people’s intellectual savings bank; and
it is to the early history of the people’s intellectual savings bank
that we now address ourselves.[18]

Robert Chambers was born at Peebles, on the banks of the Tweed,
on 10th July, 1802, two years later than his brother William, with
whom his whole career is intimately connected. They were the sons of
James Chambers, at one time a prosperous muslin weaver, employing
some hundred looms. Their father is described as “a lover of books, a
keen politician, and an open-hearted friend;” but having already been
generous beyond his means to the poor French prisoners in Scotland, he
was completely ruined by the introduction of machine-weaving looms,
and was compelled to sell his modest patrimony, and remove with his
family to Edinburgh, with only a few shillings in his pocket on which
to start life afresh. But before this the young lads’ education had
commenced. At Peebles there were certainly no newspapers; but their
old nurse sung ballads and told them legendary stories of the former
exploits of the warriors of the country side; and then there was old
Tam Fleck, a host in himself, who had struck out a wandering profession
of his own, a “flichty chield,” who went about with a translation of
Josephus (Lestrange, 1720) from house to house. “Weel, Tam, what’s
the news the nicht?” would one of the neighbours say, as Tam entered
with the ponderous volume under his arm. “Bad news, bad news,” replied
Tam. “Titus has begun to besiege Jerusalem--it’s gaun to be a terrible
business.” At the little village school, too, William was introduced
to Latin for the fee of five shillings a quarter, and Robert was well
grounded by Mr. Gray in English for two shillings and twopence. Robert
was a quiet, self-contained boy, unable from a painful weakness in his
feet to join heartily in the usual games of his schoolfellows. “Books,”
he writes in the preface to his collected works, “not playthings,
filled my hands in childhood. At twelve I was deep, not only in poetry
and fiction, but in encyclopædias.” Receiving his first education at
the Burgh Grammar School, he acquired afterwards, at the Edinburgh High
School, under the tuition of Mr. Benjamin Mackay, the usual elements of
a classical education, embracing, indeed, as much Latin as enabled him
in after-life to read Horace with ease and pleasure.

[Illustration: Dr. Robert Chambers.


After months of pence-scraping and book-hoarding, Robert succeeded in
collecting a stock worth about forty shillings; and with nothing but
these, his yearning for independence, and his determination to write
books by-and-by, and at present to sell them, the young boy of sixteen
opened a little shop or stall in Leith Street. His brother William,
after serving an apprenticeship to a Mr. Sutherland, also started as a
bookseller and printer in the immediate neighbourhood; and from this
time forward--a time when most boys were cursing the master’s ferule
and the Latin syntax--they were both independent. Of this period Robert
gives the following graphic and almost painfully accurate account in a
letter to Hugh Miller, written in 1854:--

    “Your autobiography has set me a thinking of my own youthful
    days, which were like yours in point of hardship and
    humiliation, though different in many important circumstances.
    My being of the same age with you, to exactly a quarter of a
    year, brings the idea of a certain parity more forcibly upon
    me. The differences are as curious to me as the resemblances.
    Notwithstanding your wonderful success as a writer, I think my
    literary tendency must have been a deeper and more absorbing
    peculiarity than yours, seeing that I took to Latin and to
    books both keenly and exclusively, while you broke down in
    your classical course, and had fully as great a passion for
    rough sport and enterprise as for reading, that being again a
    passion of which I never had one particle. This has, however,
    resulted in making you, what I never was inclined to be, a
    close observer of external nature--an immense advantage in
    your case. Still I think I could present against your hardy
    field observations by frith and fell, and cave and cliff,
    some striking analogies in the finding out and devouring of
    books, making my way, for instance, through a whole chestful
    of the “Encyclopædia Britannica,” which I found in a lumber
    garret. I must also say that an unfortunate tenderness of feet,
    scarcely yet got over, had much to do in making me mainly a
    fireside student. As to domestic connections and conditions,
    mine being of the middle classes were superior to yours for the
    first twelve years. After that, my father being unfortunate
    in business, we were reduced to poverty, and came down to
    even humbler things than you experienced. I passed through
    some years of the direst hardship, not the least evil being a
    state of feeling quite unnatural in youth, a stern and burning
    defiance of a social world in which we were harshly and coldly
    treated by former friends, differing only in external respects
    from ourselves. In your life there is one crisis where I think
    your experiences must have been somewhat like mine; it is the
    brief period at Inverness. Some of your expressions there bring
    all my own early feelings again to life. A disparity between
    the internal consciousness of powers and accomplishments and
    the external ostensible aspect led in me to the very same wrong
    methods of setting myself forward as in you. There, of course,
    I meet you in warm sympathy. I have sometimes thought of
    describing my bitter painful youth to the world, as something
    in which it might read a lesson; but the retrospect is still
    too distressing. I screen it from the mental eye. The one grand
    fact it has impressed is the very small amount of brotherly
    assistance there is for the unfortunate in this world....
    Till I proved that I could help myself, no friend came to
    me. Uncles, cousins, &c., in good positions in life--some of
    them stoops of kirks, by-the-by--not one offered, nor seemed
    inclined to give, the smallest assistance. The consequent
    defying, self-relying spirit in which, at sixteen, I set out
    as a bookseller with only my own small collection of books as
    a stock--not worth more than two pounds, I believe--led to my
    being quickly independent of all aid; but it has not been all a
    gain, for I am now sensible that my spirit of self-reliance too
    often manifested itself in an unsocial, unamiable light, while
    my recollections of ‘honest poverty’ may have made me too eager
    to attain and secure worldly prosperity.”

This period of struggle, however, opened his heart in after-life to
all who were battling in like circumstances, for those who knew him
well say that “many young literary men owed much to his help, for he
was ever ready with kindly counsel as well as in more solid assistance
when needed.” It is pleasant to think that his little ciphering book,
still in existence (the handwriting of which is extremely neat, so neat
indeed that the young penman was employed by the civic authorities to
engross on vellum the address presented to George IV. on his visit to
Edinburgh in 1822), containing his first year’s account of profit and
loss, shows a balance small, certainly, but amply sufficient for his
modest wants, for their united daily household expenses did not exceed
one shilling.

Once a bookseller, Robert speedily found opportunity to become an
author, and he undertook the editorship of a small weekly periodical
called the _Kaleidoscope_; while his brother William, in order to
do all the manual work connected with it, taught himself the art of
printing, and with an old fount of type, and a clumsy wooden press,
which he had purchased for three pounds, composed and worked off all
the impressions; his own contributions, some of them poetical, “finding
their way into the stick without the intervention of copy.” Here he was
often seen, “a slim, light-eyed boy in his shirt-sleeves, tugging away
with desperate energy at his old creaking press.” When his very small
and imperfect fount was inadequate to the demand for larger letters, he
would sit up, after his long day’s labour for half the night, carving
the requisite capitals out of a piece of wood with his penknife. This
first venture was necessarily short-lived, and died in the January of
the year 1822--at which date they both gave up their bookstalls and
took regular shops.

Nothing daunted by the untimely fate of his first effort, Robert
entered the field again, and from his connection with the Tweed, and
with the assistance of friends from that quarter, who aided him in the
identification of some of Scott’s characters, he produced a book that
seemed likely to be popular--“Illustrations of the Author of Waverley,”
consisting of descriptive sketches of the supposed originals of the
great novelist. The book was a success, not so much from a pecuniary
point of view, but as introducing the author to the kindly notice of
several literary men, and gaining him the friendship of Scott, still
the anonymous “Wizard of the North,” who mentions him in his diary as
“a clever young fellow, but spoils himself by too much haste.”

In the following year, when he was still only twenty years of age, he
produced the “Traditions of Edinburgh”--a book that is, of his many
contributions to the social and antiquarian history of his native land,
still, perhaps, the most popular. Every type of it was set up, every
sheet of it pulled at press, by his brother, and the first edition,
dated 1823, presents a curious contrast to the handsome copy published
in 1869. The _Traditions_ was a book the immediate popularity of which
raised the author in public esteem, though its value is greater still
at the present day, when many of the interesting associations connected
with scenes and places are rapidly changing their character, or have
been swept away altogether. Others than Scott even then expressed their
wonder “where the boy got all his information.” In a sketch of Robert
Chambers, by the son of one of his earliest friends, that appeared in
_Lippincott’s Magazine_ for July, 1871, an amusingly frank letter is
quoted, which shows that the young writer was already getting into the
“swim” of authorship:--“You may depend upon a copy of the ‘Traditions
of Edinburgh,’ and a review of them as soon as they are ready. I am
busy just now in writing reviews of them myself, for the various works
I can get them put into, being now come to a resolution that an author
always undertakes his own business best, and is indeed the only person
capable of doing his work justice. I stood too much upon punctilio
in my maiden work, the ‘Illustrations,’ and left the review of it
to fellows who knew nothing about the subject, at least had not yet
thought of it half so much as I had, who was quite _au fait_ with the
whole matter.”

From this period Robert Chambers’ books were marketable productions,
and publishers began to seek out the young author. On the occasion of
the great fires in November, 1824, when hundreds of poor families were
rendered destitute, having no money wherewith to aid the victims, he
wrote an account of the historical “Fires in Edinburgh,” and assigned
the profits, which were considerable, to the fund collected for the
benefit of the sufferers; and from this time books flowed from his
pen in rapid succession. In 1825, he composed, for a bookseller, his
“Popular Walks in Edinburgh,” partly the result of rambles in the
nooks and corners of the quaint old city, in company with Sir Walter
Scott. In 1826, he published his “Popular Rhymes of Scotland,” and
then started on foot, as if to cure his ailment by pedestrianism, on
a rambling journey through the country, and published the result of
his explorations in his “Pictures of Scotland,” which passed through
several editions, and is still a lively companion to the tourist. In
this same year, 1827, he contributed to Constable’s _Miscellany_ the
five volumes containing his “Histories of the Scottish Rebellion”--of
which, that concerning the affairs of 1845, while true to facts, had
all the glowing charms of a romance--and a “Life of James I.,” in two
volumes. Next appeared three volumes of “Scottish Ballads and Songs,”
followed by a “Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen”--the four
volumes being commenced in 1832 and concluded in 1835--one of the most
trustworthy and most entertaining books of reference in existence. A
supplementary and fifth volume was afterwards added by the Reverend
Thomas Thomson. Besides writing these various works, and giving some
attention to his ordinary business, he found time to act as editor of
the _Edinburgh Advertiser_.

In 1829, Robert Chambers married Miss Anne Kirkwood, of Edinburgh, a
lady of very congenial qualities and attainments, and whose musical
accomplishments constantly supplied him--after his heavy daily
labours--with the recreation essential to one so passionately fond of

William Chambers was toiling away busily in his little shop in the
Broughton suburb--writing, printing, and selling books. After some
minor efforts at authorship, he wrote the “Book of Scotland,” giving
an account of the legal constitution and customs of his native
country. This was followed by the “Gazetteer of Scotland,” written
in conjunction with his brother, which, from the then scanty printed
material at their disposal, must have cost them an immensity of labour.

In 1832 came the turning point of the cause of the two brothers. The
struggle for parliamentary reform had awakened a necessity for the
spread of education. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge
had already been doing good service to the cause, with Lord Brougham
as its president, and Charles Knight as its manager. And on the 4th
of February, 1832, appeared the first number of Chambers’ _Edinburgh
Journal_. Mr. William Chambers has himself, in a letter to the
editor of the _Athenæum_ (April 1st, 1871), replied to a statement
in a former number, that upon seeing a copy of the prospectus of the
_Penny Magazine_, he put forward several suggestions to one of the
chief promoters, and that his self-love being wounded by receiving no
reply to his letter, he determined to realize his unappreciated ideas
himself. The following, in his own letter, is, of course, the accurate
history of the origin of the periodical.

“In the beginning of January, 1832, I conceived the idea of a cheap
weekly periodical devoted to wholesome popular instruction, blended
with original amusing matter, without any knowledge whatever of the
prospectus of the _Penny Magazine_, or even hearing that such a thing
was in contemplation. My periodical was to be entitled Chambers’
_Edinburgh Journal_, and the first number was to appear on the 4th
of February. In compliment to Lord Brougham as an educationist, I
forwarded to him a copy of my prospectus, with a note explaining the
nature of my attempt to aid as far as I was able in the great cause
with which his name was identified. To this communication I received no
acknowledgment, but no self-love was wounded. My work was successful,
and I was too busy to give any consideration as to what his lordship
thought of it, if he thought of it at all. The first time I heard of
the projected _Penny Magazine_ was about a month after the _Journal_
was set on foot and in general circulation.”

The success of the new _Journal_ was unprecedented; it immediately
obtained a circulation of 50,000, and by 1845, when the folio, after a
trial of the quarto, was exchanged for the octavo form, 90,000 copies
were required to supply the demand. Started six weeks before the _Penny
Magazine_, it is still the most successful and the most instructive of
the cheap hebdomadal periodicals. At the very first flush of success,
Robert Chambers’ assistance was called in as editor, and in a short
time the brothers finally entered into partnership as publishers;
and their triumphs were henceforth achieved conjointly--“both of
them,” says an able writer in an old number of the _Dublin University
Magazine_, “trained to habits of business and punctuality; both of them
upheld in all their dealings by strict prudence and conscientiousness;
and both of them practised, according to their different aims and
tendencies, in literary labour.”

Seldom, if ever, have two members of a publishing firm been so
admirably fitted for their business.

From the very outset the brothers were thrown entirely on their own
resources; they had no literary jealousy, and eagerly enlisted on their
staff most of the young aspirants in Scotland, who have since achieved
a world-wide reputation. It was, however, to Mr. Robert Chambers’
contributions that the _Journal_ was primarily indebted for success,
his delightful essays, æsthetic and humorous, permanently fixing the
work in public esteem. Gifted with a keenly-accurate observation,
with a grave yet kindly humour, his vignettes of life and character,
under the _nom de plume_ of Mr. Baldestone, were so truthful and
so “telling,” that they met with a very favourable reception, when
republished separately, in seven volumes, in 1844. “It was my design,”
he says in the preface, “from the first, to be the essayist of the
middle class--that in which I was born and to which I continue to
belong. I, therefore, do not treat their manners and habits as one
looking _de haut en bas_, which is the usual style of essayists, but
as one looking round among the firesides of my friends.” This was,
doubtless, the primary secret of their success.

When Leigh Hunt, in 1834, established his _London Journal_, he
announced that he intended to follow the plan of Chambers’ _Edinburgh
Journal_, “with a more southern element” added. This compliment, from
a veteran so famous and so experienced, led to an interchange of
editorial courtesies, in the course of which Robert Chambers claimed
the distinction for his brother William--which had been somewhere
awarded to Leigh Hunt--of having been the first to introduce cheap
periodical literature of a superior class. Leigh Hunt, in reply, while
upholding his own title to priority by the indubitable evidence of the
dates of his _Indicator_, _Tatler_, &c., cordially admitted that his
young rivals had more wisely achieved the desired end by interesting a
wider and less educated public.

In a few years all Edinburgh proved to be equal only to produce the
Scotch edition of the _Journal_, a branch house was established in the
English metropolis, the command of which was entrusted to a younger
brother, Mr. David Chambers, who was born in the year 1820, and who
was afterwards taken into partnership. Unlike his brothers, he had
little taste for literature. In connection with the subsequent conduct
of the _Journal_, we may mention the names of T. Smibert and Leich
Ritchie (both deceased), and Mr. W. H. Wills, and Mr. James Payn, the
sensational novelist, who for many years has had the leading conduct.

In 1844, Robert Chambers published a work written in conjunction with
Dr. Carruthers, afterwards greatly enlarged, which takes a far higher
rank than any preceding compilation of a similar character. This was
Chambers’ “Cyclopædia of English Literature,” in which no less than
832 authors are treated critically and biographically, specimens of
their most characteristic writings being quoted in addition. From the
intrinsic value of the contents, and the marvellous cheapness of the
price, a great popularity was attained, and in a few years 130,000
copies were sold in England alone, while in America it was at least as

Among his other works at this period we may mention a labour of love--a
chronological edition of Burns’ poems, so arranged with a connecting
narrative as to serve also as a biography. The proceeds of the sale
went towards securing a comfortable fortune for the poet’s sister. We
must mention, also, in passing, “The Domestic Annals of Scotland,” and
a dainty little volume of verse, printed for private circulation only,
in 1835.

A book appeared about this time entitled, “Vestiges of the Natural
History of Creation,” which was written to prove that the Divine
Governor of this world conducts its passing affairs by a fixed rule,
termed natural law. The orthodox party professed to be alarmed at the
temerity of the writer, and by them the book was hailed with contumely.
It was known that the proof sheets had passed through the hands of
Mr. Robert Chambers, and on no better authority than this, not only
did the public believe the story, but the “Vestiges” was entered in
the catalogue of the British Museum under his name. A writer in the
_Critic_ boldly stated, “on eminent authority,” that George Combe was
the author, and though this was contradicted, and though the authorship
is still a mystery, it would appear that Combe had, at all events,
something to do with the work. In 1848, Robert Chambers was selected to
be Lord Provost of Edinburgh; he was requested to deny the authorship,
but his refusal to plead, and his consequent retirement, were probably
due to his contempt for people who could make the authorship of a book
a barrier to civic honours. His brother William, however, afterwards
filled the office with such satisfaction to his fellow-citizens, that
he was re-elected, after serving the prescribed term of three years.

Many of Robert Chambers’s earliest essays in his _Journal_ had been
upon geology, and to this branch of science he became more and more
addicted, and as a geologist and antiquarian he turned to good account
a somewhat extensive course of foreign travel. In 1848 he visited
Switzerland; in 1849 Sweden and Norway; and in later years Iceland and
the Faroe Isles, Canada, and the United States. One of the results of
these travels was a volume on “Ancient Sea Margins”--containing a new
theory, that had previously been propounded by him in a paper read
before the “British Association,” and had attracted no little attention.

To supplement what their _Journal_ could not supply to the reading
public, he and his brother also wrote, with not very much assistance,
and, of course published, “Information for the People,” “Papers for the
People,” and a series of miscellaneous tracts: 200,000 of the first
named are said to have been sold.

During all this hard work Robert Chambers helped to conduct one of
the largest printing and publishing concerns in Scotland. One of the
chiefest triumphs of the brothers was “Chambers’s Educational Course,”
an educational project so complete that few men could have ever hoped
to realize it. This series begins with a three-halfpenny infant primer,
and goes onward through a whole library of grammars, dictionaries,
histories, scientific, and all primary class books, and cheap editions
of standard foreign and classical authors, till it culminates in a
popular “Encyclopædia” in ten thick volumes. This “Encyclopædia” was
originally founded on the “German Conversations’ Lexicon,” but the
articles were in all cases either re-written or thoroughly revised.
It admirably supplies the wants of those readers for whom the “Penny
Encyclopædia” was in the first instance devised, before its expansion
into the present more expensive form.

Literary honours fell fast upon Robert Chambers. He enjoyed the rare
distinction of being nominated into the Athenæum Club by its committee
of management, and was elected a member of many scientific societies;
and finally the University of St. Andrews conferred on him the degree
of Doctor of Laws.

In 1864 appeared his first real work, the “Book of Days,” but the
success that attended it was dearly bought. He had found it necessary
to reside for some years in London, in order to avail himself of the
inexhaustible treasures of the British Museum, but on his return to
Scotland he was often heard to say “that book is my death-blow.” His
nervous system was shattered, and literary labour was at an end.
After the completion of seventy volumes, and innumerable articles,
compelling almost incessant mental effort for five-and-forty years, the
overworked brain at last demanded repose. The descendants of Smollett,
the novelist, offered him the use of some hitherto untouched family
documents, and he was tempted once more to essay the long-loved task
of composition; the volume was printed in 1867, and is said to bear
painful marks of the undue strain from which his mind had suffered.

The very last years of his life were spent at St. Andrews, where
on March 17th, 1871, he died, saying, “Quite comfortable--quite
happy--nothing more!” leaving a family of nine children, one of whom,
Mr. Robert Chambers, has for some time been a partner in the firm. His
second wife (his first had died in 1863) did not survive him.

Few men have worked so hard as Robert Chambers; his life, busy in its
threefold capacity of author, editor, and publisher, can scarcely have
known an unprofitable hour; few men have worked so well, for not a line
that he has written, not a book that he has published, but has tended
in some way to the education and social improvement of the people; and
few men have reaped such an honourable and profitable reward for their

Dr. Carruthers, his colleague in the “Cyclopædia of English
Literature,” says, “His worldly prosperity kept pace with his
acquirements and his labours; he was enabled to practise a liberal
hospitality and a generous citizenship; strangers of any mark in
literature or science were cordially welcomed, and a forenoon
antiquarian ramble with Robert Chambers in the old town of Edinburgh,
or a social evening with him in Doune Terrace, were luxuries highly
prized and long remembered. Thus we have an instance of a life
meritorious, harmonious in all its parts, happy, and benefiting society
equally by its direct operation and its example.”

The news of Robert Chambers’s death so affected his brother, Mr. David
Chambers, who was at that time confined to his home through illness,
that it caused the rupture of a blood-vessel in the liver, and three
days after this he followed his elder brother; like him he had been an
earnest friend of press reform, and had devoted much of his time to
promoting the repeal of the fiscal restrictions upon newspapers.

Mr. William Chambers, who undertook from the first the largest share in
the mercantile concerns of the firm, has still found time to accomplish
a large amount of literary work. In addition to the book previously
mentioned, he has published, among others, “Travels in Italy,” and a
“History of Peebleshire,” and the “Memoir of Robert Chambers,” besides
contributing freely to the _Journal_, and other of their serial

       *       *       *       *       *

Charles Knight was born at Windsor in the year 1791, and was the only
child of his father, a bookseller and printer of some importance
in that town, who, by his connection with the _Microcosm_, a paper
conducted by Canning, and written by Hookham Frere, “Bobus” Smith, and
other Etonians, had made many influential friends. The last number of
this schoolboy journal appeared, however, four years before the birth
of his son.

Charles was educated at the school of a Dr. Nicholas at Ealing, and
his early avidity for reading had, he himself thinks, much to do with
rendering his constitution weak and feeble. At the age of fourteen he
signed indentures of apprenticeship to his father, and in 1812, when
he attained his majority, he was sent up for a few weeks to London
to undergo a short term of training in the office of the _Globe_
newspaper, so as to give him practical experience in reporting and
other journalistic work; for from early boyhood he had determined to
possess a paper of his own. On Aug. 1st of the same year his desire was
realized, and, in conjunction with his father, he started the _Windsor
and Eton Express_, the editorship of which he continued up to the year
1827, finding time, however, in the midst of his busy life, to devote
to the cultivation of more general literature. In 1813 appeared the
first original work from his pen, “Arminius,” a tragedy--which had
been offered to the manager of Drury Lane Theatre, and had of course
been rejected, but very courteously. During his residence at Windsor
he was co-editor, with H. E. Locker, of the _Plain Englishman_, a
miscellaneous journal, which only lasted from 1820 to 1822.

His first venture into the dimly descried regions of popular literature
appeared, he says, in the _Windsor Express_ for Dec. 11, 1819, in a
paper called “Cheap Publications,” and was followed by others, till, in
one of the last numbers of the _Plain Englishman_, we come across an
article entitled “Diffusion of Useful Knowledge”--a straw which shows
which way his mind was turning.

[Illustration: Charles Knight.


Among Mr. Knight’s other literary labours at this time, in 1820, he
undertook the editorship of the _Guardian_, again in partnership
with a colleague; and his life, divided between Windsor and London,
became one of very pleasurable excitement. His connection, too, with a
literary journal, served to render him familiar with the aspects of the
publishing trade in London, and at the end of 1822 he sold his share of
the _Guardian_, and took up his position in Pall Mall East, and started
as a publisher.

One day, shortly after this, coming back jaded and weary from
his London office he found two Eton lads--W. M. Praed and Walter
Blunt--waiting at his cottage with an eager proposal that he should
publish an Eton miscellany. Generously and sympathetically did Mr.
Knight enter into the schemes of the schoolboys; and the plan of
the _Etonian_ was forthwith drawn up. Knight found much pleasure in
watching and assisting the young periodical, which was a kind of
pleasant nursery ground for the growth and display of the youthful
talent of which Eton then proudly and unwontedly boasted. “It was
refreshing,” he writes, “after the dry labours of his day in town,
to watch the bright, earnest, happy face of Mr. Blunt, who took a
manifest delight in doing the editorial drudgery; the worst proofs (for
in the haste unavoidable in periodical literature he would sometimes
catch hold of a proof _un_read) never disturbed the serenity of his
temper. To him it seemed a real happiness to stand at a desk in the
composing-room.” But Praed it was, with his sparkling wit, his elegant
aptness of expression, and his boyish gallantry that yet smacked of the
wise experience of age, who was the life and soul of the project, and
his contributions eventually occupied fully one-fourth of the whole
miscellany, and when he went to Cambridge it was thought advisable,
perhaps found necessary, to terminate the _Etonian_ altogether. Still
Mr. Knight’s chief hopes as a publisher were centred in the promise of
his young Eton friends, and during a week passed with them at Cambridge
the general plan of _Knight’s Quarterly Magazine_ was settled, and he
was introduced to Derwent, Coleridge, Malden, and Macaulay, afterwards
his chief contributors.

Mr. Knight was his own editor, and with the assistance of such writers,
his periodical could not fail to be a success. Even Christopher
North, in Edinburgh, was moved to write of them as a hopeful class
of “young scholars,” and Knight retorted to this stale accusation of
youth by declaring that he had read and rejected seventy-eight prose
articles, and one hundred and twenty copies of occasional verses, “all
the property of the old periodical press,” while Praed wrote saucily
enough, that “Christopher North is a barn from his wig to his slippers.”

After the first two numbers, Macaulay felt constrained to retire, as
his father objected to the political opinions of the magazine, but
he was luckily induced to alter his mind, and to the future numbers
he contributed the best of his early poems--notably, “Moncontoria”
and “Ivry” and the “Songs of the Civil Wars.” Here, too, were printed
Praed’s most charming _jeux d’esprits_, so called, though depth of
feeling and nobleness of sentiment often lay beneath their airy
bantering tone. De Quincey, then almost starving in the streets of
London, was made lovingly free of its pages, and the _Quarterly
Magazine_ attained a great celebrity as the most classical, and yet the
lightest, gayest, and most pleasing periodical of the day.

Unfortunately a division occurred among the contributors
themselves--their opinions, and the opinions they expressed, were
as widely divergent as the four winds of heaven--their supply of
matter was quite irregular, varying with the individual amusements of
the hour--reaching, Knight tells us, to “wanton neglect;” and after
many dissensions, the publisher felt “that he had to choose between
surrendering the responsibility which his duties to society had
compelled him to retain, or to lose much of the assistance which had
given to the _Quarterly Magazine_ its peculiar character.” He could
not hesitate in his choice, and with the sixth number the work ceased,
being, however, continued under the editorship of Malden, and in the
hands of another publisher for a quarter longer, but the panic that
ruined Scott and Constable, and shook so many publishing houses, made
small work of the transplanted _Quarterly_.

This period of Knight’s life may be regarded as the time when he sowed
his publishing wild oats; henceforth sterner work awaited him. Among,
however, the earliest of his distinct publications may be mentioned
Milton’s “Treatises on Christian Doctrine,” then first discovered among
the documents at the State Paper Office.

Knight had fortunately no bills afloat at the time of the panic which,
in connection with his endeavour to assist the Windsor bank, he so
graphically describes--“In the Albany we found the partners of one
firm deliberating by candle light--a few words showed how unavailing
was the hope of help from them: ‘We shall ourselves stop at nine
o’clock.’ The dark December morning gradually grew lighter; the gas
lamps died out; but long before it was perfect day we found Lombard
Street blocked up by eager crowds, each man struggling to be foremost
at the bank where he kept his accounts, if its doors should be opened.”
Still, Mr. Knight, though not directly involved, found, like many
other publishers, that the schemes of 1825 would not sell in 1826,
and that the booksellers must, spite of themselves, “hold on” as best
they could. Colburn, indeed, was the only one who still continued his
ventures, and from the light and soothing nature of his publications,
chiefly fictions calculated to allay the torture of reality, he was
able to reap a reward for his temerity.

Every day found Mr. Knight more sick of his prospects than the last.
The _Brazen Head_, a weekly satirical and humorous journal of his just
started, lightened though it was by the rippling wit of Praed, fell
upon the public like a leaden lump.

Mr. Knight’s brain had long been filled with a scheme of popular and
cheap literature, and he now made up his mind to start afresh--to
tempt the world and bless it with a real “National Library,” so good
that all should desire, so cheap that all would buy. Lord Brougham,
who was at that moment organizing the “Society for the Diffusion of
Useful Knowledge,” heard of this plan and obtained an introduction to
the schemer. The idea of the National Library was at first taken up
by the Society, but was finally adopted by John Murray. Differences
of opinion as to the editorial responsibilities, and the arrangements
as to the transfer of his stock to Albemarle Street, presented new
difficulties, and thoroughly sick of the whole matter, Mr. Knight
suddenly abandoned it. The germ of his idea, however, bore fruit in
the “Treatises” published by the Society in March, and in the “Cabinet
Encyclopædia,” issued a few years afterwards by Longman. “My boat,”
writes Mr. Knight, “was stranded. Happily for me there were no wreckers
at hand ready for the plunder of my damaged cargo.” Anyhow, for the
time being, publishing was over. To a man of indomitable pluck, and
blessed with the pen of a ready writer, journalism presents a tolerably
open field, and to newspaper work Mr. Knight again addressed himself;
but in a few weeks a document, which Mr. Knight values, he says, as a
soldier values his first commission, reached him containing an offer
of the superintendence of the Society’s publications, an offer that
was forthwith accepted. As a first step, the “Library of Entertaining
Knowledge” was commenced, and, in 1828, he started the _British
Almanac_, and the _Companion to the Almanac_--a wonderful change for
the better after the “Poor Robins” and “Old Moores” of the past.

In 1832, Mr. Knight was offered an official position at the Board of
Trade, but fortunately for the education and interests of the people he
had the courage to refuse it, having the pleasure, however, of being
asked to recommend some one else to the post. In the March of this year
appeared the first number of the _Penny Magazine_, subsequent by only a
very few weeks to _Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal_.

The new periodical had been suggested by Mr. Hill in a conversation
about the wretched character of the cheap prints of the period. “Let
us,” he exclaimed, “see what something cheap and good can accomplish!
Let us have a penny magazine!” “And what shall be the title?” asked
Knight. “The _Penny Magazine_.” At once they went to the Lord
Chancellor, who entered cordially into the project, and though a few
old Whig gentlemen on the committee urged that the proposed price was
below the dignity of the Society, and muttered, “It is very awkward,
very awkward,” Mr. Knight undertook the risk, and was immediately
appointed editor.

The success of the magazine was amazing even to the sanguine editor; at
the close of 1832 it reached a sale of 200,000 in weekly and monthly
parts--representing probably a million readers, and Burke had only
forty years previous estimated the number of readers in this country
at 80,000! Among the contributors it will be sufficient to mention
Long, De Morgan, Creswick, Allan Cunningham, and Thomas Pringle, whilom
editor of the Whiggish _Blackwood_. One writer, however, stands out
from the rest, both by his misfortunes and his attainments--coming
not only under the “curse of poverty’s unconquerable ban,” but being
completely deaf and almost dumb. Recommended to Mr. Knight as an
extraordinary, though unknown genius, who had been brought up in a
charity school, stricken with a sudden and melancholy affliction, who
had worked his way to St. Petersburg, and thence through Russia to
Moscow, and on to Persia and the Desert; who knew French and Italian
perfectly; the kind-hearted publisher, from the very first, took a
liking to Kitto--soon to be known as an eminent traveller, Orientalist,
and Biblical commentator. After the first trial article of “The Deaf
Traveller,” Kitto was regularly engaged to assist Mr. Knight personally
in his own room; and here in his spare time he managed to acquire

In spite of the somewhat scurrilous attacks made upon the _Penny
Magazine_ by Colburn in his _New Monthly_ it was a continuous success,
and ultimately paved the way to a work infinitely more important--the
“Penny Encyclopædia.”

It will be essential here to understand the position of the Society for
the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

This Society was founded in 1826 by Lord Brougham and other gentlemen,
described by Mr. Knight as the leading statesmen, lawyers, and
philanthropists of the day. “It was a blow aimed at the monopoly of
literature--the opening of the flood-gates of knowledge.” At first
the Society possessed no charter, but obtained one in May, 1832, not
probably a very useful or essential gift, nominating Brougham as
president, Lord John Russell as vice-president, and William Tooke,
Esq., treasurer. No subscriptions were called for, or rather these
means had been at once abandoned, and the “arrangements made with
the publisher since the beginning of the Society have gone upon the
principle of leaving the committee as far as possible free from risk,
and unencumbered with commercial responsibility; but at the same time
deriving a fair proportion of pecuniary advantage from the ultimate
success of the undertaking.” The publisher in the first instance
paid down a certain sum for the copyright, sufficient to cover the
disbursements to the authors by the committee, who, after a limit of
sale, received a royalty of so much per thousand copies. At first the
Society’s publications abounded in almanacs; “The British Almanack,”
“The British 4_d._ Almanack,” “The Penny Sheet Almanack,” and “The
British Working-man’s Almanack.” Then came the _Penny Magazine_, the
_British Quarterly Journal of Education_, and the “Penny Encyclopædia,”
the first number of which was issued in July, 1833. It was originally
projected to form a moderate-sized book of eight volumes, and every
article was to be written expressly for the work. This limited size was
found to be incompatible with original work by the best writers, and
after a year the price and quantity were doubled; after three years
more, quadrupled. In the present form, and according to the original
scheme, the issue would have taken thirty-seven years. But this
increase of matter, while it largely enhanced the intrinsic value of
the work, was utterly fatal to its commercial success. The committee
got, says Mr. Knight, the credit of the work, without incurring any
of the risk; and the expenditure on literary matter alone amounted to
£40,000. The sale, owing to the increase of matter and price, rapidly
declined: at first consisting of 75,000 copies, it fell at the increase
to twopence to 55,000, in the second year to 44,000, and at the close
of the fourpenny period it was actually reduced to 20,000; and this
chronic loss entailed upon Mr. Knight for the duration of eleven years
absorbed every other source of profit in his extensive business. This
loss was still further augmented by the enormously heavy paper duty of
threepence per pound, but which was reduced in 1836 to half that price.

Mr. Knight was originally associated with Mr. Long in the editorial
duties, but soon wisely gave up the management of the literary

Mr. George Long, who is now leaving a Professorship at Brighton College
for Chichester,[19] had been bracketed with Macaulay and Professor
Malden for the Craven Scholarship--a fact that says something, were it
necessary, for his attainments--and was able to gather together the
most able men of the day on his staff, all of whom, whether belonging
to the Society or otherwise, were handsomely remunerated for their
labour. Upon De Morgan rested, perhaps, after the editor, the heaviest
labour, for he undertook the whole department of Mathematical Science.
The Biographical portion was chiefly due to G. C. Lewis, G. Long
himself, P. and W. Smith, and Donaldson. It is impossible, necessarily,
to mention many out of the 200 contributors, and it will suffice for
our purpose to enumerate the names of Professors Craik, Forbes, and
Donaldson, and Messrs. Ellis, Lewis, and Kitto, as writers on all
general subjects; and Mr. W. J. Broderip as taking the Natural History
department. Quite a new feature in the composition of the staff was the
introduction of foreign writers of eminence, who composed either in
their own language or in ours, all the articles being revised by the
editor and his assistants, and rendered into perfectly good English.

We must follow Mr. Knight’s own publications, remembering that their
issue was contemporary with the “Encyclopædia.” Next to that in
costliness was the “Gallery of Portraits,” issued in monthly parts at
half-a-crown each, to which, among other authors, Hallam and De Quincey

The connection between Mr. Knight and Kitto was still very strong and
affectionate. In January, 1834, we find him detailing pleasantly the
amount of work he had to do for £16 a month--“a most comfortable sum
for me”--and later on we come across him asking Mr. Knight’s advice in
regard to his proposed marriage. “I have felt it prudent and proper to
postpone it for awhile until I should have consulted with you.... I
have hitherto been so connected in my employments with those who took a
strong personal interest in my affairs, and to whom I am accustomed to
talk freely about them, that I am led to trouble you more about myself
and my circumstances than is warranted by my existing relations. If so,
I doubt not your kindness will readily excuse the absence in a dumb man
of those little proprieties with which he has not had much opportunity
of becoming acquainted.” A curious subject on which to consult one’s
publisher, but then Mr. Knight was something more, and immediately
promised such remuneration and regular employment as would free Kitto’s
entrance into wedded life from the charge of imprudence.

The “Bilder Bibel,” then publishing in Germany, suggested to Mr. Knight
his “Pictorial Bible;” and Kitto, after having tested his own fitness
for the work thoroughly, boldly undertook to execute the whole task,
giving up, of course, all other work, and receiving £250 a year during
the progress of the book, and on completion such a sum of money as
seemed a small fortune. This completed--and it was one of the most
remunerative works upon which Mr. Knight was ever engaged--he commenced
his “Palestine,” and in such subjects Kitto found at last his true

The “Pictorial History” occupied seven years in coming out, in parts,
of course. Mr. Craik wrote the social, religious, and commercial
portions, and Mr. C. Macfarlane undertook the larger department of
civil and military history; many other gentlemen also contributed. The
same fault occurred here as in the “Penny Encyclopædia”--it was too
long for serial publication. By an error of judgment on the part of the
editors, four of the eight volumes were devoted to the reign of George
III.; the subscribers became weary, and the project turned out to be a
commercial failure.

This was followed in 1843 by the “Illustrated London,” certainly the
best and most trustworthy history we yet have _in extenso_ of the great

The issue of the “weekly volumes” was also in progress, commencing with
a “Life of Caxton,” by Mr. Knight himself; but the series soon became
the “shilling volumes.”

The _Penny Magazine_ terminated on the 27th Dec., 1845, and its
continuation, _Knight’s Penny Magazine_, proving but barely
remunerative, the hint was taken, Mr. Knight declaring that it should
never be said of him, “Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage.”

The “Penny Encyclopædia” terminated in December, 1843, and though a
ruinous loss to Mr. Charles Knight, was at the same time, as regards
the general public, perhaps the greatest publishing triumph that
had yet been accomplished. The banquet given in his honour by the
contributors was, Mr. Knight tells us, the proudest moment in his life,
and was certainly a tribute as well earned as it was unique.

Into the next and grandest venture of the Society for the Diffusion of
Useful Knowledge Mr. Knight could not afford to take part--fortunately,
indeed, for the scheme, magnificent but futile, proved a deathblow to
the Society. The “New Biographical Dictionary” was intended to assume
proportions beyond anything of the kind hitherto attempted; but to
the astonishment of the committee it was found that when the letter A
was completed seven half volumes had been filled, and a loss of £5000
had been incurred. This was bad enough, but when contributors were
requested to send in suggestions as to the letter B, one man alone
forwarded more than 2000 names. By this time the Society had exhausted
its available funds, and, frightened by the prospect, thought itself
quite justified in retiring from the public scene. “Its work is done,
for its greatest object is achieved--fully, fairly, and permanently.
The public is supplied with cheap and good literature to an extent
which the most sanguine friends of improvement could not in 1826 have
hoped to witness in twenty years.”

In 1843, Mr. Knight had published his “Life of Shakespeare,” a work
by which, as a valuable history of Elizabethan times, and a charming,
though necessarily an imaginary, sketch of our greatest poet, the
author will, we think, though multitudinous in his writings, be most
distinctly remembered. His edition of Shakespeare, which for reverent
love and editorial labour is almost unrivalled, has appeared in various
guises, as the “Popular,” the “Library,” the “National,” the “Cabinet”
(three editions), the “Medium” (three editions), and the “Stratford”
(three editions).

By far the most remarkable of Mr. Knight’s labours, and perhaps the
most useful, was his “Shilling Volumes for all Readers” (1844-1849),
186 volumes, 16mo., in all; for though his editorial labours were
terminated when about two-thirds of the work was completed, he still
considered himself responsible as regards the general character of the
works. “I may confidently state,” he says, “that in this extensive
series, no single work, and no portion of a work, can be found that
may not safely be put into the hands of the young and uninformed,
with the security that it will neither mislead nor corrupt.” In a
postscript to the last volume he adds: “I now venture to believe that
I have accomplished what I proposed to do. First, I have endeavoured
to produce a series of books which comprehends something like the
range of literature which all well-educated persons desire to have at
their command.” Without attempting any very exact classification of
the various subjects of the volumes, they may be thus distributed into
large departments of knowledge:--

  Analytical Accounts of Great Writers, English and Foreign   13
  Biography                                                   33
  General History                                              5
  English History                                             26
  Geography, Travel, and Topography                           33
  Natural History                                             17
  Fine Arts and Antiquities                                    8
  Arts and Sciences, Political Philosophy, &c.                14
  Natural Theology and Philosophy                             15
  General Literature                                          16
  Original Fiction                                             6

After this noble endeavour in a good cause, it is literally
heartrending to read Mr. Knight’s candid confession that not twenty
volumes of the series achieved a circulation of 10,000 copies.

As soon as the Poor Law Board was established, Mr. Knight became
officially connected with it as an authorized publisher, and from that
time he almost entirely gave up general publishing, and his works were
entrusted to the care of other firms.

The copyright of the “Encyclopædia” remained in his possession, and was
turned to good account in the “National Encyclopædia,” and later on in
the “English Encyclopædia,” in which, however, nothing was reprinted
without thorough revision, many of the articles being entirely new.

Several of Mr. Knight’s productions, such as “The Land we Live in,”
commenced in 1847, turned out, in the hands of the “copy publisher,” to
be perfect mines of wealth.

In 1854 appeared the “Popular History of England;” it was completed in

In 1851 we find Mr. Knight going about as joint manager with Mr. Payne
Collier, of that band of illustrious amateur actors who have become so
famous. Among them we find Charles Dickens, Mark Lemon, G. Cruikshank,
Wilkie Collins, and R. H. Horne. “A joyous time, this,” writes Mr.
Knight, who had played the part of “One Tonson, a bookseller,”
“left-legged Jacob” having, he adds, “but a paltry representative.”

Among Mr. Knight’s chief literary labours, we must instance his
“Half-Hours with the Best Authors”--a book that has achieved a
world-wide popularity; “Once upon a Time;” and “Passages of a Working
Life for Half a Century” (in 3 volumes), a charming and interesting
autobiography, to which we are indebted for most of the facts in this
short notice of his life.

Full of years and of honours, Mr. Knight died at Addlestone, in Surrey,
on the 9th of March, 1873, aged eighty-one; and five days afterwards
was buried in the family vault at Windsor. The funeral was very large,
from the number of literary men attending, who wished to show their
feeling of affection and respect for the deceased. In the newspaper
notices, too, the tribute of praise was unanimous and hearty; and it
was resolved that the gratitude of writers and readers should not stop
here. A committee has been formed to erect some kind of memorial, and
many of the leading men of letters, as well as some of the leading
publishers, are taking part in it. It has been hoped that this memorial
may assume the shape of a free public library for London, and thus
initiate a movement that, to our shame, has made such successful way
in our great provincial towns. Nothing else could so appropriately
perpetuate the memory of a life so earnest in its purpose of spreading
cheap literature far and wide, so brave in difficulty, so utterly
unmindful of self-gain in the work planned out and done; that none who
know its story can gainsay Douglas Jerrold’s most happy epitaph, “Good

       *       *       *       *       *

JOHN CASSELL, though of a family originally Kentish, was born at
Manchester on 23rd January, 1817. The child of poor parents, his school
education was very simple and elementary, and at an early age he
adopted the trade of carpentry. In most lads of that class, education,
such as it is, is totally ended when once they leave the school-house
to follow some manual calling; but from the day that Cassell took
his first serious step in life he determined to educate himself, to
break down the trammels of class ignorance, first of all in his own
case, and, that once accomplished, to assist with all the energy he
possessed, his brother workmen to do the same. At first he found
his evening studies, after a hard day’s work at the bench, somewhat
irksome and painful; but by degrees his reading became less and less
elementary, and eventually he acquired, not only a considerable
knowledge of English literature, but a fund of general information
which, on the platform, as well as in private life, stood him in
good stead; and he also attained sufficient proficiency in French to
be afterwards essentially serviceable in his repeated visits to the

But, after all, his most valuable knowledge was acquired in the
carpenter’s shop, and among his fellow-workmen; for here he gained an
insight into the inner life--the struggles, privations, and miseries,
as well as the hopes and ambitions--of the working classes; and this
knowledge was carefully stored up until he should, at a future time,
see some way of firing their minds and ameliorating their condition.

In 1833 the total abstinence movement was commenced in Lancashire,
under the active leadership of Mr. Joseph Livesey, of Preston, and
known as “The Temperance Movement,” went through the length and
breadth of the land. About two years later, Livesey first met young
Cassell in a lecture-room or chapel in Manchester. “I remember quite
well,” he writes, “his standing on the right, just below or on the
steps of the platform, in his working attire, with a fustian jacket and
a white apron on”--a young man of eighteen, in the honestest and best
of uniforms--his industrial regimentals.

Into the temperance movement John Cassell threw himself heart and soul;
and thinking that London would afford a wider field for temperance
missionary labours, and that his daily bread, as an artizan, might
there be more easily earned, he left Manchester and arrived in the
Metropolis in October, 1836, and in a few days he found his way to
the New Jerusalem school-rooms in the Westminster Bridge Road, and
made his first public speech. He is described by one who was present,
as “a gaunt stripling, poorly clad, and travel-stained; plain,
straightforward in speech, but broad in provincialism.” Shortly
afterwards, he is again to be traced to Milton Street, Barbican. But
his appearance here marked an episode in his life; for his energy, his
evident thoroughness, and his frank confession that he carried all
his worldly goods in his little wallet, and that the few pence in his
pocket were his only fortune, at once gained him friends. A gentleman
present took him to his own home, and shortly afterwards presented him
to Mr. Meredith, who enrolled the young enthusiast forthwith among the
paid band of temperance agents he was generously supporting at his
own cost. With characteristic energy Cassell started on a temperance
tour--a journey fraught with difficulty and hardship; and a few months
after we find a notice of him in the _Preston Temperance Advocate_:
“John Cassell, the Manchester carpenter, has been labouring with
great success in the county of Norfolk. He is passing through Essex
on his way to London. He carries his watchman’s rattle--an excellent
accompaniment of temperance labours.” A strange life that gaunt young
prophet must have led; trudging about from town to village, sounding
an alarum ever as he went with his rattle, seeking by all means in his
power to rivet a momentary attention, and then from barrel-head or
tree-stump preaching in his broad Lancashire idiom a “New Crusade”--not
against such puny foes and nations as Turk or Saracen--not of mere
battles to be fought out by the exertion of so much or so little
physical strength--but of hideous vices to be conquered--vices that sat
like skeletons beside half the hearths in England then--and of noble
mental victories to be achieved. The women heard his rude eloquence,
and tears rushed to their eyes, as they prayed that their brothers and
sons might hearken and be convinced. The men paused on their way to the
pot-house, and heard how homes now desolate might be made happy, how
the weeping wife and the starving children might be rendered contented
and cheerful, how their own sodden lives might be again cleansed and
brightened;--then independence rose again from the hideous thrall that
bound them, and many paused for ever. Even those who knew the proper
use of alcohol listened with respectful attention to one who sought so
earnestly to provide a safeguard for other men weaker than themselves.
And thus Cassell trudged on, meeting often with scoffs and sneers,
suffering much weariness and many privations, but still hopeful,
eager, and earnest. In Lincolnshire his eloquent zeal won him not
only a convert but a wife, and from this time he found that temperance
lecturing was but a sorry provision for a family.[20]

Supported by his friends he now determined to aid the movement in
another manner--and he started a temperance publishing office and
bookshop at the very house in the Strand now occupied by Mr. Tweedie,
the present temperance publisher. For some time his trade went on
successfully, but he endeavoured to add to his resources by the
congenial management of a large tea and coffee business in Fenchurch
Street, and the liabilities he thus incurred overreached his capital.

Now, however, Cassell had many influential friends, and one of these
had sufficient faith in his capacity to start him afresh in life--this
time on a much larger scale. In his new business in La Belle Sauvage
Yard, he was associated with Messrs. Petter and Galpin, who before
then were not very considerable printers in the neighbourhood--and
they determined to devote themselves to the broader work of producing
cheap and popular books, then commencing to be in great demand--not
from policy only, though as the life of Robert Chambers shows it was a
moment when the tide of fortune might be advantageously made use of by
those brave enough and wise enough to see it--but also because it had
by this time been discovered that before the masses could be in any
signal way really raised in social condition they must be educated.

Being widely known as a man sprung from the people--as still one of
themselves--the working classes had faith in Cassell, and readily
purchased his books when they were not so readily tempted to try the
publications of the various societies. His knowledge of their real
conditions and their wants was very useful, and while his opinion
in every matter was most carefully adopted, the business department
remained rather in the hands of his junior partners, especially in
later years.

In 1850 the _Working Man’s Friend_ appeared, the precursor of
many similar works, and was followed, immediately after the Great
Exhibition, by the _Illustrated Exhibitor_--a comprehensive and
well-executed scheme intended to preserve a permanent reflection of the
World’s Great Fair. This same idea was successfully repeated in 1862.

Among all the works published by the firm perhaps the most useful was,
and indeed is, the _Popular Educator_; in this, for the weekly sum of
one penny, the vast store-house of human knowledge was thrown open;
the matter, carefully systematised and arranged so as to encourage
self-tuition, aided many a struggler in the path of progress. This was
ably followed by the _Technical Educator_. In the former of these works
Lord Brougham took an immense interest, and his opinion of John Cassell
was as pleasing as it was often repeated.

Of the illustrated works issued in the same cheap method many were
English, or rather European, classics, such as the “Pilgrim’s
Progress,” “Don Quixote,” “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs,” “Shakespeare,”
“Robinson Crusoe,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” &c. Like Tegg or Lackington,
Cassell must be looked upon rather as an encourager of the reading
than of the writing world; but among the works claiming originality as
well as cheapness, the _History of England_ is perhaps the best; the
_Natural History_ is well printed, well illustrated, and, as far as
regards the more legitimate department of the publisher’s trade, worthy
of praise; the “letter-press,” or literary portion, has, however,
been much criticised. The _Family Paper_ and the _Quiver_ attained a
very wide circulation, and while the latter is still one of the most
favourite distinctly religious serials of the day, the former, until it
was changed into the _Magazine_, held faithfully to its promise of pure
and wholesome literature.

In furtherance of his various schemes, Cassell often travelled,
particularly to France, where he was well known, and where he was thus
enabled to effect a very considerable business in the exchange and
purchase of illustrations for his various works. In 1859 he visited
America, and, with the reputation that preceded him, met with a very
flattering reception. On his return, with the energy that distinguished
his character he started a company for the manufacture of petroleum,
which was the first in England to recognise the value of the new
discovery. He also published a series of articles entitled “America
as it is,” in which the contest between North and South was discussed
with a keenness of vision that results proved to be correct and almost

Among the important items of his business, and according to popular
repute one of the most profitable, was the issue of weekly papers,
which, the outer pages being left blank for local news, were circulated
under various titles throughout the United Kingdom. But the greatest
venture of the firm was undoubtedly the _Family Bible_, which was
commenced in 1859. The cost of production is said to have amounted to
£100,000; in six years upwards of 350,000 copies were sold, and it is
at present calculated that half a million have been disposed of. Of the
influence of this and other kindred works in displacing the infamous
prints and penny serial horrors, the _Bookseller_ says--“We recently
took a survey of the shop-windows in the notorious locality known as
the Seven Dials. Here in one street, were three shops, the windows of
which were filled with really respectable publications. In one shop
scarcely anything was displayed but _Cassell’s Family Bible_. In every
one, of at least twenty-four, figured some event of sacred history. On
making inquiries we found that a very large number in the very poorest
neighbourhood was taking in the work every week, and expressed their
delight to possess a long coveted article of furniture in the shape of
a _family Bible_.”

Up to his death Cassell was true to his early resolutions of fostering
the progress of temperance and education, and on these subjects he was
a frequent and popular lecturer. He took also a lively interest in
the business of the firm, but latterly the management was virtually
in the hands of his partners. The “History of Julius Cæsar,” by the
ex-emperor, was, however, entrusted to his care, and was the last
publication in which he took an active interest. On the 1st of April,
1865, he died at his residence in Regent’s Park. He is described as
having “a fine, massive, muscular frame, active and temperate habits
of life, a cheerful disposition, a well-regulated mind, and troops
of friends.” Rising from the ranks, he was by his industry able to
leave his wife a shareholder in one of our largest book-manufacturing
firms to the extent of, it is said, forty-two thousand pounds. The
main interest of his life must, however, be considered to lie in the
earnestness with which he laboured in causes he felt worthy of all
labour, rather than in his career as a publisher, for the books he
issued were little other than reprints of books whose popularity had
been previously tested.

At the time of Cassell’s death it is said that upwards of 500 men were
employed at the works; that 855,000 sheets were printed off weekly,
requiring a consumption of 1310 reams of paper. Latterly Messrs.
Petter and Galpin have launched out into a vastly superior style of
book-publishing, and in placing the works of Gustave Doré before the
English public have taken very high rank as Fine Art publishers.
In other ways, too, they have shown a disposition to combine the
production of valuable original works with the cheaper serials with
which the name of their firm has been so long and successfully

       *       *       *       *       *

It is impossible to close this chapter without referring to the
productions of Mr. Bohn. Our limited space and the value of his
publications--all the more valuable, doubtless, from being mainly
reproductions of standard works--alone prevent us from according him a
separate chapter.

Mr. Henry George Bohn, born in the year 1796, was the son of a
London bookseller, who came, however, of a German family. At an
early age he entered into his father’s business, but throughout
life, engrossed as deeply as any of his compeers in bookselling and
publishing transactions, he ever found time and opportunity for
literary labour, and, in all, twelve important works are due to
his pen, either as author, translator, or editor. The first of his
labours, the “Bibliotheca Parriana,” was published in 1827. Very soon
after, starting on his own account, he acquired a high reputation as
a dealer in rare and curious books, and for the spirit with which he
entered into the “remainder trade;” in this latter branch even Tegg
was compelled to confess that Mr. Bohn eventually surpassed him. The
merest reference to his monster “Guinea Catalogue” will give an idea of
the magnitude of his transactions at this period. Far, however, from
being a mere trade guide, this catalogue is an invaluable literary
work--the most useful, as it certainly is the largest, that has come
from Mr. Bohn’s pen. It is quaintly described by Allibone as “an
enormously thick _nondescripto_; Teutonic shape, best model; ... an
invaluable lexicon to any literary man, and ten guineas would be a
cheap price for a work calculated to save time by its convenience for
reference, and money by its stores of information as to the literary
and pecuniary value of countless tomes.” The _Literary Gazette_, in an
appreciative and well-earned compliment, says: “Mr. Bohn has outdone
all former doings in the same line, and given us a literary curiosity
of remarkable character. The volume is the squattest and the fattest
we ever saw. It is an alderman among books, not a very tall one; and
then, alderman-like, its inside is richly stuffed with a multitude of
good things. Why, there is a list of more than 23,000 articles, and
the pages reach to 1948!... This catalogue has cost him an outlay of
more than £2000, and it describes 300,000 volumes, a stock which could
hardly be realized at much less a ‘plum.’”

In 1846, Mr. Registrar Hazlitt suggested the idea of a cheap uniform
library of world-known books to David Bogue, the bookseller, who
consequently commenced his European Library. In 1846-7, fifteen works
were published, edited for the most part by Mr. W. Hazlitt. Mr. Bohn,
however, discovered that in many of these works copyrights, of which
he was the owner, were infringed, notably in Roscoe’s “Lorenzo de’
Medici” and “Leo X.” An injunction was obtained against the further
issue of one of Bogue’s volumes, and in defence, if not retaliation,
Mr. Bohn determined to enter the field as a publisher of a similar
series. In 1846 he produced the first volume of his Standard Library,
which, running on for 150 volumes, was sold at the then astoundingly
small price--considering their size, their quality, and the care with
which they were edited and printed--of 3_s_. 6_d_. each. In 1847,
the Scientific Library was commenced, and was rapidly followed by
the Antiquarian Library, the Classical, Illustrated, and Historical
Libraries, the British Classics, &c. Bogue’s small venture stood a poor
chance against enterprise of this gargantuan scale, and in a short time
his fifteen volumes came into Mr. Bohn’s possession. Without counting
the Shilling Library, or the more expensive works which were from time
to time issued, Mr. Bohn continued the various libraries which are so
immediately associated with his name, until the total number of 602
volumes afforded the student a collection of such books as he might
otherwise have spent a lifetime and a fortune in acquiring. To few
publishers, if to any, is the cheapening of the highest and rarest
classes of English and foreign literature more deeply indebted than to
Mr. Bohn. Strangely enough, however, Mr. Bohn was the only member of
the trade who endeavoured in 1860 to exert his influence against the
abolition of the paper duty.

Among the best known of Mr. Bohn’s own productions are his editions
of Lowndes’ “Manual,” Addison’s works, his “Polyglot of French
Proverbs,” his translation of Schiller’s “Robbers,” and his “Guide to
the Knowledge of Pottery and Porcelain,” which, though published in
1849, is still the standard work on the subject. His position as an
antiquarian is widely acknowledged, and he is a Vice-President of the
Society of Arts.

At an early period of his life Mr. Bohn married a daughter of the
senior partner in the firm of Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., an alliance
that doubtless strengthened his business connections. His trade sales
were for many years among the most important in London, lasting for
three or four days, and were conducted after the manner of the good old
school of booksellers--now, alas! almost extinct--with the pleasing
accompaniments of singing and supper. Though Mr. Bohn, a few years
since, transferred his “Libraries” and his premises in York Street to
Messrs. Bell and Daldy, he has not yet entirely severed his connection
with the bookselling world, though as the “father of the trade” he
has long since earned the right to leisure and retirement--a right
acknowledged not alone in England, for in June, 1869, the _New York
Round Table_ devoted an interesting article to Mr. Bohn’s retirement
from the publishing world, and observed that many of his articles
in “Lowndes” were unsurpassed in bibliography, especially those on
Shakespeare and Junius. “Indeed,” adds the writer, “if we may believe
report, such has been the unceasing devotion of Mr. Bohn to work that
for years he has subjected himself to a weekly examination by his
surgeon to warn him of the first symptoms of the collapse that such an
unintermitted strain upon his mind might be supposed to produce.”





Round Henry Colburn clusters a body of writers, lighter and gayer,
and consequently more ephemeral than any we have yet noticed--men and
women, too, for the matter of that, who purchased immediate success too
often with a disregard of future reputation.

As a lad, Henry Colburn was placed in the establishment of William
Earle, bookseller, of Albemarle Street, and after this preliminary
training obtained the situation of assistant to a Mr. Morgan, the
principal of a large circulating library in Conduit Street. Here he
had, of course, ample opportunity of gauging the reading taste of the
general public, and it is probably from this early connection with
the library-subscribing world that he determined henceforth to devote
himself almost exclusively to the production of the light novelties
which he saw were so eagerly and so incessantly demanded. In 1816
he succeeded to the proprietorship of the library, and conducted
the business with great spirit and success until, removing to New
Burlington Street, he resigned the Conduit Street Library to the hands
of Messrs. Saunders and Ottley, who, until their recent dissolution,
were famous, not only for their circulating library, but for the
tender care they bestowed upon the works of suckling poets and

Before this change of residence, however, Colburn had already made
several serious ventures on his own account. All through his long
career we shall find that he speculated in journalistic venture with as
much spirit as he showed in any of his daring schemes to win popular
credit and applause. In 1814, with the assistance of Mr. Frederick
Shoberl, he originated the _New Monthly Magazine and Universal
Register_, on “the principles of general patriotism and loyalty,”
founded, as its name implied, in direct opposition to Sir Richard
Philips’ _Old Monthly_. Among the early editors were Dr. Watkins
and Alaric Watts, but in 1820 a new series was commenced under the
title of the _New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal_, and Thomas
Campbell, the poet, was appointed editor. The agreement still exists in
Beattie’s “Life of Campbell,” and was unusually liberal. He agreed to
edit the periodical for three years, to supply in all twelve articles,
six in verse, six in prose; and for these and his editorial services
he received five hundred pounds per annum, to be increased if the
circulation of the magazine materially improved. He was, of course,
assisted by a sub-editor, and allowed a liberal sum for the payment of
contributors. The magazine prospered, and passed successively through
the editorial hands of Bulwer Lytton (1832) and Theodore Hook. In
1836 a third series appeared under Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, and though
Colburn parted with the proprietorship to Messrs. Chapman and Hall, and
they in their turn to Messrs. Adams and Francis, Mr. Harrison Ainsworth
was till yesterday at his editorial post, delighting our children with
precisely the same kind of enthralling romances with which he beguiled
our fathers.

In 1817 Colburn determined to introduce a paper upon the plan of a
popular German prototype, and on the 26th January the first number of
the _Literary Gazette_ appeared, price one shilling. H. E. Lloyd, a
clerk in the Foreign Department of the Post-Office, a good linguist,
and a well-known translator from the German, was the chief contributor,
and appears to have shared the editorial duties with Miss Ross, a lady
afterwards pensioned by the Government. The reputation achieved was
great, especially in reference to the Fine Arts, which were skilfully
handled by William Carey, and at the twenty-sixth number Mr. Jerdan,
formerly editor of the _Sun_, purchased a third of the property, and
became the regular editor. Messrs. Longman eagerly embraced the offer
of a third share, and with a staff of contributors, who varied from
Canning to Maginn, the _Literary Gazette_ obtained a wide popularity,
and was recognized as an authority upon other matters than literature.
At present, however, the _Gazette_ is most gratefully remembered as
having encouraged in its poetical columns (fairly and impartially
opened to merit, however obscure), the earliest writings of Mrs.
Hemans, Bowles, Hood, Swain, James Smith, Howitt, and even Tupper.
In 1842 Jerdan bought out Colburn and the Messrs. Longman, and from
his hands the editorship passed to L. Phillips, L. Beeve, and J. L.
Jephson. In 1858 a new series was commenced, under, successively, S.
Brooks, H. Christmas, W. R. Workman, F. Arnold, John Morley, and C. W.
Goodwin. In 1862 it was finally incorporated with the _Parthenon_.

In 1816, the year before the foundation of the _Literary Gazette_,
Colburn had, as we have seen, migrated to New Burlington Street, and
soon rendered his shop famous as the chief emporium for the purchase
and sale of novels and other light literature. The first book issued
from the new establishment was Lady Morgan’s “Zana”--a work certainly
not worth much, but scarcely meriting an attack in the _Quarterly_,
which Talfourd stigmatises as “one of the coarsest insults ever offered
in print by man to woman;” however, through the power of her ladyship’s
name, and with the aid of skilful advertising--in which Colburn was
perhaps the greatest expert in a time when the art had not reached its
present high state of development--“Zana” proved eminently successful.
Talented in a manner Lady Morgan certainly was, and, as a proof, is
said to have made more than twenty-five thousand pounds by her pen.
She had published a volume of verses at the unfortunately early age of
fourteen, and this idea of precocity seems to us to accompany all her

At the suggestion of his friend Mr. Upcott, Colburn undertook, in
1818, the publication of “Evelyn’s Diary,” and its success would have
been almost unparalleled had it not been followed in 1825 by the
“Diary of Pepys.” For more than 150 years this work reposed unread and
unknown, until Mr. John Smith succeeded in deciphering the stenographic
characters which had concealed so much amusement from the world. The
work, edited by Lord Braybrooke, was published in two volumes at six
guineas, and though this and the two succeeding editions, at five
guineas, were almost worthless from the editorial excisions they had
undergone from the too-modest fingers of the noble editor, the issues
went off very rapidly, and Colburn obtained a very handsome profit on
the £2200 he had paid for the copyright. In the fourth edition of 1848
Lord Braybrooke was urged to restore those characteristic passages
which he had before condemned, and the full value of the work, as a
photographic picture of an amusing, though dissolute, time was firmly
established. Evelyn had before given us the history of Charles the
Second’s Court, with a gravity and openly-expressed reprobation which
finely suited his character of a worthy and dignified old English
country gentleman; but still it is now to the pages of Pepys that all
the world turns for an account of the royal domestic life of certainly
the most infamous period of our annals. He is so charmingly garrulous,
jotting down each night such quaint thoughts on what he had seen during
the day, writing them by his fireside, with the same nonchalance with
which he put on his night-cap, and with as little suspicion of ever
being surprised in the one act as the other, that his truthfulness, his
openness, and his scarcely-concealed partiality for as much vagabonding
and frolicsome society as Mrs. Pepys would permit, carry the reader
irresistibly along with him.

It is, however, when we come to the novels that Colburn ushered into
the world, that we strike upon the one vein of profitable ore that he
made so peculiarly his own; and _facile princeps_ of all his novelistic
clients, stands Theodore Hook. To understand the genius of all Hook’s
works, it is essential to take a short retrospective view of his life
and character. Two things, above all else, strike us in regarding
him--that he possessed the greatest love of joke and frolic, and the
most marvellous memory with which ever man was gifted. As a boy of
seventeen, he dashed off an amusing comedy; this, he tells us in the
really autobiographical sketch of “Gilbert Gurney,” was the process.
“To work I went, bought three or four French vaudevilles, and filching
an incident from each, made up my very effective drama, the ‘Soldier’s
Return.’” And for this bantling he received the handsome first-earnings
of fifty pounds. Living, at a time when other boys were at school,
in the gayest of all society in London, a welcome guest behind the
curtain at every theatre, and hailed as a good fellow in every literary
coterie, young Hook led a rollicking, devil-may-care life, giving the
world back with interest the rich amusement he gathered from it. Now,
making a random bet that a corner house in Berners Street should,
within a week, be the most famous house in London; and within the time
taking his opponent to a commanding window, that he might acknowledge
that the wager had been fairly won; and the strange scene in the
thoroughfare must have soon convinced him. The Duke of York, drawn by
six grey horses, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor in
formal state, every woman of notorious virtue, every man of any fame
or notoriety, porters bustling up with wine-casks and beer-barrels,
milliners with bonnet-boxes crushed and battered, pastry-cooks with
dainty dishes that the street gamins soon picked out of the gutters,
undertakers with rival coffins, variously made to exact measurement,
hackney-coaches, and vans, and waggons by the hundred--in fact, half
the world of London was there by invitations especially adapted to
move each individual case, and the other half soon came as spectators.
The impotent “Charleys” of the day found their efforts useless to
dispel the block and crush, and long before the crowd was cleared away,
the next day’s papers were ringing with the “Berners Street Hoax.”
Again, we find him donning a scarlet coat, and, as the Prince Regent’s
messenger, delivering a letter to an obnoxious actor, eagerly inviting
him to dine with that august personage; and then joining in the crush
outside Holland House, to see his enemy come away discomfited as an
impostor. No occasion was sacred from his jests, and his exuberant
spirits were scarcely in accordance with the tranquillity of academic
life. At his very matriculation the Vice-chancellor, struck by his
youthful appearance, asked him if he was fully prepared to sign the
thirty-nine articles. “Oh, certainly, sir,” replied Hook with cool
assiduity, “forty, if you please.” Indignantly he was told to withdraw,
and it took weeks of friendly interposition to appease the outraged
dignitary. At the age of twenty he wrote his first novel, but it was
a failure, and he shortly afterwards received the appointment of
accountant-general and treasurer at the Mauritius. Here he stayed
for some years, leading a life of pleasure, and going to the office
only five times in the whole period, when suddenly a commission was
appointed to inquire into the accounts, and he was dragged off from
a supper, given in his honour, to prison, charged with a theft of
£20,000, and sent under arrest to England. This “complaint of the
chest,” as he observed to a friend who was astonished to see him back
so soon, was afterwards reduced to £12,000, and for this he was judged
to be accountable, and put into the debtors’ prison. Here, from his
diary, he seems to have enjoyed himself as much as ever, drinking as a
loyal subject should, to the “health of my august detainer, the king.”
However, political influence was brought to bear upon the Government,
and he was set at liberty with the burden of the debt hanging very
lightly round his neck.

In 1820 he founded the _John Bull_ newspaper, strongly in favour of the
king’s interests, scurrilous as it was witty; everybody read it, and
for some years it yielded him £2000 per annum. His life we see had been
sufficiently various, and not an incident of it was ever forgotten, for
his memory was probably unrivalled. He made a bet that he would repeat
in order the names of all the shops on one side of Oxford Street, and
he only misplaced one; and he gained another wager by saying from
memory a whole column of _Times_ advertisement, which he had only once
conned over; and on another occasion he utterly discomfited a universal
critic, by engaging him in a conversation anent lunar eclipses, and
then discharging three columns of the “Encyclopædia Britannica” at
him, without pause or hesitation. He had, too, the gift of improvising
verse in our stubborn English tongue, and was known on one occasion to
introduce the names of fifty guests at a supper-table, in a song of
fifty verses--each verse a rhymed epigram.

With attainments and experiences like these, Colburn may be considered
as a wise rather than a venturous man when he offered Hook £600 to
write a novel. The idea of the “Sayings and Doings” was struck out at
a _John Bull_ gathering, and the book when published in 1824, was so
successful that 6000 copies of the three volumes were soon disposed
of,[21] and the generous publisher made the author a present of
£350. For the _second series_ (published in 1825), and the _third
series_ (published in 1828), he received a thousand guineas each. In
1830 appeared “Maxwell,” perhaps the best of his novels, and this was
followed by the “Parson’s Daughter” (1833), “Jack Brag” (1837), and
numerous others, for all of which he was very handsomely paid. But
though he was earning at this period, upwards of £3000 a year by his
pen, he was spending more than £6000, and was obliged, not only to make
fresh engagements with his publishers, but to fore-draw to a very large
extent, and to change his plans considerably with each instalment of
indebtedness. Colburn and Bentley seem to have treated him with marked
esteem and consideration, and his letters perpetually show this: “I
have been so liberally treated by your house, that it seems almost
presuming upon kindnesses” (1831). Again, in 1837: “I assure you I
would not press the matter in a quarter where I am proud and happy to
say--as I do to everybody--I have met with the greatest liberality.”

In 1834 he took the management of the _New Monthly_, and to its pages
he contributed what may be considered an autobiographical sketch.
“Gilbert Gurney” and the sequel “Gilbert Married,” the second of which
unfortunately was not autobiographical; for he had formed ties with a
woman who had not only sacrificed everything to him, but during the
period of his imprisonment and his many troubles had behaved with
exemplary faithfulness and unremitting attention; and these ties he had
not the courage to legally strengthen. At his death the crown seized
what little property he possessed, in the shape of household chattels
and newspaper shares, to liquidate his unfortunate debt, and his
children were left penniless. A subscription was raised--if literary
men are improvident (though many have more excuses for improvidence
than Theodore Hook), they are at least kindly-hearted--and a sum of
£3000 was collected, to which the King of Hanover contributed £500.
As a strange test of Hook’s joviality it is stated that the receipts
of the dining-room of the Athenæum Club fell off by £300 when his
well-known seat in “Temperance Corner” became vacant.

Another of the novelists with whom Colburn had long and intimate
dealings was G. P. R. James, one of the most indefatigable writers that
ever drove pen over paper. We give for the sake of clearness, a tabular
statement of his extraordinary labours:--

  51 Novels in 3 Volumes                      153 Volumes.
   2   ”       4    ”                           8    ”
   6   ”       2    ”                          12    ”
  16   ”       1    ”                          16    ”
  Edited Works                                 14    ”
  Miscellaneous Contributions would fill say   10    ”
                                              223 Volumes.

Truly a gargantuan labour! Some of James’s early writings had
attracted the attention of Washington Irving, who strongly advised
the undertaking of some more important work, and as a consequence
“Richelieu” was commenced. After it had received Scott’s approval it
was submitted to Colburn, and published in 1828 with a success that
determined the young author’s future career. We cannot, of course,
follow the progress of the 223 volumes as they issued from the press.
It would be absurd to look for originality in a book-manufacturer
of this calibre, and, as Whipple says, James “was a maker of books
without being a maker of thought.” Still they served their purpose of
enriching the author and publishers, and at a time when the public
appetite was less jaded than at present, his works were eagerly looked
for, and even now many readers agree with Leigh Hunt:--“I hail every
fresh publication of James, though I hardly know what he is going to do
with his lady, and his gentleman, and his landscape, and his scenery,
and his mystery, and his orthodoxy, and his criminal trial.”

In 1826 Colburn published Banim’s “Tales of the O’Hara Family,” a book
that excited a very strong interest in the public mind, and in the same
year he issued “Vivian Grey,” by a young author whose life was to be
as romantic as his story. Mr. Disraeli’s first book contains a curious
confession of his youthful aspirations, and even a curiously exact
prototype of his future life. This was followed in 1831 by the “Young
Duke.” “Bless me!” the elder Disraeli exclaimed when he read this
eloquent account of aristocratic circles, “why the boy has never sat in
the same room as a duke in his life.” Mr. Disraeli’s novels soon became
famous for the portraits or caricatures of distinguished living people,
scarcely disguised under the slightest of all possible pseudonyms; to
those living in the metropolis the likenesses were evident enough, and
a regular key was published to each for the benefit of our country

In 1829 Colburn published “Frank Mildmay,” a novel full of false
morality and falser style, but delineating sea life with such a flavour
of fun and frolic, adventures and brine, that Marryat was at once
hailed as a true successor to Smollett. This was followed by a rapid
succession of sea stories, among the best of which undoubtedly are
“Peter Simple” and “Midshipman Easy.” The perusal of these works has
probably done more to turn youthful aspiration and energies to the
choice of a profession than any series of formal injunctions ever
penned. Old King William, the Sailor-King, was so entranced with “Peter
Simple” that he begged to be introduced to the author, and promised
to bestow some honourable distinction upon him for his services; but
afterwards recollecting suddenly that he “had written a book against
the impressment of seamen,” he refused to fulfil his pledge. When,
later on, Colburn published Marryat’s “Diary in America,” the Yankees
felt terribly outraged, and the severe criticism that followed speedily
emptied his shelves of a large edition.

This was emphatically the period of fashionable novels, and the great
outside world was perpetually calling out for more and more romantic
accounts of that attractive region to which middle-class thought
could only aspire in reverent fancy. And though these novels seemed
written primarily to illustrate the moral lesson of Touchstone to
the Shepherd--“Shepherd, wert thou ever at court?” “No.” “Then thou
art damned”--the public received the oracle, not only with humility,
but thankfulness. For a time Mr. Bulwer Lytton was a disciple of
this fashionable school, but even “Pelham” has an interest greater
than any other specimen of its class, for though, in some degree, an
illustration of the maxim that “manners make the man,” the threads
of a darker and more tragic interest are interwoven with the tale.
As an artistic worker, as a true delineator of our subtler and
deeper passions, Lord Lytton was far above any other of Colburn’s
writers--above, indeed, any other writer of the day; while his
sophistry, immense as it undoubtedly is, only lends a more forcible and
enthralling interest to his plots. None of Colburn’s novelists--and
their name was legion--brought in more grist to the publishing mill
than Lord Lytton; and, when the meal had been baked several times,
Messrs. Routledge paid the author £20,000 for all future use of these
works--as popular now perhaps in their cheap editions as they have ever
been before.

To return for a moment more immediately to Colburn’s life, we find him
still speculating in periodical literature, and with the same success
as ever. In 1828 he commenced the _Court Journal_, and in the following
year started the _United Service Magazine_, while for many years he
possessed a considerable interest in the _Sunday Times_ newspaper; and
all these periodicals are still held in popular esteem.

The printing expenses of his enormous business had been very
considerable, and in 1830 he resolved to take his principal printer,
Mr. Richard Bentley, into partnership; but the alliance did not last
long, and in August, 1832, the connection was dissolved, and Colburn
relinquished the business in New Burlington Street to Mr. Bentley,
giving him a guarantee in bond that he would not recommence publishing
again within twenty miles of London.

However, his heart was so intuitively set upon the profitable risks of
a publisher’s career, that he could not quietly retire in the prime
of life, and, accordingly, he started a house at Windsor, so as to
be within the letter of the law, but the garrison town was sadly
quiet after the literary circles of London, and to London he again
returned, paying the forfeiture in full. This time he opened a house in
Great Marlborough Street, as his old establishment in New Burlington
Street was, of course, in possession of Mr. Bentley, whose business
had already assumed formidable proportions. At Great Marlborough
Street, Colburn succeeded in rallying round him all his old authors,
and, perhaps, the greatest triumphs that date from thence, are Miss
Strickland’s “Lives of the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland,”
for the copyright of the first of which he paid £2000. Burke’s
“Peerage,” “Baronetage,” and “Landed Gentry” were also among his most
profitable possessions.

Throughout the whole of his business life, Colburn had a very keen
perception as to what the public required, and of the market value of
the productions offered him; and yet he was almost uniformly liberal in
his dealings. His judgment of copyrights was occasionally assisted by
Mr. Forbes and Mr. Charles Ollier.

Of course, among the multitude of books he produced, many were utterly
worthless, beyond affording a passing recreation to the library
subscribers, and many even were pecuniary failures. The most ludicrous
of these failures was a scheme originated by John Galt, a constant
contributor to the _New Monthly_. This was a periodical, which, under
the title of the _New British Theatre_, published the best of those
dramatic productions, which the managers of the great playhouses had
previously rejected. The audacity of the scheme carried it through for
a short time, but soon the unfortunate editor was smothered amid such
a heap of dramatic rubbish, coming at every fresh post, to the table of
the benevolent encourager of youthful aspirations, that he was fain to
acknowledge the justice of the managers’ previous decisions.

Although Colburn was throughout his career chiefly successful as a
caterer for the libraries, supplying them with novels, which, by some
mysterious law, were required to consist of three volumes of about
three hundred pages each, the cost of the whole fixed immutably at
one guinea and a half, his “Modern Novelists,” containing his best
copyright works, in a cheap octavo form, attained the number of
nineteen, being published at intervals between 1835 and 1841, and
formed a valuable addition to the popular literature of the time.

Finally, Colburn, having acquired an ample competence, retired from
business, in favour of Messrs. Hurst and Blackett, still, however,
retaining his name to some favourite copyrights. He had been twice
married, the second time, in 1841, to the daughter of Captain Crosbie,

After a period of well-earned leisure, rendered pleasingly genial by
the constant society of his literary friends, Henry Colburn died, on
the 16th of August, 1855, at his house in Bryanston Square.

The whole of his property was sworn to be under £35,000, and went to
his wife and her family. Two years later, the seven copyrights he had
reserved were sold by auction, and realised the large sum of £14,000,
to which Miss Strickland’s “Lives of the Queens of England” alone
contributed £6900.

As publisher of three volume novels, Colburn was succeeded by two
principal rival houses, with the foundation of each of which he was in
some way concerned. As Mr. Bentley’s establishment in New Burlington
Street was only a further development of Colburn’s old house, a few
words may not be out of place concerning it. In 1837, Mr. Bentley
proposed to start a periodical to rival the _New Monthly_, and at the
preliminary meeting it was proposed to call it the _Wit’s Miscellany_,
but James Smith objected to this as being too pretentious, upon which
Mr. Bentley proposed the title of _Bentley’s Miscellany_. “Don’t you
think,” interposed Smith, “that that would be going too far the other
way?” However, the name was adopted (Mr. Bentley denies the accuracy of
this anecdote--but _se non è vero, è ben trovato_). One of the chief
contributors to the new _Miscellany_ was Barham, who had been a school
chum of Mr. Bentley’s at St. Paul’s, and, until 1843, the “Ingoldsby
Legends” delighted the public in the pages of the _Miscellany_. The
last poem of the “Legends” was published in Colburn’s _New Monthly_,
but by Barham’s express wish, the song he wrote on his death-bed, “As I
Lay Athynkynge,” appeared, as fitly closing his career, in _Bentley_.
The first editor of _Bentley’s Miscellany_, was no less a man than
Charles Dickens, who had previously contributed the “Sketches by Boz”
to the _Morning Chronicle_, and who soon, as the author of _Pickwick_,
became the most popular writer of the day. Mr. Bentley was one of the
first publishers to secure Dickens’s services, and in his magazine
“Oliver Twist” appeared. The editorship afterwards passed into the
hands of Mr. Harrison Ainsworth and Mr. A. Smith. For the magazine, as
for his ordinary business, Mr. Bentley secured the aid of most of the
writers who had graduated first under Colburn; and to enumerate them
would, with the exception of “Father Prout,” be merely a repetition
of names already mentioned, and those who have won popularity since
then have scarcely yet had time to lose it. An amusing story, however,
worth repeating, has been recently told by the _Athenæum_, anent
“Eustace Conway,” a novel by the late Mr. Maurice. “We believe,” says
that journal, “we are not going too far in telling the following story
about it. Mr. Maurice sold the novel to the late Mr. Bentley somewhere
about the year 1830; but the excitement caused by the Reform Bill
being unfavourable to light literature, Mr. Bentley did not issue it
till 1834, when he had quite lost sight of its author, then a curate
in Warwickshire. The villain of the novel was called Captain Marryat;
and Mr. Maurice, who first learned of the publication of his book
from a review in our columns, had soon the pleasure of receiving a
challenge from the celebrated Captain Marryat. Great was the latter’s
astonishment on learning that the anonymous author of ‘Eustace Conway’
had never heard of the biographer of ‘Peter Simple,’ and, being in Holy
Orders, was obliged to decline to indulge in a duel.” Mr. Bentley died
in September, 1871, and was succeeded in the business by his son, who
for many years had been associated with him.





Not only is the Rivington family the oldest still existing in
bookselling annals, but even in itself it succeeded, a century and a
half ago, to a business already remarkable for antiquity. In 1711,
on the death of Richard Chiswell, styled by Dunton “the Metropolitan
of booksellers,” his premises and his trade passed into the hands
of Charles Rivington, and the sign of the “Bible and the Crown” was
then first erected over the doorway of the house in Paternoster Row;
and from that time to this the “Bible and the Crown” might have been
fairly stamped upon the cover of nearly every book issued from the
establishment, as a seal and token of its contents.

Charles Rivington was born at Chesterfield, in Derbyshire, towards
the close of the seventeenth century, and from a very early age he
evinced such a taste for religious books that his friends determined
to send him to London, that he might become a theological bookseller.
Having served his apprenticeship with a Mr. Matthews, he was, in
1711, made free of the city, preparatory to entering into business
on his own account, and, bearing the date of that year, billheads
are still existing to which his name is affixed. In 1718 we find
him, in conjunction with other firms, issuing proposals to print by
subscription Mason’s “Vindication of the Church of England, and the
Ministry thereof,” a principle that the family has steadily adhered
to ever since; for though Rivington published one of Whitfield’s very
earliest works, “The Nature and Necessity of a New Birth in Christ,”
preached at Bristol in September, 1737, the author was then a young
Oxford student, who had been but just ordained; and Wesley, too, the
other great religious mover of the day, was still a fellow of Lincoln
College, Oxford, when Rivington brought out his edition of Thomas à
Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ,” a book that has, after the Bible, gone
through more editions than any other.

About 1719, an association of some half-a-dozen respectable booksellers
entered into partnership for the purpose of printing expensive books,
and styled themselves the printing _Conger_,[22] and, in 1736, another
similar company was started by Rivington and Bettesworth, who termed
themselves the “New Conger.”

Much of Rivington’s business consisted in the publication of sermons,
which, as a simple commission trade, was profitable without risk. An
amusing story is told, which proves that the ponderous nature of his
trade stock did not prevent Charles Rivington from being a man of
kindly humour. A poor vicar, in a remote country diocese, had preached
a sermon so acceptable to his parishioners, that they begged him to
have it printed, and, full of the honour conferred and the greater
honours about to come, the clergyman at once started for London, was
recommended to Rivington, to whom he triumphantly related the object
of his journey. Rivington agreed to his proposals, and asked how many
copies he would like struck off. “Why, sir,” replied the clergyman, “I
have calculated that there are in the kingdom ten thousand parishes,
and that each parish will, at least, take one and others more, so that
I think we may venture to print thirty-five or thirty-six thousand

Rivington remonstrated, the author insisted, and the matter was
settled. With great self-denial, the clergyman waited at home for
nearly two months in silence, but at length the hope of fame and riches
so tormented him that he could hold out no longer, and he wrote to
Rivington desiring him to send in the debtor and creditor account at
once, but adding liberally that the remittance might be forwarded at
his own convenience. What, then, was his astonishment, anguish, and
tribulation, when the following account was received:--

  The Revd. Dr. * * *

  To C. Rivington, Dr.

                                                       £  _s._  _d._
  To Printing and Paper, 35,000 Copies of Sermons    785   5     6
  By sale of 17 Copies of said Sermon                  1   5     6
  Balance due to C. Rivington                       £784   0     0

In a day or two he received a letter from Rivington to the following

“REV. SIR,--I beg pardon for innocently amusing myself at your
expense, but you need not give yourself any uneasiness. I knew better
than you could do the extent of the sale of single sermons, and
accordingly printed one hundred copies, to the expense of which you are
heartily welcome.”[23]

In 1736 Rivington became an active member of a society for promoting
the encouragement of learning, but as he and his colleagues sustained
much injury through it, this was in the following year abandoned.

In 1737 we find him venturing in a very different path. “Two
booksellers,” writes Richardson, “my particular friends (Rivington and
Osborne), entreated me to write for them a little volume of letters, in
a common style, on such subjects as might be of use to those country
readers who were unable to indite for themselves. ‘Would it be any
harm,’ said I, ‘in a piece you want to be written so low, if one should
instruct them how they should think and act in common cases, as well as
indite?’ They were the more urgent for me to begin the little volume
for the hint. I set about it, and in the progress of writing two or
three letters to instruct handsome girls who were obliged to go out
to service, as we phrase it, how to avoid the snares that might be
laid against their virtue, the above story occurred to me, and hence
sprang ‘Pamela.’” The first two volumes of the story were written in
three months, and never was a book of this kind more generally or more
quickly admired. Pope asserted that it would do more good than twenty
sermons, mindful, perhaps, of its publisher; Slocock and many other
eminent divines recommended it from the pulpit; a critic declared that
if all books were burnt, the Bible and ‘Pamela’ ought to be preserved;
and even at fashionable Ranelagh, where the former was in but little
request, “it was usual for the ladies to hold up the volume (the
latter) to one another, to show that they had got the book that every
one was talking of.” What, however, was more to Rivington’s purpose,
the volume went through five editions in the year of publication, 1741.

This success closed Charles Rivington’s business life, for he died on
the 25th of February, 1742.

By Ellen Pease, his wife, a native of Durham, he had six children, to
whom his friend Samuel Richardson, the executor also of his will, acted
as guardian.

Charles, the founder, was succeeded by John and James, who carried on
the publishing business conjointly for several years, after which James
joined a Mr. Fletcher, in St. Paul’s Churchyard, with whom he brought
out Smollett’s “History of England,” by which £10,000 was cleared--the
largest profit that had yet been made on any single book. This success,
however, encouraged James to neglect his affairs, and he took to
frequenting Newmarket; racing and gambling soon ended in a failure,
and in 1760 he thought it advisable to start for the New World. Here,
in Philadelphia, he commenced his celebrated _Gazette_, and, as he
advocated the British interests and took the loyal side, his premises
were destroyed by the rebels, and his type cast into republican
bullets. James Rivington then came back to London, where he obtained
the appointment of “King’s printer to America,” and furnished afresh
with types and presses he returned to recommence his _Royal Gazette_,
which he carried on boldly up to the withdrawal of the British troops;
and as he had contrived somehow, it is said by forwarding early
intelligence, to propitiate the enemy, he was allowed to continue his
paper, which soon died for want of subscribers; but until 1802 he lived
in New York, leaving many descendants there. Even in those early and
unsophisticated days, Yankee gentlemen had contracted the habit of
“cowhiding” obnoxious or impertinent editors, and the wit of the _Royal
Gazette_ was in its time sufficiently stinging and personal to involve
its proprietor in many of these little difficulties. James Rivington
relates rather an amusing story of an interview with Ethan Allen,
one of the republican heroes, who came for the express purpose of
administering chastisement. He says:--

“I was sitting down, after a good dinner, with a bottle of Madeira
before me, when I heard an unusual noise in the street, and a huzza
from the boys. I was on the second story, and, stepping to the window,
saw a tall figure in tarnished regimentals, with a large cocked hat and
an enormously long sword, followed by a crowd of boys, who occasionally
cheered him with huzzas, of which he seemed quite unaware. He came
up to my door and stopped. I could see no more--my heart told me it
was Ethan Allen. I shut my window, and retired behind my table and my
bottle. I was certain the hour of reckoning had come--there was no
retreat. Mr. Staples, my clerk, came in, paler than ever, clasping
his hands--‘Master, he has come!’ ‘I know it.’ I made up my mind,
looked at the Madeira, possibly took a glass. ‘Show him up, and if
such Madeira cannot mollify him, he must be harder than adamant.’
There was a fearful moment of suspense; I heard him on the stairs,
his long sword clanking at every step. In he stalked. ‘Is your name
James Rivington?’ ‘It is, sir, and no man can be more delighted to
see Colonel Ethan Allen.’ ‘Sir, I have come----’ ‘Not another word, my
dear Colonel, until you have taken a seat and a glass of old Madeira.’
‘But, sir, I don’t think it proper--’ ‘Not another word, Colonel, but
taste this wine; I have had it in glass ten years.’ He took the glass,
swallowed the wine, smacked his lips, and shook his head approvingly.
‘Sir, I come----’ ‘Not another word until you have taken another glass,
and then, my dear Colonel, we will talk of old officers, and I have
some queer events to detail.’ In short, we finished three bottles of
Madeira, and parted as good friends as if we never had cause to be

In England, to return there, John Rivington was still successfully
fostering his father’s business. A quiet and sedate man, with nothing
of James’ rashness and venture about him, he is described by West
as being stout and well formed, particularly neat in his person,
of dignified and gentlemanly address, going with gold-headed cane
and nosegay twice a day to service at St. Paul’s--as befitted the
great religious publisher of the day, and living generally upon the
most friendly terms with the members of the Episcopal Bench, and
breakfasting every alternate Monday with Bishop Seeker at Lambeth. A
kind master, too, for coming back on the 30th of January, from service,
and finding his sons and clerks plodding at the desk--“Tous, sous, how
is this?--I always put my shutters up on this day.”

In May, 1743, he married a sister of Sir Francis Gosling, Alderman,
afterwards Lord Mayor, and as she brought him a fortune and fifteen
children, the match may probably be considered a prosperous one.

Orthodox in his views, and true in business to the professions he
held out privately, Wesley and Whitfield had to go elsewhere for a
publisher, although there must have been plenty of temptation to
incline the trade to patronise Methodism, for Coote, in a comedy of
his, published in 1757, makes a bookseller say:--“I don’t deal in the
sermon way now; I lost money by the last I printed, for all ’twas by a
Methodist.” But John Rivington would have none of them, and in 1752 we
find him publishing “The Mischiefs of Enthusiasm and Bigotry: an Assize
Sermon by the Rev. R. Hurd;” and about 1760 he was appointed publisher
to the venerable “Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge”--an
office that remained in the family for upwards of seventy years.
Dissent in itself was injurious enough to his interests, but when
Wilberforce and Hannah More succeeded in making a portion of the Church
“Evangelical,” upwards of half his customers deserted to a rival shop
in Piccadilly.

Some time before this he had admitted his sons, Francis and Charles,
into partnership, and he was then appointed manager in general of the
works published by his _clique_;--that is, of standard editions of
Shakespeare, Milton, Locke, and other British classics, and of such
religious works as were produced in an expensive and bulky form; and
of these works, two especially, Dr. Dodd’s “Commentary,” and Cruden’s
“Concordance” stand out so prominently that some slight account of
their authors may not be unacceptable.

William Dodd was a man of great learning, and a very popular preacher
in the metropolis, and in 1776, when he was appointed chaplain to
the King, took his degree of LL.D. Ambitious and fond of display he
found himself in debt, and determined to make a bold effort to secure
the Rectory of St. George’s, Hanover Square. To her great surprise
the wife of Lord Chancellor Apsley received an anonymous letter
offering her £3000 if she would procure Dr. Dodd’s presentation to
the parish. This insulting proposal was traced to Dodd, and the King
ordered that he should be deprived of his chaplaincy. This disgrace,
of course, involved him still further, and to extricate himself from
these difficulties he was tempted to forge the name of his pupil, Lord
Chesterfield, to a bond for £4200. On the discovery of the forgery, Mr.
Manley, a solicitor, called upon the doctor with the bill, leaving it
on the table in a room where a fire was burning, when he went out for
the obvious purpose of refreshment. Dr. Dodd appears to have been too
honest to destroy the fatal document, and he was afterwards tried and
condemned for forgery, and, spite of all the strenuous efforts of his
friends, was executed on 27th of June, 1777.

Alexander Cruden, one of the most useful men who have ever followed
the painstaking and praiseworthy profession of index-making, was born
in Aberdeen in 1701. An unfortunate passion, which was treated by its
unworthy object with great contumely, weakened his senses, and on the
discovery that the girl he worshipped was pregnant by her own brother,
he went for a short time entirely out of his mind. On his recovery,
he was sent to London in the hopes that the difficulty of obtaining
position and livelihood might act tonically. At one of the first houses
at which he called, the door was opened by the wretched girl herself,
and poor Cruden rushed off wildly and vacantly into the streets.
For many years he was a bookseller, doubly entitled, therefore, to
a notice here, and upon the counter of his shop, under the Royal
Exchange, his famous and laborious “Concordance” was compiled. Queen
Caroline, to whom it was dedicated, unluckily died before publication,
and the downfall of the expectations he had formed from her patronage
was too much for the author, and his friends were compelled to place
him in a lunatic asylum. Having made his escape, he brought an action
against his relatives for false imprisonment--offering his sister
the choice of Newgate, Reading and Aylesbury jails, and the prison
at Windsor Castle. He was never insane in the eyes of his employers,
and as a corrector of the press, especially in the finer editions of
the classics, his services were invaluable. Henceforth he adopted the
name of “Alexander the Corrector,” as expressive of his character of
censor general to the public morals. Armed with a large sponge, his
favourite and incessant weapon, he perambulated the town, wiping out
all obnoxious signs, more especially “Number 45,” then rendered famous
by Wilkes. Giving out, too, that he had a commission from above to
preach a general reformation of manners, he made the attempt first
among the gownsmen at Oxford, and then among the prisoners at Newgate;
but in neither case did he meet with much encouragement. He asked for
knighthood from the King, and a vacant ward from his fellow-citizens;
and on refusal said that he possessed the hearts if not the hands of
his friends. He was found dead on his knees, apparently in a posture of
prayer, at his lodgings in Islington on November 1st, 1770.

Samuel Richardson appears to have entertained grateful remembrance of
the commission to write the “Familiar Letters to and from several
Persons upon Business and other Subjects,” for on his death he left a
mourning ring to James Rivington.

During Dodsley’s illness, Rivington and his sons managed the _Annual
Register_, and when on his death it was sold to Orridge and others,
they started an annual of their own, which lasted till 1812, and
then till 1820 was in abeyance, resumed again till 1823, and in the
following year the two were merged into one, and after being published
for a few years by the Baldwins, its management returned again to their
own hands. Through the _Register_ they were brought into connection
with Burke, and were subsequently publishers of his more important

At all times the Rivingtons took a very great interest in the
Stationers’ Company; this was especially the case with James, who
served as master, and at the same time he, his two brothers, and
his four sons were all members of the livery. He held many public
appointments, was in commission of the peace, a governor of most of the
Royal hospitals, and a director of the “Amicable Society,” and of the
Union Fire Office.

He died, universally regretted, on the 16th of February, 1792, in his
seventy-second year, and was followed by his widow in the succeeding

Owing to the split we have referred to in his business, and to
his uniform generosity, the fortune he left behind him was not
large--indeed, money hoarding has been an attribute of none of the
Rivington family.

His two elder sons, Francis and Charles, carried on the business
vigorously. Another son, Robert, captain of the “Kent”--East
Indiaman--fell, gallantly defending his ship in the Bay of Bengal, and
was thus celebrated in the _Gentleman’s Magazine_:--

         *       *       *       *       *

 “His manly virtue mark’d the generous source,
  And naval toil confirm’d the naval force;
  In fortune’s adverse trial undismay’d,
  A seaman’s zeal and courage he display’d;
  For honour firmly stood, at honour’s post,
  And gain’d new glory when his life he lost!”

A fourth son John, a printer in St. John’s Square, had died previously
in 1785.

The first important event in the new publishing house was the
establishment of the _British Critic_, in which Nares and Beloe were
conjoint partners with Francis and Charles Rivington. The _British
Critic_ was started in January, 1793, in monthly numbers of two
shillings each, and by the end of the century attained a circulation of
3500. The editorship was entrusted to Nares, and with the assistance of
Beloe it was conducted down to the forty-second volume in 1813. William
Beloe was some time librarian of the British Museum, but a stranger
who had been admitted to the print-room, having abused his confidence,
and stolen some of the pictures, the librarian was somewhat unjustly
asked to resign. Among the other contributors to the _British Critic_
were Dr. Parr--of whom Christopher North says, not unfairly, “in his
character of a wit and an author one of the most genuine feather-beds
of humbug that ever filled up a corner of the world”--and Whittaker,
author of the “History of Manchester.” In 1813, the second series of
the _Critic_ was commenced, under the editorship of the Rev. W. R.
Lyall, afterwards Dean of Canterbury; in 1825 the publication was made
quarterly, and a third series began, which, however, only reached
three volumes.

Of all the literary men connected with the Rivingtons of this era,
none were more useful, and few deserve more grateful remembrance
from posterity, than George Ayrscough---_facile princeps_ of index
makers. Originally a miller’s labourer, he obtained a situation in
the Rivingtons’ shop, and was afterwards promoted to a clerkship in
the British Museum; soon after his further rise to the position of
assistant librarian he took orders; but it is as a maker of catalogues
and indexes that he is still known; and how great the labour and
patient skill needful in compiling the indexes to the _Gentleman’s
Magazine_, the _Monthly Review_, and the _British Critic_ must have
been, all students can approximately guess from the immensity of labour
saved individually by their use.

John, the eldest son of Francis, was admitted a partner in 1810, and
in 1819 they took a lease of No. 3, Waterloo Place; and so popular
were they at the time that it is said Sir James Allen Park, one of the
judges, came down to the new house before nine o’clock on New-year’s
Day, that he might enrol himself as their first customer. In 1820
they determined to start a branch house for the sale of second-hand
books and general literature, and John Cochrane was placed at the head
of this establishment. He collected one of the finest stocks ever
gathered, and published the best and most carefully compiled catalogue
that had then been issued, extending to 815 pages, and enumerating
17,328 articles, many of the rarest kind. The business, however,
entailed considerable losses, and was abandoned in 1827.

On October 18, 1822, Francis Rivington, the senior partner, died,
earning a character for high probity and sincere and unaffected piety.
Like his father he had been a governor in many charitable institutions.
“Such a man,” says the author of his obituary notice, “cannot go
unwept to the grave; and the writer of this article, after a friendly
intercourse of sixty years, is not ashamed to say that at this moment
his eyes are moister than his pen”--a quaint but sincere tribute. He
had married Miss M. Elhill, sister of an eminent lead merchant, and
four of his sons survived him.

In 1827 George and Francis, sons of Charles, joined the firm; and in
1831, Charles, the younger of the two original brothers, was found dead
on the floor of his dressing-room. In social life he was distinguished
by the mildness and complacence of his temper; and his conversation was
invariably enlivened with anecdotes and memories of the literary men
and clergymen with whom he had come in contact.

The firm now, therefore, consisted of John, the son of the elder, and
Francis and George, two sons of the younger brother.

We shall see, in the following memoirs of the Parkers, how marvellously
religious life was quickened at Oxford by the publication of Keble’s
“Christian Year.” This feeling, intense in its inner nature as any
of the revivals, culminated or fulminated in the publication of the
“Tracts for the Times”--the most important work, perhaps, with which
the Rivingtons have ever been connected; and worthy, therefore, of
the scanty notice for which we can afford space here. The “Tracts
for the Times” were commenced in 1833, at a time, according to the
writers, “when irreligious principles and false doctrines had just
been admitted into public measures on a large scale ... when the Irish
sees had been suppressed by the state against the Church’s wish....
They were written with the hope of rousing members of the Church to
comprehend her alarming position--of helping them to realize the
fact of the gradual growth, allowance, and establishment of unsound
principles in her internal concerns; and, having this object, they
used spontaneously the language of alarm and complaint. They were
written as a man might give notice of a fire or inundation, so as to
startle all who heard him” (vol. iii. p. 3). As far as fulfilment of
intention went in startling, the writers were perfectly successful.
Exhibiting great talents, depth of thought, logical power, acuteness
of reasoning, and an undoubted religious feeling, their effect was
spontaneous. By one party, and an increasing one, the writers were
welcomed with a reverend love that almost forbade criticism, and
by the other with the greatest uneasiness and suspicion. The chief
writers in the series, for the “Tracts” continued to appear during the
space of several years, were Newman, Pusey, Keble, and Williams. In
Ireland the clergy were anxious to come over in a body, and greet them
collectively. In Scotland, Pusey and Newman were denounced at a public
dinner as enemies to the established religion; and at Oxford, where
they were personally loved and respected, they were looked upon by a
large portion of the members with peculiar distrust. Parties in the
Church were formed, and claimed, or were christened after, the names
of the writers--such were originally the _Puseyites_ and _Newmaniacs_.
At length the famous “Number 90” appeared, and was thus greeted by the
University:--“Modes of interpretation such as are suggested in this
tract, evading rather than explaining the sense of the 39 articles, and
reconciling subscription to them with the adoption of errors which they
were destined to counteract, defeat the object, and are inconsistent
with the due observance of the above-mentioned statement.” The Bishop
of Oxford forbade their further publication, and shortly afterwards
Newman, the author of “Number 90,” showed his honesty by going over to
the Roman Catholic Church.

The publication of these “Tracts” still further strengthened the
Rivingtons in their position of High Church publishers, and their
business benefited considerably by the great increase of the High
Church party.

In 1827 a fourth series of the _British Critic_ was commenced,
incorporated with the _Theological Review_. In 1843, however, in
consequence of the extreme views that had been expressed in its pages,
the publication was discontinued, to the very great regret of the
clergy; the _English Review_, which started from its ashes, met with
but little support, and lasted only till 1853.

To complete our personal account of the firm:--John Rivington, who
married Anne, daughter of the Rev. John Blackburn, canon of York, died
21st November, 1841, at the age of 62. His son John was admitted a
partner in 1836, and is the present head of the firm. George Rivington
died in 1842, having retired on account of ill health in 1857, and in
1859 Mr. Francis Rivington retired from active partnership. The present
representatives of the firm consist, therefore, of Mr. John Rivington,
fifth in descent from the founder, and Mr. Francis Hansard Rivington,
who is the sixth.

In 1853 the firm removed their place of business from the ancient house
in St. Paul’s Churchyard, and consolidated it at 3, Waterloo Place,
retaining nothing but some warehouses in Paternoster Row. In 1862,
after an interval of thirty years, they re-acquired the agency of the
Cambridge “Press”--a famous manufactory of Bibles, Prayer Books, and
Church Services; and in the next year, 1863, they opened branch houses
at both Oxford and Cambridge--an extension of business that, after a
long life of 160 years, says something for the vitality of the firm.

       *       *       *       *       *

In treating of the Parkers, it will be necessary to bear in mind the
essential fact that there were two distinct families of that name, both
engaged in the publication of religious books, and both interested in
the “Bible Press”--the one at Oxford and the other at Cambridge; and
though its chief interest, as regards later years, will be centred in
the younger (publishing) family, who began life in London, it will be
necessary, according to our general plan, to give a preliminary glance
at the elder family, whose name is more intimately connected with the
University of Oxford.

The first of the Parkers with whom we need concern ourselves was Dr.
Samuel Parker, sometime Bishop of Oxford. The product of a changeable
age, he was a very Vicar of Bray. While at the University of Oxford,
he affected to lead a strictly religious life, and entered a weekly
society then called the “Gruellers,” because their chief diet was
water gruel; and it was observed “that he put more graves into his
porridge than all the rest.” Formerly a nonconformist, having once
taken orders, he became chaplain to a nobleman in London, whom he
amused with his humorous sallies at the expense of his old comrades
the Puritans. During Charles’s reign, his writings were distinguished
by the bitterness of his attacks upon the dissenting party; and on the
accession of James he was installed in the bishopric of Oxford, upon
the death of Dr. Fell--the famous subject of inexplicable dislike. He
now embraced the Romish religion, “though,” writes Father Peter, a
Jesuit, “he hath not yet declared himself openly; the great obstacle
is his wife, whom he cannot rid himself of.” Finding the cause growing
desperate, he sent a discourse to James, urging him to embrace the
Protestant religion. His authority in the diocese became contemptible,
and he died unlamented in 1687. He left, however, a son of his own
name, an excellent scholar and a man of singular modesty, who married
a bookseller’s daughter, of Oxford, and had a numerous family, to
support whom he not only wrote, but published, and himself sold, books
of a learned class--the most important of which was the “Bibliotheca
Biblica.” He died in 1730, and his son, Sackville Parker, was an
eminent bookseller in the Turl, his shop being chiefly frequented
by the High Church and non-juring clergy. He was one of the four
octogenarian Oxford booksellers who all died between 1795 and 1796, and
whose united years amounted to 342. He was succeeded by Joseph Parker,
his nephew.

About the year 1790, Joseph Parker was apprenticed to Daniel Prince,
whose successor, Joshua Cooke, was agent to the University Press,
and thus he was able to become acquainted with the management of its
publications. The Bible Press was at this period in debt, and was an
annual expense to the University, but Parker saw the feasibility of
making it a profitable concern, and, by dint of strenuous persuasion,
was, in 1805, allowed to enter into partnership with the University
Press, jointly with Cooke and Samuel Collingwood, the latter of whom
attended to the printing, while the publishing business was left
entirely in Joseph Parker’s hands. Great difficulty was felt at first
in borrowing money to meet that advanced by the University. In a few
years, however, the debts were paid off, and large profits began to
come in, and during his lifetime he was able to pay over upwards of
£100,000 into the University chest, building in addition the new
printing-office, at a cost of £40,000, investing large sums in “plant,”
and leaving a concern that was worth £10,000 a year to the partnership.

For the seven years previous to 1815 the number of Bibles printed at
Oxford was 460,500; Testaments, 386,000; of prayer-books, 400,000; of
catechisms, psalters, &c., 200,000; and the money received as drawback
for paper duty amounted to £18,658 2_s._ 6_d._ For the same period
at Cambridge the Bibles numbered 392,000; the Testaments, 423,000;
the Prayer-books, 194,000; while the drawback was only upwards of
£1087 7_s._ 6_d._ In addition to his interest in the Bible Press,
which yielded him about £1000 a year, Joseph Parker, on the death of
his regular trade partner, Hanwell, became sole proprietor of the
old-established bookselling business of Fletcher and Hanwell, in the
Fleet, and, on the retirement of Cooke, succeeded to the office of
“Warehouse-keeper,” and also to the appointment of agent for the sale
of books published on the “Learned” side of the press; the value of
the books sold on this side amounted to from £3000 to £5000 annually,
while on the Bible side under his management the sales were something
like £100,000 worth.

By far the most important work, however, with which Joseph Parker’s
name is concerned, is Keble’s “Christian Year.” We believe that the
first risk of publishing was insured by Sir John Coleridge. Nothing
could be more unassuming than its first appearance in 1827, in two
little volumes, without even the authority of an author’s name. None
of the regular literary journals noticed its publication, excepting a
friendly greeting in a footnote to an article on another subject in the
_Quarterly Review_. Appealing to no enthusiastic feelings, deprecating
excitement, and courting no parties, silently and imperceptibly at
first, but with increasing rapidity, it found its way among all
sections of churchmen, and was the real commencement of that movement
in the Church with which afterwards the “Tracts for the Times” were
associated. At Oxford, when once its popularity was attained, its
effects were marvellous; young men dropped the slang talk of horses
and women and wine, and went about with hymns upon their lips; instead
of the riotous joviality of “wines,” the evening meetings became
austere; and even the most careless made some little temporary effort
to be better and purer. Partaking of the nature of a revival--among
a better-educated and less-impressionable class than that usually
affected by such movements--its strongest outward symptoms were of
longer than ordinary duration, and its inner effects much deeper.

The most popular volume of poems of recent times, it is said in the
number of its editions to have out-rivalled Mr. Tupper’s works (we
state a fact merely, with an apology for mentioning the two names
together); in less than twenty years, twenty-seven editions had been

The author’s profits, as well as the publisher’s, were large, and the
Rev. J. Keble devoted his portion of them to the entire reconstruction
of his own church, that of Hursley, in Hampshire.

In 1832 Joseph Parker retired from business, retaining, however, his
share in the Bible Press until his death in 1850.

Mr. John Henry Parker, his nephew, was the son of John Parker,
merchant, of the City of London, and was born in the year 1806. After
receiving a good education at Dr. Harris’s school at Chiswick, he
entered the bookselling trade in 1821, and was consequently fully
prepared, eleven years later, to occupy the position just vacated by
his uncle.

Mr. John Henry Parker is known almost as well as an antiquarian, and
as a writer on architecture, as a publisher. He continued his uncle’s
business at Oxford, and extended it to London, where for many years
it was under the management of Mr. Whitaker. The University, however,
bought in again the share held by his uncle, in 1850, and declined
admitting Mr. J. H. Parker as a partner unless he undertook to give up
general business, as by a clause in the deed of partnership none of
the temporary proprietors are allowed to follow any other calling. Mr.
Parker’s business was in such a profitable condition as to render such
a step totally out of the question. He acted, however, as agent for the
Oxford Press for many years.

In 1856 the Gentleman’s Magazine was transferred to his house, and
for some time he was, with two other gentlemen, conjoint editor; and
in 1863 he retired in favour of his son James, devoting his time
exclusively to the study of architecture. Among his best-known writings
are “The Glossary of Architecture,” and “An Introduction to the Study
of Architecture,” both of which are considered standard works on the

In 1863, the year of his retirement, the agency of the works published
by the delegates of the Oxford University Press was transferred to
Messrs. Macmillan and Co., and the ancient connection was altogether
broken. Mr. James Parker, however, still continues the Oxford
book-trade, though we believe the London house does the more important

Having dealt thus cursorily with the firm of John Henry and Joseph
Parker, of London and Oxford, we come to the somewhat similar title of
John William Parker and Son, of the West Strand, London.

John William Parker,[25] whose father was in the navy, was born in the
year 1793, and at an early age entered the service of the late Mr.
Clowes, printer, then only commencing business, and, at the age of
14, was bound apprentice to him. Here he took a strong dislike to the
irksomeness of case, and it was found more profitable to employ him
in the counting-house generally, where his retentive memory and his
habits of close observation were quickly turned to good account. When,
indeed, most of the records were destroyed by the outbreak of a fire,
young Parker’s memory was found most essential as a substitute for the
current business documents.

Messrs. Clowes commenced their printing establishment in a very small
way, but soon progressed, and were among the first to use the steam
press; but as they were then in Northumberland Court, Strand, their
neighbour, the Duke of Northumberland, brought an action against
them for causing a nuisance, and eventually bought them out of their
tenement, and Parker induced Clowes to purchase the lease and plant
of a factory in Duke Street, Stamford Street, which had been started
unsuccessfully by Applegarth, the inventor of the steam press. Here,
undisturbed by neighbouring aristocrats, Parker became the manager
of the business, and it prospered so exceedingly that he established
a printing-press of his own in the immediate vicinity, and found it
necessary to live in Stamford Street, where he made the acquaintance
of Dr. D’Oyley, Rector of Lambeth, Dr. Mant, and a number of other
influential clergymen, whose connection with the venerable “Society
for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge” eventually stood him in good

About the year 1828, the University of Cambridge found that the
receipts from its Press were barely sufficient to cover the expenses,
while at the sister University, under the management of Collingwood
and Mr. Joseph Parker, the annual returns were not only large, but
increasing yearly. In this strait the Syndics applied to Mr. Clowes,
who sent Mr. Parker down to inspect. The sensible manner in which
he at once detected the faults of the establishment, and suggested
improvements, led to his immediate engagement as advising printer at
a salary of £200; and he soon proved his worth by turning to account
the apparently useless stereotype plates; from one set alone, in one
year, he cleared £1500 by cutting out the heads of chapters, &c., and
re-setting them in new type. He re-opened the account with the “Bible
Society,” and in dealing with the “Christian Knowledge Society,”
abolished the tax of middlemen.

Parker had hoped, by his energy and perseverance, to become a partner
with Mr. Clowes, but finding this precluded by family arrangements,
he established himself at 445, West Strand, and at once received the
appointment of “publisher of the books issued under the direction of
the Committee of General Literature and Education, appointed by the
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.” This “Committee” had been
established to sanction and recommend books of a wholesome character,
but which, not dealing chiefly with religious matters, were believed to
be out of the legitimate sphere of the original Society’s operations.

In July the first number of the _Saturday Magazine_ appeared. Mr.
Parker was his own editor, and many of the illustrations were from
the pencil of his son, Mr. Frederick Parker, who died very young. The
_Saturday Magazine_--one of the three parents of our cheap periodical
literature--was published weekly at the low price of a penny, and, a
_répertoire_ of useful and entertaining facts, and not much else, was
intended to counteract the effects of the licentious publications of
the day, then the only ones within reach of the poorer classes. It was
continued successfully for thirty-five volumes; but is more interesting
now as the foreshadowing of a better time than for any intrinsic value
of its own. It was eventually merged in _Parker’s London Magazine_.

445, West Strand became, of course, the Cambridge Depository for
Bibles, Testaments, and Common Prayer-books printed at the University
Press, and, at the death of Smith, Parker was appointed printer to
the University at a salary of £400 a year, and visited Cambridge once
or twice a fortnight. For many years, in spite of all his strenuous
efforts and his repeated advice, the Bible Society set their faces
resolutely against steam-printing. On one occasion he prepared a large
edition of the nonpareil Bible at two-thirds of the price then charged,
and took a dozen copies to the manager, Mr. Cockle, hoping that the
Bible Society would encourage so laudable an improvement. The manager
hummed and hawed, sent for the binder, told him in confidence that
the Cambridge people had kindly prepared some cheap Bibles printed
by machinery, but he thought “from the smallness of the margins they
_might_ not fold evenly, and was not sure that, as a cheaper ink had
been used, they _might_ not set off when pressed,” and all these
predictions were verified, and the Committee would not sanction the
purchase of such rubbish. Strangely enough, two or three years later,
when cheap Bibles were eagerly called for, the whole of the rejected
set were purchased by the Society, and no difficulty was experienced in
their manipulation.

William IV. having expressed his royal wish for a Bible, Mr. Parker
determined to print one specially, and on the occasion of the
installation prepared a dozen sheets, which were pulled by the Duke
of Wellington and other magnates; this is the first book ever printed
with red rules round, and, as the “King’s Bible,” attained in various
forms and sizes a great success. A committee was appointed to read and
revise it, and it was purposed to make it the standard edition. One
copy upon vellum was intended for the King, but as he died before its
completion, her present Majesty Queen Victoria was graciously pleased
to accept it. After some years Parker’s interest in the Bible Press
flagged, and much dissatisfaction was caused, and about 1853 he retired
altogether from the management.

Parker had from a very early date thought of printing his own books,
and started an office that was afterwards removed to St. Martin’s Lane,
but ultimately relinquished the management to Mr. Harrison, whom he
took into partnership. When the Council of Education was formed Parker
was appointed publisher, and gave every assistance in the way of funds
and encouragement, and Mr. Hullah, in particular, found in him a warm

Parker was twice married; by his first wife he had two sons, Frederick
and John William, and this latter, born in 1820, after receiving a good
education at King’s College, was admitted into the house in 1843, and
in a few years took the chief management of the general business.

Under Mr. John William Parker, Jun., the house became identified with
the Liberal and Broad Church party, and till his death he held the
reins of _Fraser’s Magazine_ entirely in his own hands. Strangely had
that periodical altered since the days of Maginn and Fraser. Now it was
the centre, in connection with 445, West Strand, from which issued the
teachings of Maurice, Kingsley, and Tom Brown--the nursery of muscular
Christianity--in one sense the cradle of Christian Socialism.

Mr. Parker, Jun., in his capacity of publisher and editor felt an
immense responsibility, and really believed that the bishops of the
Church of England held but sinecure offices, while he, and the heads
of other publishing firms, were our virtual spiritual fathers and
directors. He made himself no partizan in the religious and political
questions of the day, and no prospect of pecuniary advantage would
induce him to publish a book until he was first assured that it was the
expression of honest conviction, or the result of honest labour. “One
day,” says the writer of an obituary notice, “going into Mr. Parker’s
room, we found his pale face paler than usual with anger. ‘Look at
these,’ he said, putting a bundle of letters into our hands, ‘or rather
do not look at them.’ A lady, eminent in certain circles as a spiritual
teacher, wanted him to publish a devotional book for her. She had sent
him the private correspondence of some thirty different ladies, who had
trusted her with the innermost secrets of their souls and consciences,
as an advertisement of herself, her abilities, and her popularity. Mr.
Parker was perhaps never seen more indignant. He declined the book on
the spot. He returned the letters with a regret that the lady should
have sent him what had been intended for no eye but her own. A few
days after he showed us the lady’s reply. Stung by the rebuke, she had
dropped the mask for the moment, and had told him she did not require
to be lectured on her duty by an insolent tradesman.”

Of the success with which Mr. Parker’s publications met it is
sufficient to mention the names of Maurice, Kingsley, Mill, Buckle,
and Lewis. Fruitful of discussion as were the works of the writers
mentioned, they were all thrown into a temporary shade by the cry that
arose on the publication, in 1860, of “Essays and Reviews,” to which
only the first named contributed. Shortly after the appearance of the
volume a document was issued, bearing the signature of every bishop of
the united Church, condemning many of the propositions of the book as
inconsistent with an honest subscription to her formularies. This was
succeeded by an address to the Archbishop of Canterbury, signed by more
than 10,000 clergymen, condemning in the strongest terms the teaching
of the essayists. As we all remember, the case was tried in the Court
of Arches, and led to the temporary suspension of Dr. Williams and Mr.
Wilson; a suspension that was afterwards reversed by the Privy Council.
But this case, interesting as it may be for the student in the future,
though one of too many _causes célèbres_ of church persecution, is too
well known to detain us longer at present.

Mr. Parker, who took a deep interest in all religious questions, held
weekly gatherings at his house, and was loved and respected by his
clients, who regarded him as a friend rather than a business aid. He
died in 1861, and for the moment the knot of earnest men who were
clustered round _Fraser’s Magazine_ were dispersed. But in the year
1863 the agency of the works published by the delegates of the Oxford
University Press was transferred from the other Parkers to Messrs.
Macmillan, and henceforth _Macmillan’s Magazine_ and its contributors
may be considered as an offshoot from 445, West Strand.

After the death of his son, Mr. Parker, who had for some years taken
little active part in the management of the business, took his old
assistant, Mr. William Butler Bown, into partnership; but the
connection did not last long, and in 1863 the stock and copyrights were
disposed of to Messrs. Longman, who agreed to allow Mr. Bown an annuity
of £750 a year, which he only lived a year and a half to enjoy.

On May 18th, 1870, Mr. John William Parker died at his country house
near Farnham. By his first wife he left two daughters living, and by
his second (the daughter of Dr. Mantell, the well-known geologist)
one son and two daughters. He was seventy-eight years of age at the
time of his death; and, though his life presents us with little that
is striking or historically strange, he had played an honest part
manfully, and may be remembered as one of the few instances in which a
publisher, successful as an architect of his own fortune, has been wise
enough to transfer his business at the very zenith of its success to
the keeping of other hands, when he had ascertained that his own were
too aged for its proper maintenance and management. The Broad Church,
so called, and the liberal thought of the country, owe much to the now
defunct firm of John William Parker and Son.

       *       *       *       *       *

JAMES NISBET, the son of a poor Scotch farmer, who afterwards became
a cavalry serjeant, was born on Feb. 3rd, 1785. After receiving the
ordinary rudiments of education he was apprenticed to Mr. Wilson of
Kelso for three years, but having obtained the offer of a situation in
London he was permitted to leave before his indentures had expired. He
left Scotland with only four guineas in his purse, and being delayed on
the road, was obliged to sell his violin. On reaching town he became
clerk to a Mr. Hugh Usher, a West India merchant in Moorfields, and his
salary commencing at £54 12_s._ per annum took some years before it
increased to £120.

James Nisbet’s career has been to a certain extent chronicled by his
son-in-law, the Rev. J. A. Wallace, in a volume entitled, “Lessons from
the Life of James Nisbet, the Publisher”--not, says the author, “a
mere biography”--would that it were!--but a series of forty chapters
or lessons, each commencing with a text and ending with a hymn. To its
rambling and incoherent pages we are indebted, however, to many of the
facts in the following notice.

On the evening of Nisbet’s arrival in London a young Scottish friend
took him about sight-seeing. The walk terminated in a blind alley and a
strange looking house--which instinct at once told him was “the house
of the destroyer.” He gave up intercourse with his companion, and fled
away hastily, and not till some few days afterwards, when he found a
refuge in the Swallow Street Chapel, did he recover his equanimity.

From his earliest boyhood he had a great liking for “the courts of the
Lord;” a pocket-book dated 1805, contains a list of places at which
the gospel was reported to be purely preached. It seems, too, that
his favourite books at this time were Henry’s “Commentary,” Cruden’s
“Concordance,” Hall’s “Contemplations,” and Baxter’s “Saints’ Rest.” At
the Swallow Street Chapel he met his future wife.

As befitted a persevering and energetic man he was an early riser, yet
he found that not only did his business require it, but he discovered
“our Lord when on earth rising a great while before day that He might
spend some time in secret prayer, and David says, ‘Early will I seek
Thee.’” So good a habit scarcely needed so lofty an apology.

His father appears to have remonstrated with him as to his excess of
zeal: “Concerning the meetings you attend, God Almighty never designed
man to spend all his time in godliness; He designed such as you and me
to work for our bread”--advice that had not much effect, for we find
Nisbet writing when down home in Scotland in 1808, “I have lost much
time in coming here--no Thursday night sermons, no companion with whom
I would wish to be on intimate friendship, and no Sabbath schools; and
the Sabbath is a very poor Sabbath, very unlike our dear Sabbath in

Having, however, returned to London in 1809, he commenced business
for himself on a very limited scale as a bookseller in Castle Street,
and characteristically the first books sold were copies of Streeter’s
“Catechism.” In due course of time he prospered, was admitted to the
freedom of the City of London, and elected to the office of Renter
Warden in the Stationers’ Company.

As soon as his reputation as a religious publisher was established, he
purchased a house in Berners Street--“the great object of his ambition
being, not to amass a large fortune for aggrandisement, but to be the
pious proprietor of a comfortable dwelling, which he could throw open
for the hospitable entertainment of godly men.”

He firmly adhered to his principles of publishing books of one peculiar
class, and rigidly excluded everything that was not of a moral or
religious character; and not satisfied with purchasing the copyright
of his authors upon highly advantageous terms, often added a liberal
bonus when the work proved profitable. “To such a degree,” says his
biographer, “did his generosity overflow, that one estimable man,
‘whose praise is in all the churches,’ felt constrained to put the
curb on his publisher’s largesse. ‘I shall agree to accept one hundred
pounds, and no more,’ commences one of his legal agreements.”

Such conduct had its reward, for, says Mr. Wallace, “notwithstanding
the humble position which James Nisbet occupied as a mere shopkeeper,
so high was the estimation in which he was held as a philanthropist and
a churchman that he was occasionally honoured by pressing invitations
from families in the higher ranks of life, to visit them at their
country seats”--the lesson drawn from such amazing condescension by the
biographer being, “Him that honoureth I will honour”--and accordingly
Nisbet went for a whole week to Tollymore Park, and naturally writes
from there: “What a blessed thing it is to be a Christian.” The curious
chapter in which this visit is recorded is headed, “Yea, brother, let
me have joy of thee in the Lord.”

Among the numerous authors with whom Nisbet was connected was Edward
Irving, for whom he published “Discourses on Daniel’s Vision of the
Four Beasts,” and other books. Irving, by far the greatest orator and
most eloquent speaker of our later times, “was for long enshrined
in the warm recesses of Nisbet’s heart, and Nisbet not only sat
under him, but contributed £21,000 to the Regent’s Square Church.
But the love of truth was in Nisbet stronger than earthly affection,
and soon the gift of speaking with unknown tongues was discovered.”
“Last Sabbath,” writes Nisbet, “a most tumultuous scene took place,
the lives of many people being in jeopardy, so that even Mr. Irving
himself was terrified, and said that he would not allow the spirits
to speak again in public.” He was then accused of heresy, and Nisbet,
like most conscientious men, felt constrained to side against him. An
ecclesiastical assize was holden for his trial, in March, 1833, at
which a strange scene occurred. His answer to the charge was rather an
authoritative command than an apology, perorating thus:--

“I stand here not by constraint, but willingly. Do what you like. I ask
not judgment of you; my judgment is with my God; and as to the General
Assembly, the spirit of judgment is departed from it. Oh, know ye not
how near ye are to the brink of destruction. Ye need not expedite your
fall. All are dead carrion. The Church is struggling with many enemies,
but her word is within herself--I mean this wicked assembly.”

Then after the trial he was found guilty, and the sentence of
deposition was about to be prefaced with prayer, when a loud voice was
heard from behind a pew where Irving stood:--“Arise, depart! arise,
depart! flee ye out, flee ye out of here! ye cannot pray! How can ye
pray? How can ye pray to Christ whom ye deny? Ye cannot pray. Depart,
depart! flee, flee!” The church was at this moment wrapped in silent
darkness, and when this strange voice ceased, the 2000 sprang trembling
to their feet as though the judgment day had come. On lighting a
candle, however, it was ascertained that the speaker was a Mr. Dow, who
had been lately ousted from the church for similar views. Irving rose
grandly to obey the call, and pressing through the crowd that thronged
the doorway and the aisles he thundered: “Stand forth! stand forth!
what, will ye not obey the voice of the Holy Ghost? As many as will
obey the voice of the Holy Ghost, let them depart!” Onward he went to
the door, and then came to the last words:--“Prayer, indeed, oh!” and
thus he left his church for ever.

Thousands and almost millions of tracts and small books did Nisbet
scatter broadcast, freely to those who could not pay, with small charge
to those who could. And at the period of the “Disruption” he circulated
at his own expense, not only in Scotland and Ireland, but all over
England, great multitudes of Dr. James Hamilton’s “Farewell.” But even
in the midst of these labours the ungodly were busy, and a rumour was
circulated that James Nisbet had gone over to the Church of Rome; and
this, in spite of his well-known antipathies, gained considerable
credence. The following is from a letter from Mr. Wolff:--“I, a few
days ago, read in the _Morning Post_ that an eminent and successful
bookseller had entered the Church of Rome. I thought that this
bookseller must be one of the Tractarian party (the Rivingtons), but
to my utter astonishment I heard it whispered that the bookseller was
nobody else than Mr. James Nisbet, his whole family, and my old friend
Mr. Murray, with the observation that ‘one extreme leads to the other
extreme.’... My dear Nisbet and Murray, what could induce you to do
such a spite to your John Knox, Chalmers, and Gordon, and join with
a rotten church? Nobody is more impatient in acknowledging the good
things to be found in the Church of Rome than myself, yet I would
rather see the Pope and all his cardinals fly to the moon than become
a Papist again. In fact I never was one.” (A curious way of putting it.)

This was not the only hoax by which James Nisbet was a sufferer. Later
on, a practical joke was played upon him by some wag, who sent the
following to a large number of country papers:--

            “Nearly Ready, in Three Handsome Octavo Volumes,
    “LITERARY PYROTECHNICS; or, Squibs, Pasquins, Lampoons, and other
    Sparkling Pleasantries, by the best English Writers, from the
    Reign of Elizabeth to the Present Day, with Philological Notes
    by the Hon. the Vice-Chancellor Sir William Page Wood, Knt.
            “James Nisbet and Co., Berners-street, London.”

This very advertisement was directed to be inserted in the next issue,
and a copy of the paper containing the advertisement was to be sent to
the publisher with the price of inserting it four or six times. About
one hundred papers fell into the snare, to James Nisbet’s horror and

Nisbet was a very charitable man to all of his way of thinking. The
“Saints” were freely welcomed to his hospitable house, which was used
as a free hotel by travelling missionaries and preachers, who often
said a grateful “grace for all the rich mercies of his table.” He was
one of the chief supporters of the Fitzroy Schools, and one of the most
zealous founders of the Sunday School Union. Nor was he wanting in
generosity to general and more publicly useful charities; and, during
a period of thirty years, his books show that he collected for more
than five hundred institutions, and that the total amount that passed
through his hands was £114,339 16_s._ 4_d._

It is pleasant, amid the farrago of religious cant and trash with which
the “Lessons from his Life” are surrounded, to find some glimmering
of the real man--the enterprising and successful bookseller. “From his
energy of character, and from habit, he was more accustomed to lead
others than to be led himself; therefore, any attempt to alter or set
aside arrangements which he had himself devised ... was almost sure to
meet with, on his part, a strenuous and determined resistance.”

In 1854, when the cholera was raging in London, his brave conduct was
far above any party praise. The position of chairman of the Middlesex
Hospital devolved temporarily upon him, and fearlessly he set about his
difficult duty. Day after day he was at his post, directing all things,
and alleviating, with every means in his power, the physical sufferings
of the patients; and still, while adopting all that was proper to
check the progress of the disease, not unmindful of administering the
consolations of religion.

He died on the 8th November, 1854, having been seized with a violent
illness on his return from a before-breakfast visit to the Orphan
Working School at Haverstock Hill.

In a funeral sermon, preached by Dr. Hamilton at Regent’s Square
church, his character is thus summed up, both sides of it being
cautiously exhibited:--“With a sanguine temperament, he had strong
convictions and an eager spirit; and, whilst he sometimes magnified
into an affair of principle a matter of secondary importance, he was
impatient of opposition, and did not always concede to an opponent the
sincerity he so justly claimed for himself. Then, again, his openness
was almost excessive, and his determination to flatter nobody sometimes
led him to say things more plain than pleasant.... Those only could
appreciate his excellence who either knew his entire mode of life, or
whose casual acquaintance was confined to the walks of his habitual

As a publisher, he was eminently successful, and reaped a due reward
for his honest industry; never had he a bad debt but once, and, on
recovering that unexpectedly, he presented the amount of it, in a
silver service, to a church. The books he issued were chiefly of an
ephemeral religious class, and literature is certainly less indebted to
his success than were the charitable institutions of the day.

Mr. James Murray, who had been Nisbet’s partner in business for many
years, succeeded to the command of the firm; and, after his death at
Richmond in June, 1862, Mr. Watson, the present manager, was appointed
by the family to superintend the whole concern.





In treating of “technical literature,” we shall encounter many works
which were rightly described by Charles Lamb as “books which are
not books;” and the present chapter will be interesting rather as
containing biographical notices of men who thoroughly deserved, and
thoroughly achieved, success, than for any bibliographical anecdotes we
can lay before the reader.

The value of technical literature, in a publishing point of view, had
been correctly estimated in the very earliest times of bookselling
annals, and Richard Tottell (or Tothill), an original member of the
Stationers’ Company, and eventually their chairman, had in Edward the
Sixth’s reign, and subsequently in Queen Elizabeth’s, succeeded in
obtaining a patent for law-books; and when, through the petition of the
Stationers’ Company, he was compelled to forego some of the works which
he had thus monopolised, he warily “kept his law-books to himself,
and yielded ‘Dr. Wilson upon Usurie,’ and ‘The Sonnets of th’ Earle
of Surrey.’” Tothill, however, did still publish other books than
those relating to the very remunerative branch of law; for, in 1562,
he produced “Stow’s Abridgment of the Chronicles of England;” and,
in 1590, “Tusser’s Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry.” His name
would, probably, have been unknown, at all events forgotten, had he not
occupied the _Hands and Star_ in Temple Bar, the very same shop which,
two-and-a-half centuries afterwards, Henry Butterworth again rendered
famous as the great emporium of legal books.

Tothill was succeeded by John More (he had been previously represented,
but only for awhile, by Barker and others), and we have already seen
that Samuel Richardson, and Lintott’s granddaughter, had obtained the
patent of King’s Printers for legal books; this brings us up in date
to, at all events, the uncle of the subject of our present memoir.

Henry Butterworth, the most famous of all our law-publishers, was born
on 28th February, 1786, in the city of Coventry. His father was a
wealthy timber-merchant, and his ancestors fairly claimed alliance with
the great county families, though Butterworth Hall, in the township of
Butterworth, near Rochdale, in their possession since Stephen’s reign,
had already fallen into alien hands. The Rev. John Butterworth, his
grandfather, had removed from Rochdale to Coventry; he was well known
as the author of a “Concordance to the Holy Scriptures,” which passed
through several editions, and was the received work upon the subject
until the appearance of Cruden’s more famous “Concordance.”

Young Henry Butterworth was educated at the Public Grammar School,
in Coventry, and afterwards placed under the tutorial care of Dr.
Johnson, of Bristol; but at the early age of fourteen, his education
(inasmuch as book-learning was concerned) was considered at an end,
and he entered the large sugar-refinery of Mr. Stock, of Bristol. But
the hot atmosphere, and the incessant and laborious toil, proved too
much for young Butterworth’s health, though the work had otherwise
been rendered pleasant enough through his master’s kindness. As he had
already shown much business talent and ability, Stock urged Mr. Joseph
Butterworth, his own relation by marriage, and Henry Butterworth’s
uncle, to do something for the lad. Joseph Butterworth accordingly made
overtures to Henry’s family, and though they were loath to send their
son to the distant trials and temptations of the metropolis, the offer
was a tempting one, as it contained a tacit promise of admitting him,
at some future time, to a partnership in the enormous business. Young
Butterworth at once determined to accept the proposal; and on the 5th
December, 1801, he arrived in London by the Bristol coach, having left
Bristol straightway, without even having had an opportunity of bidding
his relatives farewell.

The business carried on at No. 43, Fleet Street, was on a very
extensive scale, and Joseph Butterworth was not only a well-known
member of Parliament, but was an exceedingly wealthy and zealous
philanthropist; and at his uncle’s dinner table young Henry Butterworth
met many eminent and good men who were associated together to fight
in a common cause--among others we may particularize Wilberforce,
Teignmouth, Liverpool, Bexley, Zachary Macaulay, and Robert and Charles
Grant--and from the time of his first introduction he enrolled his name
among these ardent religious and social reformers.

Young Butterworth entered very heartily into the conduct of his
uncle’s business, and, owing to his efforts, its relations were very
vastly extended.

In 1813 he was in a position to marry a lady of birth and fortune, the
daughter of Captain Whitehead, of the Fourth Irish Dragoon Guards, who
not only afterwards entered fully into all his philanthropic projects,
but possessed a refined and cultivated intellect, which found utterance
in a volume of “Songs and Poems,” by E. H. B., published by Pickering
in 1848, which are evidently, as the authoress says of another gift--

 “An offering from a heart sincere.
  Tho’ small and worthless, what I send,
  ’Tis hallowed by affection’s tear.”

In 1818, Butterworth found that there was little likelihood of his
admission, as had been previously agreed upon, to a satisfactory share
of his uncle’s business; and having now to consider not only his own
interests, but the welfare of a wife and family, he determined, with
a sense of disappointment, to seek an independent roof, and there to
carry out, on his own account, the art and mystery of law printing.

Before we follow him to his new abode, we will devote a few words
to his uncle’s successful career. Joseph Butterworth, who had, in
connection with Whieldon, founded a very large law-publishing business,
realized, it is said, the largest fortune ever made by law publishing,
and was one of the original founders of the British and Foreign Bible
Society, its earliest meetings being held at his house in Fleet Street.
His son died before him, and his business was sold to Messrs. Saunders
and Benning; and after various fortunes, the shop became the Bible
warehouse of Messrs. Spottiswoode.

Henry Butterworth, supported by his father’s capital, took a lease
of No. 7, Fleet Street, a house which had been, as we have seen
previously, occupied by Tothill and other ancient law publishers. And
from this shop were issued the vellum-bound volumes whose contents
are sacred to all but those assiduously apprenticed to the law.
Butterworth’s position was still further improved by his appointment to
the profitable post of Queen’s law publisher. To the general student
the law-books of the period are as little known as they were to that
worthy country justice who, wishing to learn something definite about
the law he so zealously administered, told his bookseller to send
him forthwith the “Mirror for Magistrates;” and the vastly popular
law-books did not, of course, come within the province of the technical
publisher. Butterworth, however, saw the decline of two works which
had been regarded as time-honoured text-books on the subject--Burn’s
“Justice” and Blackstone’s “Commentaries.” Many booksellers had made
large fortunes out of Burn since the time when the author, wearied
out with carrying his manuscript from shop to shop, had accepted
a nominal fee to get it off his hands; and now Butterworth, by
publishing Serjeant Stephen’s celebrated “Commentaries on the Laws
of England”--the most successful law-work of modern times--erased
Blackstone from the category of legal text-books.

Butterworth, however, though energetic as a publisher, found time
to take part in the government of the city. In 1823 he was elected
as representative of the ward of Farringdon Street Without, but he
afterwards declined to be nominated to the office of sheriff. However,
his connection with the city was still further strengthened by his
appointment as Commissioner of Income and Property Tax, and Land and
Assessed Taxes for London, and also as Commissioner of Roads. On his
first arrival in town he had served in a light volunteer regiment,
recruited to resist the aggression of the great Napoleon; and on his
retirement from the corporation, about the year 1841, he received a
captain’s commission in the Royal London Militia.

We gather something of Butterworth’s general kindness and consideration
to those beneath him in station from the following anecdote:--Shortly
after the passing of the new Poor Law Act in 1834, the guardians of
the West Surrey Union ordered that the annual Christmas dinner for
the workhouse inmates should consist, as wont, of roast beef and
plum-pudding. The Poor Law Board--a new broom--was horrified at this
munificence, and sent down their inspector, Dr. Kay, to inquire into
the proposed extravagance. He offered a compromise by substituting
boiled beef for roast, not that it would be in any degree cheaper,
but that (a satisfactory object, we suppose, to the Board) it would
not be quite so palatable. Butterworth, who was one of the guardians,
was inflexible, and finally sent in his resignation; but as he was
too useful a local authority to be spared, the Board sent back the
resignation, and permitted the paupers to feast upon the disputed beef,

In his later years Butterworth took much interest in church-building,
and at Tooting, St. Dunstan’s-in-the-West, and his native city of
Coventry, he subscribed large sums for that purpose.

After the death of his wife, which occurred in 1853, he gradually
withdrew from general society, though he still attended the
congenial meetings of the Stationers’ Company. The day of his death
was, curiously enough, the most important day in the law publishing
year--the first day of term--2nd November, 1860. On the previous
evening he had given his annual admonition to those around him in
business to awake up from the lethargy of the long vacation, and on the
following morning it was found that he had passed away, as if in sleep.

For nearly sixty years Butterworth had occupied a leading position
as a publisher and as a citizen, and during that period had won the
friendship and respect of all who came in contact with him. The alms
which his industry enabled him to make were conscientiously, quietly,
and discriminatingly bestowed: and the painted glass memorial window
erected to him in the choir of the Cathedral of St. Paul’s was a
fitting tribute from a very large number of friends and admirers, many
of whom had experienced the kindly assistance of his friendship and

       *       *       *       *       *

As we have previously seen, divinity and education were among the
first subjects to attract a special attention, and works relating to
them would otherwise have come within our category of technical books.
No sooner, however, were the lawyers fairly supplied with special
text-books than the doctors began to clamour for the like, and the
publisher who has of all others most zealously administered to their
wants is still happily amongst us.

John Churchill was born about the commencement of the century, and
was apprenticed in the year 1816 to Messrs. Cox and Son, medical
booksellers in Southwark. “The house of business was,” he says,
“immediately adjoining Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospitals, and became
the daily resort of the lecturers and numerous students of the schools;
I thus early in life became known to the celebrated men of the day,
little anticipating that eventually I should become the publisher of
Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospital Reports, and of so large a proportion
of the works that issued from the medical press.”

At the time when young Churchill entered the profession of medical
publishing, the periodicals, and, of course, the standard technical
works, presented a striking contrast to those at present in existence,
for now the medical profession assert, with the greatest truth, that
their special organs are of far higher intrinsic worth, and of far
better “tone” of thought and expression, than those relating to any
other purely technical subject. For years, however, after Churchill
became a bookseller’s assistant the medical press was only on a par
with the papers relating to the other professions, and was chiefly
represented by the _Medico-Chirurgical Review_, founded by J.
Johnson in 1820, and the _Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal_, a
work we have already come across in our notice of Constable. These
reviews contained no original reports, no strictures on the hospital
appointments then jobbed, like everything else, to men of wealth,
family, and interest. In fact, they consisted of little besides long
and elaborate abstracts of new books.

On Sunday, 2nd October, 1823, the first number of a journal that was
to cause a great revolution in medical literature, and to affect in
no slight degree the whole medical profession, was issued from a
small publishing shop in the Strand. The journal was, of course, the
_Lancet_, and the publisher young Thomas Wakley. Wakley had walked the
united hospitals of Guy’s and St. Thomas’s, and had taken his degree
in 1817. He does not appear to have practised regularly till, about
1822, he took a small shop in the Strand, and with the assistance, in
a pecuniary point of view, of Collard (now the senior partner of the
famous piano factory) determined to start a thoroughly independent
medical journal. The first number contained a report of a lecture
by Sir A. Cooper, printed from memory. The professors and hospital
officers fired up, and for long Wakley had to encounter the same
difficulties and almost the same penalties which Cave had previously
undergone in commencing his reports of Parliamentary proceedings. As a
former student, Wakley attended the lectures, and, like other students,
was seen to take occasional notes. Cooper could not, however, bring
the charge home till he hit upon the device of calling at midnight
at his lodgings, and asking to see the “doctor” upon urgent medical
business, when he surprised him red-handed correcting a proof-sheet of
a lecture. The discovery was so sudden and so undeniable that neither
could refrain from laughter; and eventually Cooper, not ill-humouredly,
offered to allow his lectures to appear if the proofs were first sent
him for revision. Consequently, Cooper, though often criticised in the
_Lancet_, never received a nickname, as did most of the other medical
celebrities of the day. For instance, Brodie was known as the “little
eminent;” Earle, the “cock sparrow;” Mayo, the “owl;” and Halford, the

The _Lancet_, for many years, was hated by that part of the profession
interested in vested rights, and eagerly patronised by general surgeons
and students. The language of the _Lancet_ was as violent as the
many abuses it attacked could justify; and Cobbett, who was a friend
and adviser of Wakley’s, was adopted as a model, while a barrister,
named Keen, used to join the party on printing nights to see that the
free strictures were not legally liable as libels. An active, though
unpaid, member of the staff, was Lawrence, who, however, forsook his
reforming principles when once he became a placeman, and was succeeded
by Wardrop, whose scurrility, wit, and venom did much in giving the
_Lancet_ a lasting reputation for raciness of style and satirical
power. They were shortly afterwards joined by Mr. J. F. Clarke, who
edited the periodical for upwards of forty years, and to whose amusing
and graphic autobiography we are indebted for much of the preceding
details. The success of the _Lancet_ soon enabled Wakley to enter
Parliament as a representative of Finsbury, and he actually combined
together the work of the legislator, the coroner, and the editor, often
toiling unremittingly for eighteen consecutive hours.

By the time the _Lancet_ was thus firmly established, Churchill, long
out of his apprenticeship, had commenced medical publishing on his own
account; and from his famous shop, in New Burlington Street, issued
most of the standard works upon the subject; and, encouraged by the
success of the _Lancet_, he determined to make his establishment the
centre of periodical, as well as more permanent, medical literature. In
1836, was started therefrom the _British and Foreign Medical Review_,
conducted first by J. Forbes, and afterwards by J. C. Conolly. In 1848,
it was merged into the _Medico-Chirurgical Review_, which, from 1824
to 1847, had been under the editorship of H. J. Johnson. These two
were now amalgamated into the _British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical
Review_, which, dating from Churchill’s establishment, has acquired a
professional standing equal to that of the _Edinburgh_ and _Quarterly
Reviews_ in more general criticism. In 1839, appeared the first number
of the _Medical Times and Gazette_, which, under the editorial care of
T. P. Healey, and subsequently of J. L. Bushman, has found a very large
and influential _clientèle_.

The medical writers have at present something in common with the early
authors. Their works bring them in more remuneration through eventual
patronage than from habitual sale, but their patronage is that of all
the great public, who are waiting to have their ailments cured. As an
instance of the way in which literature may improve the position of a
medical man, it is stated by Mr. W. Clarke that, through Elliotson’s
clinical reports in the _Lancet_, his income was raised, in one year,
from £500 to £5000. And yet, on the other hand, when he openly gave in
his adherence to the newly-imported doctrine of mesmerism, his large
public and private practice almost entirely deserted him; and as the
legitimate organs were closed to one so abandoned as even to experiment
in “the unknown,” he started a medico-mesmeric journal of his own, the
_Zoist_, which was, of course, not published by Mr. Churchill.

There is necessarily the same want of general interest in medical as in
legal bibliography; and, as in the latter case, works more popularly
known were almost invariably published by the usual popular publishers.
For instance, Dr. Buchan’s “Domestic Medicine”--probably the most
profitable medical book ever written (but not to the author, as he sold
the copyright for five pounds), after being re-written by Smellie--was
issued in 1770, by the ordinary booksellers. During the author’s
lifetime, nineteen editions, each of five thousand, were published, and
the volume was translated into all the modern languages.

If Mr. Churchill’s catalogue can show no book with a popularity like
this, it displays many which, appealing only to a class audience, and
necessarily obliged to keep pace with the discoveries of the day,
have at once retained their high price and yet reached the honour of
numerous editions.

It is probably owing chiefly to this fact of an incessant demand by a
large section of, at all events, one branch of students, that technical
publishing has proved so remunerative, and has escaped, in a great
degree, the risk attached to other departments of the trade.

At the close of the year 1870, Mr. Churchill resolved to give up the
active management of his large business, and issued a farewell circular
to the trade: “After fifty-five years’ active and immediate association
with your profession, I see it my duty to retire into private life.
Be my future days few or many, I shall ever retain a lively sense of
the many friendships I have formed, and of the unvarying proofs of
confidence and regard shown to me through so long a series of years.
My pathway of life has been a happy one, bringing me into daily
correspondence with the _élite_ of the profession, and united with them
in promoting the interests of science and literature, while the success
of my many publications has both gratified and amply rewarded my
exertions. My sons, John and Augustus Churchill, have been eight years
associated with me. I may be influenced by a father’s feelings, but I
believe I can honestly state that, by education, earnest purpose in the
fulfilment of duty, a high sense of integrity guiding and regulating
their transactions, they will be found worthy of your confidence, and
thus maintain the character of the house whose reputation and business
transactions have extended to all parts of the world.” To this honest
expression of well-earned business contentment, we can only add our
wishes that Mr. Churchill’s years of retirement may be as happy as his
years of toil have been useful and beneficial.

Among other technical publishers, Mr. Henry Laurie, whose house dates
from the commencement of English hydrography, and whose numerous
publications are known wherever English navigation has extended,
requires at least a mention here. The oldest existing house of
this nature, but one, in Europe (Gerard Hulst Van Keulen & Co., of
Amsterdam, being the exception), it was founded by R. Sayer, at the
“Golden Busk” (53, Fleet Street), in conjunction with John Senex, the
well-known cosmographer. Here Cook’s original charts were issued; and
it says something for his accuracy that his “Survey of the South Coast
of Newfoundland” has not yet been superseded. On Sayer’s death, the
business was relinquished to Robert Laurie and James Whittle, and, in
1812, the former was succeeded by his son, R. H. Laurie, who, on the
death of Whittle, became sole proprietor. In a short time, the business
extended to the production of illustrations of all descriptions, whilst
the maps produced, under the care of De la Rochette, John Purdy, and
Mr. Findlay, still retained their pre-eminence; the business was,
however, again restricted to hydrography. R. H. Laurie died as recently
as January 19, 1858, leaving two daughters, and the establishment was
continued under the direction of his sole executor, Mr. Findlay.





After Dodsley’s death, though poetry was at times far from being
an unprofitable speculation, the publishers seem to have shunned
it as a speciality; and, accordingly, a Constable, a Murray, and a
Longman, though gathering large incomes from the sale of the works
of some one or two great poets, placed their main reliance upon the
prose compositions that administered to either the pleasure or the
necessities of their public.

For a time, Taylor and Hessey almost adopted poetical publications as
the mainstay of their business; and in their generous encouragement of
Keats, and others of lesser note, including Clare, are to be gratefully
remembered; but their trade-life as poetical publishers was brief, and
it remained for Edward Moxon to identify his name with all the best
poetry of the period in which he lived, to a greater extent than any
previous bookseller at any time whatsoever.

Edward Moxon, not unlike some others of his craft, began life with
strong literary aspirations. His warm admiration for genius, his
hearty good-fellowship, and his longings for a literary career,
brought him into contact with some of the greatest writers of the
day, and attracted their support and friendship. As early as 1824 he
was made a welcome member of the brilliant circle that owned Charles
Lamb as its chief, and to be a _protégé_ of Lamb’s was a passport
into all literary society. In 1826, he published his first volume,
“The Prospect; and other Poems;” and his friends received it with all
possible kindness, as, perhaps, containing germs of something better.
Even Wordsworth, usually very niggard of praise, wrote him a letter of
encouragement--and warning:--“Fix your eye upon acquiring independence
by an honourable business, and let the Muse come after rather than go
before.” But advice of this nature, even when given with the practical
illustrations that Wordsworth’s own career might have furnished,
had little likelihood of being accepted by a young and impetuous
poetaster; and in 1829 we find Moxon launching another venture on the
world--“Christmas, a poem”--to be as coldly received by the “general
public” as the former. What, however, the advice of a veteran poet
could not effect, a stronger power was able to accomplish.

During Lamb’s residence at Enfield, their acquaintance ripened into
a very frequent intercourse, and eventually resulted in Moxon’s
engagement to a young lady who spent most of her time under the
protection of Lamb and his sister. Lamb had met Miss Isola some years
before at Cambridge, and had taken so much interest in the little
orphan girl, who was then living with her grandfather--an Italian
refugee, and a teacher of languages--that by degrees he came to be
looked upon as almost a natural guardian. Marriage, however, was out
of the question until her lover had some more substantial manner of
livelihood than the cultivation of the Muse seemed ever likely to
afford him. In this strait, Rogers came forward and generously offered
to start him in life as a publisher, and, with the goal of matrimony in
view, the offer was eagerly accepted.

Accordingly, in 1830, Moxon opened a small publishing shop at 34, New
Bond Street. The first volume he issued was “Charles Lamb’s Album
Verses,” and the dedication sufficiently explains its purpose:--

    “DEAR MOXON,--I do not know to whom a Dedication of these
    trifles is more properly due than to yourself: you suggested
    the printing of them--you were desirous of exhibiting a
    specimen of the _manner_ in which the publications entrusted to
    your future care would appear. With more propriety, perhaps,
    the ‘Christmas,’ or some of your own simple, unpretending
    compositions, might have served this purpose. But I forget--you
    have bid a long adieu to the Muse ... it is not for me nor you
    to allude in public to the kindness of our honoured friend,
    under whose auspices you are becoming a bookseller. May this
    fine-minded veteran in verse enjoy life long enough to see his
    patronage justified. I venture to predict that your habits of
    industry, and your cheerful spirit, will carry you through the

    “ENFIELD, 1st June, 1830.”

An unfavourable notice of these “Album Verses” appeared in the
_Literary Gazette_; but Lamb was too well loved to lack defenders, and
some verses in reply, by Southey, were soon afterwards inserted in the

In the following year the _Englishman’s Magazine_ came into Moxon’s
hands, and to its pages Elia lent the charm of his pen. Although it
only lasted from April till October, its columns still present us with
matter of literary interest. In the same number we find a sonnet signed
“A. Tennyson,” and a very long review upon “Poems, chiefly Lyrical,
by Alfred Tennyson,” written by his friend Arthur H. Hallam. This was
almost Mr. Tennyson’s first avowed appearance in public; and as Mr.
Moxon’s name was so intimately associated with the poet’s future works,
we may be allowed to go back for a moment. In 1827 a little duodecimo
volume of 240 pages, entitled “Poems, by Two Brothers,” was published
by J. and J. Jackson, Market Place, Louth; and the “two brothers” were
Charles and Alfred Tennyson, the latter being only seventeen years
of age. In 1829 Mr. Tennyson gained the Chancellor’s gold medal at
Cambridge for a prize poem on “Timbuctoo,” his friend Hallam being also
one of the competitors. The prize poem was printed with his name, and,
a thing quite unprecedented, was noticed at length in the _Athenæum_,
as indicating “really first-rate poetical genius, and which would have
done honour to any man that ever wrote.... How many men have lived for
a century who could equal this?” In the following year, 1830, appeared
the “Poems, chiefly Lyrical, by Alfred Tennyson;” London: Effingham
Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1830 (pp. 154); and it was these, of course,
which were reviewed by Hallam in the _Englishman’s Magazine_. In the
course of a very long notice, the writer says:--“The features of
original genius are clearly and strongly marked. The author imitates
nobody; we recognise the spirit of the age, but not the individual
pen of this or that writer.... In presenting the young poet to the
public as one not studious of instant popularity, and unlikely to
attain it ... we have spoken in good faith, commending the volume to
feeling hearts and imaginative tempers.” Even before this review,
deeply interesting when we remember what a loving and loved friend he
was who wrote it, the little volume was noticed in the _Westminster
Review_ by, it is believed, Mr. John Stuart Mill, as demonstrating “the
possession of powers, to the future direction of which we look with
some anxiety. He has shown, in the lines from which we quote, his own
just conception of the grandeur of a poet’s calling; and we look to him
for its fulfilment.” Encouragement such as this led Moxon to publish
a further volume of Mr. Tennyson’s poems in 1833, and the connection
thus commenced lasted throughout his lifetime. In a letter addressed
to him by Wordsworth, as a northern correspondent in the book-market,
there is intelligence, neither pleasant for a veteran poet to indite,
nor for a young publisher to receive:--“There does not seem to be much
genuine relish for poetical publications in Cumberland, if I may judge
from the fact of not a copy of my poems having been sold there by one
of the leading booksellers, though Cumberland is my native county.” In
this same year, too, Moxon published, for the first time, a collected
edition of the “Last Essays of Elia;” but before this time he proved,
by his attention to his business, that he was worthy of Miss Isola’s
hand. Lamb’s letters to Moxon, in the few weeks preceding the marriage,
are in his happiest, most delicately-bantering style--for instance:
“For God’s sake give Emma no more watches--_one_ has turned her head.
She is arrogant and insulting. She said something very unpleasant to
our old clock in the passage, as if he did not keep time, and yet he
had made her no appointment. She takes it out every moment to look at
the minute hand. She lugs us out into the field, because there the
bird-boys cry out--‘You, pray, sir, can you tell us the time?’ and she
answers them punctually. She loses all her time looking to see what the
time is! I heard her whispering just now--‘so many hours, minutes, &c.,
to Tuesday; I think St. George’s goes too slow.’... She has spoilt some
of the movements. Between ourselves, she has kissed away the ‘half-past
twelve,’ which I suppose to be the canonical hour in Hanover Square.”
On the 30th July they were married. Lamb, as long as he lived, regarded
them with almost paternal affection, and, at his death, left Moxon his
treasured collection of books.

Meanwhile the illustrated edition of Rogers’s “Italy” was in
preparation, and with a view to its publication Moxon moved to Dover
Street, Piccadilly.

Rogers spared no cost in the production of what was intended to be
the most beautifully illustrated volume that had ever been published.
£10,000 was spent on the illustrations and the engraving of them.
There were fifty-six engravings in all by Turner, Stothard, and other
eminent artists. Turner was to have received fifty pounds apiece for
his drawings, but at one time the whole speculation threatened to turn
out a failure, and he then offered the bard the use of them for five
pounds each instead. To match this luxurious volume the illustrated
edition of Rogers’s “Poems” was brought out, at a further cost of
£5000, with seventy-two engravings by Turner, Stothard, Landseer,
Eastlake, &c., and, in spite of the enormous outlay on the two works,
their increasing popularity must have recouped the poet, for upwards
of 50,000 copies are said to have been sold before the year 1847.
Moxon was always proud of the share he had taken in the production of
these works. All the volumes he issued were indeed remarkable for the
beautiful manner in which they were “got up,” and in 1835 he published
such an exquisite edition of his own sonnets that the beauty of this
dandy of a book enraged and alarmed a writer in the _Quarterly_:--“Its
typographical splendours led us to fear that this style of writing was
getting into fashion,” but fortunately for the reviewer’s peace of mind
he discovered “that Mr. Moxon the bookseller is his own poet, and that
Mr. Moxon the poet is his own bookseller.... The necessity of obtaining
an imprimatur of a publisher is a very wholesome restraint, from which
Mr. Moxon--unluckily for himself and for us--found himself relieved.”
Surely after a notice like this--indeed we have only quoted the
kindlier portion, for often as publishers din the unsaleable nature of
the drug poetry into the ears of young writers, the charm of retorting
upon a bookseller seldom falls so temptingly before an author.--Moxon
must have regretted that he did not cleave to a promise, held out in
his first essay in 1826:--

 “You’ll hear no more from me,
    If critics prove unkind;
  My next in simple prose must be;
    Unless I favour find.”

This will perhaps suffice as a specimen of the productions of
Moxon’s muse, though the first lines in the volume, a “Sonnet to a
Nightingale,” are inviting. They had been the cause of much pleasantry
among the author’s friends, as having been penned by one who had
never heard the song of the bird to which they were addressed, and
the internal evidence upon this point is indubitably strong; the
sonnet perhaps, to state it in proportion, is to Keats’s “Ode to the
Nightingale,” as the owl’s screeching “too-whit” to “Sweet quired

By this time, however, Moxon, in spite of his bad poetry, had made a
wide reputation as a poetical publisher, and from his establishment was
issued, not only all that was most valuable of contemporary poetical
literature, but with true catholic taste, the works of our older
dramatic poets, edited for the most part by the Rev. Alexander Dyce. By
degrees, too, Moxon was enabled to add to his catalogue the works of
many of the poets who had shed a lustre upon the two first decades of
this century, especially the works of Keats, Shelley, and Leigh Hunt.

In 1839 he brought out Mrs. Shelley’s edition of her husband’s
poems--the first “complete edition” that had been published. In the
following year a bookseller in the Strand named Hetherington was
indicted for selling a work entitled “Haslam’s Letters to the Clergy
of all Denominations,” and was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment,
as having published in this volume sundry “libels” against the Old
Testament. While the trial was pending, Hetherington commissioned a
servant of his, named Holt, to purchase copies of “Shelley’s Poems”
from the publisher, and from the retail dealers, and then obtained
a similar indictment against Moxon. The celebrated trial the “Queen
_v._ Moxon” was of course the result. The prosecution relied chiefly
upon certain passages in “Queen Mab,” more especially in the notes,
and these were read in order to prove the charge of blasphemy. Mr.
Serjeant Talfourd was engaged for the defence. “I am called,” he
commenced, “from the bar in which I usually practise, to defend from
the odious charge of blasphemy one with whom I have been acquainted for
many years--one whom I have always believed incapable of wilful offence
towards God or towards man--one who was introduced to me in early
days, by the dearest of my friends who has gone before--by Charles
Lamb--to whom the wife of the defendant was an adopted daughter.” After
a magnificent oration in which he asked, with a fitting indignation,
“if the publisher of any penny blasphemy is to have the right of
prescribing to us legally that such and such pages are to be torn from
the treasured volumes of our choicest literature,” he left in the
hands of the jury “the cause of genius--the cause of learning--the
cause of history--the cause of thought,” and concluded by a tribute to
Moxon’s character--“beginning his career under the auspices of Rogers,
the eldest of a great age of poets, and blessed with the continued
support of that excellent person, who never broke by one unworthy
line the charm of moral grace which pervades his works, he has been
associated with Lamb, whose kindness ennobled all sects, all parties,
all classes, and whose genius shed new and pleasant lights on daily
life; with Southey, the pure and childlike in heart; with Coleridge,
in the light of whose Christian philosophy the indicted poems would
assume their true character, as mournful, yet salutary, specimens of
powers developed imperfectly in this world; and with Wordsworth, whose
works, so long neglected and scorned, but so long silently nurturing
tastes for the lofty and the pure, it has been Mr. Moxon’s privilege
to diffuse largely throughout this and other lands, and with them
the sympathies which link the human heart to nature and to God, and
all classes of mankind to each other.” Lord Denman, before whom the
case was tried, instructed the jury, in his summing up, to administer
the law as it undoubtedly stood, though he himself was of opinion
that the best and most effectual method of acting in regard to such
doctrines was to refute them by argument and reasoning rather than
by persecution. The jury accordingly returned a verdict of guilty,
unaccompanied by any observation whatsoever. The illegal passages were
eliminated for a time; and thus the matter ended. The trial took place
in June, 1841, at a time when Moxon was in great sorrow for the loss of
his eldest son, and much sympathy was exhibited towards him.

Shelley’s name, however, was designed to be associated with further
publishing vexations. In 1852, Moxon issued a volume entitled “Letters
of P. B. Shelley,” with an introductory essay by Mr. Robert Browning.
The usual presentation copies were sent to the papers, the “Letters”
were generally noticed as being essentially characteristic, but the
discretion shown in printing them was much questioned. Naturally
Mr. Browning’s essay attracted a large share of attention, though
consisting of but forty-four pages, for it is his only acknowledged
prose work (why, by the way, has it never been reprinted?). He
describes Shelley as a man “true, simple-hearted, and brave; and
because what he acted corresponded to what he knew, so I call him a
man of religious mind, because every audacious negative cast up by
him against the Divinity was interpreted with a mood of reverence and
adoration.” An early copy of the volume was sent to Mr. Tennyson, and
Mr. Palgrave, who was then paying him a visit, turned over its pages
until he came to a passage in a letter which he at once recognised
(with a most dutiful and filial remembrance), as a portion of an
article upon “Florence,” which Sir Francis Palgrave had contributed to
the _Quarterly Review_. He immediately communicated with his father,
who, after comparing the printed letter with the printed article,
wrote to Moxon and informed him that this letter was cribbed bodily
from the _Quarterly Review_. Moxon replied that the original was in
Shelley’s handwriting and that it bore, moreover, the proper dated
postmark. Even the experts pronounced the letters genuine, and the
detectives were then set to work--the book having, of course, been
immediately withdrawn from publication. The MSS., which had been bought
at public auction, were traced to Mr. White, a bookseller in Pall
Mall. He alleged that in 1848, two women began to bring him letters
of Byron’s for sale, at first in driblets and impelled by poverty,
they then offered him other letters by Shelley, and books with Byron’s
autograph and MS. notes. His suspicions were aroused, he followed them
home, and insisted upon seeing the real owner of the letters. This
person was introduced to him as Mr. G. Byron, a son of the poet, and
thus he thought the mystery satisfactorily explained. He then sold the
letters relating more purely to family matters to Shelley’s relatives;
Murray became the eventual purchaser of Byron’s, and Moxon of Shelley’s
letters--and Murray, who only had his volume in the press, at once
stopped it. The letters are now believed to have been the forgeries by
G. Byron, and are indeed indexed under his name in the British Museum
Catalogue. The system upon which he had obtained money for them appears
to have been very extensive and well organised, and as some few were
probably genuine, and others based upon a substratum of truth, the
difficulty of judging those which in various ways have got into print,
was extreme. Altogether, this is one of the most notable literary
forgeries of modern times.

To return, however, to Moxon, we find that in 1835, conjointly with
Longman, he published Wordsworth’s “Yarrow Revisited,” and shortly
after this the poet transferred all his works from the Messrs. Longman,
and we believe that Moxon purchased the copyrights of the past poems
for the sum of one thousand pounds.

Mr. Browning’s earlier volumes, like Mr. Tennyson’s “Lyrical Poems,”
had been published by Effingham Wilson, but in 1840 Moxon issued
“Sordello.” This was followed by “Bells and Pomegranates,” published in
numbers between 1842 and 1845, and by a “Blot in the Scutcheon,” (acted
at Drury Lane in 1843), and which, though unsuccessful on the stage,
was in the opinion of Charles Dickens “the finest poem of the century.”
In 1848, however, Mr. Browning removed his works to the care of Messrs.
Chapman and Hall.

Among the other authors whose productions were issued by Moxon
somewhere at this period, and whom we cannot do more than mention, were
Talfourd, Monkton Milnes (Lord Houghton), Tom Hood, Barry Cornwall
(Proctor), Sheridan Knowles (who was by turn an usher, a journalist,
a dramatic poet, and a dissenting minister), Quillinan (whose works
Landor wittily, though unjustly, described as Quillinanities), Mr.
Browning (for a brief period only), Haydn, and Dana.

Mr. Tennyson had been silent for ten years, had been maturing his
talents, been mourning for the death of his friend Hallam, and probably
during the whole of this time not a thousand copies of his poems had
been sold. But he was already acknowledged as one of our greatest
living poets by a small and ardent band of admirers, and in 1842 he
was induced to break his long silence and publish an edition of his
poems in two volumes, of which the second was composed entirely of new
pieces, and in the first some were new, and many had been re-written.
By this time his success was publicly and generally acknowledged, and
fresh editions were called for in 1843, 1845, 1847, and from that
date in still more rapid succession. The beauty and purity of his
poems attracted royal favour, and in 1846 he received a pension from
the crown, and this unfortunately gave offence to some rivals in the
divine art, and Lord Lytton in the “New Timon” attacked “Schoolmiss
Alfred.” To this Mr. Tennyson replied by a poem published in _Punch_
(February, 1846), which may be summed up in the two words, “Thou
bandbox.” In 1843, Wordsworth, in a letter to Reed, says, “I saw
Tennyson when I was in London several times. He is decidedly the first
of our living poets (_sic_), and I hope will live to give the world
still better things. You will be pleased to hear that he expressed, in
the strongest terms, his gratitude to my writings. To this I was far
from indifferent, though persuaded that he is not much in sympathy with
what I should myself most value in my attempts, viz., the spirituality
with which I have endeavoured to invest the material universe, and the
moral relations under which I have wished to exhibit its most ordinary
appearances.” Again, in 1848, Mr. Emerson, in describing a visit to
Wordsworth, says, “Tennyson, he thinks, a right poetic genius, though
with some affectation. He had thought an elder brother of Tennyson at
first the better poet, but must now reckon Alfred the true one.”

When Wordsworth died in 1850, the laureateship was offered to Mr.
Rogers, and the letter conveying the offer was written by Prince
Albert. The poet, however, was now eighty-seven years of age, and he
felt that his years and his wealth should prevent him from interfering
with the claims of younger and poorer men, and he generously felt
impelled to decline the honour, which was then conferred upon Mr.
Tennyson, who received, as he says so beautifully, in reference to
Wordsworth, the

 “Laurel, greener from the brows
  Of him who uttered nothing base.”

Before this, however, the “Princess” and “In Memoriam” had appeared.
For a time Mr. Tennyson was again silent, breaking his silence only
by four poems contributed to the _Examiner_, and by the “Ode on the
Death of the Duke of Wellington” (Moxon, 1852). One of the four poems
in the _Examiner_, however, was “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” and
of this Moxon published a quarto sheet of four pages.--“Having heard
that the brave soldiers before Sebastopol, whom I am proud to call my
countrymen, have a liking for my ballad on the ‘Charge of the Light
Brigade’ at Balaclava, I have ordered a thousand copies of it to be
printed for them.--ALFRED TENNYSON.”[26]

In 1855 appeared another poem resulting from the war--“Maud,” one
of the most beautiful and least understood of all Mr. Tennyson’s

On the 3rd of June, 1858, Edward Moxon died, having, as a publisher,
earned the esteem of all his clients and the gratitude of all the
public. What his services to literature have been the names comprised
in his catalogues bear ample witness. Truly Lamb’s dedicatory prophecy
had been amply fulfilled! On his death the immediate management of
the firm devolved upon Mr. J. Bertrand Payne, and under his rule the
business was distinguished rather for the energy with which the already
published works were pushed forward than for any encouragement held out
to acknowledged genius. Mr. Payne himself undertook the superintendence
of the “Moxon’s Miniature Series,” and, as soon as the “Idylls of the
King” had been published, of the luxurious edition of them illustrated
by that extraordinary genius, M. Gustave Doré. There was one exception
to his lack of enterprise. In 1861 Mr. Pickering published the “Queen
Mother” and “Rosamond,” two plays by Mr. Swinburne, then a young
man of eighteen. Except in the case of a condemnatory notice in the
_Athenæum_ these poems attracted little or no attention; but in 1865
“Moxon and Son” published the “Atalanta in Calydon,” which at once
marked out the author as the most musical, and one of the greatest, of
our living singers. It was at all events pretty generally acknowledged
that for true poetic inspiration, momentary if it were, no poet of our
generation could rival Mr. Swinburne. This opinion was still further
strengthened by the publication of “Chastelard,” in 1866. When, however
the “Poems and Ballads” appeared, they were met by such a whirlwind
of abuse from critics, whose professional morality was supposed to
have been shame-stricken, that the publishers explained that they
were unaware of the nature of the poems they had laid before the
public, and suppressed the edition before it got into circulation. As
a consequence the few copies that had been sold were eagerly sought
at a price of five guineas, and the volume was speedily republished
in America. In this strait, Mr. J. Camden Hotten came forward, and to
him Mr. Swinburne confided all his hitherto published poems, including
the much-abused and also much-praised “Poems and Ballads.” His latest
works, however, “The Ode to the French Republic,” and the “Songs before
Sunrise,” have been issued by Mr. Ellis, who as the publisher of Mr.
Morris, Mr. Swinburne, and Mr. Rossetti, bids fair to occupy the
position so long and so honourably occupied by Moxon as a distinctively
poetical publisher.

Before this Mr. Tennyson had removed his copyrights to the care of Mr.
Strahan, and though in 1869 Mr. Arthur Moxon was admitted a member of
the firm, the old glory had departed from them; and in the summer of
the year 1871 the whole business was transferred to Messrs. Ward, Lock,
and Tyler, and Mr. Beeton was appointed manager; the house in Dover
Street was no longer retained, though Mr. Arthur Moxon’s services have
been secured to superintend the business department. The first volume
issued under the new régime--the “Sonnets” of Edward Moxon--is a timely
tribute to the founder of the famous house. We could not, perhaps, give
him higher praise than in saying that he was as good as a publisher as
he was indifferent as a poet.




The “Number Publishers” may be looked upon as the modern pioneers of
literature; their books are circulated by a peculiar method, among
a peculiar public, almost entirely through the agency of their own
canvassers, without the intervention of any other bookseller, and
the works thus sold are scarcely known to the ordinary members of
the publishing world. As the business is conducted by house to house
visitation, a substratum of the public is reached which is entirely
out of the stretch of the regular bookselling arm, though, when once
a taste for reading has been developed, the regular bookseller cannot
fail to benefit, as he will from every onward step in education and

The _Canvassing Trade_ is conducted by only a few houses in London,
Edinburgh, and Glasgow. In our introductory chapter we caught a glimpse
of some of the earlier members, but in modern times two names--Kelly,
and, in a much broader sense, Virtue--stand forward prominently, and to
these two we shall address ourselves.

Thomas Kelly[27] was born at Chevening, in Kent, on the 7th of January,
1777. His father was a shepherd, who, having received a jointure of
£200 with his wife, risked the capital first in a little country
inn, and afterwards in leasing a small farm of about thirty acres of
cold, wet land, where he led a starving, struggling life during the
remainder of his days. When only twelve years old, barely able to read
and write, young Kelly was taken from school, and put to the hard work
of the farm, leading the team or keeping the flock, but he was not
strong enough to handle the plough. The fatigue of this life, and its
misery, were so vividly impressed upon his memory, that he could never
be persuaded to revisit the neighbourhood in after-life; and though
at the time he endeavoured to conceal his feelings from his family,
the bitterness of his reflections involuntarily betrayed his wishes.
He fretted in the daytime until he could not lie quietly in his bed
at night, and early one morning he was discovered in a somnambulant
state in the chimney of an empty bedroom, “on,” as he said, “his road
to London.” After this his parents readily consented that he should
try to make his way elsewhere, and a situation was obtained for him
in the counting-house of a Lambeth brewer. After about three years’
service here, the business failed, and he was recommended to Alexander
Hogg, bookseller of Paternoster Row. The terms of his engagement were
those of an ordinary domestic servant; he was to board and lodge on the
premises, and to receive ten pounds yearly, but his lodging, or, at all
events, his bed, was under the shop counter.

Alexander Hogg, of 16, Paternoster Row, had been a journeyman to Cooke,
and had very successfully followed the publication of “Number” books.
In the trade he was looked upon as an unequalled “puffer,” and when the
sale of a book began to slacken, he was wont to employ some ingenious
scribe to draw up a taking title, and the work, though otherwise
unaltered, was brought out in a “new edition,” as, according to a
formula, the “Production of a Society of Gentlemen: the whole revised,
corrected, and improved by Walter Thornton, Esq., A.M., and other

Kelly’s duties were to make up parcels of books for the retail
booksellers, and his zeal displayed itself even in somnambulism, and
one night when in a comatose state, he actually arranged in order
the eighty numbers of “Foxe’s Martyrs,” taken from as many different
compartments. He spent all his leisure in study, and soon was able
to read French with fluency, gaining the proper accent by attending
the French Protestant church in Threadneedle Street. The good old
housekeeper, at this time his only friend, was a partaker of his
studies; at all events, he gave her the benefit of all the more amusing
and interesting matter he came across. His activity, though it rendered
the head-shopman jealous, attracted Hogg’s favourable attention,
and the clever discovery of a batch of stolen works, still further
strengthened the interest he felt in his serving boy. The thieves,
owing to the lad’s ingenuity, were apprehended and convicted, and Kelly
had to come forward as a witness. “This was my first appearance at the
Old Bailey, and as I was fearful I might give incorrect evidence, I
trembled over the third commandment. How could I think, while shaking
in the witness-box, that I should ever be raised to act as Her
Majesty’s First Commissioner at the Central Criminal Court of England!”

Half of his scanty pittance of ten pounds was sent home to aid his
parents, and as his wages increased, so did this dutiful allowance. In
this situation Kelly remained for twenty years and two months, and at
no time did he receive more than eighty pounds per annum, and it is
believed that when his stipend reached that petty maximum, he defrayed
the whole of his father’s farm rent. That he was not entirely satisfied
with his prospects, is evident from the fact that about ten years after
he joined Hogg he accepted a clerkship in Sir Francis Baring’s office,
but so necessary had he become to the establishment he was about to
leave, that his late master prevailed upon him to accept board and
residence in exchange for what assistance he might please to render
over hours. After six weeks of this double work, poor Kelly’s health
began to suffer, and it was plain that he must confine his labours to
one single branch of trade. “Thomas,” said his master, sagaciously
enough, though probably with a view to his own interests, “you never
can be a merchant, but you _may_ be a bookseller.” This advice chimed
in with his inclination, if not with his immediate prospects, and Kelly
devoted himself to bookselling.

At length Hogg, falling into bad health, and desiring to be relieved
from business, proposed to Kelly that he should unite in partnership
with his son; but the conscientious assistant felt constrained to
decline the tempting offer, by reason of the young man’s character,
and resolved rather to attempt business on his own account. In 1809,
therefore, he started in a little room in Paternoster Row, sub-rented
from the landlord--a friendly barber. On his small front room he wrote
his name, “Thomas Kelly,” and by way of advertising his change of
position, he generally stood downstairs in the common doorway. To all
the “Row” Hogg’s able assistant had been known simply as “Thomas,” and
one old acquaintance actually asked him, “Well, Thomas, who is this
Kelly that you have taken up with?”

For the first two years his operations were confined solely to the
purchase and sale of miscellaneous books on a small scale, and the
limited experiment proved successful. Of “Buchan’s Domestic Medicine”
he bought one thousand copies in sheets at a low price, and, having
prefixed a short memoir of the author, and divided them into numbers
or parts, he went out himself in quest of subscribers; and a thousand
copies of the “New Week’s Preparation” were treated in a like manner
and with similar success. Henceforth he resolved to print at his own
risk, always adopting the sectional method, and working his books, from
first to last, entirely through the hands of his own agents, and the
profit he found in this scheme depended almost entirely upon the happy
knowledge he possessed of human character, and the cautious foresight
with which he was able to select his canvassers. One of the first works
he published in this manner was a large Family Bible, edited by J.
Mallam, Rector of Hilton, afterwards known as “Kelly’s Family Bible.”
To each of his canvassers he gave stock on credit, worth from twenty
to one hundred pounds, ready money was insisted on, and this plan
insured a speedy return of capital. The Bible extended to one hundred
and seventy-three numbers, and the entire work cost the subscribers
£5 15_s._, paid, of course, in weekly or monthly driblets; and, as
80,000 copies were soon sold, the gross receipts must have reached
£460,000. Nearly half this sum, however, went in the agents’ allowances
for canvassing and delivery. The paper duty alone on this one work was
estimated at upwards of £20,000. To this Bible succeeded “The Life of
Christ,” “Foxe’s Martyrs,” and the “History of England,” all in folio,
with copper-plate embellishments; and “Hervey’s Meditations,” “Bunyan’s
Pilgrim’s Progress,” and various other popular works, in octavo.

Six months after he had left his former situation, Hogg died, and the
son soon fell into difficulties, and was obliged to relinquish the
business, which Kelly immediately purchased, speedily adding to it the
trade of Cooke, the owner of No. 17, and thus uniting the two concerns
into one.

About the year 1814 the system of printing books from stereotype plates
began to be very generally adopted for large editions, and Kelly at
once saw its advantages, but, of course, as in all improvements, the
trade set themselves against the innovation, and he had to purchase
land at Merton, and erect a foundry of his own, and then, and not till
then, the printers relinquished their opposition, and the building was
abandoned. It was about this time, in March, 1815, that he very nearly
lost a moiety of his fortune through fire. Luckily, upon the outbreak
of a fire in the neighbourhood a few days before, he had been alarmed,
and had gone straightway to the office of the Phœnix Company, and paid
a deposit on the insurance. Before the policy was made out, the whole
of his stock was destroyed, but the Phœnix Company paid up without an
hour’s delay, and, in return, he never cancelled a single policy with
them until this sum had been reimbursed. How largely Kelly traded may
be gathered from the fact that from one of his agents alone he often
received from £4000 to £5000 per annum.

To revert for a moment to his private life; his father had died in
1810, when the bookseller was still a struggling man, but, in spite of
his difficulties, he paid at once the amount of his father’s debts;
and brought his mother up to Wimbledon, where she lived to see her son
a wealthy and prosperous man. To his old master’s widow he generously
allowed an annuity, and even aided young Hogg, who had pursued him with
inveterate hatred, with the loan of £600. He never married. When little
known he saved a member of the Court of Aldermen from bankruptcy by
an advance of £4000, and he was always ready to lend out his money to
those in trouble. But once, when asked to give his acceptance to ten
or twelve thousand pounds worth of bills--in these terms, “Will you,
for once in your life, do a good action, and oblige me?”--he thought
himself perfectly justified in refusing, and soon after the acceptor of
these bills failed. In 1823 he was elected into the Common Council of
his ward; in 1825 he served as Sheriff with Mr. Alderman Crowder, on
whose death he succeeded to the Alderman’s gown of Farringdon Without.
He always lamented his want of a systematic education, and late in life
he endeavoured, in some way, to supply the place of it by experience
gathered from foreign travel.

Notwithstanding his immense issues of costly books, he exercised the
most watchful prudence. “Books,” he says, “generally, printed in the
ordinary way, only sell 500 or 1000 copies, and periodical publications
would be ruinous. Nothing but a vast sale will prove remunerative,”
and this “vast sale” he certainly effected in almost every instance.
He published twelve separate issues of the Bible, and disposed of,
probably, not less than 250,000 copies. The following is a list of
his more important works:--“History of the French Revolution,” 20,000
copies at £4; “Hume’s England,” 5,000, at £4 18_s._; “The Gazetteer,”
4,000, at £4 10_s._; “The Oxford Encyclopædia,” 4,000 at £6 (and the
£24,000 only barely covered the original outlay); “The Geography,”
30,000 at £4 4_s._; and the “Architectural Works,” 50,000, at an
average of £1 13_s._ To these may be added “The Life of Christ,”
of which, in folio and quarto, not fewer than 100,000 copies were
distributed, at prices varying from £1 1_s._ to £2. No wonder, with
figures like these (for which we are indebted to Mr. Fell’s volume),
that the trade objected to this method of transacting business, but the
difference was confined merely to business relations, for every one of
the numerous booksellers in the Ward signed the request asking him to
stand as Alderman.

In 1836 he received the highest honour to which a citizen of London
can aspire, for he was elected Lord Mayor. His year of office was a
memorable one, and the first entertainment of Queen Victoria occurred
on the very day of his retirement from office, and thus he narrowly
escaped the honour of a baronetcy, for he had the good sense to decline
the requisition to stand a second time.

His appearance in his robes of office is thus described by M. Titus
Perondi, a French traveller:--“The new Lord Mayor appeared in a gilded
chariot, almost as grand as the King’s, drawn by six bay horses,
richly caparisoned.... He does not seem to be more than sixty-two years
of age, and his figure, slight as it is, is still imposing--for the
flowing wig and ermine mantle, which encircled all his person, added
not a little to the dignity of his presence.... A thriving bookseller,
yet a perfectly honest man, and very charitable.” The last sentence is
an admirable summary of his character.

The attainment of this honour terminated his commercial and public
life, for after this date he relinquished, in a great degree, his
business cares; but to an extreme old age he retained his faculties,
and he retained also his habits of quiet and discriminating charity,
doing good by stealth, and blushing to find it known. On the 20th
October, 1854, he paid his last visit to his parent’s grave, and was
there heard to murmur, “How very happy I am.” His failing health
compelled him to visit Margate, and here, on the 7th of September,
1855, he died in a ripe old age. A letter, written just before his
death, evidently betrays a lingering fondness for early childish
days:--“We are surrounded by fields of fully-ripening corn--some cut,
some cutting,” babbling, like Falstaff, of green fields, till the sixty
years of town life were forgotten.

Thomas Kelly was one of those men of whom the London citizens are
so proud--men who come to the mighty centre of commerce utterly
friendless, and worse still, penniless, and whom industry, labour, and
good fortune exalt to the very pinnacle of a good citizen’s fondest
dreams. But he was more than a Lord Mayor--he was a true friend; he was
a loving, dutiful, and tender son--qualities not always insured even by
commercial success.

Mr. George Virtue was another of those men of whom, in this history, we
have had not a few examples, who, beginning life without any fictitious
advantages, have made success their goal, and, in attaining it, have
not only amassed princely fortunes for themselves and their families,
but have opened up new branches of industry, and have afforded
employment to hundreds whose bread depends upon their daily labours.

His father was a native of Fogo, in Berwickshire, who first at
Coldstream, and afterwards at Wooler, in Northumberland, let out for
hire carts and carters to the neighbouring farmers. In the year 1793,
his second son, George, was born at Coldstream, and there and at
Wooler, he passed the early years of his boyhood. In 1810, his father
met with an accident, which caused him to relinquish the business he
had hitherto been engaged in. His eldest son, James, who had a good
engagement in London, gave up his employment and hastened home, and
removing with the family to Coldstream, commenced business there as a
mason, taking his brother George as an apprentice.

Mrs. Somerton, their married sister, had a large house, near the Houses
of Parliament, in London, which she let out, much on the plan of the
club-chambers of the present day. George had come up to London, partly
on business, partly on a visit to his sister, and not wishing to return
to the North, he made an arrangement to remain with Mrs. Somerton.

The house was chiefly frequented by members of Parliament and men in
the higher grades of life; and one of the former, who had taken a
fancy to George Virtue, asked him what he would like to be. George at
once replied, “A bookseller,” and his patron assisted him in stocking
a shop in the neighbourhood. This was about the year 1820. At first
his trade consisted entirely in the retail business, but by degrees
he was able to purchase entire remainders of that distinct class of
religious publications which were then sold chiefly in numbers. These
he re-issued; and as he did his own canvassing, no zeal was wanting
in the service, and his success was by no means indifferent. Once
established, he was able to canvass for the books of other publishers;
and on the 15th July, 1821, the first number of a work was published,
which took the town by storm. Whether Mr. Virtue’s canvassing powers
were acknowledged by the trade at this early period, or whether his
peculiar class of customers was considered as most amenable to the work
in question, we know not, but he was given an interest of one kind
or another, either as part proprietor or as a purchaser on unusually
liberal terms in the famous “Life in London; or, the Adventures of Tom
and Jerry,” issued by Sherwood, Neeley, and Jones, of Paternoster Row.
The book was written by Pierce Egan, afterwards the founder of _Bell’s

Works describing country sports and pastimes had proved so acceptable
that it was imagined that a volume issued in numbers, setting forth
the humours of town life would be equally taking. The illustrations
by J. R. and George Cruikshank proved irresistible. The work was so
successful that innumerable imitations appeared, one of which (“Shade
of Lackington!”) was published by Jones and Co., who occupied his
former place of business, the “Temple of the Muses” in Finsbury Square.
There was absolutely a _furore_ for the work. Dibdin, Barryman, Farell,
Douglas Jerrold, Moncrieff, and others adapted it for the stage. It was
on the boards of ten theatres at one time; and at the Adelphi, where
Moncrieff’s adaptation was produced, it enjoyed the then unparalleled
run of three hundred nights. At last, Pierce Egan, declaring that no
less than sixty-five separate publications had been derived from his
work, brought forward his own characteristic version, which, however,
proved a failure.

All the world bought “Tom and Jerry,” and having roared over the
plates, tossed them not unnaturally aside; so that a work, which, in
popularity, had been the “Pickwick” of its day, became so wonderfully
scarce that when Mr. Thackeray, with whom it had been an early
favourite, wanted a copy for a review he was writing upon Mr. George
Cruikshank’s works, he applied at all the libraries, including the
British Museum, in vain. The work was advertised for in the _Times_
with like result, and he had to depend upon his memory for his
description. However, twenty years after, when he wished to make it
the subject of one of the most charming of the “Roundabout Papers,” he
found that it had been added to the Museum Library.

It was, however, with the contemporary popularity that Mr. Virtue was
concerned, and by it his business was largely increased.

In 1831, his affairs warranted an important move to the vicinity of
Paternoster Row, and about this time he married a Miss Sprent, a
lady from Manchester. From his new abode the works which he at first
issued were of much the same stamp as those which Messrs. Kelly, Hogg,
and Cooke had previously spread abroad; but he soon struck out into
a higher class of literature. His first very successful book was “A
Guide to Family Devotion,” by Dr. Alexander Fletcher. The work was
undertaken by Mr. Virtue, as Dr. Fletcher says, “at great expense
and some hazard, during the years 1833-1834.” The volume contained
730 prayers, 730 hymns, and 730 selected passages of Scripture,
suitable for Morning and Evening Service, throughout the year, and
was illustrated by engravings by the best artists. The popularity it
achieved was enormous: thirty editions of a thousand each were soon
issued, and, as the _Times_ said, “30,000 copies of a book of Common
Prayer, recommended by twenty-five distinguished ministers, cannot be
dispersed throughout England without effecting some change in the minds
of probably 200,000 persons.”

In America, the “Guide to Family Devotion” was as successful as at
home, and upwards of one hundred ministers there sent in testimonials
to its worth. By 1850, the sale is said to have exceeded 50,000 copies.

Mr. Virtue, about this time, entered into an engagement with W. Henry
Bartlett, who, pencil in hand, travelled over the four quarters of the
globe, making sketches, which that enterprising publisher issued in
volumes, illustrated with beautiful steel engravings and descriptive
letterpress. The first of these was “Switzerland,” published in 1835,
in two quarto volumes. This was followed by Scotland, Palestine, the
Nile, and America. Of the Switzerland, 20,000 copies were sold; and in
the production of the two volumes on Scotland, upwards of one thousand
persons were employed at a cost of £40,000. The number of engraved
plates in these volumes amounted to a thousand.

When Mr. Virtue commenced these illustrated volumes, the Fine Art
tastes of the public were in a very uneducated condition; but,
selecting the best artists and employing the best engravers, he set a
good example, which was speedily followed by others. In 1839, Messrs.
Hodgson and Graves had started a cheap periodical devoted to Art, under
the title of the _Art Union_, intended chiefly as an organ of the
print trade; but it was not till the year 1849 that this publication
passed into the hands of Mr. Virtue, who changed the title to the _Art
Journal_, and devoted it to the development of Fine Art and Industrial
Art, with illustrations on steel and wood by the first artists of the
day. The _Art Journal_, it is admitted, has done more than any private
venture or corporate body to disseminate true ideas of Art in England.
The _Art Journal_, though among the very earliest of those periodicals
in which Art was brought to the aid of Literature, still towers proudly
above all. Since its foundation, the _Art Journal_ has presented the
public with between eight and nine hundred steel engravings and above
30,000 engravings on wood.

No less than one hundred illustrated volumes were issued from Mr.
Virtue’s establishment, and for their production it was found necessary
to erect a large establishment in the City Road. Almost every engraver
of any reputation in this country has been employed on one or other of
Mr. Virtue’s illustrated works. Indeed, had it not been for the field
of labour opened by the _Art Union_, in their yearly distribution
of engravings, and for the encouragement held out by Mr. Virtue in
the production of his illustrated works and the _Art Journal_, it
is said that the art of line engraving would have quite died out in
England; and for his services to the public, and, through them, to the
profession, he is certainly entitled to be regarded as the first Art
publisher of his time.

To go to a very different branch of his business, Mr. Virtue was not
idle in the production of any book likely to win the favour of the
public. In 1847, Dr. Cumming, then widely known as a preacher only,
delivered a series of lectures at Exeter Hall upon the Apocalypse,
which riveted public attention. He was urged by his friends to publish
the lectures upon their completion, and said that he would be willing
to do so, if he was sure that the proceeds would suffice to pay for
putting up stained glass windows in his church. Mr. Virtue heard this,
ascertained the value of the windows, and offered their outside cost
down in hard cash in exchange for the copyright. Dr. Cumming eagerly
accepted the offer, and by the “Apocalyptic Sketches” the publisher
realized the handsome sum of four thousand pounds. He afterwards made
the author a present of a hundred pounds, and engaged him to write a
continuation, at an honorarium of five pounds per sheet of thirty-two
pages, which eventually proved to be equally successful.

Many years before his death, Mr. George Virtue parted with the business
to his son, Mr. James Sprent Virtue, the present head of the firm.

On the 8th December, 1868, George Virtue, senior, died in his
seventy-sixth year, having earned the respect of all the hundreds
to whom he afforded employment, and of the outside world; for all
recognised that integrity and strict justice to his _employés_ was
a main cause of his success, while his prosperity had been aided by
thorough business habits and intense application to his duties.

He had been one of the representatives of the ward of Farringdon
Without in the Common Council of the City of London for many years, and
was held in the highest esteem by his fellow-citizens. It was in his
civic capacity that he was invited by the Viceroy of Egypt, with other
members of the Corporation, to pay a visit to that country, an honour
which his constant attention to his public duties had fully merited in
selecting him as one of the representatives of the City of London on
that occasion.





Thomas Tegg[28] was born at Wimbledon, in Surrey, on the 4th of
March, 1776. His father was a grocer, who not only was successful in
business, but “wore a large wig,” was a Latin scholar, and something
of a mathematician; he died, however, when his son was only five years
old, and was speedily followed by his wife, and the poor little lad
“found it to be a dreadful thing when sorrow first takes hold of an
orphan’s heart.” For the sake of economy, he was sent to Galashiels, in
Selkirkshire, where he was boarded, lodged, clothed, and educated for
ten guineas per annum. This severance from all home ties was at first
more than the little orphan could bear, and many a time, he tells us,
did he steal off to the quiet banks of the Tweed, and cry himself to
sleep in his loneliness. A scrap of paper, which had been given him
before leaving home, bearing the magic word “London,” was carefully
treasured in all his wanderings, and in the associations it called
up, in the hopes it excited in all his wondering, childish dreams,
proved a soothing solace to his troubles. His schoolmaster, too, was a
kind-hearted man, who made a point of studying each boy’s individual
character, and of educating each for his individual calling. Ruling by
“kindness rather than by flagellation,” he frequently took his pupils
for country rambles, and taught them lessons out of the great book
of Nature. Nor was he wholly forgotten by his relatives, for we read
that he was sent a parcel of tea--then a wonderful luxury. After much
consultation as to the best method of cooking the delicacy, one-half
of it was boiled in the “big pot,” the liquor strained off and the
leaves served up as greens; “but,” he adds, “it was not eaten.” After
staying at Galashiels for four years, he was given the choice of being
apprenticed either to a saddler or a bookseller; and his fondness for
books, and the desire already formed of being at some time a bookseller
in the London he pictured to himself every night in his dreams, led him
at once to select the latter alternative. His dominie at parting, gave
him a copy of “Dr. Franklin’s Life and Essays,” a book he treasured in
all times of prosperity and adversity, and kept to the day of his death.

On a cold, raw morning in September, he started on foot for Dalkeith,
with only sixpence in his pocket; some friendly farmers on the road
gave him a lift in their cart, and in his gratitude he confided to them
his boyish hopes of being by-and-by a great book-merchant in London. At
Dalkeith he was bound apprentice to Alexander Meggett, a bookseller,
and “from this humble origin,” says Tegg, proudly, “I, who am now one
of the chief booksellers in London, have risen.” His master, kindness
itself before the indentures were signed, turned out to be “a tyrant as
well as an infidel.” “Every market-day he got drunk and came home and
beat the whole of us. Once I said, ‘I have done nothing to deserve a
beating.’ ‘Young English rascal,’ said he, ‘you may want it when I am
too busy, so I will give it to you now.’” Tegg’s fellow-apprentice had,
like him, an ambition, but it was to become the first whistler in the

Tegg’s apprenticeship had by this time become intolerable, and, as he
had been latterly engaged in reading “Robinson Crusoe” and “Roderick
Random,” he resolved to run away and lead an adventurous life himself.
Though it was in the depth of winter, he travelled along on foot,
sleeping sometimes under hedges laden with hoar-frost. But soon his
little hoarding of ten shillings was exhausted; at Berwick, therefore,
he tried to make a livelihood by selling chap-books, but was recognised
for a runaway apprentice and had again to fly. At this period he tells
us he found out the utility of pawnbrokers’ shops, and discovered,
also, the value of small sums. “He who has felt the want of a penny is
never likely to dissipate a pound.” Another lesson, too, he gathered
from his wanderings, which was always when in trouble to apply to a
woman. “Never,” he says, “did I plead to a woman in vain.” At Newcastle
he made the acquaintance of Bewick, the engraver; there he might have
remained, but his heart was set upon reaching London. At Sheffield he
was seized by the parish officer for travelling on Sunday, but when
he told his story the severity of Bumbledom itself relented, and the
beadle found him a home, and even paid the requisite eighteenpence a
week which defrayed the cost of lodging, bread-making, and a weekly
clean shirt. Here he was engaged by Mr. Gale, the proprietor of the
_Sheffield Register_, at seven shillings a week, a wretched pittance,
but sufficient for his small wants, even enabling him to purchase
new clothes. At the _Register_ office he met some men of note, among
others, Tom Paine and Dibdin. Paine was “a tall, thin, ill-looking
man. He had a fiend-like countenance, and frequently indulged in oaths
and blasphemy.” After a nine months’ sojourn, Tegg left Sheffield, and
having visited Ireland and North Wales, entered the service of a Mr.
Marshall, at Lynn, where he remained for three or four years.

Early in 1796, however, he mounted the London and Cambridge coach, and,
with a few shillings in his pockets, with a light heart in his breast,
he bade good-bye to friends, telling them that he would never come back
till he could drive down in his carriage.

On the coach he met some other young men, who, like himself, were going
up to London in search of employment, but who intended to spend the
first few days in sight-seeing, and asked him to join their party.
But Tegg resisted the temptation, and when London, the London of his
dreams--but how black, smoke-filled, and inhospitable!--was really
reached, he alighted at the Green Dragon in Bishopsgate Street, and,
struggling through the busy stream of men who filled the city streets,
he went straightway in search of employment, to the first book-shop
that met his eyes. This happened to be Mr. Lane’s “Minerva Library,” in
Leadenhall Street. “What can you do?” asked Lane. “My best,” rejoined
Tegg. “Do you wear an apron?” Tegg produced one and tied it on. “Go
to work,” said Lane, and thus, “in less than half-an-hour from my
arrival, I was at work in one of the best houses in London.” Early next
morning, map in hand, he took an exploring walk, and was astonished
and delighted with all he saw, for to the young bookseller, with his
mind wrapt up entirely in his projects of success, the perpetual rush
of unknown faces--that he had never seen before, would never see
again--the jostling eagerness of crowds, going incessantly this way
and that, the noisy din of carts and carriages, the vastness of the
buildings, and the vagueness of the never-ending streets, did not
bring that feeling of utter loneliness which so many of us remember in
our first solitary entry into London. Nor was the country lad to be
beguiled by any of the myriad temptations that were ready on all sides
to divide his attention from his business. “I resolved,” he writes, “to
visit a place of worship every Sunday, and to read no loose or infidel
books; that I would frequent no public-houses, that I would devote
my leisure to profitable studies, that I would form no friendships
till I knew the parties well, and that I would not go to any theatre
till my reason fortified me against my passions.” This perseverance
did not immediately meet with its deserved reward, for having been
sent, with the other shopmen, to make an affidavit as to the numbers
of an election bill that had been struck off, before the Lord Mayor,
he said boldly, that he did not even know that they had been printed;
the Lord Mayor was pleased with the answer, and censured Lane severely
for tempting the boy to commit a perjury; and Lane, in his rage,
dismissed him forthwith. Tegg walked out of the shop, down-hearted for
the moment, perhaps, but self-possessed and reliant, and entering the
shop of John and Arthur Arch, at the corner of Gracechurch Street,
the kindly Quakers took him at once into their employ, and here he
stayed until entering into business on his own account. His new masters
were strict but affectionate. He soon asks for a holiday, “We have no
objection, but where art thou going, Thomas?” “To Greenwich fair, sir.”
“Then we think thou hadst better not go. Thou wilt lose half a day’s
wages. Thou wilt spend at least the amount of two days’ wages more, and
thou wilt get into bad company.” At two, however, he was told he might
go; but as soon as he reached London Bridge his heart smote him, and
he returned. “Why, Thomas, is this thee? Thou art a prudent lad.” And
when Saturday came, his masters added a guinea to his weekly wages as
a present. From this, Tegg says, he himself learnt to be a kind though
strict master, and during his fifty years of business life, he never
used a harsh word to a servant, and dismissed but three.

Having received £200 from the wreck of the family prospects, Tegg
took a shop, in partnership with a Mr. Dewick, in Aldersgate Street,
and became a “bookmaker” as well as a bookseller; and his first book,
the “Complete Confectioner,” though it contained only one hundred
lines of original matter, reached a second edition. After a short
time he indulged in a tour to Scotland, where he found that his old
schoolmaster had died from the effects of an amputation; and in
this same journey he honestly bought up the unlapsed time of his
apprenticeship. On returning to London he re-entered the service of
the Messrs. Arch, and took unto himself a wife. The story of his
courtship is pleasantly and naïvely told. Coming down the stairs
of his new lodgings, “I was met by a good-looking, fresh-coloured,
sweet-countenanced country girl; and without thinking of the
impropriety I ventured to wink as she passed. On looking up the stairs,
I saw my fair one peeping through the balusters at me. I was soon on
speaking terms with her, and told her I wanted a wife, and bade her
look out for one for me; but if she failed in the search she must take
the office herself. After waiting a short time, no return being made, I
acted on this agreement. Young and foolish both, we were married at St.
Bride’s church, April 20, 1800.... I was most happy in my choice, and
cannot write in adequate terms of my dear partner, who possesses four
qualities seldom found in one woman--good nature, sound sense, beauty,
and prudence.”

After his marriage, he again opened a shop in St. John’s Street,
Clerkenwell, and here he “wrote all night and worked all day,” while
his partner was drinking himself to death. His wife was ill, two of the
children died, and the future looked terribly gloomy; for a “supposed
friend” prevailed upon him to discount a bill for £172 14_s._ 9_d._ out
of his little capital of two hundred pounds, and the bill, of course,
turned out to be utterly worthless. In this strait he acted with much
energy, dissolved his partnership, called a meeting of his creditors,
and found a friend who nobly came forward as a security; and he left
his home, declaring he would never return until he could pay the
uttermost farthing. “God,” he writes solemnly, “never forsook me. A man
may lose his property and yet not be ruined; peace and pride of heart
may be more than equivalents.”

Tegg now took out a country auction licence, and determined to try his
fortune in the provinces.

A few words on the book-auction trade may have a passing interest here.
According to Dibdin, the first book auction of which we have any record
in England occurred in 1676, when Cooper, the bookseller, prefixed the
following address to his catalogue:--“Reader, it hath not been usual
here in England to make sale of books by way of auction, or who will
give most for them; but it having been practised in other countries,
to the great advantage of both buyers and sellers, it was therefore
conceived (for the encouragement of learning) to publish the sale of
those books in this manner of way.” The innovation was successful.
Cooper established a reputation as a book-auctioneer, and in London
such sales became common. In a few years we read of the practice being
extended to Scotland, and to the larger towns in England, such as Leeds
and York. John Dunton, with his usual versatility, took over a cargo of
books to sell at Dublin, and after that date attendance at the country
fairs with books to sell by auction became quite a distinct branch
among the London booksellers. The leading auctioneer in Dunton’s time
was Edward Millington. “He had a quick wit and a wonderful fluency
of speech. There was usually as much wit in his ‘One, two, three!’
as can be met with in a modern play. ‘Where,’ said Millington, ‘is
your generous flame for learning? Who but a sot or a blockhead would
have money in his pocket, and starve his brains?’” At this time it
appears that bids of one penny were very commonly offered and accepted.
Book-auctioneering soon became a distinct trade altogether, and
required not only much fluency of speech and power of persuasion,
but a very exact knowledge of the science of bibliography. For this
latter speciality Samuel Paterson, of King Street, Covent Garden, was
particularly famous. Perhaps no bookseller ever lived who knew so
much about the contents of the books he sold. When, in compiling his
catalogues, he met with an unknown book he would sit perusing it for
hours, utterly unmindful of the time of sale, and oblivious of the
efforts of his clerk to call his attention to the lateness of the time.
Baker, Leigh, and Sotheby, all of York Street, Covent Garden, were also
eminent in this branch of the trade; but the prince of book-auctioneers
was James Christie, whose powers of persuasion were rendered doubly
effective by a quiet, easy flow of conversation, and a gentle
refinement of manners. At the close of the century, the booksellers’
trade sales were held at the Horn Tavern, in Doctors’ Commons, and were
preceded by a luxurious dinner, when the bottle and the jest went round
merrily, and the competition was heightened by wine and laughter.

Tegg, to retake the thread of our story after this digression, started
with a very poor stock, consisting of shilling political pamphlets,
and some thousands of the _Monthly Visitor_. At Worcester, however, he
purchased a parcel of books from a clergyman for ten pounds, but when
the time for payment arrived the good man refused to accept anything.
At Worcester, too, it was that he held his first auction. “With a
beating heart I mounted the rostrum. The room was crowded. I took £30
that first night, and in a few days a knife and fork was provided for
me at many of the houses of my customers. God helps those, I thought,
who help themselves.” With his wife acting as clerk, he travelled
through the country, buying up the duplicates at all the gentlemen’s
libraries he could hear of, and rapidly paying off his debts. This
led him to return to his shop in Cheapside, but his ardent desire
for advancement involved him again in difficulties. “One day I was
called from the shop three times by the sheriff’s officers (a few
years afterwards I paid a fine of £400 to be excused serving sheriff
myself). Bailiffs are not always iron-hearted. I have met with very
kind officers; some have taken my word for debt and costs, and one lent
me the money to pay both” (O rare bum-bailiff! why is not thy name

Still Tegg was making gradual way, in spite of occasional difficulties
which again led him to the pawnshops, but with more precious pledges
than when at Berwick he asked a rosy-cheeked Irish girl how he might
best raise money on a silk handkerchief, for now his watch and spoons
could accommodate him, when needful, with fifty pounds. About this
time one of the most interesting episodes of his life was commenced.
He had purchased a hundred pounds’ worth of books from Mr. Hunt, who,
hearing of his struggles, bade him to pay for them when he pleased.
Tegg, in the fulness of his gratitude, told him that should he, in
his turn, ever need aid he should have it; but the wealthy bookseller
smiled at the young struggler’s evident simplicity. We will tell the
rest of the story in Tegg’s own words. “Thirty years after, I was in
my counting-house, when Mr. Hunt, with a queer-looking companion, came
in and reminded me of my promise. He was under arrest, and must go to
prison unless I would be his bail. I acknowledged the obligation, but
I would first take my wife’s opinion. ‘Yes, my dear, by all means
help Mr. Hunt,’ was her answer. ‘He aided us in trouble; you can do no
less for him.’ Next morning I found I had become his surety for thirty
thousand pounds. I was sharply questioned in court as to my means, and,
rubbing his hands together, Mr. Barrister remarked that Book-selling
must be a fine trade, and wished he had been brought up to it. I
answered, ‘The result did not depend on the trade, but on the man;
for instance, if I had been a lawyer I would not have remained half
this time in your situation--I would have occupied a seat with their
lordships.’ There was a laugh in court, and the judge said, ‘You may
stand down.’”

When success first really dawned, Tegg began to feel poignantly the
want of a more complete education; however, he determined to employ
the powers he possessed as best he could. His earliest publications
consisted of a series of pamphlets, printed in duodecimo, with
frontispieces, containing abridgments of popular works; and the series
extended to two hundred, many of them circulating to the extent of
4000 copies. As an instance of his business energy, we may cite the
following:--Tegg heard one morning from a friend that Nelson had been
shot at Trafalgar. He set an engraver to work instantly on a portrait
of the hero, purchased the _Naval Chronicle_, found ample material for
a biography; and, in a few hours, “The Whole Life of Nelson” was ready
for the press. Such timely assiduity was rewarded by a sale of 5000
sixpenny copies. On another occasion, when on a summer jaunt to Windsor
with a friend, it was jocularly resolved that, as they had come to
see the king, they ought to make his Majesty pay the expenses of the
trip. Tegg suggested a Life of Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke, with a coloured
portrait. 13,000 copies were sold at seven-and-sixpence each; and, as
he observes, the “bill was probably liquidated.”

Among his other cheap books were--“Tegg’s Chronology,” “Philip Quail,”
and--perhaps the most successful and useful of all--a diamond edition
of “Johnson’s Dictionary,” published when the original edition was
selling at five guineas.

In 1824 he purchased the copyright of Hone’s “Every-Day Book” and
“Table Book;” republished the whole in weekly parts, and cleared a very
large profit.

 “I like you and your book, ingenious Hone!
    In whose capacious, all-embracing leaves
  The very marrow of traditions shown,
    And all that History, much that Fiction weaves.”

So sang Charles Lamb; and Southey says of these two delightful
works:--“The ‘Every-Day Book’ and ‘Table Book’ will be a fortune a
hundred years hence, but they have failed to make Hone’s fortunes.”
However, Tegg gave him five hundred pounds to compile the “Year Book,”
which proved much less successful than the others.

Hone had been a bookseller in the Strand, where he probably acquired
his miscellaneous stock of quaint knowledge about old English customs,
and all that appertained to a race fast dying out. After the famous
trial, in which his “Parodies” were charged as being “blasphemy,” he
immediately stopped the sale of them; and, though at that time in
urgent need of money, he resolutely refused tempting offers for copies.
“The story of my three-days’ trial at Guildhall,” he writes, “may be
dug out from the journals of the period; the history of my mind, my
heart, my scepticism, and my atheism remain to be written.” It is
said that he was first awakened to a better way of thinking, in the
following manner:--One day, walking in the country, he saw a little
girl standing at a doorway, and stopped to ask her for a drink of milk;
and, observing a book in her hand, he inquired what it was. She said it
was a Bible; and, in reply to some depreciatory remark of his, added,
in her simple wonder--“I thought everybody loved their Bible, sir!”

By this time Tegg was thriving;--he bought his first great-coat, and
the first silk pelisse for his wife, and was able to make a rule
of paying in cash, which he found an immense advantage. The book
auctions, continued nightly at 111, Cheapside, formed the immediate
stepping-stone to his wealth. He visited all the trade sales, and
bought up the “remainders,” _i.e._, surplus copies of works in which
the original publishers had no faith;--“I was,” he writes, “the
broom that swept the booksellers’ warehouses.” At one of the dinners
preceding these trade sales, he heard Alderman Cadell give the then
famous toast--“The Bookseller’s four B’s”--Burns, Blair, Buchan, and
Blackstone. In the auctioneer’s rostrum he was very lively and amusing,
and the room became well known all over London. At one of the last
sales, a gentleman who purchased a book asked if “he ever left off
selling for a single night?” Fifteen years before, on his road to the
dock to embark for Calcutta, he found Tegg busy, and as busy still on
his return. “If ever man was devoted to his profession, I am that man,”
says Tegg; and again--“I feel that my moral courage is sufficient to
carry out anything I resolve to accomplish.”

Now that his own publications were proving very lucrative, Tegg
resolved to abandon the auctioneering portion of the business, and
confine himself to the more legitimate trade; and, at his last sale,
he took upwards of eighty pounds. The purchase and sale of remainders,
however, still formed a very important branch of his traffic.

About this time he took another journey to Scotland, and had an
interview with Sir Walter Scott, who had, he says, “nothing in his
manner or conversation to impress a visitor with his greatness.”
Immediately on his return he made his final remove to the Mansion
House, Cheapside--once the residence of the Lord Mayor--and the annual
current of sales rose in the proportion of from eighteen to twenty-two.
Now a popular as well as a wealthy man, he was elected a Common
Councillor of the Ward of Cheap, took a country house at Norwood, with
a beautiful garden attached--“though I scarcely knew a rose from a
rhododendron”--and set up a carriage.

It was, of course, from the Mansion House that his well-known
publications were dated. In 1825, the year after the purchase of the
“Table Book,” he published the “London Encyclopædia;” it was a time of
great financial difficulty (as we have, indeed, seen in almost all our
lives of contemporary publishers); his bills were dishonoured to the
extent of twenty thousand pounds; and the work was began solely to give
employment to those who had been faithful in more prosperous years. The
public, however, supported the undertaking, and Tegg was rewarded for
his courage.

The time of the panic, in 1826, was a season of severe trial, in
domestic as well as pecuniary matters; and Tegg, though he maintained
that few men were ever insolvent through mere misfortune, began to
fear that despondency would deprive him of his reason. And now it was
that he appreciated more than ever the brave qualities of his wife,
who roused and manned him again to the struggle; till, in the end, he
became a gainer rather than a loser by the crisis, for the best books
were then sold as almost worthless; and at Hurst and Robinson’s sale he
purchased the most popular of Scott’s novels at fourpence a volume.

Among his other great “remainder” bargains we may mention the purchase
of the remainder and copyright of “Murray’s Family Library” in 1834.
He bought 100,000 volumes at one shilling, and reissued them at more
than double the price. His greatest triumph of all was, however, the
acquisition of “Valpy’s Delphin Classics,” in one hundred and sixty-two
large octavo volumes, the stock amounting to nearly fifty thousand
copies, the whole of which were sold off in two years.

To return to his own publications, we find that, up to the close of
1840, he had issued four thousand works on his own account, and “not
more than twenty were failures.”

Tegg’s reputation as a bookseller chiefly rests upon his cheap reprints
and abridgments of popular works; and, in connection with these, his
name is mentioned in Mr. Carlyle’s famous petition on the Copyright
Bill. Though we have failed to ascertain to what general or particular
works Mr. Carlyle refers, the petition is of such curious interest
to all concerned in the writing and selling of books, that we do not
hesitate to quote it in extenso[29]:--

    “To the honourable the Commons of England, in Parliament
    assembled, the Petition of Thomas Carlyle, a Writer of Books,

          “Humbly sheweth,

    “That your petitioner has written certain books, being incited
    thereto by various innocent or laudable considerations, chiefly
    by the thought that the said books might in the end be found to
    be worth something.

    “That your petitioner had not the happiness to receive from
    Mr. Tegg, or any Publisher, Re-publisher, Printer, Book-buyer,
    or other the like men, or body of men, any encouragement or
    countenance in the writing of said books, or to discern any
    chance of receiving such; but wrote them by effort of his own
    will, and the favour of Heaven.

    “That all useful labour is worthy of recompense; that all
    honest labour is worthy of the chance of recompense; that the
    giving and assuring to each man what recompense his labour
    has actually merited, may be said to be the business of
    all Legislation, Polity, Government and social arrangement
    whatsoever among men;--a business indispensable to attempt,
    impossible to accomplish accurately, difficult to accomplish
    without inaccuracies that become enormous, insupportable, and
    the Parent of Social Confusion which never altogether end.

    “That your petitioner does not undertake to say what recompense
    in money this labour of his may deserve; whether it deserves
    any recompense in money, or whether money in any quantity could
    hire him to do the like.

    “That this labour has found hitherto in money, or money’s
    worth, small recompense or none; but thinks that, if so,
    it will be at a distant time, when he, the labourer, will
    probably be no longer in need of money, and those dear to him
    will still be in need of it.

    “That the law does, at least, protect all persons in selling
    the productions of their labour at what they can get for it, in
    all market-places, to all lengths of time. Much more than this
    the law does to many, but so much it does to all, and less than
    this to none.

    “That your petitioner cannot discover himself to have done
    unlawfully in this his said labour of writing books, or to have
    become criminal, or to have forfeited the law’s protection
    thereby. Contrariwise, your petitioner believes firmly that he
    is innocent in said labour; that if he be found in the long-run
    to have written a genuine, enduring book, his merit therein,
    and desert towards England and English and other men will be
    considerable, not easily estimated in money; that, on the other
    hand, if his book prove false and ephemeral, he and it will be
    abolished and forgotten, and no harm done.

    “That in this manner your petitioner plays no unfair game
    against the world: his stake being life itself, (for the
    penalty is death by starvation), and the world’s stake nothing,
    till it see the die thrown; so that in every case the world
    cannot lose.

    “That in the happy and long-doubtful event of the game’s going
    in his favour, your petitioner submits that the small winnings
    thereof do belong to him or his, and that no other man has
    justly either part or lot in them at all, now, henceforth, or
    for ever.

    “May it, therefore, please your Honourable House to protect him
    in said happy and long-doubtful event, and (by passing your
    Copyright Bill), forbid all Thomas Teggs, and other extraneous
    persons entirely unconcerned in this adventure of his, to steal
    from him his small winnings, for a space of sixty years, at
    shortest. After sixty years, unless your Honourable House
    provide otherwise, they may begin to steal.

      “And your petitioner will ever pray.
            “THOMAS CARLYLE.”

Tegg did not confine his business to these cheap reprints, but issued
many books which were altogether beyond the popular taste and purse,
such as “Blackstone,” edited by Price; Smith’s “Wealth of Nations,”
Burton’s “Anatomy of Melancholy,” Locke’s Works, (in ten volumes),
Bishop Butler’s Works, and Hooker’s “Ecclesiastical Polity,” &c. Out
of Dr. Adam Clarke’s “Family Bible” he is said to have made a small
fortune; the work was stereotyped, and re-issue after re-issue was

In 1835 he was nominated Alderman of his Ward, but was not elected; in
the following year he was chosen Sheriff, and paid the fine to escape
serving, having resolved to forego any further civic distinctions. To
the usual fine of £400 he added another hundred, and the whole went
to found a “Tegg Scholarship” at the City of London School, and he
still further increased the value of the gift by adding thereto a very
valuable collection of books.

On 21st April, 1845, Thomas Tegg died, after a long and painful
illness, brought on by over-exertion, mental and physical. His third
son, Alfred Byron Tegg, a youth of twenty, then studying at Pembroke
College, Oxford, was so affected by the shock of his father’s death
that he died almost on receipt of the news, and was buried the same day
as his father at Wimbledon--Thomas Tegg’s native village.

At the commencement of his autobiography, Tegg says, and the narrative
bears the veracity of the statement upon every page:--“In sitting down
to write some account of my past life, I feel as if I were occupied
in making my will. I feel at a loss to express fully my emotions. I
write in a grateful spirit. What I have acquired has been acquired by
industry, patience, and privation,” and he adds elsewhere, “I can say
in passing through life, whether rich or poor, my spirit never forsook
me so as to prevent me from rallying again. I have seen and associated
with all ranks and stations in society. I have lodged with beggars, and
had the honour of presentation to Royalty. I have been so reduced as to
plead for assistance, and, by the goodness of Providence, I have been
able to render it to others.”

He was generally believed to have been the original of Twigg in Hood’s
“Tylney Hall.”

From the commencement of his career, Tegg made commercial success
his one aim in life; and with much patience, much endurance, and
much labour, he achieved it thoroughly, and, in the achieving of it
honestly, he conferred a great and lasting benefit upon the world;
for the book merchant holds in his hands the power to do good, or
to do evil, far beyond any other merchant whatsoever. Rising from a
humble position in life, he never forgot his early friends, never left
unrewarded, when possible, his early encouragers and assistants. And
if he was proud in having thus been the architect of his own fortune
and position, this pride surely was a less ignoble one than that which
leads one-half the world to go through life exultantly, with no other
self-conscious merit than having, by a simple accident, been born in
wealthier circumstances than the other half.

Tegg left behind him a large family who inherited something of their
father’s energy and vigour. With his friendly aid and encouragement
they, many of them, went elsewhere to seek their fortunes--two to
Australia and two to Dublin; and with native perseverance, with a name
that was known wherever books were sold and bought, with their father’s
connection to support them, and their father’s stock to fill their
shops, they have not failed to reap something of their father’s success.

Thomas Tegg was succeeded in London by his son and late partner, Mr.
William Tegg, and under his management the business of the house has
assumed a graver and more staid appearance. In the preface to the
twelfth edition of Parley’s “Tales about Animals,” Mr. William Tegg
claims the authorship of the whole series published by him under the
pseudonyme of “Peter Parley,”[30] a _nom de plume_, we believe, that
has covered more names than any other ever adopted by English writers.





Had we space--we have all the will--to be garrulous, we should
infallibly have commenced this chapter by a long account of John
Newberry, the celebrated publisher of children’s literature. His
books were distinguished by the originality and the homeliness of
their style, and were wonderfully adapted to the capacities of the
little readers to whom, in one instance, at all events, “The History
of Little Goody Two Shoes,” they were specially dedicated: “To all
young gentlemen and ladies who are good, or intend to be good, this
book is inscribed, by their old friend, Mr. John Newberry, in St.
Paul’s Churchyard.” Mr. John Newberry was himself, in many cases, the
author of these volumes, “price 2_d._, gilt,” which he produced; but
he was assisted by men who were distinguished in other walks of life,
especially by Mr. Griffith Jones, editor of the _London Chronicle_, the
_Daily Advertiser_, and the _Public Ledger_, and by Oliver Goldsmith,
who makes Dr. Primrose, when sick and penniless at an inn, pay a
hearty tribute to a traveller who had succoured him. “This person was
no other than the philanthropic bookseller in St. Paul’s Churchyard,
who had written so many little books for children: he called himself
their friend, but he was the friend of all mankind. He was no sooner
alighted but he was in haste to be gone, for he was ever on business
of the utmost importance, and was at that time actually compiling
materials for the history of one, Mr. Thomas Trip.” Newberry purchased
the copyright of the “Traveller” for twenty guineas, and eventually
offered a hundred guineas for the “Deserted Village,” which Goldsmith
wished to return when he found that he was receiving payment at the
rate of five shillings a line.

However historically interesting and bibliographically curious,
Newberry’s business, measured in bulk, was as a molehill to a mountain
when compared to the enormous trade carried on by the largest of our
modern publishers of juvenile literature--perhaps, also the largest
book-manufacturer in the world.

Thomas Nelson was born at Throsk, a few miles east of Stirling, in the
year 1780, and was brought up in the very bosom of that strong, stern,
unwavering religious faith, which has so often seemed the fitting
complement to the ruggedness of the Scotch character; and which, among
the other worldly advantages of its system of training, has often
prepared its votaries for a successful career in business. His father
led a quiet, retired life upon a small farm, not far from the famous
field of Bannockburn, and was so satisfied with the content of his
humble lot, that he repeatedly refused to take advantage of offered
opportunities of making money, by permitting a pottery to be erected
on his land. In those days, great gatherings of those known as the
Covenanters took place in many parts of Scotland, at the sacramental
seasons, and Nelson’s father thought but little of travelling forty
miles in order that he might enjoy the privilege of the communion
service. Upon the mind of the young lad, who often accompanied his
father, these meetings, all probably that varied the monotony of a
rustic life, made an indelible impression. When, like many youths
of his time who had their own paths to clear in the world’s jungle,
he resolved to leave Scotland and to seek his fortunes in the West
Indies, his father accompanied him on the road to Alloa, the place of
embarkation, and during the journey asked him, “Have you ever thought
that in the country to which you are going, you will be far away from
the means of grace?” “No, father,” replied the son, “I never thought of
that; and I won’t go.” And immediately the scheme was abandoned, and
they retraced their steps homewards.

When, however, he was about twenty years of age, young Nelson tore
himself from the parental roof, and went to London, and after passing
through all the difficulties that are so familiar to young lads who
have to fight their own battles unaided, he entered the service of a
publishing house--an event that determined, doubtless, the course of
his after-life. One of his early associates in business was Thomas
Kelly, and, like his friend, Nelson, while diligent and conscientious
in his daily duties, still found time for intellectual and religious
culture. With a few young Scotchmen, he established a weekly-fellowship
meeting, which was held every Sunday. One of the association was
employed at the dockyard, during Lord Melville’s administration at
the Admiralty, and lost his situation through his refusal to work
on Sundays. Lord Melville, however, who had often seen him in the
dockyard, enquired the cause of his absence, and on learning the
fact of his dismissal, severely rebuked the officials, and shortly
afterwards advanced him to a higher post.

In the latter years of Nelson’s residence in London, he was engaged in
obtaining orders for the Stratford Edition of “Henry’s Bible,” a work
issued in shilling parts, to be bound up in six large folio volumes,
which was held in high repute, and attained a large circulation. Nelson
secured the names of a great number of subscribers, chiefly in the
northern district of London.

After having thus received the necessary business training, and
acquired the necessary commercial experience, Nelson determined to
make a start upon his own account, and left London for Edinburgh.
Here at first he rented a small apartment, which he occupied as a
book-warehouse, stocked chiefly with second-hand books, and from this
little establishment he issued the “Scots Worthies,” and one or two
other works, in monthly parts. In a few years afterwards he removed
to the well-known small shop at the corner of the West Bow. Here he
commenced his cheap issues in 24mo., of such works as Baxter’s “Saints’
Rest,” Booth’s “Reign of Grace,” “Mac Ewan on the Types,” and some of
Willison’s works. Indeed, we have been told, epigrammatically, that
Nelson, in this little corner shop of the West Bow, commencing with a
humble reprint of “The Vicar of Wakefield,” arrived in time at the more
ponderous honour of “Josephus.” In his early publishing career, he and
Peter Brown, another bookseller engaged in the same line of business in
Edinburgh, were of considerable service to each other, for though they
were not in partnership, they contributed jointly to defray the cost
of composing and stereotyping a considerable number of octavo volumes,
comprising the works of Paley, Leighton, Romaine, Newton, and others.
Thus, half the cost of production was saved to each, while the stock
of each was doubled. These books were not at first sold through the
booksellers, but vacant shops were opened in the evenings in the large
towns, where single copies were sold by auction, and the same practice
was extended to smaller places, chiefly on the periodical recurrence
of the Scotch fairs. This innovation, of course, excited a strong
feeling of animosity among the trade, who, for some years, did their
best to thwart the sale of Nelson’s publications. Indeed, in 1829, when
Nelson, encouraged by the success of his auction sales, engaged Mr.
James Macdonald to travel Scotland regularly, his mission, owing to the
stigma attached to the auction business, was a failure. At Aberdeen the
booksellers rose up in arms, and only one bookseller, Mr. George King,
had the courage to give Macdonald an order.

Though opposed in the country, and though for many years he did not
accumulate much capital, yet, from his well-known and strict integrity,
Nelson never wanted funds to carry out his plans. At the very time that
Macdonald was suffering defeat in each country town, Nelson was enabled
to purchase from a printer, at a comparatively low price, “Macknight on
the Epistles,” in four volumes, octavo; and the popularity of that work
forced a quick sale throughout the trade, and gave his business a very
considerable impulse.

Nelson was still convinced that the only method of extending his
business to any considerable importance, was by means of a regular
system of travelling, and Macdonald was succeeded by Mr. Peters, whose
success was considerably greater; but it was not until Mr. William
Nelson, the eldest son of the founder, took to the road, that the trade
business was really consolidated, not only in Scotland, but also in
London and the chief towns of the united kingdom. In fact, it may be
said, that Mr. William Nelson was the real builder of the business,
working upwards from a foundation that was certainly narrow and
circumscribed. Mr. Thomas Nelson, the younger brother, was soon after
this admitted to the firm, and undertook the energetic superintendence
of the manufacturing department, and was the originator of the
extensive series of school-books.

Johnson of Liverpool used to narrate that he remembered young Nelson on
his first (English) journey, and that he gave him what Nelson called
a “braw order.” Shortly after this he was, according to the same
authority, joined by Mr. James Campbell, who left the carpenter’s bench
to become a “bagman,” and was soon the chief assistant in the firm’s

Before this, however, the energy displayed by Mr. William Nelson had
thoroughly consolidated the business, and had entirely dissipated the
previous prejudice excited by the auction sales, the more especially
as the lowest prices were at once fixed to the trade upon every book
issued by the establishment. Mr. Campbell’s success as a commercial
man was considerable, and by his subsequent energy and integrity as an
agent, at home and in the colonies, the demand for Messrs. Nelson and
Sons’ books began to assume a considerable magnitude.

In 1843, the firm removed their place of business to Hope Park; we
shall refer to this establishment subsequently--and upon the death of
Peter Brown (he had for some years ceased to co-operate actively with
them), the stereotype plates which had been the joint property of both
firms, became by purchase the exclusive possessions of Messrs. Nelson,
and this gave them an advantage in the market they did not formerly

Even while in London, Nelson had collected the works of his favourite
divines for his private use, and he now carried out more thoroughly the
scheme, commenced in conjunction with Peter Brown, of publishing cheap
editions of such books that they might be brought within the easy reach
of thousands. Such cheap issues are now a common feature of the trade,
but he was one of the first Edinburgh booksellers to introduce the
new order of things. The series was very popular, but still it was by
the publication of juvenile literature that Nelson’s great commercial
success was achieved. The works of this special, and apparently
inexhaustible class were distinguished by a good moral tendency, purity
of diction, and elegance of production, and were laudably free from
sectarian bias, and extreme opinion. It will, perhaps, suffice our
present purpose to instance, among his many authors, R. M. Ballantyne,
as a favourite with his boyish, and A. L. O. E. with her girlish,
readers. One of Nelson’s periodicals attained a large circulation; this
was the _Family Treasury_, edited by Dr. Andrew Cameron, and numbering
among its contributors such writers as Dr. Guthrie, Dr. Vaughan, Dean
Trench, and Brownlow North; in its columns the charming “Chronicles of
the Schönberg Cotta Family” first appeared.

Among the greatest of the more recent triumphs of the firm in the way
of books for children, was the introduction of coloured illustrations
upon a black background--a striking and emphatic method of throwing the
coloured pictures into strong relief; the books illustrated upon this
principle proved so successful that a host of imitators adopted the
same method. The firm are also well known as extensive publishers of
a greatly improved series of schoolbooks, of maps, embracing new and
ingenious features, and of gift and prize books. Latterly, however,
they have entered into a wider and more liberal field, and their
current catalogue embraces works in most departments of literature.

For the last five-and-twenty years of his life, Nelson was more or less
of an invalid; though from 1843 to 1850 he enjoyed a kind of respite;
but during this whole period his sons were associated with him in
the business, and during the latter and greater portion of it, the
management devolved entirely upon them. Thomas Nelson, the founder,
died on March 23rd, 1861, and showed upon his death-bed the effects of
that strong piety to which, since a child, he had accustomed his mind.
When it was thought proper to announce to him that his end was near, he
received the intelligence with the calmest equanimity:--“I thought so;
my days are wholly in God’s hands. He doeth all things well. His will
be done!” and then he took up his Testament again, saying, “Now I must
finish my chapter.” He was buried in the Grange Cemetery, among many
Scottish worthies, and lies side by side with Hugh Miller.

Thomas Nelson was distinguished not only by his energy and strict
integrity, but by a generous hospitality of the genuine Scottish type.
Even when his business was of very small dimensions, his old-fashioned
dining-room was generally filled by the Scottish clergy, when any
general meeting brought them to the metropolis.

Messrs. William and Thomas Nelson, of course, continued the business,
and we cannot, perhaps, convey a better idea of the magnitude to which
the trade has in their hands extended than by giving a description of
their establishment in all its branches, and for this description we
are indebted chiefly to Mr. Bremner’s “Industries of Scotland.”

Taking printing, publishing, and bookbinding together, Thomas Nelson
and Sons, of Hope Park, are the most extensive house in Scotland. They
removed to their present establishment a quarter of a century ago, and
were compelled, after a lapse of ten years, to build a new range of
offices far exceeding anything of the kind in the city of Edinburgh,
and probably unparalleled out of it. The main part of the building
consists of three conjoined blocks, forming three sides of a square.
Part of the surrounding ground is laid out as an ornamental grass-plot,
and a new machine-room has been recently erected upon another portion.

In the main building there are three floors apportioned to the various
branches of the trade. Machinery is used wherever it is possible, and
by its aid, and by a well-organized system of division of labour,
the number of books manufactured is enormous. Everything, from the
compilation of a book to the lettering of its binding, is done upon
the premises, and for the founts of type and the paper alone are the
proprietors indebted to outside help.

The letterpress department consists of a spacious composing-room,
a splendidly fitted machine-room, a press-room, and a stereotype
foundry. As very large numbers of the works are issued, they are almost
invariably printed from stereotype plates--a process said to have been
invented by William Ged, a goldsmith in Edinburgh at the beginning of
the last century; the Dutch, however, with some justice, claim the
discovery for one of their countrymen, a very long time before this
date; at all events, the process was still almost a novelty when, as
we have seen, Kelly first utilized it in London. In the machine-room
and the press-room there are nineteen machines and seventeen presses
constantly at work. Here large numbers of children’s books are
produced, and a number of machines are devoted to colour printing.

From the machine-room the sheets are taken to the drying-room, where
they are hung up in layers upon screens, which, when filled, are run
into a hot-air chamber, where the ink is thoroughly dried in six or
eight hours.

The bookbinding department occupies several large rooms, and
employs two-thirds of all the work-people engaged. Although machines
are provided for a great variety of operations, a large amount of
hand-labour is found to be indispensable. As soon as the sheets
have been thoroughly dried, they are folded by young women, as the
machine-folding is only suitable for the coarser kinds of work. After
this process, the sheets are arranged by another staff of girls in the
proper order for binding, compressed in a powerful press, and notches
for the binding cords are cut by a machine. They are then passed on to
the sewers, who sit upon long benches plying their deft needles.

The case-makers have by this time prepared the cases, and in connection
with this department there is a cloth-dyeing and embossing branch,
where the cloths are prepared; the coloured and enamelled papers for
the insides are also made upon the premises. The case-makers are
divided into half-a-dozen different sections, each of which performs a
certain and distinct portion of the work. The pasteboard and cloth are
first cut to the required size, and then one girl spreads the glue upon
the cloth, a second lays the board upon its proper place, a third tucks
the cloth in all round, a fourth smoothes off the work, and the covers
are now taken to the embosser, who puts on the ornamental additions,
and finally the books are fixed in the cases, and sent down to their
warehouse, whence they are despatched to all corners of the world,
principally, of course, to the London and New York branches.

The lithographic establishment comprises a number of rooms. Sixteen
machines and presses are constantly engaged, principally in the
production of maps, book illustrations, coloured pictures, and the
beautifully-tinted lithographic views, which Messrs. Nelson were mainly
instrumental in introducing to the notice of the public. Among the
artists employed here in executing preliminary work are photographers,
draughtsmen, steel, copper, and wood engravers, and electrotypers.
By a process patented by Messrs. Nelson, in conjunction with Mr.
Ramage (to whose services they owe much of the superiority of their
illustrations), a drawing or print may be converted into an engraving
suitable for printing from by the simple action of light, and these
engravings, either for copper-plate or letter-press printing, may be
multiplied and made larger or smaller at will. The storerooms are said
to contain upwards of fifty thousand wood-cuts and electrotypes.

Even the inks and varnishes are manufactured upon the premises.

Messrs. Thomas Nelson and Sons employ some four hundred and fifty
work-people in their establishment, about one-half of whom are young

The whole of Scotland is of course supplied from the head-quarters in
Hope Park; but they have also large branches in London and New York.
The former--situated in, or rather forming, Warwick Buildings, at the
corner of Paternoster Row--is, though a branch, as large a bookselling
warehouse as any in London, and in its interior arrangements is
unrivalled. The basement storey is devoted to the stowage of wholesale
stock and the execution of export and country orders, and over the shop
there are four lofty floors.

The Scotch have during the century especially cultivated the trade of
printing and bookselling. In the former branch alone, ten thousand
persons are employed in Scotland, five thousand of whom are engaged in
the capital. In 1860 there were in Edinburgh no less than thirty firms,
who combine the united business of publishing and bookselling, besides
ninety who confine themselves to bookselling alone. The eight or nine
leading houses, with one exception, print themselves the books they
sell; a practice which is almost indigenous to Edinburgh, or, at all
events, does not obtain in London. The advantage of cheap labour, which
includes, of course, cheap paper, are here so great, especially in the
issue of large editions, as to more than counteract the drawback in the
shape of transit cost to, and agents’ commission in, London. We have
already entered into the history of several of these leading Edinburgh
houses, and as our space is growing scanty, we can scarcely now do more
than mention the firm of Oliver and Boyd; and though, from their long
standing and importance, the career of the house would afford material
for an interesting chapter, we must hope to have an opportunity of
recurring to the subject at a not very distant time. Formerly Oliver
and Boyd enjoyed a very large share of the Scotch country business, and
occupied indeed much the same position in the northern, as is held by
Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., in the southern, capital. Of later years,
however, their attention has been more exclusively fixed upon the
publication of educational works, and among the writers whose books
have been issued by them, the names of Spalding, Reid, Morell, White,
and McCulloch, are known to every schoolboy. “The Edinburgh Academy
Class-Books” have also attained a very wide circulation far beyond the
walls of the Edinburgh Academy; and “Oliver and Boyd’s Catechisms,”
published at the low price of ninepence each, are used in nearly all
elementary classes where science, in any form, is taught. As a book
of reference for students of every grade, of a larger growth, _Oliver
and Boyd’s Edinburgh Almanac_ is, perhaps, unrivalled for the fulness
and yet conciseness of every branch of official information, at all
essential to the inhabitants of Scotland.




We have, by this time, given historico-biographical notices of
publishers and booksellers, representing very various phases of the
“trade;” but we have still to show how, in the economy of publishing,
and through an ingenious division of labour, the smaller booksellers in
town, and all the booksellers in the country and the colonies, are kept
constantly supplied with books and periodicals.

Before a new book is published, the work is taken round to the larger
houses in the “Row,” and other parts of London, and “subscribed,” that
is the first price to the trade, and the actual selling price to the
public are quoted, and orders at the former price are given, according
to the purchaser’s faith in the expected popularity of the work in

The wholesale houses, in their turn, supply all the country, colonial,
and smaller London orders, reaping, of course, a due advantage from
having the volumes demanded already stowed in their warehouses.

By far the largest business in this branch of the trade is executed
by the old-established firm of Simpkin, Marshall, and Company,
and though they by no means confine their attention solely to the
commission-paying business of middlemen--for they are themselves
publishers of educational and other widely-circulating works--yet their
name has long, throughout the length and breadth of the land, been held
synonymous with this wholesale supply of the requirements of other

The real founder of this enormous traffic was, Benjamin Crosby. The
son of a Yorkshire grazier, he came to London to seek his fortunes,
and was apprenticed to James Nunn, a bookseller in Great Queen Street.
As soon as his indentures had expired, he obtained a situation under
George Robinson--the “King of the Booksellers”--and, in a few years
after this, succeeded to the business of Mr. Stalker, of Stationers’
Hall Court. Crosby was one of the first London booksellers who
travelled regularly through the country, soliciting orders for the
purpose of effecting sales and extending his connections. In a short
time he acquired a pre-eminence as a supplier of the country houses,
and also as one of the largest purchasers at trade sales, especially
when publishers’ stocks were sold off. The extension of the business
had been very materially assisted by the unremitting exertions of two
assistants--Simpkin and Marshall--and when, in 1814, he was stricken
by a sudden attack of paralysis, he made over a certain portion of
his stock and the whole of his country connection to Robert Baldwin,
and Cradock and Joy, he left the remainder, with the premises and the
London connection, to Simpkin and Marshall. Soon after this, a second
attack deprived him of his speech, and for a time of his reason, and
he died in the following year, 1815.

Under Simpkin and Marshall, which was now, of course, the new title
of the firm, the business soon began again to expand, for they
retained most of their London connections, and following Crosby’s
example, attracted the attention of many country clients, whom
they not only supplied with books, but for whose publications they
became the London agents--a business without speculative risk, and
consequently profitable. For instance, in 1827, an unpretentious little
volume--“Poems by Two Brothers,” having the modest motto, _Hæc nos
novimus esse nihil_, published by J. and J. Jackson, Louth, was also
stamped with the imprimatur of Simpkin and Marshall, and thus they had
the signal honour of being Mr. Tennyson’s first London publishers,
though very probably the honour in this case was greater than the

In 1828, Simpkin retired, or rather was bought out of the business by
Mr. Miles, who immediately took the financial management of the whole
concern, and the firm adopted the new title of “Simpkin, Marshall and
Co.” Simpkin, however, did not die until the 25th of December, 1854,
and thus enjoyed a long period of peaceful superannuation.

The practice of lending their names to the works published by their
country clients, though free from business venture, was not unattended
by legal risk, for in 1834 they had an action brought against them for
libel, which at the time attracted a very general and lively interest;
though they were indicted solely as the London agents of _Tait’s
Edinburgh Magazine_, in which a series of articles had appeared,
reflecting on the conduct of Richmond, a man notorious as a spy, and
who, as an instrument of the Government, had procured the execution of
Hardie and his companion at Glasgow in the winter of 1819-20. Richmond
laid the damages that his character had sustained at the absurd figure
of five thousand pounds, but Mr. Serjeant Talfourd, to whom the defence
was entrusted, so thoroughly exposed the antecedents and present means
of livelihood of the plaintiff that before the trial was over he was
absolutely fain to withdraw his action and elect to be non-suited.

In 1837 Baldwin and Cradock failed, and handed over the country
connection they had derived from Crosby, to Simpkin, Marshall and
Company. This occurred on the October “Magazine day” of that year; for
three days and three nights the partners and their assistants never
left the establishment at Stationers’ Hall Court, and Baldwin’s country
clients were so pleased that they had been spared so much expected
delay and annoyance that one and all resolved to keep their business
in the hands of their new agents; and with this addition to their
trade, the business relations of Simpkin, Marshall and Company were now
infinitely beyond anything that even Crosby had before experienced.

In 1855, Richard Marshall retired from the business, and consequently,
the management of the concern remained almost entirely in the hands of
Mr. Miles’s two sons. Marshall died at the ripe age of seventy-five, on
the 17th of November, 1863.

In 1859 the premises were rebuilt and enlarged, and every possible
improvement, to save trouble and economise time, was introduced into
the new establishment. Among the gentlemen who had been employed in the
old warehouse was Mr. F. Laurie, a barrister-at-law, who afterwards
served in the printed-book department of the British Museum, and who
was widely known as the author of a “Life of Henry Fielding,” and
as a frequent contributor to periodical literature. As none of the
country booksellers have more than one London agent, by him they are
supplied with the books and periodicals of all the London publishers,
an arrangement that saves an infinity of trouble, expense and delay.
A century ago, in the days of small things, the agent made himself
useful to the provincial bookseller in many other ways than in the mere
supplying of publications. In many cases he was expected to forward
the newspapers, but other and stranger commissions often fell to his
lot. A great wholesale house in London at the present day would be
rather surprised to receive the following orders, which, however, all
occur in a bookseller’s records late in the eighteenth century:--“1
sliding Gunter from some of the instrument makers;” “two-eighth share
of lottery-tickets;” “1 oz. of Maker’s Cobalt, as advertized on the
cover of the _Gentleman’s Magazine_;” or a direction “to please and
send on Saturday, and pay Mr. Barratt, Parliament Place, Palace Yard,
Westminster, £1 0_s._ 6_d._, King’s Rent, due 10th of October last, for
the Vicarage of Holy Cross, Shrewsbury.”

We cannot, perhaps, convey a better idea of the manner in which
business is conducted by these wholesale houses in the “Row,” than by
giving a description of “Magazine day,”--by far the busiest time in
each month. Very quiet is Paternoster Row generally, and its solitude
is broken only by the fitful and fleeting appearance of publishers,
their agents, and literary men--the latter, as a rule, in clerical
costume, with white neckties which betray their avocation as lying
in “the religious publication line of business;” while its silence
is broken by some venturous barrel-organ player, or by an old blind
fiddler, whose music is appreciated and encouraged by the young
shop-boys, lurking behind each alley corner to enjoy the furtive
pipe. But on “Magazine day” all this is changed, the street is now
a struggling scene of bustle and confusion; now every house is in
a thrill of agitation from the garret to the cellar, and now every
business nerve is strained. Owing to the inconvenient innovation of
magazine proprietors, in publishing their periodicals on different
days, “Magazine day” has lost much of its pristine glory, but even now
the work commences on the eve of the chief day of publication, which is
known consequently as “late night,” for the assistants are generally
kept busily engaged till twelve or one o’clock. By the morning’s post
of this preceding day the country orders arrive, and the invoices have
to be made out from the lists received. Every regular customer has
his allotted pigeon-hole, into which the invoices are put as soon as
copied, together with such of the books he has ordered as are on the
premises; for the majority of the smaller country booksellers take
advantage of their monthly parcels, and to save expense of frequent
railway carriage, include also in their orders such recent books as
they may require. Early in the morning, or sometimes on the night
before, the magazines arrive, and it is on this morning that the real
work begins, for though as large a stock of current literature is kept
in each warehouse as is possible, there are still many publishers to
be sent to. While the assistants are busily engaged sorting out the
books, and supplying each order with the works they have in hand,
the “collectors” are furnished with lists of the books required from
other houses. The “collector” is by no means an unimportant person in
a publisher’s establishment; though “seedy” in attire and suspicious
in general appearance, he is entrusted with large sums of money, for
the cheaper publications are all paid for in ready cash. Bag in hand he
rushes in hot haste all over London, and with an impudent tongue and
a pair of brawny shoulders, thrusts himself to the front place before
each publisher’s counter. As we listen for a moment to the reply he
receives as to the price of a cheap periodical, we may gain an insight
into the middleman’s system of profit. “Sixes are fours and twelves
are thirteens!” yells the shop-boy, the which being interpreted means
that the wholesale price of the sixpenny periodical in question is
fourpence, and that thirteen copies go to the dozen.

The bustle at each establishment is, of course, greatly increased by
the fact that each house has to supply the wants of others, as well
as to satisfy its own--all the counters of the wholesale booksellers
being filled with screeching collectors, with greedily-gaping bags.
Early in the afternoon, however, the collectors return, and now the
books, magazines, and invoices are carried into the packing department,
and such works as could not be obtained are written off as “out of
print,” &c. Packing is an art not easily acquired, and necessitates the
patient and skilful use of much brown paper, and, in many houses, of
paper-pulp stereo-moulds, by way of stiffening. The smaller parcels are
finished first, and as soon as all are ready for removal the carriers’
carts and vans arrive; all entering the Row in regular order from the
Ludgate Hill end, and leaving it in the direction of Cheapside. By
the time that peace and quietude are restored to the neighbourhood,
some two and a half millions of volumes and periodicals (Simpkin,
Marshall and Company alone having probably despatched from six to eight
hundred different parcels) are flying from London to all parts of the
kingdom--to be greedily devoured and depreciatingly criticised on the

Not the least profitable portion of the business done by Simpkin,
Marshall and Company lies in their Colonial trade, for in this branch,
in common with other houses, they insist upon ready money payments, and
consequently all bad and doubtful debts are avoided.

Besides holding many valuable copyrights in educational works, and
publishing to a large extent upon commission, they, as we have
previously shown, are the London agents for all works published by
their country clients. Nothing, perhaps, is more curious among modern
“literary curiosities” than the sudden and unparalleled popularity of
a small pamphlet entitled “Dame Europa’s School,” written in a style
and manner not unfamiliar to us in Swift’s inimitable “Tale of a Tub;”
witty, certainly, and undeniably apropos to the times, this clever
skit was taken by its author, Mr. Pullen, a minor canon of Salisbury
Cathedral, through the usual round of the London publishers, and,
as usual with pamphlets, they one and all declined even to read the
manuscript. Mr. Pullen, in despair, gave it to Mr. Brown, a bookseller
of Salisbury, to publish on commission--that is, the author undertook
all the risk, and the publisher charged merely a certain percentage on
the sales--and limited the amount that was to be spent in advertising
to two or three pounds. As Simpkin, Marshall and Company were Mr.
Brown’s London agents, the metropolitan sale was entrusted to their
care. Without any further trouble or expenditure, the little venture
was launched, and in something like a week had created such a _furore_
that the printing had to be transferred to London, and Mr. Pullen is
stated to have cleared a handsome sum from the extraordinary sale
of his pamphlet, and the commissions gathered by the London and the
country publishers were certainly unprecedented in connection with a
little venture of this description. The London booksellers to whom it
had been offered now began to bestir themselves, and in a few weeks
there were no less than seven-and-thirty imitations of “Dame Europa’s
School” in the field, more than one of which are said to have been
written by very high dignitaries of the Church. All of these have,
however, already disappeared from circulation, though it seems probable
that the marvellously clever illustrations to the original “Dame
Europa’s School,” by Mr. Nast, one of the few really humorous artists
that America has produced, will preserve it for a time from the usual
fate of ephemeral literature.





Leaving for a while the publishers and vendors of books, we come
now to the truest disseminators of literature among those who would
otherwise have formed a non-reading, non-thinking, untaught class
in the community--a class who, originally at all events, were shut
out from the inheritance of the precious garnerings bequeathed by
long generations of writers having aught of genius, wit, or industry
to leave behind--for they were debarred from all enjoyment of such
heritage through their sheer inability to pay the literary legacy duty
demanded by the appointed tax-gatherers, the booksellers.

In former times, of course, the very capability to read was confined
to the student, and to the poor student especially were the early
circulating libraries addressed. The first circulating library of
which we have any authentic history--for most history is much other
than authentic--was, according to Dr. Adam Clarke and other eminent
antiquarians, founded at Cæsarea about the year 309 A.D., by St.
Pamphilus, who united in his character the best attributes of the
Christian and the philosopher. In a few years the library contained
upwards of 30,000 volumes, an enormous number, considering the age
at which it existed. The collection was, however, intended only for
religious purposes, and the loan of the books was distinctly confined
to “religiously disposed persons.” At Paris and elsewhere traces of
this collection are still said to exist.

In the middle ages, the practice of lending out books, or exchanging
them between monastery and monastery, was not uncommon, and by the
early stationers of Paris the manuscripts were cut up into small
portions (much as the present librarian’s novel requires to be divided
into three volumes), to the greater profit of the lenders; but we come
to very modern times before we find that circulating libraries, in the
modern acceptation of the term, were established.

The first circulating library in London was founded by Wright, a
bookseller of 132, Strand, about the year 1730. Franklin, writing of a
time some five years previous to this, says:--“While I lodged in Little
Britain, I formed an acquaintance with a bookseller of the name of
Wilcox, whose shop was next door to me. _Circulating libraries were not
then in use._ We agreed that for a reasonable retribution, of which I
have forgotten the price, I should have free access to his library, and
take what books I pleased, which I was to return when I had read them.”
Among Wright’s earliest rivals were the Nobles, John Bell (the cheap
publisher), Thomas Lowndes, and notably Samuel Bathoe, who died in
1768, and to whom, erroneously, the credit of the innovation has been
very generally attributed. As late, however, as 1770, there were only
four real circulating libraries in the capital.

The practice soon spread through the country. Shortly after Wright’s
death, Hatton established a circulating library at Birmingham. In 1745,
Watts introduced a circulating library into Cambridge, greatly extended
afterwards by John Nicholson, known by the _sobriquet_ of “Maps,”
who used to carry a sack of books to each undergraduate’s rooms, in
case they felt a sudden inclination for reading something newer than
Homer, Xenophon, or Euclid. By the year 1755 we find that circulating
libraries had extended to the extreme north of England, for Newcastle
then boasted the possession of two.

Though the custom was rapidly obtaining in town and country, the books
lent out to read were generally very similar in title to those in
the famous list in the “Rivals,” which caused Sir Anthony Absolute’s
condemnation--“A circulating library in a town is an evergreen tree of
diabolical knowledge; it blossoms throughout the year. And depend on
it, that they who are so fond of handling the leaves will long for the
fruit at last.” We have still only to go to our little country towns
and petty watering-places--few now, fortunately, still beyond the arm
of “Smith” or “Mudie”--to see the circulating library in its pristine

At first the benefits that must inevitably accrue from the movement to
the publishers as well as to the public were by no means recognized.
Lackington tells us that “when the circulating libraries were first
opened the booksellers were most alarmed, but experience has proved
that the sale of books, so far from being diminished thereby, has been
most greatly increased.”

Under the care of Hookham and Eber, these circulating libraries did
undoubtedly improve, for the proprietors now began to consider the
wants of students as well as the idle pleasure of loungers who thought
with Gray that the acmé of human happiness consisted in lying upon a
sofa reading the latest licentious novelties of Crébillon _fils_ and
his genus. The movement was further accelerated by the foundation of
book-clubs, the first of which is said to have sprung out of Burn’s
“Bachelor’s Club.” For forty or fifty years these book-clubs did good
service in the cause of education and progress, especially under
the fostering care of Mr. Charles Knight and the Society for the
Diffusion of Useful Knowledge; but soon an organizing genius arose
who was not only to render book-clubs, save those affiliated to his
own, unnecessary, but was to develop the full power of co-operation
in the circulating library itself. And his advent was favoured by a
wonderfully extended system of transport through the agency of the

Charles Edward Mudie was born in the year 1818, in Cheyne Walk,
Chelsea, where his father kept a little newspaper shop, at which
stationery and other articles were retailed, and where books of the
fugitive fiction class could be borrowed at the usual suburban charge
of a penny the volume.

[Illustration: Charles Edward Mudie, founder of Mudie’s Library.]

Mr. Mudie’s education was, as he says, “properly cared for,” and
he stayed at home assisting in his father’s business until he was
twenty-two years of age; and even in his early days he made it
his great ambition to possess a circulating library of his own,
declaring that when once he was started he would be second to none.

In the year 1840, he opened a little shop in Upper King Street,
Bloomsbury, and he carried on precisely the same trade as his father
did in Cheyne Walk. By degrees, however, he neglected the newspaper
and general stationery business, and devoted himself more exclusively
to the circulating library, which he increased at such a rapid rate
that the father became alarmed at the speculative spirit of his son. In
1842, Mr. Mudie commenced his system of lending out one exchangeable
volume to subscribers at the rate of a guinea per annum; and as he made
the addition of every new work, immediately upon its publication, a
feature in his establishment, he produced an entire revolution in the
circulating library movement, and was rewarded by a rapidly increasing
number of subscribers. Nor did he at this early period confine his
dealings solely to circulating the books of other publishers. He was
himself in some instances a publisher, and from his establishment
issued the first English edition of James R. Lowell’s “Poems,” and Mr.
George Dawson’s first “Orations.”

In 1852 the library had grown too large for the house in Upper King
Street, and he removed his business to two houses which form part of
his present establishment--the penultimate house in New Oxford Street,
and the penultimate house in Museum Street; and though the corner
house intervened, the two were connected by a passage. Gradually, as
the business grew, the houses on either side were absorbed. In 1860
the large hall was opened, and inaugurated by a festive gathering of
literary men and publishers; and the entire block of building, as it
stands at present, occupies the sites of eight houses, and even now
great additions are being made to the rear of the premises. As the
popularity of the library increased, branch houses were opened in the
city, in Birmingham and Manchester, and arrangements were made with
literary institutions, provincial libraries, book-clubs, and societies.

The magnitude of the business had, however, now grown beyond the limit
of individual capital, and, in 1864, Mr. Mudie found it desirable to
form his library into a limited liability company. The value of the
property was estimated at £100,000; of this he reserved £50,000, and
the remaining £50,000 was immediately subscribed by Mr. Murray, Mr.
Bentley, and other publishers; Mr. Mudie’s services being, naturally,
retained at a salary of £1,000 per annum, in addition to his half
interest in the business.

This change, and the increase of capital, proved in every way
beneficial to the expansion of the library; and since penning this
account we have received a circular announcing an enormous increase of
business. From the 18th August, 1871, the Directors of Mudie’s Select
Library (Limited) became possessors of the English and Foreign Library
and its large connection. This library, which was originally known as
“Hookham’s,” at one time possessed one of the finest collections of
rare and valuable standard works in London.

On entering Mudie’s Select Library, from New Oxford Street, we pass
through the show-rooms devoted to the sale of bound books; for
though the directors do not enter into the usual speculations of the
bookselling trade, the clean copies of popular works are put into
ornamental bindings, and in this manner a very extensive business is
done in works adapted for presents and prizes. Behind these show-rooms
stands the Great Hall, a large room, on the wall of which 16,000
of the current works most in vogue are shelved. What most strikes
us here is the great order and method that everywhere obtains. The
volumes are arranged in alphabetical order, and every attendant goes
straight to the required book, without hesitation or delay. For each
London customer a card is reserved bearing his name, and these cards
are kept, like the books, in an alphabetical system. The books taken
out are entered on the card, the books brought back ticked off, and
the method is found to be as successful as it certainly is simple.
The longer lists of large and country subscribers are still, however,
entered in the ledgers. Proceeding upstairs to the first floor, we
find books, still current, but not quite so incessantly called for.
On the first floor, too, we have the private offices for clerks, and
the foreign department. Mudie’s collection of German works is the
best of any of the London circulating libraries, and the German books
are said to be much more earnestly read than the French, occasional
and popular novels, of course, excepted. On the higher floors the
standard catalogued works are stowed, their popularity diminishing as
the altitude of their resting place increases. As soon as a book is
published in a shilling or other cheap edition, it ceases to be much
demanded here. For instance, Lord Lytton’s novels are in very little
request. On the contrary, we were told that no sets of books are so
rapidly “worn out” as the works of Charles Dickens.

The stock of books is so incessantly varying through the sale of
old and the purchase of new volumes, that we were told that it was
impossible to give anything like an estimate of the numbers. Some idea
of the magnitude of the library may, however, be gathered from the

Of the last two volumes of Macaulay’s “History of England,” 2400 copies
were taken, and the public demand for them was so extraordinary that a
whole shop, now the large room on the left as one enters, was devoted
to their stowage and exchange. There were taken, of Dr. Livingstone’s
first African Travels, 2000 copies; and of Mr. Tennyson’s “Enoch
Arden,” 2500 (the largest number required of any poetical work); of
Mr. Disraeli’s “Lothair” 1500 copies were at first subscribed, but it
was soon found necessary to increase the number to 3000. The demand
was, however, as brief as it was eager, and the monumental pile of
“remainders” in Mr. Mudie’s cellar is the largest that has ever been
erected there to the hydra of ephemeral admiration. About 600 copies
of each of the two great reviews--the _Edinburgh_ and _Quarterly_--are
required as a first instalment; but should any article prove more
than usually attractive to the public, a large addition is made--this
was notably the case with that number of the _Quarterly_ containing
the famous article on the “Talmud;” 100 copies of the _Revue des Deux
Mondes_ are required fortnightly to satisfy foreign students; and
we believe that, of all novels which are likely to prove ordinarily
popular, as many as 400 are at once ordered. The onus of selecting
the books rests entirely in Mr. Mudie’s own hands, and it has often
been objected that his decisions are somewhat arbitrary;--for instance
Mr. Swinburne is tabooed, while M. Paul de Koch is made free of the
establishment--that, in short, the subscribers should be considered as
responsible judges of what books they do, and do not, desire to read.
However, as it is, Mr. Mudie’s principles of selection are broad enough
to satisfy very various classes of readers. Of course the largest class
of all are the novel-devourers, and it is said that, as the coarser
novels of the day are almost exclusively written by women, so it is
by women that they are chiefly patronised. The large field opened to
female labour in the manufacture of library fiction is worth a moment’s
consideration, for the road has been cleared towards it, not by
platform gatherings of stentorian amazons, but simply by the ordinary
laws of supply and demand.

On analysing Mudie’s clearance catalogue for August, 1871 (and this
catalogue is one of the best guides to the popular novel literature
of the last few years), we find that there are 441 works of fiction
written by authors under their own names, or by authors whose
pseudonymes are perfectly well known. Of these 441 distinct works,
212 are written by men, and 229 by women; so that, by what seems to
us a not unfair test, actually more than half the novels of the day
are written by female authors. To another large class of readers (the
good people who go to Mr. and Mrs. German Reed’s entertainments, and
not to the theatre), the ordinary novels are _caviare_; and they
require their fiction seasoned, not by sensation, but by religious
precept. Scientific books, once asked for only by students, are vastly
increasing in popularity; and the “fairy tales of science,” as narrated
by a Huxley or a Darwin, are beginning to be as eagerly demanded as the
latest productions of Miss Braddon or Mr. Wilkie Collins.

In the basement cellars, extending under the whole building, the
“remainders” are stowed in huge bales, ready for sale or export. These
are principally purchased by the country circulating libraries, and by
shippers to the colonies and British possessions; and thus the name
of Mudie--and the well-known yellow label, familiar in every English
household--is carried wherever the English tongue is spoken.

About eighty assistants are employed in the central house alone,
without reckoning those engaged in the city and the country branches.
The system of leaving books at the subscribers’ own homes, recently
introduced, is becoming more and more popular: five vans go out daily
on their respective rounds, and 8000 calls are generally made in the
course of the week.

Mr. Mudie’s services as a public benefactor in the cause of extended
education, were some years since publicly recognized by the ratepayers
of Westminster, in his election to the London School Board; and it
is to be hoped that his knowledge of the practical use of the boon
conferred upon the higher classes by the increased facilities of
book-hiring, may lead him to urge upon his colleagues the advisability
of establishing free circulating libraries for the use of those whose
educational guardians they have recently become. The gift of tools is
of very little moment to any one, if there is to be no occasion for
their use; and in many instances it will be an absolute cruelty to
teach children to read, and then to hurl them back on the atrocious
literature of slum shops. At present, the fact that London is still
without any pretence to a free circulating library, or indeed to an
absolutely free library of any kind, is doubly disgraceful to our
pachydermatous local authorities, because several provincial towns have
shamed us by a good example. When the schoolmaster first began to
bestir himself abroad in England, a taste for reading was encouraged,
which soon spread in every direction, and by degrees a loud demand,
satisfied at present only in a very limited degree, began to make
itself heard for the establishment of free libraries.

In 1845, Mr. William Ewart succeeded in passing a bill through the
House to encourage the establishment of museums, and, legally intended,
to include also libraries. By this act the local authorities, in towns
with a population exceeding 10,000, possessed the power of levying a
halfpenny rate for this purpose; and the sum so raised was to be spent
in providing buildings, and in paying the expenses of conservation,
not of accumulation. At this time, an official inquiry shows us that
Manchester, with a population of 360,000 persons, was the only town
in the kingdom which possessed a perfectly free library--this was the
Chetham _Endowed_ Library (said to be the oldest in Europe), which
consisted of only 19,000 volumes. A further act was passed in 1850,
distinctly referring to libraries, under the title of the “Public
Library and Museum Act,” by the provisions of which a majority of the
ratepayers, at any properly summoned meeting, can levy a halfpenny in
the pound for the establishment of free libraries.

In 1852, chiefly owing to the exertions of the late Sir John Potter,
the Manchester Free Library was opened, and is supported by the
ratepayers. Since that time, four additional free lending libraries,
with newspaper-rooms attached, have been affiliated to it. In 1869 the
main library contained upwards of 84,000 volumes. A guarantee from any
householder is all that is required by those wishing to partake of the
benefits of the Manchester libraries.

The Liverpool Library, the best used of all these institutions, was
founded chiefly through the munificence of Mr. William Brown, who, at
its opening in 1860, was created a baronet. It consists of a reference
and two lending libraries, and in 1867, though there were only 45,668
volumes in the reference library, the daily issue of books actually
averaged 2041.

At Bebbington, a suburb of Liverpool, or, more justly, of Birkenhead,
a very excellent free circulating library has been established by Mr.
Meyer, the eminent goldsmith and antiquarian, and its advantages are
duly appreciated by the residents for miles around.

At Birmingham there are five different libraries and reading-rooms,
containing, in all, 52,269 volumes. In 1869, 300,031 volumes were
borrowed by 9688 persons, of whom no fewer than 5607 were under twenty
years of age.

The “lending library” at all these towns appears to be of a more
popular character than the “reference library,” though both are

After this short survey, it does indeed seem disgraceful to the London
authorities that now, when the State is absolutely preparing its
weapons to battle with Ignorance, when Education is to be made possible
to all, patent to all, Mr. Mudie should be allowed, unrivalled, to
supply so admirably the literary wants of the wealthy, and that the
poor should be refused the cheapest and most remunerative of all
boons--a free opportunity of gaining knowledge.





W. H. Smith, the originator of the enormous traffic in the sale and
loan of books, and in the sale of newspapers and periodicals, in
connection with our extended railway system, was born on the 7th
of July, 1792. As he was, from early years, intended for entirely
different pursuits from that which he eventually followed, he cannot
be said to have received a special business training. While still a
boy, family circumstances rendered it desirable that he should take the
control of a small newspaper establishment at the West End of London,
and though his inclinations were decidedly opposed to a petty trade
of this nature, he made duty paramount to likings or dislikings, and
gave all his attention to his business. In a short time he was able
to move to a larger shop in the Strand, and here he added the sale
of stationery to the newspaper traffic. At that time the mails were
conveyed from London by coaches leaving at night only, so that the
morning papers could not be received in Liverpool or Manchester until
forty-eight hours after publication. Smith now conceived the idea of
forwarding the newspapers by express parcels by the coaches leaving
London in the morning, and as these coaches generally left before the
delivery of the morning papers, he kept a relay of swift, long-legged
horses, which started as soon as the papers came to hand, and caught
up the coaches where they could. By this means he actually secured the
delivery of the news in the large Northern towns four-and-twenty hours
in advance of the mail. For some years the returns from this business
were altogether inadequate to the cost and trouble incurred, and many
men would have abandoned so desperate an enterprise, but Smith had
faith in the scheme, and his perseverance was rewarded by the largest
newspaper business in Europe. His attention was almost entirely given
to the newspaper branch of his trade, and after a time everything else
gave way to it.

When railways first began to supersede coaches, Smith at once availed
himself of the new facilities thus afforded in the transit of his
newspapers. Up to 1848 no systematic arrangements had been made to
supply passengers at the stations with either papers or books. The
privilege of satisfying public requirements had not been regarded as
possessing any value, and the only idea those who had the right of
selling books there put into actual execution was to avoid all risk
whatsoever in providing for their possible customers. The result was,
of course, very far from satisfactory, and it occurred to Smith, in
1848, to tender for the exclusive right of vending books and papers on
the Birmingham Railway. The general satisfaction which this innovation
afforded, induced the Directors of other companies to open the way to
similar arrangements, and thus the newspaper trade of W. H. Smith
and Son (for he had by this time taken his son into partnership), was
established at almost every station of importance in the kingdom; but
the original cost of organization was enormous, and two or three years
elapsed before any actual profit was realised.

Soon, of course, at the railway stalls, books as well as papers were
vended, and the special requirements of passengers called into being
several cheap series of light works of fiction, calculated to while
away the tedium of a railway journey. By degrees, too, a circulating
library was formed and extended, and, as Smith and Son possessed
unparalleled advantages in the way of cheap transit of goods, and in
their already-established branches, extending throughout the kingdom
wherever the iron horse had previously cleared the way, they were able
to supplement Mudie’s Library most efficiently.

In 1852 W. H. Smith, senior, first felt the symptoms of a diseased
heart, and in 1854 he retired from business altogether, spending the
remainder of his days at his country residence at Bournemouth, and here
he died on the 28th of July, 1855.

Upon Mr. W. H. Smith, son of the founder, the business now devolved,
and, while extending its ramifications in all directions, he found time
and opportunity to embrace a career of more general utility. Elected by
the householders of Westminster as a member of the House of Commons, to
the exclusion of Mr. J. S. Mill, he has won the good opinions of all
parties by the active part he has always taken in Metropolitan matters,
and by the staunchness with which he has defended the privileges of
London citizens. The confidence of the public was again expressed in
his favour when he was chosen a member of the School Board for London.
It is understood that of late years a great part of the management of
the business establishment has devolved upon Mr. Lethbridge, the junior
member of the firm.

As we have already, in our chapter on Mr. Mudie, devoted ourselves
especially to the circulating library, we will endeavour here to give
only a short account of the newspaper business of W. H. Smith and Son.

If we walk down the Strand at four o’clock in the morning, we find
the whole street deserted and dull until we reach a row of red carts,
bearing the name of the firm. When, however, we enter the establishment
by which they are waiting, all is business and bustle. The interior
of the large building is, in shape, not unlike a bee-hive; the
ground-floor forms, as it were, the pit, and the two galleries the
boxes, of a theatre. In these galleries nearly two hundred men and boys
are already busy folding papers.

At five o’clock the “dailies” begin to arrive, and the advent of the
_Times_ is hailed with a consternation of enthusiasm. The huge bundles
are fiercely attacked, and folded off in a shorter time than one
could imagine possible; and then the _Telegraph_, _Daily News_, and
_Standard_ are assaulted. As soon as the folding has been partially
completed, a portion of the assistants are told off to make the proper
assortment for each country place, and each packer has now a boy to
wait upon him, who shouts out his individual wants.

At the door the carts are waiting ready to drive off with the parcels
to the different railway termini, and by about a quarter to six all the
first trains out of London are supplied, and in less than two hours the
whole kingdom has been fed with morning newspapers, including between
20,000 and 30,000 copies of the _Times_.

This scene occurs every week-day morning, but on Friday afternoon,
on the arrival of the weekly papers, the bustle of business is even
greater, and the parcels (those for the post only) are removed by
fourteen vans sent from the General Post Office.

In connection with the “Railway Libraries,” it may be interesting to
learn something of the publisher who has identified them with his
business. Mr. George Routledge is a native of Cumberland--a county,
perhaps, as much as any other, famous for the commercial success of its
natives--who, after serving his apprenticeship at Carlisle, came up to
London, and obtained employment in the house of Baldwin and Craddock.
Soon, however, he opened a little shop of his own in Ryder’s Court,
Leicester Square, for the sale of cheap and second-hand books. Here,
however, at first he had much spare time on his hands, and he managed
to procure a subordinate position in the Tithe Office. The work was
not heavy, and the extra salary enabled him to increase his legitimate
business. During the holiday time granted him by the Office, he made
two or three journeys of exploration into the country, and found that
a wide field existed there for a venturous and indomitable bookseller.
Accordingly, he set to work to buy remainders, and having by degrees
established agencies in the country, the young and almost unknown
bookseller of Ryder’s Court was able to compete in the auction-rooms,
and generally with success, against Mr. Bohn and other influential
members of the trade--much to their astonishment, and not a little to
their consternation. It was now time to give up the aid of the Tithe
Office, and in 1845 Mr. Routledge moved to larger premises in Soho
Square, and in 1848 Mr. William Warne, his brother-in-law, and for
long his assistant, was admitted into partnership, being joined by Mr.
F. Warne, three years later, when the firm moved again to Farringdon

While at Soho Square, the publications of Messrs. Routledge and Warne
had consisted chiefly of reprints, and here the remainder trade had
been vastly extended, but now they began to enter into direct dealings
with noted authors on a scale that fully equalled the transactions of
the first publishing firms. Perhaps the boldest of their early ventures
was the offer of £20,000 to Sir E. Bulwer Lytton for the right of
issuing a cheap series of his works for the term of ten years, from
1853-1863. In spite of the enormous outlay they were very willing, on
the expiry of the time, to take a fresh lease of the popular volumes;
so that an offer originally deemed by the trade to be Quixotic, if not
ruinous, must have reaped the success that its liberality and boldness
deserved; and by their association with Sir E. Bulwer Lytton, a great
_prestige_ was at once acquired. Similar arrangements were made with
other distinguished novelists, nearly all of whom we have met before
in our previous article on Colburn--Mr. G. P. R. James, Mr. Disraeli,
Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, and Mr. Howard Russell; while these successful
re-issues were quickly followed by the publication of original works by
Mayne Reed, Grant, and others, and by the first English edition of many
of Prescott’s and Longfellow’s productions.

The various popular series known as the “Railway Library,” the “Popular
Library,” &c., comprising many hundred volumes of standard works,
afforded the chief business at Smith’s bookstalls, and were, through
Mr. Routledge’s complete network of agents and connections, scattered
broadcast over the country. Among the first books they brought out at a
shilling were the works of Fenimore Cooper, Captain Marryat, Washington
Irving, and Mrs. Stowe. Of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” half-a-million copies
are said to have been sold. Of Russell’s “Narrative of the Crimean
War,” 20,000; of Soyer’s “Shilling Cookery,” 250,000; and of “Rarey on
Horse Training,” 150,000 copies were disposed of in a very few weeks.
As an example of the energy and enterprise of the firm, it is stated
that when the copy of “Queechy” was received upon one Monday morning,
it was at once placed in the printer’s hands; on Thursday the sheets
were at the binder’s, and on the Monday following 20,000 copies had
been disposed of to the trade.

Besides these cheap works, Mr. Routledge has issued a multitude of more
expensive volumes, illustrated by the best artists, and “got up” in the
most luxurious styles. Among these it will be enough here to mention
his numerous Shakespeares, Wood’s “Natural History” and Wood’s “Natural
History of Man,” and Routledge’s “English Poets.” How extensive the
Fine Art business of the firm must have been may be gathered from the
fact that before 1855 they had paid one engraving house--the Messrs.
Dalziel Brothers--upwards of £50,000.

In 1854, Mr. Routledge established a branch house at New York, and
in 1865, Mr. F. Warne--his brother had previously died--on the
termination of the partnership, established a fresh business in Bedford
Street, Covent Garden. With his two sons--Mr. Robert and Mr. Edmund
Routledge--the founder now carries on the business at Broadway, Ludgate
Hill, having removed thither when the railway improvements took place
in Farringdon Street.

    NOTE.--For these statistics and much of our sketch we are
    indebted to a writer in the _Bookseller_, who “obtained the
    information from trustworthy sources.”




    _York_: _Gent and Burdekin._

    _Newcastle_: _Goading, Bryson, Bewick, and Charnley._

    _Glasgow_: _Fowlis and Collins._

    _Liverpool_: _Johnson._

    _Dublin_: _Duffy._

    _Derby_: _Mozley, Richardson, and Bemrose._

    _Manchester_: _Harrop, Barker, Timperley, and the Heywoods._

    _Birmingham_: _Hutton, Baskerville, and “The Educational
        Trading Co.”_

    _Exeter_: _Brice._

    _Bristol_: _Cottle._

In this short chapter on provincial bookselling, we shall be
necessarily obliged to confine our notice to those representatives
of the trade in the larger country towns who were characteristically
as well as bibliopolically famous--who, with their native talent,
determination, and endurance, would have succeeded in any walk of life,
had they not, fortunately for the interest of our history, embraced the
profession of bookselling.

In old days, York was the natural capital of the North of England; a
position acquired, of course, in times of ecclesiastical supremacy,
but still retained for centuries after the Reformation. When the cost
and difficulty of transit were great, the country folk looked to their
own capital cities to supply them with literary food, and the annals
of bookselling at York go back to nearly as ancient a date as those of
London; and, indeed, Thomas Gent, whom we select as our representative
of the York booksellers, might have figured in the earlier portion of
our introductory chapter, had he not been reserved for a more fitting
place here.

Thomas Gent, though of a Staffordshire family, was born in Dublin, and
was apprenticed by his parents, poor though industrious people, to a
printer in that city. In 1710, after three years’ brutal treatment from
his employers, he ran away to London, where, as he was not a freeman of
the city, he lived upon what he calls “smouting work” for four years,
and then accepted a situation with Mr. White of York, who, as a reward
for printing the Prince of Orange’s declaration when all the London
printers were afraid, had been created King’s printer for York and
five other counties. White must have enjoyed plenty of business, there
being few printers out of London at that time--“None,” says Gent, “I am
sure at Chester, Liverpool, Whitehaven, Preston, Manchester, Kendal,
and Leeds.” When Gent, terminating his long walk from London, arrived
at York, the door was opened by “Mistress White’s head maiden, who is
now my dear spouse,” but he had to wait nearly as long a time as Jacob
served for Rachel before he could claim “my dearest.”

Gent was as happy in York as he could well be, was earning money and
respected by all, when his parents bade him come back to Dublin, and
what made his departure grievous?--“I scarce knew, however, through
respect of Mrs. Alice Guy.... Indeed I was not very forward in love
or desire of matrimony till I knew the world better, and consequently
should be more able to provide such a handsome maintenance as I confess
I had ambition enough to desire.... However, I told her (because my
irresolution should not anticipate her advancement) that I should
respect her as one of the dearest of friends; and receiving a little
dog from her, as a companion on the road, I had the honour to be
accompanied as far as Bramham Moor by my rival” (his master’s grandson).

At Dublin he was soon threatened with seizure for having broken his
apprenticeship, and though his friends offered to buy his freedom, he
had received a letter from his dearest at York, saying he was expected
there, and he could not resist the opportunity of meeting her again.
His friends were much concerned at parting with him so soon, “but
my unlucky whelp that had torn my new hat to pieces seemed no wise
affected by my taking boat; so I let the rascal stay with my dear
parents, who were fond of him for my sake, as he was of them for his

After a stay of a few months at York, he came to London, resolved to
scrape and save money enough to warrant him offering a home to “Mrs.
Alice Guy,” and in 1817 he became free of the City of London, and set
to work in grim earnest, “many times from five in the morning till
twelve at night, and frequently without food from breakfast till five
or six in the evening, through hurry with hawkers;” for at times he
was in a ballad-house, now toiling at case, now writing “last words
and confessions,” now reporting sermons “for a crown piece and a
pair of breeches”--(profitable penny-a-lining that!)--again printing
treasonable papers, for which he was seized by the authorities;
and pirating and abridging “Robinson Crusoe,” the first part of
which appeared in 1717, for which greater crime he went scot free.
Occasionally he went home, but scarcely found it worth his while to
stay in Dublin, and his parents’ “melting tears caused mine to flow,
and bedewed my pillow every night after that I lodged with them. ‘What,
Tommy,’ my mother would sometimes say, ‘this English damsel of yours,
I suppose, is the chiefest reason why you slight us and your native
country! Well,’ added she, ‘the ways of Providence are unsearchable.’”

Gent, however, “provident overmuch,” made the heart of his English
damsel sick with hope deferred--and “yet” he writes, “I could not well
help it. I had a little money, it is very true, but no certain home
wherein to invite her. I knew she was well fixed; and it pierced me
to the very heart to think if through any miscarriage or misfortune I
should alter her condition for the worse instead of the better. Upon
this account my letters to her at this time were not so amorously
obliging as they ought to have been from a sincere lover; by which she
had reason, however she might have been mistaken, to think that I had
failed in my part of those tender engagements which had passed between

After serving some time with Watts, Tonson’s printing partner, and
also with Henry Woodfall, founder of a long line of famous printers,
he purchased a quantity of old type from Mist, the proprietor of the
well-known journal, and just as he was conning over his matrimonial
prospects, “one Sunday morning as my shoes were japanning by a little
boy at the end of the lane, there came Mr. John Hoyle. ‘Mr. Gent,’ said
he, ‘I have been at York to see my parents, and am but just as it were
returned to London. I am heartily glad to see you, but sorry to tell
you that you have lost your old sweetheart; for I assure you that she
is really married to your rival, Mr. Bourne.’ I was so thunderstruck
that I could scarcely return an answer.”

In this grief he betook himself to the Muse, and as he had formerly
earned the title of the Bellman’s Poet, he indicted the “Forsaken
Lover’s Letter to his Former Sweetheart,” to a tune “much in request,
and proper for the flute;” and not caring that his master should know
of his great disappointment, he gave the copy to Mr. Dodd, “who,
printing the same, sold thousands of them, for which he offered me a
price; but as it was on my own proper concern, I scorned to accept of
anything except a glass of comfort or so.” “Proper concerns” in the
shape of heartaches, disappointments, and miseries, have been traded
in to better purpose by less modest singers, but Gent’s mental anguish
seems sincere; he “was then worn down to a shadow,” and weary of his
endless and now purposeless struggle. Work, however, a palliative if
not a cure, was again eagerly resorted to, and Gent found employment
first with Mr. Samuel Richardson, and afterwards, and more permanently,
with Mrs. Dodd. Here he continued till on another “Sunday morning
Mr. Philip Wood, a quondam partner of Mr. Midwinter’s, entering my
chambers--‘Tommy,’ said he, ‘all these fine material of yours must be
moved to York,’ at which, wondering, ‘What mean you?’ said I. ‘Ay,’
said he,’ ‘and you must go to, without it’s your own fault; for your
first sweetheart is now at liberty, and left in good circumstances by
her dear spouse, deceased but of late.’ ‘I pray heaven,’ answered I,
‘that his precious soul may be happy; and for aught I know it may be
as you say, for indeed I think I may not trifle with a widow, as I
have formerly done with a maid.’” So he paid forthwith his coach fare
down to York, and found his dearest much altered, for he had not seen
her these ten years. There was no need of new courtship, “but decency
suspended the ceremony of marriage for some time, till my dearest,
considering the ill-consequence of delay in her business, as well as
the former ties of love that passed innocently between us, by word and
writing, gave full consent to have the nuptials celebrated.”

But, alas! when he became a master instead of a servant, and she a
mistress instead of a maid, he found her “temper much altered from
that sweet natural softness and most tender affection that rendered
her so amiable to me while I was more juvenile and she a widow. My
dear’s uncle, White, as he calls himself, who, as the only printer
in Newcastle, had heaped up riches,” was angry that he had not been
chosen to manage his niece’s shop, and actually came to York to found
a rival establishment. Gent started a paper, and, though he persevered
in its publication for many years, he was at length out-rivalled by
White. In the publication of books he was much more successful. In
1726 he printed some books “learnedly translated into English by John
Clarke, a schoolmaster in Hull,” as well as two editions of Erasmus.
But the works by which he acquired most money and reputation were
written as well as published by himself--“The Famous History of the
City of York,” “History of the Loyal Town of Ripon,” and the “History
of the Royal and Beautiful Town of Kingstown-upon-Hill.” At this time
his business is thus described by a card still existing:--“Within his
well-contrived office aforesaid printing is performed in a curious and
judicious manner, having sets of fine characters for the Greek, Latin,
English, Mathematics, &c. He sells the histories of Rome, France,
England, particularly of this ancient City, Aynsty, and extensive
County, in five volumes; likewise a book of the holy life of St.
Winnifred, and her wonderful Cambrian fountain. He has stimulated an
ingenious founder to cast such musical types, for the common press, as
never yet were exhibited; and has prepared a new edition of his York
History against the time when the few remaining copies of that first
and large impression are disposed off.” He died, however, at York in
1778, in his eighty-seventh year, in somewhat reduced circumstances,
solely, he alleges, through the animosity of his uncle White. The
manuscript of his interesting autobiography was discovered casually
in Ireland, and was published only in 1832. From its quaintness and
simplicity, above all from its minuteness of detail, it is evident
enough where the abridger of “Robinson Crusoe” borrowed his manner and
style; and the reader will probably not quarrel with us for having
given as much of the narrative as possible in the author’s own words.

Chief among the more recent York booksellers was Richard Burdekin, who
died only twelve years since. In his younger days he was a traveller to
the local firm of Wilson & Sons, who at the beginning of the century
were well known as publishers of the works of Lindley Murray, which
are said at that time to have achieved an annual sale of 100,000
copies. What Burdekin’s efforts in his masters’ service were, we can
gather from the fact that he rode his favourite horse 30,000 miles
in search of orders, which in a short time doubled the receipts of
his employers. Soon he joined Spence in an old-established business,
and eventually became senior partner of the firm. His trade extended
to forty miles round York, and for fifty-five years he continued to
sell, and in a lesser degree to publish, such books as might suit the
inhabitants of the three ridings.

We have seen that Gent describes his dear’s uncle White as having
heaped up riches as the only Newcastle printer. He could, however,
scarcely have been the only printer there, for we find that even when
Charles I. made Newcastle his headquarters he brought with him Robert
Barker, who had, as we have elsewhere noticed, enjoyed certain patents
under the two preceding monarchs. If there were no previous printers
at Newcastle in Barker’s time, one, at least, must have started very
shortly afterwards, for in 1656 we find the death of “James Chantler,
bookseller,” recorded, and in those times the booksellers were mainly
supplied from local sources.

From Chantler’s time we find that books and stationery were the staple
commodities of Tyne Bridge, and for nearly a couple of centuries the
“brigg” has been a favourite resort of the trade. We find the names of
Randell, Maplisden, Linn, and Akenhead occurring in the list of the
Newcastle Stationers’ Company; and at the close of 1746 John Goading
printed the first number of the _Newcastle General Magazine_. “For too
long,” said the preface, “had the northern climes been deprived of a
repository of learning; too long had those geniuses that now began to
shine been consealed in darkness for want of a proper channel to convey
their productions into light;” but in 1760 the northern geniuses were
again “consealed in darkness,” for the magazine came to an end. Four
years later, however, Thomas Slack founded the _Newcastle Chronicle_,
which has gone on continuously to the present day, being now one of the
very best daily papers out of London. To its columns we are indebted
for much of the preceding.

Goading had continued his general publishing business with some energy,
and in 1751 he issued Blenerhasset’s “History of England”--from the
landing of the Phœnicians to the death of George I.--and in his list of
subscribers we find no less than eight Newcastle booksellers, one of
whom was Martin Bryson, the friend and correspondent of Allan Ramsay,
the Scotch poet and Edinburgh bookseller, who addressed a letter to him
in rhyme--

 “To Martin Bryson, on Tyne Brigg,
  An upright, downright, honest Whig.”

Bryson’s name occurs on a title-page as early as 1722. His house and
stock were destroyed by the great Newcastle fire of 1750, and after
this occurrence he took, William Charnley, the son of a Penrith
haberdasher and one of his many apprentices, into partnership.

To diverge for a moment from this pedigree of bibliopoles, we come to
by far the greatest name connected in any way with the production of
books at Newcastle--that, of course, of Thomas Bewick; and though his
life belongs more properly to the history of engraving, for many years
the books that were illustrated by his pencil gave the northern town
such a world-wide reputation that we feel justified in devoting a page
or two to his memory.

Thomas Bewick was born at Cherryburn, twelve miles to the west of
Newcastle, in 1753, receiving a limited, but as far as it went a
thorough education; his genius displayed itself in early childish
days by such chalk drawings on barn-walls and stable-doors as have
almost invariably discovered the bent of youthful artistic genius. At
the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to Mr. Beilby, of Newcastle, an
engraver in copper-plate, and though Beilby’s business lay rather in
the production of brass door-plates, and the emblazoning of spoons and
watches, than in Fine Art illustrations, the master soon appreciated
and encouraged his pupil’s wonderful talents. During the period of
his apprenticeship, young Bewick paid only ninepence a week for his
lodging, and brought back a coarse brown loaf in every weekly visit to
his home at Cherryburn. As soon as his term of seven years had expired,
he still continued in Beilby’s service, but devoted himself henceforth
to wood-engraving. Shortly afterwards he received a premium from the
Society of Arts for a woodcut of the “Huntsman and the Old Hound,”
and this induced him in the following year to go to London in quest
of labour and fortune, but he found the metropolis so little to his
liking that he writes home: “I would rather be herding sheep on Mickley
Bank-top than remain in London, although for doing so I was to be made
the premier of England.” With his distaste for town life and his strong
love for the country--for its scenery changing with every season, for
its living forms of animal and plant life, for all, in short, that
incessantly appealed to a wonderful artistic instinct, Bewick was
easily persuaded by his old master, Beilby, to return to Newcastle, and
enter into partnership with him--his brother John becoming their joint
apprentice. The publication of the illustrations to “Gay’s Fables,” and
the “Select Fables,” by the brothers, spread their reputation far and
wide, and placed them far above competition in the art. In 1785, Thomas
Bewick began the cuts for his “History of Quadrupeds,” though the work
was not completed and published until 1790. The “text,” or literary
matter, was contributed by his partner, Beilby, but it was of course on
account of the illustrations that three large editions were called for
within three years. In this successful venture, the two partners were
associated with a printer of the name of Hodgson, and unfortunately,
after his death, the arrangement was made the grounds of dispute by
his widow, and Bewick was compelled to remove the printing of the work
to another establishment. In 1797 appeared the first volume of the
“History of British Birds,” and almost immediately afterwards, Beilby
retired from the partnership, leaving Bewick to produce and compile
the work alone. The tail-pieces in the first edition of the Birds
are considered Bewick’s _chefs d’œuvres_--as Professor Wilson says,
“There is a moral in every tail-piece--a sermon in every vignette....
His books lie on our parlour, bed-room, dining-room, drawing-room and
study tables, and are never out of place or time. Happy old man! The
delight of childhood, manhood, decaying age!” After founding a famous
school for wood-engravers at Newcastle--William Harvey was among his
pupils--Bewick died in 1828, leaving the business to his son, Mr. R. E.

Charnley left Bryson in 1755, and started a circulating library of 2000
volumes, the subscription being twelve shillings a year, and though
this method of disseminating books had only been practised in London
within the previous twenty years, we find that one Barba, who dabbled
likewise in prints and tea, had already been for some years in the
field. When Bryson died, Charnley succeeded to his business on the
bridge, and after having been washed out by an overflow of the river,
he removed to safer premises in the Great Market in 1777. Charnley died
in 1803. An anecdote connected with him is still gleefully told by the
Newcastle pitmen, and is worth repeating. He was deaf and obliged to
use an ear-trumpet; and on being accosted by a collier, he clapped, as
usual, his instrument to his ear, in order to catch the words. “Nay,
man,” cried the pitman, not to be imposed upon; “thou’s not gaun to mak
me believe thou can play that trumpet wi’ thy lug!”

Emerson Charnley succeeded his father, and was styled by Dibdin
“the veteran emperor of Northumbrian booksellers;” till 1860 this
old established business remained in the family, when it became the
property of Mr. William Dodd, for many years its manager.

We have already referred so often to the Scotch publishers, that we can
only find room for Glasgow as representing the Scotch provincial trade.
Printing was introduced there in the year 1630 by George Anderson,
who was succeeded in 1661 by Robert Saunders, and the whole printing
business of the West of Scotland (except one newspaper) was carried on
by Saunders and his son until 1730, when the art was further improved
by R. Uric. Five years later it appears from Morrison’s “Dictionary
of Decisions of the Court of Sessions” that a new comer “was debarred
from any concern in bookselling within the city of Glasgow, because
the place was judged too narrow for two booksellers at a time.” In the
teeth of this arbitrary decision Robert Fowlis, who as a young barber
had attracted the notice of some of the university professors, and had
been encouraged to attend the lectures, opened a book-shop in 1739. In
1743 he was appointed printer to the university, and in the following
year he produced his celebrated immaculate edition of “Horace,” which
was hung up on the college walls with a reward appended for every
mistake discovered. In the course of thirty years they produced as many
well printed classics as Bodoni of Parma, or Barbon of Paris, and their
books, in exactness and beauty of type, almost rival the Aldine series.
They endeavoured to devote the money which their success brought them
in to the establishment of an academy for the cultivation of the Fine
Arts, but this grand, and then novel, project produced their ruin,
without in any way affecting the artistic taste of Scotland. After
the death of his younger brother, Robert was compelled to send the
collection of pictures to London for sale, and as he was in immediate
want of money he insisted upon the auction taking place at a time when
the picture market was glutted. The sale catalogue forms three volumes,
and yet after all expenses were defrayed the balance in his favour
amounted only to fifteen shillings. He died on his way back to Glasgow
in 1776.

The bookselling and book-manufacturing trades have changed strangely
in Glasgow, since the time when the city was judged “too narrow” for
two booksellers. At present these branches of industry are only
surpassed in Edinburgh, and one Glasgow establishment at least is
without a parallel in London. Messrs. Collins, Son, and Co., actually
give employment to about seven hundred hands. The ground-floor of
their immense building is devoted to the warehousing of paper,
account-books, copy-books and general stationery. On the main floor of
the establishment one hundred binders are constantly at work, and on
the floor above the folding and sewing of the sheets is executed by
two hundred girls and women. In the rear stands the engine-house and
printing office where sixteen platten and cylinder typographic machines
are kept working at full steam, upon dictionaries, school-books,
Bibles, prayer-books, devotional, and other publications. Seven
lithographic machines are constantly employed upon atlases and
their celebrated copy-books, and it has been found that the finest
lithographic work can be better executed by the machine than, as till
very recently, at press. Everything is done on the premises, which
extend from Stirling’s Road to Heriot Hill, except making the paper and
casting the type.[32]

As further proof of the magnitude of the business, we may quote a
recent statement of Mr. Henderson, one of the partners. In 1869 there
were “issued from the letter-press section of the establishment, no
fewer than 1,352,421 printed and bound works--equal to about 4500 per
day, or 450 passing through the hands of the workers every working

Little more than a hundred years ago the great seaport town of
Liverpool was a little fishing village, and, consequently, the
bookselling trade there is of a very recent growth. Among the first
important members of the fraternity were Darton and Freer; but perhaps
the most famous Liverpool bibliopole of his day was Thomas Johnson.
He started in Dale Street, in 1829, with a stock of books only large
enough to fill the bottom shelves of his window; and at the back of his
shop, scarce hidden, he kept his bed and household utensils. However,
he had the happy knack of making friends in all quarters; and when at
a large trade sale, offered on unusually advantageous terms, he had
speedily emptied his meagre purse, and was looking wistfully at the
bargains falling to all his neighbours, a Liverpool merchant bade him
go on purchasing to the extent of £100 or £150, adding that he himself
would take the risk. This timely aid set Johnson up in a comparatively
princely manner, and after he had been in business a few years his
periodical catalogue extended to 300 pages. At this time the country
booksellers were chiefly dependent for their stocks upon the sales of
private libraries, but the Liverpool booksellers possessed another
large means of supplying their wants. The Bible Society in Dublin was
very busy in distributing new Bibles in all directions, which the good
Catholics at once carried to the pawnshops. These were purchased again
by Mr. Duffy, who brought them over to Liverpool in huge sacks, and
exchanged them for books more agreeable to the Irish taste.

By degrees Johnson combined publishing and auctioneering with the
more legitimate business. His first venture in the former capacity
was Abbot’s collected works; but by far his most successful were the
Lectures on “Revivals,” and on “Professing Christians,” by Mr. Finney,
of which he sold 150,000 copies. As an auctioneer, he was a lesser, or
Liverpool edition, of Tegg, and his rooms under the Liver theatre were
crowded nightly. On one occasion Johnson is said to have purchased the
entire contents of Baldwin’s Bible room, and he was well known to have
been the largest consumer of Bibles out of London; and when Arnold left
the Bagsters, and commenced Bible printing on his own account, Johnson
was his favourite customer. Arnold’s puffing hand-bills vie with the
choicest pill-mongering productions. After a violent tirade against
Puseyism he continues thus, _re_ his “Domestic Bible,” and “Bible

“He has provided you the seed; He will help you to sow it, He will
help you to reap it. Sow it then, sow freely--sow largely--sow
bountifully--sow perseveringly. It may be bought cheaply--may be had
in any quantity--has never been known to fail in its effects. There
are agents for its sale in every town in Great Britain, you may obtain
it from any bookseller in penny and threepenny packages. Sow it, men
of Britain--sow it in schools--in families--in every town--in every
village--in every hamlet of England, Wales, and Scotland. Sow it beyond
the sea--for it will grow on foreign shores. Send it to Ireland, to
the Colonies, to India, to China, and sow it there. Send it to the
continent and to Africa and sow it there.” And so on _ad nauseam_.
The seed, however, proved very unprofitable to Arnold; and shortly
after his failure Johnson was also obliged to give up business, having
signed some unfortunate bills. He afterwards rejoined his father in

Another well-known Liverpool bookseller was “Dandy” Cruikshank, of
Castle Street, who maintained that he was the handsomest man in
England, and whose vanity extended to his trade, for his specialities
were books bound in pink and orange.

At the present time there are about sixty booksellers in Liverpool;
and Mr. Edward Howell, an apprentice of Johnson’s, possesses the
largest stock, consisting of 100,000 volumes, and is known also as a
religious publisher. Mr. Philip, another leading bookseller, has two
establishments in Liverpool, and a branch house in London, while Mr.
Cornish, of Holborn, has an establishment in Liverpool, as well as in

Crossing the Channel for a moment, we have an opportunity of saying
something of the Dublin booksellers; but we shall not be detained long,
as, in this branch of industry, the Irish capital presents a striking
contrast to the Scottish. In the interval between the cessation of
the licensing system and the Copyright Act of the 8th Anne, there
was no legal protection for literary property, and book-pirates
consequently abounded. One of the tribe has been celebrated by Dunton:
“Mr. Lee, in Lombard Street--such a pirate, such a cormorant never was
before--copies, books, men, ships, all was one; he held no propriety,
right or wrong, good or bad, till at last he began to be known; and
the booksellers, not enduring so ill a man among them, to disgrace
them, spewed him out, and off he marched for Ireland, where he acted as
felonious Lee (!) as he did in London.” There, however, till the Act of
Union, in 1801, book-pirates abounded, greatly to the discouragement
of native talent, and even of native industry, for Gent tells us
repeatedly that it was almost impossible for a journeyman printer to
earn wherewithall to exist on in the Dublin printing offices. In 1753
we find Samuel Richardson publishing a pamphlet--“The History of Sir
Charles Grandison before Publication by certain Booksellers in Dublin.”
It appears that sheets had been stolen from Richardson’s warehouse, and
that three Irish booksellers each produced cheap editions of nearly
half the entire novel, before a single volume had appeared in England.
There was no legal remedy; but “what,” asks the _Gray’s Inn Journal_
indignantly, “what then should be said of Exshaw, Wilson, and Saunders,
booksellers in Dublin, and perpetrators of this vile act of piracy?
They should be expelled from the Republic of Letters as literary Goths
and Vandals, who are ready to invade the property of every man of
genius.” With the Act of Union, however, the Dublin booksellers were
made amenable to English law, and a dolorous cry arose that their trade
was ruined, and that the “vested right” they had inherited, to prey
upon the Saxon, had been abolished by the cruel conquerors. From this
moment, of course, Irish bookselling was obliged to take a higher tone.
In a few years the _Dublin Review_ and the _Dublin University Magazine_
vindicated the intellectual powers of the natives, and for a long time
were widely circulated in Ireland, and were then mainly indebted to
the enterprise of Irish authors and booksellers. When the Commission
of National Education was appointed in Ireland, Mr. Thom was selected
as a publisher, and, through their pecuniary aid, was enabled to bring
out a series of “Irish National School Books,” that for cheapness
and excellence are probably still unrivalled. These led, as we have
previously seen, to petitions from the English publishers, complaining
of state interference with the ordinary and commercial laws of
bookselling, and to trials for infringement of copyright. However, in
the long-run the Irish Commissioners were successful, and Mr. Longman,
one of the complainants, eventually accepted their English agency.
Besides his connection with the Commission, Mr. Thom has acquired a
reputation in the Bookselling world by his excellent “Irish Almanac,”
which, till recently, was unrivalled by the English almanacs of any
London firms.

Latterly, however, Irish bookselling, as far as individual enterprize
goes, has been commonly associated with the name of James Duffy. He was
born in 1809, and after being apprenticed to a draper in the country,
found employment in Dublin, and here, like Robert Chambers, he invested
his spare coppers in picking up old books. At last he found trade so
bad that he determined to emigrate, and accordingly, as he possessed
no funds, he took his books to an auctioneer; at the sale, to his
surprise, he found that the books he had purchased for pence, now
produced as many shillings. Upon this he determined to drop the scheme
of emigration, and to turn bookseller. As we have before mentioned, he
collected the Bibles which the Catholics received from the Church of
England propagandists only to turn into money, and took them over to
Liverpool, where he exchanged them for books less unlawful in Papist
eyes. At first he hawked these about the country, but eventually took
a place of business in Anglesea Street, Dublin, and there began to
publish the “Bruton Series” of thrilling tales of robbers, battles,
adventures, and the like, at the low price of twopence each. In 1842 he
was appointed bookseller to the Repeal Agitators, and produced, under
their auspices, the “Library of Ireland,” consisting of patriotic and
national collections of poems, &c., edited or written by some of the
most brilliant of the National party. However, the movement for Repeal
collapsed, and before this Duffy had discerningly turned his attention
to less ephemeral publications, and produced editions of Carleton,
Banin, and other native celebrities. The famine of 1846 affected every
trade, and as the people had no money to buy bread, the sale of books
was, of course, utterly hopeless, and Duffy found that he could not
meet his engagements. His creditors granted him time, and the money was
to be paid in instalments. He sold his copyrights in England, and paid
the first instalment promptly. But when the time was due for the second
he saw no prospect of meeting it. A neighbour, however, called John
Donnegan, hearing that he was ruined, carried him a stocking full of
money, his lifetime’s hoardings, threw it down before him, with “Just
take that, and see if it is any use to you! Pay me when you can,” and
refusing to take any receipt, rushed out again. The stocking contained
nearly £1200, and Duffy was able not only to pay his creditors, but to
turn his attention to the publication of more important works than he
had hitherto attempted, such as the Douay Bible, Missals, Prayer-books,
and many historical works, and it was not long before he was in a
position to repay the kindly loan. About 1860 he opened a branch house
in London, and at that period the success of his publishing career may
be said to have culminated, for after the death of his wife he confined
himself almost entirely to disposing of his old stock. He died on the
4th of July of the year 1871, regretted by his fellow-citizens in
Dublin, and by his brother bibliopoles throughout the kingdom.[33]

       *       *       *       *       *

If it were not for want of space there are several towns in the Midland
Counties which deserve notice here on account of their bibliopolical
fame--none more so, perhaps, than Derby, which at present possesses
no less than three large bookselling firms, which have also branch
businesses in London, Messrs. Richardson and Son having in addition
another establishment at Dublin. As Roman Catholic publishers some
of their productions have achieved an enormous circulation, notably
“The Crown of Jesus,” which, honoured with the approval of the Pope,
and of all the English dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church, long
since attained an issue of 100,000 copies. The works of Frederick
William Faber, D.D., late of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, have
also been among the most popular of Messrs. Richardson and Son’s
publications. The Mozleys, of Derby, have long been in the trade, and
are represented both in the country and in London; one of the family
was well known in connection with the editorial staff of the _Times_
newspaper. The Mozleys publish the _Monthly Packet_, edited by Miss
Younge, and also the majority of that lady’s separate works. A third
firm, Messrs. Bemrose and Sons, have gained a considerable reputation
as archæological publishers, and as the proprietors of Mrs. Warren’s
“Household Manuals.”

At Halifax, where the book trade is of a more recent date, Messrs.
Milner and Sowerby, by their services in the cause of cheap
publications of really good and standard works, have done much to
counteract the effects of cheap and pernicious literature. “The Cottage
Library” has long been known all over England, and was one of the first
shilling series of really good books published--certainly the first in
a neat form and with a neat binding, issued at this low price, and is
still, in its extent and scope, unrivalled.

Manchester was one of the first provincial towns in England to which
the printer and bookseller came, for it must be remembered that the
trades were for centuries almost synonymous. The art of printing is
said to have been introduced here in 1588, when Penny went through
the kingdom with an itinerant press, but his plant was seized and
destroyed by the fifth Earl of Derby. However, the innovation was
effected, and the new art was firmly lodged. Manchester, nevertheless,
in these early days was a place of such importance that a mere
catalogue of the members of the trade would more than fill the few
pages at our command. Among the booksellers of the last century we
can only mention Haslingden, who published “Tim Bobbin”--a book
still famous; the Sowlers, one of the descendants of whom started
the _Courier_, under the editorship of Alaric A. Watts, in 1825,
and the journal still enjoys a wide popularity; Joseph Harrop, who
originated the _Manchester Mercury_ in 1752, published the “History
of Man” in sixpenny numbers, but Harrop’s well-known folio Bible was
issued by his son and successor; the firm of Clarke Brothers amassed
a large fortune in school books and stationery; and about the same
time Banks and Co. were also doing an immense trade upon a thoroughly
reprehensible system. Hayward, who was their managing partner, opened
shops in various places, placed his own servants in possession, and
made them accept bills to a very large amount. These bills were
discounted at the Manchester Bank, and when the crash came the bank
was a creditor upon the estate to the amount of £120,000, while the
London publishers were indebted to the extent of £100,000. Among the
shopmen in charge under Hayward’s system was Timperley, a printer, and
a man of considerable literary ability. To pay the debts contracted
through this wholesale acceptance of bills, he consigned his stock to
an auctioneer, who, after disposing of it by auction, ran off with the
proceeds of the sale. Timperley, heart-broken by misfortune, accepted
a literary engagement with Fisher and Jackson, of London, and in
their service he died. In early days he had been a soldier, had gone
through many campaigns, had served at Waterloo, and had well earned
his pension of a shilling per diem. He is now known chiefly as the
author of the “Manchester Historical Recorder,” and of “Timperley’s
Typographical Dictionary”--one of the most accurate, laborious, and
voluminous compilations ever made, and one to be gratefully remembered
by all students of the history of the printing press in this country.
Another worthy of typographical fame was Bent, who, after doing a large
bookselling business among the Manchester Unitarians, then, at all
events, the most cultivated portion of the inhabitants, started “Bent’s
Literary Advertiser,” the first bookseller’s organ, and which latterly
has been incorporated in the _Bookseller_. The _Bookseller_ was started
in 1857 by Mr. Whitaker, and among its earliest contributors were many
men of some note, especially Alaric Watts. From the first it filled an
acknowledged void, and, as a trade journal, has never been surpassed.
From the interest of the notes and trade gossip contained in its pages,
as well as from the more solid information in its lists of works and
announcements, it has secured a wide popularity here and abroad, and
has been the precursor of similar journals in America and elsewhere.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among other important Manchester publishers were R. & W. Dean, who
introduced stereotyping into the city, and issued a large series of
popular and useful books. From some cause or another, they failed, and
their stereos came into the possession of Samuel Johnson, the father
of the Liverpool bookseller. Johnson now became a publisher on a very
extensive scale, and is said to have been the originator of the royal
32mo. literature, which is now chiefly identified with Halifax.

In our own times, Manchester bookselling has been principally
represented by the brothers Abel and John Heywood--a name almost as
widely known as that of any London firm. The brothers were born at
Prestwich, of very humble parentage; their father, indeed, is said at
one time to have been in receipt of parish relief. Abel began life as
a warehouse boy, on the scanty pittance of eighteenpence a week; but
at the age of twenty he was summarily dismissed by his master in a fit
of passion. He now obtained the wholesale agency for the _Poor Man’s
Guardian_, and was very shortly afterwards fined £54 for selling it
without a stamp. He could not pay the fine, and was sent to prison for
four months; but his family managed the shop during his incarceration,
still selling the _Guardian_ as before, but in a quieter manner. In
1834 and in 1836 he was again fined, but now he could afford to pay.
The Government next tried to seize the papers while in the hands of the
carriers, and they were obliged consequently to be sent through the
country carefully concealed--embedded in a chest of tea or a hamper
of shoes. As soon, however, as the duty was reduced from fourpence to
a penny, the poorer classes were able to pay for stamped papers. Abel
Heywood was, nevertheless, again the subject of a legal prosecution for
the publication of a penny pamphlet by Haslam. Acting with vigorous
promptness, he caused three or four copies of Shelley’s works to be
purchased from the chief Manchester booksellers, and then contended
that the poems were more blasphemous than his pamphlet. The Government
did not care to excite the ill-feelings of the reading public by
sending booksellers of position to prison, and as the cases were
precisely similar, they relinquished the prosecution. Probably this
decisive conduct suggested the same course to Hetherington, who was
afterwards the cause of that famous trial, the Queen _v._ Moxon.

In 1838, Fergus O’Connor started the _Northern Star_, and for four
years its prosperity at the time was unexampled. Heywood sold 18,000
copies weekly. By degrees his periodical trade increased enormously.
In 1847 he joined some paper-stainers, and the firm soon became one
of the largest in the world. In the year 1860 the paper duty paid by
them amounted to more than £20,000. Among the most successful of his
recent publications have been “Abel Heywood’s Penny Guide Books.” The
series now embraces upwards of seventy-five numbers, referring to every
place of importance or interest in the kingdom. He has also issued the
whole of the popular tale, “The Gates Ajar,” for the same price--one
penny--giving in a pamphlet form what usually occupies a goodly volume.

Abel Heywood, however, was as well known as a distinguished public man
as a successful bookseller. In 1835 he was appointed a Commissioner
of Police, and during the Manchester riots in 1842 and 1849 he took
a conspicuous part in quelling the disturbances. Elected to the
corporation, he became an alderman in 1853, and in 1859 he was third in
the list of candidates at the general Parliamentary elections. In 1862
he was elected Mayor of Manchester; in 1864 he took his son, Abel, into

John Heywood commenced life in the same lowly circumstances as his
brother, and at the age of fourteen found employment as a handloom
weaver. Within ten years his wages rose from half-a-crown to thirty
shillings a week; and when in receipt of this latter sum he regularly
allowed his mother a pound a week. At the age of four-and-twenty he
married, and to improve his worldly position, accepted the management
of a small factory at Altrincham, in Cheshire; but as the speculation
proved a failure, he returned to his former occupation of “dressing”
for power-loom weavers, at which he remained until his thirty-fifth
year. Desirous of rendering even his spare time profitable, he had
bought a paper-ruling machine, upon which he worked in the evenings;
and Abel, who was now a successful bookseller in Oldham Street, offered
him a situation in his establishment as paper-ruler, with a salary of
two pounds a week: and in his brother’s employ he remained for seven
years. In 1842, however, determined to make a start for himself, he
took a little shop in Deansgate, and, assisted by his son John, a lad
of thirteen, the business, originally infinitesimal, increased rapidly
and vastly. At first they confined their efforts almost entirely to the
sale of weekly or Sunday papers, and they were able to carry abroad
conveniently under their arms all the newspapers they could dispose
of. In a few months, however, the aid of a wheelbarrow was required,
and this, in turn, was discarded for a pony and trap. After adding
every possible enlargement to the old premises, they were obliged in
1859 to take a shop on the opposite side of the street; and year after
year, as the business expanded, addition after addition was made to the
premises, until three buildings were rolled into one, and at the end
of another seven years a huge six-storey manufactory was built in the
rear of the triangular shop. The increase of the working staff kept
pace with the growth of the establishment, and now, instead of the
armful or the barrow-load, a special railway truck, with a freightage
of about two tons, comes down from London five times a week; some
hundred and fifty assistants supply the place of the lad of thirteen,
and nine spring-carts have been introduced in lieu of the little pony
trap. A thousand parcels are made up each day, and between three and
four hundred orders are received by every morning’s post; for, besides
being the largest newsvendors and booksellers out of London, the firm
are the largest copybook makers in the kingdom. Fifteen hundred gross
of copybooks are despatched from the warehouses every month; and it
is stated that the weekly issue of newspapers, magazines, and other
periodicals amounts to the almost incredible number of a quarter of a

In 1864, John Heywood, senior, died, and the business devolved upon his
son, who had inherited all his father’s energy and industry. In 1867
he introduced a platten printing machine, adapted to take impressions
from the stereo-plates of his school-books--known as “John Heywood’s
Code,” “John Heywood’s Manchester Reader,” &c.--and before long he
resolved to become a regular printer as well as a publisher, and the
“Excelsior Printing Works” were erected about a mile from Deansgate,
where 355 people are constantly employed in the manufacture of books,
in a manner very similar to that previously described in our accounts
of the Messrs. Nelson and Collins, of Scotland. Among the books
published by Mr. John Heywood are dialectic works, many of which are
regarded, justly, as Lancashire classics. One of his latest triumphs
has been the issue of the “Science Lectures for the People,” delivered
at the Hulme Town Hall, and sold separately at a penny each--a fact
that says something as to the good taste of the factory lads. Four
monthly and three weekly periodicals are published by Mr. John Heywood.
Of the former the _Railway Guide_ is the most widely circulated, while
the _Lithographer_ is indispensable to the many decorative artists of
the neighbourhood; and _Ben Brierley’s Journal_, with its vernacular
contributions, finds its way to every Lancashire fireside. Of the
latter, the _Sphinx_, a satirical journal, is the most popular.

The career of the two Heywoods is a striking example of the labour,
energy, and success which Lancashire folk are apt to think the true
attributes of the typical “Manchester man;” and if they have not been
instrumental in adding much to the higher literature of the world,
their publications have very widely extended the taste for knowledge
among the lower orders in the north of England.

       *       *       *       *       *

Even in Birmingham the trade of bookselling was introduced at a
comparatively recent date. Dr. Johnson tells us that his father used
to open a bookstall here on market days; and Boswell adds, in a note,
that there was not then a single regular bookshop in the whole town.
Elsewhere he tells us that “Mr Warren was the first established
bookseller in Birmingham, and was very attentive to Johnson, who
he soon found could be of much service to him in his trade by his
knowledge of literature; and he even obtained the assistance of his
pen in furnishing some numbers of a periodical essay, printed in
the newspaper of which Warren was proprietor.” Mr Warren, however,
though Johnson’s first encourager, has long since been forgotten, and
Birmingham bookselling is now universally identified with the name of
William Hutton; and from his autobiography, published in 1816--perhaps
the most interesting record of a self-made life that has ever been
personally indited--we give a short sketch of his career.

William Hutton was born at Derby, in 1723. His father, a drunken
wool-comber, scarcely brought home wherewithal to keep the wretched
family from starvation, and “consultations were held (when the child
was six years old) about fixing me in some employment for the benefit
of the family. Winding quills for the weaver was mentioned, but
died away. Stripping tobacco for the grocer, by which I was to earn
fourpence a week, was proposed, but it was at last concluded that I
was too young for any employment.” Next year, however, the result of
the consultation was otherwise, and he was placed in a silk-mill;
the youngest, and by far the smallest, of the 300 persons employed,
a lofty pair of pattens were tied on to his feet so that he might be
able to reach the engine; and he continues:--“I had now to rise at
five every morning, summer and winter, for seven years; to submit
to the cane whenever convenient to the master; to be the constant
companion of the most rude and vulgar of the human race; never taught
by nature, nor ever wishing to be taught.” Brutally treated, so that
the scars of his chastisements remained on his body through life, he
left the mill as soon as ever his apprenticeship expired; “a place,”
he says, “most curious and pleasing to the eye,” but which had given
him a seven years’ heart-ache. He was now bound for another term to
an uncle--a stocking-maker at Nottingham. “My task was to earn for my
uncle 5_s._ 10_d._ a week. The first week I could reach this sum I was
to be gratified with sixpence, but ever after, should I fall short or
go beyond it, the loss or profit was to be my own.” In this situation,
he was not only thrashed by his master, but starved by his aunt;
and, goaded by the taunts of the neighbours, he fled away, but was
reluctantly compelled to return. In 1744 his apprenticeship expired,
and for two years longer he remained as a journeyman in the same
employment, but he now made the melancholy discovery--for all trade
was in a very wretched condition at the time--that he had served two
separate terms of seven years, to two separate trades, and yet could
subsist upon neither.

A gradually acquired taste for reading led him to purchase a few
books, and their tattered condition prompted him to try his hand at
binding; and, as he could get no employment in his own avocations,
he determined to start afresh as a bookbinder. His friends sneered at
his ambitious hopes, but his sister supported him firmly. There were
no binding tools to be purchased then in the country, so his sister
“raised three guineas, sewed them in my shirt-collar, for there was no
doubt but I should be robbed,” and put eleven shillings in his pocket
as a sop to the expected highwayman, and off he started for London,
walking fifty-one miles the first day and reaching it on the third.
Here he invested his three guineas in tools, and stayed three days,
seeing all that could be seen for nothing, his only paid entertainment
being a visit to Bedlam, which cost a penny. Three days more, and
he was back at Nottingham, terribly worn-out and footsore, but with
fourpence still remaining out of his little travelling fund.

He now took a small shop, fourteen miles from Nottingham, at an annual
rent of twenty shillings, and “in one day became the most eminent
bookseller in Southwell,” but he still lived at Nottingham. “During the
rainy winter months,” he says, “I set out from Nottingham at five every
Saturday morning, carried a burthen of from three to thirty pounds’
weight to Southwell, opened shop at ten, starved it all day upon bread,
cheese, and half a pint of ale; took from 1_s._ to 6_s._, shut up at
four, and by trudging through the solitary night and the deep roads
five hours more, I arrived at Nottingham by nine, where I always found
a mess of milk-porridge by the fire, prepared by my valuable sister.
But nothing short of resolution and rigid economy could have carried me
through this scene.”

There was little profit, however, in such a life, laborious as it was,
and in 1750 he made an exploring journey to Birmingham, where he found
there were only three booksellers--Warren, Aris, and Wollaston, and
here he resolved to settle, hoping that he might escape the envy of
“the three great men.”

He obtained the use of half a little shop for the moderate premium of
one shilling per week, but he had as yet to find wherewith to stock
it. On a visit to Nottingham, he met a friendly minister, who asked,
for the weather was inclement, why he had ventured so far without a
great-coat, and who on receiving no reply, shrewdly guessed Hutton’s
impoverished condition, from his draggled, thread-bare garments, and
offered him a couple of hundred-weight of books at his own price, and
that price to be postponed to the future, and by way of receipt the
young bookseller gave him the following: “I promise to pay to Ambrose
Rudsall £1 7_s._, when I am able.” The debt was speedily cancelled.

His period of probation was sufficiently severe: “Five shillings a
week covered all my expenses, as food, washing, lodging, &c.,” but
by degrees the better-informed and wealthier of the young clerks and
apprentices began to frequent his shop, and were attracted by his
zeal, and his evident love for the books he sold. With his skill in
binding, he could furbish up the shabbiest tomes, and greatly increase
their marketable value. By the end of his first year he found that he
had, by the most rigid economy, saved up twenty pounds. Things were
brightening, but the overseers, who at that time possessed a terrible
power over the poorest classes, ostensibly dreading lest he should
become chargeable to the parish, refused his payment of the rates,
and bade him remove elsewhere. In this strait he exhibited much
worldly wisdom, and invested half his little hoarding in a fine suit
of clothes, purchased from one of the overseers, who happened to be a

In the following year, 1751, he took a better shop, next door to a
Mr. Grace, a hosier, and in a quiet, undemonstrative manner, fell in
love with his neighbour’s niece. “Time gave us,” he says, “numberless
opportunities of observing each other’s actions, and trying the tenour
of conduct by the touchstone of prudence. Courtship was often a
disguise. We had seen each other when disguise was useless. Besides,
nature had given to few women a less portion of deceit.” The uncle at
length consented to the match, and, with Sarah, Hutton received a dowry
of £100; and, as he had already amassed £200 of his own, from this
happy moment his fortunes ran smoothly upwards.

He now increased an otherwise profitable trade by starting a
circulating library--perhaps the first that was attempted in the
provinces; and about this same time, 1753, he acquired a very useful
friend in the person of Robert Bage, the paper-maker, and undertook the
retail portion of the paper business. “From this small hint,” he says,
“I followed the stroke forty years, and acquired an ample fortune.” And
yet, though waxing yearly richer and richer, he adds, “I never could
bear the thought of living to the extent of my income. I never omitted
to take stock or regulate my annual expenses, so as to meet casualties
and misfortunes.” By degrees he became invested with civic dignities,
and little by little he acquired the standing of a landed proprietor.
Without neglecting his business he now found leisure for literary
composition; and in his last work--“A Trip to Coatham”--he tells us, “I
took up my pen, and that with fear and trembling, at the advanced age
of fifty-six, a period when most would lay it down. I drove the quill
thirty years, during which time I wrote and published thirty books.”

His first work, the “History of Birmingham,” appeared, and these thirty
tomes of verse and prose followed in quick succession.

In 1802 he published his best-known work, the “History of the Roman
Wall.” Antiquarians had, before this, described the famous line of
defence, but hitherto no one had attempted a personal inspection.
Seventy-five years old, still hale and hearty, with an enthusiasm akin
to that of youth, he started on foot for Northumberland, accompanied
by his daughter on horse-back. Intent upon reaching the scene of his
antiquarian desires, “he turned,” writes his daughter, “neither to the
right nor the left, except to gratify me with a sight of Liverpool.
Windermere he saw, and Ullswater he saw, because they lay under his
feet, but nothing could detain him from his grand object.” On his
return journey, after every hollow of the ground, every stone of the
Wall, between Carlisle and Newcastle, had been examined, he was bitten
in the leg by a dog, but even this did not restrain him. Within four
days of home “he made forced journeys, and if we had had a little
further to go the foot would have knocked up the horse! The pace he
went did not even fatigue his shoes. He walked the whole 600 miles in
one pair, and scarcely made a hole in his stockings.”

Almost to the last he preserved his physical powers comparatively
intact. When he was eighty-eight, he writes--“At the age of eighty-two
I considered myself a young man. I could, without fatigue, walk forty
miles a day. But during the last few years I have felt a sensible
decay, and, like a stone rolling downhill, its velocity increases with
its progress. The strings of the instrument are one after another
giving way, never to be brought into tune.” Yet he did not die till
1815, at the ripe old age of ninety-two.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the close of the last century Hutton lost a valuable collection of
books, and other valuable property, through the lawless riots that
took place in his native city; of these disturbances the author of the
_Press_ says:--

 “When Birmingham, for riots and for crimes,
  Shall meet the keen reproach of future times,
  Then shall she find, amongst our honoured race,
  One name to save her from entire disgrace.”

This “one name” was that of John Baskerville, a printer, a contemporary
of Hutton, and one of the most famous English type-founders. Commencing
life as a schoolmaster, his inclination for books turned his attention
to type-founding, but he spent £600 before he produced one letter that
thoroughly satisfied his exquisitely critical taste, and probably some
thousands before his business began to prove remunerative; and, after
all, his printing speculations yielded more honour than profit. Upon
paying a heavy royalty to the University of Cambridge, he was allowed
to print a Bible in royal folio, which, for beauty of type, is still
unrivalled; but the slender and delicate form of his letters were, as
Dr. Dibdin remarks, better suited to smaller books, and show to the
greatest advantage in his 12mo. “Virgil” and “Horace.” His strenuous
endeavours, and his large outlay, met with but little return; and
he writes of the “business of printing” as one “which I am heartily
tired of, and repent I ever attempted.” He died in 1775, and appears
to have printed nothing during the last ten years of his life. By the
direction left in his will, he was buried under a windmill in his own
garden, with the following epitaph on his tomb-stone: “Stranger! beneath
this cone, in unconsecrated ground, a friend to the liberties of
mankind directed his body to be inurned. May the example contribute to
emancipate thy mind from the idle fears of superstition, and the wicked
arts of priesthood.” His fount of type was unluckily allowed to leave
the country, and was purchased by Beaumarchais, of Paris, who produced
some exquisite editions, particularly of Voltaire’s works, but who lost
upwards of one million livres in his speculations.

       *       *       *       *       *

A successful modern bookselling venture in this city resulted from the
establishment of the “Educational Trading Company (Limited)”--a novel
phase in the trade--of which the chief proprietor and chairman was
Mr. Josiah Mason. The business management was placed in the hands of
Mr. Kempster, and, by a thorough system of travellers, who personally
canvassed the proprietors of schools and colleges, offering them very
liberal terms, a large connection was almost immediately established.
The company’s operations were, of course, confined to the publication
of cheap educational works; and some of these, such as Gill’s and
Moffat’s series, attained a wide popularity, and necessitated, in 1870,
the opening of a London branch at St. Bride’s Avenue, and another
branch house at Bristol.

One of the most famous booksellers and printers of the West of
England was Andrew Brice, who was born in Exeter in the year 1690.
He was educated in early life with a view to the ministry, but
family misfortunes obliged him to become apprentice to Bliss, a
printer in that city. Long before the expiry of his apprenticeship
the improvident young printer married, and, being unable to support
a wife and two children upon the pittance he received, he enlisted
as a soldier in order to break his indentures, and, by the interest
of his friends, soon procured a discharge. He commenced business on
his own account, and started a newspaper, but, possessing only one
kind of type, he carved in wood the title and such capitals as he
stood in need of. Becoming embarrassed through a law suit, in which
heavy damages were cast against him, he was obliged to bar himself
in his own house to escape the debtor’s gaol. He spent seven long
years in this domestic confinement, but still continued to conduct
his business with assiduity, and, as a solace, to compose a poem,
“On Liberty,” the profits of which enabled him to compound with the
keepers of the city prison. After regaining his freedom his business
largely increased, and, in 1740, he set up a printing-press at Truro,
the first introduced into Cornwall; the miners were, however, at that
time in little need of literature, and he soon removed the types to
Exeter. Among his chief publications were the “Agreeable Gallimanfly;
or, Matchless Medley,” a collection of verses chiefly the production
of his own pen; the “Mob-aid,” so full of newly-coined words that, in
Devonshire, “Bricisms” were for long synonymous with quaint novelty of
expression; and the folio “Geographical Dictionary,” which occupied
ten years in publication and is still far from complete. Brice was at
all times a shielder of the oppressed; and when the Exeter play-actors
were purchased out of their theatre by the Methodists, who converted it
into a chapel, and indicted them as vagrants, he published a poem--“The
Playhouse Church; or, new Actors of Devotion,” which so stirred up
popular feeling that the Methodists were fain to restore the place to
its former possessors, who, under Brice’s patronage, opened their house
for some time gratis to all comers. In gratitude the players brought
his characteristics of speech and dress into their dramas, and even
Garrick eventually introduced him, under, of course, a pseudonyme, in
the “Clandestine Marriage.” At the time of his death, in 1773, he was
the oldest master-printer in England. His corpse lay for some days
in state at the Apollo Inn; every person admitted to view it paid a
shilling, and the money so received went towards defraying the expense
of his funeral, which was attended by three hundred freemasons, for he
had not only been a zealous member of the fraternity, but at the period
of his decease he was looked upon as the father of the craft.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another West of England worthy, though he was only a bookseller for
the short space of seven years, has perhaps higher claim upon our
attention than any other provincial bibliopole. Joseph Cottle was born
at Bristol in the year 1770, and at the age of twenty-one he became a
bookseller in his native city. In 1795 he published a volume of his own
“Poems”--and himself an author he was generously able to appreciate
the work of better men. Through extraordinary circumstances he became
acquainted with Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, and Lamb, when they
were still unknown to fame, and with a rare perception of genius he was
able to assist them materially towards the goal of success. From his
interesting “Early Recollections,” we gather that one evening Coleridge
told him despondently that he had been the round of London booksellers
with a volume of poems, and that all but one had refused to even look
over the manuscript, and that this one proffered him six guineas for
the copyright, which sum, poor as he was, he felt constrained to
decline. Cottle at once offered the young author thirty guineas, and
actually paid the money before the completion of the volume, which
appeared in 1796.

To Southey he made the same bid for his first volume, and the offer
was eagerly accepted. Cottle at once, however, added, “You have read
me some books of your ‘Joan of Arc,’ which poem I perceive to have
great merit. If it meet with your concurrence I will give you fifty
guineas for this work, and publish it in quarto, when I will give you
in addition fifty copies to dispose of among your friends.” Southey
corroborates this account, and further says, “It can rarely happen that
a young author should meet with a bookseller as inexperienced and as
ardent as himself; and it would be still more extraordinary if such
mutual indiscretion did not bring with it cause for regret to both.
But this transaction was the commencement of an intimacy which has
continued without the slightest shade of displeasure at any time on
either side to the present day.” Cottle ordered a new fount of type
“for what was intended to be the handsomest book that Bristol had ever
yet sent forth,” and owing, perhaps, more to the party feelings of the
periodical press, and the subject of the poem, than to any intrinsic
merit, other than as holding out vague hope of future promise, the
young author acquired a sudden reputation, which was afterwards fully
sustained by his prose if not by his poetry.

Later on Cottle was introduced to Wordsworth, who read him portions of
his “Lyrical Ballads.” The venturous bookseller made him the same offer
of thirty guineas for the first-fruits of his genius, saying that it
would be a gratifying circumstance to issue the first volumes of three
such poets, and (a veritable prophecy) “a distinction that might never
again occur to a provincial bookseller.” After mature consideration,
Wordsworth accepted the offer; but the “Lyrical Ballads,” in which
also Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner” first appeared, went off so slowly
that he was compelled to part with the greater part of the five
hundred copies to Arch, a London bookseller. We have already related
how Cottle, and after him, Longman, rendered material assistance to
Chatterton’s sister, by an edition of the poems of the Sleepless Boy
who perished in his Pride, and how in 1798 Cottle disposed of all his
copyrights to Longman, and obtained his consent to return the copyright
of the “Lyrical Ballads” to the author.

Though Cottle henceforth gave up bookselling, he did not forego
book-making. In 1798 he published his “Malvern Hills,” in 1801 his
“Alfred,” and in 1809 the “Fall of Cambria.” These last effusions
attracted the venom of Lord Byron’s pen, who writes in bitter prose,
“Mr. Cottle, Amos, Joseph, I know not which, but one or both, once
sellers of books they did not write, now writers of books that do not
sell, have published a pair of epics,” and in bitterer verse:

 “Bœotian Cottle, rich Bristowa’s boast,
  Imports old stories from the Cambrian coast,
  And sends his goods to market, all alive,
  Lines forty thousand, cantos twenty-five.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Oh, Amos Cottle!--Phœbus! what a name
  To fill the speaking trump of future fame!--
  Oh, Amos Cottle! for a moment think
  What meagre profits spring from pen and ink!
  When thus devoted to poetic dreams
  Who will peruse thy prostituted reams?
  Oh, pen perverted, paper misapplied!
  Had Cottle still adorned the counter’s side,
  Bent o’er the desk, or, born to useful toils,
  Been taught to make the paper which he soils,
  Plough’d, delved, or plied the oar with lusty limb,
  He had not sung of Wales, nor I of him.”

Of course, this confusion of the names of the two brothers was
intentionally meant to strengthen the gibe. Though Cottle was at best
an indifferent poet his name would have survived as a generous friend
even if Lord Byron had not honoured him with his satire.

After having personally encouraged the youthful genius of such authors
as Coleridge, Southey, and Wordsworth, and after having enjoyed their
friendship and esteem, it was natural that Cottle, when their names
had become familiar words in every household in England, should wish
to preserve what he could of the history of their early days. In 1837
he published his “Early Recollections,” but as he had felt compelled
to decline to contribute them in any mutilated form to the authorised,
and insufferably dull, life of Coleridge, the work was greeted by the
_Quarterly Review_ with a howl of contemptuous abuse, as consisting of
the “refuse of advertisements and handbills, the sweepings of a shop,
the shreds of a ledger, and the rank residuum of a life of gossip.”
This is certainly “slashing criticism” with a vengeance: Cottle based
the value of his book upon the ground of his having been a bookseller,
and to taunt him with the fact is as unmanly as the whole description
of the work is false. He lays the slightest possible stress upon
the assistance he had been able to render the illustrious authors
pecuniarily, and only brings it forward at all as furnishing matter
for literary history; and to most students the literary history of the
early struggles of genius does possess the highest interest. Cottle
was certainly unskilled in the art of composition, and was undoubtedly
garrulous, but the gossip anent such writers, when prompted, as in this
case, by truth and affection, is worth tomes of disquisitions upon
their virtues or their faults. Joseph Cottle died as recently as 1854,
and his memory is already half-forgotten, and yet had we wished to
close our annals of the “trade” by tributes paid by illustrious writers
to the worth and integrity of its members, we could find none more
fitting than the letters of two famous poets to an obscure provincial

    “DEAR COTTLE,--On the blank leaf of my poems I can most
    appropriately write my acknowledgments to you, for your too
    disinterested conduct in the purchase of them.... Had it not
    been for you none, perhaps, of them would have been published,
    and some not written.

      “Your obliged and affectionate friend,
            S. T. COLERIDGE.”


    “Do you suppose, Cottle, that I have forgotten those true and
    most essential acts of friendship which you showed me when I
    stood most in need of them? Your house was my house when I had
    no other.... Sure I am that there never was a more generous or
    kinder heart than yours, and you will believe me when I add
    that there does not live that man upon earth whom I remember
    with more gratitude and affection.... Good-night, my dear old
    friend and benefactor.

            “ROBERT SOUTHEY.”

[Illustration: THE END.]



[1] “Essai sur les Livres dans l’Antiquité.”

[2] For a very interesting article on this subject, see _Cornhill
Magazine_, vol. ix.

[3] Carnan is said, by Mr. Knight, to have been so frequently
prosecuted that he invariably kept a clean shirt in his pocket, that
he might lessen the inconvenience of being carried off unexpectedly to

[4] D’Urfey was a music-master.

[5] This anecdote is often incorrectly related of Wilkes and the _Essay
on Woman_.

[6] The _Daily Post_, Feb. 13, 1728.

[7] A most interesting and voluminous collection of “notes” in
reference to Curll was contributed to “Notes and Queries” (2nd series,
vols. ii., iii., and x.) by M.N.S. Many of our facts in relation to him
have been taken from that source, and for a far fuller account, in the
rough material, we refer the reader thither.

[8] West says he sat next Lackington at a sale when he spent upwards of
£12,000 in an afternoon.

[9] _Bookseller_, June, 1865.

[10] As we shall have no other opportunity of referring to the third
in rank of the leading quarterlies, we must, perforce, compress its
history in a foot-note. The _Westminster Review_ was started more than
fifty years ago, by Jeremy Bentham, who was succeeded in editorship
by Sir John Browning, in conjunction with General Perronet Thompson,
whose labours in the cause of radical reform gave him considerable
notoriety at the time. They made way for the accomplished statesman
Sir William Molesworth, the editor of _Hobbes_. A profounder thinker
still, Mr. John Stuart Mill, followed. Most of his philosophical essays
appeared in its pages, at a time when Grote and Mr. Carlyle were both
contributing. For more than twenty years now the _Review_ has been
in the hands of Dr. Chapman, who, beginning life as a bookseller in
Newgate Street, was the first English publisher to recognise the
value of Emerson’s writings. Under Dr. Chapman, what is now the
great feature--the Quarterly Summary of Contemporary Literature--was
introduced. The _Review_ has lately attracted much attention by the
bold manner in which the “Social Evil” and the “Contagious Diseases
Acts” have been discussed in its columns, and these articles are
generally attributed to the able pen of the editor himself.

     I. “On Dryden.” (_E. R._, 1828.)
    II. “History.” (_E. R._, 1828.)
   III. “Mirabeau.” (_E. R._, 1832.)
    IV. “Cowley and Milton.”
     V. “Mitford’s Greece.”
    VI. “Athenian Orator.”
   VII. “Barère’s Memoirs.”
  VIII. “Mill’s Essay on Government.” (_E. R._, 1829.)
    IX. “Bentham’s Defence of Mill.” (_E. R._, 1829.)
     X. “Utilitarian Theory of Government.” (_E. R._, 1829.)
    XI. “Charles Churchill.”

Many of these may be found in the volume of _Miscellanies_ published by
Longmans. It has been denied that No. XI. is by Macaulay at all.

[12] For a further account of these extraordinary sales, see Allibone’s
_Dictionary of English Literature_, vol. ii., from which many of the
above facts have been drawn.

[13] Among the sufferers by this failure was the family of Robert
Watt, M.D., author of “Bibliotheca Britannica,” for which £2000 had
been given in bills, all of which were dishonoured. He was a ploughboy
until his seventeenth year, wrote many medical treatises, and occupied
his concluding years with a work precious and indispensable to
every student. The whole plan of the “Bibliotheca” is new, and few
compilations of similar magnitude and variety ever presented, in a
first edition, a more complete design and execution.

[14] _Quarterly Review_, vol. lxx.

[15] Given to Dallas.

[16] Published by James Power, music seller.

[17] Written at Geneva, and published by John Hunt, London.

[18] This sketch was written before the publication of Mr. W.
Chambers’s life of his brother, but has been revised in accordance with
that interesting memoir.

[19] Mr. Long has deposited in the Public Library at Brighton his
private copy of the “Encyclopædia,” interleaved with the names of the
contributors, and other interesting information as to the progress of
the work.

[20] Mr. G. W. M. Reynolds, of the “Mysteries of London” notoriety,
commenced life also as a temperance lecturer, and was at one time
editor of the _Teetotaller_ Newspaper.

[21] Lockhart, in his article in the _Quarterly_, says that Hook’s
diary shows a clear profit of £2000 on the _first series_. This must be

[22] The term _Conger_ is ingeniously said to be derived from the eel,
meaning that the association, collectively, would swallow all smaller

[23] _Aldine Magazine_, p. 50.

[24] It was from the intricacy of thought of some few of the poems of
the “Christian Year,” that Sydney Smith christened it by the name of
“The Sunday Puzzle.”

[25] For the facts in the earlier portion of this memoir we are
indebted to an interesting obituary notice in the _Bookseller_.

[26] For a very interesting bibliographical account of Mr. Tennyson’s
works, showing the various changes which the poems have undergone, see
“Tennysoniana,” by R. H. Shepherd (1856).

[27] For a full account of this interesting and successful bookseller
_see_ “Life of Alderman Kelly,” by the Rev. R. C. Fell (1856).

[28] Tegg left a manuscript autobiography, which was published twenty
years after his death, in the _City Press_; to this interesting
memorial we are indebted for the facts in our present narrative.

[29] This “Petition” was first printed in the _Examiner_, 7th April,
1839, and afterwards republished.

[30] The _Bookseller_, June, 1864.

[31] The _Bookseller_, 1861.

[32] The above account is abridged from the _Bookseller_ of November,

[33] To a timely notice in a recent number of the _Bookseller_ we are
indebted for the main facts in Duffy’s life.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Arithmetic and date-sequence errors have not been corrected.

Page 22: The second illustration (“1547”) may be part of the
illustration just above it.

Page 93: “as the rious” was printed that way; may be a typgraphical
error for “as the various”.

Page 152: “Dr. Thomas Stewart Trail” may be a misspelling of “Traill”.

Page 221: “looked up his pistols” may be a misprint for “locked”.

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