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that for booksellers to take the entire risk of publication upon themselves, and in the event of success to pay one half the net profits of their books to authors, does not always prove to be as beneficial as it may at first sight appear. You insinuate that booksellers confine their liberality to very great authors; I could however mention numerous instances, within my own knowledge, in which booksellers have presented authors with gratuities over and above the sums agreed upon as the prices of their copyrights, when their books have proved more successful than they were expected to be; and these liberal compliments have not always been limited to one or two first rate litterateurs. Mr. Murray has repeatedly presented very liberal sums, in addition to the prices contracted for to gentlemen whose books have met with more success than was anticipated from them. Mr. Colburn has done the same thing. On two late occasions, indeed, he is said to have presented handsome pecuniary acknowledgments to Mr. Horace Smith, and Mr. Theodore Hook, in addition to the liberal prices he paid them for Brambletye House, and Sayings and Doings; and Messrs. Longman and Co. very soon after the publication of Mr. Moore's Life of Sheridan, sent that gentleman a cheque for three hundred pounds, in addition to the large sum they had previously paid him for the copyright of his work. These cannot surely be considered as proofs of the desire of booksellers to take undue advantages of the authors with whom they may stand connected.
With regard to the charges usually made to authors who publish works on the principle of a mutual division of profits, I cannot undertake to question the accuracy of your statements, inasmuch as there must of necessity be men of overreaching dispositions in the bookselling as well as in all other trades; but I do most positively deny the inference you have left to be deduced from your illustrative account, that booksellers are in the habit of absorbing the profits of authors by either vexatious or unwarrantable charges. As, however, the discount for ready money could not possibly amount to the sum you have stated as the difference between the two accounts you have brought into juxta-position, I must suppose that you intend to insinuate a charge of unfairness against booksellers, which my own information enables me to pronounce, (as far as it regards the trade generally), as unjust as it is ungenerous. You need not be informed that the profits of a single volume can never be very important, unless its sale is unusually large; since the expenses attendant upon
the publication of one volume, are heavier in proportion than those which are incurred for a work consisting of three or four. It is just as expensive to advertise and publish a few pages, as it would be to publish several volumes. I never, however, heard of any author receiving so small a profit as you have described. To the rest of the remarks contained in your article, entitled Booksellers and Authors, I have, as far as I can recollect, nothing to object; and the spirit of impartiality and independence, which characterises some of your observations, leads me to conclude that you will readily give insertion to the opinions, founded on the dearly bought experience, of
A VETERAN BOOKSELLER. PATERNOSTER Row,
August 12th, 1826.
DEAR cousin, I scarcely know how to begin
For the whirl and the vortex my thoughts are all in;
My head rocks and reels, as if still on the billows,
And can find little rest upon Gallican pillows;
But I'll rally my thoughts since the straits I have crossed,
For why should my pains and my perils be lost!
Oh! why have I dared the disastrous main,
And been sea-tossed, and sea-washed, and sea-sick, in vain.
In fact, I perceive with confusion of soul
That such things o'er my spirit have any control;
With shame, and dismay, and displeasure, I find
The empire which matter usurps over mind.
Even Wollaston's self, in whose skull hold alliance
The mind's mighty sovereigns, reason and science,
Would find all his intellect powerless to quell
Of odious sea-sickness, the barbarous spell;
Since a sage, if he sails in a swell and a calm,
Must needs yield his stomach to nausea and qualm!
The moment sea-sickness lays hold of a man,
Wit, courage, and sense, flee as fast as they can;
So, though I had hoped something new might arise
On Albion's white cliffs, on the sea, on the skies,
Though I hoped from the passengers something to glean,
Alas! should I tell you the things I have seen,
Should I paint our condition with pen energetic,
I might act on your fancy by way of emetic.
Poor Susan, half dead, had no help to bestow,
My Swiss couldn't stand, and lay groaning below,
William Friend, the ship’s steward, conveyed me to bed,
Where the gentle sea-monster stood holding my head,
And told me, that nought for a qualm was so handy,
As a nice little sup of the real French brandy.
But enough,—to your fancy I leave all the rest,
Your sympathy, cousin, I cannot but claim,
What took me from home, but a passion for fame?
One would think, that fate cheated my eyes out of spleen,
Of the very first thing that there was to be seen;
The moon (I believe) rolled her orb over head,
And beneath us a bright line of silver was spread,
And the beacon of Calais auspiciously shone,
While I, in the cabin, lay cold as a stone!
But I'm not one of those who would basely pretend
To garble descriptions another has penned ;
Thus you see my dear cousin, how Fate in pure malice,
Robs the world of my sketch of the harbour of Calais !
I scarcely have patience to write you
Though 'twill lighten the burthen I bear in my breast,
But on civilization no longer descant,
'Tis a notion, a dream, a ridiculous rant !
This people enlightened, this people polite,
(I protest I can scarce hold my goose-quill for spite),
In throngs pressed around me, all chattering and gabbling,
Grimacing and swearing, and struggling and squabbling!
My thoughts were a chaos; I vow and declare
I believed all the bedlams in Europe were there.
In vain I resisted the maniac throng,
Half-dead, malgrè moi, I was carried along.
But you'll scarcely believe the next thing that occurred,
'Twas so monstrous provoking, so yery absurd ;
The vile ragamuffins who dragged me away
The moment I first set my foot on the quay,
Thrust me into a hole, where a strange looking creature,
Most fearful and witch-like in form, dress, and feature,
Came “to visit my person,”—Indignity vile
For a native of Britain's invincible isle !
Yea, the hag with assurance I ne'er shall forget,
Put her hand in my pocket and felt my corsette !
All shivering and trembling with fury and cold,
Not one word of French would assist me to scold;
These wretches so craze me, I've nothing to say,
Mr. Parleyvous' lessons seem all thrown away,
And I, who my readings of Moliere so vaunted,
Have lost all my French at the moment 'tis wanted ;
But what hurts me most, after all, is to find
I'm a little deficient in presence of mind;
Before I set out, I determined to hold
A stoical bearing, indifferent and cold,
To look upon all things with calm observation,
And never to speak but with deliberation,
Or at least with bon mots to enrich my narration ;
But believe me, dear cousin, I ne'er said a word
On the night I arrived worth the pains to record !
Yet phrases ignoble of people of note,
Will do well enough for the million to quote;
As Cæsar, when sick of an ague in Spain,
Cried, “ Titinias give me some drink,” it is plain,
That some centuries hence, when my deeds are rehearsing,
Folks may wish for some sketch of my common conversing;
So I, at Quillac's, when quite sick of the sea,
Cried “Good people for heaven's sake, give me some tea."
'Twas a happy coincidence, chance be assured,
For the tossing and tumbling my brains had endured
Had put every classical notion to fight,-.
Human nature usurped, and was tyrant that night.
As for tea,—but no matter,—'twere weak to complain,
And such trifles a mind truly great will disdain.
The weather is keen as our bitterest Novembers,
And I found ne'er a fire, but some wretched wood-embers;
Then, that nought should be wanting my courage to try,
In flew Susan, with wrath and despair in her eye;
For when reason is weak, then our passion defeats us,
And Susan had never perused Epictetus :
“ Here's a pretty concern! if this travelling you call,
I would we were both back at Blunderhead Hall.
I'm so sick I can't stand, with the tooth-ache I'm wild ;
Your Swiss staring stands like an idiot or child!
He lets them all rummage and tumble each box,
And cares not a pin, though they've spoiled all the locks !
I scold him in vain, he stands mute as a pig!
To a mile-stone as well one might whistle a jig !
If I were a man I would knock them all down,
For they've poked a great hole in your new poplin gown ;
I wish you could see what a mess things are in,
As for me, I am half mad.-Its a shame! its a sin!”
“ Well, but Susan,” said 1,-but the tide would have way-
“ Well, but madam, do tell me where I am to stay?
There's no spot, I protest, where a Christian can sit,
There's no spot where these wretches don't splutter and spit;
It provokes me to see how they shrug and they grin,
They chatter like apes,—they are as ugly as sin.
And the worst of it is, they are so easy and free
There might be no difference between them and me!
Those who think I can bear it are sadly mistaken,
I'd first live all my life on potatoes and bacon;
I'd spin for my living, much rather than bear
The griefs and vexation that harass me here.
There's no tea one can drink, and a bit of hot toast
Is a luxury these wretches presume not to boast;
The spoons are all pewter,—the warming pans eyen,
Haye never a lid as I hope to see heaven!”
With this climax, deår cousin, I finish the sketch,
Though my patience much longer was kept on the stretch.
This debut on French land was a little unnerving,
Still some comfort arose in my heart, from observing,
When she ceased for awhile, and my thoughts were left free, .
The contrast which Susan presented to me;
A proof that the hours I have puzzled my brains
With Locke and with Stewart were well employed pains.
Now, cousin, adieu,--and be sure in my breast,
Wheresoever I roam, you are ever a guest.
The French are so fully alive to the value of that kind of writing which has for its object the delineation of manners and of men, that there is scarcely a statesman, a warrior, or scholar of their nation, who has not bequeathed some remains of this sort to posterity. Their success, however, has seldom kept pace with their pretensions ; for as they have looked at the affairs of the world chiefly through the medium of their particular professions, their representations have taken a peculiar tint from their pursuits. In our own country, Bacon was a giant who attempted much, and who succeeded in all that he attempted; and if we regret that the number of the aphorisms he has left us is so few, it is because they are so good. Swift was too misanthropical, Shaftesbury was too sceptical, Bolingbroke too superficial, and Addison too tame and common-place, to have attained much celebrity in this branch of literature. Johnson possessed many of the most important of the requisites we look for in a successful writer of apothegms; and, accordingly, we find scattered up and down his various works, passages which would not have discredited the most successful writers of this class. He had studied men as well as books, and things as well words; he was also unshackled by the trammels of any profession, and had much of that stern stuff about him of which a philosopher ought to be composed. But he was deeply tainted by party, and still more so by prejudice; he laboured under a depression, morbid but constitutional ; and he seldom moved a step which was the impulse of nature or of ease. He could, at times, indeed, unbuckle his armour, but it was only to get upon his stilts; and he was often unwieldly in the one, and sometimes ridiculous on the other. If I were inclined to animadvert in his own strain upon some of the Doctor's efforts, I should say, that we are led through a grandiloquence that is ostentatious, and a sesquepediality that is triptological, to some trite truism, so obvious that all can apply it, but so common that none will appropriate it; shrouding its meanness in the magnificence of its investiture, and the pomp of its paraphernalia. Rouchefoucault has, I am of opinion, been