W. (William) Roberts.

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sends the bookseller the ' Ode sur la Prise de Namur,
par les armes du Roy, 1'annee 1692. Par Monsieur
Boileau Despreaux,' which, with the English version,
' An English Ballad, on the Taking of Namur by the
Kingof Great Britain, 1695,' appears in mostcollections
of Prior's poems. Basil Kennett, brother of the more
famous White Kennett, Bishop of Peterboro', writes
Tonson, some time during 1696, in this strain : ' I

published, whereof both himself and his bookseller (if lawfully
required) can still produce authentic copies, and therefore
wonders why the world is pleased to make such a secret of it.'

8 Dryden was ' Jacob's poet ' just as much as Pope was
' Lintot's poet,' and Byron, Murray's. Byron relates that
Murray was congratulated by a .brother publisher upon having
such a poet as himself. ' As if,' says the noble writer, ' one
were a packhorse, or ass, or anything that was his,' or, as Mr.
Packwood, who replied to some inquiry after ' Odes and
Razors,' exclaimed, 'Lord, sir, we keeps a poet.' ' " Childe
Harold " and " Cookeries " is much wanted,' an Edinburgh
bookseller wrote Mlirray.



Jacob Tonson. 165

wish I could contribute anything to fill up an odd
page ; but have no copy that would deserve the
meanest place in a collection of your making. How-
ever, if you continue your commands, rather than
disobey them, I will venture on some little attempt
or other, not to serve you, but to show my unfitness
for your service.'

Either in 1697 or 1698 Jacob Tonson removed his
sphere of operations from the Judge's Head 9 to
Gray's Inn Gate. The reason of this removal may or
may not have been from the most common of causes
'more commodious premises/ We have already
intimated the possibility that Jacob succeeded to the
business his brother Richard had carried on at Gray's
Inn Gate. So far, we have not been able to trace
Richard's name as bookseller later than about 1690;
and even at this date his publications are very few,
and include nothing of any importance. Jacob
remained at Gray's Inn Gate for twelve or thirteen
years.

Tonson's name will for ever be associated with the
production of Milton's ' Paradise Lost.' and also with
Shakespeare's works, as well as Dryden's. Sir
Godfrey Kneller's portrait of Tonson, with a folio
copy of ' Paradise Lost ' in his hands, is probably
well known. Dryden, with the author's permission,
it is said, turned Milton's story into an opera, entitled
' The .State of Innocence,' which was published in
1674, the year in which Milton died. Simmons did
not long retain the sole ownership of Milton's poem,

9 John Bayley was living at this address in 1708, when he
issued C. Goring's ' Irene,' and S. Billingsley in or about 1730.



1 6 6 The Ea rlier History oj English Bookselling.

but transferred his entire interest to Brabazon
Aylmer, another bookseller, for 25/. Aylmer had
not long enjoyed this copyright before he offered it
to Tonson. Jacob hesitated much before closing any
agreement, even after Dryden had told him that
' Paradise Lost ' was one of the greatest poems ever
produced in this or any other country. The times
' were not propitious to blank verse upon a sacred
subject,' and Jacob was not at all certain about the
proposed speculation turning up trumps. However,
on August 17, 1683, he purchased half of the copy-
right, and the remaining half on March 24, 1690,
Aylmer making a fairly good bargain out of the
transaction. But four or five years passed before
Tonson took steps to realize this outlay, and, after
issuing proposals for bringing out the poem by sub-
scription, the fourth edition of ' Paradise Lost' appeared
in 1688, in folio, with a portrait by White, illustra-
tions, and a list of more than 500 subscribers, including
most of the eminent men of the day. Dryden was
among them, and wrote the following lines, which
were printed by way of motto under the portrait of
the poet :

' Three poets in three distant ages born,
Greece, Italy, England did adorn,
The first in loftiness of mind surpassed ;
The next in majesty ; in both the last.
The force of nature could no further go ;
To make a third she joined the former two.'

Tonson soon discovered the great value of the
literary property which he had acquired. The fifth,
or Tonson's second, edition appeared also in a large



Jacob Tonson. 167

folio in 1692, and a sixth in 1695. The last is
remarkable from the fact that it contains the first,
and also one of the best, commentary on the poem,
which was made by a Scotch schoolmaster, then
resident in London, named Patrick Hume. The
famous essays of Addison's, in the Spectator, also
acted as a considerable impetus in the sale of this
work, although its greatness was an acknowledged
fact long before their appearance. Tonson himself
had published at least six editions making nine in
all before Addison called the attention of his readers
to this remarkable poem. Tonson probably made
many thousands of pounds out of ' Paradise Lost,'
which, indeed, according to Spence (Singer's Ed.,
p. 261), Jacob verbally admitted having made more
out of than any other poem. For more than half a
century the Tonsons held undisputed and exclusive
right in Milton's poems ; and although the tacit
acknowledgment held good until 1750, when other
publishers also issued editions of Milton's poems, it
was not until 1767 that the connection between
Milton and the Tonsons finally ceased. In that year,
Jacob Tonson, tertius, the grandnephew of the first
bookselling Jacob, and the last bookseller of the
name, died.

The last work of any note which Tonson published
for Dryden was ' The Fables/ which the poet finished
in December, 1699. Dr. Johnson gives the following
agreement made respecting this last work :

' I do hereby promise to pay John Dryden, Esq.,
on order, on the 25th of March, 1699, the sum of two
hundred and fifty guineas, in consideration of ten



1 68 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

thousand verses, which the said John Dryden, Esq.,
is to deliver to me, Jacob Tonson, when finished,
whereof seven thousand five hundred verses, more or
less, are already in the said Jacob Tonson's posses-
sion. And I do hereby promise, and engage myself,
to make up the said sum of two hundred and fifty
guineas, three hundred pounds sterling, to the said
John Dryden, Esq., his executors, administrators, or
assigns, at the beginning of the second impression of
the said ten thousand verses.

' In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand
and seal, this 2oth day of March, i69f .

JACOB TONSON.
' Sealed and delivered, being
first duly stampt, pursuant
to the Act of Parliament for
that purpose, in the pre-
sence of

' BEN. PORTLOCK,
' WILL. CONGREVE.'

Dr. Johnson also gives Dryden's receipt, dated
March 24, 1698, the witness to which was Charles
Dryden. The doctor also points out that the con-
tract manifestly relates to the volume of ' Fables','
' which contains above twelve thousand verses, and
for which, therefore, the payment must have been
afterwards enlarged.' The work was issued in folio,
and contains Dryden's remarkable song, the second St.
Cecilia Ode, commonly known as ' Alexander's Feast.'

Dryden died in May, 1700. The Post-boy of April
30, announced that ' John Dryden, Esq., the famous



Jacob Tonson. 169

poet, lies a-dying,' and according to Mr. Saintsbury,
' at three o'clock the next morning he died very quietly
and peacefully.' Tonson's first and only great patron
had been connected, with him for a period of over
twenty years.

But apart from his close association with the works
of Dryden, Milton, and Shakespeare, Jacob Tonson's
immortality is assured through his connection with
the famous Kit-Cat Club. This club was formed
about 1688 by the leading Whigs of the day, and was
held in Shire Lane, now Lower Serle's Place, the
chief object of the members being to ensure the Pro-
testant succession to William the Third. The title
was derived from the cognomen of Christopher Cat,
a pastry-cook, whose mutton pies. were considered
very excellent, and in which commodity, it seems the
Kit-Cats largely indulged. The toasts, however, were
said to be in honour of old cats and young kits.
Ward, the scurrilous author of a ' Secret History of
Clubs' (1709), states that the club was founded by ' an
amphibious mortal, chief merchant to the Muses,'
by which he refers of course, to Jacob Tonson, whom
he also describes as waiting hopefully in his shop for
the coming of some more of ' his new profitable chaps,
who, having more wit than experience, put but a
slender value as yet upon their maiden performances.'
Tonson, it seems, not satisfied with standing the usual
' whet ' to his authors, willingly provides pastry to eat
therewith ; still not being contented, he proposes a
weekly meeting, where not only the feast could be
discussed, but prospective poems, and other literary
merchandise also. This ' generous proposal was



1 70 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

very readily agreed to by the whole poetic class, and
the cook's name being Christopher, for brevity called
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. Tonson was secretary to the club, which
migrated from Shire Lane to the ' Fountain Tavern,'
in the Strand, and from thence, at the beginning of
the eighteenth century, to a small house adjoining
the mansion of Barnes Elms, near Barnes ; Count
Heidegger, the founder of Italian Operas, resided in
the mansion. Charles Knight states that ' George
the Second was here entertained with displays of fire-
works and illuminated lamps, but the ' boets and
bainters,' who were not in good odour with the
Hanoverian dynasty, conferred a lustre upon Barnes
Elms which did not go out so quickly as Heidegger's
fireworks.' Sir Richard Phillips, in ' A Morning's
Walk from London to Kew ' (1817) describes the ap-
pearance at that time of the famous house in which the
Kit- Cats formerly revelled. Phillips says, ' I found
the Kit-Cat club-room nearly as it existed in the days
of its glory. It is eighteen feet high, and forty feet
long by twenty feet wide. The mouldings and orna-
ments were in the most superb fashion of its age, but
the whole was falling to pieces, from the effects of the
dry-rot. My attention was chiefly attracted by the
faded cloth-hanging of the room, whose red colour
once set off the famous portraits of the club that hung
around it. Their marks and sizes were still visible,
and their numbers and names remained as written in
chalk, for the guidance of the hangers. Thus was I,



Jacob Tonson. 171

as it were, by these still legible names, brought into
personal contact with Addison, Steele and Congreve
and Garth and Dryden, 1 and with many hereditary
nobles, remembered only because they were patrons
of those natural nobles.' The portraits of tne members
of the Kit-Cat were painted by Kneller, and are still
in the possesssion of the descendant of the Tonson
family, residing at Bayfordbury, Hertfordshire. In
addition to those mentioned by Phillips, the others of
the more famous painted by Kneller, and known by
name at least, even to the present generation, are,
Robert Walpole, William Pulteney, Vanbrugh, Con-
greve, Arthur Mainwaring, Francis Lord Godolphin,
&c. The number of portraits is forty-two or forty-
three. They are on canvas somewhat smaller than a
three-quarters, but more than a half-length ; a size
which, according to Nichols, has ever since been de-
nominated as Kit-Cat from this circumstance. The
canvas is sufficiently long enough to admit a hand
the size being 36 in. long by 28 in. wide. A splendid
volume under the title ' Kit-Cat Club/ done
from the original paintings of Sir Godfrey Kneller,
by Mr. Faber, sold by J. Tonson in the Strand,
and F. Faber at the ' Golden Head, in Blooms-
bury Square,' was published in 1735 ; contain-
ing an engraved title-page and dedication, and 43
portraits, beginning with Sir Godfrey Kneller, and end-
ing with Mr. Tonson, who is represented in a gown
and cap, holding in his right hand a volume lettered

1 It is to be very much doubted whether Dryden ever frater-
nized with the Kit-Cats, Tory as he was. His portrait, moreover,
does not appear among the engraved series.



1 7 2 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

' Paradise Lost.' The portraits were re-engraved in
1821, and were issued with illustrative text under the
title of Memoirs of the Celebrated Persons composing
the Kit-Cat Club/ a production which the Quarterly
Review stigmatizes as ' one of the most blundering
pieces of patchwork that the scissors of a hackney
editor ever produced.'

The Kit-Cats came in for the usual share of abuse
from the Tories, and Tonson in particular was singled
out as the chief object of attack. One of these,
' Faction Displayed,' 2 1704,13 remarkable in embody-
ing a triplet which had been written by Dryden
to Tonson, when the former had sent to the latter for
some money, which was refused. Dryden, it is said
by Malone, wrote the following and sent them to
Tonson with the message : ' Tell the dog that he who
wrote these lines can write more :'

'With leering look, bull-fac'd and freckled fair,
With two left-legs, and Judas-coloured hair,
With frowzy pores that taint the ambient air.'

The lines were not, of course, intended by Dryden to
appear in print. In 'Faction Displayed,' the author of
which is not known for certain, but was presumably
William Shippen, further allusion to Tonson is made
under the thin disguise of Bibliopolo, and following
Dryden's triplet come these lines (Tonson appears on
the scene just as the assembly of faction's ' darling
votaries ' is about to adjourn) :

' Sweating and puffing for awhile he stood,
And then broke forth in this insulting mood ;

2 See Malone's Dryden, i. pt. i. iii. ; Notes and Queries, 6th,
S. X., 514, and XI. 37.



Jacob Tonson. 173

" I am the touchstone of all modern wit ;
Without my stamp in vain your poets write ;
Those only purchase ever-living fame,
That in my Miscellany plant their name.
Nor therefore think that I can bring no aid,
Because I follow a mechanic trade :
I'll print your pamphlets, and your humours spread.
I am the founder of your lov'd Kit-Cat,
A club that gave direction to your state ;
'Twas there we first instructed all our youth,
To talk profane, and latfgh at sacred truth :
We taught them how to toast, and rhyme and bite,
To sleep away the day, and drink away the night."
Some this fantastic speech approv'd, some sneer'd,
The wight grew choleric, and disappear^!.'

Another satire on the society, entitled ' The Kit-
Cats : a poem,' is attributed to Sir Richard Blackmore.
In this poem Tonson is frequently referred to as Bocai,
a transposition of his Christian name. It is a lengthy ,
tedious piece, from which a couple of lines might be
fairly applied to the poet himself,

' More had he said, but strove in vain to keep
His falling eyelids ope, and fell down fast asleep,'

had we not known that Blackmore wrote half a dozen
epics, and was not, consequently, of a very sleepy
disposition. Under the circumstances, Jacob was
naturally open to all sorts of attacks, insinuations and
libels, even when the charges had no foundation in
fact. Be that as it may, Jacob was an indispensable
member of the society. When in Paris in 1703, the
' proud ' Duke of Somerset writes him, ' Our club is
dissolved till you revive it again, which we are
impatient of.' Vanbrugh, also, is anxious for Tonson's



1 74 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

return, and on June 15, 1703, writes in this strain:
' The Kitt-Catt wants you, much more than you ever
can do them. Those who are in town are in great
desire of waiting on you at Barnes-elms ; not that they
have finished their pictures neither ; tho', to excuse
them (as well as myself), Sir Godfrey has been most
in fault. The fool has got a country house near Hamp-
ton Court, and is so busy about fitting it up (to receive
nobody), that there's no getting him to work.' Singer
in his edition of Spence's Anecdotes,' quotes a charac-
teristic anecdote from ' Richardsoniana ' (1776), said to
have been derived from Pope. Old Jacob Tonson got
a great many fine pictures, and two of himself, from
Kneller, by a judicious use of ' soft soap.' Sir
Godfrey was very covetous, but then he was very vain,
and a great glutton ; so he played these passions
against the other ; besides telling him he was the
greatest master that ever was, sending him every now
and then, a haunch of venison, and dozens of excellent

claret. ' O my G , man' (said he once to Vander

Gutcht), ' this old Jacob loves me, he sends me good
things ; the venison was fat ! Old Geekie, the
surgeon, got several fine pictures of him too, and an
excellent one of himself ; but then his praises were as
fat as Jacob's venison ; neither could be too fat for
Sir Godfrey.'

Jacob's rise in the world, among the big-wigs, was
not without its drawbacks, if we may believe Nicholas
Rowe's 3 inscription, published in 1714, in the form of
a dialogue between Congreve and Tonson :

3 Tonson had published Rowe's ' Fair Penitent ' in 1703, and
his ' Ulysses' in 1706.



Jacob l^onson. 175

' While, in your days of reputation,
You for blue garters 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, were to my conceiving
The cheerfullest, best, honest fellow living.'

In the arrangement of the Kit-Cat portraits Tonson
and Vanbrugh appear side by side, a circumstance
which probably causes Rowe to put the following
words into the mouth of the bookseller :

' I'm in with Captain Vanbrugh at the present,
A most sweet-natured gentleman and pleasant ;
He writes you comedies, draws schemes, and models,
And builds duke's houses upon very odd hills.'

In 1703 Jacob Tonson made a journey to Holland
for the purpose of purchasing suitable paper and get-
ting engravings made for his noble edition of Caesar's
' Commentaries,' which appeared in royal folio with 87
plates, in 1712, and under the editorial care of Dr.
Samuel Clarke. This edition, which John Nichols
describes as ' perhaps the most magnificent work that
has been issued from the English press,' is still com-
mercially valuable. When at Amsterdam, Jacob's
letters were sometimes addressed to him at ' Mr.
Morris', the English house near the Fishmarket,' and
sometimes to him at ' Mr. Valcks, on the Dam, near
the Stadhouse.' The stay seems to have lasted two
or three months. The ostensible object of his journey
was much doubted by the opposite political party, as
will be seen by the letter addressed to Jacob by Van-
brugh, dated June 15, 1703, from which an extract
has already been quoted : ' The Tory's (even the



1 76 The Earlier History of EnglisJi Bookselling.

wisest of them) have been very grave upon your going
to Holland ; they often say (with a nod) that Caesar's
' Commentaries' might have been carried through with-
out a voyage to Holland ; there were meanings in
that subscription, and list of names -may serve for
farther engagements than paying three guineas a piece
for a book ; in short I could win a hundred pounds
if I were sure you had not made a trip to Holland,
which you may possibly hear sworn when' you arrive
home again ; so I'd advise you to bring a very exact
journal, well attested.' Jacob Tonson, therefore, was
obviously a man of considerable note in the political
as well as the literary world.

Tonson is said to have removed from Gray's Inn
Gate to ' Shakespeare's Head/ over against Catherine
Street, in the Strand, about the year 1712. The third
great epoch in Tonson's career was undoubtedly the
projecting of an edition' of Shakespeare, edited by N.
Rowe in 1709-10, with Charles Gildon's critical re-
marks. The edition was in 7 vols. octavo, and was
the first of the great dramatist issued with illustra-
tions, which, as Dibdin truly remarks, were sufficiently
characteristic : e.g., that to Hamlet in the closet scene
with the Queen, who is dressed like Queen Anne. In
1714 a I2mo edition in 9 vols. was issued, ' and then
' expired without a struggle/ says Dibdin in his
' Library Companion.'

The following sums, 'taken from the books of the
late Mr. Tonson/ were paid for Shakespearian
editorial work at various times: To Rowe, $61. los. ;
Hughes (for correcting the press and making an
index to Mr. Rowe's I2mo edition), 28/. 7s. ; Pope,



Jacob Tonson. 177

2I7/. 12s. ; Fenton (for assisting Pope, and correcting
for the press), 3O/. 14^. ; Gay (also for similar assist-
ance), 35/. 17 's. 6d. ; Whalley (for correcting proofs
of Pope's I2mo edition), I2/. ; Theobald, 65 2/. ior. ;
Warburton, 5OO/. ; Johnson, for two editions, 475/. ;
Capell, 3OO/. Nearly a quarter of a century had
passed since the fourth folio appeared, and a popular
edition was a safe speculation. We have scarcely
any facts concerning the number of copies printed.
Of Pope's in six volumes only 750 copies were
worked off, the subscription price being six guineas.
Theobald's was larger ; the number of volumes issued
is stated to be 12,860, or rather less than 2000 copies.

Naturally, Addison's ' Cato ' bore Jacob Tonson's
imprint ; for the copyright of which IO7/. los. was paid,
April 7, 1713. Spence records a statement of Pope's
that Tonson did not like Addison. ' He had a quarrel
with him, and after quitting the Secretaryship, used
frequently to say of him, ' One day or other, you'll
see that man a bishop ! I'm sure he looks that way ;
and indeed, I ever thought him a priest in his heart.'

Two or three very interesting letters from Addison
to Tonson were first printed in the Gents. Mag. for 1834,
concerning an edition of a translation of Ovid's ' Meta-
morphoses,' which was produced in 1717, and held the
field until the appearance of Beloe's edition in 1791.
As an instance of the esteem in which Tonson was
held, it is only necessary to point out that Addison,
in endeavouring to secure the help of Dr. Haines in
the Ovid, was informed by the doctor ' that he did
not know how to deny Mr. Tonson any request that
he made.' The Tonsons, also, must have made a very

N



1 78 The Earlier History of English Bo)kselling.

large sum out of the octavo editions of the Tatler,.
the Spectator, and the Guardian, of each of which
periodicals they issued numerous and large editions.

In i7i9Tonson spent some months in Paris/ where
he gained a considerable sum by adventuring in the
Mississippi Scheme. Good-fortune, like ill-luck, rarely
comes singly, for, as some recompense for his attach-
ment to the Whigs, and probably through the influence
of the Duke of Newcastle and Secretary Craggs,
Tonson secured a grant to himself, and his nephew
and namesake, a son of his elder brother Richard, of
the office of Stationer, Bookbinder, Bookseller, and
Printer, to some of the principal public boards and
great offices, for the term of forty years. In 1720 old
Jacob seems to have left the entire business in the
charge of his nephew, who, in 1733, obtained from Sir
Robert Walpole a further grant of the employment
just specified for forty years more, to commence at
the expiration of the former term. This lucrative
appointment was enjoyed by the Tonson family ortheir
assigns till the month of January, 1800. But, accord-
ing to Nichols (' Lit. Anec.' viii. 45 3), .this appointment
could not have been actually in the possession of the

4 This fact give us an opportunity of quoting, not only two
interesting examples of the ' Society news ' of our forefathers, but
also of illustrating the extraordinary inconsistency of statements
that appeared simultaneously. ' We hear J acob Tonson, senior,
bookseller, is dead at Paris,' was a statement that appeared in
Read's Weekly Journal, of Saturday, October 17, 1719. 'Mr.
Jacob Tonson, sen., is so well recovered of his illness at Paris,
that his nephew, Mr. Jacob Tonson, jr., will return with the next
pacquet,' was one of the items which was published in The
Orphan Revived of the same date as the previous extract !



Jacob Tonson. 1 79

Tonson family for very long after it was first acquired.
Because we are told, at the reference just given, that
John Mount and Thomas Sage 'purchased the re-
maining term in old Jacob Tonson's Patent for sup-
plying many of the public offices (the Stamp-office
among the rest), with stationery, &c., upon the death of
the younger Jacob Tonson, the other brother Richard
not choosing to continue the business.'


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