W. (William) Roberts.

The earlier history of English bookselling online

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&c. Where may be had Mr. Rowe's Translation of
" Callipaedia, or the Art of getting Beautiful Children."
A Poem in 4 Books. Price 4^. The Royal Paper,


226 The Ear Her History of English Bookselling.

?s. 6d. Catalogues are delivered gratis at Waghorn's
and Brown's Coffee-House on the Walk..'

To return, however, to the unfortunate ' Court
Poems/ Mr. Thorns thought it evident that Pope had
circulated some libellous statement concerning Old-
mixon before March 31, 1716, from an advertise-
ment that appeared in the Flying Post, or the
Postmaster of that date, in which Oldmixon declared
that he never saw ' or heard of the title or preface to
them till after the poems were published.' ' Witness,
E. Curll.' ' The True and Full Account,' preposterous
as it is in its present state, probably had its origin in a
hoax resembling in some way that elaborated by Pope
on Dennis. The ' Account,' although not published
until some years afterwards, was not only written at
the time, but amused all the wits about town for a
long period, much to Curll's chagrin. Probably
Curll made only verbal objection to the ' Account '
so long as it remained in manuscript state, but when
this embryo stage was departed from, and smarting
under the accumulated insults of an unsparing
antagonist, Curll gives his version of the transaction
in ' The Curliad,' which, professing to be 'a hypercritic
upon the Dunciad variorum,' was issued at a shilling
in 1729- (April 25). The title-page of this fierce
onslaught contains the following remarks, which have,
at least, the equivocal merit of candour :

' Pope has less Reading than makes Felons 'scape,
Less human Genius than God gives an Ape.'

Dunciad, b. i. v. 235-6.

' O may his Soul still Fret upon the Lee,
And naught attune his Lyre but Bastardy ;

Edmund Cur II. 227

May unhang'd Savage all Pope's Hours enjoy,
And let his spurious Birth his Pen employ.'

' Incerti Auth.'

Curll gives in ' The Curliad ' a circumstantial and
perhaps correct account of how the original ' Court
Poems ' came into his hands. He stigmatizes the
1 Account ' as false, and proceeds : ' About the year
1715, Mr. Joseph Jacobs (late of Hoxton, the founder
of a remarkable sect called the Whiskers) gave to
Mr. John Oldmixon three poems at that time handed
about, entitled " The Basset Table," The Toilet," and
" The Drawing- Room." ' These pieces were printed in
octavo, and published by Mr. James Roberts, near the
Oxford Arms in Warwick Lane, under the title of
" Court Poems." The profit arising from the sale was
equally to be divided between Mr. John Oldmixon,
Mr. John Pemberton (a bookseller of Parliamentary
note in Fleet Street, tho' he has not had the good
fortune to be immortalized in the " Dunciad ") and
myself. And I am sure my brother Lintot will, if
asked, declare this to be the same state of the case I
laid before Mr. Pope, when he sent for me to the
Swan Tavern in Fleet Street to enquire after this
publication. 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 potion (which was the
punishment referred to by our commentator), but no
threatenings past. Mr. Pope, indeed, said that satires
should not be printed (tho' he has now changed his
mind). I answered, they should not be wrote, for if
they were, they would be printed. He replied, Mr.
Gay's interest at Court would be greatly hurt by pub-

Q 2

228 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

lishing these pieces. This was all that passed in our
Triumvirate. We then parted. Pope and my brother
Lintot went together to his shop, and I went home
and vomited heartily.'

It will be seen, therefore, that the 'Account' had
some sort of foundation in fact. The ' Court Poems '
were constantly before the public, being reprinted for
6d. among several other poems, in 1719, and it is
included in the fourth volume of Curll's edition of
'Mr. Pope's Literary Correspondence,' in I2mo, 1736.
In 1716, E. Smith, of Cornhill, issued in a broad-side
form the well-known verses addressed by Pope ' To
the ingenious Mr. Moore, Author of the Celebrated

Worm -Powder.'

' Moore's Worms.
For the learned Mr. Curll, Bookseller,

Who, to be reveng'd on Mr. Pope for his Poisonous Emetick,
gave him a Paper of Worm Powder, which caused that Gentle-
man to void a strange sort of Worms.' .

Of this ' poem ' there are twelve verses, of which
the first four and concluding three alone are here
given :

' Oh learned CURLL ! thy skill excels
Ev'n Moore's of Abchurch Lane ;
He only genuine worms expels,

To crawl in print for gain.
From a Wit's brain thou mak'st worms rise,

(Unknown in the worm-evil)
Fops, silkworms, beaus, and butterflies,

With that old worm the Devil.
Ev'n Button's bookworms shall, with these,

(Like these with dust decay'd)
In Grub-street rubbish rest in peace,
Till Curlls their peace invade.

Edmund Cur II. 229

For booksellers vile vipers are,

On brains of Wits they prey :
The very worms they will not spare,

When Wits to worms decay.

* * # * *

Ah, Curl! !* how greedy hast thou fed

(E'er worms gave food to thee)
Upon the late illustrous dead,

With worms of thy degree.

Why did the venom of a prude

Allure thy vicious taste ?
Safer thou'dst feast on maggots crude,

Or with Tom D'Urfey fast.

For see ! thy meagre looks declare

Some poison in thee lurks:
Let Bl[ackmo]re ease thy restless care,

Or who shall print his works? '

Curll's fracas with the indignant scholars of West-
minster was not the least of the scrapes into which
his ill-timed and ill-appreciated energy landed him.
On Sunday, July 8, 1716, the learned and witty
Robert South, Prebendary of Westminster, and Canon
of Christ Church, Oxford, was gathered unto his
fathers. ' Four days after his decease (says Mr.
Thorns), his corpse, having for some time lain
in a decent manner in the Jerusalem Chamber, was
brought thence into the College Hall, where a Latin
oration was pronounced over it by Mr. John Barber,
then Captain of the King's Scholars. Of this
funeral discourse Curll would appear, by some
means or other, to have obtained a copy ; and,

* ' Famous for printing the Lives and Last Wills of great

230 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

"did th' Oration print
Imperfect, with false Latin in't."'

Curll's ' seasonable ' but luckless publication was
in octavo form of 17 pages, the full title being, ' The
Character of the Rev. and Learned Dr. Robert South.
Being the Oration spoken at his Funeral on Monday,
July xvi. 1716, in the College-Hall of Westminster.
By Mr. Barber.' The irate scholars determined upon
having revenge, and to this end decoyed the unsus-
pecting Curll into the Dean's Yard, on the pretence
of giving him a perfect copy of the oration. The
reception he met with is graphically told in a letter
that appeared at the time in the St. James's Post :
'King's College, Westminster, August 3rd, 1716.
Sir, You are desired to acquaint the public that a
certain bookseller near Temple-bar, not taking
warnings by the frequent drubs that he has under-
gone for his often pirating other men's copies, did
lately, without the consent of Mr. John Barber,
present Captain of Westminster School, publish the
scraps of a Funeral Oration, spoken by him over the
Corpse of the Rev. Dr. South. And being on
Thursday last fortunately nabbed within the limits of
Dean's Yard, by the King's Scholars 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 gram-
matical construction for his false concords, he was
reconducted to Dean's Yard, and on his knees asking
pardon of the aforesaid Mr. Barber for his offence, he

Edmund Cur IL 231

was kicked out of the yard, and left to the huzzas of
the rabble.' Poor Curll !

This episode was undoubtedly very fruitful in
lampoons, the most noteworthy of which is that
attributed to Samuel Wesley, 8 and entitled ' Neck or
Nothing, a consolatory Letter from Mr. D nt n to
Mr. C rll, upon his being Tost in a Blanket,' &c.
' Prefixed is a plate, divided into three compartments :
the first exhibits Curll being " presented with the
ceremony of the blanket." In the second, he is pro-
strated on a table receiving a flagellation where one
wound, 'tis said,

"hurts honour more
Than twenty when laid on before.''

In the third he is on his bended knees between two
files of the Westminster scholars,' asking pardon of
the aforesaid Mr. Barber.' The whole of this poem
is given in Mr. Thorns' ' Curll Papers,' but we can
only afford space here for a few of the more salient

' Lo ! I that erst the glory spread

Of Worthies, who for Monmouth bled,

In letters black, and letters red ;

To thee, Dear Afun, Condolence write,

As sufFrer from the Jacobite :

For just as they were martyrs, so

A glorious Confessor art thou ;

Else should this matchless pen of mine

Vouchsafe thee not a single line ;

Nor wave its politicks for this,

Its dark and deep discoveries,

6 See 'Memoirs of the Society of Grub Street,' i., p. 16 ; and
M &* Q., 6th S., passim.

232 The Earlier History of English Bookselling .

Nor for a moment should forbear
To charge the faction in the rear.
Could none of thy poetick band
Of mercenary wits at hand,
Fortell, or ward the coming blow,
From garret high, or cellar low?

For hat and gloves you call'd in haste,
And down to execution pass'd.
Small need of hats and gloves, I trow ;
Thou mightst have left thy breeches too !

To see thee smart for copy-stealing,
My bowels yearn with fellow-feeling.
Have I alone oblig'd the press
With fifteen hundred treatises,
Printers and stationers undone,
A plagiary in ev'ry one ?

I sweat to think of thy condition

Before that barb'rous Inquisition.

Lo ! wide-extended by the crowd,

The Blanket, dreadful as a shroud,

Yawns terrible, for thee, poor M.un,

To stretch, but not to sleep upon.

" Confess," quo' they, ".thy rogueries.

What makes you keep in garret high

Poor bards tied up to Poetry ? ''

" I'm forc'd to load them with a clog,

To make them study : '' " Here's a rogue

Affronts the school, we'll make thee rue it:"

" Indeed, I never meant to do it ! "

" No ? didst thou not th' Oration print

Imperfect, with false Latin in't?"

'Tis vexatious, Mun, I grant,

To hear the passing truants taunt,

And ask thee at thy shop in jeer,

" Which is the way to Westminster ? "

Why, POPE will make an epic on't !
BERNARD will chuckle at thy moan,

Edmund Cur II. 233

And all the booksellers in town,
Fleet Street and Temple- Bar around,
The Strand and Holborn, this shall sound :
For ever this shall grate thine ear :
" Which is the way to Westminster ? " '

The affair was by no means allowed to rest v/ith a
squib or lampoon or two, for up to very nearly the time
of his death, good care was taken that Mr. Curll
should not forget his excursions into space.

Pope's version of Homer afforded Curll an ex-
cellent pretext for attacking the poet, and accordingly
on April 5, 1716, an advertisement appeared in the
Flying Post, announcing that ' this day is published
the Second part of Mr. Pope's Popish Translation of
Homer. The subscribers having made great com-
plaint that there were no pictures in the First part :
This is to give notice, that to this Second part there
is added a spacious map of the Trojan tents and
rivers finely delineated. Translated into copper from
the wooden original, as you have it in the learned
Dr. Fuller's " Pisgah Sight," being the true travels of
Moses and the Children of Israel from the land of
Goshen to the land of Canaan. With an exact scale.
Sold by E. Curll,' &c. The same issue contains
another of Curll's advertisements, which stated that
' next week will be published, an excellent new ballad,
called " The Catholic Poet, or Protestant Barnaby's
Lamentation." To the tune of " Which nobody can

' Tho' of his wit the Catholick has boasted,
Lintot and Pope by turns shall both be roasted." '

2 34 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

Mr. Curll did not think he had ' laid it on ' strong
enough, and five days later, April 10, the same
journal contained the following notice : ' To prevent
any farther imposition on the public, there is now
preparing for the press, by several hands, " Homer
Defended," being a detection of the many errors
committed by Mr. Pope in his pretended Translation
of Homer, wherein is fully proved that he neither
understands the original, nor the author's meaning,
and that in several places he has falsified it on
purpose. To which is added, a specimen of a Trans-
lation of the First Book of the Odysses, which has
lain printed by Mr. Lintott some time, and which he
intends to publish, in order to prejudice Mr. Tickell's
excellent version. Any gentlemen who have made
observations upon Mr. Pope's Homer, and will be
pleased to send them to Mr. Curll .... shall have
them faithfully inserted in this work.'

Much of the defamatory literature sent into the
world by the ' Grubeans ' on the appearance of Pope's
Homer has been buried in oblivion, but among
Curll's publications were ' An Epilogue to a Puppet-
show at Bath, concerning the said Iliad, by Geo.
Ducket, Esq.,' and ' Remarks upon Mr. Pope's Trans-
lation of Homer, by Mr. Dennis, 1717.' This latter,
which also contained two letters concerning ' Windsor
Forest,' and the ' Temple of Fame,' was issued by
Curll in a modified form as ' The Popiad,' without
author's or publisher's name, in 1728. But Curll
was not the only bookseller who, by issuing libels
on Pope prior to 1728, competed for a position in
' The Dunciad.'

Edmund Curll. 235

A more serious danger threatened Curll in 1716
than his ' differences ' with Pope and the Westminster
scholars. He was summoned to the Bar of the
House of Lords to answer to a charge of violating
the order of the House. The official order for
printing and publishing the account of the protracted
trial of Lord Wintoun, which was brought to a close
March 19, 1715-6, was given to Jacob Tonson, who
duly executed the work. Its price was prohibitive,
and Sarah Popping published a popular account of
the transaction for twopence. On April 13 an order
was made to ' forthwith attach the said S. Popping.'
Sarah, it appears, was indisposed, but their lordships
were informed that ' a person is attending the door
who can give an account concerning the said Paper.'
This 'person ' was one Elizabeth Cape, who, by some
means or other, implicated Curll and Pemberton as
the chief promoters of this outrage upon their lord-
ships' privileges. On Tuesday, April 17, Sarah
Popping presented a petition to the House, by which
it appears that, during her illness, Messrs. Curll and
Pemberton issued the account of Lord Wintoun's
Trial without her knowledge, and placed her name as
publisher on the- title-page entirely upon their own
responsibility, and without her consent. On Thursday,
April 26, their lordships ordered that Sarah Popping
and John Pemberton be forthwith discharged out of
custody, without paying any fees ; whilst poor Curll,
with his usual share of ill-luck, was condemned to
'be continued in the custody he is now in.' Fate
was indeed hard upon Edmund, for, still in durance
vile, on Wednesday, May 2, Daniel Bridge, a

236 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

printer in Paternoster Row, proved that he received
the copy of the account of Lord Wintoun's Trial from
E. Curll, and that he printed the same. On the
following Tuesday (May 8) the unfortunate pair
presented a joint petition praying for release, which,
however, was not granted them until the following
Friday, when, on their knees, they received a reprimand
from the Lord Chancellor for their offence, and were
discharged, after paying their fees.

But yet another quarrel needs recording. We find
him in 1716 at loggerheads with Desaguliers, who in
1715 had employed Curll to publish a work entitled
' Fires Improved,' which professed to detail a ' new
method of building chimneys so as to prevent their
smoaking.' It was a translation from the French,
and Curll was allowed a share in the profits. In
order to promote its sale, Curll ' puffed it off in a very
gross manner,' which induced the irate author to
publish a disclaimer in Steele's Town Talk, in which
Desaguliers informed the public that whenever his
name hereafter was or should be printed with that
egregious flatterer Mr. Curll's, either in an advertise-
ment or at the title-page of a book, except that
of " Fires Improved," he entirely disowned it.'

Neither the heaped-up insults of Pope, nor the 'orders'
of the lords, spiritual and temporal, nor the blanketings
of the scholars, had much permanent effect upon
Curll, for in eleven days from his dismissal from the
custody of the Black Rod, we find him busy getting
through the press a new edition of Erdeswick's
' Survey of Staffordshire,' for the loan of Thoresby's
manuscript copy of which the bookseller spontane-

Edm u nd Cu rll. 237

ously offers two copies when it is finally published.
We may turn aside for a short time from the in-
cessant turmoil in which Curll was concerned, and
consider some of the really useful work which he

The Topographical works which Curll published are
for the most part valuable even at the present day,
and as few of his publications were issued in sizes
larger than octavo, and at a correspondingly cheap
rate, he was, apart from personal considerations,
really instrumental in placing desirable literature
in the hands of those whose purses were not long
enough to bear the expense of the then costly and
bulky folios and quartos. The following list, chiefly
derived from Nichols' ' Lit. Anec.' v. 491, will prove
that Curll's publications were not uniformly objec-
tionable : ' History and Antiquities of Winchester,"
1715 ; ditto of Hereford, 1717 ; ditto of Rochester,
1717-23 ; ditto of the Churches of Salisbury and
Bath, 1719-23; 'Inscriptions on the Tombs in
Bunhill-Fields,' 1717 ; Aubrey's 'History of Surrey, 1
1719, 5 vols.; Norden's ' Delineations of Northampton-
shire/ 1720; 'History and Antiquities of Glaston-
bury/Oxford, 1722; and a ' Chorographical Description
or Survey of the County of Devon,' &e., collected by
the travail of Tristram Ridson, of Winscot, Gent/
1714. The price of each volume averaged about
7s. 6d. Curll had a sort of certificate from the well-
known antiquary, Browne Willis, who wrote to say
that 'Mr. Curll, having been at great expense in
publishing these books (now comprised under the
title of " Anglia Illustrata/' in 20 volumes), and

238 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

adorning them with draughts of monuments, maps,
&c., deserves to be encouraged by us all, who are
well-wishers to this study ; no bookseller' and was
Mr. Willis here quietly satirical ? ' in town having
been so curious as he.' Mr. Curll is of course duly
grateful for this tribute, which, he states in a P.S.,
' was given upon a journey to Oxford, and has been
greatly serviceable to me.'

A spirit of rivalry now and then prompted Curll to
undertake some work which he would not have other-
wise thought of. To this cause may be safely ascribed
the reprint of Surrey's ' Songs and Sonnetts ' issued
by Tottell in 1567, &c. An edition of Surrey was
issued in 1 7 1 7 by W. Mears, of the Lamb, and J. Brown,
of the Black Swan, within Temple Bar, and under the
editorial care of George Sewell, M.D. Probably Curll
got wind early of this undertaking, for he was not long
in getting a rival edition in the market, but he omitted,
in his haste perhaps, entirely those of ' Uncertain
Authors ' reprinted in Sewell's. The ' advertisement '
to Curll's publication, dated April 13, 1717, andsigned
' Vale,' one of Curll's several noms-de-plume, states :
' In order to give the publick as correct an edition as I
could of these valuable poems, I procured among my
friends these several editions, printed in the years 1565,
1567, arid 1569, all which I found very full of typo-
graphical errors, but the most correct was that of 1567,
from which this edition is printed. . . . When I had
made the edition of 1 567 as correct as I could from the
other two, I heard of another copy in the Bodleian
Library in Oxford, among Mr. Selden's books,
wherein were many considerable amendments, sup-

Edmund Cur II . 239

posed to be made by that eminent person : which I got
collated by a learned gentleman there,' &c.

It does not appear that Curll was in very bad odour
with the fraternity as a whole : it was the authors who
c could not stand ' Curll, or vice versd. Readers of the
' Account ' of Curll's poisoning will observe that Pem-
berton is referred to as his partner. The connection
between the two booksellers was probably not so close
as the modern acceptation of the term would infer, but
it lasted, off and on, for a term of several years. From
Lintot's Account-Book, we find that Curll and Pem-
berton were paid, March 4, 1714-5, the sum of 3/. 4^. 6d.
for ' half of Noy's ' Rights of the Crown/ and on Janu-
ary 5, 1715-6, they were again paid 4/. 6s. for a half-
share in West on ' Treasons/ It was a very common
thing at this period for two or three booksellers to
conjointly bear the expense and share the profits of
any considerable work, and then to sell, in sheets, by
auction or otherwise, a certain number of copies to
various booksellers, whose names appeared on the
title-page, and who bound their own copies.

It will be also interesting to learn that the scale of
remuneration which Curll allowed ' his authors ' was
not quite so beggarly as has been imagined. Ed.
Holdsworth was paid five guineas for, and allowed
fifty copies of, ' Muscipula ' (May 30, 1709) ; Susannah
Centlivre, twenty guineas each for her three plays,
1 The Wonder,' ' The Cruel Gift,' and ' The Artifice '
(May 18, 1715) ; John Durant Breval, four guineas
for ' The Art of Dress,' a poem (Feb. 13, 1716) ; Charles
Beckingham, fifty guineas for ' King Henry IV. of
France,' and the translation ofRapin's 'Christus Patiens '

2 4O The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

(Nov. 13, 1719) ; Robert Samber, four guineas for,
and twelve copies of, ' The Praise of Drunkeness' (Feb.
2o, J 723) ; Thomas Stackhouse, ten guineas for 'The
Life of Bishop Atterbury ' (Sept. 16, 1723) ; Thomas
Cooke, 5/. for writing Marvel's ' Life/ &c. (April, 1726) ;
and John Clarke received two payments of one guinea
each in part of the copy-money of two novels, ' The
Virgin Seducer,' and ' The Batchelor's Keeper ' (Oct.,

Curll's famous quarrel with Mist dates from about
April 5, 1718, when the Weekly Journal or Satur-
day Post afterwards rechristened Misfs Journal, con-
tained an elaborate article on Curll and Curlicism.
Curll was not a handsome man, unless overwhelming
contemporary evidence be false. After a passage on
the ' sin of Curlicism,' Mr. Mist's correspondent, ' H.,'
goes on in this manner: 'There is indeed but one
bookseller eminent among us for this abomination, and
from him the crime takes the just denomination of
Curlicism. The fellow is a contemptible wretch a
thousand ways : he is odious in his person, scandalous
in his fame ; he is marked by Nature, for he has a
bawdy countenance, and a debauched mien ; his
tongue is an echo of all the beastly language his shop
is filled with, and filthiness drivels in the very tone of
his voice.

' But what is the meaning that this manufacturer of

is permitted in a civilized nation to go unpunished,

and that the abominable Catalogue is unsuppressed, in
a country where religion is talked of (little more God
knows !)?.... How can our Stamp Office take twelve
pence a-piece for the advertisement of his infamous

Edmund Curll. 24 r

books, publishing the continued increase of lewd
abominable pieces of bawdry, such as none can read
even in miniature, for such an Advertisement is to a
book. How can these refrain informing the govern-
ment what mines are laid to blow up morality, even
from its very foundation, and to sap the basis of all
good manners, nay, and in the end, of religion itself?
' Where sleep the watchmen of Israel, that not one
divine of the Church of England not one teacher
among the dissenters has touched this crying curse ?
O Bangor ! O Bradbury ! how much better had the
kingdom of Christ been established, had you attacked
the agents of hell that propagate the kingdom of the

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