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bundle, which amounts to one hundred and ninety,
and fifty, is in all but two hundred and forty books.
6. As to the loss of a future copy, I despise it, nor
will I be concerned with any more such dark sus-
picious dealers. But now, Sir, I'll tell you what I will
do : when I have the books perfected which I have
already received, and the rest of tJte impression, I will
pay you for them. But what do you call this usage ?
First take a note for a month, and then want it to
be changed for one of Sir Richard Hoare's. My
note is as good, for any sum I give it, as the Bank,
and shall be as punctually paid. I have always said
gold is better than paper. But if this dark converse
goes on, I will instantly reprint the whole book ;
and, as a supplement to it, all the letters P. T. ever
sent me, of which I have exact copies, together with
all your originals, and give them upon oath to my
Lord Chancellor. You talk of trust P. T. has not
reposed any in me, for he has my money and notes
for imperfect books. Let me see, Sir, either P. T. or
yourself, or you'll find the old Scots proverb verified,
Nemo me impune lacessit. Your abused humble

servant, E. CURLL. P.S. Lord I attend this

day. Lord Delawarr I sup with to-night. Where
Pope has one lord, I have twenty.'

Pope had but little right to expect any leniency
from the hardly-used bookseller, but he had the

2 72 The Earlier History of English Bookselling .

sympathetic assurances from those of his friends who
could not see through his duplicity. For example,
Swift, writing to Lady Betty Germain, on June 8,
!735> says: 'I detest the House of Lords for their
indulgence to such a profligate villain as Curll.'

Curll's circumstantial account of the transaction
concerning letters is to some extent strengthened
by what Dr. Johnson records, and the great lexi-
cographer had but little respeci. for Curll, whom he
designates ' a rapacious bookseller, of no good fame.'
In speaking to Henry Lintot upon the subject, ' he
declared his opinion to be, that Pope knew better
than anybody else how Curll obtained the copies,
because another parcel was at the same time sent to
himself, for which no price had ever been demanded,
as he made known his resolution not to pay a porter,
and consequently not to deal with a nameless agent'

It was now Curll's place to take up the offensive,
which he did with commendable alacrity. ' He has,'
exclaimed Edmund, ' a knack at versifying ; but in
prose I think myself a match for him.' The next
' move ' was the following advertisement, which Mr.
Thorns quaintly describes as ' saucy ' :


' From Pope's Head in Rose Street,

' Covent Garden, July 26, 1735.

' Mr. Pope having put me under a necessity of
using him as he deserves, I hereby declare that the
first volume of his " Letters," which I published on
the 1 2th of May last, was sent me ready printed by
himself, and for six hundred of which I contracted

Edmund Ciirll. 273

with his agent, R. Smythe, 9 who came to me in the
habit of a clergyman. I paid the said R. Smythe
half the sum contracted for, and have his receipt in
full for three hundred books, tho' it has since, by
him, been honestly owned that he delivered me but
two hundred and forty books, and these all imper-
fect. For this treatment I shall have recourse to a
legal remedy. Mr. Pope, in the Grub Street Journal
(a libel 1 wherein he has been concerned from its
original), the Daily Journal, and the Daily Post Boy,
declared these letters to be forgeries, and complained
of them to the House of Lords ; which falsehood
was detected before the most august assembly ; and
upon my acquittal, he publishes a very idle narrative
of a robbery committed upon two manuscripts one
in his own, and the other in the Earl of Oxford's
library. This fallacy being likewise exposed, he now
advertises he shall with all convenient speed publish
some " Letters " himself, particularly relating to his

9 Upon his own confession, it appears that James Worsdale,
a painter, actor, and author, personated the Rev. Mr. Smythe,
and was employed by Pope.

1 Mr. Curll might have been excused had he spoken in much
stronger terms of this witty newspaper, in which he was con-
stantly satirized. The fourth number contained a letter, ascribed
in the most serious strain to Curll, in which he is represented as
applying for the post of bookseller to the Society. The fifteenth
number contains a ' defence ' of his manner of trading, and also
the decision at which the learned members had arrived to
appoint Capt. L. Gulliver as ' the most proper person to fill
the place ' of bookseller. The joke was carried still farther,
for in No. 24, Mr. Curll is reported as resenting his disappoint-
ment at not being chosen, and had, since his rejection, spoken
very disrespectfully of them.


274 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

correspondence with the Bishop of Rochester. But
the public may be assured that, if any letters Mr.
Pope himself, or any of his tools, shall think fit to
publish, are the same, or any way interfere, with
those I have published, that the same shall be
instantly reprinted by me.'

Then follows the ' contents ' of his second volume
of Pope's correspondence, and an announcement of
a third to be ' published next month/ the whole
winding up with : ' I know not what honours Mr.
Pope would have conferred on him : 1st, I have
hung up his head for my sign; and, 2ndly, I have
engraved a fine view of his house, gardens, &c., from
Mr. Rijsbrack's painting, which will shortly be pub-
lished. But if he aims at any farther artifices, he
never found himself more mistaken than he will in
trifling with me. E. CURLL/

Curll did not stop at the third volume, for no less
than six were issued at intervals ; but several of these
were composed for the most part of stale tracts and
poems, which ' fell flat.' Still, the six volumes had the
generic title of ' Mr. Pope's Literary Correspondence.'
Pope probably more than once regretted that his
vanity involved him in a scuffle with Curll, and
he was, it may be inferred, only speaking the truth
when, in a letter to Hugh Bethel, dated June 17,
1728, he wrote : 'After the publication of my boyish
letters to Mr. Cromwell, you will not wonder if I
should forswear writing a letter again while I live.'
But although he makes substantially the same obser-
vation in several other letters, his correspondence
does not seem to have fallen off. The quarrel had

Edmund Curll. 2 75

not much abated when Orrery wrote to Swift, March
1 8, 1736-7: 'Curll, like his friend the devil, glides
through all key-holes, and thrusts himself into the
most private cabinets.'

It will be quite unnecessary in this place to do more
than to refer to the light which the late Mr. Dilke
has thrown upon this subject of Pope's letters, and
the trickery which has now become patent. Pope's
own ' authorized ' version was little more than a
reprint of Curll's, and each alike contained a great
number of falsifications, by Pope, which have been
detected by comparing the exact copies of the
originals which Caryll took before returning the
letters addressed to him by the poet, according to
Pope's request.

On October 29, 1735, we again find Curll 'on the
rampage.' Stephen Duck, in a letter to Spence, re-
cords an interview he had with Curll, who visited the
' thresher poet ' in company with some one else. The
visitors inquired how the subscription was getting on
for the new edition of his poems. Duck replied, as
well as he could wish. ' Immediately one of the
persons (who had more than an ordinary ill aspect)
answered, that if I did not get a licence my book would
be pirated in a week after 'twas published. I answered,
that I did not see how even a licence would secure a
man's property just now, when printers and book-
sellers, in defiance of all justice and honesty, pirated
everything they could lay hands on : I added that I
had been informed Mr. Pope's works which he had sold
to Gilliver had not escaped this fate. As I mentioned
your friend Mr. Pope, the gentleman put on a more

T 2

276 The Earlier History of English Bookselling .

terrible countenance, and with a particular emotion
told me that I " talked quite out of my province, and
that I knew nothing of Pope or Gilliver either, and
that Gilliver had no more to do with Mr. Pope's works
than he himself, or any other person." He then told
me, with an air of insolence, that his name was Curl,
and should be very glad to see me in Covent Garden.'

A few years later, in 1740 or 1741, we have still
another example of Curll's restless desire of getting
hold of something new. Mrs. Pilkington, in her
' Memoirs' (ii. p. 158), records an interesting fact to
the effect that, when living in lodgings near White's
Chocolate House about 1741, her landlady announced
to her one morning that there was ' an ugly squinting
old fellow ' who requested an interview. When
admitted, he informed the impecunious Mrs. Pilking-
ton that a Mr. Clark had lately died at St. Edmonds-
bury and left her a legacy of 5oo7., which she could
obtain by waiting on Counsellor Clark, of Essex
Street, Strand. This was delightful news, which was,
however, nullified by the ' old fellow ' asking her to
dine with him at Richmond. She refused to do that,
whereupon he confessed that the windfall was a
fabrication, and that his chief object of the visit was,
being about to publish a life 2 of Alderman Barber, to
whom her husband had been chaplain, he wished to
embellish it with some letters of Dean Swift, which
he had heard were in her possession.

We have had occasion already to lay before the
reader a fact against which there can be no appeal,
namely, that beauty was not one of Mr. Curll's natural
2 Vide ante, p. 256.

Edmund Cur II. 277

endowments. But nothing that we have previously
quoted surpasses in graphic minuteness the record
which Thomas Amory, in a mad work entitled ' The
Life of John Buncle ' (1756), has bequeathed to a grate-
ful posterity. ' Curll was,' he says, ' in person very tall
and thin an ungainly, awkward, white-faced man.
His eyes were a light grey large, projecting, goggle
and purblind. He was splay-footed and baker-kneed.'

' He had,' continues candid Mr. Amory, ' a good
natural understanding, and was well acquainted with
more than the title-pages of books. He talked well
on some subjects. He was not an infidel, as Mrs.
Rowe represents him in one of her letters to Lady
Hartford (afterwards Duchess of Somerset). He
told me it was quite evident to him that the Scrip-
tures of the Old and New Testaments contained a
real revelation : there is for it a rational, a natural, a
traditionary, and a supernatural testimony, which
rendered it quite certain to him. He said he no
more doubted the truth of the Christian religion than
he did the existence of an independent supreme
Creator ; but he did not believe the expositions given
by the divines

' 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 " Archaeo-
logy." And when I told him he was very culpable
in this and other articles he sold, his answer was,
What would I have him to do ? He was a book-
seller ; his translators in pay lay three in a bed at

278 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

the Pewter Platter inn, in Holborn, and he and they
were for ever at work to deceive 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 I/48) 3 as ever expired.
I mention this to his glory.

' As Curll knew the world well, and was acquainted
with several extraordinary characters, he was of great
use to me at my first coming to town, as I knew
nobody nor any place. He gave me the true charac-
ters of many I saw ; told me whom I should avoid,
and with whom I might be free. He brought me to the
playhouses, and gave me a judicious account of every
actor. He understood these things well. No man
could talk better on theatrical subjects. He brought
me likewise to Sadler's Wells ; to the night-cellars,
and to Tom King's, the famous night-house in Covent
Garden. As he was very knowing and well known
at such places, he soon made me as wise as himself in
these branches of learning ; and, in short, in the space
of a month I was as well acquainted in London as if
I had been there for years. My kind preceptor spared
no pains in lecturing. But what of all things I
thought most wonderful was the company I saw at
Sieur Curll's. As he was intimate with all the high,
&c., in town, many of them frequented his shop to
3 It was in 1747.

Edmund Curll. 2 79

buy his dialogues and other lively books. Some of
these girls he often asked to dine with him, and then
I was sure to be his guest.'

It is to be feared that much of Amory's narrative
is correct, as he probably had no reason to vilify his
old friend and cicerone. Probably, also, he drew upon
his vivid imagination for some of the particulars, as it
is exceedingly unlikely that a man like Curll would
make such a weak statement when taxed about some
of his ' culpable ' articles. Amory perhaps got hold
of a part of a fact, and supplied the other half him-
self. However that may be, it is simply impossible
to reconcile his with Eliza Heywood's description
(quoted in a note to the second book of 'The Dun-
ciad '). This person, like Curll, had no character to
lose. She celebrated Curll's undertakings for re-
formation of manners, and declares herself ' to be
so perfectly acquainted with the sweetness of his
disposition, and that tenderness with which he con-
sidered the errors of his fellow-creatures, that, though
she should find the little inadvertencies of her own
life recorded in his papers, she was certain it would
be done in such a manner as she could not but

But we must now bring our memoir of Edmund
Curll to a close. Like many other men who, from
one cause or another, were constantly before the notice
of the public in their early and middle age, Curll,
the plucky enemy of Pope and Swift, the publisher
of books good and bad, the smart stationer, the im-
placable opponent, and indomitable man of business,
spent the last few years of his life in comparative

2 8 o The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

obscurity, relinquishing his trade only at his death.
He published but few books during his last seven
years ; among these perhaps the most notable was ' A
History of the English Stage' (1741), which, although
Thomas Betterton's name appears as author on the
title-page, was, as we have already suggested, com-
piled partly by Curll himself, who, at all events,
wrote the dedication to the Duke of Grafton. The
last work which he entered on the books of the
Stationers' Hall Company, August 20, 1746, was
' Achates to Varus. An epistle describing some
wonderful appearances that ensued from a touch of
Ithuriel's Spear, together with a large preface in the
style and manner of some distinguished authors.'

Edmund Curll died on December n, 1747, and
if not quite ' unknelled, uncoffined, arid unknown/ at
least unwept and uncared-for.




SINGULARITY is one of the most obvious charac-
teristics of the old booksellers, viewed in the light of
the present age, but in no individual, perhaps, is it so
strongly apparent as in John Dunton, the eccentric
'dipper into a thousand books,' who 'formed ten
thousand projects, six hundred of which he appears
to have thought he had completely methodized.'

Dunton is the only bookseller of his period whose
scribbling propensities resulted in giving to the
world, among other things, an autobiography ; but
his cacoethes scribendi, howsoever great a gain to
English literature, was without doubt the greatest
curse that beset this ' crack-brained ' bookseller, for
throughout his life it prevented him making progress
in his calling, besides involving him in all manner of
squabbles. ' The Life and Errors of John Dunton ' is
one of the most singular and interesting books pub-
lished during the last century, which was so prolific
in queer literature. From this we gather a very
minute and detailed account of the future bookseller,
told in a way that, but for the physical impossibility,
would almost lead one to believe that the narrator
had recollected every circumstance of his career,

282 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

dating from the time and hour of his nativity. He
modestly justifies this method when he naively
suggests that there is nothing so small in itself
which it is not interesting to know concerning a
great man !

Before going any farther, it will be well to state
that John Dunton was born at Graffham, Hunting-
donshire, on May 14, 1659, of which place his
father, the Rev. John Dunton, was rector. The Rev.
John was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge,
and married a daughter, Lydia, of Mr. Daniel Carter,
of Chesham ; but she died on March 3, 1660, and
her husband is said to have made a vow not to marry
again for the space of seven years. He went into Ire-
land, whilst at an early age his son, the more famous
John, was placed under the tuition of William Read-
ing, a schoolmaster of Dungrove, near Chesham.
The elder Dunton returned to England in 1669,
when he obtained the rectory of Aston Clinton,
where he married a second time, and took his son
under his own immediate tuition, intending him for
the Church. The Rev. John Dunton died Nov.
24, 1676, aged 48, and was interred in Aston
chancel. He is described by his son as ' wonder-
fully fitted out by nature, and furnished with the
acquirements for all the good ends of a useful life.'

Dunton's first appearance in this world did not by
any means presage that striking restlessness which
in after years made things so lively for the com-
munities with which he came into contact. In fact,
the excellent midwife was at first in great distress,
being under the impression that he was still-born,
but her joy was correspondingly great at young

John Dunton. 283

hopeful showing signs of life when sprinkled with a
little cold water. ' The first appearance I made/
John candidly and perhaps accurately admits, 'was
very mean and contemptible ; and, as if nature had
designed me to take up only some insignificant and
obscure corner in the universe, I was so diminutive a
creature that a quart pot could contain the whole of
me with ease.'

' From such beginnings mighty things arise ;
So small a star can brighten all the skies.'

' In this condition,' he goes on, ' and long before I
had any articulate use of my tongue, I gave the
world sufficient evidence of a child of Adam, and the
certain tokens of corrupt nature and passion were
more and more apparent as I made advances in age
and strength.' But the incidents of John's career
before he became apprenticed to bookselling are not
particularly interesting. The several accidents which
befell him are much the same as other adventurous
little boys are in the habit of meeting with : for
example, he once fell into a pool of water, and the
world would have been deprived of his valuable
services but that, ' as Providence would have it, my
cousin, John Reading, was lying on the bank and
saved me.' Upon another occasion he unwillingly
tried the digestive qualities of a leaden bullet, and
when his sorrowing family and friends had given up
all hopes of him, ' behold ! up it bolted.' The ' third
danger that my childish curiosity exposed me to '
was the result of chewing a bearded ear of corn,
which stuck in his throat, and which he could not
get rid of. But even in this dilemma his luck did not
desert him, for ' some of my relations, viz. Malmesey

284 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

of Chesham, Aunt Reading, her daughter Anne, Mrs.
Mary Gossam, Sarah Randal, &c., &c., who were
walking in the fields, found me, speechless and gasp-
ing, and with much difficulty set me to rights again.'
It gives him a sort of mournful pleasure to admit
that it was easier for him to tell a lie than to utter
the truth ; whilst he is proud rather than ashamed
to own that cowardice was one of his youthful charac-
teristics, certainly an attribute which did not entirely
desert him in after life.

We have already said that John was designed for
the ministry. His father seems to have desired that
the dignity of ' Reverend ' should be inherited by the
'John Duntons, 3 for he himself was the third in suc-
cession whose talents had been employed, successfully,
we hope, in calling sinners to repentance. But John
Dunton the fourth of that ilk was found to be too
volatile for this purpose ; he was, moreover, a bad
scholar, for, although he acquired Latin easily enough,
the natural difficulties of Greek were too much for
him. Added to these disqualifications, even at the
early age of fourteen or so, he contracted an addi-
tional one by forming ' a silent passion for a virgin
in my father's house,' which ' quite unhinged all my
resolutions of study.'

At the age of fifteen, John Dunton was apprenticed
to Thomas Parkhurst, bookseller, of London, whom he
subsequently describes as ' my honoured master,' . . .
' the most eminent Presbyterian bookseller in the
three kingdoms, and now chosen Master of the
Company of Stationers.' So placed, he should, as
he truly observes, have at least an opportunity of

John Dunton. 285

becoming skilled in ' the outside of erudition the
shell and casks of learning.' The confinement to
which he was now naturally subjected he felt at first
to be very irksome ; so much so, indeed, that once
he fairly bolted, and made for his father's place in the
country. The error of this movement was duly im-
pressed upon him, and the lad returned to his master,
after a few days' absence, with a determination to
learn the intricacies of his trade, and his application
to business thenceforth during his apprenticeship
seems to have been commendable. The most note-
worthy incident in his career when under Mr. Park-
hurst was a joke perpetrated by a fellow-apprentice,
who was evidently a bit of a wag, and knew John's
failing in the matter of female-veneration. This
young gentleman forged a letter to him in the name
of a certain ' young virgin ' then lodging with Park-
hurst : it ran as follows : ' Dear Sir, We have
lived some time together in the same family, and
your distant conversation has given me a little im-
patience to be a little better acquainted with you.
I hope your good nature will not put any construc-
tions upon this innocent address to my disadvantage ;
and should you discover it, it would certainly expose
yourself at the expense of your SUSSANAH S ING.'
' I was strangely surprised at this billet-doux? says
John, as well he might have been, considering the
slender acquaintanceship. But ' so licentious and ex-
travagant ' was his folly that he gave her a billet the
same day, in which he made an appointment to meet
her in Grocer's Garden the next evening. She was
likewise surprised in turn, but, evidently like Barkis,

286 The Earlier History of Eng lish Bookselling.

was quite 'willin'/ for she duly attended, but,
of course, expressed denial of inditing a letter.
' However, this romantic courtship gave both of us a
real passion ; but my master making a timely dis-
covery of it, sent the lady into the country ; and
absence cooled our passions for us, and by little and
little we both of us regained our liberty/ Thus
ended love-affair number two. But another and
perhaps rather more important event needs chroni-
cling. During his apprenticeship he made himself
conspicuous as principal leader of the Whig ap-
prentices, and on one occasion addressed Sir Patience
Ward, the Lord Mayor, but the young bloods were
snubbed with the healthy advice to ' go home and
mind your business, boys.' When his term of ap-
prenticeship expired, John entertained a hundred
apprentices to celebrate a 'funeral for it,' which he
afterwards described as ' no more than a youthful
piece of vanity.'

When he commenced business on his own account
as bookseller, he took only ' half a shop, a warehouse,

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