Samuel Smiles.

A Publisher and His Friends Memoir and Correspondence of John Murray; with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768-1843 online

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writing to George Montagu, to tell him who his grandmother was! I am
anxious to knock off this task whilst what little I know of it is fresh
in my recollection; for I foresee that much of the entertainment of the
work must depend on the elucidations in the Notes.



The publication of Lady Hervey's letters in 1821 was so successful that
Mr. Croker was afterwards induced to edit, with great advantage, letters
and memorials of a similar character. [Footnote: As late as 1848, Mr.
Croker edited Lord Hervey's "Memoirs of the Court of George II. and
Queen Caroline," from the family archives at Ickworth. The editor in his
preface said that Lord Hervey was almost the Boswell of George II. and
Queen Caroline.]

The next important _mémoires pour servir_ were brought under Mr.
Murray's notice by Lord Holland, in the following letter:

_Lord Holland to John Murray_.

HOLLAND HOUSE, _November_ 1820.


I wrote a letter to you last week which by some accident Lord
Lauderdale, who had taken charge of it, has mislaid. The object of it
was to request you to call here some morning, and to let me know the
hour by a line by two-penny post. I am authorized to dispose of two
historical works, the one a short but admirably written and interesting
memoir of the late Lord Waldegrave, who was a favourite of George II.,
and governor of George III. when Prince of Wales. The second consists of
three close-written volumes of "Memoirs by Horace Walpole" (afterwards
Lord Orford), which comprise the last nine years of George II.'s reign.
I am anxious to give you the refusal of them, as I hear you have already
expressed a wish to publish anything of this kind written by Horace
Walpole, and had indirectly conveyed that wish to Lord Waldegrave, to
whom these and many other MSS. of that lively and laborious writer
belong. Lord Lauderdale has offered to assist me in adjusting the terms
of the agreement, and perhaps you will arrange with him; he lives at
Warren's Hotel, Waterloo Place, where you can make it convenient to meet
him. I would meet you there, or call at your house; but before you can
make any specific offer, you will no doubt like to look at the MSS.,
which are here, and which (not being mine) I do not like to expose
unnecessarily to the risk even of a removal to London and back again.

I am, Sir, your obedient humble Servant, etc.,


It would appear that Mr. Murray called upon Lord Holland and looked over
the MSS., but made no proposal to purchase the papers. The matter lay
over until Lord Holland again addressed Mr. Murray.

_Lord Holland to John Murray_.

"It appears that you are either not aware of the interesting nature of
the MSS. which I showed you, or that the indifference produced by the
present frenzy about the Queen's business [Footnote: The trial of Queen
Caroline was then occupying public attention.] to all literary
publications, has discouraged you from an undertaking in which you would
otherwise engage most willingly. However, to come to the point. I have
consulted Lord Waldegrave on the subject, and we agree that the two
works, viz. his grandfather, Lord Waldegrave's "Memoirs," and Horace
Walpole's "Memoirs of the Last Nine Years of George II.," should not be
sold for less than 3,000 guineas. If that sum would meet your ideas, or
if you have any other offer to make, I will thank you to let me know
before the second of next month."

Three thousand guineas was certainly a very large price to ask for the
Memoirs, and Mr. Murray hesitated very much before acceding to Lord
Holland's proposal. He requested to have the MSS. for the purpose of
consulting his literary adviser - probably Mr. Croker, though the
following remarks, now before us, are not in his handwriting.

"This book of yours," says the critic, "is a singular production. It is
ill-written, deficient in grammar, and often in English; and yet it
interests and even amuses. Now, the subjects of it are all, I suppose,
gone _ad plures_; otherwise it would be intolerable. The writer richly
deserves a licking or a cudgelling to every page, and yet I am ashamed
to say I have travelled unwearied with him through the whole, divided
between a grin and a scowl. I never saw nor heard of such an animal as a
splenetic, bustling kind of a poco-curante. By the way, if you happen to
hear of any plan for making me a king, be so good as to say that I am
deceased; or tell any other good-natured lie to put the king-makers off
their purpose. I really cannot submit to be the only slave in the
nation, especially when I have a crossing to sweep within five yards of
my door, and may gain my bread with less ill-usage than a king is
obliged to put up with. If half that is here told be true, Lord Holland
seems to me to tread on

Suppositos cineri doloso'

in retouching any part of the manuscript. He is so perfectly kind and
good-natured, that he will feel more than any man the complaints of
partiality and injustice; and where he is to stop, I see not. There is
so much abuse that little is to be gained by an occasional erasure,
while suspicion is excited. He would have consulted his quiet more by
leaving the author to bear the blame of his own scandal."

Notwithstanding this adverse judgment, Mr. Murray was disposed to buy
the Memoirs. Lord Holland drove a very hard bargain, and endeavoured to
obtain better terms from other publishers, but he could not, and
eventually Mr. Murray paid to Lord Waldegrave, through Lord Holland, the
sum of £2,500 on November 1, 1821, for the Waldegrave and Walpole
Memoirs. They were edited by Lord Holland, who wrote a preface to each,
and were published in the following year, but never repaid their
expenses. After suffering considerable loss by this venture, Mr.
Murray's rights were sold, after his death, to Mr. Colburn.

The last of the _mémoires pour servir_ to which we shall here refer was
the Letters of the Countess of Suffolk, bedchamber woman to the Princess
of Wales (Caroline of Anspach), and a favourite of the Prince of Wales,
afterwards George II. The Suffolk papers were admirably edited by Mr.
Croker. Thackeray, in his "Lecture on George the Second," says of his
work: "Even Croker, who edited her letters, loves her, and has that
regard for her with which her sweet graciousness seems to have inspired
almost all men, and some women, who came near her." The following letter
of Croker shows the spirit in which he began to edit the Countess's

_Mr. Croker to John Murray_.

_May_ 29, 1822.


As you told me that you are desirous of publishing the Suffolk volume by
November, and as I have, all my life, had an aversion to making any one
wait for me, I am anxious to begin my work upon them, and, if we are to
be out by November, I presume it is high time. I must beg of you to
answer me the following questions.

1st. What shape will you adopt? I think the correspondence of a nature
rather too light for a quarto, and yet it would look well on the same
shelf with Horace Walpole's works. If you should prefer an octavo, like
Lady Hervey's letters, the papers would furnish two volumes. I, for my
part, should prefer the quarto size, which is a great favourite with me,
and the letters of such persons as Pope, Swift, and Gay, the Duchesses
of Buckingham, Queensberry, and Marlbro', Lords Peterborough,
Chesterfield, Bathurst, and Lansdowne, Messrs. Pitt, Pulteney, Pelham,
Grenville, and Horace Walpole, seem to me almost to justify the
magnificence of the quarto; though, in truth, all their epistles are, in
its narrowest sense, _familiar_, and treat chiefly of tittle-tattle.

Decide, however, on your own view of your interests, only recollect that
these papers are not to cost you more than "Belshazzar," [Footnote: Mr.
Milman's poem, for which Mr. Murray paid 500 guineas.] which I take to
be of about the intrinsic value of the _writings on the walls_, and not
a third of what you have given Mr. Crayon for his portrait of Squire

2nd. Do you intend to have any portraits? One of Lady Suffolk is almost
indispensable, and would be enough. There are two of her at Strawberry
Hill; one, I think, a print, and neither, if I forget not, very good.
There is also a print, an unassuming one, in Walpole's works, but a good
artist would make something out of any of these, if even we can get
nothing better to make our copy from. If you were to increase your
number of portraits, I would add the Duchess of Queensberry, from a
picture at Dalkeith which is alluded to in the letters; Lady Hervey and
her beautiful friend, Mary Bellenden. They are in Walpole's works; Lady
Hervey rather mawkish, but the Bellenden charming. I dare say these
plates could now be bought cheap, and retouched from the originals,
which would make them better than ever they were. Lady Vere (sister of
Lady Temple, which latter is engraved in Park's edition of the "Noble
Authors") was a lively writer, and is much distinguished in this
correspondence. Of the men, I should propose Lord Peterborough, whose
portraits are little known; Lord Liverpool has one of him, not, however,
very characteristic. Mr. Pulteney is also little known, but he has been
lately re-published in the Kit-cat Club. Of _our Horace_ there is not a
decent engraving anywhere. I presume that there must be a good original
of him somewhere. Whatever you mean to do on this point, you should come
to an early determination and put the works in hand.

3rd. I mean, if you approve, to prefix a biographical sketch of Mrs.
Howard and two or three of those beautiful characters with which, in
prose and verse, the greatest wits of the last century honoured her and
themselves. To the first letter of each remarkable correspondent I would
also affix a slight notice, and I would add, at the foot of the page,
notes in the style of those on Lady Hervey. Let me know whether this
plan suits your fancy.

4th. All the letters of Swift, except one or two, in this collection are
printed (though not always accurately) in Scott's edition of his works.
Yet I think it would be proper to reprint them from the originals,
because they elucidate much of Lady Suffolk's history, and her
correspondence could not be said to be complete without them. Let me
know your wishes on this point.

5th. My materials are numerous, though perhaps the pieces of great merit
are not many. I must therefore beg of you to set up, in the form and
type you wish to adopt, the sheet which I send you, and you must say
about how many pages you wish your volume, or volumes, to be. I will
then select as much of the most interesting as will fill the space which
you may desire to occupy.

Yours truly,


Mr. Croker also consented to edit the letters of Mrs. Delany to Mr.
Hamilton, 1779-88, containing many anecdotes relating to the Royal

_Mr. Croker to John Murray_.

"I have shown Mrs. Delany's MS. letters to the Prince Regent; he was
much entertained with this revival of old times in his recollection, and
_he says that every word of it is true_. You know that H.R.H. has a
wonderful memory, and particularly for things of that kind. His
certificate of Mrs. Delany's veracity will therefore be probably of some
weight with you. As to the letter-writing powers of Mrs. Delany, the
specimen inclines me to doubt. Her style seems stiff and formal, and
though these two letters, which describe a peculiar kind of scene, have
a good deal of interest in them, I do not hope for the same amusement
from the rest of the collection. Poverty, obscurity, general ill-health,
and blindness are but unpromising qualifications for making an agreeable
volume of letters. If a shopkeeper at Portsmouth were to write his life,
the extracts of what relates to the two days of the Imperial and Royal
visit of 1814 would be amusing, though all the rest of the half century
of his life would be intolerably tedious. I therefore counsel you not to
buy the pig in Miss Hamilton's bag (though she is a most respectable
lady), but ask to see the whole collection before you bid."

The whole collection was obtained, and, with some corrections and
elucidations, the volume of letters was given to the world by Mr. Murray
in 1821.

In May 1820 Mr. Murray requested Mr. Croker to edit Horace Walpole's
"Reminiscences." Mr. Croker replied, saying: "I should certainly like
the task very well if I felt a little better satisfied of my ability to
perform it. Something towards such a work I would certainly contribute,
for I have always loved that kind of tea-table history." Not being able
to undertake the work himself, Mr. Croker recommended Mr. Murray to
apply to Miss Berry, the editor of Lady Russell's letters. "The Life,"
he said, "by which those letters were preceded, is a beautiful piece of
biography, and shows, besides higher qualities, much of that taste which
a commentator on the 'Reminiscences' ought to have." The work was
accordingly placed in the hands of Miss Berry, who edited it
satisfactorily, and it was published by Mr. Murray in the course of the
following year.

Dr. Tomline, while Bishop of Winchester, entered into a correspondence
with Mr. Murray respecting the "Life of William Pitt." In December
1820, Dr. Tomline said he had brought the Memoirs down to the
Declaration of War by France against Great Britain on February I, 1793,
and that the whole would make two volumes quarto. Until he became Bishop
of Lincoln, Dr. Tomline had been Pitt's secretary, and from the
opportunities he had possessed, there was promise here of a great work;
but it was not well executed, and though a continuation was promised, it
never appeared. When the work was sent to Mr. Gifford, he wrote to Mr.
Murray that it was not at all what he expected, for it contained nothing
of Pitt's private history. "He seems to be uneasy until he gets back to
his Parliamentary papers. Yet it can hardly fail to be pretty widely
interesting; but I would not have you make yourself too uneasy about
these things. Pitt's name, and the Bishop's, will make the work sell."
Gifford was right. The "Life" went to a fourth edition in the following

Among Mr. Murray's devoted friends and adherents was Giovanni Belzoni,
who, born at Padua in 1778, had, when a young man at Rome, intended to
devote himself to the monastic life, but the French invasion of the city
altered his purpose, and, instead of being a monk, he became an athlete.
He was a man of gigantic physical power, and went from place to place,
gaining his living in England, as elsewhere, as a posture-master, and by
exhibiting at shows his great feats of strength. He made enough by this
work to enable him to visit Egypt, where he erected hydraulic machines
for the Pasha, and, through the influence of Mr. Salt, the British
Consul, was employed to remove from Thebes, and ship for England, the
colossal bust commonly called the Young Memnon. His knowledge of
mechanics enabled him to accomplish this with great dexterity, and the
head, now in the British Museum, is one of the finest specimens of
Egyptian sculpture.

Belzoni, after performing this task, made further investigations among
the Egyptian tombs and temples. He was the first to open the great
temple of Ipsambul, cut in the side of a mountain, and at that time shut
in by an accumulation of sand. Encouraged by these successes, he, in
1817, made a second journey to Upper Egypt and Nubia, and brought to
light at Carnac several colossal heads of granite, now in the British
Museum. After some further explorations among the tombs and temples, for
which he was liberally paid by Mr. Salt, Belzoni returned to England
with numerous drawings, casts, and many important works of Egyptian art.
He called upon Mr. Murray, with the view of publishing the results of
his investigations, which in due course were issued under the title of
"Narrative of the Operations and recent Discoveries within the Pyramids,
Temples, Tombs, and Excavations in Egypt and Nubia."

It was a very expensive book to arrange and publish, but nothing daunted
Mr. Murray when a new and original work was brought under his notice.
Although only 1,000 copies were printed, the payments to Belzoni and his
translators, as well as for plates and engravings, amounted to over
£2,163. The preparation of the work gave rise to no little difficulty,
for Belzoni declined all help beyond that of the individual who was
employed to copy out or translate his manuscript and correct the press.
"As I make my discoveries alone," he said, "I have been anxious to write
my book by myself, though in so doing the reader will consider me, with
great propriety, guilty of temerity; but the public will, perhaps, gain
in the fidelity of my narration what it loses in elegance." Lord Byron,
to whom Mr. Murray sent a copy of his work, said: "Belzoni _is_ a grand
traveller, and his English is very prettily broken."

Belzoni was a very interesting character, and a man of great natural
refinement. After the publication of his work, he became one of the
fashionable lions of London, but was very sensitive about his early
career, and very sedulous to sink the posture-master in the traveller.
He was often present at Mr. Murray's receptions; and on one particular
occasion he was invited to join the family circle in Albemarle Street on
the last evening of 1822, to see the Old Year out and the New Year in.
All Mr. Murray's young people were present, as well as the entire
D'Israeli family and Crofton Croker. After a merry game of Pope Joan,
Mr. Murray presented each of the company with a pocket-book as a New
Year's gift. A special bowl of punch was brewed for the occasion, and,
while it was being prepared, Mr. Isaac D'Israeli took up Crofton
Croker's pocket-book, and with his pencil wrote the following impromptu

"Gigantic Belzoni at Pope Joan and tea.
What a group of mere puppets we seem beside thee;
Which, our kind host perceiving, with infinite zest,
Gives us Punch at our supper, to keep up the jest."

The lines were pronounced to be excellent, and Belzoni, wishing to share
in the enjoyment, desired to see the words. He read the last line twice
over, and then, his eyes flashing fire, he exclaimed, "I am betrayed!"
and suddenly left the room. Crofton Croker called upon Belzoni to
ascertain the reason for his abrupt departure from Mr. Murray's, and was
informed that he considered the lines to be an insulting allusion to his
early career as a showman. Croker assured him that neither Murray nor
D'Israeli knew anything of his former life; finally he prevailed upon
Belzoni to accompany him to Mr. Murray's, who for the first time learnt
that the celebrated Egyptian explorer had many years before been an
itinerant exhibitor in England.

In 1823 Belzoni set out for Morocco, intending to penetrate thence to
Eastern Africa; he wrote to Mr. Murray from Gibraltar, thanking him for
many acts of kindness, and again from Tangier.

_M.G. Belzoni to John Murray_.

_April_ 10, 1823.

"I have just received permission from H.M. the Emperor of Morocco to go
to Fez, and am in hopes to obtain his approbation to enter the desert
along with the caravan to Soudan. The letter of introduction from Mr.
Wilmot to Mr. Douglas has been of much importance to me; this gentleman
fortunately finds pleasure in affording me all the assistance in his
power to promote my wishes, a circumstance which I have not been
accustomed to meet in some other parts of Africa. I shall do myself the
pleasure to acquaint you of my further progress at Fez, if not from some
other part of Morocco."

Belzoni would appear to have changed his intention, and endeavoured to
penetrate to Timbuctoo from Benin, where, however, he was attacked by
dysentery, and died a short time after the above letter was written.

Like many other men of Herculean power, he was not eager to exhibit his
strength; but on one occasion he gave proof of it in the following
circumstances. Mr. Murray had asked him to accompany him to the
Coronation of George IV. They had tickets of admittance to Westminster
Hall, but on arriving there they found that the sudden advent of Queen
Caroline, attended by a mob claiming admission to the Abbey, had alarmed
the authorities, who caused all the doors to be shut. That by which they
should have entered was held close and guarded by several stalwart
janitors. Belzoni thereupon advanced to the door, and, in spite of the
efforts of these guardians, including Tom Crib and others of the
pugilistic corps who had been engaged as constables, opened it with
ease, and admitted himself and Mr. Murray.

In 1820 Mr. Murray was invited to publish "The Fall of Jerusalem, a
Sacred Tragedy," by the Rev. H.H. Milman, afterwards Dean of St. Paul's.
As usual, he consulted Mr. Gifford, whose opinion was most favourable.
"I have been more and more struck," he said, "with the innumerable
beauties in Milman's 'Fall of Jerusalem.'"

Mr. Murray requested the author to state his own price for the
copyright, and Mr. Milman wrote:

"I am totally at a loss to fix one. I think I might decide whether an
offer were exceedingly high or exceedingly low, whether a Byron or Scott
price, or such as is given to the first essay of a new author. Though
the 'Fall of Jerusalem' might demand an Israelitish bargain, yet I shall
not be a Jew further than my poetry. Make a liberal offer, such as the
prospect will warrant, and I will at once reply, but I am neither able
nor inclined to name a price.... As I am at present not very far
advanced in life, I may hereafter have further dealings with the Press,
and, of course, where I meet with liberality shall hope to make a return
in the same way. It has been rather a favourite scheme of mine, though
this drama cannot appear on the boards, to show it before it is
published to my friend Mrs. Siddons, who perhaps might like to read it,
either at home or abroad. I have not even hinted at such a thing to her,
so that this is mere uncertainty, and, before it is printed, it would be
in vain to think of it, as the old lady's eyes and MS. could never agree

"P.S. - I ought to have said that I am very glad of Aristarchus'
[Grifford's] approval. And, by the way, I think, if I help you in
redeeming your character from 'Don Juan,' the 'Hetaerse' in the
_Quarterly_, [Footnote: Mitchell's article on "Female Society in
Greece," _Q.R._ No. 43.] etc., you ought to estimate that very highly."

Mr. Murray offered Mr. Milman five hundred guineas for the copyright,
to which the author replied: "Your offer appears to me very fair, and I
shall have no scruple in acceding to it."

Milman, in addition to numerous plays and poems, became a contributor to
the _Quarterly_, and one of Murray's historians. He wrote the "History
of the Jews" and the "History of Christianity"; he edited Gibbon and
Horace, and continued during his lifetime to be one of Mr. Murray's most
intimate and attached friends.

In 1820 we find the first mention of a name afterwards to become as
celebrated as any of those with which Mr. Murray was associated. Owing
to the warm friendship which existed between the Murrays and the
D'Israelis, the younger members of both families were constantly brought
together on the most intimate terms. Mr. Murray was among the first to
mark the abilities of the boy, Benjamin Disraeli, and, as would appear
from the subjoined letter, his confidence in his abilities was so firm
that he consulted him as to the merits of a MS. when he had scarcely
reached his eighteenth year.

_Mr. Benjamin Disraeli to John Murray_. _August_ 1822.

Dear Sir,

I ran my eye over three acts of "Wallace," [Footnote: "Wallace: a
Historical Tragedy," in five acts, was published in 1820. Joanna Baillie
spoke of the author, C.E. Walker, as "a very young and promising
dramatist."] and, as far as I could form an opinion, I cannot conceive
these acts to be as effective on the stage as you seemed to expect.
However, it is impossible to say what a very clever actor like Macready
may make of some of the passages. Notwithstanding the many erasures the
diction is still diffuse, and sometimes languishing, though not
inelegant. I cannot imagine it a powerful work as far as I have read.
But, indeed, running over a part of a thing with people talking around
is too unfair. I shall be anxious to hear how it succeeds. Many thanks,
dear sir, for lending it to me. Your note arrives. If on so slight a
knowledge of the play I could venture to erase either of the words you
set before me, I fear it would be _Yes_, but I feel cruel and wicked in

Online LibrarySamuel SmilesA Publisher and His Friends Memoir and Correspondence of John Murray; with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768-1843 → online text (page 22 of 37)