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stand beside Hyperion and the Ode to a Nightingale. At that age Spenser had written only The Tears of the Muses, Marlowe had probably written Dr. Faustus, but Shakespeare had as yet uttered no word. Milton had written L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas, and was writing Comus, and this work runs Keats hard ; Pope wrote the Essay on Criticism at twenty-two; Byron, with the first two cantos of Childe Harold and several of his romantic stories, and Shelley with Alastor and some cruder work, may challenge comparison with their younger contemporary, but they can hardly be held to have excelled him. Other poets have hardly entered the arena at this early age. And it is because his genius was still maturing, because his latest work (apart from that composed in sickness and with a brain disturbed by the passion of love) shows all the signs of increasing power and assured development, not of the declining effervescence of an exhausted precocity--that a lover of English literature may, without undue exaggeration or partisanship, regard the death of Keats at twenty-six as the greatest loss which that literature has sustained. For his reward he has that which he would have prized most highly, a name not 'writ in water,' but inscribed in the undying roll of the English poets; and, in addition, he has the honour of the most eloquent and sublime eulogy that ever one poet has written about his fellow, in the generous and sympathetic panegyric of Shelley's Adonais.


A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir and Correspondence

of the late John Murray, with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768-1843. By SAMUEL SMILES, LL.D., Author of the Lives of the Engineers, Self-Help, &c. In Two Volumes. With Portraits.

(London, 1891.) We confess to some degree of astonishment that these volumes have not been published at an earlier date. The interest which they excite would hardly survive much longer, save in a limited circle of academic readers. The generation is rapidly passing away which has learned from oral tradition how keen was the excitement awakened by the publication of Scott's poetry and the Waverley Novels, by the appearance of the great Quarterly and Edinburgh Reviews, by the issue of Byron's and Southey's and Coleridge's poems. The mystery which enshrouded the author of the Waverley series, the birth of a new school of English poetry, the description of recently discovered and distant colonies, the gradual development of the first steps in modern science, engendered a special interest in English literature a century ago of quite an exceptional character, and which differed from any sensation evoked in our own days of rapid communication and universal knowledge. Before the time of Mudie and the cheap press and the telegraph, a new book was a precious possession, passed carefully from hand to hand, and read with attention undistracted by the competing claims of a score of contemporary volumes. A new poem or novel was an event of importance, and its criticism the gage of battle. Party feeling augmented the partisanship of literary antagonism. In some great houses it was an unpardonable sin to question the verdict of an Edinburgh reviewer, or to canvass the merit of certain writers whose position was fairly open to debate. Nous avons changé tout cela. The quarrels of Jeffrey and Gifford, of Croker and Macaulay, of Southey and Brougham, are rapidly passing into merited oblivion. We smile over controversies which kindled the fierce wrath of such doughty combatants as Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt on the one side, or Christopher North and the Ettrick Shepherd on the other. This Memoir and Correspondence accordingly appears in the very nick of time; a little further postponement and it might have been too late. Yet we fully understand and appreciate the motives which have probably caused the delay. Mr. Murray has erred, if at all, on the side of good taste and honourable feeling. Even now some strictures on these volumes have appeared which suggest that the true doctrine of heredity would include succession to ancestral literary disputes. It is a delicate matter to select the right period for the judicious publication of penultimate history, and to determine the exact moment of which it may fairly be said,

Antehac nefas depromere Cæcubum

Cellis avitis. We should premise that the scope of Dr. Smiles's work, save in its concluding chapter, is strictly defined by its title, and that but scanty light is cast from it upon contemporary events, or upon the character of Mr. Murray and his friends, except so far as they are illustrated by business transactions. The interest of the book is concentrated and absorbed in the growth of the great publishing firm, and in the associations which gathered around it: but then this interest is of no mean

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order. The early history of the business in its humbler days; the genesis of the Quarterly Review and its fortunes under the editorship of Gifford and Lockhart; the brilliant meteoric flash of Byron's first utterance, and his subsequent hold on the public imagination by the exercise of a genius, so erratic, yet so powerful; the budding of a score of literary projects by Moore and Southey, by Coleridge and Milman, which never blossomed into performance ; the negotiations with which the foremost works of the time-even such as were not published by Murray, were ushered into the world; the ambitious inanities of a thousand nameless failures, besides the more or less successful efforts of a host of minor stars, such as Moore and Campbell and Hogg-all the light and shade, the struggles and the successes, are in turn glanced at in Dr. Smiles's chronicle. Perforce the company is strangely mixed. Mrs. Markham and Mrs. Rundell elbow Hallam, Napier, Milman, Lord Mahon. The foremost of British statesmenCanning and the Iron Duke, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Beaconsfield, and Mr. Gladstone-follow close upon the heels of foreign littérateurs, such as Sismondi, Ugo Foscolo, and Madame de Staël. American writers of note in their day, Washington Irving and Ticknor and Robinson, the explorer of the Holy Land-all the blue-stockings and their sisters who touched the lyre with graceful fingers, Mrs. Somerville and Miss Austen, Mrs. Hemans and Mrs. Norton— with a veritable host of minor writers, Sir Francis Head, George Borrow, Basil Hall-all meet us beneath Mr. Murray's hospitable roof-tree. It is doubtless inevitable that under such conditions the book should be disconnected, and, to use a hateful but expressive epithet, somewhat scrappy. Yet it is no slight praise to affirm that through these portly volumes the reader's interest is maintained unweariedly from first to last, and that he closes them with high respect and admiration for the energy and enterprise, for the generosity and uprightness, of the great publisher whose career they describe.

John Murray, the originator of the Quarterly Review, and the friend of Byron, was the second of his name in the trade. His father, an officer of marines, had soon grown weary of the service in which promotion was so stagnant that during six years he had not gained a step. He accordingly retired on half-pay at the early age of twenty-three, and started in Fleet Street as a London bookseller. His lot had fallen upon evil days. Despite good connexions, abundant energy, and intelligent enterprise, despite business connexions with Edinburgh and Dublin, the state of trade was so precarious, and his success so indifferent, that after twenty-five years of close attention to business he did not succeed in doubling his capital. His death at the early age of forty-eight was accelerated by business anxieties. His last adventure had proved his worst, and involved his estate in a loss of nearly four thousand pounds. Yet it was no less famous a book than Lavater's Physiognomy. His son John, Byron's Anak of publishers, the only surviving male issue of a second marriage, was but fifteen at his father's death. It is significant of the prudence with which young Murray's ambition was tempered, that he remained for four years after he came of age in partnership with Highley, his father's foreman, a man of small energy and no enterprise. At the close of their connexion, Murray was fortunate enough to secure the house, No. 32 Fleet Street, in which the business had been itherto conducted, and it was here that at Lady Day, 1803, he began a career of publication almost unrivalled in the history of letters.

It would require larger space than our limits allow to explain the difficulties and dangers which beset a publisher at the commencement of the century. Edinburgh and Dublin were, as well as London, important centres of the book trade, and large numbers of the works brought out by publishers at those capitals were consigned to their special correspondents in London, and the latter were frequently called upon to accept bills drawn against such consignments, which might yet prove utterly unsaleable. Another branch of the business included the collection and supply of books to customers in India and elsewhere, a transaction which at times involved the granting of credit for so long a period as to be almost ruinous, the date of payment for books, some of which had been purchased by the bookseller for ready money, being frequently deferred for more than a twelvemonth. Amongst Murray's earlier correspondents who sinned in this respect we find Mr. Joseph Hume, in after years a noted economist in the House of Commons. Yet further danger and delay were caused by the hovering of French vessels of marque about our coasts, so that it was unsafe to ship books from Edinburgh to London without an armed convoy. The Memoir and Correspondence contain frequent reference to the anxieties which such a condition of things could not fail to engender, and which were aggravated whenever sanguine and speculative men like the Ballantynes drew too largely upon Murray, or failed to make timely provision for bills falling due. In vain did the head of the house in Albemarle Street send re

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peated remonstrances, until a refusal to extend such hazardous accommodation resulted in open rupture.

Some further causes of perplexity will be noticed presently. The days had not yet come when proprietor or editor of a high-class periodical would open his pages to alternate assault and defence of the most sacred questions, in utter indifference as to which of the rival combatants should prove victorious, and himself only intent on pocketing the gate money. Yet the disadvantages of a faulty financial method, and the inconveniences of listening to the voice of conscience or of friendship, were not without some counterbalancing benefits. As time passed on Murray gathered round him a large circle of warmly attached friends from the ablest literary men of that period. And if the conditions of publication were different, those of purchase were no less unlike that which now prevails.

* The apparent risk,' says Mr. Courthope, 'involved in Murray's extraordinary spirit of adventure, was in reality diminished by the many checks which in his day operated on competition, and by the high prices then paid for ordinary books. Men were at that time in the habit of forming large private libraries and furnishing them with the sumptuous editions of travels and books of costly engravings issued from Murray's press. The taste of the time has changed. Collections of books have been superseded, as a fashion, by collections of pictures, and the circulating library encourages the habit of reading books without buying them. Cheap bookselling, the characteristic of the age, has been promoted by the removal of the tax on paper, and by the refuse out of which paper can be manufactured' (. 517). The first edition of a poem was then commonly in quarto, and a guinea was not considered an excessive price.

We must pass over Dr. Smiles's earlier chapters, which are chiefly occupied with Murray's acquaintance with Isaac D'Israeli, his relations with the Constables, and his marriage to Miss Elliot. The author of the Curiosities of Literature was on terms of the closest intimacy with the young publisher, and one of his briefer notes announces the birth of the future statesman. The story of visits to Edinburgh, where thoughts of love and literary business were pleasantly intermingled, affords a passing glimpse of the hospitable, hard-drinking lairds of the Lowlands. The moment of his first visit, August 1806, was a time of greater licentiousness, perhaps, in all the capitals of Europe than had been known for a long period, and drinking was carried to terrible excess; but Murray made his proposals, stated that he was worth 5,000l.,

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