LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
Samuel Smiles:
Memoir of John Murray


Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Chap. XX.
Chap. XXI.
Chap. XXII.
Chap. XXIII.
Chap. XXIV.
Chap. XXV.
Chap. XXVI.
Chap. XXVII.
Chap. XXIX.
Chap. XXX.
Chap. XXXI.
Chap. XXXII.
Chap. XXXIV.
Chap. XXXV.
Chap. XXXVI.

Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
A Publisher and his Friends.
Samuel Smiles's A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir and Correspondence of John Murray, with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768-1843 (1891) prints some 750 letters and fragments of letters then held by the John Murray firm and now housed at the National Library of Scotland. This is the collection Thomas Moore drew upon for his life of Byron: Moore had printed Byron's letters to Murray, Smiles prints Murray's letters to Byron. Other major correspondents are well represented: Walter Scott, William Gifford, Robert Southey, Isaac D'Israeli and his son Benjamin. The Memoir includes letters from many other literary figures such as Mary Shelley, Caroline Lamb, and Caroline Norton.
Samuel Smiles (1812–1904) was a physician in Scotland, a journalist in England, a popular lecturer, and a prolific author. He is best known for Self-Help, with Illustrations of Character and Conduct, published by Murray in 1859. Smiles was an advocate of public education and a promoter of libraries as well as a biographer and writer on commerce. He must have seemed a likely choice to write what came to be regarded as a classic work in the history of publishing.
The Memoir is constructed as a standard nineteenth-century life and letters, setting selected correspondence within a narrative frame that supplies context and commentary. In this instance the device works somewhat awkwardly. The Memoir opens with a life of John Murray I, followed by a life of John Murray II up to the establishment of the Quarterly Review, to which Smiles adds shorter biographies of George Ellis and William Gifford. After the middle of the first volume the domestic affairs of John Murray recede into the background, so much so that his final illness and death receives little more than perfunctory mention.
Smiles faced a considerable task in selecting materials, for even then the Murray Archive would have contained tens of thousands of items. He has nothing to say about what he looked at or how he went about his work, though he does say that John Murray III was responsible for collecting and annotating the letters. Smiles was not writing for scholars but for general readers interested in the characters of Murray's correspondents and curious about the back-stories of familiar books—books and writers in many cases better known in 1891 than they are today. Scott, Byron and the Disraelis are treated in depth, but the book is mostly a year by year chronicle of the Murray firm with outlying letters inserted where convenient.
Some letters are chosen for the significance of their writers and others on the basis of intrinsic interest; some are selected as illustrations of manners and social history, others for the light they shed on practices in the publishing business. Smiles is more interested in the complexity of Murray's financial arrangements with his authors and competitors than he is in the flux of literary fashion. The story he has to tell centers on Murray's remarkable social skills. The publisher was on intimate terms with many of the leading writers and politicians of his era and leveraged those relationships for financial advantage. There is much about contracts, lawyers, and lawsuits, for the dinner-parties and social notes are but one side of what was at bottom a remorselessly competitive business.
Smiles makes his share of errors; those involving persons and books are corrected in the notes. In all but one or two cases it has been possible to identify titles from the sometimes fanciful renderings given in the text. Dates for letters have in some cases been supplied or corrected from other editions, including Andrew Nicholson's The Letters of John Murray to Lord Byron (2007). As is usually the case in nineteenth-century collections of correspondence the text of the letters was cut and shaped to suit the purposes at hand.
This has created a small dilemma for TEI coding where the recommended practice is to treat only complete documents as discrete entities. Smiles sometimes indicates elisions and sometimes doesn't; he differentiates full letters from fragments by putting the latter in quotation marks. But this practice is not handled consistently. Since in many cases it is impossible to tell whether a letter is complete or not this edition follows the typological conventions of the text, even knowing that they are unreliable.
This has consequences for indexing. The "letters" index finds only items handled as discrete documents, which is to say letters not given in quotation marks. To find both fragments and complete letters it is necessary to use the "persons" index, which contains a subindex that pulls information from Smiles's headers. This also finds persons where they are recipients of letters. In the case of fragments not given a header is necessary to use the general index for names in the text.