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Memoir of John Murray
William Blackwood to John Murray, 12 April 1816

Vol. 1 Contents
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.
Vol. 2 Contents
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.
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My Dear Murray,

Some time ago I wrote to you that James Ballantyne had dined with me, and from what then passed I expected that I would soon have something very important to communicate. He has now fully explained himself to me, with liberty to inform you of anything he has communicated. This, however, he entreats of us to keep most strictly to ourselves, trusting to our honour that we will not breathe a syllable of it to the dearest friends we have.

He began by telling me that he thought he had it now in his power to show me how sensible he was of the services I had done him, and how anxious he was to
accomplish that union of interests which I had so long been endeavouring to bring about. Till now he had only made professions; now he would act. He said that he was empowered to offer me, along with you, a work of fiction in four volumes, such as
Waverley, &c.; that he had read a considerable part of it; and, knowing the plan of the whole, he could answer for its being a production of the very first class; but that he was not at liberty to mention its title, nor was he at liberty to give the author’s name. I naturally asked him, was it by the author of ‘Waverley’? He said it was to have no reference to any other work whatever, and every one would be at liberty to form their own conjectures as to the author. He only requested that, whatever we might suppose from anything that might occur afterwards, we should keep strictly to ourselves that we were to be the publishers. The terms he was empowered by the author to offer for it were—

1. The author to receive one-half of the profits of each edition; these profits to be ascertained by deducting the paper and printing from the proceeds of the book sold at sale price; the publishers to be at the whole of the expense of advertising. 2. The property of the book to be the publishers’, who were to print such editions as they chose. 3. The only condition upon which the author would agree to these terms is, that the publisher should take £600 of John Ballantyne’s stock, selected from the list annexed, deducting 25 per cent, from the affixed sale prices. 4. If these terms are agreed to, the stock to the above amount to be immediately delivered, and a bill granted at twelve months. 5. That in the course of six or eight weeks, J. B. expected to be able to put into my hands the first two volumes printed, and that if on perusal we did not like the bargain, we should be at liberty to give it up. This he considered to be most unlikely; but if it should be the case, he would bind himself to repay or redeliver the bill on the books being returned. 6. That the edition, consisting of 2000 copies, should be printed and ready for delivery by the 1st of October next.

I have thus stated to you as nearly as I can the substance of what passed. I tried in various ways to learn something with regard to the author; but he was quite impenetrable. My own impression now is, that it must be Walter Scott, for no one else would think of burdening us
with such trash as
John B.’s wretched stock. This is such a burden, that I am puzzled not a little. I endeavoured every way I could to get him to propose other terms, but he told me they could not be departed from in a single part; and the other works had been taken on the same conditions, and he knew they would be greedily accepted again in the same quarter. Consider the matter seriously, and write to me as soon as you can. After giving it my consideration, and making some calculations, I confess I feel inclined to hazard the speculation; but still I feel doubtful until I hear what you think of it. Do not let my opinion, which may be erroneous, influence you, but judge for yourself. From the very strong terms in which Jas. B. spoke of the work, I am sanguine enough to expect it will equal if not surpass any of the others. I would not lay so much stress upon what he says if I were not assured that his great interest, as well as Mr. Scott’s, is to stand in the very best way both with you and me. They are anxious to get out of the clutches of Constable, and Ballantyne is sensible of the favour I have done and may still do him by giving so much employment, besides what he may expect from you. From Constable he can expect nothing. I had almost forgotten to mention that he assured me in the most solemn manner that we had got the first offer, and he ardently hoped we would accept of it. If, however, we did not, he trusted to our honour that we would say nothing of it; that the author of this work would likely write more; and should we not take this, we might have it in our power afterwards to do something with him, provided we acted with delicacy in the transaction, as he had no doubt we would do. I hope you will be able to write to me soon, and as fully as you can. If I have time to-morrow, or I should rather say this day, as it is now near one o’clock, I will write you about other matters; and if I have no letter from you, will perhaps give you another scolding.

Yours most truly,
W. Blackwood.