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Memoir of John Murray
Chapter IX.

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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From this time, forward the best understanding prevailed between Mr. Murray and the editor of the Quarterly. Their intercourse was continuous; and as they knew each other better they esteemed each other the more. They became fast and intimate friends; holding nothing back from each other, but taking counsel on all matters relating not only to articles for the Quarterly, but to new manuscripts offered to Mr. Murray for publication.

On Murray communicating the troubles and vexations attendant upon his increasing business correspondence, and his anxiety about the Review, to his friend and editor, Gifford wrote as follows:

“It is only by putting off trifles that they become onerous. Who is it that says
‘The wise and prudent conquer difficulties
By daring to attempt them.’
It is the same with business difficulties. Meet them in the face and half the trouble is past.”

The Quarterly went on improving, and gradually increased in circulation. Though regular in the irregularity of its publication, the subscribers seem to have become accustomed to the delay, and when it did make its appearance it was read with eagerness and avidity. The
interest and variety of its contents and the skill of the editor in the arrangement of his materials, made up for many shortcomings.

Murray and Gifford were in constant communication as to the articles which were about to appear. With respect to the MS. which had been sent by Mr. Pillans* to Mr. Murray for insertion in No. 10, Gifford wrote the following judicious letter:—

Mr. Gifford to John Murray.
May 17th, 1811.
Dear Murray,

I have seldom been more pleased and vexed at a time than with the perusal of the enclosed MS. It has wit, it has ingenuity, but both are absolutely lost in a negligence of composition which mortifies me. Why will your young friend fling away talent which might so honourably distinguish him? He might, if he chose, be the ornament of our Review, instead of creating in one mingled regret and admiration. It is utterly impossible to insert such a composition as the present; there are expressions which would not be borne; and if, as you say, it will be sent to Jeffrey’s if I do not admit it, however I may grieve, I must submit to the alternative. Articles of pure humour should be written with extraordinary attention. A vulgar laugh is detestable. I never saw much merit in writing rapidly. You will believe me when I tell you that I have been present at the production of more genuine wit and humour than almost any person of my time, and that it was revised and polished and arranged with a scrupulous care which overlooked nothing. I have not often seen fairer promises of excellence in this department than in your correspondent; but I tell you frankly that they will all be blighted and perish prematurely unless sedulously cultivated. It is a poor ambition to raise a casual laugh in the unreflecting.

I had conceived very high hopes from the paper on Miss Seward; I am justified by the present article; but are not

* See ante, p. 123.

these hopes to be realised by care, by study, by correction? To lose an assistant capable of such powerful aid, would indeed mortify me very greatly; and I could wish you to insinuate in the gentlest manner that what is hastily written should, on that very account, be more anxiously revised; and that no permanent reputation can be founded on thoughts thrown out at random, how ever brilliant, unless clothed in appropriate terms.

If you thought this young gentleman could be prevailed upon to look again at what he has written, and make such alterations as even he must now judge proper, I shall be really happy to avail myself of his extraordinary talents. He must see that it cannot appear in the Quarterly in its present form. Let me hear from you on this subject again.

I am ever, dear Sir, yours,
Wm. Gifford.

The article did not appear in the Quarterly and Pillans afterwards became a contributor to the Edinburgh Review. New contributors, however, were constantly making their appearance. In 1811 Mr. Macvey Napier (afterwards editor of the Edinburgh ), while attending the Moral Philosophy Class in the Edinburgh University, sent to the editor of the Quarterly a review of Stewart’sPhilosophical Essays.’ Mr. Gifford was greatly pleased with the contribution. “It seems a manly article,” he wrote to Murray, “and as smart as it should be.” In his letter (25th of August, 1811) to Napier, Gifford complimented him on the article, and thanked him most cordially, adding:—

“I have been nearly a week returned from Ryde. I am an aquatic animal, and take to a boat whenever I can. The weather did not favour me much; but upon the whole I find myself improved by the expedition. I must, however, guard against any mistake. Health is with me merely a relative term; for since the hour when I was
born I never enjoyed, as far as I can recollect, what you call health for a single day. However, as I have not much pain I do not find any occasion to complain.”

On the 26th of November following he wrote to Mr. Murray:—

“Your letter found me very ill with a swelling in my thigh from an old blow, and unable to stir. In three or four days I hope to be better.”

After discussing the articles which were about to appear in the next Review, he concluded: “I write in pain and must break off.” In the following month Mr. Murray, no doubt in consideration of the start which his Review had made, sent him a present of £500. “I thank you,” he answered (Dec. 6th), “very sincerely for your magnificent present; but £500 is a vast sum. However, you know your own business.”

Yet Mr. Murray was by no means abounding in wealth. We find his clerk writing to Dr. Strahan of Enfield pressing him for payment of his account, because, he said, “Mr. Murray is so very poor at this time.” Then there were those overdrawn bills from Edinburgh to be met. Ballantyne and Constable were both tugging at him for accommodation at the same time.

John Murray to Ballantyne & Co.
December 5th, 1812.

It is not very generous to make me take up a bill for which I have so recently remitted you the means—at a time, too, when you know that my recent purchase * must have swallowed up all my resources. I shall, however,

* He had purchased the stock of Mr. Miller, of Albemarle Street, in May 1812.

take up the bill; and in order to make matters still more comfortable to you (as you say you will not be in cash till after Christmas), I herewith return you your bills due this month and in January, and I have drawn for them, adding the £150 (your blank acceptance which I also enclose), with interest at two and three months—which bills you will make payable in Edinburgh and thus close the transaction. There is a balance of our old account due to me by your own statement, which you can deduct from the ‘Voyages Imaginaires;’ and there is the freight also of
Black’sLife of Tasso,’ which I paid, to be deducted also. I am sorry to say that I am under the necessity of resigning my twelfth share in the ‘Edinburgh Annual Register;’ for after making every effort to serve the book, I can be of no further use; and therefore you will not consider me as having any concern with the future publication of that work. I will thank you to give me a list of any books which you can send me to balance the exchange of the copies of the Register, for which I had received ‘Brewster’s Astronomy’ in part.

I am, &c., yours,
J. M.

The business arrangements with Constable and Co. which, save for the short interruption which has already been related, had extended over many years, were now about to come to an end.

John Murray to Mr. Constable.
Albemarle St., October 27th, 1812.

“I do not see any existing reason why we, who have so long been so very intimate, should now be placed in a situation of negative hostility. I am sure that we are well calculated to render to each other great services; you are the best judge whether your interests were ever before so well attended to as by me. . . . The great connexion which I have for the last two years been maturing in Fleet Street I am now going to bring into action here; and it is not with any view to, or with any reliance upon, what Miller has done, but upon what I know I can do in such a situation, that I had long made up my mind to move. It
is no sudden thing, but one long matured; and it is only from the accident of Miller’s moving that I have taken his house; so that the notions which, I am told, you entertain respecting my plans are totally outside the ideas upon which it was formed . . . I repeat, it is in my power to do you many services; and, certainly, I have bought very largely of you, and you never of me; and you know very well that I will serve you heartily if I can deal with you confidentially.”

A truce was, for a time, made between the firms, but it proved hollow. Communications took place between them until the following May, after which they ceased to have further intercourse in matters of business. It appears that the house of Constable brought out Douglas’sPeerage and Baronetage,’ and offered a share of the publication to Murray. They offered shares also to two other London publishers; and they introduced another London firm, whose name was inserted on the title-page. Mr. Murray refused to entertain the matter further—“being contrary to the terms proposed to me.” The never-ending imposition of accommodation bills sent for acceptance had now reached a point beyond endurance, having regard to Murray’s credit. The last letter from Murray to Constable and Co., was as follows:—

John Murray to Constable & Co.
April 30th, 1813.

I did not answer the letter to which the enclosed alludes, because its impropriety in all respects rendered it impossible for me to do so without involving myself in a personal dispute, which it is my anxious resolution to avoid: and because my determination was fully taken to abide by what I told you in my former letter, to which alone I can or could have referred you. You made an express proposition to me, to which, as you have deviated from it, it is not my intention to accede. The books may remain with me upon
sale or return, until you please to order them elsewhere; and in the meantime I shall continue to avail myself of every opportunity to sell them. I return, therefore, an account and bills, with which I have nothing to do, and desire to have a regular invoice.

I am, gentlemen, yours truly,
J. Murray.

Constable and Co. fired off a final shot on the 28th of May following, and the correspondence and business between the firms then terminated.

No. 12 of the Quarterly appeared in December 1811. It contained papers by Southey, Barrow, Canning, Croker, and others. When Mr. Murray asked Southey to supply the review of James Montgomery’s Poems, Southey replied as follows:—

Mr. Southey to John Murray.

“When application was made to me, some years ago, to bear a part in the Edinburgh Review, I refused, upon the ground, among others, of the cruel manner of criticism which Jeffrey had adopted; and the case which I specified as peculiarly cruel and unjust was that of Montgomery’s. I am very glad of the opportunity of doing justice to one whom I consider undoubtedly a man of genius. We have no bookseller in this place” (Keswick), added Southey, “except an old huckstering grocer, who gets down the magazines three weeks after date, and whose natural sourness, instead of being sweetened by his dealings in sugar, is hyperoxygenated by Methodism.”

Southey was still very angry with Gifford for the curtailment of his articles before publication. And yet he knew, well enough, the necessity of subordination in a review. When one, two, or three articles were by the same writer, Gifford had to bring them within bounds, to make room for his other contributors. Southey wrote so smoothly, so easily, so wordily, that he might often
have filled an entire review. Yet Gifford was generous to Southey, and often wrote to
Murray of the excellence of his articles, though Southey did not know it. In one of his letters he said,—

“It is excellent. A little allowance must be made for the writer, but, on the whole, there is little that any one would wish away.”

The same number of the Review (No. 12) contained an article on Java, by Mr. Barrow, the proofs of which had been seen by Mr. Yorke and Mr. Perceval, and approved. But perhaps the most interesting article in the number was that by Canning and Ellis, on Trotter’sLife of Fox.’ Gifford writes to Murray about this article:—

“I have not seen Canning yet, but he is undoubtedly at work by this time. Pray take care that no one gets a sight of the slips. It will be a delightful article, but say not a word till it comes out.”

A pamphlet had been published by W. S. Landor, dedicated to the President of the United States, entitled, “Remarks upon Memoirs of Mr. Fox lately published.” Gifford was furious about it. He wrote to Murray:—

Mr. Gifford to John Murray.

“I never read so rascally a thing as the Dedication. It is almost too bad for the Eatons and other publishers of mad democratic books. In the pamphlet itself there are many clever bits, but there is no taste and little judgment. His attacks on private men are very bad. Those on Mr. C. are too stupid to do much harm, or, indeed, any. The Dedication is the most abject piece of business that I ever read. It shows Landor to have a most rancorous and malicious heart. Nothing but a rooted hatred of his country could have made him dedicate his Jacobinical book to the most contemptible wretch that ever crept into authority, and whose only recommendation to him is his
implacable enmity to his country. I think you might write to
Southey; but I would not, on any account, have you publish such a scoundrel address.”

The only entire article ever contributed to the Review by Gifford himself was that which he wrote, in conjunction with Barron Field, on Ford’s ‘Dramatic Works.’ It was an able paper, but it contained a passage, the publication of which occasioned Gifford the deepest regret. Towards the conclusion of the article these words occurred: The Editor “has polluted his pages with the blasphemies of a poor maniac, who, it seems, once published some detached scenes of the ‘Broken Heart’” This referred to Charles Lamb, who likened the “transcendent scene [of the Spartan boy and Calantha] in imagination to Calvary and the Cross.” Now Gifford had never heard of the personal history of Lamb, nor of the occasional fits of lunacy to which he and his sister Mary were subject; and when the paragraph was brought to his notice by Southey, through Murray, it caused him unspeakable distress. He at once wrote to Southey* the following letter:—

Mr. W. Gifford to Mr. Southey.
February 13th, 1812
My dear Sir,

I break off here to say that I have this moment received your last letter to Murray. It has grieved and shocked me

* When the subject of a memoir of Charles Lamb by Serjeant Talfourd was under consideration, Southey wrote to a friend: “I wish that I had looked out for Mr. Talfourd the letter which Gifford wrote in reply to one in which I remonstrated with him upon his designation of Lamb as a poor maniac. The words were used in complete ignorance of their peculiar bearings, and I believe nothing in the course of Gifford’s life ever occasioned him so much self-reproach. He was a man with whom I had no literary sympathies; perhaps there was nothing upon which we agreed, except great political questions; but I liked him the better ever after for his conduct on this occasion.”

beyond expression; but, my dear friend, I am innocent so far as the intent goes. I call God to witness that in the whole course of my life I never heard one syllable of
Mr. Lamb or his family. I knew not that he ever had a sister, or that he had parents living, or that he or any person connected with him had ever manifested the slightest tendency to insanity. In a word, I declare to you in the most solemn manner that all I ever knew or ever heard of Mr. Lamb was merely his name. Had I been aware of one of the circumstances which you mention, I would have lost my right arm sooner than have written what I have. The truth is, that I was shocked at seeing him compare the sufferings and death of a person who just continues to dance after the death of his lover is announced (for this is all his merit) to the pangs of Mount Calvary; and not choosing to attribute it to folly, because I reserved that charge for Weber, I unhappily in the present case ascribed it to madness, for which I pray God to forgive me, since the blow has fallen heavily when I really thought it would not be felt. I considered Lamb as a thoughtless scribbler, who, in circumstances of ease, amused himself by writing on any subject. Why I thought so, I cannot tell, but it was the opinion I formed to myself, for I now regret to say I never made any inquiry upon the subject; nor by any accident in the whole course of my life did I hear him mentioned beyond the name.

I remain, my dear Sir,
Yours most sincerely,
W. Gifford.

No. 13 of the Quarterly contained an article on Lay Baptism by a new contributor—who was destined to attain great renown as a controversialist—the Rev. H. Phillpotts, afterwards Bishop of Exeter. It will be observed that Mr. Barrow, who had now become a most important and essential contributor to the Review, was the author of no fewer than three articles in this number. Croker had also become most important and useful; Gifford spoke of him to Murray as “really a treasure to us.” Southey, as active as ever, wrote to Murray:—

Mr. Southey to John Murray.
May 19th, 1812.

“I have laid the first stone of an article for our next number upon the French Revolution—a subject most mournfully well-timed. The direful state of the populace, which the late deplorable event has disclosed—though it may have surprised me less than it has done most people—has alarmed me deeply, because I have long distinctly seen the causes which were at work to produce it. The counteracting causes on which my hopes were founded have not kept pace with them. At this moment, nothing but the army preserves us from the most dreadful of all calamities, an insurrection of the poor against the rich, and how long the army may be depended upon is a question which I scarcely dare ask myself. Of this I feel certain, that unless the most vigorous measures be speedily taken against those who by their speeches and writings are instigating the mob to rebellion, it will be too late; and they who may survive the coming horrors will see that the abuse of liberty is uniformly and inevitably punished with the loss of liberty. Its danger I will show in the Quarterly, but I believe the best means of stirring up the public mind is through the newspapers.”

Southey’s article appeared in No. 14, together with an article by Lord Dudley (J. W. Ward) on Reform. Croker contributed three articles, with respect to one of which he wrote to Murray, “I send you a hasty sketch, or rather a vile daub, of a portrait of Miss Edgeworth.” These were written before the assassination of Mr. Perceval by the lunatic Bellingham, in the lobby of the House of Commons on the 11th of May, 1812. This event completely unmanned him, and he was unable to write for some time.

While the article No. 4 was still under consideration, Gifford wrote to Murray as follows, showing the influence over Gifford of his friend Dr. Ireland, which Murray considered baneful:—

Mr. Gifford to John Murray.

“Whatever be the case, Eveleigh cannot be left out this time without displeasing Dr. Ireland, who fully expects it. You have bad advisers, and the consequence is that many things are postponed which would have done well, and now only seem to create enemies. We ought to distrust our own judgments. How many things have you printed with reluctance that turned out favourites? Topics of general interest are certainly best; but a review cannot be filled with them—at least, I know not how they can be procured. I know the difficulties of supporting a review of this kind, and that nothing is to be got by it; but this could be no secret to you, and you, no more than me, had any reason to look for more help than we have found. I know no good writers, and what good writer did you bring to the undertaking? All was chance, and that was hardly enough to trust to. However, we are embarked, and it must be your care to hazard nothing. Cut in time, and no great harm can be done.”

A little later, Gifford says:—

“If you mean by being no Calvinist, that Daly is not to come in, I do not see how this can be—as we shall have an article from Mr. C. in the No. following. Nor can I frame excuses for your omissions. This business begins to get too heavy for me, and I must soon have done, I fear.”

Gifford, however, recovered his spirits, and went on conducting the Quarterly for many years longer, until eventually it became a complete success. The numbers appeared more regularly, the articles improved, and the circulation increased.

Mr. Gifford to John Murray.
Ryde, Aug. 11th, 1812.

“I got down better than I expected, and arrived here on Wednesday to breakfast, cold and hungry, but not wet. I have lived in a state of positive idleness, and gone on the water every hour that the weather, which is miserable,
would let me; and already I think myself much benefited. In a day or two I shall sit down to business, but my head, is hardly yet settled, and this letter is merely to tell you that I am quite well, and pleased with my situation.
Nancy [the housekeeper] is much better, and begs me to thank you for your kind inquiry.”

We have been thus particular in describing the launching and establishing of the Quarterly, as it was the most important enterprise of Mr. Murray’s life, to which he gave the principal portion of his time, and in the success of which he took the greatest pride. A few years later, in 1817, Southey wrote to his friend Bedford:—

Murray offers me a thousand guineas for my intended poem in blank verse, and begs it may not be a line longer than ‘Thomson’s Seasons!’ I rather think the poem will be a post obit, and in that case, twice that sum, at least, may be demanded for it. What his real feelings may be towards me, I cannot tell; but he is a happy fellow, living in the light of his own glory. The Review is the greatest of all works, and it is all his own creation; he prints 10,000, and fifty times ten thousand read its contents, in the East and in the West. Joy be with him and his journal!”