LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of John Murray
Chapter XVIII.

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.
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
(  452  )

The account of Mr. Murray’s dealings with Lord Byron has carried us considerably beyond the date at which we left the history of his general business transactions, and compels us to go back to the year 1814, when, as is related in a previous chapter, he had associated himself with William Blackwood as his Edinburgh agent.

There was much in this alliance which augured well for the prospects of both parties. Blackwood was young, active, and shrewd, and well aware of the advantages which connection with Murray offered to him; he was, moreover, a man of no little literary ability, and a very good letter-writer, as will be seen from the specimens given below. On the other hand, the literary society of Edinburgh was then at the height of its fame, and it was essential to Murray, who could not afford the time to pay many visits to the North, to have a worthy and energetic representative of his interests, qualified to tell him what was passing there, and to carry on communications with the leading men. The alliance between Murray and Blackwood was close, and matters of no little interest passed between them during the existence of the connection.

When Blackwood removed his publishing premises from South Bridge Street to Princes Street, in the new town,
his office became a sort of literary lounge, and was frequented by
Mackenzie (the Man of Feeling), Walter Scott, William Erskine, John Wilson, Lockhart, James Hogg, and a host of rising literary men. They looked in to see what new books were coming out, and to hear the literary gossip from the great Metropolis, of which Murray supplied Blackwood with information. Blackwood, on his part, kept Murray advised as to the new works by the author of ‘Waverley.’

At the beginning of January 1815 Blackwood wrote to Murray that he had seen Ballantyne, and found a copy of ‘Guy Mannering’ lying on his table.

Mr. Wm. Blackwood to John Murray.

“He would not allow me to look at it, but he read me a few pages. The painting is admirable and quite graphic—Scottish to the life. From this specimen, and what Ballantyne told me about it, it will be a wonderful performance, and greatly superior to ‘Waverley,’ both in interest and effect.”

Blackwood had also seen and read the ‘Lord of the Isles,’ avowedly by Scott, but he was grievously disappointed with it.

“I regret the loss of ‘Guy Mannering,’” he added, “much more than this splendid two guinea quarto. If Walter Scott be the author of the novel, he stands far higher in my opinion in this line than in his former walk. Ballantyne made great professions of his regret that we were not the publishers. Whether he is sincere or not, time will prove; but he has great expectations of more from the same hand, and says it will not be his fault if they do not take the proper direction. He is to have the whole of the MS. on Tuesday, when we will have our second and, I hope, final sitting. I need not tell you to keep all this most strictly to yourself, as there would be the devil to pay if
Constable knew that I had seen or heard a line of it. Yesterday I wrote a letter of thanks to Ballantyne for the delight I had received, and expressed my feelings in the best way I could with regard to this beautiful production. I did not of course appear in it at all as the Bookseller, but merely as the Amateur. I know he will have shown my letter to the author, and though humble the offering, as it will be the first, it may perhaps be of some use to the Bookseller.”

He again refers to ‘Guy Mannering,’ the first two volumes of which he had now finished, and was even more delighted with it than before. Who could be the author? He doubted whether Walter Scott could be the man, after his production of the ‘Lord of the Isles.’

Mr. Blackwood to John Murray.
Feb. 15th, 1815.

“Some circumstances have occurred which strengthen my suspicion with regard to William Erskine having a hand in it; but still it is only a suspicion. There is much greater invention, and far more feeling, than I have ever seen Walter Scott display in any of his works. You will be surprised when I tell you that it has been whispered that the Ballantynes have some hand in it themselves. . . . When you have seen the book, I am confident you will agree with me that there is no property of the kind that it would be more desirable to possess.”

In October Scott published his poem, the ‘Field of Waterloo,’ and its appearance convinced Blackwood that Scott was not the author of ‘Guy Mannering.’

“I am pretty certain,” he wrote (1st January, 1816), “that the ‘Antiquary’ is not gone to press, as I believe with you there was not a line of it written (if there is yet) when it was first announced. From every investigation I can make, I am still of opinion that Scott is not the author. Who can he be? Among others, Greenfield was mentioned to me the other day, but this is highly improbable. . . . I dare say you are well rid of Leigh Hunt; and I
really pity you when I think of the difficulty you must often have in managing with authors, and particularly with the friends of authors whom you wish to oblige.”

When Murray was about to publish Byron’sSiege of Corinth’ and ‘Parisina,’ he promised to send the early sheets to Blackwood, who proposed to hold a dinner in honour of the occasion, to which Scott, Erskine, and James Ballantyne were to be invited. Scott had a particular engagement with The Macleod, and, unfortunately, could not accept the invitation for the day named; but, to secure his attendance, the dinner was put off for a week, and then he made his appearance with Erskine and Ballantyne. The poems were read, to the immense delight of the audience. After the dinner, Blackwood wrote:—

Mr. Blackwood to John Murray.
Feb. 9th, 1816.

“I saw Ballantyne to-day. He says Mr. Scott is quite enthusiastic with regard to the Poems [‘Siege of Corinth’ and ‘Parisina’], and considers Monday’s meeting one of the highest treats and the greatest favours ever done him. . . He assured me that Mr. Scott would take an interest in me, and matters would take that turn with you and me which I had so long been wishing to bring about. Constable, Ballantyne told me in confidence, had been doing everything he could to tease and torment Mr. Scott. So all goes on well. Independent of the delight of listening to Lord Byron’s poetry, it was one of the great objects I had in being so anxious for your sending me the Poems, that I might have an opportunity of drawing closer, as it were, to Mr. Scott, and at the same time show him the confidence you had in me and the friendship you showed me. All this acts for our mutual interest.”

Feb. 11th, 1816.

“The announcement of Byron’s Poems has created a great buzz here. It has also got over the whole town that Mr. Scott had dined with me, and read them, and was in
raptures with them. I did not mean to have said anything about this, but Mr. S. and
Ballantyne talked about it, and it spread abroad like wildfire. I should have liked very much to have seen Constable when he first heard the intelligence.”

Mr. Blackwood was at this time straining every nerve to consolidate his business, and to form such connections as should conduce not only to the commercial prosperity, but to the literary credit of his firm. In this he was but following in the footsteps of Murray, to whom he wrote:—“In your connections with literary men, when I consider the books you have published and are to publish, you have the happiness of making it a liberal profession, and not a mere business of the pence. This I consider one of the greatest privileges we have in our business.”

Mr. Blackwood to John Murray.
February 23rd, 1816.

“It flatters me not a little that your views of our business agree so exactly with my own. Indeed, I knew this well enough before. You have it in your power fully to realize your conceptions: here I must be content to creep on; but limited as my sphere for some time must be, I will always be able, I hope, to keep up the character and respect which I consider is due to our profession when liberally conducted. Every one will regret that they did not push on this improvement in literature at the periods most favourable for its advancement, but I don’t think you have much reason to blame yourself.

“Your anxiety about your son’s improvement is most natural, and I anxiously hope he will prove worthy of all your cares. There is one thing, however, which in England you have to contend with. You cannot give a young man the proper education, nor the proper associates who are likely to be useful to him in after life, without sending him to one of your great schools. There—though he may become learned, and acquire the manners of a gentleman—the danger is, that his mind may not be early accustomed
to the regular labour and routine of steady and active business.”

At length Mr. Blackwood found an opening into the higher class of publications. He, like Murray, was anxious to have a share in the business of publishing the works of Walter Scott—especially the novels teeming from the press by “The Author of ‘Waverley.’” Although Constable and the Ballantynes were necessarily admitted to the knowledge of their authorship, to the world at large they were anonymous, and the author still remained unknown. Mr. Murray had, indeed, pointed out to Mr. Canning that ‘Waverley’ was by Walter Scott; but Scott himself trailed so many red herrings across the path, that publishers as well as the public were thrown off the scent, and both Blackwood and Murray continued to be at fault with respect to the authorship of the ‘Waverley Novels.’

In February 1816 Ballantyne assured Blackwood that in a very few weeks he would have something very important to propose. On the 12th of April following, Blackwood addressed the following letter to Murray, “most strictly confidential;” and it contained important proposals:—

Mr. W. Blackwood to John Murray.
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.

A long correspondence took place between Blackwood and Murray on Ballantyne’s proposal. Blackwood was inclined to accept, notwithstanding the odd nature of the
proposal, in the firm belief that “the heart’s desire” of Ballantyne was to get rid of
Constable. He sent Murray a list of Ballantyne’s stock, from which the necessary value of books was to be selected. It appeared, however, that there was one point on which Blackwood had been mistaken, and that was, that the copyright of the new novel was not to be absolutely conveyed, and that all that Ballantyne meant, or had authority to offer, was an edition, limited to six thousand copies, of the proposed work. Although Murray considered it “a blind bargain,” he was disposed to accept it, as it might lead to something better. Blackwood accordingly communicated to Ballantyne that he and Murray accepted his offer.

Mr. Wm. Blackwood to John Murray.
April 27th, 1816.

“Everything is settled, and on Tuesday Ballantyne is to give a letter specifying the whole terms of the transaction. He could not do it sooner, he said, as he had to consult the author. This, I think, makes it clear that it is Walter Scott, who is at Abbotsford just now. What surprised me a good deal was, James Ballantyne told me that his brother John had gone out there with Constable, and Godwin (author of ‘Caleb Williams’), whom Scott was anxious to see. They are really a strange set of people. . . . I am not over fond of all these mysteries, but they are a mysterious set of personages, and we must manage with them in the best way that we can.”

A letter followed from James Ballantyne to Murray (1st May, 1816), congratulating him upon concluding the bargain through Blackwood, and saying:—

“I have taken the liberty of drawing upon you at twelve months for £300 for your share. . . . It will be a singularly great accommodation if you can return the bill in course of post.”


Although Ballantyne had promised that the first edition of the proposed work should be ready by the 1st of October, 1816, Blackwood found that in June the printing of the work had not yet commenced. Ballantyne said he had not yet got any part of the manuscript from the author, but that he would press him again on the subject. The controversy still continued as to the authorship of the Waverley Novels. “For these six months past,” wrote Blackwood (6th June, 1816), “there have been various rumours with regard to Greenfield being the author of these Novels, but I never paid much attention to it; the thing appeared to me so very improbable. . . . But from what I have heard lately, and from what you state, I now begin to think that Greenfield may probably be the author.” On the other hand, Mr. Mackenzie called upon Blackwood, and informed him that “he was now quite convinced that Thomas Scott, Walter’s brother in Canada, writes all the novels.” The secret, however, was kept for many years longer.

Blackwood became quite provoked at the delay in proceeding with the proposed work.

Mr. Wm. Blackwood to John Murray.
June 21st, 1816.

“I begin to fear that S. B. and Cy. are a nest of ——. There is neither faith nor truth in them. In my last letter I mentioned to you that there was not the smallest appearance of the work being yet begun, and there is as little still. James Ballantyne shifts this off his own shoulders by saying that he cannot help it. Now, my own belief is that at the time he made such solemn promises to me that the first volume would be in my hands in a month, he had not the smallest expectation of this being the case; but he knew that he would not have got our bills, which he absolutely wanted, without holding this out. It is now seven weeks since the bills
were granted, and it is five weeks since I gave him the list of books which were to be delivered. I have applied to him again and again for them, and on Tuesday last his man at length called on me to say that
John Ballantyne and Co. could not deliver fifty sets of ‘Kerr’s Voyages’—that they had only such quantities of particular odd volumes of which he showed me a list.”

Blackwood called upon Ballantyne, but he could not see him, and instead of returning Blackwood’s visit, he sent a note of excuse. Next time they met was at Hollingworth’s Hotel, after which Ballantyne sent Blackwood a letter “begging for a loan of £50 till next week, but not a word of business in it.” Next time they met was at the same hotel, when the two dined with Robert Miller.

Mr. Wm. Blackwood to John Murray.

“After dinner I walked home with J. B. Perhaps from the wine he had drunk, he was very communicative, and gave me a great deal of very curious and interesting private history. Would you believe it, that about six weeks ago—at the very time our transaction was going on—these worthies, Scott, Ballantyne & Co., concluded a transaction with Constable for 10,000 copies of this said ‘History of Scotland’ [which had been promised to Blackwood and Murray] in 4 vols., and actually received bills for the profits expected to be realized from this large number! Yet, when I put James Ballantyne in mind on Tuesday of what he had formally proposed by desire of Mr. Scott, and assured us we were positively to get the work, and asked him if there was any truth in the rumour I had heard, and even that you had heard, about Mr. Scott being about to publish a ‘History of Scotland’ with his name, and further asked him if Mr. Scott was now ready to make any arrangements with us about it (for it never occurred to me that he could make arrangements with any one else), he solemnly assured me that he knew nothing about it! Now, after this, what confidence can we have in anything that this man will say or profess! I confess I am sadly mortified at my own credulousness. John I
always considered as no better than a swindler, but James I put some trust and confidence in. You judged more accurately, for you always said that ‘he was a damned cunning fellow!’ Well, there is every appearance of your being right; but his cunning (as it never does) will not profit him. Within these three years I have given him nearly £1400 for printing, and in return have only received empty professions, made, to be sure, in the most dramatic manner. Trite as the saying is, honesty is always the best policy; and if we live a little longer, we shall see what will be the end of all their cunning, never-ending labyrinths of plots and schemes. Constableis the proper person for them; set a thief to catch a thief:
Jonathan Wild will be fully a match for any of the heroes of the ‘Beggar’s Opera.’ My blood boils when I think of them, and still more when I think of my allowing myself so long to keep my eyes shut to what I ought to have seen long ago. But the only apology I make to myself is, that one does not wish to think so ill of human nature. There is an old Scotch proverb, ‘He has need o’ a lang spoon that sups wi’ the De’il,’ and since we are engaged, let us try if we can partake of the broth without scalding ourselves. I still hope that we may; and however much my feelings revolt at having any connection in future with them, yet I shall endeavour to the best of my power to repress my bile, and to turn their own tricks against themselves. One in business must submit to many things, and swallow many a bitter pill, when such a man as Walter Scott is the object in view. You will see, by this day’s Edinburgh papers, that the copartnery of John Ballantyne & Co. is formally dissolved. Miller told me that, before James Ballantyne could get his wife’s friends to assent to the marriage, Walter Scott was obliged to grant bonds and securities, taking upon himself all the engagements of John Ballantyne & Co., as well as of James Ballantyne & Co.;* so that, if there was any difficulty on their part, he bound himself to fulfil the whole. When we consider the large sums of money Walter Scott has got for his works, the greater part of which has been thrown into

* Lockhart says, in his ‘Life of Scott,’ that “on Feb., 1816, when James Ballantyne married, it is clearly proved, by letters in his handwriting, that he owed to Scott more than £3000 of personal debt.”

the hands of the Ballantynes, and likewise the excellent printing business J. B. has had for so many years, it is quite incomprehensible what has become of all the money. Miller says, ‘It is just a jaw hole which swallows up all,’ and from what he has heard he does not believe Walter Scott is worth anything.”

Murray was nevertheless willing to go on until the terms of his bargain with Ballantyne were fulfilled, and wrote to Blackwood that he was “resolved to swallow the pill, bitter though it was,” but he expressed his surprise that “Mr. Scott should have allowed his property to be squandered as it has been by these people.”

Blackwood, however, was in great anxiety about the transaction, fearing the result of the engagement which he and Murray had entered into.

Mr. Wm. Blackwood to John Murray.
July 2nd, 1816.

“This morning I got up between five and six, but instead of sitting down to write to you, as I had intended, I mounted my pony and took a long ride to collect my thoughts. Sitting, walking, or riding is all the same. I feel as much puzzled as ever, and undetermined whether or not to cut the Gordian knot. Except my wife, there is not a friend whom I dare advise with. I have not once ventured to mention the business at all to my brother, on account of the cursed mysteries and injunctions of secrecy connected with it. I know he would blame me for ever engaging in it, for he has a very small opinion of the Ballantynes. I cannot therefore be benefited by his advice. Mrs. Blackwood, though she always disliked my having any connection with the Ballantynes, rather thinks we should wait a few weeks longer, till we see what is produced. I believe, after all, this is the safest course to pursue. I would beg of you, however, to think maturely upon the affair, taking into account Mr. Scott’s usefulness to the Review. Take a day or two to consider the matter fully, and then give me your best advice. . . . As to Constable or his triumphs, as he will consider them, I
perfectly agree with you that they are not to be coveted by us, and that they should not give us a moment’s thought. Thank God, we shall never desire to compass any of our ends by underhand practices.”

Mr. Croker paid a visit to Edinburgh about this time, and was the bearer of a letter of introduction from Murray to Blackwood, who assisted in doing the honours and showing him over the city. Blackwood called upon Walter Scott to give him the news of Croker’s arrival. “He received me,” he writes to Murray, “with all his usual kindness, but never a syllable about anything else.” Professor Jameson was to show the distinguished visitor over his Museum, Dr. Brewster was to exhibit the Observatory and its instruments; and Blackwood was to show him everything else that was worthy to be seen—the Castle, Holyrood, and the Old Town. After spending a delightful morning with Mr. Croker, Blackwood writes:—

Mr. Wm. Blackwood to John Murray.
July 12th, 1816.

“I think I have never been so much gratified with any one. His quickness of mind, intelligence, and activity are surprising; and what gives a complete charm to the whole is the simplicity and perfect gentlemanly tone of his manners. . . . He went to the Castle, Holyrood House, and Nelson’s Monument before breakfast. He is quite delighted with Edinburgh. Lord Dalhousie and Governor Houston breakfasted with us. . . . We have since been in the Court hearing a trial. Mr. Scott and Mr. Erskine then went with us to the Advocates’ Library and the High Church. To-morrow morning we start for Arthur’s Seat. . . . Many are the favours you have done me, my dear friend, but this introduction is beyond them all.”

Meanwhile correspondence with Ballantyne about the work of fiction—the name of which was still unknown—was still proceeding. Ballantyne said that the author
“promised to put the first volume in his hands by the end of August, and that the whole would be ready for publication by Christmas.”
Blackwood thought this reply was “humbug, as formerly.” Nevertheless, he was obliged to wait. At last he got the first sight of the manuscript.

Mr. Wm. Blackwood to John Murray.
August 23rd, 1816. Midnight.

My dear Murray ,—I have this moment finished the reading of 192 pages of our book—for ours it must be,—and I cannot go to bed without telling you what is the strong and most favourable impression it has made upon me. If the remainder be at all equal—which it cannot fail to be, from the genius displayed in what is now before me—we have been most fortunate indeed. The title is, Tales of my Landlord; collected and reported by Jedediah Cleishbotham, Parish Clerk and Schoolmaster of Gandercleugh.”

Mr. Blackwood then proceeds to give an account of the Introduction, the commencement of “The Black Dwarf,” the first of the tales, and the general nature of the story, to the end of the fourth chapter. His letter is of great length, and extends to nine quarto pages. He concludes:—

“There cannot be a doubt as to the splendid merit of the work. It would never have done to have hesitated and higgled about seeing more volumes. In the note which accompanied the sheets, Ballantyne says, ‘each volume contains a Tale,’ so there will be four in all.* The next relates to the period of the Covenanters. I have now neither doubts nor fears with regard to the whole being good, and I anxiously hope that you will have as little. I am so happy at the fortunate termination of all my pains and anxieties, that I cannot be in bad humour with you for not writing me two lines in answer to my last letters. I hope I shall hear from you to-morrow; but I entreat of you to write me in course of post, as I wish to hear from you before I leave this [for London], which I intend to do on this day se’nnight by the smack.”

* This, the original intention, was departed from.


In a later letter Blackwood writes to Murray that he has received a communication from James Ballantyne:—

Mr. James Ballantyne to Mr. Wm. Blackwood.
August 28th, 1816.

I have had a letter from a worthy friend, Jedediah Cleishbotham, who says, ‘I return the letter of Mr. Blackwood, and am glad he is pleased; but he will like the second volume better than the first, and so will you, I think. But I want some Covenanting books sadly, to ascertain and identify my facts and dates by, before committing myself to the inevitable operation of the proofs. The following I especially want’ [here Mr. Cleishbotham enumerates Hodson’s ‘History of the Sufferings of the Kirk,’ and a number of others, all of which I had it fortunately in my power to send to Ballantyne, along with some others which I know he would like to see]. ‘Without the means of the most accurate confirmation of what I have written, with these volumes, Jedediah hath too much regard unto verity to print or publish. The sooner they can be supplied, the sooner you will receive the copy. I have some thoughts of writing a Glossary, in the name and style of said learned Jedediah. I am, if I may say so, confident of the success of this work!’ This is no bad heartening—although it must be confessed that authors are not the best judges of their own composition. I do not hope to like the Covenanting tale better than the ‘Black Dwarf.’

Your, &c.,
J. B.

At length the principal part of the manuscript of the novel was in the press, and, as both the author and the printer were in sore straits for money, they became importunate on Blackwood and Murray for payment on account. They had taken Ballantyne’s “wretched stock” of books, as Blackwood styled them, and Lockhart, in his ‘Life of Scott,’ infers that Murray had consented to anticipate the period of his payments. At all events, he finds in a letter of Scott’s, written in August, these words to John Ballantyne:—
“Dear John,—I have the pleasure to enclose Murray’s acceptances. I earnestly recommend you to push, realising as much as you can.

“Consider weel, gude mon,
We hae but borrowed gear,
The horse that I ride on,
It is John Murray’s mear.”

But this accommodation was not enough for the uses of the author and the printer. On the 12th October, 1816, Blackwood encloses to Murray two letters from Ballantyne—in one of them asking for the loan of £100 for a week; and in the other requesting, on the part of the author of the ‘Tales of my Landlord,’ that Blackwood and Murray should each give him a bill at three months, on account, for £250, to be renewed so as to give the full term of credit. Both publishers answered to the same effect—declining to advance the loan of £100, and refusing to go on upon the system of bills; but stating that so soon as the book was ready for delivery, they would at once be ready to settle for the full amount.

Scott was at this time sorely pressed for ready money. He was buying one piece of land after another, usually at exorbitant prices, and having already increased the estate of Abbotsford from 150 to nearly 1000 acres, he was in communication with Mr. Edward Blore as to the erection of a dwelling adjacent to the cottage, at a point facing the Tweed. This house grew and expanded, until it became the spacious mansion of Abbotsford. The Ballantynes also were ravenous for more money; but they could get nothing from Blackwood and Murray before the promised work was finished.

At last the book was completed, printed, and published on the 1st of December, 1816; but without the magical
words, “by the Author of ‘
Waverley,’” on the title-page. All doubts as to the work being by the author of ‘Waverley,’ says Lockhart, had worn themselves out before the lapse of a week.

John Murray to Mr. Wm. Blackwood.
December 13th, 1816.

“Having now heard every one’s opinion about our ‘Tales of my Landlord,’ I feel competent to assure you that it is universally in their favour. There is only ‘Meg Merrilies’ in their way. It is even, I think, superior to the other three novels. You may go on printing as many and as fast as you can; for we certainly need not stop until we come to the end of our, unfortunately, limited 6000. . . . My copies are more than gone, and if you have any to spare pray send them up instantly.”

On the following day Mr. Murray wrote to Mr. Scott:—

John Murray to Mr. Scott.
Dec. 14th, 1816.
Dear Sir,

Although I dare not address you as the author of certain Tales—which, however, must be written either by Walter Scott or the devil—yet nothing can restrain me from thinking that it is to your influence with the author of them that I am indebted for the essential honour of being one of their publishers; and I must intrude upon you to offer my most hearty thanks, not divided but doubled, alike for my worldly gain therein, and for the great acquisition of professional reputation which their publication has already procured me. As to delight, I believe I could, under any oath that could be proposed, swear that I never experienced such great and unmixed pleasure in all my life as the reading of this exquisite work has afforded me; and if you witnessed the wet eyes and grinning cheeks with which, as the author’s chamberlain, I receive the unanimous and vehement praise of them from every one who has read them, or heard the curses of those whose needs my scanty supply would not satisfy, you might judge
of the sincerity with which I now entreat you to assure the author of the most complete success. After this, I could throw all the other books which I have in the press into the Thames, for no one will either read them or buy.
Lord Holland said, when I asked his opinion: “Opinion? we did not one of us go to bed all night, and nothing slept but my gout.” Frere, Hallam, and Boswell; Lord Glenbervie came to me with tears in his eyes. “It is a cordial,” he said, “which has saved Lady Glenbervie’s life.” Heber, who found it on his table on his arrival from a journey, had no rest till he had read it. He has only this moment left me, and he, with many others, agrees that it surpasses all the other novels. Wm. Lamb also; Gifford never read anything like it, he says; and his estimate of it absolutely increases at each recollection of it. Barrow with great difficulty was forced to read it; and he said yesterday, “Very good, to be sure, but what powerful writing is thrown away.” Heber says there are only two men in the world, Walter Scott and Lord Byron. Between you, you have given existence to a third.

Ever your faithful servant,
John Murray.

This letter did not effectually “draw the badger.” Scott replied in the following humorous but Jesuitical epistle:—

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
December 18th, 1816.
My dear Sir,

I give you hearty joy of the success of the Tales, although I do not claim that paternal interest in them which my friends do me the credit to assign to me. I assure you I have never read a volume of them till they were printed, and can only join with the rest of the world in applauding the true and striking portraits which they present of old Scottish manners.

I do not expect implicit reliance to be placed on my disavowal, because I know very well that he who is disposed not to own a work must necessarily deny it, and that otherwise his secret would be at the mercy of all who chose to ask the question, since silence in such a
case must always pass for consent, or rather assent. But I have a mode of convincing you that I am perfectly serious in my denial—pretty similar to that by which Solomon distinguished the fictitious from the real mother—and that is by reviewing the work, which I take to be an operation equal to that of quartering the child. . . Kind compliments to
Heber, whom I expected at Abbotsford this summer; also to Mr. Croker and all your four o’clock visitors. I am just going to Abbotsford, to make a small addition to my premises there. I have now about seven hundred acres, thanks to the booksellers and the discerning public.

Yours truly,
Walter Scott.

The happy chance of securing a review of the Tales by the author of ‘Waverley’ himself exceeded Murray’s most sanguine expectations, and filled him with joy. He suggested that the reviewer, instead of sending an article on the Gypsies, as he proposed, should introduce whatever he had to say about that picturesque race in his review of the Tales, by way of comment on the character of Meg Merrilies. The review was written, and appeared in No. 32 of the Quarterly, in January 1817, by which time the novel had already gone to a third edition. It is curious now to look back upon the author reviewing his own work. He adopted Murray’s view, and besides going over the history of ‘Waverley,’ and the characters introduced in that novel, he introduced a disquisition about Meg Merrilies and the Gypsies, as set forth in his novel of ‘Guy Mannering.’ He then proceeded to review the ‘Black Dwarf and ‘Old Mortality,’ but with the utmost skill avoided praising them, and rather endeavoured to put his friends off the scent by undervaluing them, and finding fault. The ‘Black Dwarf,’ for example, was full of “violent events which are so common in romance, and of such rare occurrence in real
life.” Indeed, he wrote, “the narrative is unusually artificial; neither hero nor heroine excites interest of any sort, being just that sort of pattern people whom nobody cares a farthing about.”

“The other story,” he adds, “is of much deeper interest.” He describes the person who gave the title to the novel—Robert Paterson, of the parish of Closeburn, in Dumfriesshire—and introduces a good deal of historical knowledge, but takes exception to many of the circumstances mentioned in the story, at the same time quoting some of the best passages about Cuddie Headrigg and his mother. In respect to the influence of Claverhouse and General Dalzell, the reviewer states that “the author has cruelly falsified history,” and relates the actual circumstances in reference to these generals. “We know little,” he says, “that the author can say for himself to excuse these sophistications, and, therefore, may charitably suggest that he was writing a romance, and not a history.” In conclusion, the reviewer observed, “We intended here to conclude this long article, when a strong report reached us of certain trans-Atlantic confessions, which, if genuine (though of this we know nothing), assign a different author to these volumes than the party suspected by our Scottish correspondents. Yet a critic may be excused seizing upon the nearest suspicious person, on the principle happily expressed by Claverhouse in a letter to the Earl of Linlithgow. He had been, it seems, in search of a gifted weaver who used to hold forth at conventicles. “I sent to seek the webster (weaver); they brought in his brother for him; though he maybe cannot preach like his brother, I doubt not but he is as well-principled as he, wherefore I thought it would be no great fault to give him the trouble to go to the jail with the rest.”


“This brother!” It is probable that Scott sought to get rid of the imputation of being the author of the ‘Waverley Novels’ by insinuating that they were the work of his brother. At all events both Blackwood and Murray, with many others, were, in spite of themselves, thrown off the scent, first by his writing a review of his own work and then by alleging, from “certain trans-Atlantic confessions,” that they were the work of his brother. In January 1817, Mr. Murray wrote to Mr. Blackwood:—

John Murray to Mr. Wm. Blackwood.

“I can assure you, but in the greatest confidence, that I have discovered the author of all these Novels to be Thomas Scott, Walter Scott’s brother. He is now in Canada. I have no doubt but that Mr. Walter Scott did a great deal to the first ‘Waverley Novel,’ because of his anxiety to save his brother, and his doubt about the success of the work. This accounts for the many stories about it. Many persons had previously heard from Mr. Scott, but you may rely on the certainty of what I have told you. The whole country is starving for want of a complete supply of the ‘Tales of my Landlord,’ respecting the interest and merit of which there continues to be but one sentiment.”

A few weeks later Blackwood wrote to Murray:—

Mr. W. Blackwood to John Murray.
January 22nd, 1817.

“It is an odd story here, that Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Scott are the authors of all these Novels. I, however, still think, as Mr. Croker said to me in one of his letters, that if they were not by Mr. Walter Scott, the only alternative is to give them to the devil, as by one or the other they must be written.”

On the other hand, Bernard Barton wrote to Mr. Murray, and said that he had “heard that James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, was the author of ‘Tales of my Landlord,’ and
that he had had intimation from himself to that effect,” by no means an improbable story considering Hogg’s vanity.
Lady Mackintosh also wrote to Mr. Murray:—“Did you hear who this new author of ‘Waverley’ and ‘Guy Mannering’ is? Mrs. Thomas Scott, as Mr. Thomas Scott assured Lord Selkirk (who had been in Canada), and his lordship, like Lord Monboddo, believes it.” Murray again wrote to Blackwood (15th Feb., 1817):—“What is your theory as to the author of ‘Harold the Dauntless’? I will believe, till within an inch of my life, that the author of ‘Tales of my Landlord’ is Thomas Scott.”

Thus matters remained until a few years later, when George IV. was on his memorable visit to Edinburgh. Walter Scott was one of the heroes of the occasion, and was the selected cicerone to the King. One day George IV., in the sudden and abrupt manner which is peculiar to our Royal Family, asked Scott point-blank: “By the way, Scott, are you the author of ‘Waverley’?” Scott as abruptly answered: “No, Sire!” Having made this answer (said Mr. Thomas Mitchell, who communicated the information to Mr. Murray some years later), “it is supposed that he considered it a matter of honour to keep the secret during the present King’s reign. If the least personal allusion is made to the subject in Sir Walter’s presence, Matthews says that his head gently drops upon his breast, and that is a signal for the person to desist.”

With respect to the first series of the ‘Tales of my Landlord,’ so soon as the 6000 copies had been disposed of which the author, through Ballantyne, had covenanted as the maximum number to be published by Murray and Blackwood, the work reverted to Constable, and was published uniformly with the other works by the author of ‘Waverley.’