A Publisher and His Friends
by Samuel Smiles
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When my Grandfather's Memoirs were published, twenty years ago, they met with a most favourable and gratifying reception at the hands of the public. Interest was aroused by the struggle and success of a man who had few advantages at the outset save his own shrewd sense and generous nature, and who, moreover, was thrown on his own resources to fight the battle of life when he was little more than a child.

The chief value of these volumes, however, consists in the fact that they supply an important, if not an indispensable, chapter in the literary history of England during the first half of the nineteenth century. Byron and Scott, Lockhart, Croker, George Borrow, Hallam, Canning, Gifford, Disraeli, Southey, Milman are but a few of the names occurring in these pages, the whole list of which it would be tedious to enumerate.

It may be admitted that a pious desire to do justice to the memory of John Murray the Second—"the Anax of Publishers," as Byron called him—led to the inclusion in the original volumes of some material of minor importance which may now well be dispensed with.

I find, however, that the work is still so often quoted and referred to that I have asked my friend Mr. Thomas Mackay to prepare a new edition for the press. I am convinced that the way in which he has discharged his task will commend itself to the reading public. He has condensed the whole, has corrected errors, and has rewritten certain passages in a more concise form.

I desire to acknowledge my debt to him for what he has done, and to express a hope that the public may extend a fresh welcome to "an old friend with a new face."


December, 1910.




The first John Murray—An Officer of Marines—Retires from Active Service—His marriage—Correspondence with William Falconer—Falconer's death—Murray purchases Sandby's business—John Murray's first publications—His writings—Mr. Kerr—Thomas Cumming goes to Ireland on behalf of Murray—Prof. J. Millar—Mr. Whitaker—Defence of Sir R. Gordon—Ross estate—His controversy with Mr. Mason—The Edinburgh booksellers—Creech and Elliot—Dr. Cullen—The second John Murray—His education—Accident to his eye—Illness and death of the elder John Murray



John Murray the Second—"The Anax of Publishers"—His start in business—Murray and Highley—Dissolution of the partnership—Colman's "John Bull"—Mr. Joseph Hume—Archibald Constable—John Murray a Volunteer—The D'Israeli family—Isaac D'Israeli's early works—"Flim-Flams"—Birth of Benjamin D'Israeli—Projected periodical the "Institute"—The "Miniature"—Murray's acquaintance with Canning and Frere



Archibald Constable & Co.—Alexander Gibson Hunter—The Edinburgh Review—Murray's early associations with Constable—Dispute between Longman and Constable—Murray appointed London Agent—He urges reconciliation between Constable and Longman—Mr. Murray visits Edinburgh—Engaged to Miss Elliot—Goes into Forfarshire—Rude Hospitality—Murray's marriage—The D'Israelis



Murray's business prospects—Acquires a share of "Marmion"—Becomes London publisher of the Edinburgh Review—Acquaintance with Walter Scott—Constable's money transactions—Murray's remonstrance—He separates from Constable—The Ballantynes—Scott joins their printing business—Literary themes



Canning's early schemes for a Penny Newspaper—The Anti-Jacobin—The Edinburgh Review—John Murray's letter to Mr. Canning—Walter Scott's assistance—Southey's letter to Scott—Review of "Marmion" in the Edinburgh—Murray's conditions—Meeting with James Ballantyne at Ferrybridge—Visit to Scott at Ashestiel—Letters to Scott—Scott's letters to Murray, Ellis, and Gifford on the Quarterly—Arrangements for the first number—Articles by Scott—James Mill—Mrs. Inchbald—Dr. Thomas Young



Meeting of Murray and Ballantyne at Boroughbridge—Walter Scott's interest in the new Review—Publication of the first number of the Quarterly —Scott's proposed "Secret History of the Court of James I."—Portcullis copies—"Old English Froissart"—Opinions of the Quarterly—Scott's energy and encouragement—Murray's correspondence with Mr. Stratford Canning—Murray's energy—Leigh Hunt—James Mill—Gifford's unpunctuality—Appearance of the second number—Mr. Canning's contributions—Appearance of No. 3—Letters from Mr. Ellis to Isaac D'Israeli—John Barrow's first connection with the Quarterly—Robert Southey—Appearance of No. 4



Murray's and Ballantyne's joint enterprises—Financial difficulties—Murray's remonstrances—Ballantyne's reckless speculations—And disregard of Murray's advice—Revival of Murray's business with Constable—Publication of the "Lady of the Lake"—Murray excluded from his promised share of it—Transfers his Edinburgh agency to Mr. William Blackwood—Publication of No. 5 of the Quarterly —Southey's articles and books—Unpunctuality of the Review —Gifford's review of "The Daughters of Isenberg"—His letter to Miss Palmer—Dispute between Murray and Gifford—Attacks on the Edinburgh Review by the Quarterly—Murray's disapproval of them—The Ballantynes and Constables applying for money—Nos. 8 and 9 of the Review—Southey's Publications—Letters from Scott—His review of the "Curse of Kehama"—Southey's dependence on the Quarterly—His letter to Mr. Wynn



Increasing friendship between Murray and Gifford—Gifford's opinion of humorous articles—Mr. Pillans—Gifford's feeble health—Murray's financial difficulties—Remonstrates with Constable—Correspondence with and dissociation from Constable—Quarterly Review No. 12—Gifford's severe remarks on Charles Lamb—His remorse—Quarterly Review No. 14—Murray's offer to Southey of 1,000 guineas for his poem



Lord Byron's first acquaintance with Mr. Murray—Mr. Dallas's offer to Cawthorn and Miller—Murray's acceptance of "Childe Harold"—Byron's visits to Fleet Street—Murray's letters to Byron—Gifford's opinion of the Poem—Publication of "Childe Harold"—Its immediate success—Byron's presentation to the Prince of Wales—Murray effects a reconciliation between Byron and Scott—Letters to and from Scott—Publication of "The Giaour," "Bride of Abydos" and "Corsair"—Correspondence with Byron—"Ode to Napoleon"—"Lara" and "Jacqueline"



Murray's removal to Albemarle Street—Miller's unfriendly behaviour—Progress of the Quarterly—Miscellaneous publications —D'Israeli's "Calamities of Authors"—Letters from Scott and Southey—Southey's opinions on the patronage of literature—Scott's embarrassments—Recklessness of the Ballantynes—Scott applies to Murray for a loan—Publication of "Waverley"—Mystery of the authorship—Mr. Murray's proposed trip to France—His letters to Mrs. Murray—Education of his son—Announcement of Lord Byron's engagement—Mr. Murray's visit to Newstead Abbey—Murray in Edinburgh—Mr. William Blackwood—Visit to Abbotsford—Letter to Lord Byron—Letters from Blackwood—The "Vision of Don Roderick"



Murray's drawing-room in Albemarle Street—A literary centre—George Ticknor's account of it—Letter from Gifford—Death of his housekeeper Nancy—First meeting of Byron and Scott—Recollections of John Murray III.—Napoleon's escape from Elba—Waterloo—Mr. Blackwood's letter—Suppression of an article written for the Edinburgh—Mr. Murray's collection of portraits of authors—Mr. Scott's visit to Brussels, Waterloo, etc.—Mr. Murray's visit to Paris—Return home—Important diplomatic correspondence offered by Miss Waldie—Miss Austen—"Emma"—Mr. Malthus's works—Letters from W. Scott



Charles Maturin—His early career—His early publications—And application to W. Scott—Performance of "Bertram" at Drury Lane—Published by Murray—"Manuel, a Tragedy"—Murray's letter to Byron—Death of Maturin—S.T. Coleridge—Correspondence about his translation of "Faust"—"Glycine," "Remorse," "Christabel," "Zapolya," and other works—Further correspondence—Leigh Hunt—Asked to contribute to the Quarterly—"Story of Rimini"—Murray's letters to Byron and Hunt—Negotiations between Murray and Leigh Hunt



Thomas Campbell—His early works—Acquaintance with Murray—"Selections from the British Poets"—Letters to Murray—Proposed Magazine—And Series of Ancient Classics—Close friendship between Campbell and Murray—Murray undertakes to publish the "Selections from British Poets"—Campbell's explanation of the work—"Gertrude of Wyoming"—Scott reviews Campbell's poems in the Quarterly—Campbell's Lectures at the Royal Institution—Campbell's satisfaction with Murray's treatment of him—"Now Barabbas was a publisher"—Increase of Murray's business—Dealings with Gifford—Mr. J.C. Hobhouse—His "Journey to Albania"—Isaac D'Israeli's "Character of James I."—Croker's "Stories for Children"—The division of profits—Sir John Malcolm—Increasing number of poems submitted to Mr. Murray—James Hogg—His works—And letters to Murray—The "Repository"—Correspondence with Murray—Hogg asks Murray to find a wife for him



Lord Byron's marriage—Letters from Mr. Murray during the honeymoon—Mr. Fazakerly's interview with Bonaparte—Byron's pecuniary embarrassments—Murray's offers of assistance—"Siege of Corinth"—"Parisina"—Byron refuses remuneration—Pressed to give the money to Godwin, Maturin, and Coleridge—Murray's remonstrance —Gifford's opinion of the "Siege of Corinth" and Mr. D'Israeli's —Byron leaves England—Sale of his Library—The "Sketch from Private Life"—Mr. Sharon Turner's legal opinion—Murray's letter on the arrival of the MS. of "Childe Harold," Canto III.

[Transcriber's Note: two pages missing from source document]



Works published by Murray and Blackwood jointly—Illness of Scott—Efforts to help the Ettrick Shepherd—Murray's offers of assistance—Scott reviews the "Wake"—Hogg's house at Eltrive—Scott and the Quarterly—"Rob Roy"—The "Scottish Regalia"—"The Heart of Midlothian"—Appeal to Scott for an article—"Lord Orford's Letters"—Murray and James Hogg at Abbotsford—Conclusion of Hogg's correspondence—Robert Owen—Increased number of would-be poets—Sharon Turner—Gifford's illness—Croker and Barrow edit Quarterly Review



Mr. Hallam—Sir H. Ellis's "Embassy to China"—Correspondence with Lady Abercorn about new books—Proposed Monthly Register—Mr. Croker's condemnation of the scheme—Crabbe's Works—Mr. Murray's offer—Mr. Rogers's negotiations—Hope's "Anastasius"—"Rejected Addresses" —Colonel Macirone's action against the Quarterly—Murray's entertainments—Mrs. Bray's account of them



Lady Hervey's Letters—Mr. Croker's letter about the editing of them—Horace Walpole's Memoirs—Mr. Murray's correspondence with Lord Holland—The Suffolk papers, edited by Mr. Croker—Mrs. Delany's Letters—Letter from Mr. Croker—Horace Walpole's "Reminiscences," edited by Miss Berry—Tomline's "Life of Pitt"—Giovanni Belzoni—His early career and works—His sensitiveness—His death—Examples of his strength—Rev. H.H. Milman's Works, "Fazio," "Samor," "The Fall of Jerusalem," "Martyr of Antioch," "Belshazzar"—Murray's dealings with Milman—Benjamin Disraeli—Letters from Southey about his articles on Cromwell—The New Churches, etc.—"The Book of the Church"—Warren Hastings, etc—The Carbonari—Mr. Eastlake—Mrs. Graham—Galignani's pirated edition of Byron—Mrs. Rundell's "Cookery Book"—Dispute with Longman's—An injunction obtained



Washington Irving—His early dealings with Murray—He comes to England—His description of a dinner at Murray's—"The Sketch Book"—Published in England by Miller—Afterwards undertaken by Murray—Terms of purchase—Irving's ill-success in business —"Bracebridge Hall"—James Fenimore Cooper—Ugo Foscolo—His early career—First article in the Quarterly—Letter from Mr. T. Mitchell—Foscolo's peculiarities—Digamma Cottage—His Lectures—Death of Foscolo—Lady C. Lamb—"Glenarvon"—"Penruddock"—"Ada Reis"—Letter from the Hon. Wm. Lamb—Lord J. Russell—His proposed History of Europe—Mr. James Morier's "Hajji Baba"—Letter of Mirza Abul Hassan—Mrs. Markham's "History of England"—Allan Cunningham



Gifford's failing health—Difficulty of finding a successor—Barrow's assistance—Gifford's letter to Mr. Canning—Irregularity of the numbers—Southey's views as to the Editorship—Gifford's letter to Mr. Canning—Appointment of Mr. J.T. Coleridge—Murray's announcement of the appointment to Gifford—Close of Mr. Gifford's career—His correspondence with Murray—Letter from Mr. R. Hay to the present Mr. Murray about Gifford



Murray's desire to start a new periodical—Benjamin Disraeli—Projected morning paper—Benjamin Disraeli's early career and writings—Letters to Murray about "Aylmer Papillon"—Benjamin Disraeli's increasing intimacy with Murray—Origin of the scheme to start a daily paper—South American speculation—Messrs. Powles—Agreement to start a daily paper—the Representative—Benjamin Disraeli's journey to consult Sir W. Scott about the editorship—His letters to Murray—Visit to Chiefswood —Progress of the negotiation-Mr. Lockhart's reluctance to assume the editorship—Letter from Mr. I. D'Israeli to Murray—Mr. Lockhart's first introduction to Murray—His letter about the editorship—Sir W. Scott's letter to Murray—Editorship of Quarterly offered to Lockhart—Murray's letter to Sir W. Scott—Mr. Lockhart accepts the editorship of the Quarterly—Disraeli's activity in promoting the Representative—His letters to Murray—Premises taken—Arrangements for foreign correspondence—Letters to Mr. Maas—Engagement of Mr. Watts and Mr. S.C. Hall—Mr. Disraeli ceases to take part in the undertaking—Publication of the Representative—Dr. Maginn—Failure of the Representative—Effect of the strain on Murray's health—Letters from friends—The financial crisis—Failure of Constable and Ballantyne—The end of the Representative—Coolness between Murray and Mr. D'Israeli



The editorship of the Quarterly—Mr. Lockhart appointed—Letter from Sir W. Scott, giving his opinion of Lockhart's abilities and character—Letters from Mr. Lockhart—Mr. Croker's article on "Paroles d'un Croyant"—Charles Butler—Blanco White—Controversies, etc.—Wordsworth's Works—Letter from Mr. Lockhart—Renewed intercourse between Murray and Constable



South American speculation—Captain Head, R.E.—His rapid rides across the Pampas—His return home and publication of his work—Results of his mission—Mr. Disraeli and Mr. Powles—Letter from Mr. B. Disraeli—Irving's "Life of Columbus"—His agent, Col. Aspinwall—Letter of warning from Mr. Sharon Turner—Southey's opinion—"The Conquest of Granada"—Lockhart's and Croker's opinions—The financial result of their publication—Correspondence between Irving and Murray—"Tales of the Alhambra"—Murray's subsequent lawsuit with Bonn about the copyrights—Review of Hallam's "Constitutional History" in the Quarterly—Mr. Hallam's remonstrance—Letter from Murray—Letter from Mr. Mitchell—Southey's discontent—Sir W. Scott and Lockhart—Scott's articles for the Quarterly—Sir H. Davy's "Salmonia"—Anecdote of Lord Nelson—The Duke of Wellington—Murray's offer to Scott for a History of Scotland—Sale of Sir W. Scott's copyrights—Murray's offer for "Tales of a Grandfather"—Scott's reply—Scott's closing years—Murray's resignation of his one-fourth share of "Marmion"—Scott's last contributions to the Quarterly—His death—Mr. John Murray's account of the Theatrical Fund Dinner



Napier's "History of the Peninsular War"—Origin of the work—Col. Napier's correspondence with Murray—Publication of Vol. I.—Controversy aroused by it—Murray ceases to publish the work—His letter to the Morning Chronicle—The Duke of Wellington's Despatches—Croker's edition of "Boswell's Johnson"—Correspondence with Croker, Lockhart, etc.—Publication of the book—Its value—Letter from Mrs. Shelley—Mr. Henry Taylor's "Isaac Comnenus"—"Philip van Artevelde"—"The Family Library" and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge—The progress of "The Family Library"—Milman's "History of the Jews"—Controversy aroused by it—Opinion of the Jews



Murray purchases the remainder of Byron's Poems—Leigh Hunt's "Recollections"—Moore selected as the biographer of Byron—Collection of Letters and Papers—Lockhart and Scott's opinion of the work—Publication of the first volume of Byron's "Life"—Mrs. Shelley's letter—Publication of the second volume—Letters from Mrs. Somerville and Croker—Capt. Medwin's Conversations—Pecuniary results of Lord Byron's "Life"—Reviews of Moore's works in the Quarterly—Moore on Editors—Complete edition of "Byron's Works"—Letters from Countess Guiccioli and Sir R. Peel—Thorwaldsen's statue of Lord Byron—Refused at Westminster Abbey, but erected in Trinity College Library, Cambridge




The publishing house of Murray dates from the year 1768, in which year John MacMurray, a lieutenant of Marines, having retired from the service on half-pay, purchased the bookselling business of William Sandby, at the sign of the "Ship," No. 32, Fleet Street, opposite St. Dunstan's Church.

John MacMurray was descended from the Murrays of Athol. His uncle, Colonel Murray, was "out" in the rising of 1715, under the Earl of Mar, served under the Marquis of Tullibardine, the son of his chief, the Duke of Athol, and led a regiment in the abortive fight of Sheriffmuir. After the rebellion Colonel Murray retired to France, where he served under the exiled Duke of Ormonde, who had attached himself to the Stuart Court.

The Colonel's brother Robert followed a safer course. He prefixed the "Mac" to his name; settled in Edinburgh; adopted the law as a profession, and became a Writer to the Signet. He had a family of three daughters, Catherine, Robina, and Mary Anne; and two sons, Andrew and John.

John, the younger of Robert MacMurray's sons, was born at Edinburgh in 1745. After receiving a good general education, he entered the Royal Marines under the special patronage of Sir George Yonge, Bart., [Footnote: Sir George Yonge was Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, and subsequently Secretary at War; he died in 1812.] a well-known official of the last century, and his commission as second lieutenant was dated June 24, 1762. Peace was signed at the treaty of Paris in 1763, and young MacMurray found himself quartered at Chatham, where the monotony of the life to a young man of an active and energetic temperament became almost intolerable. He determined therefore to retire on half-pay at the age of twenty-three, and become a London bookseller!

It is not improbable that he was induced to embark on his proposed enterprise by his recent marriage with Nancy Wemyss, daughter of Captain Wemyss, then residing at Brompton, near Chatham.

While residing at Chatham, MacMurray renewed his acquaintance with William Falconer, the poet, and author of "The Shipwreck," who, like himself, was a native of Edinburgh.

To this friend, who was then on the eve of sailing to India, he wrote:

BROMPTON, KENT, October 16, 1768.


Since I saw you, I have had the intention of embarking in a scheme that I think will prove successful, and in the progress of which I had an eye towards your participating. Mr. Sandby, Bookseller, opposite St. Dunstan's Church, Fleet Street, has entered into company with Snow and Denne, Bankers. I was introduced to this gentleman about a week ago, upon an advantageous offer of succeeding him in his old business; which, by the advice of my friends, I propose to accept. Now, although I have little reason to fear success by myself in this undertaking, yet I think so many additional advantages would accrue to us both, were your forces and mine joined, that I cannot help mentioning it to you, and making you the offer of entering into company.

He resigns to me the lease of the house, the goodwill, etc.; and I only take his bound stock, and fixtures, at a fair appraisement, which will not amount to much beyond L400, and which, if ever I mean to part with, cannot fail to bring in nearly the same sum. The shop has been long established in the Trade; it retains a good many old customers; and I am to be ushered immediately into public notice by the sale of a new edition of "Lord Lyttelton's Dialogues"; and afterwards by a like edition of his "History." These Works I shall sell by commission, upon a certain profit, without risque; and Mr. Sandby has promised to continue to me, always, his good offices and recommendations.

These are the general outlines; and if you entertain a notion that the conjunction will suit you, advise me, and you shall be assumed upon equal terms; for I write to you before the affair is finally settled; not that I shall refuse it if you don't concur (for I am determined on the trial by myself); but that I think it will turn out better were we joined; and this consideration alone prompts me to write to you. Many Blockheads in the Trade are making fortunes; and did we not succeed as well as they, I think it must be imputed only to ourselves. Make Mrs. McMurray's compliments and mine to Mrs. Falconer; we hope she has reaped much benefit from the saltwater bath. Consider what I have proposed; and send me your answer soon. Be assured in the meantime, that I remain, Dear Sir,

Your affectionate and humble servant,


P.S.—My advisers and directors in this affair have been Thomas Cumming, Esq., Mr. Archibald Paxton, Mr. James Paterson of Essex House, and Messrs. J. and W. Richardson, Printers. These, after deliberate reflection, have unanimously thought that I should accept Mr. Sandby's offer.

Falconer's answer to this letter has not been preserved. It did not delay his departure from Dover in the Aurora frigate. The vessel touched at the Cape; set sail again, and was never afterwards heard of. It is supposed that she was either burnt at sea, or driven northward by a storm and wrecked on the Madagascar coast. Falconer intended to have prefixed some complimentary lines to Mr. Murray to the third edition of "The Shipwreck," but they were omitted in the hurry of leaving London and England for India.

Notwithstanding the failure of MacMurray to obtain the aid of Falconer in his partnership, he completed alone his contract with Mr. Sandby. His father at Edinburgh supplied him with the necessary capital, and he began the bookselling business in November 1768. He dropped the prefix "Mac" from his surname; put a ship in full sail at the head of his invoices; and announced himself to the public in the following terms:

"John Murray (successor to Mr. Sandby), Bookseller and Stationer, at No. 32, over against St. Dunstan's Church, in Fleet Street, London, sells all new Books and Publications. Fits up Public or Private Libraries in the neatest manner with Books of the choicest Editions, the best Print, and the richest Bindings. Also, executes East India or foreign Commissions by an assortment of Books and Stationary suited to the Market or Purpose for which it is destined; all at the most reasonable rates."

Among the first books he issued were new editions of Lord Lyttelton's "Dialogues of the Dead," and of his "History of King Henry the Second," in stately quarto volumes, as well as of Walpole's "Castle of Otranto." He was well supported by his friends, and especially by his old brother officers, and we find many letters from all parts of the world requesting him to send consignments of books and magazines, the choice of which was, in many cases, left entirely to his own discretion. In 1769 he received a letter from General Sir Robert Gordon, then in India, who informed him that he had recommended him to many of his comrades.

Sir R. Gordon to John Murray.

"Brigadier-General Wedderburn has not forgotten his old school-fellow, J. McMurray. Send me British news, and inform me of all political and other affairs at home." [He also added that Colonel Mackenzie, another old friend, is to be his patron.] "I hope," says Sir E. Gordon, in another letter, "that you find more profit and pleasure from your new employment than from that of the sword, which latter, you may remember, I endeavoured to dissuade you from returning to; but a little trial, and some further experience, at your time of life, cannot hurt you.... My best compliments to Mrs. Murray, who I suppose will not be sorry for your laying aside the wild Highland 'Mac' as unfashionable and even dangerous in the circuit of Wilkes's mob; but that, I am convinced, was your smallest consideration."

The nature of Mr. Murray's business, and especially his consignments to distant lands, rendered it necessary for him to give long credit, while the expense and the risk of bringing out new books added a fresh strain on his resources. In these circumstances, he felt the need of fresh capital, and applied to his friend Mr. William Kerr, Surveyor of the General Post Office for Scotland, for a loan. Mr. Kerr responded in a kindly letter. Though he could not lend much at the time, he sent Mr. Murray L150, "lest he might be prejudiced for want of it," and added a letter of kind and homely advice.

In order to extend his business to better advantage, Mr. Murray endeavoured to form connections with booksellers in Scotland and Ireland. In the first of these countries, as the sequel will show, the firm established permanent and important alliances. To push the trade in Ireland he employed Thomas Cumming, a Quaker mentioned in Boswell's "Life of Johnson," who had been one of his advisers as to the purchase of Mr. Sandby's business.

Mr. T. Gumming to John Murray.

"On receipt of thine I constantly applied to Alderman Faulkener, and showed him the first Fable of Florian, but he told me that he would not give a shilling for any original copy whatever, as there is no law or even custom to secure any property in books in this kingdom [Ireland]. From him, I went directly to Smith and afterwards to Bradley, etc. They all gave me the same answer.... Sorry, and very sorry I am, that I cannot send a better account of the first commission thou hast favoured me with here. Thou may'st believe that I set about it with a perfect zeal, not lessened from the consideration of the troubles thou hast on my account, and the favours I so constantly receive from thee; nor certainly that my good friend Dr. Langhorne was not altogether out of the question. None of the trade here will transport books at their own risque. This is not a reading, but a hard-drinking city; 200 or 250 are as many as a bookseller, except it be an extraordinary work indeed, ever throws off at an impression."

Mr. Murray not only published the works of others, but became an author himself. He wrote two letters in the Morning Chronicle in defence of his old friend Colonel (afterwards Sir) Robert Gordon, who had been censured for putting an officer under arrest during the siege of Broach, in which Gordon had led the attack. The Colonel's brother, Gordon of Gordonstown, wrote to Murray, saying, "Whether you succeed or not, your two letters are admirably written; and you have obtained great merit and reputation for the gallant stand you have made for your friend." The Colonel himself wrote (August 20,1774): "I cannot sufficiently thank you, my dear sir, for the extraordinary zeal, activity, and warmth of friendship, with which you so strenuously supported and defended my cause, and my honour as a soldier, when attacked so injuriously by Colonel Stuart, especially when he was so powerfully supported."

Up to this time Mr. Murray's success had been very moderate. He had brought out some successful works; but money came in slowly, and his chief difficulty was the want of capital. He was therefore under the necessity of refusing to publish works which might have done something to establish his reputation.

At this juncture, i.e. in 1771, an uncle died leaving a fortune of L17,000, of which Mr. Murray was entitled to a fourth share. On the strength of this, his friend Mr. Kerr advanced to him a further sum of L500. The additional capital was put into the business, but even then his prosperity did not advance with rapid strides; and in 1777 we find him writing to his friend Mr. Richardson at Oxford.

John Murray to Mr. Richardson.


I am fatigued from morning till night about twopenny matters, if any of which is forgotten I am complained of as a man who minds not his business. I pray heaven for a lazy and lucrative office, and then I shall with alacrity turn my shop out of the window.

A curious controversy occurred in 1778 between Mr. Mason, executor of Thomas Gray the poet, and Mr. Murray, who had published a "Poetical Miscellany," in which were quoted fifty lines from three passages in Gray's works.

Mr. Murray wrote a pamphlet in his own defence, and the incident is mentioned in the following passage from Boswell's "Life":

"Somebody mentioned the Rev. Mr. Mason's prosecution of Mr. Murray, the bookseller, for having inserted in a collection only fifty lines of Gray's Poems, of which Mr. Mason had still the exclusive property, under the Statute of Queen Anne; and that Mr. Mason had persevered, notwithstanding his being requested to name his own terms of compensation. Johnson signified his displeasure at Mr. Mason's conduct very strongly; but added, by way of showing that he was not surprised at it, 'Mason's a Whig.' Mrs. Knowles (not hearing distinctly): 'What! a prig, Sir?' Johnson: 'Worse, Madam; a Whig! But he is both!'"

Mr. Murray had considerable intercourse with the publishers of Edinburgh, among the chief of whom were Messrs. Creech & Elliot, and by their influence he soon established a connection with the professors of Edinburgh University. Creech, who succeeded Mr. Kincaid in his business in 1773, occupied a shop in the Luckenbooths, facing down the High Street, and commanding a prospect of Aberlady Bay and the north coast of Haddingtonshire. Being situated near the Parliament House—the centre of literary and antiquarian loungers, as well as lawyers—Creech's place of business was much frequented by the gossipers, and was known as Creech's Levee. Creech himself, dressed in black-silk breeches, with powdered hair and full of humorous talk, was one of the most conspicuous members of the group. He was also an author, though this was the least of his merits. He was an appreciative patron of literature, and gave large sums for the best books of the day.

Mr. Elliot, whose place of business was in the Parliament Close, and whose daughter subsequently married Mr. Murray's son the subject of this biography, was a publisher of medical and surgical works, and Mr. Murray was his agent for the sale of these in London. We find from Mr. Elliot's letters that he was accustomed to send his parcels of books to London by the Leith fleet, accompanied by an armed convoy. In June 1780 he wrote: "As the fleet sails this evening, and the schooner carries 20 guns, I hope the parcel will be in London in four or five days"; and shortly afterwards: "I am sending you four parcels of books by the Carran, which mounts 22 guns, and sails with the Glasgow of 20 guns." The reason of the Edinburgh books being conveyed to London guarded by armed ships, was that war was then raging, and that Spain, France, and Holland were united against England. The American Colonies had also rebelled, and Paul Jones, holding their commission, was hovering along the East Coast with three small ships of war and an armed brigantine. It was therefore necessary to protect the goods passing between Leith and London by armed convoys. Sometimes the vessels on their return were quarantined for a time in Inverkeithing Bay.

The first Mrs. Murray died, leaving her husband childless, and he married again. By his second wife he had three sons and two daughters, two of the sons, born in 1779 and 1781 respectively, died in infancy, while the third, John, born in 1778, is the subject of this Memoir. In 1782 he writes to his friend the Rev. John Whitaker: "We have one son and daughter, the son above four years, and the daughter above two years, both healthy and good-natured."

In June 1782 Mr. Murray had a paralytic stroke, by which he, for a time, lost the use of his left side, and though he shortly recovered, and continued his work as before, he was aware of his dangerous position. To a friend going to Madeira in September 1791 he wrote: "Whether we shall ever meet again is a matter not easily determined. The stroke by which I suffered in 1782 is only suspended; it will be repeated, and I must fall in the contest."

In the meantime Mr. Murray made arrangements for the education of his son. He was first sent for a year to the High School of Edinburgh. While there he lived with Mr. Robert Kerr, author of several works on Chemistry and Natural History, published by Mr. Murray. Having passed a year in Edinburgh, the boy returned to London, and after a time was sent to a school at Margate. There he seems to have made some progress. To a friend Mr. Murray wrote: "He promises, I think, to write well, although his master complains a little of his indolence, which I am afraid he inherits from me. If he does not overcome it, it will overcome him." In a later letter he said: "The school is not the best, but the people are kind to him, and his health leaves no alternative. He writes a good hand, is fond of figures, and is coming forward both in Latin and French. Yet he inherits a spice of indolence, and is a little impatient in his temper. His appearance—open, modest, and manly—is much in his favour. He is grown a good deal, and left us for Margate (after his holiday) as happy as could be expected."

In the course of the following year Mr. Murray sent the boy to a well-known school at Gosport, kept by Dr. Burney, one of his old Mends. Burney was a native of the North of Ireland, and had originally been called MacBurney, but, like Murray, he dropped the Mac.

While at Dr. Burney's school, young Murray had the misfortune to lose the sight of his right eye. The writing-master was holding his penknife awkwardly in his hand, point downwards, and while the boy, who was showing up an exercise, stooped to pick up the book which had fallen, the blade ran into his eye and entirely destroyed the sight. To a friend about to proceed to Gosport, Mr. Murray wrote: "Poor John has met with a sad accident, which you will be too soon acquainted with when you reach Gosport. His mother is yet ignorant of it, and I dare not tell her."

Eventually the boy was brought to London for the purpose of ascertaining whether something might be done by an oculist for the restoration of his sight. But the cornea had been too deeply wounded; the fluid of the eye had escaped; nothing could be done for his relief, and he remained blind in that eye to the end of his life. [Footnote: Long afterwards Chantrey the sculptor, who had suffered a similar misfortune, exclaimed, "What! are you too a brother Cyclops?" but, as the narrator of the story used to add, Mr. Murray could see better with one eye than most people with two.] His father withdrew him from Dr. Burney's school, and sent him in July 1793 to the Rev. Dr. Roberts, at Loughborough House, Kennington. In committing him to the schoolmaster's charge, Mr. Murray sent the following introduction:

"Agreeable to my promise, I commit to you the charge of my son, and, as I mentioned to you in person, I agree to the terms of fifty guineas. The youth has been hitherto well spoken of by the gentleman he has been under. You will find him sensible and candid in the information you may want from him; and if you are kind enough to bestow pains upon him, the obligation on my part will be lasting. The branches to be learnt are these: Latin, French, Arithmetic, Mercantile Accounts, Elocution, History, Geography, Geometry, Astronomy, the Globes, Mathematics, Philosophy, Dancing, and Martial Exercise."

Certainly, a goodly array of learning, knowledge, and physical training!

To return to the history of Mr. Murray's publications. Some of his best books were published after the stroke of paralysis which he had sustained, and among them must be mentioned Mitford's "History of Greece," Lavater's work on Physiognomy, and the first instalment of Isaac D'Israeli's "Curiosities of Literature."

The following extract from a letter to the Rev. Mr. Whitaker, dated December 20, 1784, takes us back to an earlier age.

"Poor Dr. Johnson's remains passed my door for interment this afternoon. They were accompanied by thirteen mourning coaches with four horses each; and after these a cavalcade of the carriages of his friends. He was about to be buried in Westminster Abbey."

In the same year the Rev. Alexander Fraser of Kirkhill, near Inverness, communicated to Mr. Murray his intention of publishing the Memoirs of Lord Lovat, the head of his clan. Mr. Eraser's father had received the Memoirs in manuscript from Lord Lovat, with an injunction to publish them after his death. "My father," he said, "had occasion to see his Lordship a few nights before his execution, when he again enjoined him to publish the Memoirs." General Fraser, a prisoner in the Castle of Edinburgh, had requested, for certain reasons, that the publication should be postponed; but the reasons no longer existed, and the Memoirs were soon after published by Mr. Murray, but did not meet with any success.

The distressed state of trade and the consequent anxieties of conducting his business hastened Mr. Murray's end. On November 6, 1793, Samuel Highley, his principal assistant, wrote to a correspondent: "Mr. Murray died this day after a long and painful illness, and appointed as executors Dr. G.A. Paxton, Mrs. Murray, and Samuel Highley. The business hereafter will be conducted by Mrs. Murray." The Rev. Donald Grant, D.D., and George Noble, Esq., were also executors, but the latter did not act.

The income of the property was divided as follows: one half to the education and maintenance of Mr. Murray's three children, and the other half to his wife so long as she remained a widow. But in the event of her marrying again, her share was to be reduced by one-third and her executorship was to cease.

John Murray began his publishing career at the age of twenty-three. He was twenty-five years in business, and he died at the comparatively early age of forty-eight. That publishing books is not always a money-making business may be inferred from the fact that during these twenty-five years he did not, with all his industry, double his capital.



John Murray the Second—the "Anax of Publishers," according to Lord Byron—was born on November 27, 1778. He was his father's only surviving son by his second marriage, and being only fifteen at his father's death, was too young to enter upon the business of the firm, which was carried on by Samuel Highley—the "faithful shopman" mentioned in the elder Murray's will—for the benefit of his widow and family. What his father thought of him, of his health, spirits, and good nature, will have been seen from the preceding chapter.

Young Murray returned to school, and remained there for about two years longer, until the marriage of his mother to Lieutenant Henry Paget, of the West Norfolk Militia, on September 28, 1795, when he returned to 32, Meet Street, to take part in the business. Mrs. Paget ceased to be an executor, retired from Fleet Street, and went to live at Bridgenorth with her husband, taking her two daughters—Jane and Mary Anne Murray—to live with her, and receiving from time to time the money necessary for their education.

The executors secured the tenancy of No. 32, Fleet Street, part of the stock and part of the copyrights, for the firm of Murray & Highley, between whom a partnership was concluded in 1795, though Murray was still a minor. In the circumstances Mr. Highley of course took the principal share of the management, but though a very respectable person, he was not much of a business man, and being possessed by an almost morbid fear of running any risks, he brought out no new works, took no share in the new books that were published, and it is doubtful whether he looked very sharply after the copyrights belonging to the firm. He was mainly occupied in selling books brought out by other publishers.

The late Mr. Murray had many good friends in India, who continued to send home their orders to the new firm of Murray & Highley. Amongst them were Warren Hastings and Joseph Hume. Hume had taken out with him an assortment of books from the late Mr. Murray, which had proved very useful; and he wrote to Murray and Highley for more. Indeed, he became a regular customer for books.

Meanwhile Murray fretted very much under the careless and indifferent management of Highley. The executors did not like to be troubled with his differences with his partner, and paid very little attention to him or his affairs. Since his mother's remarriage and removal to Bridgenorth, the young man had literally no one to advise with, and was compelled to buffet with the troubles and difficulties of life alone. Though inexperienced, he had, however, spirit and common sense enough to see that he had but little help to expect from his partner, and the difficulties of his position no doubt contributed to draw forth and develop his own mental energy. He was not a finished scholar, but had acquired a thorough love of knowledge and literature, and a keen perception of the beauties of our great English classics. By acquiring and cultivating a purity of taste, he laid the foundations of that quick discrimination which, combined with his rapidly growing knowledge of men and authors, rendered him afterwards so useful, and even powerful, in the pursuit of his profession.

Mr. Murray came of age on November 27, 1799; but he was prudent enough to continue with Highley for a few years longer. After four years more, he determined to set himself free to follow his own course, and the innumerable alterations and erasures in his own rough draft of the following letter testify to the pains and care which he bestowed on this momentous step.

John Murray to Mr. Highley.

GREAT QUEEN STREET, Friday, November 19, 1802.


I propose to you that our partnership should be dissolved on the twenty-fifth day of March next:

That the disposal of the lease of the house and every other matter of difference that may arise respecting our dissolution shall be determined by arbitrators—each of us to choose one—and that so chosen they shall appoint a third person as umpire whom they may mutually agree upon previous to their entering upon the business:

I am willing to sign a bond to this effect immediately, and I think that I shall be able to determine my arbitrator some day next week.

As I know this proposal to be as fair as one man could make to another in a like situation, and in order to prevent unpleasant altercation or unnecessary discussion, I declare it to be the last with which I intend to trouble you.

I take this opportunity of saying that, however much we may differ upon matters of business, I most sincerely wish you well.


In the end they agreed to draw lots for the house, and Murray had the good fortune to remain at No. 32, Fleet Street. Mr. Highley removed to No. 24 in the same street, and took with him, by agreement, the principal part of the medical works of the firm. Mr. Murray now started on his own account, and began a career of publication almost unrivalled in the history of letters.

Before the dissolution of partnership, Mr. Murray had seen the first representation of Column's Comedy of "John Bull" at Covent Garden Theatre, and was so fascinated by its "union of wit, sentiment, and humour," that the day after its representation he wrote to Mr. Colman, and offered him L300 for the copyright. No doubt Mr. Highley would have thought this a rash proceeding.

John Murray to Mr. Colman.

"The truth is that during my minority I have been shackled to a drone of a partner; but the day of emancipation is at hand. On the twenty-fifth of this month [March 1803] I plunge alone into the depths of literary speculation. I am therefore honestly ambitious that my first appearance before the public should be such as will at once stamp my character and respectability. On this account, therefore, I think that your Play would be more advantageous to me than to any other bookseller; and as 'I am not covetous of Gold,' I should hope that no trifling consideration will be allowed to prevent my having the honour of being Mr. Colman's publisher. You see, sir, that I am endeavouring to interest your feelings, both as a Poet and as a Man."

Mr. Colman replied in a pleasant letter, thanking Mr. Murray for his liberal offer. The copyright, however, had been sold to the proprietor of the theatre, and Mr. Murray was disappointed in this, his first independent venture in business.

The times were very bad. Money was difficult to be had on any terms, and Mr. Murray had a hard task to call in the money due to Murray & Highley, as well as to collect the sums due to himself.

Mr. Joseph Hume, not yet the scrupulous financier which he grew to be, among others, was not very prompt in settling his accounts; and Mr. Murray wrote to him, on July 11, 1804:

"On the other side is a list of books (amount L92 8s. 6d.), containing all those for which you did me the favour to write: and I trust that they will reach you safely.... If in future you could so arrange that my account should be paid by some house in town within six months after the goods are shipped, I shall be perfectly satisfied, and shall execute your orders with much more despatch and pleasure. I mention this, not from any apprehension of not being paid, but because my circumstances will not permit me to give so large an extent of credit. It affords me great pleasure to hear of your advancement; and I trust that your health will enable you to enjoy all the success to which your talents entitle you."

He was, for the same reason, under the necessity of declining to publish several new works offered to him, especially those dealing with medical and poetical subjects.

Mr. Archibald Constable of Edinburgh, and Messrs. Bell & Bradfute, Mr. Murray's agents in Edinburgh, were also communicated with as to the settlement of their accounts with Murray & Highley. "I expected," he said, "to have been able to pay my respects to you both this summer [1803], but my military duties, and the serious aspect of the times, oblige me to remain at home." It was the time of a patriotic volunteer movement, and Mr. Murray was enrolled as an ensign in the 3rd Regiment of Royal London Volunteers.

It cannot now be ascertained what was the origin of the acquaintance between the D'Israeli and Murray families, but it was of old standing. The first John Murray published the first volumes of Isaac D'Israeli's "Curiosities of Literature" (1791), and though no correspondence between them has been preserved, we find frequent mention of the founder of the house in Isaac D'Israeli's letters to John Murray the Second. His experiences are held up for his son's guidance, as for example, when Isaac, urging the young publisher to support some petition to the East India Company, writes, "It was a ground your father trod, and I suppose that connection cannot do you any harm"; or again, when dissuading him from undertaking some work submitted to him, "You can mention to Mr. Harley the fate of Professor Musaeus' 'Popular Tales,' which never sold, and how much your father was disappointed." On another occasion we find D'Israeli, in 1809, inviting his publisher to pay a visit to a yet older generation, "to my father, who will be very glad to see you at Margate."

Besides the "Curiosities of Literature," and "Flim-Flams," the last a volume not mentioned by Lord Beaconsfield in the "Life" of his father prefixed to the 1865 edition of the "Curiosities of Literature," Mr. D'Israeli published through Murray, in 1803, a small volume of "Narrative Poems" in 4to. They consisted of "An Ode to his Favourite Critic"; "The Carder and the Currier, a Story of Amorous Florence"; "Cominge, a Story of La Trappe"; and "A Tale addressed to a Sybarite." The verses in these poems run smoothly, but they contain no wit, no poetry, nor even any story. They were never reprinted.

The following letter is of especial interest, as fixing the date of an event which has given rise to much discussion—the birth of Benjamin Disraeli.

Mr. Isaac D'Israeli to John Murray.

December 22, 1804. [Footnote: Mr. D'Israeli was living at this time in King's Road (now 1, John Street), Bedford Row, in a corner house overlooking Gray's Inn Gardens.]


Mrs. D'Israeli will receive particular gratification from the interesting note you have sent us on the birth of our boy—when she shall have read it. In the meanwhile accept my thanks, and my best compliments to your sister. The mother and infant are both doing well.

Ever yours.

I. D'I.

Some extracts from their correspondence will afford an insight into the nature of the friendship and business relations which existed between Isaac D'Israeli and his young publisher as well as into the characters of the two men themselves.

From a letter dated Brighton, August 5, 1805, from Mr. D'Israeli to John Murray:

"Your letter is one of the repeated specimens I have seen of your happy art of giving interest even to commonplace correspondence, and I, who am so feelingly alive to the 'pains and penalties' of postage, must acknowledge that such letters, ten times repeated, would please me as often.

We should have been very happy to see you here, provided it occasioned no intermission in your more serious occupations, and could have added to your amusements.

With respect to the projected 'Institute,' [Footnote: This was a work at one time projected by Mr. Murray, but other more pressing literary arrangements prevented the scheme being carried into effect.] if that title be English—doubtless the times are highly favourable to patronize a work skilfully executed, whose periodical pages would be at once useful information, and delightful for elegant composition, embellished by plates, such as have never yet been given, both for their subjects and their execution. Literature is a perpetual source opened to us; but the Fine Arts present an unploughed field, and an originality of character ... But Money, Money must not be spared in respect to rich, beautiful, and interesting Engravings. On this I have something to communicate. Encourage Dagley, [Footnote: The engraver of the frontispiece of "Flim-Flams."] whose busts of Seneca and Scarron are pleasingly executed; but you will also want artists of name. I have a friend, extremely attached to literature and the fine arts, a gentleman of opulent fortune; by what passed with him in conversation, I have reason to believe that he would be ready to assist by money to a considerable extent. Would that suit you? How would you arrange with him? Would you like to divide your work in Shares? He is an intimate friend of West's, and himself too an ingenious writer.

How came you to advertise 'Domestic Anecdotes'? Kearsley printed 1,250 copies. I desire that no notice of the authors of that work may be known from your side.

* * * * *

At this moment I receive your packet of poems, and Shee's letter. I perceive that he is impressed by your attentions and your ability. It will always afford me one of my best pleasures to forward your views; I claim no merit from this, but my discernment in discovering your talents, which, under the genius of Prudence (the best of all Genii for human affairs), must inevitably reach the goal. The literary productions of I.D['Israeli] and others may not augment the profits oL your trade in any considerable degree; but to get the talents of such writers at your command is a prime object, and others will follow.

I had various conversations with Phillips [Footnote: Sir Richard Phillips, bookseller. This is the publisher whose book on philosophy George Borrow was set to translate into German, and who recommended him to produce something in the style of "The Dairyman's Daughter"!] here; he is equally active, but more wise. He owns his belles-lettres books have given no great profits; in my opinion he must have lost even by some. But he makes a fortune by juvenile and useful compilations. You know I always told you he wanted literary taste—like an atheist, who is usually a disappointed man, he thinks all belles lettres are nonsense, and denies the existence of taste; but it exists! and I flatter myself you will profit under that divinity. I have much to say on this subject and on him when we meet.

At length I have got through your poetry: it has been a weary task! The writer has a good deal of fire, but it is rarely a very bright flame. Here and there we see it just blaze, and then sink into mediocrity. He is too redundant and tiresome.... 'Tis a great disadvantage to read them in MS., as one cannot readily turn to passages; but life is too short to be peeping into other peoples' MSS. I prefer your prose to your verse. Let me know if you receive it safely, and pray give no notion to any one that I have seen the MS."

Mr. D'Israeli to John Murray.

"It is a most disagreeable office to give opinions on MSS.; one reads them at a moment when one has other things in one's head—then one is obliged to fatigue the brain with thinking; but if I can occasionally hinder you from publishing nugatory works, I do not grudge the pains. At the same time I surely need not add, how very confidential such communications ought to be."

Mr. I. D'Israeli to John Murray.

I am delighted by your apology for not having called on me after I had taken my leave of you the day before; but you can make an unnecessary apology as agreeable as any other act of kindness....

You are sanguine in your hope of a good sale of "Curiosities," it will afford us a mutual gratification; but when you consider it is not a new work, though considerably improved I confess, and that those kinds of works cannot boast of so much novelty as they did about ten years ago, I am somewhat more moderate in my hopes.

What you tell me of F.F. from Symond's, is new to me. I sometimes throw out in the shop remote hints about the sale of books, all the while meaning only mine; but they have no skill in construing the timid wishes of a modest author; they are not aware of his suppressed sighs, nor see the blushes of hope and fear tingling his cheek; they are provokingly silent, and petrify the imagination....

Believe me, with the truest regard,

Yours ever,


Mr. D'Israeli to John Murray. Saturday, May 31, 1806. KING'S ROAD.


It is my wish to see you for five minutes this day, but as you must be much engaged, and I am likely to be prevented reaching you this morning, I shall only trouble you with a line.

Most warmly I must impress on your mind the necessity of taking the advice of a physician. Who? You know many. We have heard extraordinary accounts of Dr. Baillie, and that (what is more extraordinary) he is not mercenary....

I have written this to impress on your mind this point. Seeing you as we see you, and your friend at a fault, how to decide, and you without some relative or domestic friend about you, gives Mrs. D'I. and myself very serious concerns—for you know we do take the warmest interest in your welfare—and your talents and industry want nothing but health to make you yet what it has always been one of my most gratifying hopes to conceive of you.

Yours very affectionately,


A circumstance, not without influence on Murray's future, occurred about this time with respect to the "Miniature," a volume of comparatively small importance, consisting of essays written by boys at Eton, and originally published at Windsor by Charles Knight. Through Dr. Kennell, Master of the Temple, his friend and neighbour, who lived close at hand, Murray became acquainted with the younger Kennell, Mr. Stratford Canning, Gally Knight, the two sons of the Marquis Wellesley, and other young Etonians, who had originated and conducted this School magazine. Thirty-four numbers appeared in the course of a year, and were then brought out in a volume by Mr. Knight at the expense of the authors. The transaction had involved them in debt. "Whatever chance of success our hopes may dictate," wrote Stratford Canning, "yet our apprehensions teach us to tremble at the possibility of additional expenses," and the sheets lay unsold on the bookseller's hands. Mr. Murray, who was consulted about the matter, said to Dr. Rennell, "Tell them to send the unsold sheets to me, and I will pay the debt due to the printer." The whole of the unsold sheets were sent by the "Windsor Waggon" to Mr. Murray's at Fleet Street. He made waste-paper of the whole bundle—there were 6,376 numbers in all,—brought out a new edition of 750 copies, printed in good type, and neatly bound, and announced to Stratford Canning that he did this at his own cost and risk, and would make over to the above Etonians half the profits of the work. The young authors were highly pleased by this arrangement, and Stratford Canning wrote to Murray (October 20, 1805): "We cannot sufficiently thank you for your kind attention to our concerns, and only hope that the success of the embryo edition may be equal to your care." How great was the importance of the venture in his eyes may be judged from the naive allusion with which he proceeds: "It will be a week or two before we commit it to the press, for amidst our other occupations the business of the school must not be neglected, and that by itself is no trivial employment."

By means of this transaction Murray had the sagacity to anticipate an opportunity of making friends of Canning and Frere, who were never tired of eulogizing the spirit and enterprise of the young Fleet Street publisher. Stratford Canning introduced him to his cousin George, the great minister, whose friendship and support had a very considerable influence in promoting and establishing his future prosperity. It is scarcely necessary to add that the new edition of the "Miniature" speedily became waste paper.



The most important publishing firm with which Mr. Murray was connected at the outset of his career was that of Archibald Constable & Co., of Edinburgh. This connection had a considerable influence upon Murray's future fortunes.

Constable, who was about four years older than Murray, was a man of great ability, full of spirit and enterprise. He was by nature generous, liberal, and far-seeing. The high prices which he gave for the best kind of literary work drew the best authors round him, and he raised the publishing trade of Scotland to a height that it had never before reached, and made Edinburgh a great centre of learning and literature.

In 1800 he commenced the Farmer's Magazine, and in the following year acquired the property of the Scots Magazine, a venerable repertory of literary, historical, and antiquarian matter; but it was not until the establishment of the Edinburgh Review, in October 1802, that Constable's name became a power in the publishing world.

In the year following the first issue of the Review, Constable took into partnership Alexander Gibson Hunter, eldest son of David Hunter, of Blackness, a Forfarshire laird. The new partner brought a considerable amount of capital into the firm, at a time when capital was greatly needed in that growing concern. His duties were to take charge of the ledger and account department, though he never took much interest in his work, but preferred to call in the help of a clever arithmetical clerk.

It is unnecessary to speak of the foundation of the Edinburgh Review. It appeared at the right time, and was mainly supported by the talents of Jeffrey, Brougham, Sydney Smith, Francis Horner, Dr. Thomas Brown, Lord Murray, and other distinguished writers. The first number immediately attracted public attention. Mr. Joseph Mawman was the London agent, but some dissatisfaction having arisen with respect to his management, the London sale was transferred to the Messrs. Longman, with one half share in the property of the work.

During the partnership of Murray and Highley, they had occasional business transactions with Constable of Edinburgh. Shortly after the partnership was dissolved in March 1803, Murray wrote as follows to Mr. Constable:

April 25, 1803.

"I have several works in the press which I should be willing to consign to your management in Edinburgh, but that I presume you have already sufficient business upon your hands, and that you would not find mine worth attending to. If so, I wish that you would tell me of some vigorous young bookseller, like myself, just starting into business, upon whose probity, punctuality, and exertion you think I might rely, and I would instantly open a correspondence with him; and in return it will give me much pleasure to do any civil office for you in London. I should be happy if any arrangement could be made wherein we might prove of reciprocal advantage; and were you from your superabundance to pick me out any work of merit of which you would either make me the publisher in London, or in which you would allow me to become a partner, I dare say the occasion would arise wherein I could return the compliment, and you would have the satisfaction of knowing that your book was in the hands of one who has not yet so much business as to cause him to neglect any part of it."

Mr. Constable's answer was favourable. In October 1804 Mr. Murray, at the instance of Constable, took as his apprentice Charles Hunter, the younger brother of A. Gibson Hunter, Constable's partner. The apprenticeship was to be for four or seven years, at the option of Charles Hunter. These negotiations between the firms, and their increasing interchange of books, showed that they were gradually drawing nearer to each other, until their correspondence became quite friendly and even intimate. Walter Scott was now making his appearance as an author; Constable had published his "Sir Tristram" in May 1804, and his "Lay of the Last Minstrel" in January 1805. Large numbers of these works were forwarded to London and sold by Mr. Murray.

At the end of 1805 differences arose between the Constable and Longman firms as to the periodical works in which they were interested. The editor and proprietors of the Edinburgh Review were of opinion that the interest of the Longmans in two other works of a similar character—the Annual Review and the Eclectic—tended to lessen their exertions on behalf of the Edinburgh. It was a matter that might easily have been arranged; but the correspondents were men of hot tempers, and with pens in their hands, they sent stinging letters from London to Edinburgh, and from Edinburgh to London. Rees, Longman's partner, was as bitter in words on the one side as Hunter, Constable's partner, was on the other. At length a deadly breach took place, and it was resolved in Edinburgh that the publication of the Edinburgh Review should be transferred to John Murray, Fleet Street. Alexander Gibson Hunter, Constable's partner, wrote to Mr. Murray to tell of the rupture and to propose a closer alliance with him.

Mr. Murray replied:

_John Murray to Mr. A.G. Hunter.

December 7, 1805_.

"With regard to the important communication of your last letter, I confess the surprise with which I read it was not without some mixture of regret. The extensive connections betwixt your house and Longman's cannot be severed at once without mutual inconvenience, and perhaps mutual disadvantages, your share of which a more protracted dismemberment might have prevented. From what I had occasion to observe, I did not conceive that your concerns together would ever again move with a cordiality that would render them lasting; but still, I imagined that mutual interest and forbearance would allow them to subside into that indifference which, without animosity or mischief, would leave either party at liberty to enter upon such new arrangements as offered to their separate advantage. I do not, however, doubt but that all things have been properly considered, and perhaps finally settled for the best; but Time, the only arbitrator in these cases, must decide.

"In your proposed engagements with Mr. Davies, you will become better acquainted with a man of great natural talents, and thoroughly versed in business, which he regulates by the most honourable principles. As for myself, you will find me exceedingly assiduous in promoting your views, into which I shall enter with feelings higher than those of mere interest. Indeed, linked as our houses are at present, we have a natural tendency to mutual good understanding, which will both prevent and soften those asperities in business which might otherwise enlarge into disagreement. Country orders [referring to Constable & Co.'s 'general order'] are a branch of business which I have ever totally declined as incompatible with my more serious plans as a publisher. But your commissions I shall undertake with pleasure, and the punctuality with which I have attempted to execute your first order you will, I hope, consider as a specimen of my disposition to give you satisfaction in every transaction in which we may hereafter be mutually engaged."

It was a great chance for a young man entering life with a moderate amount of capital, to be virtually offered an intimate connection with one of the principal publishing houses of the day. It was one of those chances which, "taken at the flood, lead on to fortune," but there was also the question of honour, and Mr. Murray, notwithstanding his desire for opening out a splendid new connection in business, would do nothing inconsistent with the strictest honour. He was most unwilling to thrust himself in between Constable and Longman. Instead, therefore, of jumping at Constable's advantageous offer, his feelings induced him to promote a reconciliation between the parties; and he continued to enjoin forbearance on the part of both firms, so that they might carry on their business transactions as before. Copies of the correspondence between Constable and the Longmans were submitted to referees (Murray and Davies), and the following was Mr. Murray's reply, addressed to Messrs. Constable & Co.:

John Murray to Messrs. Constable & Co.

December 14, 1805.


Mr. Hunter's obliging letter to me arrived this morning. That which he enclosed with yours to his brother last night, Charles gave me to read. The contents were very flattering. Indeed, I cannot but agree with Mr. H. that his brother has displayed very honourable feelings, upon hearing of the probable separation of your house, and that of Messrs. Longman & Co. Mr. Longman was the first who mentioned this to him, and indeed from the manner in which Charles related his conversation upon the affair, I could not but feel renewed sensations of regret at the unpleasant termination of a correspondence, which, had it been conducted upon Mr. Longman's own feelings, would have borne, I think, a very different aspect. Longman spoke of you both with kindness, and mildly complained that he had perceived a want of confidence on your part, ever since his junction with Messrs. Hurst & Orme. He confessed that the correspondence was too harsh for him to support any longer; but, he added, "if we must part, let us part like friends." I am certain, from what Charles reported to me, that Mr. L. and I think Mr. R. [Rees] are hurt by this sudden disunion.

Recollect how serious every dispute becomes upon paper, when a man writes a thousand asperities merely to show or support his superior ability. Things that would not have been spoken, or perhaps even thought of in conversation, are stated and horribly magnified upon paper. Consider how many disputes have arisen in the world, in which both parties were so violent in what they believed to be the support of truth, and which to the public, and indeed to themselves a few years afterwards, appeared unwise, because the occasion or cause of it was not worth contending about. Consider that you are, all of you, men who can depend upon each other's probity and honour, and where these essentials are not wanting, surely in mere matters of business the rest may be palliated by mutual bearance and forbearance. Besides, you are so connected by various publications, your common property, and some of them such as will remain so until the termination of your lives, that you cannot effect an entire disunion, and must therefore be subject to eternal vexations and regrets which will embitter every transaction and settlement between you.

You know, moreover, that it is one of the misfortunes of our nature, that disputes are always the most bitter in proportion to former intimacy. And how much dissatisfaction will it occasion if either of you are desirous in a year or two of renewing that intimacy which you are now so anxious to dissolve—to say nothing of your relative utility to each other—a circumstance which is never properly estimated, except when the want of the means reminds us of what we have been at such pains to deprive ourselves. Pause, my dear sirs, whilst to choose be yet in your power; show yourselves superior to common prejudice, and by an immediate exercise of your acknowledged pre-eminence of intellect, suffer arrangements to be made for an accommodation and for a renewal of that connexion which has heretofore been productive of honour and profit. I am sure I have to apologize for having ventured to say so much to men so much my superiors in sense and knowledge of the world and their own interest; but sometimes the meanest bystander may perceive disadvantages in the movements of the most skilful players.

You will not, I am sure, attribute anything which I have said to an insensibility to the immediate advantages which will arise to myself from a determination opposite to that which I have taken the liberty of suggesting. It arises from a very different feeling. I should be very little worthy of your great confidence and attention to my interest upon this occasion, if I did not state freely the result of my humble consideration of this matter; and having done so, I do assure you that if the arrangements which you now propose are carried into effect, I will apply the most arduous attention to your interest, to which I will turn the channel of my own thoughts and business, which, I am proud to say, is rising in proportion to the industry and honourable principles which have been used in its establishment. I am every day adding to a most respectable circle of literary connexions, and I hope, a few months after the settlement of your present affairs, to offer shares to you of works in which you will feel it advantageous to engage. Besides, as I have at present no particular bias, no enormous works of my own which would need all my care, I am better qualified to attend to any that you may commit to my charge; and, being young, my business may be formed with a disposition, as it were, towards yours; and thus growing up with it, we are more likely to form a durable connexion than can be expected with persons whose views are imperceptibly but incessantly diverging from each other.

Should you be determined—irrevocably determined (but consider!) upon the disunion with Messrs. Longman, I will just observe that when persons have been intimate, they have discovered each other's vulnerable points; it therefore shows no great talent to direct at them shafts of resentment. It is easy both to write and to say ill-natured, harsh, and cutting things of each other. But remember that this power is mutual, and in proportion to the poignancy of the wound which you would inflict will be your own feelings when it is returned. It is therefore a maxim which I laid down soon after a separation which I had, never to say or do to my late colleague what he could say or do against me in return. I knew that I had the personal superiority, but what his own ingenuity could not suggest, others could write for him.

I must apologise again for having been so tedious, but I am sure that the same friendliness on your part which has produced these hasty but well-meant expostulations will excuse them. After this, I trust it is unnecessary for me to state with how much sincerity,

I am, dear sirs,

Your faithful friend,


Ten days after this letter was written, Mr. Murray sent a copy of it to Messrs. Longman & Co., and wrote:

John Murray to Messrs. Longman & Co,

December 24, 1805.


The enclosed letter will show that I am not ignorant that a misunderstanding prevails betwixt your house and that of Messrs. Constable & Co. With the cause, however, I am as yet unacquainted; though I have attempted, but in vain, to obviate a disunion which I most sincerely regret. Whatever arrangements with regard to myself may take place in consequence will have arisen from circumstances which it was not in my power to prevent; and they will not therefore be suffered to interfere in any way with those friendly dispositions which will continue, I trust, to obtain between you and, gentlemen,

Your obedient servant,


But the split was not to be avoided. It appears, however, that by the contract entered into by Constable with Longmans in 1803, the latter had acquired a legal right precluding the publication of the Edinburgh Review by another publisher without their express assent. Such assent was not given, and the London publication of the Edinburgh continued in Longman's hands for a time; but all the other works of Constable were at once transferred to Mr. Murray.

Mr. Constable invited Murray to come to Edinburgh to renew their personal friendship, the foundations of which had been laid during Mr. Murray's visit to Edinburgh in the previous year; and now that their union was likely to be much closer, he desired to repeat the visit. Mr. Murray had another, and, so far as regarded his personal happiness, a much more important object in view. This arose out of the affection which he had begun to entertain for Miss Elliot, daughter of the late Charles Elliot, publisher, with whom Mr. Murray's father had been in such constant correspondence. The affection was mutual, and it seemed probable that the attachment would ripen into a marriage.

Now that his reputation as a publisher was becoming established, Mr. Murray grew more particular as to the guise of the books which he issued. He employed the best makers of paper, the best printers, and the best book-binders. He attended to the size and tone of the paper, and quality of the type, the accuracy of the printing, and the excellence of the illustrations. All this involved a great deal of correspondence. We find his letters to the heads of departments full of details as to the turn-out of his books. Everything, from the beginning to the end of the issue of a work—the first inspection of the MS., the consultation with confidential friends as to its fitness for publication, the form in which it was to appear, the correction of the proofs, the binding, title, and final advertisement—engaged his closest attention. Besides the elegant appearance of his books, he also aimed at raising the standard of the literature which he published. He had to criticize as well as to select; to make suggestions as to improvements where the manuscript was regarded with favour, and finally to launch the book at the right time and under the best possible auspices. It might almost be said of the publisher, as it is of the poet, that he is born, not made. And Mr. Murray appears, from the beginning to the end of his career, to have been a born publisher.

In August 1806, during the slack season in London, Mr. Murray made his promised visit to Edinburgh. He was warmly received by Constable and Hunter, and enjoyed their hospitality for some days. After business matters had been disposed of, he was taken in hand by Hunter, the junior partner, and led off by him to enjoy the perilous hospitality of the Forfarshire lairds.

Those have been called the days of heroic drinking. Intemperance prevailed to an enormous extent. It was a time of greater licentiousness, perhaps, in all the capitals of Europe, and this northern one among the rest, than had been known for a long period. Men of the best education and social position drank like the Scandinavian barbarians of olden times. Tavern-drinking, now almost unknown among the educated and professional classes of Edinburgh, was then carried by all ranks to a dreadful excess.

Murray was conducted by Hunter to his father's house of Eskmount in Forfarshire, where he was most cordially received, and in accordance with the custom of the times the hospitality included invitations to drinking bouts at the neighbouring houses.

An unenviable notoriety in this respect attached to William Maule (created Baron Panmure 1831). He was the second son of the eighth Earl of Dalhousie, but on succeeding, through his grandmother, to the estates of the Earls of Panmure, he had assumed the name of Maule in lieu of that of Ramsay.

Much against his will, Murray was compelled to take part in some of these riotous festivities with the rollicking, hard-drinking Forfarshire lairds, and doubtless he was not sorry to make his escape at length uninjured, if not unscathed, and to return to more congenial society in Edinburgh. His attachment to Miss Elliot ended in an engagement.

In the course of his correspondence with Miss Elliot's trustees, Mr. Murray gave a statement of his actual financial position at the time:

"When I say," he wrote, "that my capital in business amounts to five thousand pounds, I meant it to be understood that if I quitted business to-morrow, the whole of my property being sold, even disadvantageously, it would leave a balance in my favour, free from debt or any incumbrance, of the sum above specified. But you will observe that, continuing it as I shall do in business, I know it to be far more considerable and productive. I will hope that it has not been thought uncandid in me if I did not earlier specify the amount of my circumstances, for I considered that I had done this in the most delicate and satisfactory way when I took the liberty of referring you to Mr. Constable to whom I consequently disclosed my affairs, and whose knowledge of my connexions in business might I thought have operated more pleasingly to Miss Elliot's friends than any communication from myself."

The correspondence with Miss Elliot went on, and at length it was arranged that Mr. Murray should proceed to Edinburgh for the marriage. He went by mail in the month of February. A tremendous snowstorm set in on his journey north. From a village near Doncaster he wrote to Constable: "The horses were twice blown quite round, unable to face the horrid blast of cold wind, the like of which I have never known before. There was at the same time a terrible fall of snow, which completely obscured everything that could be seen from the coach window. The snow became of great depth, and six strong horses could scarcely pull us through. We are four hours behind time." From Doncaster he went to Durham in a postchaise; and pushing onward, he at last reached Edinburgh after six days' stormy travelling.

While at Edinburgh, Mr. Murray resided with Mr. Sands, one of the late Charles Elliot's trustees. The marriage took place on March 6, 1807, and the newly married pair at once started for Kelso, in spite of the roads being still very bad, and obstructed by snow. Near Blackshields the horses fell down and rolled over and over. The postboy's leg was broken, and the carriage was sadly damaged. A neighbouring blacksmith was called to the rescue, and after an hour and a half the carriage was sufficiently repaired to be able to proceed. A fresh pair of horses was obtained at the next stage, and the married couple reached Kelso in safety. They remained there a few days, waiting for Mrs. Elliot, who was to follow them; and on her arrival, they set out at once for the south.

The intimacy which existed between Mr. Murray and Mr. D'Israeli will be observed from the fact that the latter was selected as one of the marriage trustees. A few days after the arrival of the married pair in London, they were invited to dine with Mr. D'Israeli and his friends. Mr. Alexander Hunter, whom Mr. Murray had invited to stay with him during his visit to London, thus describes the event:

"Dressed, and went along with the Clan Murray to dine at Mr. D'Israeli's, where we had a most sumptuous banquet, and a very large party, in honour of the newly married folks. There was a very beautiful woman there, Mrs. Turner, wife of Sharon Turner, the Anglo-Saxon historian, who, I am told, was one of the Godwin school! If they be all as beautiful, accomplished, and agreeable as this lady, they must be a deuced dangerous set indeed, and I should not choose to trust myself amongst them.

"Our male part of the company consisted mostly of literary men—Cumberland, Turner, D'Israeli, Basevi, Prince Hoare, and Cervetto, the truly celebrated violoncello player. Turner was the most able and agreeable of the whole by far; Cumberland, the most talkative and eccentric perhaps, has a good sprinkling of learning and humour in his conversation and anecdote, from having lived so long amongst the eminent men of his day, such as Johnson, Foote, Garrick, and such like. But his conversation is sadly disgusting, from his tone of irony and detraction conveyed in a cunning sort of way and directed constantly against the Edinburgh Review, Walter Scott (who is a 'poor ignorant boy, and no poet,' and never wrote a five-feet line in his life), and such other d——d stuff."



Mr. Murray was twenty-nine years old at the time of his marriage. That he was full of contentment as well as hope at this time may be inferred from his letter to Constable three weeks after his marriage:

John Murray to Mr. Constable.

March 27, 1807.

"I declare to you that I am every day more content with my lot. Neither my wife nor I have any disposition for company or going out; and you may rest assured that I shall devote all my attention to business, and that your concerns will not be less the object of my regard merely because you have raised mine so high. Every moment, my dear Constable, I feel more grateful to you, and I trust that you will over find me your faithful friend.—J.M."

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