For lucre of for fame: Lockhart's versions of the reception of 'Marmion.' (John Gibson Lockhart's manipulation of criticisms of Sir Walter Scott's poem)
The 1833-4 Poetical Works makes extensive use in its apparatus of quotations from the contemporary reviews, and the impression created in respect of Marmion is that, apart from the famous article by Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review, those reviews were by and large positive. The single quotations from the British Critic, the Scots Magazine, and the Critical Review are uniformly favourable and the seven quotations from the Monthly Review are almost all of them equally so, although one is lukewarm in its praise and another offers Scott the advice, questionable enough in the light of the poem's subsequent popularity, that he should abandon Marmion's metrical looseness and 'combine the charms of lawful poetry with those of wild and romantic fiction'.(1) Interspersed among these quotations are extracts from other early comments on the poem, including two from letters written to Scott by his friend George Ellis. In one of these Ellis offers a flattering analogy for the relationship of the figure of Marmion to that of William of Deloraine in the earlier Lay of the Last Minstrel--'Marmion is to Deloraine what Tom Jones is to Joseph Andrews' (PW vii. 47)--but in the other he is more critical, or at least regretful, finding the preliminary epistles somewhat disruptive of the fable and expressing a yearning preference for the introductory appearances of the old minstrel in the Lay.(2) Byron too is cited twice, once for his gracious acknowledgement of an unconscious echo of Marmion in his own 'Parisina' (PW vii. 115), but also, in a footnote to the Introduction, for his notorious attack on the poem, in English Bards and Scots Reviewers, as having been written 'for lucre, not for fame' (PW vii. 12).
Although Lockhart's citation of Ellis's reservations and Byron's satiric comments serves to create for the Poetical Works an aura of frank editorial inclusiveness, it is evident from the edition's subsequent and more extended representation of Jeffrey's critique that a good deal of inner manipulation is in fact going on. The first passage quoted from Jeffrey contains an outburst of righteous anger against the effrontery of the Tory Scott in daring to include any reference at all to the great Whig hero Fox,(3) and while Lockhart makes no direct comment on the issue of party animus, the effect of beginning with this passage, which actually comes from the final page of the original review, is to invite the reader to draw the obvious inference--that political prejudice was a pervasive element throughout the entire article. Jeffrey's attacks on stylistic aspects of the poem are represented by a somewhat pettish complaint about the 'lowness and vulgarity' of a description of venison pasties (PW vii. 66), and his accusation of 'Sternholdianism' in Scott's diction (PW vii. 202, 322-3) emerges as equally trivial. The impression projected may be that of adverse criticism freely and frankly confronted, but even as Jeffrey's censures are acknowledged their negative impact is in fact being editorially contained, to be diminished further by the more favourable and distinctly more extensive quotations from the same source which follow in their wake.
Having begun in hostility, in fact, the sequence of quotations from the Edinburgh grows steadily more positive, moving from a brief reference to the first description of the Palmer as 'laudable' (PW vii. 70), and a word of admiration for the funeral knell at the end of Canto II (PW vii. 126), to the point at which Scott's battle description is mentioned in the same breath with those of Homer.(4) Jeffrey's almost unstinted praise for the concluding section of the poem is quoted at length, and the series ends with a passage of mingled encomium and reservation that nicely reinforces an overall sense of editorial fair dealing. In a humorously elaborate metaphorical sequence Jeffrey had, in 1808, warned against the likely consequence of Marmion's repeating the enormous popular success of the Lay:
|I~f, by the help of the good parts of his poem, he succeeds in suborning the verdict of the public in favour of the bad parts also, and establishes an indiscriminate taste for chivalrous legends and romances in irregular rhyme, he may depend upon having as many copyists as Mrs Radcliffe or Schiller, and upon becoming the founder of a new schism in the catholic poetical church, for which, in spite of all our exertions, there will probably be no cure, but in the extravagance of the last and lowest of its followers. It is for this reason that we conceive it to be our duty to make one strong effort to bring back the great apostle of the heresy to the wholesome creed of his instructors, and to stop the insurrection before it becomes desperate and senseless, by persuading the leader to return to his duty and allegiance. We admire Mr Scott's genius as much as any of those who may be misled by its perversion; and, like the curate and the barber in Don Quixote, lament the day when a gentleman of such endowments was corrupted by the wicked tales of knight-errantry and enchantment. (PW vii. 362)
The inclusion of this extended final quotation from Jeffrey, though ostensibly a generous gesture, in fact involved very little risk on Lockhart's part and certainly did not call for a refutation. By 1833, with forty thousand or so copies of Marmion already published and an elaborate new edition in progress, Scott certainly seemed to have had the better of the argument, and his great Whig adversary could safely be allowed to make a good-humoured withdrawal from the field subsequent history had shown him so clearly to have lost.
Admiration, however, for the editorial skill with which Lockhart ensures that the reader of the 1833-4 Poetical Works will not fail to take the point, does not resolve all issues relating to his treatment of Marmion's original reception. Questions remain as to the overall content of the reviews from which quotations are taken, as well as to the selection of those particular reviews from among the considerably greater number that actually appeared. It also seems pertinent to ask how the edition's representation of Jeffrey's reaction relates to Lockhart's more fully articulated version of the same episode in the biography of Scott he published a few years later.
Of the reviews specifically invoked by Lockhart, those in the British Critic, the Scots Magazine, and the Monthly Magazine were indeed essentially favourable and the quotations cannot be said to misrepresent their basic tenor--even though none of the seven quotations from the Monthly Review happened to reflect either its examples of flaws of versification, diction, and even grammar or its castigation of the epistles as both disruptive in themselves and inferior to the introductions to the Lay.(5) With the Critical Review matters become somewhat more complex. Although praise of the description of Clare's ministrations to the dying Marmion ('This last act of disinterested attention extorts from the author the smoothest, sweetest, and tenderest lines in the whole poem') is qualified by an undeveloped reservation in the next sentence ('It is with pleasure that we extract numbers so harmonious from the discords by which they are surrounded' (PW vii. 347-8)), the single passage selected gives little sense of the very hostile nature of the review as a whole. The criticisms of Scott's versification glanced at in the quotation are far less stringent than those reserved for other aspects of the poem, while the epistles are exposed to open sarcasm both for their vacuity ('we recommend them strongly to those who scrupulously abstain from writing verses on the score of having nothing to say') and for their excessive length: '|Marmion~ appears to have been written by an engagement binding the writer to furnish so many yards of verse, within a certain period, at so much per yard.'(6) The gist of the review, indeed, is that Scott's motives were entirely mercenary: 'Of the notes it will be sufficient to say, that they make up 126 quarto pages, which are probably all that was intended by the author. The odour of gain is indeed sweet!!'(7)
The length of the notes also attracts negative comment in some of the reviews not cited by Lockhart. The London Review, for example, finds them 'objectionably voluminous' and the Monthly Mirror blenches at their occupying 'one third of the volume', even while going on to admire (as does the Literary Panorama) their display of 'a vast store of recondite reading, and necessary and entertaining illustration'.(8) The Eclectic Review, again, is rather favourable to the notes--'Of the notes, we can only add that they will be found as numerous in proportion, and as entertaining in matter, as those in Mr. Scott's former publications'(9)--but entirely hostile to the 'forced alliance' between the 'grand poem' and the preliminary epistles, condemning the latter as 'so palpable a piece of book-making, (and so miserably managed too, that the very artifice by which it is attempted to be concealed only exposes it the more to observation) in the work of an author who has no occasion to resort to any tricks of the trade to acquire sufficient fame and profit by his labours'.(10) The damaging impact of this particular charge is then intensified by the observation that the Six Epistles from Ettrick Forest had been announced as a separate publication long before there was even a rumour of Marmion.(11)
Lockhart returned to the reception of Marmion in the Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, the seven-volume biography he published in 1837-8, beginning on this occasion with a humorous letter from Scott to George Ellis, who had failed to reply to an earlier communication because of ill health:
To avenge myself of this unusual silence, which is a manifest usurpation of my privileges (being the worst correspondent in the world, Heber excepted), I have indited to you an epistle in verse, and that I may be sure of its reaching your hands, I have caused to be thrown off 2000 copies thereof, that you may not plead ignorance.(12)
Having thus got on record the substantial size of the first edition of the poem, Lockhart uses a later passage from the same letter to show Scott's awareness, even before publication, that the poem might in some quarters be unfavourably compared with the Lay: 'I am sensible I run some risk of being thought to fall below my former level, but those that will play for the gammon must take their chance of this' (M ii. 139). This theme is developed by Lockhart by means of quotations from letters by Ellis (before he has actually seen the poem), by Southey, who praises the introductory epistles even while regretting their placement, and then by Wordsworth, whose response is distinctly two-edged:
Thank you ... for Marmion. I think your end has been attained. That it is not the end which I should wish you to propose to yourself, you will be well aware, from what you know of my notions of composition, both as to matter and manner. In the circle of my acquaintance, it seems as well liked as the Lay, though I have heard that in the world it is not so. Had the poem been much better than the Lay, it could scarcely have satisfied the public, which has too much of the monster, the moral monster, in its composition. (M ii. 142-3)
No less than two pages of the biography are then devoted to Ellis's comparison of the Lay and Marmion in the letter from which Lockhart had already quoted in his notes to the Poetical Works. Ellis's assessment is favourable to the newer work: 'I had rather be the author of Marmion than of the Lay, because I think its species of excellence of much more difficult attainment' (M ii. 144). Quotation from the letter ends, however, just short of the point at which Ellis, having assigned Marmion to 'the very top shelf of English poetry', turns to its 'faults':
Mr Ellis proceeds to notice some minor blemishes, which he hoped to see erased in a future copy; but as most, if not all, of these were sufficiently dwelt on by the professional critics, whose strictures are affixed to the poem in the last collective edition, and as, moreover, Scott did not avail himself of any of the hints thus publicly, as well as privately tendered for his guidance, I shall not swell my page by transcribing more of this elegant letter. (M ii. 145)
Lockhart is being somewhat disingenuous here; the Poetical Works had not in fact quoted the 'strictures' of the professional critics as to details of the poem's diction, syntax, metre, etc., nor are such specific criticisms included in the account of the Jeffrey review to which the biography next proceeds.
Although that account forms the centre-piece of Lockhart's treatment of Marmion in the biography, the review itself figures rather as an anecdote to be savoured than a critique worthy of refutation. The two long extracts from it are encased within the story of Jeffrey's having been invited to dine with the Scotts the night the article appeared in print, his sending the issue of the Edinburgh to Scott ahead of time, Scott's gentlemanly assurance that 'the article had not disturbed his digestion', and the climactic touch of Charlotte Scott's parting sally: 'Well, good night, Mr Jeffrey--dey tell me you have abused Scott in de Review, and I hope Mr Constable has paid you very well for writing it' (M ii. 149). The paragraphs quoted from Jeffrey compare Marmion adversely with the Lay and criticize the epistles, but they also attack the fundamental enterprise of the poem, renewing the regrets the Edinburgh had expressed about the Lay--'that an author endowed with such talents should consume them in imitations of obsolete extravagance, and in the representation of manners and sentiments in which none of his readers can be supposed to take much interest, except the few who can judge of their exactness'--and predicting that Scott's popularity would prove merely temporary, the taste for his antiquarian jargon as fleeting as that for Erasmus Darwin's 'gnomes, sylphs, oxygen, gossamer, polygynia, and polyandria' (M ii. 148).
Here, as in the editorial apparatus to the Poetical Works, Lockhart can lean in silent confidence upon Marmion's great and as yet undiminished popularity, and he engages actively with Jeffrey only over the criticism that the poem had systematically 'neglected Scottish feelings and Scottish characters'. To this accusation--the one, he claims, which caused Scott the greatest pain--Lockhart makes an indignant response:
He who had just poured out all the patriotic enthusiasm of his soul in so many passages of Marmion which every Scotchman to the end of time will have by heart, painted the capital, the court, the camp, the heroic old chieftains of Scotland in colours instinct with a fervour that can never die; and dignified the most fatal of her national misfortunes by a celebration as loftily pathetic as ever blended pride with sorrow,--a battle-piece which even his critic had pronounced to be the noblest save in Homer! (M ii. 148-9)
His great point thus passionately made, Lockhart judiciously reduces the temperature by quoting extensively from a contemporary account of the gentlemanly behaviour with which Scott and Jeffrey continued to conduct themselves in one another's company, and then proceeds to an ostensibly factual but effectively rhetorical final flourish:
Marmion was first printed in a splendid quarto, price one guinea and a half. The 2000 copies of this edition were all disposed of in less than a month, when a second of 3000 copies, in 8vo, was sent to press. There followed a third and a fourth edition, each of 3000, in 1809; a fifth of 2000, early in 1810; and a sixth of 3000, in two volumes, crown 8vo, with twelve designs by Singleton, before the end of that year; a seventh of 4000, and an eighth of 5000 copies 8vo, in 1811; a ninth of 3000 in 1815; a tenth of 500, in 1820; an eleventh of 500, and a twelfth of 2000 copies, in foolscap, both in 1825. The legitimate sale in this country, therefore, down to the time of its being included in the first collective edition of his poetical works, amounted to 31,000; and the aggregate of that sale down to the period at which I am writing (May 1836), may be stated at 50,000 copies. (M ii. 158)
The note of triumph (implicitly over Jeffrey and all of Marmion's other critics) is only mildly tempered by a claim to be providing such information, here and elsewhere in the biography, in order 'to facilitate the task of future historians of our literature'. For Lockhart can anticipate 'no day when the student of English civilisation will pass without curiosity the contemporary reception of the Tale of Flodden Field' (M ii. 158-9).
Although at first sight Lockhart's editorial and biographical treatments of the reception of Marmion seem primarily designed to play down the incidence of hostile criticism, he is in fact engaged in a rather deeper game. By choosing to give special prominence to certain elements in the response to the poem he effectively de-emphasizes other elements that were more immediately and persistently of concern to Scott himself. Scott's correspondence of the Marmion period shows him registering three principal issues: the questioning of the poetic fable itself on the grounds that forgery was a fundamentally inappropriate and demeaning crime in which to embroil his chivalric protagonist; the validity of Jeffrey's comprehensive critique; and the charge that he had deliberately padded out the poem for the sake of financial gain.
Lockhart did not spend much time on the first of these topics, and Scott himself--at the time of the poem's first appearance as well as in his retrospective introduction of 1830--seems to have dealt with it in good-humoured fashion by pleading guilty as charged:
The nature of Marmion's guilt, although similar instances were found, and might be quoted, as existing in feudal times, was nevertheless not sufficiently peculiar to be indicative of the character of the period, forgery being the crime of a commercial, rather than a proud and warlike age. This gross defect ought to have been remedied or palliated. Yet I suffered the tree to lie as it had fallen. (PW vii. 13)
Indeed, if Scott was distressed by any of Jeffrey's criticisms he was at considerable pains not to show it. In May 1808, for example, he assured Mrs Scott of Harden that Jeffrey had done the sales of the book little harm:
I have been just dismissing to press a new edition of Marmion which the booksellers say is wanted instantly so the Review has not spoiled the sale. Indeed Jeffrey's flagellation is of a kind not calculated to do much harm and has much more the appearance than the essence of severity. The specimens are carefully selected from the best passages of the poem and the criticisms on the plan are so general that they involve the credit of Ariosto and Tasso as much as mine. I can have no objection to be tried on such an issue--I suspect Jeffrey made an odd sort of compounding between his own character & mine on the occasion and was willing rather to amuse the public with cracking his whip than to annoy the culprit with laying on the lash.(13)
The genial mask did slip a little towards the end of 1808: writing to Joanna Baillie on 31 October to deny the rumour that he planned to dedicate a new poem to Jeffrey, Scott observed that he 'had no reason to be so very much gratified by his review of Marmion as to propitiate him by a dedication of any work of mine' (L ii. 116). While corresponding the following month with his brother Tom about the plans for the Quarterly Review the irritation, though humorously expressed, continues to be apparent enough:
Constable, or rather that Bear his partner, has behaved to me of late not very civilly, and I owe Jeffrey a flap with a fox-tail on account of his review of Marmion, and thus doth 'the whirligig of time bring about my revenges.' (L ii. 131)
By this point, however, Scott was perhaps fanning the flames of his annoyance with Jeffrey as part of the process of justifying his decision to participate actively in the establishment of the Quarterly as a rival to the Edinburgh.
But Jeffrey, for his part, showed no desire to sustain an antagonism between them, at least so far as Scott's poetical productions went, and in August 1810 he sent Scott a copy of his much more generous review of The Lady of the Lake together with a letter expressing regret for any pain that the Marmion review had caused.(14) Scott reported the episode to Morritt in October:
I have little to complain of the Edinr. Review. Jeffrey sent me the sheets with a kind and for him an apologetic letter saying he was sensible that there was some needless asperity in his Review of Marmion etc. and that he had studied in delivering his sincere opinion to the public to do it in a way that should not be unnecessarily harsh to me or my freinds. And indeed his general tone is much more civil and respectful than is usual for the Review when an author is neither a philosopher nor a Foxite. (L ii. 381)(15)
What seems significant about all Scott's comments on Jeffrey's response to Marmion is the absence of any overt complaint about injury to his feelings as a patriot. Silence could, of course, be construed as a sign of the depth of the injury, and Lockhart's subsequent emphasis in the biography attributed to such unexpressed pain. But in focusing upon Jeffrey's questioning of Scott's national pride Lockhart may have had a rather different aim than that of scoring easy points by repeating and elaborately refuting a charge that must in any case have seemed highly ridiculous to an 1830s audience familiar not only with Scott's poetry but with the entire sequence of his novels. Lockhart, I suggest, was in fact engaged in a more significant diversionary tactic of a kind Scott would himself have appreciated. For what almost certainly gave Scott greatest pain at the time of Marmion's publication, continued to disturb him twenty years later, and was sedulously omitted from Lockhart's quotations from the Marmion reviews, was the accusation that Marmion had been written primarily for money. By raising this issue in the Poetical Works only in the footnote citation of the essentially unignorable passage from English Bards and Scotch Reviewers and excluding it altogether from the Marmion sequence in the Memoirs--even while fully deploying the anecdotal material about Jeffrey and engaging in a colourful verbal outburst about the insult to Scott as Scotsman--Lockhart contrived to divert attention from a subject which Scott himself could never leave completely alone.
For Scott the question of his earnings from writing was inextricably involved in crucial concerns about his status as a gentleman, and he was still dwelling with slightly embarrassing emphasis on these concerns in the 1830 'Essay on Imitations of the Ancient Ballad'. Recalling in the course of that essay the initiation of his career as a man of letters and his consequent desertion of 'the profession to which |he~ was educated' Scott sought first of all to make it clear that he was in no way indebted to his subsequent literary fame for his rank in life: 'My birth, without giving the least pretension to distinction, was that of a gentleman, and connected me with several respectable families and accomplished persons' (PW iv. 32-3).(16) His upbringing and education had been among contemporaries 'who, from opportunities, birth, and talents, might be expected to make the greatest advances in the career for which we were all destined' (PW iv. 33), and his own future as a lawyer seemed already assured, promising a professional income that would complement his family prospects: 'The private fortune, also, which I might expect, and finally inherited, from my family, did not, indeed, amount to affluence, but placed me considerably beyond all apprehension of want' (PW iv. 34). Thus while he felt grateful to literature for the friendships with 'many remarkable persons' which it had afforded him, it would 'be ridiculous to affect gratitude to the public favour, either for my general position in society, or the means of supporting it with decency, matters which had been otherwise secured under the usual chances of human affairs' (PW iv. 34-5). Returning as if compulsively to the same subject in the 1830 Introduction to the Lay, he insisted that he had continued to enjoy the society of his social and professional equals, 'reserving the man of letters for the desk and the library' (PW vi. 15), and that his acceptance of the office of Clerk to the Court of Session had been a way of ensuring that 'literature should be my staff, but not my crutch, and that the profits of my literary labour, however convenient otherwise, should not, if I could help it, become necessary to my ordinary expenses' (PW vi. 17).
Both the interim collected edition for which these introductions were composed in 1830 and the full-scale collected edition which appeared posthumously in 1833-4 took their origin from Scott's determination, after the financial disaster of 1826, to repay his debts like a gentleman rather than seek the protection of bankruptcy like a tradesman. His publishers, Constable and Cadell, both declared themselves bankrupt, and the latter at least was able to recover quite rapidly, managing through a series of skilful commercial and publishing decisions--some of them at Scott's expense--to re-establish his reputation and fortune and die a rich man.(17) Scott, of course, took an entirely different route, choosing quite deliberately to commit himself to an extraordinary programme of writing and editing that he hoped would enable him to pay off both his own proper debts and those of the printing firm of Ballantyne & Co. in which he was a partner, and it is clear that he was concerned above all to avoid any imputation that his situation was susceptible to the laws of trade rather than of honour. It is not surprising, therefore, that in recounting his career he should be so continuously insistent both on his gentlemanly status and on his freedom from absolute dependence on the earnings of his pen.
The role of literature as a source of compensation for lost earnings as a barrister was not a new topic with Scott at the time he was composing those late introductions, nor does his obvious anxiety over it belong solely to the period after the 1826 crash. Some of his most determined, if humorously phrased, assertions date from the Marmion period or shortly afterwards. Writing to Robert Southey in November 1807, when he was pressing on with the completion of the poem, Scott comments:
I hope soon to send you a Life of Dryden and a Lay of former times. The latter I would willingly have bestowed more time upon; but what can I do?--my supposed poetical turn ruined me in my profession, and the least it can do is to give me some occasional assistance instead of it. (L i. 390)
Two years later he makes much the same point to Lady Louisa Stuart, this time with respect to The Lady of the Lake, the work currently in hand:
It is against all my vows to write poetry again but I hope the perjuries of bards are as venial as those of Lovers are said to be. After all how can I employ my time-- My family have some claims on my talent or half talent or whatever it is for it laid me on the shelf as a professional man when I had as good prospects as my neighbours.... And though I admit with my cautious friends that an author should take care of his reputation yet I cannot help thinking with honest Bo|b~ Acres that the least reputation can do in return is to take some care of the author. (L ii. 270)(18)
Appropriately enough, it was in writing to Byron in July 1812 that Scott elaborated the fullest version of his gentleman-poet persona. John Murray had ostensibly healed the breach between the two poets opened three years earlier by that attribution of mercenary motives to the author of Marmion in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, but Scott's rather stiffly phrased letter shows that the injury still rankled:
And this leads me to put your Lordship right in the circumstances respecting the sale of Marmion, which had reached you in a distorted and misrepresented form, and which, perhaps, I have some reason to complain, were given to the public without more particular inquiry. The poem, my Lord, was not written upon contract for a sum of money--though it is too true that it was sold and published in a very unfinished state (which I have since regretted) to enable me to extricate myself from some engagements which fell suddenly upon me by the unexpected misfortunes of a very near relation.... As for my attachment to literature, I sacrificed for the pleasure of pursuing it very fair chances of opulence and professional honours, at a time of life when I fully knew their value; and I am not ashamed to say, that in deriving advantages in compensation from the partial favour of the public, I have added some comforts and elegancies to a bare independence. I am sure your Lordship's good sense will easily put this unimportant egotism to the right account, for--though I do not know the motive would make me enter into controversy with a fair or an unfair literary critic--I may be well excused for a wish to clear my personal character from any tinge of mercenary or sordid feeling in the eyes of a contemporary of genius. (L iii. 137-8)
That the memory of this exchange with Byron, and the insult that occasioned it, remained vivid to the end of Scott's life is clear from his 1830 Introduction to Marmion, where the episode is recounted at some length (PW vii. 11-13).(19)
If it is asked whether the money earned from Marmion was important to Scott the answer cannot be in doubt. Not only does he acknowledge the fact to Southey and others from 1807 onwards in those good-humoured complaints of literature's ruining his prospects as a lawyer, but he also speaks in both the 1812 letter to Byron and the 1830 Marmion Introduction of the poem's having been completed with undue haste because of immediate financial pressures--though he is careful to indicate that these derived from family obligations rather than personal need. The reference is to the difficulties in which Scott's brother Tom was embroiled at this time as a result of mismanagement, if not actual misappropriation, of funds belonging to the Marquis of Abercorn, for whom he acted as agent. As one who liked to think of himself as the marquis's humble friend and was engaged in extended literary correspondence with the marquis's lady, Scott clearly felt that both family honour and his personal honour as a gentleman were involved in this fraternal crisis and that it was therefore his duty to make good any deficiencies occasioned by Tom's ineptitude.
To seek to pay his brother's debts like a gentleman was a perfectly honourable goal, and although Tom's difficulties seem to have been on the way to independent resolution before the poem was published, such a motive may indeed have been crucial for a time to Scott's eagerness for Marmion's completion and publication. But it is also probable that he had other more personal needs for cash, and that these were well recognized by the publishers with whom he was dealing. The 1807 correspondence between Archibald Constable and John Murray, whose firms shared in the purchase of the poem, makes it clear that they certainly regarded money as of considerable interest to the poet. On 27 March 1807 John Murray reports to Constable that Scott 'appears very desirous that "Marmion" should be published by the King's birthday, but this I conceive it will be impossible for the printer to effect; but he might be amused with proof-sheets, and so be kept perfectly in humour with you. He said he wished it to be ready at that time for very particular reasons, and yet he allows that the poem is not completed, and that he is yet undetermined if he shall make his hero happy or otherwise.'(20) Constable, meanwhile, had already written to his partner Alexander Gibson Hunter: 'If Marmion could be delayed till November I should be well pleased but in case WS. should want the cash it will be a tender point to propose to him, but if I mistake not the Printer will do it for us sufficiently.'(21)
By insisting, even as late as the 1830 Introduction to the poem, that a family financial crisis had chiefly precipitated the publication of Marmion, Scott left in obscurity his participation at that same period in what can only be described as large-scale trading in literary commodities. Between 1805 and 1808 Scott was engaged in projecting a host of schemes to a variety of publishers in London and Edinburgh--with a corresponding blurring of the distinction between the gentlemanly author and the gentlemen of the trade. Not only was he signed up to Miller for the eighteen-volume edition of Dryden which appeared almost at the same time as Marmion, he was also discussing with Longman a successor to Johnson's edition of the English poets complete with lives by himself and Thomas Campbell--the project to begin with a one-volume edition of either Spenser or Chaucer. A multi-volume edition of the English chronicle historians was also mooted, as well as an anonymously edited collection of romances, an edition of Thomson with a life by Scott, and an edition of the Morte d'Arthur. Projects originating in this period which progressed to actual publication included Scott's edition and completion of Joseph Strutt's Queenhoo-Hall, the editions of Sir Ralph Sadler's works, the memoirs of Sir Henry Slingsby, Captain George Carleton, and Sir Robert Cary, and the various reissues of the Lay and Scott's other poems and ballads. And to these were added, immediately after the appearance of Marmion, the agreement with Miller for an edition of the Somers Tracts and with Constable for a multi-volume Swift edition on the Dryden model.
That these projects derived in the first instance from Scott's literary or antiquarian enthusiasms is not in doubt, and the Dryden and Swift at least required an enormous commitment of scholarly and critical labour on the editor's part, quite out of proportion to any financial reward he might receive. But at the same time it cannot be denied that the printing work generated for the firm of James Ballantyne & Co., in which Scott had privately been a partner since 1805, was an additional and by no means insignificant element in most of these schemes.(22) Though the details of Scott's involvement in the printing firm were not a matter of public knowledge, Miller, Longman, Constable, and Murray were clearly well aware that the employment of Ballantyne was no disadvantage in any negotiation they might be pursuing with Scott. What they for their part wanted is also quite clear: the association of Scott's name with their various editorial endeavours and, still more importantly, the prospect of a share in his next poem.(23)
Scott's own feelings about the use of his name were far from simple. He certainly understood its value in the literary market-place and the potential damage he might do to his future negotiating position by allowing it to be associated with anything that looked cheap. But he also had a deeper concern, intimately connected with those status anxieties that legitimated the publication of elaborately annotated poems in handsome quarto volumes or multi-volume editions of his great literary predecessors while at the same time excluding any public association of his name with collections of romances. These anxieties were to extend far beyond the period of his fame as a poet and influence the fascinating game of anonymity in which he involved himself as Author of Waverley.
As early as December 1805 James Ballantyne, writing no doubt at Scott's behest, was quite explicit on the name issue. William Miller had apparently suggested that the proposed edition of Thomson might be less handsomely produced than had originally been agreed:
I am sorry to tell you, that Mr Scott by no means relishes the foolscap plan for Thomson. Indeed, his words were distinctly these: 'I am fond of Thomson, and have good materials for his Life; and though I do not expect from Mr Miller anything more than a sincere acknowledgment (a book or so) for my labour, yet it is of importance that I should not come forth in an inferior form to what I have hitherto appeared in. Tell him, therefore, that if the work is to be crown or demy I shall proceed with all my heart; otherways, I cannot consent to put my name to the work at all.'--These, as near as I can recollect them, were his words; I am certain they convey his precise meaning. I beg you will be kind enough to write immediately upon the subject such a letter as I may shew him; for it appeared to me, that the mention of foolscap coold him a little to the plan. He has an idea (wh it will be needless to attempt to remove) that it is a missy form of publication.(24)
Once Marmion had appeared Scott's name became even more valuable, and on 6 May 1808 Longman & Co. made it abundantly clear that they were only interested in an edition of romances with that name attached:
We have forgot to mention one circumstance of importance, & that is the addition of your name as Editor. We should hope you would not object to this, as it would appear almost necessary that each collection should have an Editor's name to sanction the selections, and you will consider the respectable manner in which the work is proposed to be brought forward.(25)
Scott was not, however, willing to oblige, telling Longman on 11 May 1808: 'For a great many reasons I have decided not to give my name to this collection I am well aware that this is a disadvantage to the work but I have insuperable objections to removing it.'(26) On 16 June 1808 Longman renewed the request that Scott 'sanction the Collection' with his name, asking also that he write for it a 'History of Romances' to form the first volume in the series.(27) This proposal was firmly rejected on 19 June 1808 in a letter in which Scott indicated that if he were ever to give his name to such a history it would only be to an altogether more substantial work, perhaps even running to four volumes.(28)
By October 1808, negotiations with Longman on the romances project having broken down, Scott was discussing a collection of novels with John Murray. Anxious to conciliate Scott at all costs in view of his importance to the Quarterly Review, Murray not only proved much more tractable than Longman as to the use of Scott's name but appeared willing to extend the scheme to unheard-of proportions. By 17 November the plan was to include 'Novels, Tales & Romances', and Murray had expressed himself entirely willing to accept the title 'Ballantynes Edition of British Novels'.(29) The substitution of the printer's name for the poet's can be read as having an ironic appropriateness.
Nancy Goslee has recently suggested that there is a disturbing affinity between Marmion, who commits forgery to gain land, and Scott, who writes poetry with the same end in view,(30) but any sensitivities of Scott's as to the nature of his chivalric hero's crime probably related to more mundane anxieties. He was in fact willing to admit in some sort that the money he earned from the poem was of consequence to him, both in the particular circumstances of 1808 and in that longer-term situation deriving from his decision to give up his career at the Scottish Bar. What he could not acknowledge was his having used his fame as a writer as a bargaining chip in manoeuvring for printing contracts for a firm in which he was the concealed partner.
The whole question of Scott's involvement in the printing firm of Ballantyne & Co. was, of course, one of the crucial difficulties faced by Lockhart in developing his account of Scott's conduct as always essentially ethical and honourable. And Lockhart's overall treatment of the matter was the subject of angry public dispute in the exchange of pamphlets with the Ballantyne family that followed the first appearance of the biography.(31) What finally emerges from an examination of Lockhart's treatment of the reception of Marmion in the Poetical Works edition and in the Memoirs is a distinct impression of a two-part strategy. Not only did the selection of reviews for quotation in the edition do less than justice to the quantity and range of hostile comment that greeted the poem on its first appearance, but by throwing Jeffrey's Edinburgh article into special prominence there Lockhart effectively paved the way for the biography's fully elaborated treatment of that review as a drama of personal relations. In so treating it, and in drawing particular attention to the attack on Scott's patriotism, he avoided having to confront in his account of Marmion the charge that its author was, indeed, as Byron had claimed, one of 'those sons of song' who 'descend to trade' and 'rack their brains for lucre, not for fame'.(32)
1 The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (Edinburgh and London, 1833-4), vii. 363; subsequent quotations from the 1833-4 Poetical Works, prefixed by the abbreviation PW, are incorporated within parentheses in the text. For the quotations from the British Critic, Scots Magazine, and Critical Review, see PW vii. 52, 126, 347-8; the references to the Monthly Review are on vii. 25, 77-8, 86, 120, 331, 358-9, 362-3.
2 'These Introductory Epistles, though excellent in themselves, are in fact only interruptions to the fable, and, accordingly, nine readers out of ten have perused them separately, either before, or after the poem. In short, the personal appearance of the Minstrel, who, though the Last, is the most charming of all minstrels, is by no means compensated by the idea of an author shorn of his picturesque beard, and writing letters to his intimate friends' (PW vii. |225~).
3 'The first epistolary effusion, containing a threnody on Nelson, Pitt, and Fox, exhibits a remarkable failure. We are unwilling to quarrel with a poet on the score of politics; but the manner in which he has chosen to praise the last of these great men, is more likely, we conceive, to give offence to his admirers, than the most direct censure. The only deed for which he is praised is for having broken off the negotiation for peace; and for this act of firmness, it is added, Heaven rewarded him with a share in the honoured grave of Pitt! It is then said that his errors should be forgotten, and that he died a Briton--a pretty plain insinuation that, in the Author's opinion, he did not live one; and just such an encomium as he himself pronounces over the grave of his villain hero, Marmion' (PW vii. 31).
4 '|T~here is none, in our opinion at all comparable, for interest and animation,--for breadth of drawing and magnificence of effect' (PW vii. 340).
5 On the location of the epistles the Monthly commented: 'The same effect is thus produced as if, having written six epistles to as many friends, on various subjects, and chusing to print them together with a poem of greater magnitude, he had whimsically inserted one of the epistles between every four or five hundred lines of the tale itself' (Monthly Review, 56 (1808), 3).
6 Critical Review, 3rd ser., 13 (1808), 393, 397.
7 Ibid. 401.
8 London Review, 1 (1809), 119; Monthly Mirror, NS 4 (1808), 91; Literary Panorama, 4 (1808), col. 62.
9 Eclectic Review, 4 (1808), 422.
10 Ibid. 409.
11 Ibid. 411.
12 Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (Edinburgh and London, 1837-8), ii. 138; subsequent page references, prefixed by the abbreviation M, are incorporated within parentheses in the text.
13 The Letters of Sir Walter Scott, ed. H. J. C. Grierson (London, 1932-7), ii. 66; subsequent references, prefixed by the abbreviation L, are incorporated within parentheses in the text. Writing to Robert Surtees a month earlier Scott had conceded that Jeffrey's article was 'as tight a one as he has written since Southey's Madoc', but went on to insist: 'I don't believe the world ever furnished a critic and an author who were more absolute poco curantes about their craft, we dined together, and had a hearty laugh at the revisal of the flagellation' (L ii. 54). See also the comments on the review in the letter to Anna Seward of 23 Apr. 1808 (L ii. 51).
14 Jeffrey to Scott, 11 Aug. 1810, NLS MS 3879, fos. 161-2.
15 He gave much the same equable account to Joanna Baillie on 23 Nov. 1810 (L ii. 404).
16 The essay was written for the 1830 reissue of the Minstrelsy and republished at the beginning of Vol. IV of the 1833-4 Poetical Works.
17 For a full account of the financial and publishing transactions that followed the collapse of Constable & Co. and James Ballantyne & Co. in 1826, see Jane Millgate, Scott's Last Edition: A Study in Publishing History (Edinburgh, 1987).
18 The same (slightly misremembered) echo of Sheridan's The Rivals also occurs in a letter to Anna Seward of 1808, quoted in Edgar Johnson, Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown (London, 1970), i. 287, and Bob Acres is again invoked in a letter to John Morritt of Dec. 1811, when the next long poem, Rokeby, is on the stocks: '|I~t is very true that an author should not hazard his reputation yet as Bob Acres says I really think reputation should take some care of a gentleman in return' (L iii. 40). For the correction of the Sheridan allusion, see James C. Corson, Notes and Index to Sir Herbert Grierson's Edition of the Letters of Sir Waiter Scott (Oxford, 1979), 56, 79.
19 In the Memoirs Lockhart prints the letter to Byron in its chronological place, but makes no comment on its content (M ii. 398-401).
20 NLS MS 23233, pp. 52-3. The King's birthday was 4 June.
21 Letter of 22 Mar. 1807, NLS MS 328, fo. 107.
22 Writing to James Ballantyne in Oct. 1805 about the proposed edition of the Chronicles of England, Scott speaks of the likelihood that this 'immense work' will be 'secured to your press' (NLS MS 997, fo. 1). All of the published titles mentioned in the previous paragraph, with the exception of the Swift, were printed by Ballantyne. The Swift edition, produced during the period of estrangement between Scott and Constable, was printed by another Edinburgh printer, G. Ramsay & Co.
23 Miller's 8 Apr. 1808 letter to Scott asking for a decision on the edition of the Somers Tracts is quite explicit as to the use of Scott's name and the value of the printing work to Ballantyne: 'My plan is to put the Editors name in the title page of course--because being a large & weighty concern it should be announced with all the Eclat possible.... I have two reasons which induce me to decide on this work at this time--first--Ballantyne coming to town I can regulate with him about the printing--& no bad job will it be to him.--Secondly--I would announce the work with others at the End of Fox's Book--which having an immense circulation is of consequence--if you enter in my views you will consider & state to me the terms also the way you wish me to word the advertisement--as I have but little time to prepare it' (NLS MS 3877, fos. 11v-12).
24 Letter of 1 Dec. 1805, NLS MS 786, fos. 51v-52.
25 NLS MS 3877, fos. 47v-48.
26 Pierpont Morgan Library MA 1574.
27 NLS MS 3877, fo. 90.
28 Morgan MA 1574.
29 NLS MS 3877, fo. 204. The project did not, in fact, come to fruition until a dozen years later, when Scott produced for the benefit of his friend John Ballantyne the bulky and relatively unsuccessful series entitled Ballantyne's Novelist's Library.
30 'We can of course make a biographical case for Scott: he uses his poetic fictions for just such purposes and then projects his guilt at the representation of wish-fulfilling romance as serious work or heroic action worthy of such rewards by showing Marmion as disgraced forger redeemed only by heroic physical action' (Nancy Moore Goslee, Scott the Rhymer (Lexington, 1988), 65).
31 See Refutation of the Mistatements and Calumnies Contained in Mr Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. Respecting the Messrs Ballantyne (London, 1838); Lockhart's response, The Ballantyne-Humbug Handled, in a Letter to Sir Adam Ferguson (Edinburgh, 1839); and the Ballantyne trustees' rejoinder, Reply to Mr Lockhart's Pamphlet, entitled, 'The Ballantyne-Humbug Handled' (London, 1839).
32 Lockhart was, of course, familiar with the annotated edition of Byron's works issued by John Murray in a format deliberately uniform with that of the collected editions of Scott; its rather complicated footnote to the section of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers relating to Marmion begins: 'Lord Byron, as is well known, set out with the determination never to receive money for his writings. For the liberty to republish this satire, he refused four hundred guineas; and the money paid for the copyright of the first and second cantos of Childe Harold, and of the Corsair, he presented to Mr. Dallas.' The note then goes on to recount Byron's having initially refused a thousand guineas for the copyright of The Siege of Corinth and Parisina, only to be finally 'induced, at Mr. Murray's earnest persuasion', to accept the money, and concludes by offering, 'as a bibliopolic curiosity', a list of the sums paid by Murray 'at different times to Lord Byron for copyright' (Works of Lord Byron (London, 1832-3), vii. 235). The total of the various amounts comes to |pounds~23,540, but since it includes amounts for Childe Harold and The Corsair which were not paid to Byron himself, not to mention |pounds~4,200 for the Life by Thomas Moore, it confuses rather than clarifies the issue of just how much Byron actually earned for himself from his poems. The note seems intended, somewhat disingenuously, to establish at one and the same time both Byron's lack of mercenary motives and John Murray's handsome conduct as a publisher.
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|Publication:||The Review of English Studies|
|Date:||May 1, 1993|
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