LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter II

Contents Vol. I
Prelude 1
Prelude 2
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Contents Vol. II
Chapter I
‣ Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Note to Chapter XV
Contents Vol. III
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Note to Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Note to Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Note to Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Index of Persons
Creative Commons License

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

WE have no sufficiently clear record of the commerce of books in the days of Pope and Addison, to be enabled to say that there was a marked Publishing Season. The fact that there was a Long Vacation may lead us to conclude that when “Chambers in the King’s Bench Walk” were deserted, Mr. Tonson was entertaining the Kit-Cat Club in his Thames-side Villa, and that Mr. Lintot had left the custody of his “rubric posts” to his shop boys. Whatever may have been the custom in the reign of the first George, undoubtedly the publisher of any note asserted his right to a Season in the reign of George IV. For the three months of autumn, the Circulating Libraries were indifferently supplied with Travel and Romance; but great were the preparations for the coming campaign. Manuscripts were in critical hands, proofs were circulating by post, negotiations were on foot, advertisements were being prepared, mysterious hints about “the Journal of a noble lady, that had been read to a select circle of fashionables,” appeared in the papers. Like the mighty ones of my craft, I was glad that the Season had come to an end, in the July of 1825. With me it was closed by the publication of a work of unusual importance. Milton’s Latin Treatise on Christian Doctrine, having been discovered in the State Paper Office, was placed
in the hands of the Librarian and Historiographer to George IV., for the laudable purpose of giving to the world an unpublished work of one of the greatest of English poets. That office was held in 1824 by the
Rev. Charles Richard Sumner. The original, and a translation, were printed at the Cambridge University Press, and I was selected as their Publisher.* At the time of its publication the editor and translator was D.D., and a prebendary of Canterbury. In 1827 he succeeded Dr. Tomline, as bishop of Winchester. I cannot advert to the confidence which Dr. Sumner placed in me, and bear in mind the whole nature of my intercourse with him, without a feeling of affectionate gratitude to a most zealous and constant friend, whose kindness was never alloyed by any of the condescension of patronage—who, when he had arrived at almost the highest ecclesiastical dignity, preserved the same frank and amiable demeanour that he had exhibited when I first knew him at Windsor—who, a year or two later, won my heart by his public spirit, as well as by his personal kindness,—for it was he, in his diocese of Llandaff, who, in a letter of interrogatories sent round to his Clergy, asked a question which became famous—“Are there infant schools in your parish—and, if not, why not?” It is in me an act of simple justice here to record a circumstance which has been misunderstood in connection with the translation of Milton’s posthumous work.

In 1824 I went with Mr. Sumner to Cambridge, to arrange for the printing of the original Latin MS. at the University Press. Marvellous to relate, there

* A reprint of the translation has been published by Mr. Bohn.

was no functionary of that printing office who was competent to see that the corrections upon the proofs as they passed out of the hands of the editor were properly attended to. I had the pleasure of introducing
Mr. Sidney Walker to Mr. Sumner, and it was agreed that he should undertake this duty. The printing of the Latin edition, and of the English translation, was completed in the course of a twelvemonth. The Preface by the translator contains the following paragraph: “He cannot conclude these preliminary remarks without acknowledging his obligations to W. S. Walker, Esq., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who has not only discharged the greater part of the laborious office of correcting the press, but whose valuable suggestions during the progress of the work have contributed to remove some of its imperfections.” The Rev. J. Moultrie, in his Memoir of Mr. Walker, prefixed to his “Poetical Remains,” says of this incident in his friend’s literary career, “The work being printed at the University Press, Walker was selected as resident on the spot, and eminently qualified for the office, to revise and correct the proof sheets. In the performance of this task he considerably overstepped the limits of his commission, reviewing not only the printer’s but the translator’s labour, and leaving upon the work the indelible impress of his own masterly scholarship and profound appreciation of the author’s genius.” Compared with this statement the acknowledgment by Dr. Sumner of his obligations to Mr. Walker may appear not only cold, but insufficient. It is my duty to state that not only had the accomplished Fellow of Trinity “considerably overstepped the limits of his commission,” but
had concealed the fact of having done so till the printing of the work was completed. He was fastidious to excess in his critical scholarship. His clandestine mode of proceeding was to be attributed to his utter want of decision of character. To me he at length made the tardy communication of his error. “I ought properly to address Mr. Sumner, but I cannot muster confidence to make the communication to him. The truth is, that I have been guilty of great and unwarrantable liberties with regard to the translation of
Milton. I understood it to be his wish that I should make no alterations, except such as were approved of by him; and with this wish I conformed for a short time, except some minute encroachments after the sheet was returned from Windsor; but as I went on, so many instances occurred to me in which, so I thought, the translation might be bettered, that at last I dropped all remorse and altered without compunction. The truth was, that although the translation would in any case have been quite as good as is generally thought proper to bestow on modern works, written in foreign languages—so that the public would not have complained,—I could not be satisfied, unless it were something better.” Many, he says, may think he had too rigid ideas of the duties of a translator. His justification was to be found, he maintains, in the desire he felt “that the work might be, not good in a certain stated degree, but as good as it could be made.”

The days before “Murray”—the days when the tourist went groping his way through foreign towns without the friendly aid of the famous “Hand Books for Travellers”—seem to belong to an era when the majority of Britons were, in some sense, “almost
separated from the whole world.” Yet, in 1825, these excellent books would have been before their time. Travelling had not then become a fashion. The. modes of conveyance were tedious, uncertain, and expensive. An opportunity was presented to me in the August of that year of seeing Paris under agreeable circumstances; and I persuaded myself that through a personal intercourse with French publishers I could unite business with pleasure. I joined a family, of which the mother had been the friend of my childhood—whose elder daughter was growing into the elegant and accomplished woman—whose two sons were Etonians, full of spirit and curiosity. We travelled through Picardy with a calèche and pair of horses that we had hired at Calais; accomplishing about forty miles each day, with ample opportunities of seeing the country and observing the manners of the people. The Diligence often passed us or met us. We could never want a hearty laugh whilst the postilion diverted us with his jackboots and his pigtail. We drew up beneath the hedge-row apple-trees as he cracked his leathern whip with the noise of a little blunderbuss. We rather pitied the poor creatures, who, in the hottest of weather, were shut up in the interior of that machine. We did not even envy the uninterrupted prospect of the few who sat aloft with the conducteur in the cabriolet. So we leisurely journeyed, pleased with all we saw; enjoying the quails and partridges, which we often found at dinner or supper, although the glory of bread-sauce was reserved for our own country, according to the belief of
Lord Devon; mightily relishing the wine which we always thought surprisingly cheap; and well inclined to believe that
there were no bad inns upon the road which the English were wont to use in the days of leisurely travelling. They are gone,—for the tourist from Boulogne to Paris of 1864—the Diligence, the Malle poste, the colossal boots, and the queues. He cannot enjoy, as we enjoyed, the quiet dinner at Montreuil; the nice supper at Abbeville; the market day at Beauvais, amidst smiling vendors of eggs and poultry in their wondrous caps and sabots, who did not seem as if they ever toiled in the harvest time as we had seen some of their hard-worked country-women. We now rush from London to Paris in twelve hours, and fancy we have seen France.

The Paris of Charles X. was as suggestive of political and social contrasts to the Paris of the first Napoleon, as its physical aspects gave no promise of the wonders that might be effected under a sagacious despotism during the lapse of another generation. There was a constitutional Government; a vigorous opposition; an unlicensed Press. There were earnest speakers in the Chamber of Deputies; bitter satirists in prose and verse; Beranger was on all lips, and Courier might be read in castrated editions; the officers of the Crown instituted proceedings against journalists, but the tribunals refused to condemn them. There was then an open straggle between the narrowest bigotry and the broadest licence in matters of religion. The priestly and ultra-royalist parties, with the Court at their head, were despised. They were “les infiniment petits” whose fall would be a Revolution. I saw the King and the Royal family walk from the Tuileries in procession to Notre Dame, on the Feast of the Ascension of the Virgin, amidst a population intent upon a holiday
and in tolerable good humour. But there was no enthusiasm, and there were significant shrugs of the shoulders. While the King was marching through the streets at the head of an army of priests, the people were discussing the atrocity of the law of sacrilege which was being debated in the Chamber of Deputies, under which law the profanation of the sacred utensils was to be punished with death. Nevertheless, all was gaiety in this beauteous summer time. There were then noble trees on the Boulevards, beneath whose shade we sipped our ices, or lingered till the deep blue sky was gemmed with stars. The gardens of the Tuileries and the Champs Elysées were filled with crowds of idlers. Versailles, with its Grandes Eaux, was to us a place of wonder and delight. The Palace of the Grand Monarque, before
Louis Philippe had dedicated its saloons to the glories of the Consulate and the Empire, presented historical memorials more interesting than picture after picture of battle fields, most of them bad and all wearisome. The streets of Paris were fertile in remembrances of a past generation of comparative uncivilisation. The stinking gutter stagnated in the middle of the causeway, which had no trottoirs. The rope stretched from side to side, with the lamp in the centre, made us understand the meaning of à la lanterne. I was awakened every morning at five o’clock by the cleaving of wood in the Rue Richelieu, for the winter supply of the Hôtel des Princes, in which I had the misfortune to be lodged in a front bed-room. In spite of some discomforts—even in a first-rate hotel—which have now vanished, we were well pleased with our fortnight of sight-seeing; were not discomposed by assisting at the representation of
three farces at the Theatre des Variétés, in which the chief humour was a burlesque of English manners. At the Theatre Français I saw
Talma in Sylla, and lost my belief that French dramatic poetry was essentially a conventional and tame affair. The great tragedian united, as I then felt, the majestic impressiveness of Kemble with the passionate energy of Kean. I am afraid that I was too much pleased and excited in Paris to attend very profitably to business. I found the publishers with whom I had negotiations very obliging and unpretentious; living plainly in their houses of business; and not affecting to be anything grander than dealers in books, who had a shrewd eye to a bargain. We travelled homeward through Normandy, where the green fields and the pretty churches reminded us of English scenes. We rested for a night at Neufchâtel, where we tasted the delicious little cheeses fresh in the place of their production—a luxury made just then somewhat famous by the mistake of a worthy alderman of London, who, having first seen the delicacy at a great man’s table, said he would order a hundred of his correspondent, and was astonished by the delivery at his door of a ton or two of the hard cheeses of Switzerland, almost as big as a cart wheel. May I dare to say, that some of the leisure of the ladies of our party was employed in sewing sundry yards of French silk within the lining of my cloak. Smuggling was then deemed a venial offence. Huskisson’s great measure removing the prohibition upon the importation of foreign silks was not to take effect till 1826.

When I returned in September, my family were at Windsor. I had the opportunity, in company
Dr. Sumner, of seeing the progress of the great improvements of the Castle, and of listening to the clear explanations of his plans, which Mr. Wyatville gave with the straightforward simplicity characteristic of his practical genius. In the previous summer, soon after the commencement of the works, I had gone into the old building with Mr. Britton. We had found the architect sitting alone surrounded with demolished walls at the north-east angle of the Terrace front, deeply engaged in the study of a ground plan. His idea of the beautiful octagon tower, called Brunswick, was then shaping itself into that harmonious combination of somewhat incongruous parts which he so happily effected in many portions of the fortress-palace of Edward III., by the careful preservation of old features and the happy adaptation of new. I could not long linger at Windsor in the enjoyment of a beautiful autumn, but had to be much in London, as the publishing season was approaching. Every day was then giving birth to some new project for the employment of capital, although during the Session of Parliament, which closed on the 6th of July, two hundred and eighty-six private bills had been passed for schemes of local improvement, chiefly to be effected by the agency of Joint Stock Companies. You could scarcely meet a man in the city who had not something to say about the rise or the fall in shares—shares in Canals, in Rail-roads, in Packets, in Gasworks, in Mines, in Banks, in Insurance Offices, in Fisheries, in. Sugar and Indigo cultivation, in Irish Manufactures, in Newspapers. At the beginning of the Session the King had “the happiness of congratulating” his Parliament on “general and in-
creasing prosperity;” at the end of the Session the same prosperity “continues to pervade every part of the kingdom.” These sanguine views gained for the Chancellor of the Exchequer the title of “
Prosperity Robinson.” Turning aside from thoughts of French translations and other productions of ephemeral Literature, I had devised a large and comprehensive scheme of a “National Library”—a cheap series of books which should condense the information contained in voluminous and expensive works. I prepared a Prospectus, in which I truly said, “It is to be remarked that, with some few striking exceptions, the general Literature of our country is either addressed to men of leisure and research, and is, therefore, bulky and diffuse; or it is frittered down into meagre and spiritless outlines, adapted only for juvenile capacities.” I settled the subjects of about a hundred volumes, in History, Science and Art, and Miscellaneous Literature. I submitted this Prospectus to Mr. Colburn, who expressed his desire to join me in the undertaking, in conjunction with some wholesale house. It was settled that Mr. Whittaker should be applied to, and accordingly the general terms of an agreement were soon arranged between us.

During November I applied myself assiduously to the preparation of a complete scheme to go before the public. I obtained the opinion of judicious advisers. I made overtures to writers. I received a letter from my old friend the Rev. J. M. Turner, in which he says, “I hear from Mr. Locker that you are about to undertake an extensive scheme of publication something like that which Constable is advertising so assiduously. I shall be very glad
to enlist as a contributor to your stores. Constable’s programme seems very imposing, but like all comprehensive sketches it is both deficient and redundant.” My own plan was no doubt open to the same objection. It was more systematic than Constable’s, and, therefore, perhaps less attractive. I was in high spirits at the prospect of congenial occupation in the editorship of this series, and in a probable source of profit with a limited responsibility.
Mr. Whittaker was as sanguine as myself. We had contracted an intimacy as members of a Club of a peculiar character, of which there was no previous example, and which, as far as I know, has had no imitators. “The Publishers’ Club” included under that comprehensive name Authors as well as Publishers proper. Mr. Jerdan, in his “Autobiography,” describes this Club as “The Literary Club,” but I never knew it under any other name than “The Publishers’.” Our monthly dinner was at the Albion, in Aldersgate Street. It was an exceedingly pleasant association, even when the proceedings were not enlivened by invited guests, such as the great comedians Munden and Mathews. I remember an evening of rare enjoyment, when I sat by Munden—a man of the most exquisite humour—a great actor when asked for an exercise of his art, but returning naturally to take an intelligent share in general conversation. On ordinary occasions, Mr. Croly harangued in a style which some deemed eloquence; Mr. Jerdan made puns which some regarded as wit; and Dr. Kitchener pronounced dogmatic opinions upon cookery and wine. Hood, a few years before, had spread his fame far and wide in his “Ode to Dr. Kitchener;” but I was not quite
aware of our Vice-Chairman’s greatness in the world of gastronomy till I saw the rich landlord of the Albion address himself to the sage physician, whose maxim to ward off dyspepsia was “masticate, denticate, chump, and chew.” As he sat, eagerly looking for the remove, with his pocket-case of sauces by his side, Mr. —— humbly requested that he would deign to taste of a certain dish which the genius of his chef had recently produced. The fiat of approval was given. Henceforth the luxury would be classical.

The first meeting of our Club season of 1825 was joyous. The second meeting was dismal. The commercial world was in alarm. How well I remember the anxious face of Mr. James Duncan, one of the most prudent and sagacious of publishers! Even such a man
“Drew Priam’s curtain in the dead of night,
And would have told him, half his Troy was burnt.”
Duncan would have told us, had he dared, that half the Row was shaky. Few of our Club after this meeting were in the humour for a monthly festivity. The Panic had come, passing over all our tribe like the Simoom, bringing with it general feebleness, if not individual death.
Scott, in the blind confidence which he felt, even whilst he and Constable were signing “sheafs of bills,” writes in his Journal of November 25th, “After all, it is hard that the vagabond stock-jobbing Jews, should, for their own purposes, make such a state of credit as now exists in London.” If the “pleasant vices” of speculative men had not found work for the stock-jobbing Jews, there would have been no panic to become one of
the “instruments to scourge us”—the humblest subjects, and the highest potentates, of “the realms of print.” The house of
Whittaker succumbed very early, and its affairs were righteously administered by Trustees, who in a few years restored it to its old position. Hurst and Robinson fell, never to rise again, and pulled down Constable and Ballantyne with them. Then began the heroic period of Walter Scott’s life, when we might almost envy him his misfortunes and mistakes, in the contemplation of the grandeur of his efforts to retrieve them.

On the 6th of December I had been at Windsor. Returning to London by the afternoon coach, I learnt that the banking-house of Williams & Co. had stopped payment. They were the bankers who transacted the business of Messrs. Ramsbottom and Legh, the partners in our sole Windsor bank, and large brewers. I was upon intimate terms with both these gentlemen, and I dreaded the consequence to them of this unexpected calamity. Late at night they both arrived at my house in Pall Mall East. We spent several hours in anxious consultation; but it was at length agreed that Mr. Legh should immediately return to Windsor, to countermand an order that had been given for the closing of their bank on the morning of the 7th. It had seemed impossible upon the first receipt of the disastrous intelligence to prevent a fatal run upon them; for their resources, beyond the regulated supply of specie and banknotes to pay their own well-worn pieces of paper—the ordinary currency of the town and neighbourhood—were now locked up in the unfortunate London house. Mr. Ramsbottom was one of the members for the borough, very
popular, and of unimpeached credit. He and I set out on an excursion, west and east, to seek the assistance of bankers and other capitalists, his friends. In the Albany we found the partners of one firm, that of Messrs. Everett, deliberating by lamp-light. A few words showed how unavailing was the hope of help from them: “We shall ourselves stop at nine o’clock.” The dark December morning gradually grew lighter; the gas-lamps died out; but long before it was perfect day we found Lombard Street blocked up by eager crowds, each man struggling to be foremost at the bank where he kept his account if its doors should be opened. We entered several of the banks where the counters were surrounded by the presenters of cheques; and were witnesses to the calm which sustains the honest English trader in the hour of difficulty, even as it has sustained many a naval commander when the ship has struck upon a sunken rock, and his own safety is the last consideration. There was a London office of Messrs. Ramsbottom’s brewery; and here we found a considerable sum that, through the prudence of the principal clerk, had not been paid in on the 6th to their banking agents in Birchin Lane. We decided upon a plan of action, the artifice of which was justified by the necessity of the case. I took my seat in a postchaise with my treasure—something less than a thousand pounds—and was whirled to Windsor in a couple of hours by four horses. As I changed horses at Hounslow, or stopped at turnpikes, I proclaimed, “funds for the Windsor Bank.” The news spread down the road in that extraordinary way in which news, good or bad, is promulgated. I drove triumphantly into the yard
of the Bank, amidst the hurrahs of a multitude outside, to whom I had proclaimed my mission. There was a meeting at the same time taking place at the Town Hall, at which my townsmen entered into resolutions declaring their opinion of the solvency of the firm, and the necessity of not pressing upon them in the hour of difficulty. The bank was saved. Its failure would have spread general dismay and misery; especially as several of the tradesmen largely employed in the alterations of the Castle depended upon advances for wages upon their credit accounts with Messrs. Ramsbottom. I went the next day to
Dr. Sumner, and represented to him that a prompt payment of arrears from the Board of Works would be an immense relief. With a ready kindness he applied to the highest quarter. The King’s intervention,—then, perhaps, more potent in overcoming obstacles of routine than in the present day—quickly accomplished this object. Williams & Co. resumed payments in a few weeks.

Lockhart, in his life of Scott, relates that in January, 1826, Constable, awakening from his dream of safety from impending ruin, had come to London with the resolution of applying to the Bank of England, “for a loan of from 100,000l. to 200,000l. on the security of the copyrights in his possession.” Copyrights, in that perilous season, were a most unmarketable commodity; and the Governor and Company of the Bank of England, or indeed any other bankers, would have regarded such securities, and even the most valuable stock of a publisher, as so much waste paper. My own credit was unassailed amidst suspicions on every side. I had no engagements that had arisen out of the system of
accommodation bills,—those treacherous allies who pull down the strongest in the hour of mortal conflict. Such desperate help in tiding over difficulties was fully developed in all its evils by that unsparing Panic. I had trade engagements that would have been duly met, if a paralysis of commerce had not been eventually as dangerous as its apoplexy; chronic decay as fatal as sudden extinction. The publications of 1825 would no longer sell in 1826; the new works projected, written, half printed, advertised, must wait for a more propitious time. The “tender leaves” would not endure that “killing frost.” This was the reasoning of most of us—of nearly all, with the exception of
Mr. Colburn, who pushed his new works with great vigour, having the market of light literature almost wholly to himself. He was perhaps more right than his fellows, in following a course which the most wonderful Common-sense, lifted into the noblest poetry by the power of Imagination, has prescribed as well for publishers as for statesmen:—
“To have done, is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail
In monumental mockery.”
For myself, I saw and heard so much of commercial misery, of fear that kills, of unmerited suspicion troubling the sleep of the most prudent, that the spring was passing into summer, and I began to look upon 1826 as a lost year of business. I could not resolve to “take the instant way”—to “keep the path.” I had achieved something like a position in 1825. I could scarcely hope to regain it by following the usual course of publishing books that might
live their little hour of novelty and then pass to the trunk-makers. Every day made me sick of my occupation. “
The Brazen Head,” of which I have spoken, dropped upon the town like a leaden lump. Credit was whispered away. Harsh judgments were pronounced upon the unlucky. In this dark season I sometimes heard the raven-croak of a man who peeped into every corner, and was nightly exhibited in his peeping attitude to laughing play-goers. The Paul Pry of Liston was a chubby, rosy-faced, good-natured, but essentially mischievous meddler, known as Tom Hill. He would lay hold of your button in the streets, and detain you by some such talk as this:—“Do you know if W— has given up his hunter? I asked one of his porters, and he wouldn’t tell me . . . . . Isn’t it suspicious to see —— and Co. sending a waggon load of stock from their warehouse? . . . . Do give a hint to your friend in —— Street, that his servants are very extravagant. I looked down his area and saw them having hot rolls for breakfast.” I got away from this moral fog of London as soon as I could. I was shut up, moody and irresolute, at Windsor, in the summer, projecting, planning, re-arranging my “National Library” scheme, which had been stifled by the panic before its birth; adding a book here and there, or curtailing the list, already too long. I was about to return to London with no more preparation for a coming campaign than half a dozen various prospectuses of this work. It had become a fixed idea with me, to the exclusion of all minor purposes of business or literary occupation.

In the autumn of 1826 Mr. Brougham was organizing his “Society for the Diffusion of Useful
Knowledge.” The Long Vacation was at an end, and in that November, the prospectus of the new society was privately circulated. It said,—“The object of the Society is strictly limited to what its title imports, namely, the imparting useful information to all classes of the community, particularly to such as are unable to avail themselves of experienced teachers, or may prefer learning by themselves.” Here, then, appeared an opening for the nurture of my cherished scheme, of which I ought to avail myself. At Windsor, in November, I received a letter from
Mr. M. D. Hill, wishing me to come to town immediately, as he had mentioned my plan of popular books to Mr. Brougham, and to a committee for the encouragement of such a project, and that he thought great things might be done. Of course this communication brought me instantly to London; and I was very quickly introduced by Mr. Hill to Mr. Brougham. That interview is indelibly impressed upon my memory with all its attendant circumstances. I had never come across the renowned orator in private life, or had seen him under an every-day character. There was an image in my mind of the Queen’s Attorney-General, as I had often beheld him in the House of Lords, wielding a power in the proceedings on the Bill of Pains and Penalties which no other man seemed to possess—equivocating witnesses crouching beneath his withering scorn; mighty peers shrinking from his bold sarcasm; the whole assembly visibly agitated at times by the splendour of his eloquence. The Henry Brougham I had gazed upon was, in my mind’s eye, a man stern and repellent; not to be approached with any attempt at familiarity; whose
opinions must be received with the most respectful deference; whose mental superiority would be somewhat overwhelming. The Henry Brougham into whose chambers in Lincoln’s Inn I was ushered on a November night was sitting amidst his briefs, evidently delighted to be interrupted for some thoughts more attractive. After saluting my friend with a joke, and grasping my hand with a cordial welcome, he went at once to the subject upon which I came. The rapid conception of the features of my plan; the few brief questions as to my wishes; the manifestation of a warm interest in my views without the slightest attempt to be patronizing, were most gratifying to me. The image of the great orator of 1820 altogether vanished when I listened to the unpretentious and often playful words of one of the best table-talkers of 1826,—it vanished, even as the full-bottomed wig of that time seemed to have belonged to some other head than the close-cropped one upon which I looked. The foremost advocate of popular education made no harangues about its advantages. He did not indoctrinate me, as I have been bored by many an educationist before and since, with flourishes upon a subject which he gave Mr. Hill and myself full credit for comprehending.
M. Charles Dupin said to Mackintosh, after a night in the House of Commons—“I heard not one word about the blessings of Liberty.”—“No, no,” replied Mackintosh, “we take all that for granted.” So did Henry Brougham take for granted that he and I were in accord upon the subject of the Diffusion of Knowledge. He was then within a few days of the completion of his forty-seventh year; full of health
and energy—one who had been working without intermission in literature, in science, in law, in politics, for a quarter of a century, but one to whom no work seemed to bring fatigue; no tedious mornings of the King’s Bench, no sleepless nights of the House of Commons, able to “stale his infinite variety.” From that hour I felt more confidence in talking with perfect freedom to him who worthily filled so large a space in the world’s eye, than to many a man of commonplaces, whose depths I had plumbed and had found them shallow. That first interview with Mr. Brougham was an event that had a marked influence upon many subsequent passages of my life.

It would be a fruitless and wearisome story of private affairs, were I to detail the circumstances under which my unfortunate “National Library,” having been at first taken up by the Society of which Mr. Brougham was President, and negotiations having been opened with their publishers, was finally adopted by Mr. Murray, with an earnestness which was to me very assuring, after my long term of enforced idleness and dark apprehensions. The eminent West-end publisher was committed to the enterprise, by the issue of the Prospectus in his own name, which I had so carefully prepared. In my original Prospectus, which I had submitted to Mr. Murray in February, 1826, I had said, “It is our peculiar object to condense the information which is scattered through voluminous and expensive works, into the form and substance of Original Treatises.” In the Prospectus issued on the 24th of December, it was set forth that “the divisions of Popular Knowledge in which the National Library is arranged, will
comprehend, in distinct Treatises, the most important branches of instruction and amusement. They will present the most valuable and interesting articles of an Encyclopædia, in a form accessible to every description of purchaser.” This final Prospectus is printed, , in
Goodhugh’sEnglish Gentleman’s Library Manual,”—published in May, 1827. Differences of opinion about the editorial responsibility of the series too soon arose. Quis custodiet was answered by the apparition of a very solemn divine, who talked as a “Sir Oracle.” Arrangements regarding my old stock and copyrights, which it was considered—I may say perfectly understood—were to be taken at a valuation, when I was about to merge my business in the great house of Albemarle Street, presented new obstacles. Thus were my prospects clouded in a few weeks of 1827. I was heartsick at last, and abandoning the whole scheme left it for the imitation of others of more independent means. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge produced their “Treatises” in March, and Messrs. Longman their Lardner’sCabinet Cyclopædia” a few years afterwards. Mr. Murray, I had reason to believe, had become frightened at the magnitude of my plan. He several times said to me, “where will you find the men to write these books?” In my maturer experience I came to perceive that this was the real difficulty in such undertakings.

Let me hasten to close these recollections of the spring of 1827. Scott writes of old letters, somewhere in his Diary, “they rise up as scorpions to hiss at me.” So may I write of the documents by which I trace this crisis of my life. My abortive efforts to begin a new career, shaking off future responsibilities
of trade, made the responsibilities which remained more onerous. My boat was stranded. Happily for me there were no wreckers at hand ready for the plunder of my damaged cargo. A private trust administered my affairs, whose only concern was to realize—to sell, to the best advantage, land, houses, newspaper, stock, copyrights. I would not be a burden. I would earn my own bread. I walked forth from my business homes in London and Windsor, after the fashion of a man represented in a wood-cut in a title-page of one of the old printers (I think it was a work of Budæus) which comes into my thoughts—a man, not bowed down by age or sorrow, moving forward, not briskly, but not unsteadily, with his stout staff, and his small wallet, and a label of four words,—“Omnia mea mecum porto.”