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Memoir of John Murray
Chapter VII.

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
‣ Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chap. XX.
Chap. XXI.
Chap. XXII.
Chap. XXIII.
Chap. XXIV.
Chap. XXV.
Chap. XXVI.
Chap. XXVII.
Chap. XXIX.
Chap. XXX.
Chap. XXXI.
Chap. XXXII.
Chap. XXXIV.
Chap. XXXV.
Chap. XXXVI.
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While Mr. Gifford was marshalling his forces and preparing for the issue of the first number of the Quarterly, Mr. Murray was corresponding with James Ballantyne of Edinburgh as to the works they were jointly engaged in bringing out, and also with respect to the northern agency of the new Review. An arrangement was made between them that they should meet at Boroughbridge, in Yorkshire, at the beginning of January 1809, for the purpose of concocting their plans. Ballantyne proposed to leave Edinburgh on the 5th of January, and Murray was to set out from London on the same day, both making for Boroughbridge. A few days before Ballantyne left Edinburgh he wrote to Murray:—

“I shall not let a living soul know of my intended journey. Entire secrecy seems necessary at present I dined yesterday téte-à-téte with Mr. Scott, and had a great deal of highly important conversation with him. He showed me a letter bidding a final farewell to the house of Constable.”

It was mid-winter, and there were increasing indications of a heavy storm brewing. Notwithstanding the severity of the weather, however, both determined to set out for their place of meeting in Yorkshire Two days before Ballantyne left Edinburgh, he wrote as follows:—

Mr. Ballantyne to John Murray.
Jan. 4th, 1809.
Dear Murray,

It is blowing the devil’s weather here; but no matter—if the mail goes, I go. I shall travel by the mail, and shall, instantly on arriving, go to the ‘Crown,’ hoping to find you and an imperial dinner. By the bye, you had better, on your arrival, take places north and south for the following day. In four or five hours after your receiving this, I expect to shake your princely paw.

Thine, J. B.

Scott wrote at the same time—

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
Castle St., Jan. 4th, 1809.
My dear Sir,

I trouble you with a few lines to say that I will have my articles ready to send off to Mr. Gifford early next week. I have been strangely interrupted, first by my duty as Clerk to a Commission now sitting for reform of our Courts, and since by a very bad cold. Mrs. Scott sends you her kindest thanks for ‘Marmion Pocket Book.’

Ballantyne, who takes charge of this note, sets off to-day to meet you. We talked over a great number of plans or hints of plans together, and I am positively certain enough may be done in various ways to make him hold up his character with any Edinburgh publisher. Constable and I are quite broken, owing to Mr. Hunter’s extreme incivility, to which I will certainly never subject myself more. It seems uncertain whether even the ‘Swift’ proceeds, but this I will bring to a point. I shall be most anxious to see the Review. It is publicly talked of here, though by some confounded with Cumberland’s attempt. Constable mentioned the report to me and asked me if it was to be an Edinburgh publication. I told him report said “no.”

I fear this snow will render your journey rather unpleasant, but hope Ballantyne will get through notwithstanding. Believe me, my dear Sir,

Yours truly,
W. Scott.

The weather, however, interfered with the meeting. It was snowing in Edinburgh, and snowing in London. Murray travelled northward by the mail, but although the coach, was drawn by six horses all the way, he was only able to reach Doncaster by the time that he should have been at Boroughbridge. In many places the labourers were at work shovelling away the snow and clearing out the roads. Early on the following morning, Murray pushed on from Doncaster. Ballantyne had experienced even severer weather; the snow-drifts along the Border had seriously interrupted the progress of the mail, and two days elapsed before he could meet his friend at the ‘Crown.’ At length they met, enjoyed their imperial dinner, and after transacting their important business they departed, one for Edinburgh, the other for London.

Ballantyne, on reaching Edinburgh, wrote:—

Mr. James Ballantyne to John Murray.
Jan. 11th, 1809.

I got home last night shrivelled with the cold like an autumn leaf, but sound in wind and limb. I have seen and talked over all our matters with our friend (Scott), and had the happiness to find that his confidence in us both is even increased by the coherence of our views in all particulars. . . . During our conversation I impressed him as strongly as I could respecting the importance of the first number of the Review, and found him as energetic and warm as yourself could wish. He even said that such was his sense of the duty which he had himself undertaken, that he wrote his articles with a degree of anxiety and care, which he fears may rather have injured than aided their effect. He complains much of the difficulty he found in getting those who had engaged to write to fulfil their engagement; but seems to regard this as necessarily attending every new plan. On the whole, he thinks your commencement is likely to be auspicious, and your progress great. Whether there is any hope that he may be in town in time to be useful to your
first number I greatly doubt. He is over head and ears—not in politics, history, or poetry, but in figures and calculations! This is in consequence of his new employment as Clerk to the Commission of Parliament for reforming the Scotch Courts, which for the present almost entirely engrosses him. Were his facility of composition less, or his industry, he might fairly say that he had no time for other duties.

Most truly and faithfully yours,
J. B.

The Ballantynes were appointed publishers of the new Review in Edinburgh, and, with a view to a more central position, they proceeded to take premises in South Hanover Street. Scott wrote with reference to this:—

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
Feb. 1809.

I enclose the promised ‘Swift,’ and am now, I think, personally out of your debt, though I will endeavour to stop up gaps if I do not receive the contributions I expect from others. Were I in the neighbourhood of your shop in London I could soon run up half a sheet of trifling articles with a page or two to each, but that is impossible here for lack of materials.

When the Ballantynes open shop you must take care to have them supplied with food for such a stop-gap sort of criticism. I think we will never again feel the pressure we have had for this number; the harvest has literally been great and the labourers few.

Yours truly,
W. S.
Mr. James Ballantyne to John Murray.
January 27th, 1809.

“I see or hear of nothing but good about the Review. Mr. Scott is at this moment busy with two articles, besides the one he has sent. In conversation a few days since, I heard a gentleman ask him, ‘Pray, sir, do you think the Quarterly Review will be equal to the Edinburgh ?’ His answer was, ‘I won’t be quite sure of the first number,
because of course there are difficulties attending the commencement of every work which time and habit can alone smooth away. But I think the first number will be a good one, and in the course of three or four, I think we’ll sweat them!’”

The first number of the Quarterly Review was published at the end of February, 1809. Like most first numbers, it did not entirely realize the sanguine views of its promoters. It did not burst like a thunder-clap on the reading public; nor did it give promise to its friends that a new political power had been born into the world. The general tone was more literary than political; and though it contained much that was well worth reading, none of its articles were of first-rate quality.

Walter Scott was the principal contributor, and was keenly interested in its progress, though his mind was ever teeming with other new schemes. The allusion in the following letter to his publication of “many un-authenticated books,” if unintentional, seems little less than prophetic.

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
Edinburgh, Feb. 25th, 1809.
Dear Sir,

I see with pleasure that you will be out on the first. Yet I wish I could have seen my articles in proof, for I seldom read over my things in manuscript, and always find infinite room for improvement at the printer’s expense. I hope our hurry will not be such another time as to deprive me of the chance of doing the best I can, which depends greatly on my seeing the proofs. Pray have the goodness to attend to this.

I have made for the Ballantynes a little selection of poetry, to be entitled ‘English Minstrelsy;’ I also intend to arrange for them a first volume of English Memoirs, to be entitled—

Secret History of the Court of James I.

To consist of

Osborne’sTraditional Memoirs.’
Sir Anthony Welldon’sCourt and Character of James I.
Heylin’sAulicus Coquinariae.’
Sir Edward Peyton’sRise and Fall of the House of Stewart.’

I will add a few explanatory notes to these curious memoirs, and hope to continue the collection, as (thanks to my constant labour on ‘Somers’) it costs me no expense, and shall cost the proprietors none. You may advertise the publications, and Ballantyne, equally agreeable to his own wish and mine, will let you choose your own share in them. I have a commission for you in the way of art. I have published many unauthenticated books, as you know, and may probably bring forward many more. Now I wish to have it in my power to place on a few copies of each a decisive mark of appropriation. I have chosen for this purpose a device borne by a champion of my name in a tournament at Stirling! It was a gate and portcullis, with the motto clausus tutus ero. I have it engraved on a seal, as you may remark on the enclosure, but it is done in a most blackguard style. Now what I want is to have this same gateway and this same portcullis and this same motto of clausus tutus era, which is an anagram of Walterus Scotus (taking two single U’s for the W), cut upon wood in the most elegant manner, so as to make a small vignette capable of being applied to a few copies of every work which I either write or publish. This fancy of making portcullis copies I have much at heart, and trust to you to get it accomplished for me in the most elegant manner. I don’t mind the expense, and perhaps Mr. Westall might be disposed to make a sketch for me.

I am most anxious to see the Review. God grant we may lose no ground; I tremble when I think of my own articles, of two of which I have but an indefinite recollection.

What would you think of an edition of the ‘Old English Froissart,’ say 500 in the small antique quarto, a beautiful size of book; the spelling must be brought to an uniformity, the work copied (as I could not promise my beautiful copy to go to press), notes added and illustrations, &c., and inaccuracies corrected. I think Johnes would be
driven into most deserved disgrace, and I can get the use of a most curious MS. of the French Froissart in the Newbattle Library, probably the finest in existence after that of Berlin. I am an enthusiast about
Berners’ Froissart, and though I could not undertake the drudgery of preparing the whole for the press, yet Weber* would do it under my eye upon the most reasonable terms. I would revise every part relating to English history.

I have several other literary schemes, but defer mentioning them till I come to London, which I sincerely hope will be in the course of a month or six weeks. I hear Mr. Canning is anxious about our Review. Constable says it is a Scotch job. I could not help quizzing Mr. Robert Miller, who asked me in an odd sort of way, as I thought, why it was not out? I said very indifferently I knew nothing about it, but heard a vague report that the Edition was to be much enlarged on account of the expected demand. I also inclose a few lines to my brother, and am, dear Sir,

Very truly yours,
W. Scott.

It is universally agreed here that Cumberland is five hundred degrees beneath contempt.

Ballantyne, Scott’s partner, and publisher of the Review in Edinburgh, hastened to communicate to Murray their joint views as to the success of the work.

Mr. Ballantyne to John Murray.
February 28th, 1809.
My Dear Murray,

I received the Quarterly an hour ago. Before taking it to Mr. Scott, I had just time to look into the article on Burns, and at the general aspect of the book. It looks uncommonly well. . . . The view of Burns’ character is better than Jeffrey’s. It is written in a more congenial tone, with more tender, kindly feeling. Though not perhaps written with such elaborate eloquence as Jeffrey’s, the thoughts are more original, and the style equally

* Henry Weber, Scott’s amanuensis.

powerful. The two first articles (and perhaps the rest are not inferior) will confer a name on the Review, But why do I trouble you with my opinions, when I can give you Mr. Scott’s? He has just been reading the
Spanish article beside me, and he again and again interrupted himself with expressions of the strongest admiration.

Three days later, Ballantyne again wrote:—

“I have now read ‘Spain,’ ‘Burns,’ ‘Woman,’ ‘Curran,’ ‘Cid,’ ‘Carr,’ ‘Missionaries.’ Upon the whole, I think these articles most excellent. Mr. Scott is in high spirits; but he says there are evident marks of haste in most of them. With respect to his own articles, he much regrets not to have had the opportunity of revising them. He thinks the ‘Missionaries’ very clever; but he shakes his head at ‘Sidney,’ ‘Woman,’ and ‘Public Characters,’ Our copies, which we expected this morning, have not made their appearance, which has given us no small anxiety. We are panting to hear the public voice. Depend upon it, if our exertions are continued, the thing will do. Would G. were as active as Scott and Murray!”

Murray had plenty of advisers. Gifford said he had too many. His friend, Sharon Turner, was ready with his criticism on No. I. He deplored the appearance of the article by Scott on “Carr’s Tour in Scotland.”*

Mr. Sharon Turner to John Murray.

“I cannot endure the idea of an individual being wounded merely because he has written a book. If, as in the case of the authors attacked in the ‘Baviad,’ the works censured were vitiating our literature—or, as in the case of Moore’s Poems, corrupting our morals—if they were denouncing our religious principles, or attacking those political principles on which our Government subsists—let them be criticised without mercy. The salus publica

* Scott himself had written to Murray about this, which he calls “a whisky-frisky article,” on June 30. “I take the advantage of forwarding Sir John’s Review, to send you back his letters under the same cover. He is an incomparable goose, but as he is innocent and good-natured, I would not like it to be publicly known that the flagellation comes from my hand. Secrecy therefore will oblige me.”

demands the sacrifice. But to make an individual ridiculous merely because he has written a foolish, if it be a harmless book, is not, I think, justifiable on any moral principle. . . . I repeat my principle. Whatever tends to vitiate our literary taste, our morals, our religious or political principles, may be fairly at the mercy of criticism. So, whatever tends to introduce false science, false history, indeed, falsehood in any shape, exposes itself to the censor’s rod. But harmless, inoffensive works should be passed by. Where is the bravery of treading on a worm or crushing a poor fly? Where the utility? Where the honour?”

On the 28th of February Murray wrote to Ballantyne:—

“I have sent you 100 of the Quarterly Review by the mail, and 100 by the stage coach from White Horse, Fetter Lane. I intend to undergo the expense myself. To be sold to the trade precisely as the Edinburgh Review is sold.”

The supply was not sufficient. “All the 200 Reviews” wrote Ballantyne, “except 25 were sold within two hours after the shop was opened;” 200 more copies were sent on the 4th of March; 50 on the 7th; 200 on the 18th; 100 on the 22nd; and 100 on the 20th—in all, 850 copies; 4000 copies had been printed at first; the edition was soon exhausted; and a second edition was called for. Murray wrote to Ballantyne:—

“Although I am considerably out of pocket by the adventure at present, yet I hope that in the course of next year it will at least pay its expenses.”

Mr. Scott was ample in his encouragements.

“I think,” he wrote to Murray, “a firm and stable sale will be settled here, to the extent of 1000 or 1500 even for the next number. . . . I am quite pleased with my ten guineas a sheet for my labour in writing, and for additional exertions. I will consider them as overpaid by success in the cause, especially while that success is doubtful.”

At the same time Scott wrote a long letter to Gifford,
of which the following sentence may be taken as a sample:—

“I will lay down my head in despair if this well-laid scheme is defeated by our own want of exertion. But I have no fear of it. I was never in my life subject to impressions of that nature; and in this case I will fight upon my stumps, like Widderington, and to the stumps, both of my pen and my sword, if need be.”

To Mr. Murray he wrote:—

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
Edinburgh, March 7th, 1809.
Dear Sir,

I safely received your letters for Erskine and myself covering the very handsome recompense of our labours, and also the new poem, and “John de Lancastre.” You need not fear my being courteous with such a veteran as Cumberland, though he has given me some provocation to use him harshly. General Report here is favourable to us, so far as it has reached my ear; and if the next number be what I anticipate with pleasure, there is no fear of us. I hope to get at least three capital articles here besides smaller things, and my own lucubrations. The copies sent to Hanover Street have made a very speedy retreat. I am anxiously expecting a summons to London because I hope to be of some use there, and we will talk over all our other plans. I am, dear Sir,

Yours truly,
Walter Scott.

Ballantyne wrote to Murray in March:—

Constable, I am told, has consulted Sir Samuel Romilly, and means, after writing a book against me, to prosecute me for stealing his plans! Somebody has certainly stolen his brains!”

The sales of the first number were not sufficiently large to remove Mr. Murray’s anxiety for the future, and on March 13 we find James Ballantyne writing to encourage him.


“You will be pleased to hear that Mr. Scott pronounces your letter* to be one of the most excellent and judicious he ever read. Indeed, Murray, so it is, a most capital letter. Fear nothing, my dear Murray, stout hearts and clear heads are united with you in a noble cause, and IT WILL TRIUMPH!”

Scott also alludes to the same subject in the following—

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
Edinburgh, March 19th, 1809.
My dear Sir,

I have your long and interesting letter. To me, who am acquainted with bookselling phrase, it is needless to say that a steady and respectable sale is just better than no sale at all. Here we have been more fortunate. Ballantyne has only about 30 left out of the last 200 received by sea, and thinks he could easily have sold double the number forwarded. Many announced themselves as steady customers, and I have no doubt you may sell 1000 in Scotland quarterly. B. has never had his parcel two days on his hands.

I have written a long and most pressing letter to Mr. Gifford, which I hope may have some effect. I see the faults you point out, but hardly know how to prevent them at this distance. I think you had better call on the Lord Advocate as from yourself, and state the necessity of my coming to town. I mention this because it is in his power to hasten my journey thither on some public business which may otherwise lie over for months; this, however, you need not hint to him, but barely state your regret that I have written to you dubiously on the subject of coming up, and the advantage my doing so would be to the Review. To me it is quite the same thing whether I come up now, or later in the summer, but to you it may be very different, for I see matters are between the winning and losing. And, to say truth, it would be an inconvenient crusade for me to come up this month on my own expense when I am sure to be called up the next on that of the public.

I have found means to get at Mr. G., and have procured a letter to be written to him, which may possibly produce

* The letter here referred to has unfortunately not been preserved.

one to you signed Rutherford or Richardson, or some such name, and dated from the North of England; or, if he does not write to you, enquiry is to be made whether he would choose you should address him. The secrecy to be observed in this business must be most profound, even to
Ballantyne and all the world. If you get articles from him (which will and must draw attention) you must throw out a false scent for enquirers. I believe this unfortunate man will soon be in London.

It is very ill proposed to give Sydney Smith’s sermons to Ireland, and the thing must not be. I intend to write to Mr. Gifford by post, begging them for Mr. Erskine. He and I know the man, and surely will manage the affair best.

Ballantyne gets possession of his shop in a few days. I mean he gets the workmen out of it, and enters business with the fairest auspices; prudence and firmness on his part cannot fail to establish him in the first rate in this place. His making a stand is most essential to the Review, and all our other plans for every other bookseller here has sunk under the predominating influence of Constable’s house, and they literally dare not call their souls their own.

Walter Scott.

In reply, Mr. Murray wrote on March 24th to Mr. Scott, urging him to come to London, and offering, “if there be no plea for charging your expenses to Government,” to “undertake that the Review shall pay them as far as one hundred guineas.” To this Scott replied—

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
Edinburgh, March 27th, 1809.

I have only time to give a very short answer to your letter. Some very important business detains me here till Monday or Tuesday, on the last of which days at farthest I will set off for town, and will be with you of course at the end of the week. As to my travelling expenses, if Government pay me, good and well; if they do not, depend on it I will never take a farthing from you. You have, my good friend, enough of expense to incur in forwarding this great and dubious undertaking, and God forbid I should add so
unreasonable a charge as your liberality points at. I am very frank in money matters, and always take my price when I think I can give money’s worth for money, but this is quite extravagant, and you must think no more of it. Should I want money for any purpose I will readily make you my banker and give you value in reviews.
John Ballantyne’s last remittance continues to go off briskly; the devil’s in you in London, you don’t know good writing when you get it. All depends on our cutting in before the next Edinburgh, when instead of following their lead they shall follow ours.

Mrs. Scott is my fellow-traveller in virtue of an old promise.

I am, dear Sir, yours truly,
Walter Scott.

April 4th, at night. I have been detained a day later than I intended, but set off to-morrow at mid-day. I believe I shall get franked, so will have my generosity for nothing. I hope to be in London on Monday.

On receiving his payment for the article on ‘Medals,’ Mr. Barré Charles Roberts communicated his thanks to Mr. Murray as follows:—

“I have received your draught from Mr. Gifford, and beg to return you many thanks. Were I to regard it as a reward, I could not in conscience help saying that it is far beyond my very poor deserts. But I fully enter into the very liberal and honourable motives which have regulated the principles on which the Quarterly Review is established.”

The most constant critic of the articles published in the Quarterly was Mr. George Ellis. He had been connected with the enterprise from the first, and felt himself in a measure responsible for its success. Immediately on the publication of the first number, he gave Mr. Murray his opinion as to the merits of the articles. He compared the number with the last Edinburgh, which, he said, was “the
very best that has yet appeared.” Yet his opinion of the first number of the
Quarterly was “not discouraging.” He thought that Scott’s article on ‘Burns’s Reliques’ was the best, though the other was “capital.” Southey’s article on the Missionaries was “uncommonly excellent.” He praised Turner’s Sanscrit article, as well as Dr. Young’s on Laplace. “Upon the whole,” he said, “I am at least tolerably satisfied; but you are the person to whom we must all look for the opinion of the public. I have tried to obtain a recruit in the person of Mr. Park, the editor of Bolingbroke’s later letters.”

In sending out copies of the first number, Mr. Murray was not forgetful of one friend who had taken a leading part in originating the Review.

In 1808 Mr. Stratford Canning, when only twenty years of age, had been selected to accompany Mr. Adair on a special mission to Constantinople. The following year, on Mr. Adair being appointed H. B. M. Minister to the Sublime Porte, Stratford Canning became Secretary of Legation. Mr. Murray wrote to him:—

John Murray to Mr. Stratford Canning.
32, Fleet St., London, March 12th, 1809.
Dear Sir,

It is with no small degree of pleasure that I send, for the favour of your acceptance, the first number of the Quarterly Review, a work which owes its birth to your obliging countenance and introduction of me to Mr. Gifford. I flatter myself that upon the whole you will not be dissatisfied with our first attempt, which is universally allowed to be so very respectable. Had you been in London during its progress, it would, I am confident, have been rendered more deserving of public attention. We need, indeed, the exertion of great energy to counteract the baneful effects of the widely circulating and dangerous principles of the E. R. which becomes, if possible, more immoral and certainly more openly Jacobinical—and the sale of this
work has arisen to the enormous extent of eleven thousand!

It is unnecessary for me to inform you that your friends are the principal writers and patrons of the Quarterly Review and that Mr. G—— is the editor. I find that, upon comparison with the E. R., we are thought to want spirit, and we require a succession of novelty to attract public attention before we shall be sufficiently read to render our counteracting arguments and principles decidedly serviceable to our cause. It will, I fear, be hoping too much to think that you have time to favour us with an article yourself during your present occupation, but if you would collect and send over foreign works of any and every kind in any language, if they have either importance or interest either for their literature or politics, it would very essentially oblige Mr. G——, and serve the cause, for by giving an account of books and subjects which the E. R. cannot have access to we shall provoke public attention, and by this means be able to insinuate and to circulate our better doctrines in Church and State. I am very willing to undergo any expense for foreign works of any kind, and I entreat the favour of you to lose no opportunity of forwarding them either by land or sea. Foreign journals, if occasionally transmitted by couriers, would be extremely valuable. I trust that you will do me the favour to pardon this intrusion respecting the Review, but as you have been so unquestionably instrumental to its foundation, I am very ambitious of rendering you its patron also. It will afford me infinite pleasure to hear of your health and advancement.

I shall ever be, with the highest esteem, dear Sir,

Your obliged and faithful servant,
John Murray.
Mr. Stratford Canning to John Murray.

“With regard to the commission which you have given me, it is, I fear, completely out of my power to execute it. Literature neither resides at Constantinople nor passes through it. Even were I able to obtain the publications of France and Germany by way of Vienna, the road is so circuitous, that you would have them later than others who contrive to smuggle them across the North Sea. Every
London newspaper that retails its daily sixpennyworth of false reports, publishes the French, the Hamburgh, the Vienna, the Frankfort, and other journals, full as soon as we receive any of them here. This is the case at all times; at present it is much worse. We are entirely insulated. The Russians block up the usual road through Bucharest, and the Servians prevent the passage of couriers through Bosnia. And in addition to these difficulties, the present state of the Continent must at least interrupt all literary works. You will not, I am sure, look upon these as idle excuses. Things may probably improve, and I will not quit this country without commissioning some one here to send you anything that may be of use to so promising a publication as your

No sooner was one number published, than preparations were made for the next. Every periodical is a continuous work—never ending, still beginning. New contributors must be gained; new books reviewed; new views criticised. Mr. Murray was, even more than the Editor, the backbone of the enterprise: he was indefatigable in soliciting new writers for the Quarterly, and in finding the books fit for review, and the appropriate reviewers of the books. Sometimes the reviews were printed before the Editor was consulted, but everything passed under the notice of Gifford, and received his emendations and final approval.

Mr. Murray went so far as to invite Leigh Hunt to contribute an article on Literature or Poetry for the Quarterly Review. The reply came from John Hunt, Leigh’s brother. He said:

Mr. John Hunt to John Murray.

“My brother some days back requested me to present to you his thanks for the polite note you favoured him with on the subject of the Review, to which he should have been most willing to have contributed in the manner you propose, did he not perceive that the political sentiments contained in it are in direct opposition to his own.”


This was honest, though it did not interfere with the personal intercourse of the publisher and the poet. Murray afterwards wrote to Scott: “Hunt is most vilely wrong-headed in politics, which he has allowed to turn him away from the path of elegant criticism, which might have led him to eminence and respectability.”

Mr. Murray, having applied to Professor Thomson of Edinburgh for an article for the Review, the Professor expressed his perfect willingness to write, as he approved of its sentiments and spirit. At the same time he said:

Professor Thomson to John Murray.

“Success, however, you will find difficult, partly because the Edinburgh Review has already established its reputation with the public, and partly because it is much easier to write with spirit, and to please the reader by a universal and unmerciful system of attack, than by fair, candid, and enlightened criticism. Every one is delighted to see an author cut up, but few are judges of the talents and knowledge necessary to give an honest and comprehensive view of a good work.”

James Mill, author of the ‘History of British India,’ sent an article for the second number; but the sentiments and principles not being in accordance with those of the Editor, it was not at once accepted. On learning this, he wrote to Mr. Murray as follows:

Mr. James Mill to John Murray.
My dear Sir,

I can have no objection in the world to your delaying the article I have sent you till it altogether suits your arrangements to make use of it. Besides this point, a few words of explanation may not be altogether useless with regard to another. I am half inclined to suspect that the objection of your Editor goes a little farther than you state. If so, I beg you will not hesitate a moment about what you are to do with it. I wrote it solely with a view
to oblige and to benefit you personally, but with very little idea, as I told you at our first conversation on the subject, that it would be in my power to be of any use to you, as the views which I entertained respecting what is good for our country were very different from the views entertained by the gentlemen with whom in your projected concern you told me you were to be connected. To convince you, however, of my good-will, I am perfectly ready to give you a specimen, and if it appears to be such as likely to give offence to your friends, or not to harmonize with the general style of your work, commit it to the flames without the smallest scruple. Be assured that it will not make the smallest difference in my sentiments towards you, or render me in the smallest degree less disposed to lend you my aid (such as it is) on any other occasion when it may be better calculated to be of use to you.

Yours very truly,
J. Mill.

Gifford was not a man of business; he was unpunctual, and the second number of the Quarterly appeared behind its time. Mr. William Erskine of Edinburgh, one of the contributors to the Quarterly, contrasting the punctual appearance of the Edinburgh with the dilatoriness of its competitor, wrote to Mr. Murray: “It is a pity that your Palinurus is so much less vigilant and active.” The publisher felt himself under the necessity of expostulating with the Editor.

John Murray to Mr. Gifford.
May 11th, 1809.
Dear Mr. Gifford,

I begin to suspect that you are not aware of the complete misery which is occasioned to me, and the certain ruin which must attend the Review, by our unfortunate procrastination. Long before this, every line of copy for the present number ought to have been in the hands of the printer. Yet the whole of the Review is yet to print. I know not what to do to facilitate your labour, for the articles which you have long had lie scattered without
attention, and those which I ventured to send to the printer undergo such retarding corrections, that even by this mode we do not advance. I entreat the favour of your exertion. For the last five months my most imperative concerns have yielded to this, without the hope of my anxiety or labour ceasing.
“Tanti miserere laboris,”
in my distress and with regret from

John Murray.

On the following day, Mr. Murray sent the Editor an article by Mr. Sharon Turner on the ‘Character of Buonaparte,’—à propos of the campaign in Italy, and pressing for its acceptance. Mr. Gifford replied that he had given it to Mr. Canning to consider. Then he proceeded:

“The delay and confusion which have arisen must be attributed to a want of confidential communication. In a word, you have too many advisers, and I too many masters. I can easily account, and still more easily allow, for the anxiety which you feel in a cause where so much of your property is embarked, and which you will always find me most ready to benefit and advance; but for this it will be necessary to have no reserves; in a word, we must understand each other.”

The truth is, that the arrangements for the editing, printing, and publication of the Quarterly had not yet fairly settled into working order. It takes time and experience to ensure for a periodical its punctual appearance regularly on the day and at the hour announced to the public. The Editor and the publisher were perhaps both in some measure at fault. They could only look forward to greater promptitude and punctuality in the future.

At last the second number of the Quarterly appeared, at the end of May instead of at the middle of April. The new contributors to this number were Dr. D’Oyley, the Rev. Mr. Walpole, and George Canning, who, in conjunction
Sharon Turner, contributed the last article on Austrian State Papers.

As soon as the second number was published, Mr. Gifford, whose health was hardly equal to the constant strain of preparing and editing the successive numbers, hastened away, as was his custom, to the seaside. He wrote to Mr. Murray from Ryde:—

Mr. Gifford to John Murray.
June 18th, 1809.

“I rejoice to hear of our success, and feel very anxious to carry it further. A fortnight’s complete abstraction from all sublunary cares has done me much good, and I am now ready to put on my spectacles and look about me. . . . Hoppner is here, and has been at Death’s door. The third day after his arrival, he had an apoplectic fit, from which blisters, &c., have miraculously recovered him. . . . This morning I received a letter from Mr. Erskine. He speaks very highly of the second number, and of the Austrian article, which is thought its chief attraction. Theology, he says, few people read or care about. On this, I wish to say a word seriously. I am sorry that Mr. E. has fallen into that notion, too general I fear in Scotland; but this is his own concern. I differ with him totally, however, as to the few readers which such subjects find; for as far as my knowledge reaches, the reverse is the fact. The strongest letter which I have received since I came down, in our favour, points out the two serious articles as masterly productions and of decided superiority. We have taught the truth I mention to the Edinburgh Review, and in their last number they have also attempted to be serious, and abstain from their flippant impiety. It is not done with the best grace, but it has done them credit, I hear. . . . When you make up your parcel, pray put in some small cheap ‘Horace,’ which I can no more do without than Parson Adams exÆschylus.’ I have left it somewhere on the road. Any common thing will do.”

Mr. Murray sent Gifford a splendid copy of ‘Horace’ in the next parcel of books and manuscripts. In his reply Gifford said:


“There is no end of writing, for I seem to have ten reams of things to say. Your ‘Horace’ I should have accepted with much more pleasure if it had not been so magnificent. Why, my dear sir, will you do those things?”

Mr. George Ellis was, as usual, ready with his criticism.

Mr. George Ellis to John Murray.

“I have great satisfaction in being able to say that it is, in my opinion, incomparably better than the preceding number; indeed so good that, if we take care not to degenerate, we may look forward with confidence to ultimate success. I confess that, to my taste, the long article on the New Testament is very tedious, and that the progress of Socinianism is, to my apprehension, a bugbear which we have no immediate reason to be scared by; but it may alarm some people, and what I think a dull prosing piece of orthodoxy may have its admirers, and promote our sale. At all events one such article will not, while there is a good deal of spirit in the rest, materially injure it ‘Amelie Mansfield’ is, I think, the weakest article in the whole, but not below mediocrity. On the other hand, I think that Scott’sWyoming’ is better than Jeffrey’s, and that upon the whole we decidedly surpass the E. R. this time. Sydney Smith is in such a passion, that his humour is coarser than ever, and the critique upon him in our number will not, probably, allay his fury.”

The Ballantynes were also loud in their praise of the new number; 750 copies in all were sent to Edinburgh. James Ballantyne wrote to Mr. Murray:

Mr. Erskine, my brother, and myself, think it admirable. . . . The outcry here for it is very strong. My private subscribers have increased considerably; and the demand for the trade also is more general.”

Constable had also a good word to say of it. In a letter to his partner, Hunter, then in London, he said:

“I received the Quarterly Review yesterday, and immediately went and delivered it to Mr. Jeffrey himself.
It really seems a respectable number, but what then? Unless theirs improves and ours falls off it cannot harm us, I think. I observe that Nos. 1 and 2 extend to merely twenty-nine sheets, so that, in fact, ours is still the cheaper of the two.
Murray’s waiting on you with it is one of the wisest things I ever knew him do: you will not be behindhand with him in civility.”

No. 3 of the Quarterly> was also late, and was not published until the end of August. The contributors were behindhand; besides, an article was expected from Canning on Spain, and the publication was postponed until this article had been received, printed and corrected. The foundations of it were laid by George Ellis, and it was completed by George Canning. Ellis was as indefatigable as ever. He had two articles in the number—one on West Indian, and the other on Spanish affairs. With respect to the latter, he wrote to Mr. Murray towards the end of August:

Mr. George Ellis to John Murray.

“I have had a large mass of materials to read and even to study; and I wish that Canning should see and, if necessary, correct what I have done. He wishes it also, but has suggested to me that it would be pleasanter to him to see it in print. I therefore send you what I have written. Pray get it printed, if it be possible, immediately, and send me down a proof by Friday’s post, as he promises to be with me on Saturday.”

The article was printed and sent down to Sunning Hill, near Staines, where Mr. Ellis was living at the time. It was corrected and partly rewritten by Mr. Canning, and duly appeared as the concluding article of No. 3.

In returning the corrected proof to the publisher, Mr. Ellis wrote:

Mr. George Ellis to John Murray.
August 21st.

“I have now the satisfaction to send you the Spanish article complete. It will prove, I believe, a great deal longer than I expected; but it will, I trust, fully answer all your expectations, and, I feel confident, will eclipse the merit of any article which has ever yet appeared, or is likely to appear, in the rival Review. You will not suppose that I speak thus of that part of it which is my own; but of the general conclusion (for which you applied to me), and which, with the exception of the first paragraph in it, is by a master hand . . . How soon shall we come out? and what do you think generally of the other articles in this number?”

Mr. Gifford wrote:—

“In consequence of my importunity, Mr. Canning has exerted himself and produced the best article that ever yet appeared in any Review.”

Mr. Murray, so far as can be ascertained from his statement to Constable,* thought the number a very bad one, while the Edinburgh Review was “the best they had yet published.” “I told him,” said Constable, “I presumed he was quizzing; he said not.” Gifford, on the other hand, thought the number a very good one. There was an admirable article by Dr. Thomas Young on “Insanity,” and another by the Rev. Dr. D’Oyley on “Paley,” which Gifford thought was “his best.” Mr. Scott was busily occupied with the second volume of the ‘Minstrelsy,’ as well as with the ‘Lady of the Lake,’ and therefore he contributed no article to the number.† The new

* ‘Archibald Constable and his Literary Correspondents,’ i. 145.

Mr. Murray, in a letter to Mrs. Murray, then at Edinburgh, on a visit to Mrs. Elliot, said (July 28th, 1809), “I have been in a sad plight all day about my Review. We are going on very indifferently; and a letter from William Erskine to-day informs me that Mr. Scott does not intend, he believes, to write anything for the present Number. This is vexatious, and I have been up to Gifford to ask him to write to Mr. Scott urgently.”

contributors were
Dr. Thomas Thomson of Edinburgh; Dr. Whitaker, Dr. Sayers, and—a name which was to become most intimately connected with the QuarterlyJohn Wilson Croker.

Although Mr. Gifford was sometimes the subject of opprobrium because of his supposed severity, we find that in many cases he softened down the tone of the reviewers. For instance, in communicating to Mr. Murray the first part of Dr. Thomson’s article on the “Outlines of Mineralogy,” by Kidd, he observed:

Mr. Gifford to John Murray.

“It is very splenitick and very severe, and much too wantonly so. I hope, however, it is just. Some of the opprobrious language I shall soften, for the eternal repetitions of ignorance, absurdity, surprising, &c., are not wanted. I am sorry to observe so much Nationality in it. Let this be a secret between us, for I will not have my private opinions go beyond yourself. As for Kidd. he is a modest, unassuming man, and is not to be attacked with sticks and stones like a savage. Remember, it is only the epithets which I mean to soften; for as to the scientific part, it shall not be meddled with.

“As for Mr. Pillans, it is an unpleasant business; but for these things I find we must be prepared. The fact is, that his principles in some things do not accord with those of the Review, and I was forced to review him. He is a learned and ingenious young man, but he wants penetration. To be the drudge of Arthur Young and that shallow coxcomb Pinckney, is not creditable to him. Yet I think that he may be very serviceable to us, and, at any rate, he is young enough to make the loss of a few hours’ labour for improvement of no great consequence to him. He will write better every day, and when he can throw France and America out of his list of Paradises, and their blind admirers out of his list of Philosophers, he will make a most valuable man. As for you and me, let us remember that mutual confidence and secrecy are the keystone of success, and that an important charge rests upon us, which is worth much of our serious attention.”


His faithful correspondent, Mr. Ellis, wrote as to the quality of this number of the Quarterly. He agreed with Mr. Murray, that though profound, it was “most notoriously and unequivocally dull;” that he had not been able to find any one willing to read at all the ponderous essay upon the Greek Article, or the disquisition about Gothic Architecture. Mr. Gifford, he said, was too patient and laborious; he spent too much of his time in making annotations, and attempting to elicit a rational meaning from the shapeless lumps of criticism laid before him. In fact, he said, we want wit and variety. We require a selection of spirited and playful articles, rather than those of scholarship and profundity. We must veto ponderous articles; they will simply sink us.

Mr. Ellis to John Murray.

“I am convinced,” he added, “that we are, at present, too few; that the persons on whom we principally depend could not, conveniently to themselves, and therefore would not, undertake to fill four Reviews in a year. I am in great doubt whether we shall soon produce a number containing as much intrinsic solid merit as the last, dull as it unquestionably was. But, as I have already said, it is very easy to avoid that dulness which arises only from uniformity, since, for this purpose, nothing more is necessary than to select, in each number, three or four articles which are capable of being treated with pleasantry, and to allot them to the persons best able to treat them in such a manner. If, to come at once to the point, you can suggest at present one or two of such articles to me, I will undertake them, and will readily employ my influence, if I possess any, with Gifford and W. Scott, to do the same with two or three more. This will at least render the tone and colouring of our next number sufficiently different from the last.”

Isaac D’Israeli also tendered his advice. He was one of Mr. Murray’s most intimate friends, and could speak
freely and honestly to him as to the prospects of the
Review. He was at Brighton, preparing his third volume of the ‘Curiosities of Literature.’

Mr. I. D’Israeli to John Murray.

“I have bought the complete collection of Memoirs written by individuals of the French nation, amounting to sixty-five volumes, for fifteen guineas. . . . What can I say about the Q. R. ? Certainly nothing new; it has not yet invaded the country. Here it is totally unknown, though as usual the Ed. Rev. is here; but among private libraries, I find it equally unknown. It has yet its fortune to make. You must appeal to the feelings of Gifford! Has he none then? Can’t you get a more active and vigilant Editor? But what can I say at this distance? The disastrous finale of the Austrians, received this morning, is felt here as deadly. Buonaparte is a tremendous Thaumaturgus! . . . I wish you had such a genius in the Q. R. . . . My son Ben assures me you are in Brighton. He saw you! Now, he never lies.”*

In another letter (Sept. 12) Mr. D’Israeli referred more particularly to the contents of No. 3.

“On the whole,” he said, “it is a good number, though it has several articles objectionable in point of merit. The article on ‘Insanity’ by no means answers to the high account that was given of it. There is a good deal of writing, and a paucity of thinking in it, and it ends in nothing. There are but few articles in the Review. If this spirit of dissertation is too much encouraged, we may live to see a Quarterly Review composed on only one book! . . . The public want your Review. I always insisted on this. But I do not like the management, and I had hopes that ere now you would cease to trifle with them. I know your difficulties. . . . As for your political friends, one hardly knows if they do exist, or how they exist, such is their debility! What have they done for you? I think you ought now to consider for yourself, that the Review itself is at stake—not they! Perhaps they may be swept away before your next

* Mr. Murray was in Brighton at the time.

Quarterly, We cannot command things always, but it is greatly to be regretted that you cannot have so important a machine as this made to act as you wish. One thing in its favour is this, that it is not like a work which when not done well, cannot be done again; a Review admits of improvement, and one or two good numbers may bring it prominently forward. Like our Constitution, it may contain in itself a renovating power.”

Referring to Mrs. D’Israeli, who was suffering from indisposition, he said:

“If ever she regains her health, it will be an affair of Time; a physician, who indeed is not greedy of his fees, but who is very tedious in his cures.

“Pray remember me to Elliot.* I am very happy in perceiving that you are in the bosom of your family with that relish of domestic pleasures which a good man and, indeed a fortunate man, only can enjoy.”

Thus pressed by his correspondents, Mr. Murray did his best to rescue the Quarterly from failure. Though it brought him into prominent notice as a publisher, it was not by any means paying its expenses. Some thought it doubtful whether “the play was worth the candle.” Yet Murray was not a man to be driven back by comparative want of success. He would try, again and again. He had many friends who were willing to help him, and who would have felt his failure as if it had been their own. He buckled again to the work, and in conjunction with Gifford, prepared for the fourth number of the Quarterly. He endeavoured to procure a better array of contributors. Amongst these were some very eminent men: Mr. John Barrow of the Admiralty; the Rev. Reginald Heber, Mr. Robert Grant (afterwards Sir Robert, the Indian judge), Mr. Stephens, &c. How

* Mr. Murray was in Edinburgh at the time. Elliot, his brother-in-law.

Mr. Barrow was induced to become a contributor is thus explained in his

“One morning, in the summer of the year 1809, Mr. Canning looked in upon me at the Admiralty, said he had often troubled me on business, but he was now about to ask me a favour. ‘I believe you are acquainted with my friend William Gifford?’ ‘By reputation,’ I said, ‘but not personally.’ ‘Then,’ says he, ‘I must make you personally acquainted; will you come and dine with me at Gloucester Lodge any day, the sooner the more agreeable—say tomorrow, if you are disengaged?’ On accepting, he said, ‘I will send for Gifford to meet you; I know he will be too glad to come.’

“‘Now,’ he continued, ‘it is right I should tell you that, in the Review of which two numbers have appeared, under the name of the Quarterly, I am deeply, both publicly and personally, interested, and have taken a leading part with Mr. George Ellis, Hookham Frere, Walter Scott, Rose, Southey, and some others; our object in that work being to counteract the virus scattered among His Majesty’s subjects through the pages of the Edinburgh Review. Now, I wish to enlist you in our corps, not as a mere advising idler, but as an efficient labourer in our friend Gifford’s vineyard.’ My reply was, ‘I am afraid you will be disappointed, for I have not the least notion how to set about writing a Review, and one from me would only serve as a foil to the brilliant productions of the gentlemen you have mentioned; besides, I should tremble in submitting my crude observations to the scrutinizing eye of such a critic as Mr. Gifford.’ ‘He will be overjoyed to have you, and will tell you that he who could write “Travels in Southern Africa,” and the “British Embassy to the Emperor of China,” can never find himself at a loss to review the work of any writer, provided he understands the subject.’

“‘There is one thing,’ he added, ‘I must mention to you. It is intended, and, indeed, the Editor has been instructed, that every writer in the Review, without any distinction, is to be paid for whatever he produces; that is a point about which no difficulty is to be made. I can assure you I myself have received pay for a short article I have already

* ‘Autobiographical Memoir of Sir John Barrow,’ Murray, 1847.

contributed, merely to set the example.
Gifford will tell you the rest to-morrow.’

“We met, and Gifford told me all that Mr. Canning had said, and a great deal more, and would not listen to any objection I offered on the score of novelty and my inexperience of reviewing; he repeated Canning’s observation that the writer of books can have no difficulty in reviewing books, which I, on the contrary, urged to be a non sequitur. He begged me to name any book to make choice of, which he would take care to send to me. Finding there was no getting rid of Gifford, I mentioned one I had just been reading, De Guignes’s ‘History of the Dutch Embassy to China,’ which immediately followed ours. ‘Bravo! by all means let me have De Guignes and the Dutch Ambassador to the Court of the Emperor of China, it is a subject of all others I should wish for; it is one at your fingers’ ends, and one that few know anything about; pray, let me have it for the forthcoming number; three only have yet appeared, and I’m gasping for something new. Pray, my good fellow, do indulge me.’ . . .

“I had a visit from him the next morning after the meeting at Gloucester Lodge, and told him that the ‘Voyage a Peking’ was already laid down on the stocks, and should be ready for launching when required. He was very thankful, and professed his obligations in warm terms. ‘But,’ he added, ‘the Quarterly has a most voracious maw, and requires to have her food very regularly served up at fixed times; would you, now, think me unreasonable if I were to suggest a second article for No. 5?’ I laughed and said, ‘It would be well, perhaps, for both of us to wait the reception of the one just commenced.’ However, he subsequently carried his point, and I not only gave him ‘Voyages d’Entrecasteaux’ for No. 5, but ‘Ta-tsing-leu-lee, or The Laws of China;’ and I may add, once for all, that what with Gifford’s eager and urgent demands, and the exercise becoming habitual and not disagreeable, I did not cease writing for the Quarterly Review till I had supplied no less, rather more, than 190 articles. . . . The number as above stated must appear enormously large, and yet they were written off-hand as an amusement, many of them in the busiest periods of official duties; but my evenings were generally spent at home with my family, and writing was to me a relaxation, after dinner, and a relief
from the dry labours of the day. I may add that every article written for the Quarterly was sure to be followed by a long letter from Gifford, pointing out what would be a desirable subject for the next number, or asking me to name one.
Mr. Murray also frequently suggested a new work for my consideration, and certainly showed himself quite satisfied with my performances.”

The fourth number of the Quarterly, which was due in November, was not published until the end of December 1809. Gifford’s excuse was the want of copy. He wrote to Mr. Murray: “We must, upon the publication of this number, enter into some plan for ensuring regularity.” Southey complained that the necessary books had not been sent him in time to prepare one of his articles. To Walter Scott, Southey wrote:

Mr. Southey to Mr. Scott.
Oct. 2, 1809.

“I have a bill of indictment against those Eclectics and Vice-Society men, whenever Murray shall send me the needful documents; for, be it known unto you that in one of the Eclectic Reviews there is a grand passage describing the soul of Shakspeare in Hell! If I do not put some of these Pharisees into Purgatory for this, for the edification of our Quarterly Review readers, then may my right hand forget its cunning.”

A few days later, he wrote to Neville White:

“I have more respect for the Independents than for any other body of Christians, the Quakers alone excepted. . . . Their English history is without a blot. Their American has, unhappily, some bloody ones, which you will see noticed in the next number of the Quarterly, if my reviewal of Holmes’s American Annals should appear there in an unmutilated state.”

Although it appeared late, the fourth number was the best that had yet been issued. It was more varied in its
contents; containing articles by
Scott, Southey, Barrow, and Heber. But the most important article was contributed by Robert Grant, on the “Character of the late C. J. Fox.” This was the first article in the Quarterly, according to Mr. Murray, which excited general admiration, concerning which we find a memorandum in Mr. Murray’s own copy; and, what was an important test, it largely increased the demand for the Review.