Edward Moxon: Publisher of Poets

Edward Moxon: Publisher of Poets

Edward Moxon: Publisher of Poets

Edward Moxon: Publisher of Poets

Excerpt

By the eighteen-thirties, in Great Britain, the powerful publishers like John Murray and Constable, who had been looked upon as and considered themselves as patrons of authors and therefore in a sense as arbiters of excellence in literature, had either crashed financially or suffered diminished influence at the hands of a public which determined its pleasure in reading by standards that were not aristocratic. The middle classes were becoming the principal support of booksellers and publishers. The prices of books were dropping; their formats were becoming less adapted to libraries of noblemen. Fiction, formerly issued at a guinea and more a novel, was cheapening in price as it swept into popularity. It and volumes of informative materials for general reading outstripped poetry. By 1830 Murray was refusing to read manuscripts of verse and was publishing few novels. Versifiers on social themes and poets who relied on the rhetoric of noble sentiment were in public favor. The great critical journals, the Edinburgh and the Quarterly, although still authoritative, were experiencing sharp competition from smaller, cheaper, and less intellectual periodicals. Financial distress and social unrest were in the air.

Edward Moxon, Yorkshire born and apprentice bred, lover of poetry, ambitious, and looking back toward the great days of the publishers when the volumes of Lord Byron sold in editions of thousands, opened business in 1830 in London. The social connections he had made as a young man determined both the course his business should run and its tone. In spite of his upbringing among workingmen and his social sympathies, that tone tended toward the aristocratic, and the course was in the direction of a selected clientele. Elaborate illustrated editions of Rogers's poems were largely responsible. Soon Moxon was bidding for verse manuscripts. They came to him readily. When within two decades it was . . .

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