Academic journal article Studies in Romanticism

Blackwood's Maga, Lockhart's Peter's Letters, and the Politics of Publishing

Academic journal article Studies in Romanticism

Blackwood's Maga, Lockhart's Peter's Letters, and the Politics of Publishing

Article excerpt

Ms. 4004 OF THE BLACKWOOD PAPERS IN THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF Scotland includes a series of lengthy letters to William Blackwood from William Davies, partner in the London publishing firm of Cadell and Davies. In April 1819 Cadell and Davies had become the London publisher of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, the notorious Maga, after that function had been abandoned by Baldwin, Cradock and Joy in July 1818, and then by a disgusted John Murray in March 1819. (1) Davies' letters are a chatty, detailed, sometimes day-to-day account of London literary life and the strategies of London book-promotion--everything that Blackwood in Edinburgh should know to further their shared business ventures. Prominent among those ventures was the forthcoming Peter's Letters to His Kinsfolk by "Dr. Peter Morris," in which Cadell and Davies had accepted a half-share. "Much may certainly be done, both at Edinburgh and London, to prepare the public interest for these Letters," Davies believed, and he was pleased to inform his Edinburgh partner that two London newspapers already had begun to publish extracts from the book. And the success of Peter's Letters might, in turn, counteract the rising criticism of Maga, another shared concern. "Peter's Letters have a double duty to perform"--one of which was to salve the wounds of Archibald Constable, Wordsworth, Coleridge and other Britons on both sides of the Tweed who had been bloodied by the Magazine. "We are, now and then, made to hear complaints of so many people being roughly, or even unjustly, handled in it ... and we do think it has somehow acquired a character for severity, which will require some time and pains to wipe away." Peter's Letters might be that solvent: "... you have sent out into the world the best pioneer in defence of your Magazine that could possibly have been managed," wrote Davies, switching metaphors; "I am full of hopes that, when the 'Letters' are published, not only Mr Coleridge, but many others that I am thinking of, influenced by the manner in which the alleged objectionable points of the [Mag.sup.e] are so handsomely admitted, will be much readier to join your standard than heretofore." It was essential for the good of Maga, then, that the Letters be promoted widely, in a campaign that would include a visit by Blackwood to London in the month after the Letters was published: "Preparatory to the actual publication, you will, of course, be prepared with a list of the persons, both in Scotland and here, to whom it will be expedient to send the book, as presents; and feeling as I do, how essentially Peter's Letters are calculated to benefit the interests of your Magazine, I have no hesitation in recommending that the list of presents in England be a very numerous one--Amongst others, I would certainly advise a liberal distribution, tempered by prudence, amongst the editors of newspapers--Mr Perry, Dr Stoddart...." (2)

Davies' tactful hints of Maga's troubles could not have surprised William Blackwood. Since his magazine's inception in April 1817 (titled The Edinburgh Monthly Magazine for its first six numbers) Blackwood had watched its sales and enemies increase and its allies diminish. Henry Mackenzie, Patrick Fraser Tytler, and Dr. Thomas McCrie, men of some influence in Edinburgh, had refused to continue as contributors. (3) Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, Maga's first London publisher, had borne the brunt of London's enmity against the magazine, and then decided that their connection with Blackwood was "no longer compatible with a just regard to our own interests." (4) John Murray had then become the London publisher, only to lament "the appearance of a Magazine which has involved everyone connected with it ... in alternate anxiety disgrace & misery." (5) After the publication of the "Chaldee Manuscript"--James Hogg's, John Wilson's and John Gibson Lockhart's apocalyptic parody--one John Graham Dalyell, member of the Faculty of Advocates, had initiated legal proceedings against Blackwood, and Lockhart feared that Maga might be banned from the Faculty of Advocates Library, a shameful loss of literary caste in Edinburgh. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.