John Macrone, one of Scott’s earliest biographers, was a publisher of the 1830s, who befriended, employed, and, on occasion, quarrelled with several noteworthy writers and artists, before his abrupt and premature death. Although a great deal of information about him has been preserved in diaries, letters, and memoirs, his life has never been thoroughly investigated, and the following survey must be regarded as provisional.
According to T. E. Callander’s transcription of the Croydon parish register,1 Macrone was ‘28 years and five weeks’ old when he died on 9 September 1837,2 so he must have been born in 1809, and, if the register is to be taken literally, on 5 August. His origins have been the subject of dispute, John Sutherland calling him ‘either a Scot, an Irishman, an Italian (“Macirone”) or, most probably, a Manxman’.3 There is no evidence that Macrone was Irish or Italian; the latter hypothesis, indeed, is described as ‘a mere speculation’ by its originator, Percy Fitzgerald.4 Sutherland’s ‘most probably’ is due to George Augustus Sala, who relates, in his memoirs, that his Aunt Eliza was married to a tailor called Crellin, ‘a Manxman – a tall handsome person who looked as most West End tailors do, quite the gentleman. When he came to London to start in business, he was accompanied by a fellow-countryman, an intimate friend, named John Macrone – as handsome and intelligent a young fellow as Crellin himself was.’5 This looks very like proof, but if we turn to the entry in Thomas Moore’s journal for 29 October
1. Callander to William J. Carlton, 21 March 1958 (MS. The Charles Dickens Museum).
2. The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. VIII (New Series), November 1837, p. 437.
3. Sutherland, John (1984), ‘John Macrone: Victorian Publisher’, Dickens Studies Annual, 13, p. 244.
4. Fitzgerald, Percy (1913), Memories of Charles Dickens, Bristol: J. W. Arrowsmith, p. 339.
5. Sala, George Augustus (1896), The Life and Adventures of George Augustus Sala, 2 vols, New York: Scribner’s, vol. I, pp. 143–4.