Macrone, Celebrity Culture, and
John Macrone (1809–37) seems a typical speculator of the 1830s, when improved communications and a rapidly expanding and somewhat unstable capitalism rendered London a world-class financial and publishing centre. As Daniel Grader has shown, he appeared above the horizon of literary London, blazed comet-like for a mere six years, and then disappeared once again. His career thus provides a faint adumbration of that of the great fictional capitalists of the Victorian age, of the Mr Merdle of Dickens’s Little Dorrit (1855–7) or the Augustus Melmotte of Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875). The insecurity which he strove to negotiate also gives him a curious, if strictly limited, affinity with Scott in his final years, in so far as Scott was a notable player in the creation of a house of cards of mutual credit built up by himself, the Ballantynes, Archibald Constable, and London booksellers such as Hurst and Robinson, and which had imploded so spectacularly at the start of 1826.1 Macrone worked hard throughout his brief career as a publisher to create a public reputation for resources he could not be demonstratively proved to possess. It is far from clear, for instance, whether Macrone was ever in possession of the necessary capital required to support him in business as a publisher. James Cochrane recalled that Macrone, when first introduced to him early in 1832 by James Hogg, ‘represented to me that he had some Capital & would be glad to join me in business’,2 but by the end of the year, when detailed negotiations were under way, Cochrane realised that he had ‘not a shilling himself, & that his friends expect me to produce Capital equal to what they may feel inclined to advance’.3 The amount of Macrone’s final
1. For details see, for instance, Sutherland, John  (1997), The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 272–98.
2. James Cochrane to Sir Egerton Brydges, 13 October 1834, in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University: MSS Osborn Files, Folder 3446.
3. James Cochrane to James Hogg, 10 December 1832, in National Library of Scotland (hereafter NLS), MS 2245, fols 216–17. I am grateful to the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland for permission to cite manuscript material in their care.