1859 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Humphrey Moseley

David Masson, in Life of John Milton (1859-94; 1965) 1:448-50.



So far as Poetry and so-called Light Literature are concerned, one has no difficulty in pointing to the particular London publisher who in 1645, and from that year onwards, stood out from all his fellows by his alertness in the trade. This was HUMPHREY MOSELEY, who had his shop at the sign of the Prince's Arms in St. Paul's Churchyard. Something in his personal tastes, I am inclined to think, must have determined him to the line of business which he selected; so marked is his avoidance of all dealings in sermons, ephemeral treatises on theology, and pamphlets either way on the present crisis, and his preference fro poetry and books of general culture. He had been in the trade, in partnership with a Nicholas Fussel, in St. Paul's Churchyard, as early as 1634, and shortly after that is heard of as in business for himself. I have a note of him as registering for his copyright, on March 16, 1639-40, Howell's Dodona's Grove; and thence-forward, in worse times, he stuck to Howell. He not only published Howell's Instructions for Foreign Travel in September 1641, and again the second and third parts of Howell's Letters in 1645, with a reissue of Dodona's Grove; but he acquired, in the same year, the copyright of the first part of the Letters, which had been originally brought out by another publisher. More significant still is the fact that it was Moseley that was the publisher of Waller's Poems in December 1644. After that date his tendency to trade-dealings in Poetry and the like is so manifest in the Stationer's records that I find appended to my MS. notes, from these records, for the London Bibliography of the year 1646, this memorandum: — "Poetry and Pure Literature looking up again this year, and chiefly through the medium of Moseley's shop." By that time Moseley had distinguished himself as the publisher of original editions of books, not only by Howell and Waller, but also by Milton, Davenant, Crashaw, and Shirley, and moreover as the ready purchaser of whatever copyrights were in the market of poems and plays by Beaumont and Fletcher, Webster, Ludwick Carlell, Shirley, Davenant, Killigrew, and other celebrities dead or living. To this group of Moseley's authors Cowley and Cartwright were soon added; and it was not long before he snapped out of the hands of duller men Denham's Poems, Carew's Poems, various things of Sir Kenelm Digby, and every obtainable copyright in any of the plays of Shakespeare, Massinger, Ford, Rowley, Middleton, Tourneur, or any other of the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists. For at least the ten years from 1644 onwards there was, I should say, no publisher in London comparable to Moseley for tact and enterprise in the finer literature.

Moseley was only on the way to make all this reputation for himself, and indeed Waller's volume of Poems, published in Dec. 1644, was yet the principal advertisement of his shop, when he and Milton came together. Pleased with the success of the Waller, it appears, Moseley thought of a collection of Mr. Milton's Poems as a likely second experiment of the same kind, and applied to Milton for a copy. The application was not disagreeable to Milton; and, accordingly, some time after the middle of 1645, or just while he was preparing to remove from Aldersgate Street to Barbican, and there came upon him the great surprise of his wife's reappearance, Moseley and he were busy in arrangements for the new volume.