John Gibson Lockhart

John Murray to Walter Scott, 13 October 1825; Smiles, A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 2:198-200.

October 13th, 1825.


I feel greatly obliged by the favour of your kind letter, and for the good opinion which you are disposed to entertain of certain plans, of which you will by degrees be enabled to form, I hope, a still more satisfactory estimate. At present, I will take the liberty of assuring you, that after your confidence in me, I will neither propose nor think of anything respecting Mr. Lockhart that has not clearly for its basis the honour of his family. With regard to our Great Plan — which really ought not to be designated a newspaper, as that department of literature has hitherto been conducted — Mr. Lockhart was never intended to have anything to do as editor: for we have already secured two most efficient and respectable persons to fill that department. I merely wished to receive his general advice and assistance. And Mr. Lockhart would only be known or suspected to be the author of certain papers of grave national importance. The more we have thought and talked over our plans, the more certain are we of their inevitable success, and of their leading us to certain power, reputation, and fortune. For myself, the heyday of my youth is passed, though I may be allowed certain experience in my profession. I have acquired a moderate fortune, and have a certain character, and move now in the first circles of society; and I have a family: these, I hope, may be some fair pledge to you that I would not engage in this venture with any hazard, when all that is dearest to man would be my loss.

In order, however, to completely obviate any difficulties which have been urged, I have proposed to Mr. Lockhart to come to London as the editor of the Quarterly — an appointment which, I verily believe, is coveted by many of the highest literary characters in the country, and which, of itself, would entitle its possessor to enter into and mix with the first classes of society. For this, and without writing a line, but merely for performing the duties of an editor, I shall have the pleasure of allowing him a thousand pounds a year; and this, with contributions of his own, might easily become 1500, and take no serious portion of his time either. Then, for his connection with the paper, he will become permanently interested in a share we can guarantee to him for three years, and which, I am confident, will be worth, at the end of that period, at least 3000; and the profits from that share will not be less than 1500 per annum. I have lately heard, from good authority, that the annual profit of the Times is 40,000, and that a share in the Courier sold last week (wretchedly conducted, it seems) at the rate of 100,000 for the property.

But this is not all. You know well enough that the business of a publishing bookseller is not in his shop or even his connection, but in his brains; and we can put forward together a series of valuable literary works, and without, observe me, in any of these plans, the slightest risk to Mr. Lockhart. And I do most solemnly assure you that if I may take any credit to myself for possessing anything like sound judgment in my profession, the things which we shall immediately begin upon, as Mr. Lockhart will explain to you, are as perfectly certain of commanding a great sale as anything I ever had the good fortune to engage in.