1858 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Russell Mitford

Cyrus Redding, in Fifty Years' Recollections (1858) 2:221-23.



Miss Mitford was introduced to me by Talfourd. She wrote the most graphic and minute descriptions of country life and manners. She was in prose what Clare was in the poetry of the country, since the time Pastorellas and Damons have departed. Both these writers described nature with a fidelity and minuteness, that could only have been derived from very attentive observation. Clare seemed unwilling that a weed should escape his notice, and he cast over his subjects, however simple, that charm which belongs only to a truly poetic spirit. In large towns and cities he cannot be appreciated, especially since the manners of the lower classes have been introduced, with their correspondent ideas into the current works of the day and there predominating. Miss Mitford dwelt rather on rural life, than on inanimate nature. She was faithful, ingenious, and pretty in her works. Her ideas of their value were rather extravagant.

The payment to authors for original articles had been at the rate of twelve guineas per sheet of sixteen pages. She wanted to be paid by the article, short or long, six guineas. This was rather extortionate. When Valpy obtained the "Metropolitan," after the proprietor's bankruptcy, she was written to with the offer of twelve guineas, the sum she had been paid in the "New Monthly." There was some demur, and she wrote to me.

"Dear Sir,

I am quite astonished that there can be the slightest misunderstanding respecting the price of my articles. I stated that I had no objection to contribute to so respectable a publication, but that I considered it right to state, that I never received less than six guineas an article, prose or verse, short or long. A respectable magazine is continually craving for my papers at that price, and the remuneration I receive from the annuals is much higher. I received a letter to say that the price of six guineas is not objectionable, and that the copyright (for which I had also stipulated) was with the author. This letter I have kept, and you shall see it when my father goes to London, as I expect he will, in about a fortnight, and then the matter will be cleared up. In the meanwhile, the scene you have (unless you decide on continuing the price at six guineas) had better remain unprinted. My own feeling is that on speaking to Mr. C—, he will immediately remember the letter, and set the matter right at once. In any event, you can retain the article until my father goes to town, when he will certainly see you or Mr. Valpy, who will. undoubtedly remember my letter to him.

I have the honour to be, dear Sir,

Your obedient servant,

M. R. MITFORD.

P.S. — To imagine for a moment that I should write at six guineas per sheet (or twelve?) is ridiculous. I off writing for the magazines generally because sixteen was not was not enough, and in my letter to Mr. V—, was clear as possible on the point, I especially said guineas an article, long or short.

C. Redding, Esq."

The lady knew how to bargain — the magazines generally paid no such price, nor did she receive pay from the "New Monthly," but in the usual mode. Some her works were very popular among young people, but they were not of a lasting character to justify demands that could only be conceded to writers of a class superior to herself.