1891 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. George Crabbe

Samuel Smiles, "The Rev. George Crabbe" A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 2:71-73.



Towards the end of the year 1818, Mr. Crabbe called upon Mr. Murray, and offered to publish through him his Tales of the Hall, consisting of about twelve thousand lines. He also promised to transfer to him from Mr. Colburn his other poems, so that the whole might be printed uniformly. Mr. Crabbe, who up to this period had received very little for his writings, was surprised when Mr. Murray offered him no less than 3000 for the copyright of his poems. It seemed to him a mine of wealth compared to all that he had yet received. The following morning (6th December) he breakfasted with Mr. Rogers, and Tom Moore was present. Crabbe told them of his good fortune, and of the magnificent offer he had received. Rogers thought it was not enough, and that Crabbe should have received 3000 for the "Tales of the Hall" alone, and that he would try if the Longmans would not give more. He went to Paternoster Row accordingly, and tried the Longmans; but they would not give more than 1000 for the new work and the copyright of the old poems — that is, only one-third of what Murray had offered.

When Crabbe was informed of this, he was in a state of great consternation. As Rogers had been bargaining with another publisher for better terms, the matter seemed still to be considered open; and in the meantime, if Murray were informed of the event, he might feel umbrage and withdraw his offer. Crabbe wrote to Murray on the subject, but received no answer. He had within his reach a prize far beyond his most sanguine hopes, and now, by the over-officiousness of his friends, he was in danger of losing it. In this crisis Rogers and Moore called upon Murray, and made enquiries on the subject of Crabbe's poems. "Oh, yes," he said, "I have heard from Mr. Crabbe, and look upon the matter as settled." Crabbe was thus released from all his fears. When he received the bills for 3000, he insisted on taking them with him to Trowbridge to show them to his son John.

It proved after all that the Longmans were right in their offer to Rogers; Murray was far too liberal. Moore, in his "Diary" (ii. 332) says, "Even if the whole of the edition (3000) were sold, Murray would still be 1900 minus." Crabbe had some difficulty in getting his old poems out of the hands of his former publisher, who wrote to him in a strain of the wildest indignation, and even threatened him with legal proceedings, but eventually the unsold stock, consisting of 2426 copies, was handed over by Hatchard and Colburn to Mr. Murray, and nothing more was heard of this controversy between them and the poet.