Page images

Without a periodical literature, we should shared between the publisher and the anbe in this dilemma: either to be silent, and thor; but mostly the author has all the let what small insight we may have attain- risk, and risk is pretty well tantamount to ed to die with us; or else, "impelled by loss. Writers of books exhibit every shade hunger and request of friends,” resolutely of dullness and imbecility ; but periodical undertake tasks for which we are not fitted, writers (if we except contributors to some and produce works where we should have of the trashy publications) must all be men produced articles,-works in which the of some ability-they must be up to a cerIittle good that is in them lies buried amidst tain standard; because, as they do not pay the rubbish which surrounds it.

for the fancy of appearing in print, like This latter evil is the curse of German writers of books, the editor takes care their literature. In spite of numerous periodi- contributions shall be worth printing. cals, the German always writes a book If the reader wishes to form an idea of when he can; and nineteen out of every the rarity of works paid for by publishers, twenty are ignoble rubbish. Your German let him consider the following statement. has a contempt for little books; he laughs All poems, all sermons, all works on morals at the dictum of Callimachus. What, or metaphysics, are, with scarcely an exthen, can he think of articles ? What he ception, without a price. Novels, when by can find time to write, he concludes you popular authors, are paid for at prices can find time to read; and upon what sub- varying from 100l. to 5001.; and, in one or ject, or to what extent, cannot a German two instances, to 15001.; when by authors find time to write ?

unknown as novelists, but tolerably known The more we reflect on this matter, the in other departments, they are at the pubmore reason we find for being grateful to a lisher's risk and half profits; when by periodical literature, which, if it cannot clergymen, gentlemen of a literary turn, wholly save us from bad books, does, at titled ladies, or aspiring clerks, the publeast, prevent good articles being diluted lisher either consents to print them at his into thin works. Moreover, to periodical own risk and profit, or else demands a sum literature we owe the possibility of author- of money for the publication, the sum varyship as a profession. Dr. Johnson, who ing from 501. to 2001. A first novel is first founded that profession, was enabled never paid for. One publisher is known to to do so mainly by means of periodical print gratuitously any novel not too wretchliterature.

cd, with the understanding that “if it sucIn reality, few copyrights are bought in ceeds” (what a latitude !) the author shall England, whereas all periodical writing has be paid "something” (another!) for his its price. When a man has made a name, second novel. In this way he is enabled his work may command certain honora- to keep up a running fire of new novels, rium, which varies according to the popu- scarcely one of which is ever paid for. larity of his name, and the probable attrac- Histories, when mere compilations, are tion of the subject; but an article in a hack-work, and are paid for as such ; when review or magazine is always well paid for, laborious works, the authors are often quite irrespective of such considerations. handsomely remunerated. It requires, Periodicals, it is true, are chary of printing however, a name, a lucky subject, or some essays on abstruse or recondite subjects ; fortunate chance, to get a publisher. yet, in the course of the year, it is singular Works of science are generally published at to observe how many of these essays are the risk of their authors. Unless the book printed and paid for. From Chinese anti- be very striking indeed, an author has a quities down to topographies of London; bad chance who publishes his own work. from Egyptian mysteries or the Greek The trade can only be efficiently carried on dramatists, down to discussions of metre by the trade. A publisher has a hundred and accent, a variety of subjects is ably ways of “pushing a book, of which the discussed in our general periodicals; yet author never would dream. not one of the writers could hope to receive Publishing is an expensive luxury, which & sixpence for the most elaborate book he authors should eschew; yet the delight of could produce on these subjects after years appearing in print is so great, that no of toil. About one work in every thirty homily can deter them. A poet was once that issues from the press is paid for. asked by his publisher how many copies Sometimes the publisher undertakes the of his poem, then in sheets, he would like risk, sometimes the risk and profit are to have put up in boards ?


[ocr errors]

“ The whole edition,” replied the confi- , dramas read in the green-room ?) Let us dent author.

now assume the opera to have " a run” of " Humph !” said the publisher. “Just one hundred nights, this will be the author's as you please ; but if

will take


ad- receipts :vice, you will only have a dozen or so."

• Why not the whole?" asked the indig- Prime de Lecture for five acts, at 1000 francs nant poet.

per act.....


3,000 “Because," answered his adviser, “it Sale to the publisher of the libretto..

The third part of the sum paid to the comspoils them for waste-paper !

poser deducted for the author of the liIn Germany almost every work of any bretto (say the sum of 30,000 francs).... 10,000 pretension has its price. Works on history, For the first twenty performances, at 250 on science, or on metaphysics, unless hope for the eighty succeeding performances, at

5,000 lessly bad, are sure to receive some honora

150 francs each..

12,000 rium. A volume of 300 or 400 octavo pages Payments received from performances in the of metaphysics by a second-rate author, we provinces, about..

5,000 have known to be bought for 401. ; a small

Total, 40,000 price, it is true, but in England the author would have been rejoiced to get his work Thus, 16001. is the least a librettist published for nothing. In France it is al- would receive. Scribe must have doubled most as bad as in England, except that for that sum for his Robert le Diable, which has serious works there is a larger demand, con- been played nearly three hundred times. sequently, more chance of the authors being

Aspirants for the laurels of the English paid.

legitimate drama are fortunate, indeed, Nevertheless, as neither in Germany nor when, with the most triumphant success, in France the sums paid for works are suffi- they can obtain 3001. for a five-act play ; cient to reward an author for his labor nor / whereas a Dumas or a Scribe receives 2001. to procure him a subsistence, the condition for permitting the manager to read the MS. of authorship in those countries is, in re- of a five-act play. From M. Vivien's spect of money-payments, decidedly inferior Etudes Administratives we extract the folto that in England. Thanks to our period- lowing interesting particulars relative to the icals !

sums received for various five-act tragedies With regard to dramatic literature, Eng- and comedies performed at the Théâtre land is as miserably below France and Ger- Français :many as those countries are below her in

Names of Plays. No. of Performances. Author's Share, other departments. The theatre in France

Les Templiers

22,275 francs. is the Pactolus of authorship. Its meanest Les Deux Gendres.

13,416 emoluments transcend those of our patent La Fille d'Honneur.

14,407 theatres. One of those light sparkling Sylla:

26,625 vaudevilles, which a man may throw off L'Ecole des Vieillards.. 149


38,822 easily in a week, if it succeed, is an income. Henri III.

17,311 Le Gamin de Paris procured for its author Hernani

14,075 his charming maison de campagne. . In Eng- Les Enfans d'Edouard157


17,801 land it would have, perhaps, obtained 101. Bertrand et Raton ..... 156


27,491 It is but a little while ago that the manager Angelo.....

17,221 of the Haymarket, with a view of tempting Don Juan D'Autriche.. 116 24,867 all the dramatic talent of the country, of- La Camaraderie


Mdle. de Belle Isle. fered a prize for the best comedy-the mag- Le Verre d'Eau


24,609 nificent prize of 50 1. ! Let us compare Une Chaine


16,268 the remuneration for the libretto of an opera in five acts at the Académie Royale, quite

To these sums must be added the prices independently of the remuneration for the paid by publishers for the MS. and the music. It should be observed, that every droits de province ; that is, the sums paid author in repute now demands what are by provincial theatres for the right of each called les primes ; that is, the sum of 1000 performance. Thus Casimir Delavigne must francs per act, which the manager pays for have received at least 60,000 francs for permission to read the MS. He is then L'Ecole des Vieillards. Sheridan Knowles free to accept it or not. (O dramatists of England ! what say ye to that? Would

* This, and the following pieces, received les

primes, amount of which is included in the you not almost pay that sum to get your l total.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

87 78 116

[ocr errors]


received, for the most successful play of income. In England the popular authors modern times (The Hunchback),-how in all departments gain prizes ; but there inuch? Four hundred pounds! This does are few blanks to men of talent: for a great not include the sale of the book, nor the mass of journalists, critics, essayists, tale payments from provincial theatres, but the writers, jesters, there are means of decent latter is a very small item in England. In subsistence. Talent commands a price ; fact, when we state that the average amount industry is not unrewarded. annually divided amongst the dramatists of As a specimen of what industry will do, France is 1,500,000 francs, we shall enable even when backed by very little ability and the reader to estimate the difference which limited acquirement, we may mention the exists between the condition of the drama- case of a German, who, after a residence of tist in France and in England.

a few years in England, learned, the lanNo wonder that so many men endeavor guage sufficiently to write it well enough for to achieve dramatic success in France, biographical dictionaries, cyclopædias, and where the rewards are so tempting; and the like, and then earned something like that men of ability seldom attempt it in 6001, a year, as a hack-writer on Greek and England, where, to say nothing of the usual Roman history and archæology, aided by vexations, there is really no money to be translations from the German, by editing gained. Douglas Jerrold, for Black-Eyed Latin grammars, and contributing to various Susan, received 101. !* In France such a works of compilation. In this labor he dissuccess would have made him an indepen- played no talent of any sort, no original dent man.

thinking, not even remarkable erudition ; What the prices paid to dramatists in all he displayed was a ready knowledge of Germany may be we know not. We only a few text-books, and an untiring perseverknow the simple fact that the theatre is a lucrative department ; indeed the only one Now let us turn the tables. Having witin which an author can support himself by nessed the superiority of England, let us his pen. There is a great lack of dramatic gaze awhile at its inferiority. In money talent in Germany; and in this respect payments we surpass all nations; our pubEngland is on a par with it: both stages lishers are the most liberal of Mæcenases. are supplied by translations of French But in respect for the profession of literapieces, varied occasionally by an original ture, and in solicitude for the waning days work of small value. Karl Gutzkow and of its members, we are on a level with the Ernst Raupach are the most successful Esquimaux. John Bull is at all times writers for the stage, and reap a tolerable ready to pay. Guineas are tangible, defiharvest by their works.

nite, of exchangeable value. But respect, We have thus run rapidly over the com- solicitude, anticipative charity, are vague, parative money payments to authors, and impalpable motives, which move not his find that in this respect the condition of the stolid soul. He will pay for a book; he English author far surpasses that of his will subscribe for the widow and children of French or German brethren; only with a heart-broken, misery-broken author; but respect to the drama is he at a decided dis- to anticipate that misery by prospective advantage. In Germany the pen will sup- benevolence, is not an idea that would occur port none except the dramatist, and, per- to him, or occurring, that would long torhaps, an occasional journalist, who is a ment him. proprietor of a periodical. In France a Want of generosity is assuredly not his first-rate journalist is well-paid; the others failing. He whose pension-list is swelled can barely keep soul and body together : into such plethoric magnitude, does not a first-rate novelist may earn a scanty live-allow the disgraceful item of a miserable lihood-he must be a Dumas or a Sue to make much money; a dramatist, clever * Lest this statement, which is perfectly accu. enough to get himself joined with two or rate, should mislead any worthy German or Eng. three other collaborateurs, is sure of a good lishman into the idea that 6001. a year awaits every

hack-writer on classical subjects, we are bound to

add, that the individual in question was greatly That is to say, 101. would have been the sum aided by an excellent connexion amongst people paid to him had he not been engaged, at a weekly who were able to give him employment. We salary, to write for the theatre. It is true that the quote the story, not to rouse others to emulation, law of dramatic copyright was not then in force, 80 but to illustrate the amount of money which an that the author lost the advantages derived from its industrious hack, when fortunate, may earn in perforiaance in the country.


[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

12001. to be bestowed on Art, Literature, their commonplaces with anecdotes con-
and Science (4001. each !), to stand there cerning their literary friend.” You find
as a bitter mockery and a lasting shame your fat-headed host scarcely daring to ven-
from any sordid motives. No. Art, Lite-ture an opinion in your presence, and ima-
rature, and Science, are so scurvily treated, gining, because you wrote that article in
because they are not respected. The claim The Quarterly, you must be a great chess-
of court favorites upon his bounty is not, player, and an incomparable hand at whist.
perhaps, greater than that of an author who You are asked for autographs ; your com-
has given up his energies to the task of monplaces are received as jokes. But all
instructing or amusing the world; but the this does not disguise the fact, that the pro-
real respect he feels for the court favorite fession of literature is despised-its incu-
(in spite of all his sneers) is incalculably rable sin being poverty !
greater than that felt for the author. He To the proof: In France and Germany
understands how those who have been at a great many minor, and some of the very
court, or been connected with great people, highest, offices of government are bestowed
must suffer, unless they are rescued from on literary men. In France, authors are
want; and he consents to pay towards their statesmen; and two journalists have be-
support. But he is by no means impressed come prime ministers. In Germany, au-

horror at an author's destitution. thors are not only admitted into office, but It seems the natural condition of things. there is a vast number of professorships as It accords with his idea of an author ; it is honorable means of subsistence. In England a proper atmosphere for the attic, the there are scarcely any professorships, and broken teacup as an inkstand, and the none that would be conferred on literary blanket for all covering. He absolutely men ; but there are innumerable governthinks it is a pity authors should be other- ment offices of minor importance, now filled wise than poor; poverty is the only proper by sons of electors, and briefless barristers, stimulus. To the imagination of nine- not one of which would be bestowed upon tenths of the public (in spite of the lie literary men. So far from it, a taint" given to it by almost every author whom of literature would generally close office they have seen), an author is always more against a man. It is always pleaded that or less of the sort of being drawn by authors are unfit for business. But why Churchill and Smollett, and still occasion- unfit ? Have they been tried ? Are they ally represented in farces. They cannot so different from their brethren in France divest themselves of the idea. They do not and Germany, who are not found unfit? like to be convinced that authors may be Besides, let us look to the facts. A fair gentlemen, who live decently, and know sprinkling of literary men have obtained not the sponging-house. Only a few weeks office (not on account of their literature !), ago a benevolent Cit, delighted with a and is it observed that they are less effileader in a newspaper of high standing, sent cient than others ? Macaulay is an author; a ten-pound note enclosed to the editor, for J. W. Croker is an author ; Charles Buller the author ! In the simplicity of his heart is an author ; Henry Taylor is an author ;he thought he was doing an act of charity, these are four men who have filled imporinstead of offering a poignant insult. He tant government offices, and at the same is a type of a large class-who would not, time were reviewers. We need not mention however, send ten-pound notes.

writers of books ; nor the authors who honLet us not be understood here as arguing orably fill subordinate places. In fact, the in favor of pensions to literary men. We notion about unfitness is utterly absurd. want no government largesse. Pensions The real cause is the want of respect which are only warrantable in certain instances, John Bull feels for the profession—the inaand of them hereafter. All we ask for is bility he feels to conceive an author otherjustice ? Simply, the disrespect in which wise than as lazy, impracticable, and poor. the profession of literature is held. That A convincing proof may also be seen in it is held in disrespect can scarcely be ques- the unwillingness of literary men to own tioned by any competent person. Indivi- themselves professional authors; they aldual authors are treated with a respect, most all pretend to be barristers or gentleoften exaggerated into servility. Men are men at large. An amusing incident happroud to have them at their tables, in their pened to the present writer. He went to country-houses ; and are glad to garnish register the birth of a child. The registrar

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

happened to know he was an author, and entitled to a pension from government as on taking down name, profession, and resi- the veteran soldier. The man who has dence, he said,

devoted his talents and energies to the “I believe, sir, you are an author ?" laborious task of improving and amusing Assent was signified by a bow.

mankind, has done the State as much service Humph !” said the registrar, delibe- as the man who has marched at the head of rating. “We'll say, Gent."

a regiment, even if every march had been Accordingly he proceeded to inscribe followed by a victory. And when he who “ gent” in his best caligraphy; as he has battled worthily for our intellectual crossed the t, however, his mind misgave liberty, who has expanded and refined our him, and, looking up with puzzled inge- souls, who has helped to make us wise, nuousness, he blandly asked,

moderate, and humane ; when he who has “I suppose, sir, authors rank as gents ?" charmed so many a weary hour, and peoHis look spoke volumes !

pled listless days with“ fond, familiar To rescue men of letters from the sad thoughts ;" when he who has made us kind necessity of living“ from hand to mouth,” and gentle, far-thoughted, high-thoughted; and to enable them to labor seriously at when his brain is paralysed with age; when serious works, without being haunted by the hand which held his pen droops powerthe fear of poverty, without being forced to less from sickness, and gaunt poverty stands write down to the popular taste, govern- grimly at his door ; are we to grudge that ment's best, and indeed only means is, to pension we so willingly bestow upon the institute professorships, and open public soldier or the sailor? No. The time is offices to authors. It has been said, and not far distant when such an injustice must with some show of justice, that government cease. has no more to do with the remuneration of How far distant is that time? authorship, than it has with the remuneration of other professions ; literature being for the public, the public will pay for its wants. But in this argument one very

Richter's PLAN OF SELF-EDUCATION.-The rules important point is overlooked. Literature he laid down for himself in the work of self-educais a profession in which the author has not short in comparison with the work to be accom

tion are worthy of special notice. First, since lite is only to struggle against his brother authors, plished, he aimed at introducing a just economy but also against a host of interlopers. through all his employments, resolving that, as far Authors without engagements cannot step as possible, neither his time nor his labor should be in and eke out their income with a little that he might fairly look to the future for payment of

The present was to be managed, chancery practice, or a bit of common law ; interest, increasing after compound ratio.

He but lawyers without clients can and do step sought for mental food in four principal fields—huinto the field of literature. Thus the pro- and good” world of books; and last, but before all fessional author is surrounded with rivals, the rest, patient reflection. One-half of the day was not only as hungry as himself, but willing given to writing; the other half was devoted to exand able to work for lower wages, because ercise in the open air, and to thinking. Like our they are not, as he is, solely dependent and spent many hours daily in the contemplation of upon literature. As this state of things is her charms, feeling, as he stepped in the free air

, as inevitable, it must be evident that some if he were entering some mighty temple. In proseprotection would be more justly bestowed cuting his plan of noting, he formed a series of

handbooks of various branches of science; and in upon authors than upon other professions.

one of these-endorsed "Nature"-he entered all That protection should not be pensions, but the examples that fell within his notice of a superior employment.

contriving mind; in short, he made a handbook of Pensions there should be, but only for natural theology. As he conceived the scheme of those who are old, or disabled by ill-health. any new work, he sketched an outline of the story

and the characters, with some of the thoughts to be It is ridiculous to name the present amount worked out, just in the way that a painter makes of the pensions; and somewhat disgraceful studies for any great design. Such a book was has been the bestowment of many of them. marked "Quarry." His “ Quarry for Titan" was

found to occupy seventy closely-printed pages. PerStrange that no legislator has the courage ceiving, as all great artists must do, the value of a to take some step in this direction ! No command over language, he was at great pains to man will deny the claim of a decayed author. mark the various meanings of which words are susThe veteran writer, battered in long and ceptible. He commenced a dictionary of synohard-fought service—in that service grown of one word he actually discovered two hundred old and almost useless, is surely as much nice shades of signification. Monthly Prize Essays. Vol. XI. No. J.


« PreviousContinue »