Newspapers are in the news for a bad reason today, but I’ve just come across Herbert Ingram (1811-1860), who founded the Illustrated London News in 1842, the first fully illustrated weekly newspaper in the world. It was very successful and Herbert went on to further newspaper publishing exploits.
There is just one letter of his in the archive, written 29 July 1851, showing that he has run into copyright problems with John Murray III. His letter is to a Thomas Spalding, seeking his help in persuading Murray not to carry proceedings further, as the infringement was a complete error – an employee had gone against his instructions. The book concerned was Boswell’s “Life of Johnson”, edited by John Wilson Croker. The letter is accompanied by one of Thomas Spalding to John Murray, defending Ingram. Yet another letter shows that Ingram “with his solicitor and Dr McKay” were to go to a meeting in Albemarle Street on 31st July 1851. From the absence of further letters I hope things were amicably settled.
As a footnote, Herbert Ingram’s life was cut short in an unusual way. He died in a paddle-steamer accident in 1860 on Lake Michigan, when the “Lady Elgin” collided with another vessel and sank.
Ingram was Liberal MP for Boston, Lincolnshire from 1856. He had been born there and was brought back home for burial. There is a statue of him in the town’s Market Place.
John Merivale (1779-1844) seems to have been a good friend of John Murray II, and tells it like it is… He was a lawyer and a poet, a friend of Lord Byron’s. I was amused by these excerpts from his letters, both written to John Murray II in 1830:
“I sent you a month ago or more a little MS containing some hasty reflections on the Westminster Radicals, not thinking at the time what a d – d conservative you are grown & how little to your taste therefore would be the sentiments of a reasonable man as I hold myself to be.
“As I think however that I may soon be able to improve my crude thoughts to some [?careful] purpose, I wish you would return me my paper forthwith that I may re-model & fit it for another market”.
“You are more inaccessible than a Prime Minister – far more hard to find, &, when found, still harder to fix – by which I only mean to pay you the compliment of comparing you to the greatest men with whom it has been my fortune ever to have any intercourse. If I can, however, claim your attention on one or two matters of no importance except to myself, I shall be glad if perhaps you will give me an answer on those points which require one”.
I’m talking about Lord Byron, though in fact John Murray II received many letters from young women wanting to know of the poet’s whereabouts. I’ve just happened upon one of these, dated May 1814. It reads:
“Miss Sophia Macconnell will be extremely obliged to Mr Murray if he can inform her whether Ld Byron has left England or if he is still in town -
“Miss S. is very sorry to give Mr Murray the troubling of writing, but one line will be sufficient, & she is sure he will excuse what relates to Ld Byron -
“Newland – near Colford – Glocestershire [sic]“
There are other wistful letters like this one in the archive. I rather hope the writers all met someone much better for them, and lived happily ever after.
Artist Robert Henry Cheney (1801-1866), writes to John Murray III in August 1863, not having found him at home:
“On calling in Albemarle St. not long ago I heard that you had done what I suppose all sensible men who are free agents would do this glorious summer – you had gone to Scotland”.
I’m delighted to hear it. Too many people still malign Scotland’s weather, but what was true in the 19th century is still true today, and sensible people know it!
Meanwhile, he writes in March 1864:
“I have been waiting for weeks & weeks for better weather to come to London with, & have now arrived to encounter the coldest East wind I ever remember”.
Whereas Scotland in March? Lovely! (Well it is today…)
Thomas Jameson Torrie (d. 1858), Scottish advocate & geologist, and friend of John Murray III, writes from Berlin on 12th April 1833. It’s a letter of introduction for another friend who is heading for London:
“My dear Murray,
Allow me to introduce to you my friend Mr Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, with whose musical fame you are already well acquainted. He has already been twice in England, and proposes passing the greater part of this summer in London. I had the good fortune to bring with me a letter of introduction for Mr Mendelssohn from our mutual acquaintance John Thompson of Edinburgh, and the friendly attention and kindness which I have received from him and his family have contributed much to render my residence in Berlin agreeable. Mr M. is much attached to the other fine arts as well as to music, and as I am well aware that you know perfectly all that is worth seeing in Sculpture and painting &c, may I request that you will assist him in procuring the means of access to our but too inaccessible collections public & private.”
There is also a letter of Felix Mendelssohn to John Murray III in the archive, concerning the Murray travel handbooks (MS.42613).
“There is no history after 1815 – ….. – certainly none after 1832″.
This is from the standpoint of 1904, when he was writing the first volume of “An introductory history of England”.
Oxford historian Charles Fletcher (1857-1934) appreciated his dealings with John Murray IV and Hallam Murray, writing to Hallam in June 1904:
“I need hardly tell you & your brother that you always give the one complete example of what a publisher’s relation to an author ought to be”.
Fletcher was also John [Jack] Murray V’s tutor at Oxford and now and again comments to his father on his progress. Although usually positive, he is “rather cross” at Jack’s sometimes “uneven” work in March 1904 – apparently this means B++ – but it’s a much more favourable ‘review’ in November that year:
“Jack has really been doing excellent work all this term – a complete change of his standpoint to the whole job”.
John Murray III too had his supplier of game for the table (see blog below…). By coincidence, I’ve just been sorting the letters of William Scrope (1772-1852), artist and writer, and many of his letters to JMIII are peppered, as it were, with references to braces of pheasants and whatnot that he is sending. This is hardly surprising, as he was a keen hunter and fisherman. His letters in the archive centre on two of his major works: “The art of deerstalking”, and “Days and nights of salmon-fishing in the Tweed”. The books include work by some eminent fellow artists, such as Edwin and Charles Landseer, and William Simson.
In one letter, undated but probably mid-1840s, he delivers his verdict on another artist, Turner:
“Turner is a wonderful man to be able to humbug certain people. His pictures have certainly considerable merit & show wonderful beauties of composition & arrangement of vivid and harmonious colour – But they are not sufficiently like nature. But with the true spirit of Sir Godfrey Kneller who asserted that the world would have been more perfect if he could have been consulted at its creation – he says, that nature ought to resemble them. That is his sublime idea.”
No doubt artists could have a fascinating discussion about this – and artists, art-lovers, or careful readers of the Scrope letters, could work out which Turner is being described… There’s obviously JMW Turner (1775-1851); but also William Turner (1789-1862), another landscape painter. If anyone can shed light on this, please do!
The letters of Sir Francis Freeling to John Murray II (MSS.40423-40424) provide an interesting insight into the relationship between bookseller and client. A close friendship existed between the two men, which was often shown through the exhange of gifts: Murray sending books to Freeling; Freeling returning such kindness by sending some interesting viands for the Murrays’ table.
Examples of Freeling’s gifts are the following.
8 January 1819.
Pray do me the kindness to have a couple of wild ducks which, I flatter myself, will prove excellent.
The note was addressed to Murray at Albemarle Street with the added comment “with a couple of wild teal”.
On the 2 April 1819 Freeling sent an altogether more exotic dish:
I send you part of a little Caviare which has been sent to us from St. Petersburgh, together with instructions how to prepare it. Many think it a great luxury. I confess it is not much to my taste.
Other gifts included “a stewed lamprey”, “Scotch herrings”, a number of woodcocks and several haunches of venison!
Mrs Murray, of course, had only to reach for her copy of Maria Rundell’s “Domestic Cookery” for ideas on how to prepare the above!
In February 1845 John Murray III was approached by a man called Beesley, from Oxford, who was looking for work. Beesley had given a Mr David Griffith Davies of Oxford as a character reference. Murray, however, wanted to know more about Davies before trusting his word. Wisely, therefore, he approached a business acquaintance in Oxford, the bookseller John Parker. Parker’s reply would not have been overly encouraging.
Oxford Feby 20 1845
The Mr David Griffith Davies to whom you have referred for a character reference is a low drunken fellow, who was formerly of Jesus College and in Holy Orders, but was stripped of his gown many years ago for gross misconduct, and has since lurked about Oxford supporting himself by writing out impositions for the young men, or in any way that he can to keep himself out of the workhouse, and so far from having been able for these twenty years past to keep a man servant he has been scarcely able to keep himself. Beesley is an Oxford name and I dare say that the young man who has applied to you is [?] friend and companion of this Mr. Davies – who has calculated on you applying by letter only direct to Mr Davies. I should say that his recommendation is not worth a rush, and I would rather not hold any communication with him – I therefore return your paper of queries without making any application to get answers to them.