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In 1823, London society was much exercised on the subject of literary gains. Miss Wynn writes in her “Diaries of a Lady of Quality”—“I heard to-day from Mr. Rogers that Constable, the bookseller, told him last May that he paid the author of ‘Waverley’ the sum of £110,000. To that may now be added the produce of ‘Red Gauntlet,’ and ‘St. p. 173Ronan’s Well;’ for I fancy Quentin Durward’ was at least printed, if not published. I asked whether the ‘Tales of my Landlord,’ which do not bear the same name, were taken into calculation, and was told they were, but of course the poems were not. All this has been done in twenty years.” In 1803, an unknown Mr. Scott’s name was found as the author of three very good ballads in Lewis’s “Tales of Wonder.” This was his first publication.—Pope, who until now had been considered as the poet who had made the most by his works, died worth about £800 a-year.—Johnson, for his last and best work, his “Lives of the Poets,” published after the “Rambler” and the “Dictionary” had established his fame, got two hundred guineas, to which was added one hundred more. Mr. Hayward, in a note, adds—“‘Waverley’ having been published in 1814, the sum mentioned by Constable was earned in nine years, by eleven novels in three volumes each, and three series of ‘Tales of my Landlord,’ making nine volumes more; eight novels twenty-four volumes, being yet to come. Scott’s first publication, ‘Translations from the German,’ was in 1796. During the whole of his literary life he was profitably engaged in miscellaneous writing and editing; and whatever the expectations raised by has continued popularity and great profits, they were surpassed by the sale of the collected and illustrated edition of the novels commenced under his own revision in 1829. Altogether, the aggregate amount gained by Scott in his lifetime, very far exceeds any sum hitherto named as accruing to any other man from authorship. Pope inherited a fortune, saved and speculated; and we must come at once to modern times to find plausible subjects of comparison. T. Moore’s profits, spread over his life, yield but a moderate income. Byron’s did not exceed £20,000. Talfourd once showed me a calculation, by which he made out that Dickens, soon after the commencement of ‘Nicholas Nickleby,’ ought to have been in the receipt of £10,000 a-year. Thackeray never got enough to live handsomely and lay by. Sir E. B. Lytton is said to have made altogether from £80,000 to £100,000 by his writings’. We hear of 500,000 francs (£20,000) having been given in France for Histories—to MM. Thiers and Lamartine for example; but the largest single payment ever made to an author for a book, was the cheque for £20,000, on account, paid by Messrs. Longman to Macaulay soon after the appearance p. 174of the third and fourth volumes of his History, the terms being that he should receive three-fourths of the net profits.” This note of Mr. Hayward’s, it should be remembered, was written in 1864. Macaulay cleared a fine sum by his History, and so did the publishers. During the nine years, ending with the 25th of June, 1857, Messrs. Longman disposed of 30,978 copies of the first volume of the History; 50,783 copies during the nine years ending with June, 1866; and 52,392 copies during the nine years ending with June, 1875. Within a generation of its first appearance, upwards of 150,000 copies of the History will have been printed and sold in the United Kingdom alone.

It is to be questioned, when her life comes to be written, whether any author has been more successful, in a pecuniary point of new, than Miss Braddon, whose “Lady Audley’s Secret” at once placed her on the pinnacle of fame and fortune, and yet she began the world as a ballet-girl.

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Few Irishmen, in a literary and political point of view, did better than the Right Hon. John Wilson Croker. In his “Memoirs,” Charles Mayne Young thus speaks of his rise and progress:—

“I suspect few people now alive are aware of the commencement of Croker’s career in London. Horace Smith, James’s brother, and one of the joint authors of ‘Rejected Addresses,’ told me that he, his brother, and Cumberland, formed the staff of the Morning Post when Colonel Mellish was its sole proprietor. On a certain quarter-day, when he was in the habit of meeting them at the office and paying them their salary, he took occasion to pass them unqualified commendation for the great ability they had brought to bear upon his journal. He assured them that the circulation of the paper had quadrupled since their connection with it; ‘but—but—that he was, nevertheless, under the necessity of dispensing with their pens for the future.’ The two Smiths were so utterly unprepared for such a declaration, that they were tongue-tied. Not so the testy Cumberland, who took care to make himself as clearly understood as if he had been the veritable Sir Fretful Plagiary.

“‘What,’ he asked his employer, ‘the d—l do you mean? In the same breath in which you laud your servants to the skies, and express your sense of obligation to them, you discharge them oven without the usual month’s warning!’

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p. 175“Mellish, quite unmoved, replied—‘You must know, good sirs, that I care for my paper, not for its principles, but as an investment; and it stands to reason, that the heavier my outgoings, the less my profits. I do, as I have said, value your merits highly; but not as highly as you charge me for them. Now, in future, I can command the services of one man, who will do the work of three for the wage of one.’

“‘The deuce you can,’ said Cumberland. ‘He must be a phœnix. Where, pray, may this omniscient genius be met with?’

“‘In the next room! I will send him to you.’

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“As he left, a young man entered, with a well-developed skull, a searching eye, and a dauntless address.

“‘So, sir,’ screamed out Cumberland, ‘you must have an uncommon good opinion of yourself! You consider yourself, I am told, three times as able as any one of us; for you undertake to do an amount of work, single-handed, which we have found enough for us all.’ ‘I am not afraid,’ said the young man, with imperturbable sang froid, ‘of doing all that is required of me.’ They all three then warned him of the tact, discretion, and knowledge of books and men required—of the difficulties of which he must expect to find an enterprise of such magnitude beset, &c., &c. They began then to sound his depth; but on politics, belles lettres, political economy, even the drama, they found him far from shallow. Cumberland, transported out of himself by his modest assurance, snatched up his hat, smashed it on his head, rammed snuff incontinently up his nose, and then rushed by Mellish, who was in the adjoining room, swearing, and saying as he left, ‘Confound the potato. He’s so tough, there’s no peeling him!’ The tough potato was John Wilson Croker.”

That Charles Dickens made a great deal of money, all the world is well aware. That in the tale of “David Copperfield,” a little of his childish life was outlined, was known, or rather suspected; but till his life appeared, no one had the least idea how low down in the world he and his family were, and how much more creditable to him was his rise.

If it is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth, Dickens certainly had this advantage. We have seldom read a more touching picture than that which is given of the life of the neglected, untaught, half-starved boy at this time. It is tragic and affecting enough in itself, but it is still more p. 176impressive as suggesting the possible lot of hundreds and thousands in this great London of ours. The one boy, by means of marvellous genius, forces his way to the front; but who is to tell the story of the obscure multitude who perish in the struggle? What imagination has ever pictured scenes as tragic as the following experiences?—

“It is wonderful to me how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age. It is wonderful to me, that even after my descent into the poor little drudge I had been since we came to London, no one had compassion enough on me—a child of singular abilities, quick, eager, delicate, and soon hurt, bodily or mentally—to suggest that something might have been spared, as certainly it might have been, to place me at any common school. Our friends, I take it, were tired out. No one made any sign. My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school, and going to Cambridge.

“The blacking warehouse was the last house on the left-hand side of the way, at old Hungerford-stairs. It was a crazy, tumble-down old house, abutting of course on the river, and literally overrun with rats. Its wainscotted rooms, and its rotten floors and staircase, and the old grey rats swarming down in the cellars, and the sound of their squeaking and scuffling coming up the stairs at all times, and the dirt and decay of the place, rose up visibly before me, as if I were there again. The counting-house was on the first floor, looking over the coal-barges and the river. There was a recess in it, in which I was to sit and work. My work was to cover the pots of paste-blacking; first, with a piece of oilpaper, and then with a piece of blue paper; to tie them round with a string; and then to clip the paper close and neat, all round, until it looked as smart as a pot of ointment from an apothecary’s shop. When a certain number of grosses of pots had attained this pitch of perfection, I was to paste on each a printed label; and then go on again with more pots. Two or three other boys were kept at similar duty down stairs on similar wages. One of them came up, in a ragged apron and paper cap, on the first Monday morning, to show me the trick of using the string and tying the knot. His name was Bob Fagin; and I took the liberty of using his name, long afterwards, in ‘Oliver Twist.’

p. 177“Our relative had kindly arranged to teach me something in the dinner-hour—from twelve to one, I think it was—every day. But an arrangement so incompatible with counting-house business soon died away, from no fault of his or mine; and for the same reason, my small work-table, and my grosses of pots, my papers, string, scissors, paste-pot, and labels, by little and little, vanished out of the recess in the counting-house, and kept company with the other small work-tables, grosses of pots, papers, string, scissors, and paste-pots, down stairs. It was not long before Bob Fagin and I, and another boy whose name was Paul Green, but who was currently believed to have been christened Poll (a belief which I transferred, long afterwards, again to Mr. Sweedlepipe, in ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’), worked generally side by side. Bob Fagin was an orphan, and lived with his brother-in law, a waterman. Poll Green’s father had the additional distinction of being a fireman, and was employed at Drury-lane Theatre; where another relation of Poll’s, I think his little sister, did imps in the pantomimes.

“No words can express the secret agony of my soul as I sank into this companionship; compared these every-day associates with those of my happier childhood; and felt my early hopes of growing up to be a learned and distinguished man, crushed in my breast. The deep remembrance of the sense I had of being utterly neglected and hopeless—of the shame I felt in my position—of the misery it was to my young heart to believe that, day by day, what I had learned, and thought, and delighted in, and raised my fancy and my emulation up by, was passing away from me, never to be brought back any more—cannot be written. My whole nature was so penetrated with the grief and humiliation of such considerations, that even now, famous and caressed and happy, I often forget in my dreams that I have a dear wife and children—even that I am a man—and wander desolately back to that time of my life.

“My mother and my brothers and sisters (excepting Fanny in the Royal Academy of Music) were still encamped, with a young servant-girl from Chatham workhouse, in the two parlours in the emptied house in Gower Street North. It was a long way to go and return within the dinner-hour; and, usually, I either carried my dinner with me, or went and bought it at some neighbouring shop. In the latter case it p. 178was commonly a saveloy and a penny loaf; sometimes, a four-penny plate of beef from a cook’s shop; sometimes a plate of bread and cheese, and a glass of beer, from a miserable old public-house over the way—the ‘Swan,’ if I remember right, or the ‘Swan’ and something else that I have forgotten. Once I remember tucking my own bread (which I had brought from home in the morning) under my arm, wrapped up in a piece of paper like a book, and going into the best dining-room in Johnson’s alamode-beef-house in Charles Court, Drury Lane, and magnificently ordering a small plate of alamode-beef to eat with it. What the waiter thought of such a strange little apparition, coming in all alone, I don’t know; but I can see him now, staring at me as I ate my dinner, and bringing up the other waiter to look. I gave him a halfpenny, and I wish, now, that he hadn’t taken it.”

It was thus Dickens was trained to fight the battle of life. After this one feels inclined to say, “How great are the blessings of poverty!” What an impulse it gives the man to raise himself above it, somehow or other. Hazlitt used to say that “the want of money often places a man in a very ridiculous position.” There is no doubt about that. It is also equally clear, that, without money, there can be little comfort, little independence of thought or action, little real manliness. Poverty is a wonderful tonic. Volumes might be written in its praise. Almost all the wonderful things that have been done in the world have been accomplished by men who were born and bred in poverty. She is the nurse of genius, the mother of heroes. She has garlanded the world with gold. Luxury and wealth have ever been the ruin alike of individuals and nations. The world’s greatest benefactors have been the money-getting men. Of course there are a few exceptions; but they are the exceptions that confirm the rule.adversity, and of the splendid courage of the working classes); “for notwithstanding that not a few of them are not unacquainted with the claims, reasonable and unreasonable, of poor relations, these qualities are not in such constant exercise, and riches seem, in so many cases, to smother the manliness of their possessors, that their sympathies become not so much narrowed as, so to speak, stratified; they are reserved for the sufferings of their own class, and also the woes of those above them. They seldom tend downwards much, and they are far more likely to admire an act of high courage, like that of the engine-driver who saved his passengers lately from an awful collision by cool courage, than to admire the constantly-exercised fortitude and the tenderness which are the daily characteristics of a British workman’s life.