TC TO WILLIAM TAIT ; 23 July 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390723-TC-WT-01; CL 11: 152-153
TC TO WILLIAM TAIT
Templand, Thornhill, 23d July, 1839—
My dear Sir,
Your friendly Letter1 awaited my return hither from a short excursion into Annandale.
I had not forgotten the nature of our bargain, but remembered, or at any rate done my utmost to remember it. The minute of the business, which lies or ought to be lying in some paper-heap at Chelsea, is not accessible at this moment; but my uniform recollection has been that the ultimate copyright of that German Romance was expressly reserved to me; that, besides the First Edition which of course was exclusively yours, a certain joint interest remained for the high contracting parties in any second Edition that might be printed (I think it was that you were to have the refusal of it, or in some way the preference to all other Publishers in respect of it); but that after said second Edition, or your said refusal, the work was and continued mine,—much good might it do me! This, I say, has been my rather misty but constant and undoubting recollection of that important state-paper: if you will look in your copy of it, provided such exist, and set me right about it, I promise to be altogether open to the truth whatever it may be. By offering you the reprinting of this Meister (the only portion of the G. Romance which promised to be worth reprinting) coupled with another Meister which might better the adventure,—I fancied I had complied with the terms of our agreement as far as might be; and that you, refusing to print yourself, would answer that I was at liberty to print. Such was my understanding; right or wrong I cannot at this moment determine;—neither indeed is it of much moment.
For, alas, as to any terms offered by my Publisher, I grieve to be able to answer so decisively at once that the privilege solicited is not reckoned certainly to be worth any money at all; and that no offer of money either now or within a computable date has any chance to be made. My Publisher is Fraser: he merely judges the thing worth the risk of paper and print, offers me no coin of sure money, only doubtful “halving of the profits,” and my own chance of ever being paid for correcting of the press seems very far from certain. Not to say that Meisters Apprenticeship being already mine (for Messrs Oliver & Boyd have frankly washed their hands of it), the Travels are a very secondary item in this enterprise;2 and it can go on without that; nay perhaps (commercially speaking tho' not critically and scientifically) as fitly without as with it.
In short, my dear Sir, the circumstances are such that if you and your Brother find that you can say to me, “Do with this Meister as you like, we will not hinder you,” I shall take it as a handsome thing and a proof of your old good-nature towards me.3 If on the other hand you find that you must refuse such permission, I will not raise the question whether it be still competent for me to proceed in defect of that; I will simply leave the Book standing unprinted there, and proceed without it,—or even not proceed at all, for that too is a course I shall little regret to take. So pray offer my kind remembrances to your Brother, and ask him what is to be done.4
Not doubting but your decision in this matter, as it was wont of old, will be rigorously accurate,
I remain, / My dear Sir, / Yours very truly / (with the worst of pens)
If Mr De Quincey have not entirely forgotten me, pray say that I still remember him with true regard and good wishes. We see him often in your Magazine; always with peculiar interest.5