August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO GERALDINE E. JEWSBURY ; 16 March 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440316-JWC-GEJ-01; CL 17: 306-309


[16? March 1844]

Dearest Geraldine

I have all this while been like yourself singularly unwell—but alas totally unlike you in my manner of managing the unwellings— For I have been as cross as the old one, and quite insensible to the “welfare of others”—except in as far as silent good will could promote it. You would nevertheless by your generous example have shamed me out of this selfish indulgence of my biliousness (or whatever one is to call it) had not a greater shame witheld me from writing, the shame of being still unable to give you the smallest tidings of your M.S.— Carlyle told me whenever I expressed my impatience about it, that “I must give the people time”—“they took a long while to make up their minds in those cases”—nay “they often kept a Manuscript for months merely by way of softening their refusal to have anything to do with it” One of the oddest softening measures that I have happened to hear of! disappointment softened by suspense!

Yesterday however I found myself at the last farthing of my patience, and having the Sterling carriage by good luck “without encumbrance”1 I rendered my self at Chapman & Halls and had a solemn interview with the Chapman-half of the concern— The result of which was my Dear—that———the MS is accepted on the principle of half-profits! The very most Heaven-high success that could befall a young Ladies first book in “the existing state of the book trade”! When I think of the difficulty which John Mill's Logic,2 Carlyle's Sartor, and so many other distinguished books of Distinguished authors had to surmount in merely getting themselves printed without cost— I assure you I am mighty pleased with this result of my negociation and hope that you will be the same—actually I was so glad in leaving the shop that I rushed into a silk mercers—and bought myself a new gown!! a thing which I have been needing to do for months back, but until this happiness “transpired” was never up to doing—

“They had submitted the MS to a gentleman whom they were in the habit of consulting—and the excellence of whose judgement was indubitable” (who is he I wonder?) and “he had given a verdict precisely similar to mine” (a good argument in favour of the excellence of my judgement!) He “had no hesitation in saying that it was one of the most remarkable novels that had been produced for some time back—after the 7th Chapter in fact it had taken hold of him with a grasp of iron”—up to the 7th Chapter he thought it defective in interest—and that the Lady would be wise to recast that position—introducing more of action in place of description—the characters should be made to introduce themselves—instead of being elaborately introduced by the Author— This I tell you because it is my duty to deliver the message, and also because I agree with it. He (the great nameless) also recommended seeing that you had a very decided contempt for the ordinary rules of spelling—and but little reverence for those of grammar3—that the MS before going to Press should be revised and corrected by some one in the habit of writing for the Press—and—it would really be well to have it transcribed on “sheets of similar size”—with margin and the usual neatnesses—and for Godsake not strung on red tape but laid side by side in an artist like manner—all these things really require to be attended to because whatever increases the difficulty of printing and the quantity of correction of course increases the expenses and diminishes the fondly anticipated “profits”! So I shall send you back the M.S. next week—and without mercy impose all that bother on you now—there being a certainty to comfort you under it— You need not be in any hurry with it—as they have their hands full at the present moment and shall not be free to begin upon it for two or three months—besides the end of the year is judged to be the most favourable time for bringing out new works4

Moreover I ought to mention that Mr Chapman promised if the first book succeeded as he hoped it would; you should certainly be enabled to accomplish a journey to Norway—perhaps to the Moon who knows?———on immediate payment for the next— To be sure if you could have had “immediate payment” for this it would have been more satisfactory than a shadowy prospect of “half profits”—which are a very dawdling sort of profits now when they do not prove visionary but take the shape of palpable coin— An immediate payment however to an untried author is a thing entirely out of the question—every one assures me as well as the Booksellers. Mrs Jameson said “nobody could have the immodesty to ask it”—and so I really do not see that you can make a better of it—than just to conclude the bargain they offer you— Chapman & Hall are the most generous Publishers I have heard of—witness their voluntarily presenting Dickens with fifteen hundred pounds in addition to the two thousand they had bargained to pay him for Nicholas Nickelby!— No doubt they found their account in paying him even at that enormous rate—but to give away so much money even on speculation argued large and generous ideas—for Booksellers! And now Dear I think I have said all that absolutely requires to be said this day—and whatever heart—good will may I have I am without physical force to do more in the writing line—just when I was getting to sleep last night after weary tossing and turning about—at three in the morning—my incautious Husband shoved the stone bottle of warm water off the bed—and the thump was in the death watches of the night something to make one almost swoon with terror— My sleep was quite murdered thereby—and I am today more dead than alive— I wish to heaven we were better both of us—it is weary weary work this same! I have not even been able to go to Mrs Fraser for a fortnight— How true is that which you say—that these newspaper exposures have taken all the shine out of criminal passions!

Thanks for the queer wee book! it is a treasure— Thanks for your long letters— Thanks for your constant love Yours ever J.C.