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volume of “Sermons;' and though he is not a professor, I believe him a man of honour and integrity.” Cowper was well satisfied to confide the whole matter of the publication of his first volume of poems to Newton, who took them to his “old friend in St. Paul's Churchyard,” and presented them to him without asking any price for the copy.
The volume was thus advertised: “In the press and speedily will be published in one volume octavo, price three shillings, Poems by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple, Esquire.” Price three shillings ! This was remarkable in Joseph Johnson, for the age of luxurious printing and high prices was beginning :
“With wire-wove hot-press'd paper's glossy glare,
Blind all the wise, and make the stupid stare.” The publisher of Cowper was an exception to his brother publishers of that day, who were addressed in these lines. Aikin says of him, “It is proper to mention that his true regard for the interests of literature rendered him an enemy to that typographical luxury which, joined to the necessary increase of expense in printing, has so much enhanced the price of new books as to be a material obstacle to the indulgence of a laudable and reasonable curiosity by the reading public.”
But Johnson was not only “a man of honour and integrity.” He rendered those essential services to Cowper as the poems passed through the press which an intelligent publisher may afford to his author without setting up a claim to be a man of letters.
He suggested a few corrections in the first sheetsa bold thing to do by a bookseller to a poet-and Cowper took this interference with as much good sense as good temper. He writes to Newton, July 7, 1781, “I had rather submit to chastisement now than be obliged to undergo it hereafter. If Johnson, therefore, will mark with a marginal Q those lines that he or his object to, I will willingly retouch them, or give a reason for my refusal.”
It is pleasant to read how Cowper thought of his publisher as an intelligent critic. On August 25, 1781, he writes to Newton :-“I forgot to mention that Johnson uses the discretion my poetship has allowed him with much discernment. He has suggested several alterations, or rather marked several defective passages, which I have corrected much to the advantage of the poems. In the last sheet he sent me he noted three such, all which I have reduced to better order. In the foregoing sheet, I assented to some of his criticisms in some instances, and chose to abide by the original expression in others. Thus we jog on together comfortably enough ; and perhaps it would be well for authors in general if their booksellers, when men of some taste, were allowed, though not to tinker the work themselves, yet to point out the flaws, and humbly to recommend an improvement.”
In the original edition of the Poems Newton's name appears on the title-page as editor. He wrote a Preface, or Introduction, highly complimentary indeed, but alluding too distinctly to Cowper's malady, and dwelling too exclusively upon the religious character of the poems. Johnson strongly urged Cowper not to let this preface stand. The candid poet saw the judiciousness of this advice, and wrote thus to the Rev. Mr. Unwin :-“ It is possible, after all, that my book may come forth without a preface. Mr. Newton has written (he could, indeed, write no other) a very sensible as well as a very friendly one; and it is printed. But the bookseller, who knows him well, and esteems him highly, is anxious to have it cancelled, and, with my consent first obtained, has offered to negotiate that matter with the author. He judges that, though it would serve to recommend the volume to the religious, it would disgust the profane, and that there is really no need of any preface at all. I have found Johnson a very judicious man on other occasions, and am therefore willing that he should determine for me upon this.”
The preface was cancelled. Cowper, in deprecating any offence to Newton, pays another cordial tribute to the merit of Johnson :-“I have reason to be very much satisfied with my publisher. He marked such lines as did not please him, and, as often as I could, I paid all possible respect to his animadversions. You will accordingly find, at least if you recollect how they stood in the MS., that several passages are the better for having undergone his critical notice. Indeed, I do not know where I could have found a bookseller who could have pointed out to me my defects with more discernment; and as I find it is a fashion for modern bards to publish the names of the literati wbo have favoured their works with a
revisal, would myself most willingly have acknowledged my obligations to Johnson, and so I told him.”
The bookseller of St. Paul's Churchyard did not, after his first venture with Cowper, attain the cheapness which he desired for his publications by a niggardly payment for authorship. In 1786, the poet writes to Lady Hesketh: “ Johnson behaves very handsomely in the affair of my two volumes. He acts with a liberality not often found in persons of his occupation, and to mention it, when occasion calls me to it, is a justice due to him.” It would be difficult, amongst old booksellers or modern, to find one of more liberality and judgment than Joseph Johnson. He encouraged Fuseli in his design to paint a • Milton Gallery,' to be published in imitation of Boydell’s ‘Shakspeare.' The poems were to be edited by Cowper, but his illness put an end to that project; yet Johnson 'subscribed, with five other friends of Fuseli, to advance him a sum of money till the paintings were completed. Johnson had to bear the common fate of other right-minded men in a season of political persecution. He was imprisoned nine months in the King's Bench for selling the political works of Gilbert Wakefield. He was enabled to bear his confinement with equanimity; for he rented the Marshal's house, where he used to give dinners to his literary friends, of whom he had a large number of the most distinguished.
Let me say a word of the mischievous spirit—the very Puck of booksellers—who has caused all this commotion in the trade, JOHN BELL, of the Strand. Leigh Hunt has described him, as he appeared early in the present century, when he published · Bell's Weekly Messenger:'-—“He was a plain man, with a red face, and a nose exaggerated by intemperance; and yet there was something not unpleasing in his countenance, especially when he spoke. He had sparkling black eyes, a good-natured smile, gentlemanly manners, and one of the most agreeable voices I ever heard. He had no acquirements, perhaps not even grammar; but his taste in putting forth a publication, and getting the best artists "to adorn it, was new in those times, and may be admired in any."* This remarkable man, as Hunt calls him, was not satisfied with producing his · British Poets, to invade “our literary property," but he sent forth his · British Theatre' to drive out of the market the old octavo editions of single Plays, or the cumbrous collections of the works of dramatic authors, from Dryden and Farquhar to Thomson and Colman. He published "Shakespear,' also in small pocket volumes. His draughtsmen and engravers were not selected for their cheapness, but for their excellence. His love of innovation was really awful. Nichols (John Bowyer) records that “Mr. Bell, in publishing his · British Theatre,' first set the fashion of discarding the long s." Worst of all, he raised up a series of rivals and imitators, who went upon the same principle of giving the common reader nicely-printed small volumes, with embellishments by first-rate artists. Cook, of Paternoster-row, was one of those who made a fortune