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Charles Dickens

Madeline House and Graham Storey (eds), The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 2: 1840–1841

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pg 145To JOHN MAJOR,1 3 NOVEMBER 1840

MS Mr L. T. Edwards.

Devonshire Terrace | Tuesday 3rd. November 1840.


I assure you that I shall be exceedingly sorry if this reply to your note occasions you any feeling of disappointment; for then I shall have a solitary reason for regretting that we have corresponded.

I cannot give you a letter of recommendation to Messrs. Chapman and Hall—not because I deem your pieces unworthy of it; for, on the contrary, I think them very good—but because I have resolved never again to trouble those gentlemen with any such communications. I need not tell you that the influence I have with them is strictly personal, and that I have no right to dictate to or advise them in the conduct of their business. Now, if I had not prescribed this rule to myself, I should be its manager, and not they, for I believe there is not one man out of a dozen who has a proposal to make to them, who does not first write to me (as you have done) and urge me to back it.

Let me tell you frankly, for your consolation, that in submitting your proposals to them, you will stand on precisely as good a footing of your own, as if you had the strongest and most favorable introduction from me. In either case they would publish your book if they thought it would repay them, and reject it if they thought it would not. It will be a comfort to you to know that before I determined on my present system of non-interference, I did recommend several books to them, and (acting on this principle) they rejected them every one. And the last case, I perfectly remember, was one which I urged on behalf of one of our first authoresses, who would have appeared as "editing" the work.2

If you give me credit for a sincere desire to assist you if I had the power, you will only do justice to

  •                               Sir | Yours very truly
  • John Major Esquire                            Charles Dickens

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Editor’s Note
1 Probably John Major (1782–1849; DNB), bookseller and publisher. Best known for his four editions of Walton and Cotton's Compleat Angler; also edited Hogarth Moralised and published several books of verse. Ruined through his entanglement in Thomas Dibdin's bibliographic ventures. Granted £25 by the Literary Fund in 1837, but was refused a second grant in Nov 40 on grounds of insufficient authorship (MS Royal Literary Fund). Lived in the Charterhouse from 1842 to his death.
Editor’s Note
2 Apparently Caroline Norton (see To Lunn, 15 Nov 41).
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