Letter 1


2 Devereux Ct.
A Sunday in Feby [1824]

DEAR KELSALL,–Being on the edge of a journey deep into the country for a fortnight, and altogether desperate of receiving any official answer from Mr. J. Hunt, I write to inform you how the Shelley affair goes on. On Mr. Waller’s receiving your answer he brought it here and we in full assembly with your paper proxy declared for 250 copies. I was installed secretary and wrote on the spot to J. Hunt informing him that we offered to become responsible for so many, and adding that it was out of our power to do any more. This was nearly, if not quite, a month ago. I have received no answer; but Mr. Hunt has written to Procter about it, saying that he had already mentioned 500 copies to Mrs. Shelley; that 250 copies will not pay for printing & advertisements; and that we ought to give her a chance of getting something, or perhaps she would not like to publish &c &c.

Very true, very likely, very plausible, Mr. John Hunt. For the twinkling of this very distant chance we three poor honest admirers of Shelley’s poetry are certainly to pay: if all, a few, as many more who have professed the same would do as much in proportion to their power, nothing would be better than to print 500 or 750 copies (if it pleases the Gods of wastepaper,) for Mr. J. Hunt to sell at two-pence a pound three or four years hence. Besides if they want to double our number what hinders them. Here is our offer to pay all the foundation expenses of the printing, and the whole of the advertising; now if so much is to be made of the latter 250, if they are so marvellously alchemical, can no other person venture the comparative trifle they are to cost. But “if it is a trifle then,” says my opponent, “why cannot you, the ‘honest admirer’ spare this trifle?” Because I know it will be thrown away; I have gone quite far enough, I never intended to go further any more than to retreat; all that I can afford is offered. Take it, Mr. J. Hunt or reject it, as you please; if it were in a matter of less import, if it were for any other sublunary purpose I wd have withdrawn it long ago, feeling that we have not been treated in the way, which our disinterestedness deserved; to a certain extent in this case I will submit to be “made a convenience of.”

What they intend to do is beyond my knowledge or conjecture; very probably the publisher or printer is only trying to double his job, & when the attempt fails will proceed contentedly as he may. Are not Simpkin & Marshall now selling the remainder of Ollier’s 250 copies of his best poems at a reduction of 70 per cent? “I’ll go no further.”

Have you seen the “Westminster”? Procter has cut it; they did certainly not behave very well to him; and he holds to the “Edinburgh”—a falling house. This new review deserves support, the internal support of talent I mean, & then the other will follow of course, for it’s principle. It dissects the “Edinburgh” well enough, and alludes to a celebrated cousin of yours in one article as “a stripling who can write a readable article for a magazine” &c Who wrote not Paul but Jesus? Not Smith but Austen; Mr. Knight’s Austen is Mr Hunt’s Gamaliel.

There was a new intolerable opera the other night at Covent-garden, with Miss Tree in a nice new pair of white silk pantaloons. Cha. Kemble is to come out in Falstaff and they have under cover a new tragedy (Shiel or Walkers or some of those immortals we conjecture;) and, credite posteri, a new comedy with songs.

Spenser—you do him injustice; I was and am villainously ignorant of him; but I have bought him in folio and intend to read him piece-meal. Beginning, as all rational folks do, at the end, I stumbled on “Britain’s Ida”; which is extremely like Keats with a mixture of the Shaksperian play on words. I picked up Daniel too, who is certainly an unconquerable Alp of weariness, his tragedies would have delighted Voltaire: they are a good deal worse than “Cato.”

I have finished the first act of a play; oh! so stupid. Procter has the brass to tell me he likes that fool the last man. I shall go on with neither; there are now three first acts in my drawer when I have got two more I shall stitch them together, and stick the sign of a fellow tweedling a mask in his fingers, with “good entertainment for man and ass” understood as the grammarians (not the Chrestomathic ones,) say. You’ll think this letter comes from old Bernard the Quaker it’s so like a wounded snake, but it proceeds from the proper paw of

Yours truly


The Ring. Thank you; the old woman’s taken in tho’,—it is not a diamond—but dear me how I keep you from your clients!

Addressed to
Houndwell Lane

[Gosse, 1894]