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Lot 73
[ELIOT, GEORGE (1819-1880, novelist and poet)]
£4,000 - 6,000
US$ 6,800 - 10,000
Lot Details
[ELIOT, GEORGE (1819-1880, novelist and poet)]
UNPUBLISHED AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED BY GEORGE HENRY LEWES ( 'G.H. Lewes'), about the publication of 'Mrs Lewes's novel [MIDDLEMARCH], outlining to a publisher [Osgood, Ticknor & Co of Boston - 'Dear Sirs'], his arrangement, as her literary agent, for the publication of the novel in England by Blackwood's, arising from George Eliot's feeling 'that she would in all likelihood require 4 volumes, instead of three to work out all her plans' and informing them that they have 'settled upon the following scheme - provisionally, to publish the book in half volume parts, each part having a sort of completeness in itself, every alternate month...At any rate there would be the equivalent of 8 half volumes in 8 small volumes', asking them to keep this plan entirely in their own circle because of Harper & Scribner's interest, to whom he does not want to misrepresent things, discussing in detail how they might have instalments both for publication in Every Saturday and with individual volumes, pointing out that 'There are however serious objections to your appearing in a volume before one appear[s] here' and they should avoid any clash between them and publication in England, giving Osgood 'the requisite start', and concluding 'We shall not look for any encrease in the terms on account of this additional matter, but may consider the set off of the extra volume against the not waiting months before publication here', 4 pages, octavo, light mark down right-hand side of the fourth page from earlier hinge, Shotter Mill near Petersfield, 13 June 1871

Footnotes

  • THE PUBLICATION OF [MIDDLEMARCH] IN ENGLAND AND AMERICA. The plan of publishing Middlemarch in eight small volumes Lewes first proposed to George Eliot's British publisher, William Blackwood's of Edinburgh, in a letter dated 7 May 1871. Lewes did not wait for Blackwood's agreement before disposing of the American rights to Osgood, Ticknor & Co. Their plan was to publish the novel in weekly instalments in Every Saturday - the present letter is Lewes's response. Blackwood's, when they found out about this arrangement, were uneasy about 'their Yankee arrangement. It has a confounded trading look and bits will be published right and left in this country in spite of our teeth.' It turned out that these fears were groundless: on 10 November Osgood cabled Lewes that they had transferred the American copyright to Harper's Weekly in New York; there Middlemarch appeared in weekly instalments from 16 December to 15 February 1873. George Eliot received £1,200 for the American rights and made £9,000 from the publication of the novel in England.

    While suiting George Eliot, the publication of the novel in half volume parts over a period of months was also a way of circumventing the libraries by making the public buy instead of borrow the book. Lewes also suggested that Blackwood's could either assume the risk and offer £6,000 cash for the book or offer a four-year English copyright. Thus George Eliot became the first author to turn down a flat fee in favour of a royalty.

    The present letter appears to be unpublished: not in The George Eliot Letters, edited by Gordon Haight, 1955-1956. See also Gordon Haight, George Eliot: A Biography, 1968, p. 437.
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