Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

so true it is, and so complete in its details. Was it conscience or was it revenge which forced this experienced person to reveal the secrets ?

“We have taken your new MS, on the old terms." said a certain small publisher recently. “Of course, however, you will not join the Society of Authors. In fact, we put a black mark against the name of every member of that Society.” The writer of that work is a member. If this remark has been made to anybody else, let me hasten to point out that if this publisher were to put all the black marks he has got against all the names of all the authors, no harm whatever would be done because in such a case we should immediately find other publishers who would do the work of production and distribution quite as well, and in this case perhaps much better. Fortunately the public cares nothing who publishes a book; it is concerned solely with the contents. Plenty of men-hundreds and thousands of menare willing and anxious to step into any trade by which they can make money. But to the marker in black-the black marker—we would point out very seriously that the Society itself can do a great deal more harm to a publisher than he can do to any individual member. We are now, he should understand, by no means a small, harmless, or a feeble body.

—who are called novelists by the world, and make over a thousand a year by writing, though the whole income may be sometimes derived from other kinds of literary work. I know the facts partly from experience acquired in the offices of the Society, partly from information. A note in the St. James's Gazette asks whether these works are worth the money. This question denotes some confusion of ideas. For what is the actual worth of a book? You cannot measure it at all by money. A successful novelist is one who holds the attention, commands interest, awakens emotions, amuses or terrifies, calls up tears or laughter, and brings brightness into millions of dull lives. This great power is not to be valued by money at all. If the St. James's critic asks whether the books really produce by their sale all this money, that is a very different question. They really do—and a very great deal more.

Here is an interesting little proposal. A “Graduate of Oxford,” modestly hiding his philanthropic name, has conceived a theory that there are many poets, as yet unrecognized, who would like their best” verses only their best, mind—to be published. He invites them, therefore, to send him two or three short poems not exceeding in all 120 lines. With their best verses is to be forwarded a guinea. In return the contributor will receive two copies of a handsome volume in which-oh! Joy and Glory!-his own best verses will appear. It will be like bringing out the best china, or wearing the best clothes, or sleeping in the best bed room, all these things being among the innocent pleasures of our ancestors. “These,” will say the glorified bard, “are my best verses; others I have, second best, for home consumption, and even third best, for washing day, but these are my best.”

One does not like even the appearance of boastfulness, but the following little fact illustrates something approaching to power. There is a certain firm in this city of which it is sufficient to say that all the worst things ever alleged against the publishing trade may be brought together, and, with the greatest truth, alleged against this particular firm. We have for a long time kept work out of their hands, and we intend to go on doing so until they mend their ways. It was reckoned the other day, by one who has had the chief conduct of this business, that in the space of eighteen months or lwo years over £2,000 worth of work has been kept from these people, and that without reckoning on the chance of a big success among the authors kept from them. Now as writers learn more and more to distrust their own ignorance and to seek advice of those who know as to whom they should trust, this branch of our business will naturally increase and multiply.

If the poet is to be made happy, what shall be said of the benevolent Graduate? His handsome volume contains, we will suppose, 20 sheets, or 320 pages, with, at the rate of three pages apiece, 107 contributors. He must print 214 copies at least. The cost of the volume will be about £35. Grateful to their Graduate, the poets will contribute £107. Net profit to the Graduate (besides gratitude, warmth of heart, and glow of virtue) £72. Who will say that he is overpaid ?

My statement in last month's Author that there are fifty men and women who make a thousand a year by writing novels has been questioned. I have, therefore, taken the trouble to draw up a list, which, however, must not, for obvious reasons, be published. I find that I can enumerate almost off-hand more than fifty-- Americans and English

The Society does not, as a rule, work for people who are not members, but there are occasions on which it is necessary to break this rule. One such occurred the other day when a young writer sent up a grievous case. He had been writing steadily for a certain firm, until their obligations amounted to a considerable sum. He therefore

[ocr errors]

wrote for a cheque. He received no answer. He "THE LITERARY HANDMAID OF wrote again--and again. There was still no answer.

THE CHURCH." He wrote therefore to the Society. The firm were informed that if they preferred legal proceedings to HIS pamphlet appeared in the third week paying their just debts, they could have them.

of June. A copy has been sent to the They preferred, however, paying the author in full,

President and all the Vice-Presidents of the with the statement that they had not received more Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. than one letter of application. Now the firm will

The following is an abridgment of its contents :probably never take any more work from the young man. But this is the very best thing that could “The Publication Committee of the Society for the Promopossibly happen to him. He will now try to get

tion of Christian Knowledge, in their Report for last year,

announce that they will gladly receive any suggestion employed by some firm which does pay.

which may enable them to make the venerable Society

the most efficient literary handmaid of the Church of Eng. I give, after these notes, a brief resumé of a land throughout the world.'

“A Publication Committee has to do with Literary Property. pamphlet addressed to the Publication Committee

It is therefore desirable first of all to lay down certain preof the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. liminary observations on the nature of Literary Property. I have received other instances of their treatment “(1.) First of all, it is very real property ; it has its fuctuaof authors, even more flagrant than those quoted

tions, like corn, wine, and any other property ; but it is a in the pamphlet. No answer has been vouch

species of property which enables a few hundreds to live in

great comfort, plenty, and luxury, and a great many thousands safed to this pamphlet either by the Archbishop of

to live simply and carefully: Canterbury, the President of the Society, or by the (2.) Literary property is subject to the laws which protect Publication Committee. As this worthy body

all property. The simplest and the most comprehensive of will not meet till October, further action in the

all these laws is the Eighth Commandment, 'Thou shalt not

steal.' matter is deferred until then, when I hope to

Applied to literature and addressed to Publishers, Publishparade a few more facts to delight the world with ing Societies, and Publication Committees, this Commandthe “Christian " methods of dealing with other ment is thus to be interpreted : 'Thou shalt not cheat the people's property.

author while buying his work from him ; thou shalt not pay the workmen a price which will reserve for thyself the principal

profit ; thou shalt remember that the work is his-his the Among the "warnings ” which we publish every design of it, his the invention, the fancy, the imagination, month in The Author, and every year in the the learning, the brain, and the hand of it. It is not thine “ Annual Report,” is one which cautions writers

at all. If it becomes thine it must be by an equitable agree

ment, which shall give thee only a fair reward for labour against signing any agreement, in which the alleged

done, and leave to him all the rest.' In no other way can cost of production forms an integral part, without this Commandment be read and interpreted by a conscienconsulting the Society. A little circumstance tious Publication Committee. which happened a year or two ago, and was related

“(3.) What is the value of a book? Clearly it is the price

which it will fetch in the market. That is say, it depends to me the other day by a very well known man of

upon the number of copies which the public will buy. An letters, illustrates the necessity for this warning.

author, therefore, can claim his reward solely with reference It is what mathematicians call an extreme case- to that number, and a publisher, can, equitably, make his that is to say, we have never at the Society come

offer of remuneration only with reference to that number. across one quite so extreme.” Here it is :-/A

“(4.) The publisher is an agent ; he must be paid for his

agency in managing, distributing, and collecting, out of the person had produced a MS. on a certain subject proceeds of the book. For his trouble he is entitled to a which she-it was a lady-wished to publish. She reasonable percentage on the proceeds. accordingly took it to a man whom she believed “For example, if a publisher gives an author £30 for a book

out of which he makes a nett profit of £100, knowing, or honest, and asked him if he would produce it. He

reasonably expecting, that he is going to make that, or some agreed to do so if she would pay the whole cost of similar amount, he may be a successful trader, but he must production. He sent an estimate of this. It be classed as a sweater and a robber in the eyes of honouramounted, according to his showing, to £120 for able men, and especially of a Society which exists for the so many copies. She showed the estimate to a

Promotion of Christian Knowledge. For if Christian Know

ledge be not promoted on Christian principles, then were it friend, who submitted the MS. to a printer. He better not to be promoted at all. The author may never offered to print and bind as many copies for the know that he has been robbed. But the fact remains. The sum of £16-of course it was a very short manuscript. Eighth Commandment still hangs upon the wall.” This was done and the work published. We have

The pamphlet then goes on to speak of the four often seen the “cost of production ” set down at kinds of publishers. double. But to multiply the actual cost by seven and a half shows an amount of enterprise which we

"First, the upright, or perfect publisher. He, sensitive and

tender of conscience, will not take from an author one penny could not previously expect.

more than is his own just due. He has settled with his WALTER BESANT.

conscience what he should be paid for what he has done, and

he will take no more. If he pays an author a sum of money at his feet, humiliated and submissive. The sweater is always down, it is considered by this person only as an advance on a bully as well as a sweater. what may become due to him afterwards if his work succeeds. “He has got all kinds of excuses for his sweating. His first He will not publish bad work, or work that will not succeed. excuse-in fact, the words are seldom out of his mouth-is To have that publisher's name at the foot of a title-page is a that there is perfect freedom of contract between himself hallmark of excellence. To be in his hands is to rest easy in and his authors. “It is take it or leave it. Here is a sum the assurance that he will do the best for the book and be of money, there is the MS.' That is all. There is no other honest, that is, just, with the author.

consideration. "Where is that publisher to be found ? Surely, we should Freedom of contract ! It is freedom of contract when the look for him first in the Society for Promoting Christian wretched seamstress toils all day long-a day of sixteen Knowledge. It is a Society whose President is the hours--for uld.--or less. She is free to take it or to leave it. Primate of all England ; whosé Vice-Presidents are all the It is freedom of contract when the poor woman who writes Archbishops and Bishops ; whose General Literature Com- for her bread submits a manuscript which has cost her weeks mittee contains nine clergymen out of twelve members; and and months of labour ; yes, and that of a kind which requires, whose three Secretaries are also Clergymen.

before it can be produced, a pure heart, a lofty soul, a brain “There, if anywhere, should we expect to find the upright rich with knowledge and a-glow with ideas, fancies, and a publisher.

imaginings, and a trained hand. Such a woman is a most “The second kind of publisher is he who belongs to a house precious gift and blessing to the generation in which she well established and desirous to be considered as honourable. lives and works. She may be a most potent force in the The distinction, let us remember, between the 'honourable' advancement of humanity. But she is also a most sensitive, houses and those which are not honourable is well known and and delicate instrument. And she has to deal with a sweater ! perfectly understood by all who have studied the business of She goes to him trembling, because she knows what to expect. publishing. Now when we divide publishing houses into He will toss her £10, £20, £30, £50, whatever it may be. those which are honourable and those which are dishonour- And out of her book he will make to himself a profit of ten, able, there cannot, surely, be a doubt or a question on which twenty, fiftyfold. side we ought to place the Literature Department of the “Freedom of contract! No greater mockery, no greater Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge—the 'Literary cruelty than to speak of such a woman driven to such Handmaid of the Church.' The gentlemen who form the necessities, as free to choose-free to accept or to reject. Publication Committee shall themselves, if they please, She is not free, she is the slave of the sweater. when they have inquired into the conduct of their own business, answer that question, each in turn, after the manner

After these preliminary considerations, the of the House of Lords, every man his hand on his heart

pamphlet quotes three several cases and describes Upon my Honour.'

the treatment received by the author in each, and “The third class is that of the knavish publisher. These the sums received. gentry, of whom there are many, are those who rob and cheat the ignorant author in every account that they produce,

In the first of these cases the Society bought, who cheat and lie in their statements of the cost of produc? outright, the copyright of a small biographical tion, of the sums spent in advertising, in the moneys they work for the stupendous sum of £12! There was have received, and, in fact, in every way that can suggest also a promise, as affirmed by the author, of future itself to the ingenuity of man. “The fourth class is that of the sweating publisher.

payment should the book prove “a success.” “The Select Committee of the House of Lords, on the

What constitutes a success? The book is now in sweating system, of which the Archbishop of Canterbury, its seventh thousand-perhaps by this time in its President of the Society for Promoting Christian Know- eighth or ninth. The Secretary, while denying the ledge, was a member, 'reports that the first 'evil of the sweating system is A rate of wages inadequate to the

promise, owns in his letters to a profit of about six necessities of the workers or disproportionate to the work

times that of the author! This he states without done. Let us accept this definition, and apply it to this

a word of shame. Just as if it was a right and class of publishers.

proper thing, a thing in accordance with the highest “The sweating publisher, then, is one who grinds down the

Christian ethics, that the Society should make this faces of his unfortunate authors, who offers a miserable sum for work which is going to bring him in a hundredfold

enormous proportion of profit ! profit—who scruples not to toss an author a ten-pound In a second case, the author, a lady, wrote ten note for his labour, and without a pang of shame or books for the Society. She received, on an average, remorse makes £50 or £100 or £ 500 profit for himself; £50 a-piece for them. They were historical books who knows no law but the cruel law of supply and demand, and recognises no other right in an unfortunate author

and works of fiction. Taking one of the books as but his right to receive meekly the highest sum that he can an example, it is shown that if 6,000 copies have obtain.

been sold this just and generous Society has made "There are many of these people abroad. They deal a profit of about £330 to the author's £50, i.e., largely with the productions of women. The sweater, it is well known, works more comfortably by means of women.

£33 55. ; so that taking the whole ten books the They are helpless, they are ignorant of business, they are profits of this Christian Society seem to stand at yielding ; if they cannot be frightened they can be cajoled. the figures of £2,739 to £415--the actual sumAnd literary women, again, are timid about their own work, given to the author. not knowing what amount of stability they have achieved or what is the extent of their popularity. Therefore the

Who are the authors who write for this Society ? sweater can do what he pleases with them. If they venture “I turn next to the list of authors. Setting aside the gently to remonstrate, he bullies them ; if they weep and clergymen who have written religious books and still keeping entreat, he threatens. He enjoys making them feel that he to the department of belles lettres and fiction, I find among is their master; he is never so happy as when he has them the writers hardly one single name of those who at pre

stand in the first rank, of those in the second rank half a dozen. The rest are wholly unknown and obscure. Why is this? Why does not this venerable Society, with its enormous prestige, its immense clientele, its unparalleled power of selling books, command the services of the best writers? Have all the authors of Great Britain and Ireland abandoned the Faith of their Fathers ? No bruit or rumour of so deplorable an apostacy has reached my ears. How, then, can we account for their absence ?

“Is not the reason proclaimed-shouted aloud-by the facts quoted above? Does the needlewoman continue in her bondage when she has found a door of escape? Does she return to her old employer unless she is compelled by famine?

“Let us, however, consider another imaginary scene. I see before me a Society which has a department devoted to the publication of books of all kinds; it defends, in the first in. stance, the tenets and doctrines of the Christian religion, and in the second place those of the Church of England. Besides these books it publishes, on terms and methods prepared with the most scrupulous attention to justice and righteous dealing, a vast mass of general literature. It is an honour to write for the Society ; it is a voucher of the value of the work, only to have the name of the Society on the title-page; no books have so wide a circulation. Hither come the historians, the scholars, the poets, the essayists, the novelists, the writers on science, art, music, everything. All the best men come to this Society. Its corpus of literature contains all that is best and noblest of the work of each generation. Those who are authors by profession long to get into the lists of the Society. If a clergyman of the Church writes such a book as Farrar's 'Life of Christ,' it is to the Society that he goes with it quite naturally, and as if it was the only thing to do. If another writes such a book as Green's ‘History of the People, it is to the Society that he offers it. If á novelist has a finished work, it is to the Society that he takes it. This Society leads all other publishers, and is an example for them ; fair and honourable dealing is rendered necessary to all by the bright and shining example of the Literary Handmaid of the Church.' Nor is the money received the only thing. This Society, while it continues to defend the Church, regards literature from a broad and comprehensive point of view. The Church is better served by those who write for men, than by those who write for girls."

This “Reply” to the invitation of the Publication Committee of the S.P.C.K. has created a certain amount of interest, as was to be expected from the nature of the subject and the position of the venerable Society concerned. The principles laid down in the pamphlet as to the Ethics of Publishing are simple, and will probably command general acceptance by all but persons interested in keeping up the old fictions.

Among other letters received upon the subject is one from a Bishop which so remarkably and so fully (though in small space) illustrates a common attitude of mind that I venture to quote from it. His Lordship writes as follows:(1) “I do not find any reason to suppose that

the publishing department of the S.P.C.K.

act otherwise than other publishers.” One is sorry, indeed, that the Bishop thinks so badly of other publishers. The pamphlet shows some of the prices given by the S.P.C.K. and some of the profits made out of the unfortunate authors. Now, the good Bishop would boil

with indignation were he to read or hear of sweaters in other trades. Yet he can find no tear, no sympathy, for the sufferings of the man or woman who writes and is sweated. (2) “Nor am I convinced that there is any

injustice in a publisher who has purchased an author's copyright making a larger profit on the particular work than he seems to have paid for. All publishers risk losses by books that do not pay, and take their chance of profit or loss. The author will not share the loss. He has made his own bargain and receives the money. I do not see that he is entitled to claim a share in the gain unless indeed that is part of the

bargain.” The Bishop has here confused two or more points of importance which should have been kept separate. Let us divide the word. a. No risk need ever be incurred by the S.P.C.K.

Let us repeat this over and over again, be-
cause of all the Bogies, Spectres, and Ghosts
ever raised by interested persons this is the
hardest to lay. No Risk. No RISK AT
ALL NEED BE INCURRED BY THE S.P.C.K.
In the old days, in fact down to very recent
times, the business of publishing was specu-
lative and risky. It is so no longer. That
is to say, the area of the reading public is so
vast; the book trade is so enormous ; the
demand is so varied; the knowledge of
markets and the demand is so much in-
creased, that no publisher who knows his
business need ever undertake a risk. In
other words, having regard (i) to the
literary worth of a MS. (ii) to the subject;
(iii) to the name of the author; (iv) to his
own machinery—the publisher who knows
his business knows very well before he
consents to publish a book that he can
“plant” such a minimum number of copies
as will repay the cost of production, in-

cluding a certain profit for himself.
B. In the case of the S.P.C.K. their machinery

for the disposal of books is unrivalled.
They have shops and agents all over the
country; they have an immense number of
subscribers; and they have the invaluable
reputation of publishing only books that
are doctrinally “sound.” Another reason
why the S.P.C.K. need never actually pub-

lish a book which results in a loss.
7. “ The author will not share the loss.”

First, there is, as I have said above, no loss except such as is caused by an error of judgment.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Next, apply this principle to other (6.) To support them in case of need and in old branches of production. A man makes a age, as well as to provide for those they may beautiful desk. He takes it to a shopkeeper

leave behind. who sells desks. The shopkeeper says, "My

The constitution of the Society under the friend, this is an admirable desk. It should

Presidency of Herr Robert Schweichel in Berlin, be worth three pounds to you. But as I is similar to that of the English Society of Authors, was a fool yesterday, and bought a desk

but it is at the same time sub-divided into branch which is too bad for me to sell again, I societies at Berlin, Breslan, Hamburg, Leipsic, can only give you thirty shillings. You

Frankfört-on-Maine, Munich, Stuttgart, Vienna, must share in the loss."

Prague, and Gratz.
The Lord Bishop's ears shall not be

Rather important factors in the working order of shocked by hearing the reply of that the General Society are :

cabinet-maker. è. The principles laid down by this Society are

(a.) The "literary bureau," a kind of agency few and simple. For our part we contend

established with a view to placing literary that they are based upon a commandment

work of the members, to providing situawhich is read in the Churches every Sunday

tions in editorial offices, &c.), and to find once and sometimes in the week.

out pirated reprints. It is contended by the defenders of the Society

(6.) The “Syndikat," under a lawyer, to give that they give away their books largely. Perhaps

advice gratis on all questions regarding they do—but perhaps their gifts are not so very

their literary interests. large. In one of the cases quoted the Secretary

(c.) Courts of Arbitration, settling any disputes did not claim to have given any away : he only

between the members who, it must be owned that the profits made by the Society

remembered, consist of editors as well as amounted to something like six times the sum paid

contributors, and even as regards publishers, to the author. Now to repeat the Archbishop's

I should think he would be a rash man own definition, “The first evil of the sweating

who would not readily submit to it. system is a rate of wages inadequate to the neces- The official organ of the Society is the “ Deutsche sities of the workers or disproportionate to the Presse,” which comes out weekly. work done.” Six times the author's profit!

Six

All this may look satisfactory enough, but I am times! My Lord Archbishop, late of the Com- afraid I must add that all is not yet in such perfect mittee on the Sweating System, will you produce working order as it might be, and I feel sure, one that sweating cabinet-maker, that sweating shoe- day—will be. maker, that sweating shirt-maker who sweats his As a special feature of our Society, however, I workmen to the tune of a profit six times the men's should like to mention also the facilities for social wage? And there are other cases behind even intercourse afforded thereby, and which by drawing worse than those quoted in the pamphlet which kindred-or may be sometimes even the reverseshall be produced in good time.

spirits of the same calling together, constitute It remains to be said that as yet no reply at all perhaps the greatest advantages of all. There are to this pamphlet has been issued by the Publication not only frequent meetings all through the year of Committee, nor has any answer been received by the members of the different branch societies—some the author from the President of the Society. having even special “Vergnügungs” Committees

for arranging entertainments, excursions, &c.-but

once a year a particular place is chosen, to which THE GERMAN SOCIETY OF

a goodly number of the members always flock from

all sides for several days' fête, and of course for the AUTHORS.

transaction of some important business of the S at present constituted the Deutsche Schrift- Society. The place chosen for this summer is

steller Verbund originated from a fusion of Breslau, and if you, or any of your members, should

the old Schriftsteller Verbund (founded in like to have any further information on the 1878) and the former Schriftsteller Verein, a fusion “Schriftsteller Tag” of this summer, I should be which took place some three years ago, and it happy to give it as soon as the programme is out. comprises now about 700 literary men and women If any of the members of your Society should be of Germany, Austria, and German Switzerland. anywhere near Breslau at the time and care to be Its objects are :

present at the gathering, I feel sure they would be (a.) To look after the members' interests as to heartily welcomed by my friends in Germany. their calling in general.

WILHELM F. BRAND.

A

« AnteriorContinuar »