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From The Critic: “The London Letter”

NOW IS the hour of the lecturer. With the lengthening of the
evenings, local Athenaums take on a studious habit, and promi-
nent men-of-letters are invited down into the provinces to dis-
course sagaciously upon topics kindred to their profession. Last
night, for example, Sir Walter Besant was at Aberdeen, and who
better qualified to speak of the ups and downs of “The Literary
Life,” about strange places he himself has studied from his youth
up? It was a sane and helpful lecture, distinguishing tactfully
between the artistic and commercial sides of an author’s prowess
—though not always discriminated by the modern and self-adver-
tising novelist. Sir Walter’s plea was all for that preservation of
artistic integrity which goes to the commanding of respect. “With-
out respect,” he said, “no author can hope to live beyond his own
generation.” To this respect the contemporary writer is largely
helped by the gradual decay of any sort of contempt for the liter-
ary calling. Sir Walter concluded with allusions to the growth
of local literature, a useful item, as he conceived it, in the further-
ance of “that universal human literature, which boasts so many
million readers.”

All his friends (and they are many) will hear with the keenest
pleasure of the slow but sure return to health of Mr. C. Kegan
Paul, head of the well-known firm of publishers. A few weeks
ago Mr. Paul was knocked down by a passing cab, and his acci-
dent threatened at one time to have the most serious conse-
quences. It is now hoped, however, that he will be back at his
desk in Charing Cross Road in a month or six weeks’ time. He
can, indeed, be ill-spared there. It is now close upon a quarter
of a century since Mr. Paul associated himself as a literary advisor
with the firm of Messrs. Henry S. King & Co., whose imprint
will be familiar to all students of Tennyson. In 1878 he took
over the publishing department of Mr. King’s business, and com-
menced for himself under the title of C. Kegan Paul & Co. One
of his intial ventures was to start a publication which secured in-
stant celebrity, and has since established itself as the most im-
portant review in the English language; I mean The Nineteenth
Century. In 1881 Mr. Paul was joined by Mr. A. Chevenix
Trench, son of the Archbishop of Dublin, and these two gentle-
men carried on the business until the amalgamation of the pres-
ent company in 1889. Mr. Paul’s strength to the firm lay, of

course, in his own fine judgment—abundantly evi-
denced in his scholarly translation of Pascal’s “Pensées,” and in
his Biographical Sketches. Many critics, indeed, have regretted
that so much of Mr. Paul’s time has been taken up by his duties
as literary advisor, as to prevent him from having a free hand for
authorship.The firm took on an invaluable development at the
time of the death of the late Mr. Nicholas Trübner, when it ac-
quired a sphere wider probably than that of any other English
house. For Mr. Trübner had formed a considerable connection
with American publishing-houses, was allied with several impor-
tant Continental firms, and, by the foundation of Trübner’s
American and Oriental Record, had put himself into the closest
touch with Oriental literary interests. He also exported a large
amount of paper to Lippincott’s and other leading publishing-
houses in America, and was agent to the Indian and Colonial
governments. It was under his tuition that Mr. William Heine-
mann first learnt the secrets of success. The present form of
Kegan Paul & Co., which is now under the management of Mr.
Spencer C. Blackett, himself a man of many years experience in
the trade, continues its export and import business, its American
and its Continental departments, and by a strict system of per-
sonal supervision has made a very important branch of its second-
hand book-trade. It acts, indeed, as general agent in every de-
partment of the business. Mr. Paul now confines his attention
principally to the work of literary advisor; and his extreme value
in that post has been the more appreciated, since it came to be
missed in the course of present illness.

I hear gay things of The Savoy, Mr. Arthur Symons‘s art
quarterly, which is to appear in December. Each number will
contain 120 pages, price half-a-crown. Mr. Beardsley has de-
signed a new cover, which represents John Bull, winged à la
Mercury, dancing behind footlights, with a naked imp regarding
him apprehensively, under cover of the drop-curtain. In the first
number will appear the opening chapters of a novel by Mr.
Beardsley, to be illustrated by himself. Mr. Arthur Symons will
contribute a poem, and an article on “Dieppe in 1895.” Mr.
Ernest Dowson will be represented both in prose and verse, and
Mr. W. B. Yeats in verse. Mr. Joseph Pennell will contribute a
passage of art criticism, and there will be a Christmas card, “by
a well-known artist.” Mr. George Moore will discourse of art,
and there will be work by Mr. Max Beerbohm. Early numbers,
but not the first, will contain contributions by Mr. Edmund
Gosse, John Oliver Hobbes, Mr. Herbert P. Horne and Mr.
Ernest Rhys. There will be nothing decadent, nothing reaction-
ary. The editors will print no verse which has not some relation
to poetry: no fiction that has not some sense of the finest in
human nature: no criticism that is not luminous and rational.
As the writers say in their prospectus, they “could scarcely say
more.” If The Savoy is half as good as it promises to be, it will
knock the reputation out of The Yellow Book in one number.

There is a sturdy storm brewing, by the bye, in the daffodil
atmosphere of that debated quarterly. A somewhat ill-mannered
article on “Books,” by an anonymous “Yellow Dwarf,” has at-
tracted the paper to Mr. Henry Harland, the editor. In response,
the publisher inserted in The Saturday advertisement full of
gibes and pleasentries, making merry with the paper whose
space in his manifesto was filling. This sort of thing is becoming
fashionable, and it is very vulgar. I hear that The Yellow Book
is likely to be thoroughly well “smacked” for its lack of

Everyone discusses “Jude the Obscure”; no two readers
agree in their view of it. It is the book of the week in every
quarter; and, if interest and discussion make for reputation, it is
likely to be the book of the season. Certainly, you hear of noth-
ing else by fireside or by railway.

MLA citation:

Waugh, Arthur. “London Letter.” Review of The Yellow Book, vol. 8, January 1895, The Critic, 14 November 1895, pp. 373-374. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.