Monday, December 25, 2006

John Murray Archive

Magnus Linklater writes about the importance of the John Murray archive recently acquired by the National Library of Scotland:

"Because the Murray family kept everything - from meticulously recorded accounts to correspondence with its authors - and because those authors included Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Lord Byron, David Livingstone, James Hogg, Washington Irving and many others, the archive is a literary treasure-trove.

Here, for instance, are the invoices showing that Byron was the best-paid author of his time - he received nearly £20,000 from Murray over their nine years of association, a fabulous sum at the time. By contrast, Jane Austen was offered a meagre £450 for Emma, Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility - she turned it down, but never earned enough from her writing to support herself.

Here too is correspondence about the death of Byron's illegitimate daughter Allegra in Italy in 1822. The poet sent her body to Murray in London, to arrange the funeral. The archive also contains the manuscript of an anonymous and harshly critical review of Walter Scott's Tales Of My Landlord: it was written by Scott himself. And there is a damning appraisal of the Origin Of Species by a clergyman-editor, Whitwell Elwin, who complains that Darwin has lamentably failed to prove his thesis, and should limit himself to publishing a book on pigeons."
To read the complete article in the Scotsman click here:

The National Library of Scotland also has a fascinating online exhibition on the Murray archive: