« ZurückWeiter »
“ To the booksellers, if we look for either honour or profit from our press, not only their common profit, but something more niust be allowed ; and if books, printed at Oxford, are expected to be rated at a high price, that price must be levied on the publick, and paid by the ultimate purchaser, not by the intermediate agents. What price shall be set upon the book, is, to the booksellers, wholly indifferent, provided that they gain a proportionate profit by negociating the sale.
“Why books printed at Oxford should be particularly dear, I am, however, unable to find. We pay no rent; we inherit many of our instruments and materials; lodging and victuals are cheaper than at London ; and, therefore, workmanship ought, at least, not to be dearer. Our expenses are naturally less than those of booksellers; and, in most cases, communities are content with less profit than individuals.
“ It is, perhaps, not considered through how many hands a book often passes, before it comes into those of the reader; or what part of the profit each hand must retain, as a motive for transmitting it to the next.
“We will call our primary agent in London, Mr. Cadell, who receives our books from us, gives them room in his warehouse, and issues them on demand ; by him they are sold to Mr. Dilly, a wholesale bookseller, who sends them into the country ; and the last seller is the country bookseller. Here are three profits to be paid between the printer and the reader, or in the style of commerce, between the manufacturer and the consumer; and if any of these profits is too penuriously distributed, the process of commerce is interrupted.
“ We are now come to the practical question, what is to be done ? You will tell me, with reason, that I have said nothing, till I declare how much, according to my opinion, of the ultimate price ought to be distributed through the whole succession of sale.
• The deduction, I am afraid, will appear very great: but let it be considered before it is refused. We must allow, for profit, between thirty and thirty-five per cent. between six and seven shillings in the pound; that is, for every book which costs the last buyer twenty shillings, we must charge Mr. Cadell with something less than fourteen. We must set the copies at fourteen shillings each, and superadd what is called the quarterly-book, or for every hundred books so charged we must deliver an hundred and four.
“ The profits will then stand thus:
“Mr. Cadell, who runs no hazard, and gives no credit, will be paid for warehouse room and attendance by a shilling profit on each book, and his chance of the quarterly-book.
“Mr. Dilly, who buys the book for fifteen shillings, and who will expect the quarterly-book if he takes five-and-twenty, will sell it to his country customer at sixteen and six-pence, by which, at the hazard of loss, and the certainty of long credit, he gains the regular profit of ten per cent, which is expected in the wholesale trade.
“ The country bookseller, buying at sixteen and six-pence, and commonly trusting a considerable time, gains but three and sixpence, and, if he trusts a year, not much more than two and sixpence; otherwise than as he may, perhaps, take as long credit as he gives.
“ With less profit than this, and more you see he cannot have, the country bookseller cannot live; for his receipts are small, and his debts sometimes bad.
“Thus, dear Sir, I have been incited by Dr. *******'s letter to give you a detail of the circulation of books, which, perhaps, every man has not had opportunity of knowing; and which those who know it, do not, perhaps, always distinctly consider.
“ I am, &c.
“ SAM. JOHNSON. “March 12, 1776."
Having arrived in London late on Friday, the 15th of March, I hastened next morning to wait on Dr. Johnson, at his house; but found he was removed from Johnson’s-court, No. 7, to Bolt-court, No. 8,' still keeping to his favourite Fleet-street. My reflection at the time upon this change as marked in my Journal, is, as follows, "I felt a foolish regret that he had left a court which bore his name; but it was not foolish to be affected with some tenderness of regard for a place in which I had seen him a great deal, from whence I had often issued a better and a happier man than when I went in, and which had often appeared to my imagination while I trod its pave. ment, in the solemn darkness of the night, to be sacred to wisdom, and piety." Being informed that he was at Mr. Thrale's, in the
> I am happy in giving this full and clear statement to the publick, to vindicate, by the authority of the greatest authour of his age, that respectable body of men, the Booksellers of London, from vulgar reflections, as if their profits were exorbitant, when, in truth, Dr. Johnson has here allowed them more than they usually demand.
Cor. et Ad.-Line 26: On “name" put the following note :-"He said, when he was in Scotland, that he was Johnson of that ilk.”
? The house was burnt down in 1819; a door-scraper that had been distorted out of shape by the fire long lay about the yard. Allen, the printer, lived next door, and after the doctor's death the two houses
were taken by Bensley, the printer.
Borough, I hastened thither, and found Mrs. Thrale and him at breakfast. I was kindly welcomed. In a moment he was in a full glow of conversation, and I felt myself elevated as if brought into another state of being. Mrs. Thrale and I looked to each other while he talked, and our looks expressed our congenial admiration and affection for him. I shall ever recollect this scene with great pleasure. I exclaimed to her, “I am now, intellectually, Hermippus redivivus, I am quite restored by him, by transfusion of mind.” “There are many (she replied) who admire and respect Mr. Johnson, but you and I love him.”
He seemed very happy in the near prospect of going to Italy with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. “But (said he,) before leaving England I am to take a jaunt to Oxford, Birmingham, my native city Lichfield, and my old friend, Dr. Taylor's, at Ashbourne, in Derbyshire. I shall go in a few days, and you, Boswell, shall go with me.”
I was ready to accompany him; being willing even to leave London to have the pleasure of his conversation.
I mentioned with much regret the extravagance of the representative of a great family of Scotland, by which there was danger of its being ruined; and as Johnson respected it for its antiquity, he joined with me in thinking it would be happy if this person should die. Mrs. Thrale seemed shocked at this, as feudal barbarity; and said, “I do not understand this preference of the estate to its owner; of the land to the man who walks upon that land.” JOHNSON. “ Nay, Madam, it is not a preference of the land to its owner; it is the preference of a family to an individual. Here is an establishment in a country, which is of importance for ages not only to the chief but to his people; an establishment which extends upwards and downwards; that this should be destroyed by one idle fellow is a sad thing."
He said “ Entails are good, because it is good to preserve in a country, serieses of men, to whom the people are accustomed to look up as to their leaders. But I am for leaving a quantity of land in commerce, to excite industry and keep money in the country; for if no land were to be bought in a country, there would be no encouragement to acquire wealth, because a family could not be founded there; or if it were acquired, it must be carried away to another country where land may be bought. And although the land in every country will remain the same, and be as fertile where there is no money, as where there is, yet all that portion of the happiness of civil life, which is produced by money circulating in a country, would be lost.” Boswell. “ Then, Sir, would it be for the advantage of a country that all its lands were sold at once ?”
JOHNSON. “So far, Sir, as money produces good it would be an advantage; for, then that country would have as much money circulating in it as it is worth. But to be sure this would be counterbalanced by disadvantages attending a total change of proprietors."
I expressed my opinion that the power of entailing should be limited thus : “ That there should be one third, or perhaps one half of the land of a country kept free for commerce ; that the proportion allowed to be entailed, should be parcelled out so as that no family could entail above a certain quantity. Let a family according to the abilities of its representatives, be richer or poorer in different generations, or always rich if its representatives be always wise : but let its absolute permanency be moderate. In this way we should be certain of there being always a number of established roots; and as in the course of nature, there is in every age an extinction of some families, there would be continual openings for men ambitious of perpetuity, to plant a stock in the entail ground.” JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, mankind will be better able to regulate the system of entails, when the evil of too much land being locked up by them is felt, than we can do at present when it is not felt."
I mentioned Dr. Adam Smith's book on “ The Wealth of Nations,” which was just published, and that Sir John Pringle had observed to me, that Dr. Smith, who had never been in trade, could not be expected to write well on that subject any more than a lawyer upon physick. JOHNSON. “He is mistaken, Sir; a man who has never been engaged in trade himself may undoubtedly write well upon trade, and there is nothing which requires more to be illustrated by philosophy than trade does. As to mere wealth, that is to say, money, it is clear that one nation or one individual cannot increase its store but by making another poorer : but trade procures what is more valuable, the reciprocation of the peculiar advantages of different countries. A merchant seldom thinks but of his own particular trade. To write a good book upon it, a man must have extensive views. It is not necessary to have practised, to write well upon a subject.” I mentioned law as a subject on which no man could write well without practice. JOHNSON. “Why,
a The privilege of perpetuating in a family an estate and arms indefeasibly from generation to generation, is enjoyed by none of his Majesty's subjects except in Scotland, where the legal fiction of a fine and recovery is unknown. It is a privilege so proud, that I should think it would be proper to have the exercise of it dependent on the royal prerogative. It seems absurd to permit the power of perpetuating their representation, to men, who having had no eminent merit, have truly no name. The King, as the impartial father of his people, would never refuse to grant the privilege to those who deserved it.
Sir, in England, where so much money is to be got by the practice of the law, most of our writers upon it have been in practice; though Blackstone had not been much in practice when he published his
Commentaries.' But upon the Continent, the great writers on law have not all been in practice: Grotius, indeed, was; but Puffendorf was not, Burlamaqui was not.”
When we had talked of the great consequence which a man acquired by being employed in his profession, I suggested a doubt of the justice of the general opinion, that it is improper in a lawyer to solicit employment; for why, I urged, should it not be equally allowable to solicit that as the means of consequence, as it is to solicit votes to be elected a member of parliament ? Mr. Strahan had told me, that a countryman of his and mine,' who had risen to eminence in the law, had, when first making his way, solicited him to get him employed in city causes. JOHNSON. “Sir, it is wrong to stir up law-suits; but when once it is certain that a law-suit is to go on, there is nothing wrong in a lawyer's endeavouring that he shall have the benefit, rather than another.” Boswell, “ You would not solicit employment, Sir, if you were a lawyer.” JOHNSON. “ No, Sir; but not because I should think it wrong, but because I should disdain it.” This was a good distinction, which will be felt by men of just pride. He proceeded : “ However, I would not have a lawyer to be wanting to himself in using fair means. I would have him to inject a little hint now and then, to prevent his being overlooked.”
Lord Mountstuart's bill for a Scotch militia, in supporting which his Lordship had made an able speech in the House of Commons, was now a pretty general topick of conversation.-JOHNSON. “As Scotland contributes so little land-tax towards the general support of the nation, it ought not to have a militia paid out of the general fund, unless it should be thought for the general interest, that Scotland should be protected from an invasion, which no man can think will happen; for what enemy would invade Scotland, where there is nothing to be got ? No, Sir; now that the Scotch have not the pay of English soldiers spent among them, as so many troops are sent abroad, they are trying to get money another way by having a militia paid. If they are afraid, and seriously desire to have an armed force to defend them, they should pay for it. Your scheme is to retain a part of your little land-tax, by making us pay and clothe your militia.” Boswell. “You should not talk of we and you, Sir; there is now an Union.” JOHNSON. “ There must be
* Probably Wedderburne.