Gleanings From The Past #37


A disappointed literary aspirant, weary of having his articles declined with thanks, and doubtful of his critics’ infallibility, copied out ‘Samson Agonistes,’ which he rechristened ‘Like a Giant Refreshed,’ and the manuscript, as an original work of his own, went the rounds of publishers and editors. It was declined on various pleas, and the letters he received afforded him so much amusement that he published them in the St. James’s Gazette. None of the critics discovered that the work was Milton’s. One, who had evidently not even looked at it, deemed it a sensational novel; another recognized a certain amount of merit, but thought it was disfigured by ‘Scotticisms;’ a third was sufficiently pleased to offer to publish it, provided the author contributed forty pounds towards expenses.’

Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, September 1888

Call of Duty

It is said that, when Charles Dudley Warner was the editor of the ‘Hartford Press,’ back in the ‘sixties,’ arousing the patriotism of the State with his vigorous appeals, one of the type-setters came in from the composing-room, and, planting himself before the editor, said: ‘Well, Mr. Warner, I’ve decided to enlist in the army.’ With mingled sensations of pride and responsibility, Mr. Warner replied encouragingly that he was glad to see the man felt the call of duty. ‘Oh, it isn’t that,’ said the truthful compositor, ‘but I’d rather be shot than try to set any more of your damned copy.’

— John Wilson, “The Importance of the Proof-Reader”, 1901

A Wager

July 5, 1766. At eight o’clock in the evening, a man who had laid a wager to cross the Thames in a butcher’s tray, set out in the same from Somerset Stairs, and reached the Surrey shore with great ease, using nothing but his hands. He had on a cork jacket, in case of any accident. It was said 1400l. was depending on this affair; and upwards of seventy boats full of spectators were present.

— Annual Register, 1766

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13 thoughts on “Gleanings From The Past #37

  1. I liked the third article about the man crossing the Thames. Sometimes I forget that the past had its odd moments and figures as much as the present. Good to learn of the humor of 18th century Englishmen!


  2. I think it’s practically possible to publish anything nowadays. One just needs to find the right place and publisher which is simply bad. I read (well, not completely) a book recently which was some sixtieth book of some writer who was advertised as super-bestseller author with everybody loving the concept and so on. It was terrible. It was the worst book I had seen in a long time. Absolutely flat characters, no depth whatsoever. Predictable events and happy end for everybody. I could not believe to what it said about this book. So, I think, yes, one can even become famous with bad writing, copying somebody else’s writing and saying absolutely nothing new, nothing amazing or worth reading and thinking about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This had happened too many times to count. It seems to me that this has become all marketing. While marketing is an important facet of the book publishing process, it is disingenuous of them to use marketing tricks to sell crappy books. In the end, this is all about business but they should at least try to publish better stuff.

      As for bestselling, there are bestselling authors out there who only became “bestselling” because they chose an unpopular category/niche on Amazon before. It’s not that hard to be a bestseller there because there’s practically no competition. After they acquired that title, they’d publish a book on a more popular category/niche and people would think how awesome they are for being bestselling authors and assume that they must be good. Marketers would then take advantage of this opportunity to further enhance the perceived quality of the books.

      The real geniuses here are the marketers who can market even the most pathetic products. With marketing mumbo-jumbo, hyping, some misrepresentations, and a sprinkle of BS on top, then you have a bestseller in the making.

      I feel bad for any reader who stumbles upon any of these tawdry books.


    1. It’s not that far-fetched considering just a few years ago, someone was able to have his article, which is full of rubbish, published. He intentionally submitted it to see how it would fair. Even he was surprised when it passed several peer reviews…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thoughout history, several prominent authors have experienced harsh rejections from publishers who obviously know it all.

      I’m sure that there were many aspiring writers whose passions for writing were destroyed by these people.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One way to get something published is to write something about trying to get something published. If you cannot get that published, then write about trying to get published writing about trying to get published. If that doesn’t work, there’s always the New York Post…

    Liked by 1 person

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