Author: Cheshire, Jim
Date published: April 1, 2012
Journal code: PVCP
Tennyson's angry epigram, written in Spring 1869, was a response to the actions of James Bertrand Payne, the manager of his publisher Edward Moxon and Co., after tensions that had been building up for some years erupted into a fierce dispute.2 This argument led to the collapse of the firm that Merriam called the "Publisher of Poets" and a legal dispute during which Emma Moxon (Edward Moxon's widow) accused Payne of fraud, a charge that initially failed but was proven on appeal.3 The argument between Tennyson and Payne had a number of causes but all of them involved Payne's commercial exploitation of Tennyson's poetry and the impact this had on the poet's reputation. This essay will argue that the dispute revolved around an ambitious edition of Idylls of the King, illustrated by the French artist Gustave Doré, a book that historians have assumed was a success but in fact was a key factor in the ruin of the Moxon firm. The failure of this lavish edition marks a turning point in Tennyson's career: he severed links with the firm who had published his books for over thirty years and his later publishers never again attempted large-scale illustrated editions of his poetry.
This revealing episode in the history of Victorian literature has received only the most superficial attention. Hallam Tennyson's Memoir of his father is typically reticent and underlines the family's sensitivity about the incident: he includes a letter from Tennyson to Francis Palgrave which discusses the illustrated Idylls but edits out the financial information.4 When compared with the complete letter the emphasis has been changed: it seems to be a discussion about the aesthetic value of the illustrations rather than a discussion of the financial success of the project.5 Hallam goes on to create an impression of the regret that Tennyson felt about leaving the Moxon firm, in part through a comment he included from his mother's journal: "We would that the necessity [of leaving Moxon's] had not arisen" to which he added the footnote "Virtually through the death of Mr E Moxon," a strange comment given that Moxon had died a decade before Tennyson leftthe firm (Memoir, 2:63). Payne is barely mentioned in Hallam's Memoir and he is not listed in the index. The long draftof his work "Materials for a life of A. T. Collected for My Children" shows that Hallam consistently omitted or edited entries concerning Payne.6 The Memoir is later at pains to show that Tennyson continued to admire Doré and records how he had a cordial breakfast with him some years later at the Moulin Rouge (Memoir, 2:77). Charles Tennyson, the poet's grandson and more candid biographer, noted the tension between the publisher and poet and observed that "the manager had ideas about publicity and presentation which were quite out of key with his own" but fails to mention the illustrated Idylls of the King.7 Modern biographies basically follow this pattern and even specialized studies have missed the significance of this episode. Hagen's Tennyson and His Publishers, though in many ways an excellent study, discusses a series of arguments between Payne and Tennyson but misinterprets the significance of the illustrated Idylls of the King suggesting "sales were excellent."8 This error highlights another factor which seems to have contributed to the misunderstanding of the episode: many commentators both Victorian and more recent seem to have been convinced by the publicity generated by both Payne and subsequent publishers who attempted to recoup the losses of the firm. In 1871 all Payne's property and interests were assigned to Messrs. Ward Lock and Tyler who were acting as trustees for the firm's creditors and the same year a new edition of the Doré images for Elaine were issued as The Story of Elaine, the text based on a combination of Malory and Tennyson.9 The preface to this book makes some enormous claims for the sales of the illustrated edition of Elaine: "The success which attended the publication of the Story of Elaine, accompanied with reductions on steel from M. Doré's drawings, [was] unexampled in the history of Illustrated Books, over twenty thousand copies having been disposed of within a few months."10 This claim was untrue: Payne wrote to Tennyson in April 1868 (roughly 16 months after publication) and stated that he had sold nearly seven thousand copies (Letters, 2:489). One of those who thought the book had generated a lot of money was the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, who planned to make money herself on a parallel project.11 Cameron's mistaken understanding of the Doré project has not stopped more recent commentators from repeating her mistake, Olsen for example stating "she [Cameron] knew how profitable Gustave Doré's illustrated Idylls was."12 A key source of misinformation is Merriam's history of the Moxon firm, which omits crucial information to the point of making his account wrong or even consciously biased. Payne's son is prominent among those thanked in Merriam's preface and he in turn acknowledges Merriam's research in a brief memoir of his father.13 Merriam's account closely follows that of Payne's son and despite citing the Law Reports that detail both the initial case and the appeal, he fails to observe that Emma Moxon's accusation against Payne was eventually proven. His statement that Payne surrendered his "interests" in the firm for £11,000 implies that Payne's was a valid claim, omitting to mention the fact that the basis of this claim was later dismissed by the court of appeal, which concluded that Payne had tried to sell copyrights and assets to the Moxons that he did not own.14 Merriam's account seems to have been the source of the errors in contemporary reference sources such as Ostrom's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.15
James Bertrand Payne was born in Jersey in 1833, moved with his family to England in 1849 and may have learnt something of the book trade from a relative, Charles Tilt, a Fleet Street publisher (Payen-Payne, p. 3). Having returned to Jersey in 1856 he became interested in the history of his birthplace and published An Armorial of Jersey from 1859 and a book orientated towards tourists, The Gossiping Guide to Jersey in the early 1860s.16 Edward Moxon had died in 1858 leaving the firm to his two sons, who were still minors, Charles Isola Moxon being about seventeen and Arthur Henry Moxon being about ten. According to John Moxon (a descendant of Edward) Charles was proving in some way unsuitable, possibly due to an alcohol problem, and on the day Edward Moxon died a codicil was added to his will revoking several bequests to him.17 Payne's son records that on March 3, 1859 his father met Charles Moxon and "a close friendship between the two young men sprang up and led to my father being introduced into the Moxon publishing house" (Payen-Payne, p. 4). Subsequently Charles Moxon leftfor Australia, apparently in some haste after an altercation with a publican. In a later report concerning the trial the Times reported that "Mr. Payne had acted in some painful circumstances relating to the eldest son in such as way as to earn the gratitude of the family, and Mrs. Moxon was on the most affectionate terms with him" ("Law Report"). When Payne joined the firm it was managed by Emma Moxon and the trustees that she had appointed, her printers Bradbury and Evans. In 1864 she agreed with Payne to appoint him as manager of the firm and to pay him a salary of £400 per annum ("Law Report").
By the 1860s new commercial patterns had emerged within the Victorian literary world that had a profound influence on Tennyson's career. Recent scholarship has started to address these crucial developments. Patrick Scott has provided some fascinating thoughts on Tennyson's resistance toward the publishing revolution, while the periodical press and the influence of illustrated editions have received detailed attention.18 All these approaches have a common factor, namely the importance of the material form that Tennyson's poetry took and how this might have influenced the responses of contemporary readers. The Moxon firm never ventured into periodicals but illustrated editions became a marked feature of their attempts to profit from Tennyson's poetry from the mid 1850s. In this they were following the market, for by about 1860 a trend had emerged within the Victorian book trade that was sustained until the 1890s: the Christmas period had become the most important part of the year for selling books.19 The Moxon firm's response to this development caused disputes between Tennyson and his publisher that were evident long before Payne took control of the firm. Two generously illustrated editions of Tennyson's poetry were published in the late 1850s, Poems (the "Moxon Tennyson") in 1857 and The Princess illustrated by Daniel Maclise in 1859.20 The fame of the former volume rests mainly upon its use of Pre-Raphaelite artists, which prompted contemporary and later critics to dwell upon its qualities. Tennyson's dislike of illustrators can be dated to this point: Rossetti was convinced that Tennyson loathed his illustrations and William Holman Hunt later recorded a conversation with Tennyson in which they argued about the extent to which the artist should be guided by the words of the poet. Julia Thomas sees these arguments as examples of an inevitable and necessary dislocation between word and image: "Text and image generate different meanings and, as Tennyson realised, none of these meanings are entirely in the command of the author or the artist" (Thomas, p. 30). This loss of semantic control added to the anxieties of a poet who Sinfield has suggested was already concerned about the anonymity of his audience: his poetry was now being read by an extensive readership over which he had little control.21 In this context the material form that his poetry took and how he was represented to his public became issues of great sensitivity.
Probably initiated at about the same time as the "Moxon Tennyson" but not published until 1859 was an edition of The Princess illustrated by Daniel Maclise. Tennyson disliked the appearance of the book and he claimed that he did not know it was in production, claims seen by Lorraine Kooistra as "disingenuous" (p. 54). Kooistra contrasts the physical appearance of the giftbook with the more intellectual and cerebral understanding of poetry as high culture: "the illustrated giftbook effectively placed material, sensuous and social values over the abstract power of the poetic voice, thus knocking the poet offhis elevated pedestal by associating him with the crudities of commerce and trade" (p. 68).
Tennyson may have complained about the illustrated editions but, to him at least, they proved lucrative. Edward Moxon sold less than a quarter of the 10,000 copies of the "Moxon Tennyson" that he printed, a situation at least partially due to the high price of 31s. 6d and the fact that due to Rossetti's tardiness the publication had missed the crucial Christmas period of 1856, instead appearing in May 1857. The remaining copies were sold to Routledge who marketed the book more successfully at a lower price. Despite this financial failure Moxon generously honoured his agreement to pay Tennyson £2000. The commercial success of the illustrated Princess is also doubtful given that it too was being sold at a discounted price by Routledge in 1861.22
When Payne became manager of the Moxon firm in 1864 he showed far more commercial aggression than his predecessors and his very first project seems to have caused annoyance. Tennyson's plan for a cheap edition of his poems issued in parts for the working man ended up as a showy little volume in the series Moxon's Miniature Poets, priced at five shillings. Tennyson was not pleased, according to Charles Tennyson because "he was persuaded, against his will, to issue the volume in a more ornamental style than his severe taste generally admitted" (p. 354). An illustrated edition of Enoch Arden rapidly followed and the correspondence surrounding this commission gives valuable insights into the development of the relationship between Payne and Tennyson and an indication of Payne's plans for the illustrated Idylls of the King.
Arthur Hughes had long been an admirer of Tennyson, his painting April Love was exhibited with lines from Tennyson's "The Miller's Daughter" and he was working on a painting based on "The Lady of Shalott" in the early 1860s.23 Hughes was also conscious of the potential importance of the Enoch Arden commission; the tone of his correspondence with Tennyson has been described as exhibiting "a kind of deferential determination by Hughes to produce really good work, so as to make the most of a great opportunity" (Roberts, pp. 22-23). After the drawings had been engraved, Hughes explained in a letter to Tennyson on October 18, 1865 why he had been unable get the poet to approve the drawings as he had previously promised:
But owing partly to Mr. Payne's and my own absence from town not occurring together, it was near the end of August before I saw Mr. Payne and arrange[d] the preliminary and necessary business. Then it seemed to be over an all important consideration-that the two illustrated books shd. not appear at the same Xmas, and the smaller shd. precede the larger one of the books-that I had to set to work at once to produce my drawings to feed the engraver one or two at a time as I have been able. (Roberts, p. 256)
Hughes had to produce the drawings quickly in order to publish in time for the Christmas season of 1865: Payne already had plans afoot for Christmas 1866, when the first volume of the illustrated Idylls of the King (the "larger of the books") would be launched. In March 1867, just before the argument escalated, Tennyson described his continued annoyance to Francis Palgrave but showed sympathy for Hughes in the context of the pressure exerted by Payne: "Arthur Hughes would not have made such a mull of his tropical isle if he had only condescended to submit his design to me, or even to ask me a question or two, to be sure, poor fellow, he was hurried by Payne" (Letters, 2:456).
Payne had arrived at the firm the same year that the illustrated Princess was launched and may well have noticed the absence of illustrated Christmas giftbooks between 1860 and 1863. Within a year of taking control he had planned giftbooks for the next four years: Enoch Arden for Christmas 1865, Elaine for Christmas 1866, Guinevere and Vivian for Christmas 1867, and Enid for Christmas 1868.24 This is a crucial point to remember when evaluating Payne's huge investment in the illustrated Idylls of the King: this was an expensive project but one that in theory would allow Moxon's to cash in on Christmas sales for three consecutive years. In fact it seems clear that he must have started thinking about it before the illustrated Enoch Arden and that the latter was an afterthought rushed through when he realized that the larger project had little chance of happening before Christmas 1866.
The financial arrangements for Enoch Arden suggest that Tennyson was becoming resigned to the necessity of illustrated editions. While writing to the American publisher Ticknor and Fields he stated: "I ought to add that the illustrated "Enoch Arden" is theirs [Moxon's] and not mine except for my royalty on it" and he subsequently wrote to Payne: "Enoch Arden (the illustrated one) is of course yours to do as you please with" (Letters, 2:428). While Tennyson liked to distance himself from illustrated editions, Payne worked hard to associate his name with them and he made assertive claims about his role in their production. Commencing with the "Moxon's Miniature Poets" series Payne printed a monogram of his initials "JBP" within a shield (Fig. 1) in the preliminary pages, preceded by a phrase claiming authorship of edition: "The Series Projected and Superintended by JBP" ("Moxon's Miniature Poets"), "The Book Produced Under the Superintendence of JBP" (illustrated Enoch Arden), "This Series of Illustrated Works Produced Under the Superintendence of JBP" (Elaine). Payne had considerable success in getting his self-proclaimed status repeated in the press. In a review of Elaine (encouraged no doubt by the fact that Payne had allowed them to publish one of his Doré images) the Art Journal stated:
The happy idea of getting Doré to illustrate Tennyson's beautiful poem originated with Mr. J. Bertrand Payne, F.R.S.L., who edited the volume, and gave valuable aid to the artist, inasmuch as Doré's ignorance of our language, without some judicious interpreter, would have entailed difficulties in the way of effectively illustrating the work, not otherwise readily surmounted.25
Even during his downfall, after it was announced that Tennyson had changed
publisher, the Daily Telegraph referred to Tennyson's connection with Moxon closing in "a blaze of glory" and referred to "J. Bertrand Payne. F.R.S.L., editor of the Idylls of the Kings" (Letters, 2:513). This provoked a sarcastic response from Tennyon in a letter to his friend Frederick Lockyer: "Fancy 'Antient Pistol F.R.S.L. , Editor of the Idylls' closing in a blaze of glory, sealskin jacket and all, in a Bude light!!!" (Letters, 2:513).
Payne's ambition for an illustrated edition of Idylls of the King is in many ways understandable: the poem had been published in 1859 and sold 10,000 copies in six weeks: a second edition was needed within six months and six more editions had been issued by 1869 (Hagen, p. 110). To Tennyson's popularity Payne added the fame of the French artist Gustave Doré, who had already illustrated Rabelais (1854), Dante's Inferno (1861) and the Bible (1866). The Art Journal had no doubt about Doré's status:
If it be possible for an artist to become satiated with popularity, Gustave Doré must assuredly be the man; for certainly no one of our own day, and, it may be presumed, no one of any preceding time, has achieved such success as an illustrator of books as he. ("Dore's Elainé," p. 51).
The logic of the project cannot really be faulted: here was the most famous illustrator of the period illustrating the most popular poet in England, Idylls of the King had been selling in huge numbers, and the market for Christmas books was well established.
Payne's use of Doré may have been a conscious response to one of his competitors. In 1866 Cassell, Petter and Galpin started to issue the "Doré Bible" sold in 64 parts, costing between 2s 6d and 4s. They eventually published the complete bible in two volumes in a range of bindings costing between £8 and £15. It could also be purchased in "Eight Divisional Volumes" costing £1 1s.26 The sales must have been encouraging for inside the cover of part 64 they announced the serial publication of "Doré's Illustrated Milton's Paradise Lost" in monthly parts at 2s. This book became a direct competitor with the illustrated Idylls of the King, a situation highlighted by some influential periodicals championing it while ignoring Payne's Elaine: the Illustrated London News enthused, "On the whole, Gustave Doré's Illustrated Milton is the most splendid book of the season" and then failed to mention Elaine in a review of "Illustrated Gift-Books for Christmas" in the same number. The absence of Elaine, however, may have been a simple matter of timing: the Art Journal review implied that the book had only become available just before the New Year ("Doré's Elaine," p. 52).
Perhaps in response to the Doré Bible, the illustrated Idylls of the King was far grander than any previous illustrated edition of Tennyson. Elaine was folio size (approximately 43 x 31 cm) with the illustrations filling a full page opposite the text (Fig. 2). These were not books that an individual could carry around or read inconspicuously; they were extravagant volumes, the sheer scale of the books proclaiming the importance of the project and by implication, Tennyson's poetry. Payne's ambitions were international-he aimed to license publication of the edition abroad: Hachette published an edition in France, Cassell in America, and Nijgh & Van Ditmar in Holland. The research of Juan Miguel Zarandona has uncovered the most extraordinary appropriation of the illustrated Idylls of the King: the Spanish poet José Zorilla was commissioned to translate the poem but in a bizarre twist he wrote his own verse history of Catalonia, Los Ecos De Las Montoñas, to fit in with Doré's illustrations, which were then reordered to suit his own narrative.27
Payne certainly outstripped his competitors in the range of formats in which he issued the illustrations. In addition to the basic edition, "proof " editions of the engravings were published and the images and text were also issued loose in a portfolio. The cover of these portfolios was substantially the same as the bound edition suggesting that it was planned in tandem. These editions were published at varying prices. The standard edition of Elaine was published at 21s, the "proof" edition at 63s, and for 105s an enthusiastic customer could buy the "artist's proofs" edition with images signed by Doré and Tennyson.28 Payne also issued editions with photographic reproductions of Doré's original drawings, at 63s. These reproductions have been mistakenly identified as photogravures but are in fact tipped in photographs (Fig. 3).29 The photographic reproductions to Vivien and Guinevere were also offered separately at 7s 6d each.30 Somewhat strangely Payne also offered colored photographs at 12s 6d each. While hand-colored photographs has been common for some years Doré's originals were executed in pen and ink with highlights in body-color so it is unclear from where any more elaborate color scheme might have been derived.
The logic behind this unusual array of image formats seems to lie in a Is there any chance of your being in town soon? If so and if you could give me an hour, I should be very grateful as I want to consult you on a proposition which Payne has made to me and about which I am very much divided. You were so good to me at the beginning of the year that I am bold enough to wish to ask you about this. ("Materials," 3:49)
The preceding section of the letter makes it clear that this "proposition" does not concern the song cycle (the only other project concerning Payne, Grove, and Tennyson) and so it would seem that that Grove warned Tennyson about the forthcoming Art Union.
One of the surprising aspects of the illustrated Idylls of the King is the level of Tennyson's involvement. As early as October 1865 Payne brought M. Francois Michel, a French antiquarian, to Farringford, evidently to work on a translation of Tennyson's poem into French prose. Emily Tennyson's Journal gives some idea of the tone of the visit: "Mr. Francisque Michel & Mr. Payne arrive. The torrent of wits & puns almost overpowering. They overtire the poor man walking on the Down. He [Michel] interests us much. A. says that he has a free Shakespearean wit."34 Emily Tennyson was heavily involved as editor of Michel's translations, a task she found troubling: "Louy helps me with Francisque Michel's translation of "Guinevere." A rather hopeless task" (Journal, p. 271).
Another surprise is that Tennyson actually admired some of Doré's illustrations. In February 1867 Emily Tennyson's diary recorded "Fine illustrations of 'Guinevere' & 'Vivien' from Doré to-day" (Journal, p. 258) and at about the same time Tennyson wrote to Doré (in what he described as "mon méchant Francais"):
Permettez, Monsieur, que je vous fasse part du grand plaisir que m'ont fait les Illustrations de mes Idylles déjà accomplies. Je n'en ai vu que les quatres apportées ici par M. Payne, et quant à elles il me semble que leur beauté morne et noble accorde parfaitement avec le génie des vielles légendes, et M. Payne m'écrit qu'il y en a d'autres encore plus ravissantes, qu'enfin on ne peut mieux. (Letters, 2:452)
Tennyson's approval did not last long: a letter of March 23 to Palgrave acknowledged that he liked the first four he saw "very much" but the rest "not so well" and one, he wrote, "I hate" (Letters, 2:456). Despite this he remained well disposed towards Doré even while the dispute with Payne rumbled on. Hallam's Memoir quotes the journal of Frederick Locker-Lampson describing a breakfast shared by himself, Tennyson, and Doré in 1869: "Although Tennyson had not been entirely satisfied with the publication of the folio edition of the "Idylls," which Doré illustrated, the two met and parted with perfect cordiality"(Memoir, 2:77). It is significant here that it was not the book but its publication that was specified as the source of the trouble: for once it was not the illustrations that were at the root of the problem.
One reason for Tennyson's guarded approval of illustrated Idylls of the King is that unlike the "Moxon Tennyson" or the illustrated Princess the images do not visually disrupt the text in the same way. Kooistra speculates that Tennyson's dismay about the illustrated Princess may have been in part due to the physical separation of stanzas due to images being placed between them (pp. 61-62). This was not a danger in the illustrated Idylls of the King as the large steel plates by necessity could not be printed on the same page as the text. Payne's edition gave a great deal of space to the poetry, Tennyson's verses had never been published in so large a typeface, on such large pages, and there was certainly no sense of the images either disrupting or squeezing out the text.
In the spring of 1867 all seemed to be going well: Elaine had been generally well received and Tennyson liked the illustrations he had seen for Vivien and Guinevere. Although the first book had already been published, the financial arrangements had not been settled and this seems to have been the issue over which the relationship between Payne and Tennyson finally broke down. On October 28, 1866, just before Elaine was published, Tennyson wrote to Payne asking him to define the terms: "How is the arrangement to stand between us as to the illustrated Elaine? I don't think it was ever settled. Would you be good enough to write it down & send it to me."35 Six months later he was still confused and wrote to Palgrave on the subject:
You ask whether Doré's illustrations are a success financially. I don't know; they couldn't anyway be a great success to me since I think Payne told me that I was only to receive two shillings or so a volume and that after £3,000 had been cleared, the original outlay. (Letters, 2:456)
On April 18, 1868, over a year later, a letter from Payne to Tennyson shows that terms had still not been agreed:
The only item which remains for your final decision is the question of the royalty on the illustrated Idylls. I have nearly exhausted the 7th thousand of Elaine and have sold in round numbers 3,000 each of Vivien and Guinevere. My own opinion [is] that the 2/. royalty on each Idyll after I had sold 6,000 of each, seems to me fair, because I made the offer when the success of the whole edition was a remote contingency, and in the end I am persuaded you will make more now by this plan than by my buying the text at your ordinary rate of profit. As, however, my earnest desire in all matters of business between us is to carry out and further your own wishes and views without regard to myself pray let me know your choice, and I will act accordingly.
This letter is the last recorded contact between Payne and Tennyson. Its significance is highlighted by an annotation to Payne's last sentence by Emily Tennyson: "It however having been previously arranged that a royalty equal to the profits of the ordinary edition should be paid. ET" (Letters, 2:489). The lack of surviving letters between Payne and Tennyson after this date might be the result of them being destroyed under the watchful eye of Emily and Hallam Tennyson but another explanation is made possible by the Macmillan Archive at the British Library. Letters from Emily Tennyson to Alexander Macmillan, starting just a week after Payne's letter, show that they were discussing both the publication of "Lucretius" and the dispute with Payne. Payne is never mentioned by name but it is clear that he is the subject of discussion.
The first extant letter, shows that Macmillan had recognized Payne's portrait as King Arthur in the frontispiece to the collected edition of the illustrated Idylls of the King (Figs. 5, 6), a fact corroborated by Payne's son (Payen-Payne, p. 13). Emily commented in response
I am not sure I would have recognized the king. The lifted brows make the expression different. I think I might have said "how like" rather than "it is he" so I hope the ridicule that might have come to him had the likeness been more exact may be avoided.
Five days later Emily thanked Macmillan for concerning himself with "that other matter" and goes on "I am sure there is no one he could consult with a firmer trust in the wisdom and justice of the advice he would receive. If so many helpless ones had not to be considered one's own course would be clear enough."37 Here it seems that Macmillan is now acting as a mediator between Payne and the Tennysons. The last sentence makes it clear that if the financial vulnerability of Emma Moxon and her children were not an issue it would be a simple decision for Tennyson to leave the Moxon firm. A final letter a month later seems to be a firm rejection of a solution communicated by Macmillan:
"That compromise in no way speaks peace to us. In a very stern voice it says 'you must still bear the yoke.'"38 This is interesting because it seems to refer to the nature of the financial arrangement surrounding the illustrated Idylls of the King. Payne's letter on April 18, 1868 had effectively suggested that Tennyson should share the financial risk of the project: he would not start earning until Payne's costs had been covered. This is a contrast to previous arrangements, a point signaled by Emily Tennyson's claim that they had arranged to receive profits in the ordinary way. Emily's phrase about bearing "the yoke" signals a refusal to make any financial investment in the project: profits were fine but the risk had to be taken by the publisher.
Tennyson scholars have all focused on the skirmishes preceding the Idylls of the King dispute as the cause of Tennyson's break with the Moxon firm. Hagen sees the crucial event as the argument over the "Standard Edition,"
a version of events followed by recent biographers, while Charles Tennyson suggested that it was Payne's suing of the Religious Tract Society which precipitated the break.39 It is far more likely that the relationship broke down over the illustrated Idylls of the King: Payne's last recorded direct contact with Tennyson is the letter of April 18, 1868 which asks the poet to agree to his terms. This letter post-dates all the other suggested reasons for the split and precedes the start of the correspondence between Emily Tennyson and Macmillan by only a week. Tennyson's refusal to agree to Payne's terms is the most likely cause for the end of their relationship
Tennyson's riftwith the Moxon firm could also be ascribed to the firm's more general financial instability, but this too can be attributed largely to the illustrated Idylls of the King. Tennyson's concerns about the firm's finances date back to September 1867 when he wrote to Payne:
I may tell you that for more than half a year I have been in the habit of receiving anonymous letters, and of hearing statements from various people, to the effect that the house of Moxon & Co. was in a most precarious condition, and would not last till Christmas. (Letters, 2:467)
At this date Vivian and Guinevere were on the point of publication and Elaine had been out for over a year. Payne would have already incurred the majority of his expenses.
In the spring of 1868 the tension between the Tennysons and Payne was rising. In March Emily mentioned the disagreement over the "Standard Edition" several times and on March 10 she raised similar grievances but this time over the commercial activities surrounding the illustrated Idylls of the King:
Very much annoyed by Mr Payne who cannot understand our love of absolute simplicity in advertisement & business arrangements so that we may be free as may be from thoughts of money. One desires to take thankfully what comes in this way, be it much or little. What grieves me is that his love of excitement may mislead the public as to A who has nothing to do with these matters. For instance, the world thinks that we are enriching ourselves by Doré's editions whereas we have not received a penny as yet for the use of the poems tho' [he] promises something when some thousands of each is [sic] sold."40
Emily Tennyson was acutely aware of the deal that Payne was trying to broker over the illustrated Idylls of the King and conveys the couple's anxiety about being seen to make too much money. Her idea of being "free as may be from thoughts of money" is an unconvincing denial given how much Tennyson earned from his poetry, but what particularly annoys her is that the public believed that they were making money from the Doré edition while this was not the case. To make matters worse, at about the same time, the Times announced the "Crystal Palace Doré Art Union" and the event was widely publicized in a number of newspapers and journals for the next six months. Any previous anxiety must have been amplified by such a blatantly commercial scheme being promoted with such gusto in one of the most high profile venues in London. The fact that Tennyson had probably known about the scheme and had not put a stop to it must have angered him even more. To make matters worse the Tennysons could not distance themselves from this edition (as they had done with the illustrated Princess) as they had both been actively involved in its production.
A few months earlier the already cynical Athenaeum had reacted to the publication of Guinevere and Vivien with open hostility, the basis of its attacks being that a French artist could not understand an English poet: "We suspect, indeed, that M. Doré has never read Tennyson, and never thought of Tennyson while engaged upon this work."41 This may be a direct attack on Payne who had prided himself upon being the link between Doré and Tennyson as celebrated by the Art Journal ("Doré's Elaine," p. 52). Payne's son later claimed that his father's withdrawal of Swinburne's Poems and Ballads in 1866 had turned the literary establishment against him and this theory is certainly plausible in the context of the Athenaeum's persistent mockery of Payne. Subsequent correspondence that they printed perpetuated the implied mockery of Payne as did their account of another of his doomed projects, Brightwell's A Concordance of the Entire Works of Alfred Tennyson.42
Evidence beyond the family correspondence confirms the financial impact of Payne's extravagant investments. Again it is important to notice the sequence of events. Payne would have started incurring his heavy expenses with respect to the illustrated Idylls of the King in 1866 and a year later these would have been increased as both Vivien and Guinevere were printed in 1867. It is clear from the letters cited above that Payne had spent £3000 on each Idyll, a total outlay of £12,000. It later transpired that Payne had not invested any of his own capital in the firm, so he had either used the firm's available capital or just run up bills against the name of the company. The scale of his investment, the apparent lack of capital, and the timing of the project all suggest that these were the problems alluded to in late 1867. Other details that emerged during the trial also suggest that it was Payne's investment in the steel plates that was a key factor in the financial demise of the firm.
Payne's appointment as manager of the Moxon firm was predicated on the idea of him looking after the firm until Arthur Moxon came of age. Arthur Moxon clearly had a very high opinion of Payne as did Emma Moxon. Both were still supporting Payne up to a very late stage in the argument, a point noted by Tennyson in a letter to James Knowles in January 1869: "Mrs M and her son are running it very hard against me. . . . [I]t is intolerable that she to whom I meant to behave with all kindness should treat me in this fashion" (Letters, 2:516). In September 1868, apparently because Arthur Moxon had turned 21, but in all probability because he already knew that Tennyson planned to change publisher, Payne attempted to sell three quarters of "his share" of the business to Emma and Arthur Moxon for the sum of £11,457 ("Law Report"). It was at this point that Payne's actions appear to have become really dishonest. The Court of Appeal later proved that Payne had no capital in the business and no claim to a share in it: the assets that he attempted to sell to Emma and Arthur Moxon were already owned by the firm (Moxon v. Payne). The sum that Payne sought from the Moxons was based on a valuation by Payne's accountant and of great significance is an item that constituted over half this amount: "In this valuation the sum of £6,000 was put down as the value of certain steel plates in illustration of Tennyson's Elaine, Vivien, and Guinevere, their real value, it was alleged, being under £2,000" ("Law Report").It would appear that Payne claimed the plates were worth £2,000 each, two thirds of his stated cost for each volume. By 1871 the firm was "being heavily pressed by creditors" and would have become bankrupt but for a rescue deal in which Messrs. Ward, Lock and Tyler were appointed trustees for the creditors and the assets of the Moxon firm assigned to them to try and make good the debts. Soon after this the Moxons came to see Payne's actions as fraudulent and started legal proceedings.
The illustrated Idylls of the King was not the sole reason for the collapse of the Moxon firm. Exactly how healthy the financial state of the firm was when Edward Moxon died is hard to establish and so quantifying the damage caused by Payne's actions is difficult. Several issues, however, are clear. In 1864 Payne saw the Christmas giftbook as the best way to make money from Tennyson's fame. This publishing venture was broadened into a scheme for selling images produced in a wide range of media and marketed aggressively through an Art Union scheme in the Crystal Palace. Elaine, the first of the illustrated Idylls to be published, made a profit but Tennyson withdrew from the firm just months after Vivien and Guinevere were published, which effectively put an end to the firm's main source of income.
The crucial factor in the collapse of the Moxon firm remains Tennyson's departure but the illustrated Idylls of the King contributed to this in two ways. Firstly it weakened the financial stability of the firm and Tennyson did not want to be associated with a failing publisher. Secondly the personal relationship between Payne and Tennyson seems to have broken down over how the risks and profits of the edition were to be shared. Tennyson's previous dealings with his publisher had shown that he wanted little to do with illustrated editions apart from taking his royalty: he certainly did not want to share any of the financial risk, which Payne effectively asked him to do.
For the Moxon firm the Christmas giftbook seemed like an opportunity but repeatedly proved problematic: it is doubtful that any of the seven they issued between 1857 and the collapse of the firm enjoyed financial success. The catastrophe surrounding the failure of the illustrated Idylls of the King effectively ended Victorian illustrated editions of Tennyson: apart from some inconspicuous frontispieces, Tennyson's own publishers never again ventured into illustrated editions. Apart from Julia Margaret Cameron's idiosyncratic edition, the next ambitious illustrated edition of Idylls of King was published in 1911 by Hodder and Stroughton with illustrations by Eleanor Fortesque-Brickdale. In the late 1860s James Bertrand Payne had been on the brink of becoming a well established figure in the literary world and he had supporters as well as enemies. In 1869 he was rumoured to be a prospective Conservative candidate for the borough of Southwark and when the first legal judgement went in his favor the Leeds Mercury regretted that the case had ever found its way to court.43 The only truly sympathetic account that survives of Payne is that of his son; most of the other sources, notably from the literary and legal elite, were hostile and enjoyed portraying him as an arriviste. William Michael Rossetti's response to Payne is symptomatic. Despite stating that he "had not the least wish to come into business or personal relations with him or his firm" after the withdrawal of Swinburne's Poems and Ballads, he quickly overcame his scruples when Payne invited him to edit Shelly. He described Payne as: "A large sleek man, not much turned of thirty-five in those days, with dark eyes and an extensive dark beard; he passed with most people as being very handsome, and indeed he was so in an obvious though not an elevated sense."44 After the second verdict went against him, Payne was ruined and in the words of his son "was a changed man from that time as he felt that all his hard work had ended in failure and ingratitude" (Payen-Payne, p. 9). In 1892 the Pall Mall Gazette recorded that he had managed to pay all his creditors and he died in 1898.45 His publishing career was short and disastrous but a sympathetic commentator might be tempted to speculate on what could have happened if Tennyson had not leftthe Moxon firm. Given that Elaine had already made a profit it is not inconceivable that Vivien, Guinevere and Enid would have eventually done the same. As it turned out the commercial taint that Payne's plans for the illustrated Idylls exerted on Tennyson's public image made the professional relationship untenable.
1 Alfred Tennyson, The Poems of Tennyson, ed. Christopher Ricks, 3 vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1987), 3:11. 2The title of the Moxon firm varied: the imprint was "Edward Moxon" until the publisher's death then "Edward Moxon and Co." from c. 1859; "E. Moxon, Son & Co." was still being used after the firm had effectively collapsed.
3 Moxon v Payne, ICLR: Chancery Appeal [1872.M.37] - (1873) L.R. Ch.App.881.
4 Hallam Tennyson, Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, 2 vols. (London, 1897), 2:43; hereafter cited as Memoir.
5 For the original letter see The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson, ed. Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar Shannon, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982-1990), 2:456.
6 Hallam Tennyson, "Materials for a Life of A.T. Collected for my Children," 4 vols. 1894-95, annotated typescript, Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln, UK; hereafter cited as "Materials." Examples of Hallam editing out Payne's involvement can be found in 3:71-72, 79, 101.
7 Charles Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson (London: Macmillan, 1968), p. 376.
8 June Steffensen Hagen, Tennyson and his Publishers (London: Macmillan, 1979), p. 113.
9 "Law Report," Times (London) (June 13, 1873): 12.
10 J.S.R., "Preface" to The Story of Elaine Illustrated in Facsimile from Drawings by Gustave Doré (London: E. Moxon, Son & Co., 1871).
11 Helen Groth, Victorian Photography and Literary Nostalgia (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), p. 153.
12 Victoria Olsen, From Life: Julia Margaret Cameron and Victorian Photography (London: Arum Press, 2003), p. 232.
13 Harold Merriam, "Preface" to Edward Moxon, Publisher of Poets (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1939), p. vii. In 1874 James Bertrand Payne changed his name to Payen-Payne apparently at the request of "a Norman branch of the family" but probably also to distance himself from the financial scandal. His son styled himself "James Bertrand de Vincheles Payen-Payne." For the sake of clarity only the son will be referred to as Payen-Payne. The brief memoir of Payne can be found in Payen-Payne's introduction to one of his father's articles "Jersey" reprinted in the The Jersey Society in London Occasional Publications No. VI. (London, 1927). A copy can be found in the British Library, London, UK, pressmark A.C.8141. Merriam is acknowledged in a footnote on page 4.
14 Merriam, p. 194; Moxon v Payne.
15 Hans Ostrom, "Moxon, Edward (bap. 1801, d. 1858)," in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/19463.
16 James Bertrand Payne, An Armorial of Jersey (Jersey, 1859-65); James Bertrand Payne, The Gossiping Guide to Jersey (London, 1863).
17 Biographical information on members of the Moxon family beyond Edward Moxon can be found at "A Moxon Family Website," http://homepage.ntlworld.com/john.moxon/index.htm.
18 Patrick Scott, "The Market (place) and the Muse: Tennyson, Lincolnshire, and the Nineteenth-Century Idea of the Book," Victorian Newsletter 117 (Spring 2010): 5-38; Kathryn Ledbetter, Tennyson and Victorian Periodicals (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007); Lorraine Koositra, "Poetry in the Victorian Marketplace: The Illustrated Princess as Christmas GiftBook," VP 45, no. 1 (2007): 49-76; Julia Thomas, " 'Always another poem': Victorian Illustrations of Tennyson," in Tennyson Transformed: Alfred Lord Tennyson and Visual Culture, ed. Jim Cheshire (London: Lund Humphries, 2009), pp. 20-31. Since this article was written, Kooistra's Poetry, Picures and Popular Publishing (Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 2011) has discussed the illustrated Idylls, pp. 237-241.
19 Simon Elliot, "Some Trends in British Book Production," in Literature in the Marketplace, ed. J. O. Jordan and R. L. Patten (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), pp. 33-35.
20 Alfred Tennyson, Poems (London: Edward Moxon, 1857); Alfred Tennyson, The Princess, illustrated by 26 engravings after Daniel Maclise (London: Edward Moxon, 1860). The illustrated Princess was released in December 1859 but forward dated to 1860, a feature common to the illustrated Enoch Arden (released late 1865, dated 1866).
21 Alan Sinfield, Alfred Tennyson (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), p. 155.
22 The illustrated Princess was sold for 16s by Moxon in 1859 but listed as sold by Routledge "reduced to 10s 6d" in 1861. See "December 14-31, 1859," The British Catalogue of Books Published During the Year 1859 (XXII) (London); The English Catalogue of Books for 1861 (London, 1862), p. 61. The English Catalogue of Books for 1865 (London, 1866), p. 54 lists an 1865 reissue of the Illustrated Princess again by Routledge although the title page of the book still lists Moxon as publisher.
23 Leonard Roberts, Arthur Hughes: His Life and Works (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors Club, 1997), pp. 162-163.
24 Alfred Tennyson, Elaine, illustrated by Gustave Doré (London: Edward Moxon, 1867); Alfred Tennyson, Guinevere, illustrated by Gustave Doré (London: Edward Moxon, 1867); Alfred Tennyson, Vivien, illustrated by Gustave Doré (London: Edward Moxon, 1867); Alfred Tennyson, Enid, illustrated by Gustave Doré (London: Edward Moxon, 1868). Elaine and Enid were forward dated, the former released late 1866, dated 1867 and the latter released late 1867, dated 1868.
25 "Doré's Elaine," Art Journal, New Series 6 (1867): 52.
26 The Holy Bible with illustrations by Gustave Doré, 2 vols. (London, 1866-70). The information regarding prices and formats was taken from an advertisement on the British Library's copy, pressmark: L.10.d.1.
27 Juan Miguel Zarandona, Los 'Ecos de Las????????????????????????????????????????????????? Montañas'?????????de José Zorilla y sus??????????????Fuentes de Inspiración: de Tennyson a Doré (Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, 2004). I am very grateful to the author for discussing his research with me.
28 The English Catalogue of Books for 1866 (London, 1867), p. 54.
29 Dan Malan, Gustave Doré: Adrifton Dreams of Splendour (St. Louis: Malan Classical Enterprises, 1995), p. 97; Eric Zafran, "Doré's Subjects," in Fantasy and Faith: the Art of Gustave Doré, ed. Eric Zafran (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2007) p. 99.
30 The English Catalogue of Books for 1867 (London, 1868), p. 51.
31 Anthony D. King, "George Godwin and the Art Union of London 1837-1911," Victorian Studies 8, no. 2 (1964): 101-130.
32 The Crystal Palace Doré Art Union (London: Edward Moxon, c. 1868), p. 2. Copy in the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln, UK. I am grateful to Grace Timmins for bringing this document to my attention.
33 Thomas Woolner, "Diary 1864," f. 101. Henry Moore Institute Archive, Leeds, UK.
34 Emily Tennyson, Lady Tennyson's Journal, ed. James Hoge (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1981), p. 238. One source claims that Tennyson requested Doré, which might explain his initial enthusiasm. See P. G Hamerton and E. Hamerton, Philip Gilbert Hamerton: An Autobiogaphy, 1834-1858, and a Memoir by His Wife , 1858-1894, with a Portrait (Boston, 1897), p. 293. I am grateful to Dan Malan for providing me with this reference.
35 Alfred Tennyson, letter to James Bertrand Payne, October 28, 1866, British Library, London, Add. Ms. 42577, f.229.
36 Emily Tennyson, letter to Alexander Macmillan, April 25, 1868, British Library, London, Add. Ms. 54986, f.211.
37 Emily Tennyson, letter to Alexander Macmillan, April 30, 1868, British Library, London, Add. Ms. 54986, f.212.
38 Emily Tennyson, letter to Alexander Macmillan, May 31, 1868, British Library, London, Add. Ms. 54986, f.215.
39 Hagen, pp. 114-117; Robert Martin, Tennyson the Unquiet Heart (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1980), pp. 476-477; Peter Levi, Tennyson (London: Macmillan, 1993), p. 257; Michael Thorn, Tennyson (London: Little, Brown & Co., 1992), pp. 391-392; Charles Tennyson, p. 376.
40 Emily Tennyson, Diary, 2 vols. Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln, UK, 2:106. Hoge's transcription of this passage is inaccurate.
41 "Vivien. - Guivevere. By Alfred Tennyson. Illustrated by Gustave Doré. (Moxon&Co.)" Athenaeum 2095 (December 21, 1867): 844-845. This review was written by William Hepworth Dixon; I am grateful to David Skilton for providing this information.
42 Payen-Payne, p. 6; An Artist, "Tennyson and M. Doré" letter printed in Athenaeum 2097 (January 4, 1868): 26; Henry Blackburn, "Tennyson and M. Doré" letter printed in Athenaeum 2098 (January 11, 1868): 64; Another Artist, "Tennyson and M. Doré" letter printed in Athenaeum 2100 (January 25, 1868): 138; "Our Literary Table. A Concordance of the Entire Works of Alfred Tennyson. P.L., D.C.L. By D. Baron Brightwell. (Moxon and Sons)," review in Athenaeum 2189 (October 9, 1869): 462-463. This review was written by J. C. Jeaffreson; I am greatful to David Skilton for providing this attribution.
43The Western Mail (Cardiff), issue 178 (November 24, 1869): 2; "From a London Correspondent," Leeds Mercury, issue 10874 (February 15, 1873): 12.
44 William Michael Rossetti, Some Reminiscences of William Michael Rossetti. 2 vols. (London: Brown Langham & Co. 1906), 2:359.
45 "In Bankruptcy," Pall Mall Gazette No. 8648 (December 8, 1892): 6.
Jim Cheshire is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art and Design at the University of Lincoln. He is the author of Tennyson Transformed: Alfred Lord Tennyson and Visual Culture (2009) and Stained Glass and the Victorian Gothic Revival (2004). He is currently working on a monograph about Tennyson's relationship with publishers in the mid-Victorian period.