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"His generation read his stories": Aspects of Sir Walter Besant's publishing history and its context, with particular reference to the firms of Chatto & Windus and A. P. Watt.

Eliot, Simon Jonathan; (1990) "His generation read his stories": Aspects of Sir Walter Besant's publishing history and its context, with particular reference to the firms of Chatto & Windus and A. P. Watt. Doctoral thesis , University College London. Green open access

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Abstract

The publishing history of Sir Walter Besant (1836-1901) is important for two reasons. Firstly, it is generally recognised that Besant's influence on the early development of the Society of Authors was crucial. A better understanding of the origin and nature of Besant's attitudes to fellow writers, publishers and literary agents will help explain the strengths (and weaknesses) of the movement to professionalise authorship in the late nineteenth century. Secondly, Besant's writing life spanned a critical period during which Britain became a mass-producing, mass-consuming print culture. Being typical in everything but the extent of his success, Besant provides an ideal case study, as well as allowing us to probe more general issues raised by the publishing history of the period. Chapter 1 shows how Besant's co-author James Rice (1843-82), acting as his informal agent, led him to underestimate the importance of reprint rights and royalty agreements. The false views and sense of exploitation Besant derived from this period were to dog him for the rest of his career. Chapter 2 follows the publishing history of Besant's most successful solo novel, All Sorts and Conditions of Men (1882), and explores the range of marketing metamorphoses a popular novel underwent from three-decker through cheap reprint to sixpenny paperback. Chapter 3 proves that the premature cheap reprint was a problem for circulating libraries from the 1860s, and suggests that by the 1880s it was common practice to undercut a novel's 31s6d first edition by issuing a 6s or 3s6d reprint soon afterwards. Chapter 4 discusses the problems Besant, Hardy and Blackmore had with the early issue of the Good Words annual volume, and charts Chatto & Win-dus's attempts to exploit Besant's 'Tauchnitz' rights. Chapter 5 surveys A.P.Watt's role as Besant's literary agent from c.1882-1902, in particular the farming of serial and book rights in the UK, the USA and Australia. It also discusses the problems of marketing literary property abroad, dramatic rights, and Besant's income from the novels. Chapter 6 provides a statistical survey of the annual issue of titles, their subject classification and price to demonstrate that the period 1870-1910 was indeed a time of rapid expansion and change in British publishing. There are three appendices.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: "His generation read his stories": Aspects of Sir Walter Besant's publishing history and its context, with particular reference to the firms of Chatto & Windus and A. P. Watt.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by Proquest
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10108248
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