Scribner’s and Stevenson’s posthumous works
This post is contributed by Glenda Norquay, presently working an edition of St. Ives for the Edition.
With the kind support of a Friends of the Princeton Library grant, I have been working in the Rare Books Room, Firestone Library, on a larger project that has emerged out of the editing of St Ives. Although my focus is on a network of transatlantic conversations between writers and publishers, Stevenson is of course a key figure.
Baxter takes Stevenson business away from Scribner’s
One of the most difficult exchanges in publishing negotiations around St Ives relates to Charles Baxter’s selling the rights to Stone & Kimball rather than Stevenson’s established publishing house in the States, Charles Scribner’s Sons (see my previous post ‘Baxter takes on American publishers and gives it to them straight’). Yesterday I found a typed letter from Frank Doubleday, Scribner’s Business Manager, dated 7 December 1895, describing an encounter with Kimball:
I have just been in Stone Kimball’s offices and Kimball tells me he has signed the contract for “St Ives” and “The Weir of Hermiston”. I asked him if he paid so much for it that he will have trouble getting his money back. He replied that I need not bother about that and that he got them at a very reasonable price. He also stated that the Vailima letters sold so well that he cannot print them rapidly enough, to all of which I listened to with attention. The serial rights of “Hermiston” he has sold to Fisher Unwin and the novel is to appear in English, French and German in his magazine Cosmopolis which I suppose you know.
[Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, C0101 Box 160, F. 11]
Although aware of the tensions around this particular deal, I enjoyed what appears to be a restrained bitterness in Doubleday’s account of a particularly galling situation for them.
Stone & Kimball go bankrupt
In the end of course Stone & Kimball suffered such significant financial losses, partly because of their Stevenson dealings, that their business collapsed. Scribner’s then had the satisfaction of publishing St Ives in its American book form.
A letter from Arthur Scribner , 24 March 1896, suggests some enjoyment of the situation:
From several sources we learned that Stone & Kimball were hard up, the elder Mr Stone is tired putting up the money, perhaps is a little short himself, and have more inclination that they might be willing to part with Mr Stevenson’s rights.
[Arthur Scribner sets out the terms of a possible deal, commenting:]
‘The price for The Weir & St Ives seems very high at this time now that the Stevenson’s boom has a little subsided, but it does seem to me that the whole amount secured by us would be most valuable in the end.
[Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, C0101 Box 160 F.16]
An old friend at Scribner’s, Edward L. Burlinghame
As the Scribner’s editor who worked most closely with Stevenson, Edward L. Burlingame had also been deeply disappointed, on a personal as well as business level, with the apparent snubbing of Scribner’s. He remained, however, a staunch enthusiast for R.L.S. as a late letter (9 July 1914 ), reflecting on the dangers of a writing having too ‘English’ a frame of reference indicates: Galsworthy’s work, he thought:
seemed to me to have considerable difficulties, not only in his rather pronounced English environment and association rather than his point of view (you see what I mean by the distinction), but because he doesn’t have quite the appeal to the human being as distinguished from the literary reader which seems so essential to the full success of end–papers and similar month-to-month essays. Stevenson of course even in his most ‘literary’ moments had this in the highest degree.
[Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, C0101 Box 160 F.10]