Dr John Wolcot and his Publishers and Printers
in Eighteenth-Century England
‘Wolcot left behind many boxes of unpublished manuscripts of his own writings for which, it was said, the booksellers offered a thousand pounds, but for which the executor demanded double and which when he, too, died, disappeared.’ 
‘They will probably be disposed of as waste-paper’ said [John] Taylor ruefully, ‘though perhaps, if properly selected they might prove a valuable addition to the poetical treasures of the country.’ 
Catalogue of a valuable collection of Autograph Letters […] of the published and unpublished literary remains of Dr John Wolcot (Peter Pindar) […] lots 267–312, which will be sold by Auction by Messrs Puttick and Simpson […] on Thursday, May 17th, 1877. 
* * * * *
On 7 April 1888, Governor Sir George Grey (1812–98) bought from John Davies Enys (1837–1912) six volumes of unpublished material by and about Dr John Wolcot, the Regency satirist.  Grey paid £30 for the manuscripts, once part of a much larger Wolcot Collection that was sold off by Puttick and Simpson in London on 17 May 1887 and somehow acquired by Enys, who, born in Penryn, Cornwall, lived in New Zealand from 1861 to 1891.  Five volumes contain hundreds of unpublished verse on small pieces of paper in the poet’s hand.  The sixth volume (GMS 5) contains 288 leaves of letters and ledger documents concerning Wolcot’s affairs with his publishers, printers and booksellers between 1785 and 1810. The accounts, the book lists, the promissory notes, and letters are not in Wolcot’s hand, rather, in the hand of those with whom he had dealings. There are, however, numerous annotations by Wolcot on these documents that give small but no less significant information. While much of the material is new in relation to Wolcot’s literary activities, they do shed light on book trade practices (and its vagaries) in eighteenth-century England, in particular the cost of printing advertisements (a most necessary expense), the cost of fundamentals such as stitching and collation, and more specifically, Wolcot’s somewhat testy relationship with publishers William West (and Thomas Hughes) and John Walker, printers Thomas, Charles, and William Spilsbury, and Thomas Brice and bookseller Margaret Sweetman of Exeter. In addition, embedded in many of them are clearer indicators of when the titles were printed. Such information assists greatly the researcher who wants to establish those bibliographical certainties concerning Wolcot’s total literary output. However, before documenting the archive material pertinent to the book trade, it is necessary to provide a brief overview of Dr John Wolcot’s life.
John Wolcot was born on 6 May 1738 at Dodbrooke near Kingsbridge in Devonshire and, according to records, was baptised a few days later on 9 May.  The schools he attended included the Free School of Kingsbridge, Liskeard Grammar, under the Revd Mr Hayden, and then the Revd Dr Fisher’s Academy at Bodmin.  In 1751, after the death of his father, he was sent to Fowey, Cornwall, and placed in the care of his uncle John, a surgeon–apothecary. His uncle’s sisters also lived there and it was they who ‘kept [him] under rigid control [and who] cowed his spirit’.  His apprenticeship with his uncle was grudgingly done. He preferred the Muses. A favourite haunt during his teens was the old defence towers at Fowey where he would write poetry, away from the watchful eyes of his domineering paternal aunts, ‘who, although women of solid intellects, and literary acquirements, could not overcome the common prejudice, that poetry is a very dangerous interruption to business.’  His first appearance in print was a poem to Miss B[etsy] C[ranch] in Martin’s Magazine for 1756, followed by another in the same periodical in 1757 called On the Recovery of Mr Pitt from an Attack of Gout. 
In 1761, Wolcot was sent to France to learn the language. This reward for completing his apprenticeship backfired. Although he gained a good command of the language, he developed a strong dislike of the French, something that was borne out in his later verse. His return to England saw a couple of years’ work in hospitals in London, where he also developed contacts in the literary and art world. In 1764, he returned to Fowey to assist his uncle and on 8 September 1767 he was granted an MD Diploma from Aberdeen without attending the University. His competence was satisfied by a Dr Huxham of Plymouth who gave him ‘a strict examination’. 
Wolcot’s desire to make a break from life at Fowey and gain personal and financial independence was strong. The Trelawney family (of Trelawne, Fowey) came under the care of the Wolcots and their practice. When Sir William Trelawney was appointed the Governor of Jamaica, Wolcot applied for the position of physician. Here was his opportunity: ‘Ah! Benjy it is not the idea of grandeur but of independence that seduces me from Great Britain, or should I say from old England; the hope of placing myself, by the labour of a few years beyond the caprice of a mob.’  He was successful and, by October 1768, Wolcot was living in Jamaica as attendant physician to Sir William. Encouraged by Trelawney to take orders with the likelihood of a preferment in Jamaica, Wolcot returned to England in June 1769. On 24 June 1769, he was made deacon by Richard Terrick, the Bishop of London, and the following day ‘by the assistance of Almighty God a Special Ordination’, a priest.  He returned to Jamaica in March 1770 to hear that the living dangled before him was no more. Grudgingly an inferior clerical appointment was taken: Vere, at £800 per year, along with the rather official-sounding but hardly onerous ‘Physician–General to all the Horse and Foot Militia raised or to be raised throughout the island’.  Wolcot’s foothold on island life ended abruptly when Trelawney died in December 1772. Stranded with unlikely employment from the new governor, he left for England about March 1773 as escort to his late patron’s widow, Lady Trelawney. He may have planned a more lasting relationship with her, but disappointment again followed. She died suddenly on 28 May 1775.
Island life obviously afforded Wolcot ample time to versify. Sometime in the first three months of 1773, he developed a desire to see more of his verse in print. Just before he left Jamaica, he paid Joseph Thompson, a Kingston-based printer, an unknown sum to print Persian Love Elegies (1773). The work was dedicated to Lady Trelawney, and contained the ‘Nymph of Tauris’, an elegy on Anne, Sir William’s sister, who had also unexpectedly died in Jamaica. 
Between 1773 and 1779, Wolcot lived in Truro, Falmouth, and Helston, where he practised as a doctor. As an amateur artist himself (he had been schooled by Richard Wilson, the Welsh painter, who was proclaimed by Wolcot as the ‘English Claude’),  he continued to cement friendships with the London art and literary crowd. In 1774, he wrote to James Northcote, the English (Plymouth-born) painter: ‘I have sent you a Compliment on your Picture at the Royal Academy [No. 195. “a Lady in the character of St Catherine”].’  In the same year, he wrote again to Northcote asking for a portrait: ‘Dear Northcote—Come out of that d—mn’d p— Hole or by G— you’ll die,—much obliged t’ye for your compliments on my poetical talent […] I long for a head’.  With such familiarity, it is no wonder the relationship between Northcote and Wolcot cooled. To Ozias Humphry, the English portrait painter, he offered a welcome return ‘from Italy to old England, loaded (I make no doubt) with all the Excellencies of the Painters of His Holinesses Dominions’ and again asked for a portrait: ‘As I am myself a Dabbler I want a Head in water colors & in oil finished in your highest manner, not only for my Instruction but for the Vanity of being possessed of the finest paintings in the world. Will you please tell me in your next [letter the] Price?’ 
In 1778, Wolcot gained small notice in the London literary world with the publication of A Poetical, Supplicating, Modest and Affecting Epistle to those Literary Colossuses, the Reviewers. Supposedly written ‘on behalf of a poetical Friend’,  this satire gave him the first opportunity to attack his critics, albeit provincial ones such as Henry Rosewarne, the MP for Truro. This modest sampling was printed in Truro and paid for by Wolcot. With his London contacts, he arranged for Robert Baldwin, the London bookseller in Paternoster Row (who, according to Benjamin Collins of Salisbury, was ‘a happy Collation of Industry, Integrity, and Method’ to sell it).  Baldwin’s involvement continued briefly when he teamed up with Thomas Egerton (of Chancery Lane) and John Debrett (178 Piccadilly) to sell Wolcot’s Lyric Odes to the Royal Academicians (1782). These fifteen ‘odes’ demolished some members of the Royal Academy. Benjamin West was viciously attacked, George Stubbs was told to stick to painting horses, and Dominic Serres and John Zoffany, the first being about sixty and the last about forty-nine years of age, were told rather cuttingly that ‘you’ll improve as you grow older’.  There was praise: Sir Joshua Reynolds (a Devonshire man himself) was called an eagle among wrens and Thomas Gainsborough ‘has great merit too’.  It also contains some of Wolcot’s common sense sentiments towards painting and painters. This is but one:
Carry your eyes with you, where’er you go;
For not to trust to them, is t’abuse ’em:
As Nature gave them t’ye, you ought to know
The wise old Lady meant that you should use ’em;
And yet, what thousands, to our vast surprise,
Of Pictures judge by other people’s eyes. 
The work bore the by-line ‘Peter Pindar, a Distant Relation to the Poet of Thebes’ and it marked the beginning of the Pindar industry, so aptly described by P. M. Zall: ‘From 1782 until his death in 1819 Wolcot managed to survive the strains of the beau monde, political and legal tangles, and physical and emotional crises, mainly with the income from the labours of Peter Pindar.’ 
In 1780, Wolcot (at forty-three) moved to London and introduced into London society John Opie, an ex-mine-carpenter’s apprentice, whose artistic talents had attracted his attention while living in Truro. Wolcot had instructed the ‘Cornish Wonder’ in art and manners—‘I want to polish him, he is an unlicked cub yet’ —and, in anticipation of their individual successes in the city, it was mutually agreed to ‘share the joint profits in equal division’.  After setting themselves up at Orange Court, they began to attract attention. A green feather in Opie’s hat was but one device. The high point for Opie was obtaining the patronage of Sir Joshua Reynolds, then the president of the Royal Academy, and receiving an introduction to George III and Queen Charlotte, who bought a painting, A Beggar and his Dog. The partnership between Wolcot and Opie dissolved the following year by pressure bought about from Opie’s in-laws (his first wife was Mary Bunn; his second Amelia Alderson) who no doubt saw Wolcot as a hindrance to their son-in-law’s future success (in 1786, Opie was elected a member of the Royal Academy). Wolcot and Opie remained on amicable terms, with the latter recognising the debt he owed to mentor: ‘I promise to paint for Doctor Wolcot any picture or pictures he may demand as long as I live; otherwise I desire the world will consider me a damned ungrateful son of a bitch.’ 
Under the pseudonym of Peter Pindar, Wolcot wrote more than sixty satires of varying length from 1782 to 1817, five miscellanies of serious and humourous verse, two edited works, one play, and a large number of unpublished manuscript pieces.  His attacks on the follies and foibles of George III, and others such as William Pitt, Sir Joseph Banks, and James Boswell, and on particular events, were all fair game. It suited his prime purpose of gaining money and provided the public with good reading copy. Indeed, he inspired tributes, attacks, imitators, and followers who traded radical satire under the same or similar pseudonyms (‘Peter Pindar, Esq.’, aka C. F. Lawler; ‘Peter Pindar, Junior’, aka John Agg, who also wrote under the name of ‘Humphrey Hedgehog’) and piracy (rewards of ten and twenty guineas were posted in many of Wolcot’s works).  Although a relatively late-starter, Wolcot was certainly popular and, at the height of his reputation, ‘twenty to thirty thousand of his works went off in a day’.  This is a large number, and if Cyrus Redding’s account is true, it says much about the reading public’s awareness and their reception of the various topics dealt with by Wolcot during this period.  Indeed, such was his success that it has been claimed that he was ‘the only man who really made money by poetry in the last decades of the eighteenth century’. 
In his last years, Wolcot was blind and although he continued to write (often through an amanuensis), the body of this work remained unpublished. He was still socially active, accepting visitors such as Mary Shelley, William Godwin, William Hazlitt, and Henry Crabb Robinson for dinner. Of such an evening, the latter stated:
The man whom we [Robinson, Thelwall, etc.] went to see, and, if it we could, admire, was Dr Wolcott [sic], better known as Peter Pindar. He talked about artists, said that West could paint neither ideal beauty nor from nature, called Opie the Michael Angelo of our age, […] spoke contemptuously of Walter Scott, whom, he said, owed his popularity to hard names […] He recollected on [his own writings] with no pleasure, [adding], ‘Satire is a bad trade.’ 
His main comforter was music, composing light airs for amusement. According to the entry in the DNB, Wolcot was
‘a thick squat man with a large dark and flat face, and no speculation in his eye.’ He possessed considerable accomplishments, being a fair artist and, as mentioned, a good musician. Despite the character of his compositions, his friends described him as of a ‘kind and hearty disposition.’ He was probably influenced in his writings by no real animosity toward royalty and himself confessed that ‘the king had been a good subject to him, and he a bad one to the king.’ His writings, despite their ephemeral interest, still furnish stock quotations. 
He died on 14 January 1819 and was buried in St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. His funeral was attended by William Francis and John Taylor, Wolcot’s executors, and ‘eleven of his most particular friends agreeable to his wishes.’  As requested in his will, he was laid next to the remains of Samuel Butler, satirist and author of Hudibras.  According to his good friend John Taylor, his final words were: ‘Bring back my youth.’  Wolcot was one of the most important satirists of the eighteenth century and, as one commentator has stated, constituted a link between the satiric work of Charles Churchill and Lord Byron. 
John Taylor, editor of The Morning Post, met Wolcot and formed a friendship that lasted until the latter’s death in 1819. Taylor included many of Wolcot’s poems in his paper and it was this exposure that resulted in an approach by George Kearsley, the Fleet Street publisher. Kearsley was certainly known to Wolcot. He had published John Wilkes’s North Briton and had been arrested (with fifty others), but later discharged, for issuing the seditious No. 45 (23 April 1763). Kearsley (and sometimes ‘W. Foster’ or ‘Forster’) was Wolcot’s publisher between 1785 and 1790, and published twenty titles and some eighty-five reissues and new editions. The first was More Lyrical Odes to the Royal Academicians in 1786 and the last A Rowland for an Oliver (1790). About 1791, Kearsley’s involvement with Wolcot as publisher ended. This was about the time that Catharine, Kearsley’s wife, joined her husband on the imprint.  Although Wolcot did suffer financial losses (he supposedly lost £40 with More Lyrical Odes), he was, by 1790, very successful in his verse-writing. Why did the association end? Perhaps Mrs Kearsley did not like Wolcot and saw him as a risk, a contentious versifier who not only made barbed attacks on the monarch but also on celebrities such as Boswell and Banks. Such a man could easily cause her husband to be sent back to jail.
In 1791, James Evans, a bookseller of Paternoster Row, took over the role of publisher. Although Evans’s involvement only lasted two years, he published eight titles, many of them significant in the Wolcot canon. The first was A Commiserating Epistle to James Lowther (1791), Wolcot’s vitriolic and libellous response to Lowther, the ‘bad earl’ of Lonsdale, and his actions in not only closing down a mine in Whitehaven but also withholding compensation to the local community. Evans also published the third Canto of The Lousiad, part of Wolcot’s most important and longest work. The last title was More Money, or Odes of Instruction to Mr Pitt (1792), a satire on the request through Parliament for additional money that because of the King’s frugality was not really required. Despite its title, the work actually focused more on George III than the Prime Minister. Evans also reprinted some of Wolcot’s works, including Lyric Odes for the Year 1785 (1791) and Peter’s Pension (1792). Although Wolcot must have been seen as a steady earner, the financial gain from his publications was not enough. Evans was bankrupt by July 1795 and, after leaving his family, he went to America. According to John Nichols, he returned and died in absolute distress. 
Wolcot then attached himself to Henry Delahay Symonds, a bookseller in Paternoster Row. Symonds also had his problems with the authorities. He had been fined £100 for publishing The Jockey Club, a satirical work attributed to Charles Pigott, and was imprisoned in Newgate for a year for publishing Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man before its two-year expiry term.  He received a further year and a fine of £100 for publishing Paine’s Address. In 1792, Symonds published ten titles by Wolcot, three of which were reprints: The Remonstrance, A Complimentary Epistle to James Bruce, and A Poetical, Supplicating, Modest and Affecting Epistle to those Literary Colossuses, the Reviewers. The last was one of Wolcot’s first productions and it had been republished in 1787 and 1789. With assistance from James Robertson and Walter Berry of Edinburgh, Symonds obviously felt another reprint was worth it. 
After Symonds, Wolcot settled on George Goulding, a music seller and publisher; John Walker, a one-time auctioneer and bookseller in Paternoster Row; and the Robinsons, John and George, the latter who, ‘greatly respected meritorious authors, and acted with singular liberality in his pecuniary dealings with them’ and was a successful purchaser of copyrights.  Sometime between 1793 and 1795, the four men—with John Walker as delegated spokesman—agreed to give Wolcot an annuity of £250 for life for copyright permission to publish his collected works.  This contract was not without discord:
A year or two later they attempted to establish that this agreement was to include his unwritten works, as and when they became available; a suggestion which Peter stoutly resisted with some justice. [Wolcot] maintained that ‘with respect to my annuity from the Robinsons, it is £250 per annum. It was not a part of the agreement, that they were to have my future works included for the annuity: these they were to purchase, provided I chose to sell them. Such is the agreement. But possibly they wish to dragoon me into a sale.’ 
Even though Wolcot won his suit at Chancery with costs, there were still misunderstandings. The question was still what constituted copyright properties, and even though in 1802 it was agreed that ‘all animosities shall be laid aside’ there was still dissent.  In fact, Wolcot left Walker, his prime publisher at this time, and had his The Horrors of Bribery published under Thomas Dean’s imprint. A court case brought against Walker and summarily dismissed in his favour by Justice Lord Eldon did not help relations. According to one of Wolcot’s obituarists, ‘much skirmishing constantly took place on these occasions; and […] many angry words passed so that Peter was at last obliged to employ the good offices of a third person to transact the business. On these occasions he was particularly bitter’. 
Yet despite all the legal rancour, Wolcot and Walker’s relationship continued. Walker, undoubtedly aware of Wolcot’s popularity and saleability, reprinted many of his past works (often supported by others), and published new titles and those contentious collected works. He was known as the ‘Trade Auctioneer’ and, according to John Nichols (1745–1826), was greatly respected in the trade.  However, there was obviously a niggle present because Nichols himself was disparaging about Walker and his ‘trade sale’ activities of selling copies—modern day remainders—of recently published works at a less than usual price.  Even bookish competition can be cut-throat.
Problems were further exacerbated by the deaths of most of the signatories of the annuity to Wolcot: Robinson in 1800; Goulding about 1800, and Walker sometime after 1816. The litigious squabbling passed to their families and others. Sarah Goulding was left to pay George Goulding’s share and in 1815 there was reluctance by the Robinsons to pay their full share.  This was complicated by the involvement of a Mr Potter and a Mr Wilkie, the last being ‘the greatest defaulter’ and who, like Potter, did not sign the bond.  Walker himself was miffed by the pressure he received from Wolcot’s ‘third person’: ‘Sir, I am rather surprised that Mr Pollen should have stated he has called several times upon me for the annuity as I never objected but on the contrary always paid him immediately.’  Indeed, Walker’s intentions had already been made clear to Wolcot by William Francis, the satirist’s lawyer: ‘[Walker] has no wish on his part but to pay the Doctor honestly and punctually his annuity.’  The ‘heat’ continued after Walker’s death, and the obvious frustration over the lack of information on publication details was directed at William Wood, his executor.
From the terms of your letters we are led to suppose that your clients have left you quite uninstructed in this matter. In your last you state that it is quite evident we must let the Executors have an account what works and editions our client [Wolcot] has any claim upon, & in what way. Your clients bought the copyright of all Dr Woolcot’s [sic] writings commonly called ‘Peter Pindar’s Works’ for an annuity to be paid to the Doctor for life and with an agreement to pay him a certain sum for every subsequent edition. They have been going on ever since publishing edition after edition: and what we now ask is how many editions they have published. It is impossible we can tell what has been doing in their workshops. Will you favour us with a call?
We are Sir,
Your Obed’t Serv’t
Amory & Coles
52 Lothbury. 
One publication that highlights Wolcot’s popularity was his Pindariana, or Peter’s Portfolio, a work that contains a number of serious and satirical poems on various subjects (Sir Joseph Banks, the French, author-reviewer relationships).  It occupied 242 pages in quarto and was printed in 1794 by Thomas Spilsbury for Walker and James Bell, J. Ladley, and Mr Jeffrey. According to the records, a staggering 42,500 copies were printed. at a cost of £189 18s, with an additional £9 2s 1½d to cover Stamp Duty and copies to the Stationers’ Hall. This number reflects Wolcot’s immense popularity and says much about the publisher’s confidence in making sales. However, not everything went smoothly. The sum of £238 4s 6d stands out as representing returned copies of this work, some 13,235 copies. Despite advertising strategies, this must have hurt Walker. Indeed, leaves 25–26 of the same volume contain further details of Wolcot’s accounts with Walker, spanning the years 1794 to 1796. Running account balances are present as well as cash and book advances (of £105 6s 9d), and the cost of paper, for example 18 reams of paper at £22 2s for the third edition of Hair Powder: A Plaintive Epistle to Pitt, and 30 reams of Demy at £31 10s for the second edition of The Royal Tour and Weymouth Amusements. The sum total is £318 2s 1½d. Various entries on the contra side reduce this amount. They include £8 11s 6d from ‘W. Gutherie by W. Walker on Wolcot’s account’, £6 6s ‘paid by Dr Wolcot for his engraving of his head for the work of 1796 which ought to have been charged to Mr Walker’, the amount of £32 for the sale of Picturesque Views with Poetical Allusions (1797), four guineas charged to Wolcot but returned to Walker, £11 9s profit from the sale of Celebration, or the Academic Procession to St James’s: An Ode (1794), twelve guineas allowed from ‘Batch’s [Bache] bill’, £4 11s to Thomas Spilsbury for a reprint of Canto Two of The Lousiad, £2 ‘for stitching 4000 of the Pindariana which were not done’, six guineas in favour of Dr Wolcot for Liberty’s Last Squeak (1795), £17 10s 3d as balance of account for The Convention Bill: An Ode (1795), and £4 13s 11d for advertisement overcharging. This crawl back totalled £115 12 s 8d, which when subtracted from the above total of £318 2s 1½d resulted in a balance of £202 18s 5½d. A note is scrawled beside it: ‘Balance due to J. Walker.’ Payment was often slow, indeed glacial. Walker’s own note reflects this: ‘This is the account allowed by me this 20th December 1801.’
There were also new ventures initiated by Walker. One was a new edition of Pilkington’s Dictionary of Painters (1799), edited by Wolcot, who was certainly capable of such a role. As a memo reveals, it was to be a shared venture.  The second venture was a monthly publication tentatively titled ‘Miscallanious [sic] Collection of poetry’, comprising poems selected from British and other poets, with criticisms and remarks by Wolcot (15 February 1804; GMS 5, ll. 12–13). This publication was probably The Beauties of English Poetry. Selected from the Most Esteemed Authors. By Dr Wolcot. Containing Several Original Pieces, Never before Published (London: Walker, 1804), undoubtedly following in the path of Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) and Johnson’s Lives of the English Poets (1779–81), and the myriad of other anthologies of the day, is of interest on two levels. Firstly, it involved the quartet of Walker, Goulding, and the Robinsons, each willing to back Wolcot on such an ambitious project. Confidence was high, because they were prepared to pay him ‘twenty-five guineas per volume whether the works sells or not’ and an additional ‘ten guineas’ for every 500 copies sold after the first 1,500.  Secondly, the publishers had definite views on what the publication would look like. Wolcot’s ‘Miscellany’ was to be ‘brought out in volumes the size of Hayley’s The Triumphs of Temper or smaller as the Publishers think proper consisting on 164 pages or theirabouts [sic] monthly.’ William Hayley’s poem was published in 1781 and it was his most popular work. That it stood out as a model is testimony to its physical makeup, to John Dodsley who published it, and its overall effect amongst other publications. Importantly, it provides a benchmark for what Wolcot would have produced. 
West & Hughes
William West and Thomas Hughes took over the publishing role between late 1799 and late 1801. They were based at Paternoster Row, London. West had experience in the trade. He had been apprenticed to Robert Colley and was later turned over to Thomas Evans. West was manager to Evans, and on the latter’s retirement he assisted the already mentioned James Evans.  On the latter’s departure to America, West was left on his own. Little is known of Hughes, the partner. It is in this capacity that these two men had dealings with Wolcot, who, again, must have seemed a lucrative catch, a sure means to bolster their business. In a little over two years, they published five works and from the records available, actively promoted them.
The first work they published was Nil Admirari, printed by William and Charles Spilsbury in an edition of 1,000 c. 21 October 1799.  This work was a satire on Hannah More and Beilby Porteus (1731–1808), Lord Bishop of London, and centred on the folly of flattery occasioned by Porteus’s generous praise of More’s Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799).
A sorry Critic thou in prose and Metre,
Or thou hadst judged her power a scanty Rill;
Which, if thou wilt believe the word of Peter,
Crawls at the bottom of th’ Aonian hill.
Twice can’t I read her labours, for my blood;
So simply mawkish, so sublimely sad:
I own Miss Hannah’s Life is very good;
But then, her Verse and prose are very bad.
(Nil Admirari, Works, IV, 261)
While in London, the Polish General Tadeusz Kosciuszko had expressed interest in seeing only one person: Peter Pindar. He wanted to present the good Doctor with some Falernian wine in acknowledgement of the pleasure he derived from reading his works while in prison. The Expostulation to Miss Hannah More, which accompanies the above work, carries Wolcot’s record of their meeting.
Me Kosciusko deems a Bard divine;
My Works illumed his dungeon of affright*
‘Twas here the Hero read my Lyric Line;
Yea, read my Lucubrations with delight.
To me the Hero rich Falernian sent,
To sooth the horrors of our gloomy weather:
To him in Leicester-fields with joy I went;
For Bards and Heroes pair like Doves together.*When a prisoner in Russia. [Wolcot’s footnote.]
(Nil Admirari, Works, IV, 281)
The satire also included a prose Postscript in which Wolcot provided model reviews of his own satire for magazines. It represents one of his strongest statements on the work of critics and reviewers:
Instead of coming forwards as the fair and candid interpreters of the Muses, they [the critics] are too many of them the partial trumpeters of their own pigmy pretensions: or despicable pimps, hired to debauch the public taste, and mislead the judgment; to displace the statues of Genius, to make room for those of Arrogance and Folly. (Postscript, Nil Admirari, Works, IV, 297)
In business together for the first time, West and Hughes obviously wanted to capitalise on this new work by promoting it as much as possible. Wolcot’s West Country contacts and his immense popularity induced them to extend their advertising beyond the London newspapers, those traditional outlets that would normally have catered to most new book sales and promotion. They made sensible use of the established networks for distribution in the provincial areas. Indeed, over the two-year period, twenty-four towns were integrated into the firm’s distribution network. The coverage is reasonably extensive, given that sixty-nine provincial towns (and their various newspapers) are listed in the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. 
Advertisements promoting Nil Admirari were printed on 5 and 7 October 1799, at a cost of 5s (GMS 5, l. 237), while simultaneously charges for placing theadvertisements in various newspapers and periodicals were recorded (GMS 5, l. 164). Five London newspapers are listed: the Sun, the Star, the Morning Chronicle, at a combined cost of £1 7s, the ‘Times & Mail’ at 18s, and the Oracle at a lower rate of 9s.  Further advertisements were recorded for towns rather than specific newspapers: Portsmouth, Bristol (twice & postage), Bath (twice & postage), and Canterbury (twice & postage).  Charges were £1 each except for the second despatch to Bath at £1 3s 6d. Thus began a concentrated effort by both West and Hughes to promote Nil Admirari. Indeed, just over a week later, there was a flurry of repeats. On 16 October, advertisements were recorded for the Sun, the Star, the Morning Chronicle, and the Oracle, with additional advertisements for ‘Whitehall’, the Herald, the Volunteer, and John Taylor’s London-based True Briton.  The cost for these was £6 17s.
A month later, accounts for various towns were again recorded with a mention of some specific newspapers and journals. On 25 November 1799, Robert Raikes’s Gloucester Journal (8s) and one in ‘Newcastle’ (9s 8d)  were recorded, while on 27 November, the Hereford Journal & Post, an unknown paper in ‘Edinboro’, and the Chelmsford Chronicle were recipients, with their respective charges: 8s 1d, 8s 8d, and 9s 6d. The following day advertisements were recorded for Worcester (9s 7d), Hull (9s 6d), and Brighton (8s), while on 29 November, Dorchester (10s 6d) and Norwich (11s 1d) were added.  The final run on 30 November included Northampton (10s), Maidstone, probably the Maidstone Journal (9s), Oxford (9s), Bury [St Edmunds], probably the Bury and Norfolk Advertiser (10s), Exeter (10s 8d), and Norwich again—twice (£1 2s). 
During this period, 9 copies were sent to the Stationers’ Hall, 1 to the Stamp Office, and 6 to reviewers unknown.  By late October 1799, Wolcot was working on his next production, Lord Auckland’s Triumph. Although sales of Nil Admirari had no doubt lessened, this did not stop West and Hughes registering advertisements in a ‘Gloucester paper’, no doubt Raikes’s newspaper again (9s), the Aberdeen Journal (9s 6d) and the Sheffield Gazette (9s) on 26 May 1800, and later, in a ‘Doncaster paper’ (9s 6d) and a ‘Winchester paper’ for 15 August and 5 November 1800 respectively. They certainly received encouragement. William Meyler, a bookseller in Bath and agent for the Gazetteer, commented to West: ‘You will give my best Respects to [Wolcot]. I have had volumes of Lampoons on him for his Admirari sent for publication. I have not inserted any, and yet the work sells here with great avidity!’ (16 December 1799; GMS 5, l. 44)
A relatively small number of returns of Nil Admirari are recorded: 34 copies, amounting to £3 6s, with the commission on 1,300 [sic] copies at ‘9/12/ per 100 5%’ equalling £6 5s. Two eager readers are also recorded as ordering copies; each verifying the sale price of 2s: ‘Oct 23—3 [copies] Wilson Stewart Dutton—6s’ and ‘Jan 13 1800—2 copies to order Mr Vizer [or Viger]—4s.’ The account sub-total of £43 7s 10d was added to a brought forward sum of £1 9s 6d for a grand total of £127 6s.
Such was the pattern and strategies that West and Hughes put in place. From the appearance of Lord Auckland’s Triumph or the Death of Crim. Con, published in June 1800 in an edition of 1,000 copies (GMS 5, l. 237),  Out at Last, printed about 14 March 1801 in an edition of 1,000 copies (GMS 5, l. 238), and Odes to Ins & Outs, to A Poetical Epistle to Benjamin Count Rumford, Wolcot’s ‘Knight of the Dishclout’ published in mid-July 1801 in an edition of 1,500 copies (GMS 5, l. 32) and Dr Wolcot’s Tales of the Hoy, in which William Richardson and William Clarke were also involved,  the same newspapers and journals featured, with a marked degree of consistency. The Sun, the Morning Chronicle, the Post, the Star, the Oracle (6s) and the Courier (and others) appear regularly as recipients, with advertising charges recorded as remarkably consistent, hovering around the 5s to 8s 6d per advertisement. Other consistencies include the 9 copies despatched to the Stationers’ Hall, and a copy to the Stamp Office, although charges reveal that there may have been more than 1 copy.
Returns—bugbears to any publisher—were also present. Thirty-five copies of Wolcot’s Lord Auckland copies were returned at a cost of £3 8s, 240 copies of Out at Last, 191 copies of Odes to Ins and Out at a cost of £18 8s, 650 copies of A Poetical Epistle to Benjamin Count Rumford, Wolcot’s satire on the American Benjamin Thompson, Count von Rumford (1753–1814), and 67 copies of Tales of the Hoy—supposedly. Underneath the above figure for the Hoy there is in Wolcot’s hand a note: ‘The above 65 [sic] copies not returned according to Bennett’s account’ and beside the entry, in faded pencil, is the succinct: ‘not returned’.  As will be seen, this would not be the first time Wolcot would question his publisher’s dealings.
Wolcot’s growing dissatisfaction with West and Hughes is further evidenced in two leaves that contain notes by him on what was to be discussed next time they met. Headed ‘Agenda’, he begins: ‘To meet West & his books and desire the different receipts for cash & and [sic] orders for Pamphlets &c. To see some of the newspapers—the Post, Oracle, Times, Chronicle—and search the file. To make Mr West produce proofs of the insertions of advertisements & the names of the Papers (Country) and Publishers.’ (GMS 5, l. 69) In short, Wolcot did not trust publishers. Other notes by him bear this out. In reference to an announcement in a newspaper of ‘the Horrors’ (a work written about July 1800 and not appearing in Wolcot’s Collected Works), he asked ‘What papers’, and in relation to Out at Last, he noted ‘balance of acc’t false by 100 copies.’ He repeated the details of the 65 missing copies of the Tales of the Hoy and recorded overcharges: ‘38 shillings for ream charged for Lord Auckland—I think an overcharge’ and ‘Sundries charged without specification’. And, with reference to William Richardson: ‘Mr West rec’d £15 from Richardson. Unmentioned in his acc’t. Upon questioning him about it he answered he had rec’d nothing from him—the £15—was for £25 Tales of the Hoy. Richardson showed me his books.’ He continued: ‘Advertisements not inserted—the particular paper scarcely mentioned—a Brighton paper charged that never existed.’ He is more specific on West: ‘I think W charges me with more sets of my works, printed by the Robinson’s, than I ever received. Memo: to investigate, also orders of the smaller publications as I never gave a verbal one but a written [sic] by our mutual agreem’t.’ Throughout these agenda notes, Wolcot also itemises money owed or drawn upon, as for example, ‘Drawn by West £29’, ‘My note to Spilsbury accp. but not paid (£50)’, and ‘Promissory note—May 30 1801 in my possession (£30)’. Another account headed ‘Pindar’s Picturesque Views’, giving the sum of £9 12s owed, has Wolcot’s note: ‘N.B. Mr West received from my house July 13 ’99. 6 Picturesque Views delivered by me to his boy. Mr West has forgotten to make me creditor, for those he rec’d from Richardson, also the money from Richardson.’ (GMS 5, l. 88)
Wolcot was dependent on verse-making for a living and his concern over money issues is understandable.  A letter from West and Hughes not only highlights their promotional efforts in selling his works—most certainly at this time A Poetical Epistle to Benjamin Count Rumford—but also their efforts in placating the satirist. Of particular importance is the list of booksellers, their presence reiterating the wide range of provincial and city locales that formed part of the publisher’s distribution network. They represent the real depth in the book trade of the late eighteenth century.
No. 40 Paternoster Row
10 [th] August 1801Sir,On the 20 [th] July we sent your last adv’t accompanied with Copies of the work, through the medium of their own & other Booksellers Parcels (to save yr expence of carriage &c) to the following places—Collins—Salisbury; Goadby—Sherborne; Burbage—Nottingham; Wolmer [sic]—Exeter; Swinney—Birmingham; Wood—Shrewsbury; Flower—Cambridge; Bacon—Norwich; Merrit—Liverpool; Meyler—Bath; Bulgin—Bristol; Raikes—Gloucester. These with once in the Times—Post—Courier—Oracle—Star & Morning Chronicle we conceived was a good beginning, but as you wished it to appear more public in Town we are much vexed that it has from several perplexing circumstances been delay’d, but more particularly so at your taking the trouble upon yourself—as you must no doubt be much offended with us in taking that step. The advertisement has appeared in the Birmingham & Bristol papers & no doubt several others by this time. I have now sent again for the Paper for the Canto. What they sent me was too white. Spilsbury will no doubt have it today. Mr Dwyer has apartments a little beyond Walworth Terrace, but I do not know the name of the Person. I observe your 12 Views are charged 15/– each, 9£ in our invoice. He has promised to call & pay his Bill of 90£ in a few days, and if you think proper to trust us with ye Rect of it the money it shall be sent to you immediately we receive it. We have been in hopes of his calling and that we might have the pleasure of his & your company in a friendly way. We also hope you will not continue to be offended, as no such delays shall occur in future.We remain Sir
Your most obd’t Serv’t
West & Hughes. (GMS 5, ll. 186–87)
A year later, West sent another letter to Wolcot. In this he is apologetic about his services, making references to the dissolving and the ‘difficulties’ of the firm which had occurred the previous year. Indeed, the firm of West and Hughes had been declared bankrupt on 3 October 1801 and both men were now operating separately. Scribbled on a corner is a note by Wolcot, ‘West Nov. 1802 acknowledging error in acc’t, particularly Richardsons.’ The letter is given in full below:
No. 8 Queen’s Row
Newington, Nov. 11 1802.Sir,
I duly received your letter this morning, and beg leave to inform you that nothing has been more distant from my thoughts than that of treating your letters with disrespect, or wishing you to experience an unnecessary loss in addition to the real one which our affairs have created. At the same time if you could have form’d an idea of the necessities & state of mind I have experienced in keeping myself & family together, you would not I am sure altogether condemn my conduct. Indeed former difficulties must in some measure palliate those little irregularities which you have complained of, but which I am willing to rectify to the best of my ability. Our books are in course copies of the accounts delivered, but as I have sent them to Mr Hughes, No. 1 Queens Head Passage as you requested, and am willing to meet or wait upon you. I trust you will not judge so harshly upon explanation. With respect to Richardson’s account, I do not find that you are credited for what he paid, altho’ I remember settling an account with him at the early part of our concerns. I do not recollect the sum, but that and other circumstances shall be clear’d up.With respect to Mr Dwyer’s business, the evil could not be forseen as his acc’t was included in a note at 20 months & was paid before our misfortune so that I could have no view to your suffering on that account. If you judge otherwise, I have no objection to liquidate it as I can spare it if I should succeed.Mrs Colbert has made some large returns of your works—which shall be delivered up to you, as some indemnification from the loss.I am not surprized you should be angry at my apparent neglect, but if you were aware of the struggles I have had, I am convinced you would not wish to add to them. Be that as it may I await your appointments hoping all difficulties will be adjusted in an amicable manner.I am Sir
With due respect,
You very obed’t serv’t,
William West. (GMS 5, ll. 188–89)
Wolcot was by no means blameless. An unsigned undated letter conveys something of the intricacies of eighteenth century record keeping and hints at the Doctor’s reputation.
Dear SirIncl’d last week a Letter from Dr Wolcot informing me that he had given you a Bill on me for ten guineas. I have been so much confined by indisposition, and my mind so much employed that I really neglected to investigate the matter. I have now ascertained the acc’t and find the Dr. erroneous. I had 6 from Walker—6 from the Dr. & two coloured ones. He says 12 but does not mention the two in colours. I have drawn out an exact statement of the Account & enclose you the Balance which I hope Dr Wolcott [sic] will find right. Your submission [sic] is to him and explaining the matter will oblige me for the Doctor is too powerful in and attentive to Numbers to stoop to the drudgery & minutia of Figures, I presume. (GMS 5, l. 51)
Printers also came and went. The already mentioned Thomas Egerton, before joining his brother John as a publisher, printed More Lyrical Odes (1783). John Jarvis (283 Strand) printed the very successful first Canto of The Lousiad (1785) and Lyric Odes for the Year 1785 (1785), while Joseph Cooper printed Peter’s Prophecy (1788), a successful attack on William Pitt, Sir William Chambers and Sir Joseph Banks.  This work contains one of Wolcot’s finest (and last) renderings of the manners and speech of King George III:
What’s new, Sir JOSEPH? what, what’s new found out?
What’s the society, what, what about?
Any more monsters, lizard, monkey, rat,
Egg, weed, mouse, butterfly, pig, what, what, what?
Toad, Spider, grasshopper, Sir JOSEPH BANKS?
Any more thanks, more thanks, more thanks, more thanks?
You still eat raw flesh, beetle, viper, bat,
Toad, tadpole, frog, Sir Joseph, what, what, what?
(Peter’s Prophecy, Works, II, 63)
In 1790, Wolcot was living in the West Country. His versifying continued. For convenience, he employed Thomas Brice, the Exeter based printer and newspaper proprietor, to prepare copy.  Brice printed 1,500 copies of A Complimentary Epistle to James Bruce, costing out the typesetting of one copy at ‘6 sheets, at 15/6’ for a total of £4 13s (possibly the first edition; GMS 5, l. 56). Although priced 19 years later, this is much less than the £1 6s per sheet that Benjamin Collins charged for 1,500 copies of Smollett’s Humphrey Clinker.  The account—dated 17 September 1790—also priced corrections to the copy at 4s. And as expected, paper was the most expensive commodity. Eight and a half bundles of ‘fine demy’ cost £14 17s 6d, at £1 15s per bundle. The cost of ‘folding, collating and stitching’ the said number was 2s per 100, which at 1,500 copies came to £1 10s. However, Brice underestimated the amount of paper required for the job and he was forced to obtain an additional 17 quires, at the cost of 17s 6d. Cartage, from London by water (not an unusual practice) and from Topeham, was included. In addition, advertising in an unknown paper cost 5s 6d.
The following month, on 7 October 1790, Brice completed the printing of a ‘new edition’ of 500 copies of Wolcot’s Instructions to a Celebrated Laureat, the first of which appeared in 1787 (GMS 5, l. 57). The typesetting for this work was £2 7s 6d, involving 4½ sheets at 11s per sheet; 4½ reams of ‘demy paper’ at 13s was used, costing £2 18s 6d, and the seemingly constant 2s per 100 for folding, collating, etc. The total sum on the invoice was £5 18s 6d.
A draft payment of 5 guineas was made by Wolcot on this title in 1791. The remaining balance was added to another printing job, completed by Brice some time after 1 January 1791. This was another reprint, a reissue of Lyric Odes to the Royal Academicians in 1,000 copies, which first appeared in 1782.  Once again the account is broken down to the cost of setting copy: ‘6½ sheets at 12s per sheet’; folding only at 10s; ‘8 bundles of demy paper at 35s per bundle’ (£14); ‘To Land Carriage of Paper’ at £1 12s; and package at 3s. The total was £21 14s 10d. Because of Brice’s own efforts to upgrade his stock, a letter of 4 January 1791 accompanying the account was sent to Wolcot, who was by now back in London. Directed care of Kearsley in Fleet Street, it read:
Your books were sent by waggon for Spilsbury on Saturday last—and I take the liberty to send the bill on the other side. I have ordered new letter for my news-paper [Old Exeter Journal] of Mr Jackson, letter-founder, Salisbury Court, and it is necessary for me to discharge a demand he has already on me. To do this I have ventured to draw on you for Ten Pounds at Twenty Days, and you will greatly add to your former favours by accepting this draft. I wish you care and health amidst the fogs of London, and am respectfully,
Yours at Command
Thomas Brice (GMS 5, l. 58)
Thomas Spilsbury & Sons
The ‘Spilsbury’ mentioned in the above letter was Thomas Spilsbury, a printer who operated at Snowhill, London. Between 1790 and 1808, the Spilsbury family—including Charles and William—were employed in printing Wolcot’s verse and promotional material. According to John Nichols, himself a printer, an author (Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century), and a publisher of the Gentleman’s Magazine, Thomas Spilsbury was a man of the strictest integrity. He was said to be the first in London, if not England, to print French accurately.  He printed the works of the Revd William Herbert (1778–1847?), the translator of Danish and Icelandic sagas and poetry, and printed Lloyd’s Evening Post from 1791 to 1796. Spilsbury traded alone from 1781 to 1795, and then later with his son William as ‘Spilsbury and Son’. Wolcot himself states the beginning of their business relationship: ‘Spilsb: & I came together March 11 1790’ (GMS 5, l. 87). When Spilsbury Senior died in December 1795, his sons Charles and William carried on a joint business between 1796 and 1803. After 1803, they dissolved the partnership: William operating solely up to 1808 and Charles operating solely up to 1810.
Although there is only one document at Auckland that relates specifically to Thomas Spilsbury, it is important because it contains details on his activity as a printer of advertisements for 16 works written by Wolcot between 1790 and 1794 (GMS 5, l. 223). The number of advertisements printed not only indicates the extent the publisher was prepared to promote each title, with telling hints on the realities of the marketplace, but also reveals the day-to-day work and production costs of an eighteenth century English printer.
In 1790, Thomas Spilsbury’s ‘Wolcotian’ efforts were but small beer. On 10 April, 96 ‘8vo page foolscap’ advertisements for A Rowland for an Oliver (1790) were registered (GMS 5, l. 223): the cost of printing them was 3s. Two months later, on 30 June, 40 ‘8vo page’ advertisements were invoiced for Wolcot’s Advice to the Future Laureat (1790), his instructions to Thomas Warton’s unknown successor: these cost 2s.  In 1791, the production rate increased. Five new Wolcot titles were promoted: the third Canto of The Lousiad, the Rights of Kings, Odes to Mr Paine, the Remonstrance, and A Commiseration Epistle to James Lowther (GMS 5, l. 223). The largest number of 60 advertisements was registered to Odes to Mr Paine, while the lowest of 24 was recorded for Epistle to James Lowther and the Remonstrance. A supplementary sheet covering 1791 through to 1795 records the days on which the advertisements were printed, their associated costs, but no actual numbers issued (GMS 5, l. 226). For example, advertisements were printed for Odes to Mr Paine on 8, 13, 15 and 18 July 1791, and cost £1. Two batches for the Remonstrance, Wolcot’s defence against the charge that he joined the King’s party because of his attack on Thomas Paine, were printed on 23 and 26 September 1791: these cost 12s. Liberty’s Last Squeak and The Royal Visit to Exeter, both written in 1795, had advertisements printed on 4 and 7 December respectively. The total cost for 16 titles was £8 6s 6d.
As Wolcot continued to write his odes and elegies, his publisher continued to job them out to Spilsbury. And here the pattern was the same, from More Money (1792) through to the advertisements and proposals for Pindar’s Works and Pindariana, or Peter’s Portfolio (1794–). All the advertisements were printed on octavo or half-sheet pages in much the same quantity and cost, approx-imating to 1d per page.
Although Thomas Spilsbury printed many of Wolcot’s works, there was only one title that registered his actual involvement: the above-mentioned Pindariana. Perhaps Spilsbury’s more tangible involvement was a catalyst to greater promotion. On 23 August 1794, ‘1000’ proposals were printed at a cost of 13s, which included the cost of alterations to the text. Noticeably, these octavo pages were printed on ‘fine wove paper’.
Spilsbury also printed a backlist of available titles by Wolcot. On 4 June 1791, 200 ‘8vo page, on half-sheet foolscap’ were invoiced at a cost of 7s. Four months later, on 25 September, Spilsbury printed another 154, including 30 that were ‘recomposed’ in ‘brevier’ for the newspapers. The latter process was relatively expensive and cost 3s. The other 124 advertisements cost 6s total. Given Wolcot’s popularity with the reading public, a further 4,000 ‘Copies of a List of P. Pindar’s Works’ were printed (and invoiced) on 27 October 1792 for 16s. Seemingly, this was an insufficient number because twenty days later, on 17 November, another 75 were produced on octavo foolscap, costing 3s.
The stitching of printed gatherings—especially smaller verse publications—was an integral part of book production. An account detailing the cost of stitching 27 titles from March 1790 to 10 August 1793 reveals costs of this important process and offers valuable evidence on issue numbers and anticipated demand.  Thirteen titles were reprints or later editions, ranging from Wolcot’s An Epistle to the Reviewers, Ode upon Ode, and A Poetical Epistle to a Falling Minister to Peter’s Pension, the Remonstrance, and A Complimentary Epistle to James Bruce. The numbers of copies of these 6 titles stitched give a good indication of commitment by the publisher: 286, 750, 409, 500, 1,750, and 750 respectively. They are priced accordingly: 1s 6d, 3s, 2s 6d, 3s, 2s 6d, and 2s 6d. Indeed, John Nichols criticised the relatively high cost of Wolcot’s productions. ‘They were […] very dear to the purchaser, being printed in thin quarto pamphlets at 2s 6d each, and containing only a very small portion of letter-press.’  The 14 other titles were more recent publications; for example: on 30 June 1790, 950 copies of the first edition of Advice to the Future Laureat were stitched at a cost of 1s 6d per hundred, while on 19 March 1791, 1,500 copies of the first edition of Canto Three of The Lousiad were stitched at 2s 6d per hundred. Two days later, 1,500 copies of the first edition of the Rights of Kings were stitched at 3s per hundred, while on 25 August 1793, 1,150 copies of another printing of A Pair of Lyric Epistles to Lord Macartney were stitched at 1s 6d per hundred. A month later, on 29 September, 2,000 copies of another edition (perhaps a third) of Odes to Kien Long were stitched at 3s per hundred.  The tempo had increased with these titles. For example, from March to 16 November 1791, 9,250 copies of 7 titles were stitched. Given that they were stitched just after printing, the numbers indicate a fair demand for Wolcot’s works. The bill for the entire number stitched amounted to £31 1s 5½d.
The normal period of credit was two months.  Wolcot disregarded this convention totally; his payments for printing were infrequent and were never in full. A ‘Memoranda’ note reveals the complexities of Wolcot’s finances and a decided lack of any systematic records. It is as follows:
On June 29 1790 Mr Sp[ilsbury] received a draft of 23 from Kearsley on my acct. Mr Sp. in his account makes it in the year 1791 without specifying the month. It is probable that I should [sic] have made no payment between June 1790 and January 17 [th] 1793? But grant that Mr Sp. is right & that it was 1791, that I made him a payment, there [sic] will be two years. But there was money received by Mr Sp. from Evans by Mr Spilsbury’s own man. Dawson [?] [illegible word] 21 taken from Evan’s book. (GMS 5, l. 87)
Wolcot’s infrequent payments to Spilsbury are further documented on a small piece of paper headed ‘Paid Spilsbury’ (GMS 5, l. 92). Wolcot’s calculations are as follows: ‘1792 July 31 draft on Symonds £30; December 17 £20; 1793 May 26 £20; June 24 £20; April 1792 £21; June 1790 from Kearsley’s acc’t £23.’ In his hand, there is a further note: ‘Jan 17 1793 gave Mr Sp. a £20 note on Beddingsed [?] […] see my long green book.’ Crossed out and still readable is the note, ‘I certainly paid Sp. for ever [?] before July 31 1792. What were terms?’
Charles & William Spilsbury
As already mentioned, William and Charles Spilsbury joined forces after their father’s death, and statements of account, spanning May 1797 to December 1802, reveal their involvement with Wolcot and detail the job-to-job activities in their printing house. The information includes numbers printed, composition, format details, and costs, and confirm many of the details registered in the other accounts. one details costs of Wolcot’s Picturesque Views with Poetical Allusions, one of his few non-satiric works, and as such, it is worth quoting in full.
|To W & C Spilsbury 1797 May 28|
|To printing Descriptive Verses to Six Picturesque Views,|
|elegantly, with superfine ink, Super-Royal Folio, 1000 Copies—|
|3 Sheets (2 pages on each sheet) @ 36/–||
|Title to ditto (twice composed) 500 copies||
|To 1000 Wrappers to ditto||
|Hot-pressing the work, 7 R[ea]ms||
|Ditto Wrappers, 2 R[ea]ms||
|2 Rms of Double Crown Blue Paper||1||16||0|
|1 Bundle of Tissue Paper||0||16||0|
|To balance on former Bill||
|To an Advertisement of Picturesque Views in Lloyd’s Evening Post, July 15, 96, May 8, 17, & 26, 97 @ 5/–||
(GMS 5, l. 234)
Another ledger details charges for the printing of six titles (GMS 5, l. 238–39), of which four are given here. There is a marked consistency in the price structure, with small variation because of the different numbers of sheets used and thus charged for. Nil Admirari, one of the few Wolcot titles that the Spilsburys assigned their name to, was printed in a ‘demy 4to’ edition of 1,000 utilising 8½ sheets at 19s per sheet: these cost £8 1s 6d. There were the alterations and the ‘doing in slips’ which came to £2 12s 6d. Stitching at the relatively higher price of 3s 6d per hundred was recorded as well as 17 reams of paper at 25s each. This last —the most expensive commodity faced by printers—amounted to £21 5s. The total cost (excluding advertising) for producing this work of 68 pages was £33 13s 6d.
The printing of Wolcot’s Tears and Smiles, a miscellaneous collection of poems-, including ‘Elegies for Julia’ and ‘Orson and Ellen’, occurred at the end of May 1800, even though the imprint—under publishers West and Hughes—is dated 1801. Once again, 1,000 copies were printed utilising 11 sheets at £2 each. An additional note highlights some consideration for workmanship and the need for footnotes: ‘To printing elegantly in Foolscap 8vo Tears & Smiles long primer with Brevier Notes.’ The alterations for this 167-paged work cost £1 2s, the total £23 2s. Interestingly, this work formed the benchmark for another title, planned and quoted for on 21 May 1806. George Hayden, of 4 Bridges Street, Covent Garden, supplied the first quote for ‘composing and printing a work in the manner of “Tears and Smiles” same size page and type, per sheet.’ His figures were: ‘500 copies at £1 11s 6d, 1000 copies at £2 2s, 1500 copies at £2 14s, and 2000 copies at £3 6s (GMS 5, l. 27). As expected, the more one wanted printed, the less proportionately was the final unit cost. An adjustment, however, was made when Wolcot supplied a ‘sheet of 4to’ that was presumably more in line with his liking—and purse. Hayden’s second quote (on the same sheet) was a little cheaper: ‘500 copies at £1 3s, 1000 copies at £1 10s, 1500 copies at £1 18s, and 2000 copies at £2 6s. This work may have been Wolcot’s Tristia, published in 1806 and in which from the ledger accounts extant, Hayden had some dealings: ‘To bill delivered for printing, boarding, and advertising Tristia, to 7 Oct. 1806—£38 11s.’ (20 August 1807; GMS 5, l. 6)
The third title was Out at Last, a work that offers real indication on the popularity of Wolcot’s verse. The first edition was printed in 1000 copies about 14 March 1801. Two months later, two further separate editions were printed, each at 1500 copies. And again it was produced in a ‘demy quarto’ with a noticeable increase of 4s per sheet (4½ sheets at £1 3s per sheet). Alterations and ‘doing in slips’ cost £1 18s 6d, while stitching was charged out at 2s 6d per hundred. Nine reams of paper were charged for at the higher price of 30s per ream. On the 12 March 1801, 48 advertisements were printed on ‘8vo Foolscap’ for 5s, while 12 days later, another 48 were produced, but because ‘in half sheets’ they were charged out at a shilling extra (total 6s). The cost of this edition was £21 17s. Again, paper proved to be the most expensive commodity.
The last title, Odes to Ins and Outs, was squeezed in between this hectic activity of reprinting. In this case, 1,500 copies were printed. Perhaps this increase was the result of the flurry of producing Out at Last; perhaps because Odes to Ins and Outs was seen as a companion piece to the former. At more than double the sheets and well over 21 reams used, and the increased number of issues stitched, its cost was a rather large £48 13s 6d. Such was the publisher’s commitment to Wolcot.
Wolcot’s The Horrors of Bribery was printed on 18 December 1802. While this was not the last title the Spilsbury brothers printed together, fractures were developing. By 1803, they had split and were operating independently. The reviews for The Horrors of Bribery and another, Island of Innocence, were bad: ‘Peter is generally speaking a merry fellow and often a witty one, but we cannot say we have once smiled during this perusal […] we are afraid you have almost exhausted your budget.’  A lagging interest in Wolcot’s works would not have helped sales. Nor would a slowness in paying money owed. Indeed, the total balance registered on the last account sheet was £244 12s 6d, a rather large amount that needed paying. Although written in the early part of 1796, the letter below reflects the cash-flow situation (presumably not an uncommon occurrence) that the brothers faced, especially with their involvement over the years with the slow-paying Doctor. The pirated copies mentioned would not have assisted sales either.
It is with regret we trouble you in your retirement from this scene of bustle and perplexity with any thing that may put you in mind of it sooner than you would wish. But, having before stated to you the necessity we should be under of applying to you soon for money, and as you expressed your readiness to help us out, we have made out, and now enclose your account to this day, the balance of which (as stated) appears to be £106 13s—and, as we have some very heavy payments to make in a few days, we hope you will be so good as to favour us with a draught for the amount of it, or, if it should not be quite convenient to settle the whole directly, for so much of it as you can. Be assured Sir, that as soon as we hear anything respecting Mr E’s [Evans’s?] concerns, we will acquaint you. In respect to the spurious Editions of your Works, we do not pretend to advise you, as you no doubt have better counsellors at hand; but we think it a duty to remark to you, that they are daily advertised in a most barefaced manner; that your property seems to be suffering an irretrievable loss; and that if some step is not immediately taken, your own sale will be entirely stopped. We hope your health is good; and remain,
Yr obliged & obed. Humb. Serv’t
W & C Spilsbury.
P.S. Mrs S. & the rest of the Family write in respectful compliments. (GMS 5, l. 227)
Although their partnership was dissolved in 1803, both brothers figured later in printing for Wolcot. In June 1805 William Spilsbury details work done on two titles for Wolcot (GMS 5, l. 249). He charged £1 18s for the ‘Composition for Odes of Horror in Great Primer Quarto, with Alterations’, 12s 6d for the ‘pulling in slips’, and 14s for corrections ‘composed on half sheet in Pica’. There is no mention of the cost of paper. Two items, however, are of interest, because they are not present in any of the other accounts. Spilsbury itemises a separate ‘title & preface’ page charge of 10s 6d, and a charge for ‘Sunday work’, incorporated into the amount of 12s 6d for slips. Comparisons with charges made by other printers may reveal interesting statistics, especially concerning ‘weekend’ work. The total for this title was £3 15s.
Spilbury’s printing of The Saints, in ‘Long Primer and Brevier Foolscap Octavo 1000. No. 5 sheets @ 2. 0. 0.’, cost £10. He lists an additional charge of £1 12s 6d for ‘Various corrections, pulling in slips and matter erased’, while ‘sections H and I with alterations’ cost a rather high £3 4s. The total for this work was £16 12s 6d. While both titles amounted to £20 7s 6d, William Spilsbury made an adjustment: ‘As sheets H and I though composed were not worked off, the amount must be reduced from the sum total.’ The final total for these publications—works that do not appear to be by Wolcot—was £17 3s 6d.
In June 1808, Charles Spilsbury printed ‘Odes to Academicians’, either a reprint of either Lyric Odes (first printed in 1782) or More Lyric Odes, first printed in 1783 (GMS 5, l. 250). This work consisted of 5½ sheets at 25s each (£6 17s 6d) and 8¼ reams ‘Demy’ at 38s per ream. There is no indication of how many copies were printed, yet paper, as expected, was the most expensive item: £15 13s 6d. Corrections and ‘pulling Proofs on Slips’ amounted to £1 8s while printing a cancel leaf (of possible interest to textual bibliographers) cost 7s. Twenty advertisements printed on slips cost 2s 6d. Below the total of £23 0s 6d, there is a note signed by Spilsbury: ‘Mem. Added by Bill @ 6 months. Due Feb 15th 1809.’ Such were the realities of dealing with the slow paying Doctor.
DISTRIBUTION: SWEETLAND & BRICE
Margaret Sweetland took over her late husband’s book selling business in September 1787, where she also traded in patent medicines and bound ‘books neatly done’.  Although the documentation is sparse, Sweetland seemed to play a pivotal role in disseminating Wolcot’s works from her shop in Exeter, passing the books to her Exeter colleagues such as Robert Trewman, bookseller, printer, and proprietor of the Exeter Flying Post; Shirley Woolmer, one of the first to organise a circulating library in Exeter; and John (Glanville) Manning or John Manning, both booksellers in High Street, as well as Gilbert Dyer, the ‘distinguished veteran of the book trade’ and owner of a circulating library, and James Manning. 
Between 11 September and 12 November 1790, 24 titles by Wolcot were recorded for Sweetland (GMS 5, ll. 54–55). In almost all instances, 20 copies of each title were despatched, ranging from Wolcot’s earliest work, A Modest and Affecting Epistles to the Reviewers (perhaps the 1789 reprint) to his Epistle to John Nichols (1790). They were registered on 26 October 1790 at a total cost of £93 3s 4d. The exceptions were 75 copies of A Complimentary Epistle to James Bruce (1790) and 450 copies of Whitbread Brewhouse, Wolcot’s celebrated account of the King’s visit to Samuel Whitbread’s brewery, found in Instructions to a Celebrated Laureat. These cost £7 10s and £45 respectively. The fact that these 2 titles were printed locally by Thomas Brice may have explained the relatively high number ordered. It certainly indicates a keen level of local support by Sweetland.
Revealing a buoyant optimism for items ‘hot off the press’, an increased number were ordered and sent.  On 21 October 1790, Kearlsey despatched ‘20 complete sets’, incorporating Wolcot’s A Modest and Affecting Epistle to the Reviewers and Rowland for an Oliver, and 20 engraved portraits of Wolcot. Five months later on 31 March 1791, 50 copies of Canto Three of The Lousiad were sent, followed two months later, with 30 copies of the Rights of Kings. On 31 October 1791, 50 copies of the Remonstrance were sent, and then on 7 December, 50 copies of A Commiserating Epistle to James Lowther and a further 20 copies of Canto Three were despatched. Finally, on 23 February 1792, 50 copies of More Money (1792) were sent. As an established bookseller, Sweetland would have done her best to sell them. Indeed, a note headed ‘Dr Woollcott [sic] to Marg Sweetland’ overlaps this period (GMS 5, l. 56). It records brief details of Sweetland’s distributional transactions with her book-selling colleagues in Exeter. On 11 September 1790, she despatched a dozen copies of Epistle to Bruce to Trewman, 6 to Woolmer, 4 to Manning and 2 to Dyer. Copies were charged out at 2s each. On 18 October, 2 more copies of Epistle to Bruce and Whitbread Brewhouse were ordered (at 2s each), while 8 days later, 1 copy only of the Epistle was sent to Woolmer along with 6 ‘sets’ of Wolcot’s works. These last were registered at £2 15s 6d each, a total of £12 14s. They were part of the consignment that had arrived directly from Kearsley in London; the charge for the parcel was 8s 2d.
On 25 September 1791, Sweetland wrote to Wolcot about binding services provided by Woolmer. Among the plea for more works, one wonders what the books were that Wolcot himself requested.
I delay’d to answer your last to this time, in hope to remit the whole balance. Woolmer hath not cared to pay me more than 2£ for that says he you [sic] owe him for binding your Works, notwithstanding I hope soon to induce him to. Inclosed to Cr. Of Acct. is a five Guinea Bill to Bearer on Demand. On the other side is the list of all your works in Exon. I cannot find those you request. Be pleased to send me of your new Work without delay and of all others which you may publish.
I am Sir,
Your most obedient
Margaret Sweetland. (GMS 5, l. 45)
Another longer account headed ‘John Wolcot Esqr. Dr. to the late Mrs Marg’t Sweetland’ covers the period 18 October 1790 to 28 June 1793 (GMS 5, l. 48).  Aside from a draft of £20 on Balthius[?] entered on 24 June 1793 and ‘Returns made to Goulding of all that remained in hand’ amounting to £36 18s 7d, the charges recorded are divided into two main areas: carriage and portage fees and the cost of actual titles. And carriage costs certainly mounted up. Sixteen instances are given, some matching deliveries registered in the other accounts. The highest charge of 8s 2d for the delivery of Wolcot’s works from Kearsley is again registered while 1s for 4 letters delivered to unknown destinations is recorded as the least.
The entry for the 300 copies of Whitbread Brewhouse stands out. The order of 29 January 1791, which supplemented the earlier one of October 1790, cost 6s to post to Spilsbury in London. It obviously caused problems later. Wolcot, in an effort to control the complex transactions surrounding his works, has scrawled at the bottom of the account, ‘N.B. I should think that the 300 Whitbread above ought to be included in the returns mentioned below, to Goulding.’ (GMS 5, l. 48) Obviously every penny counted. Wolcot also questioned the bill of £106 8s 8d. Underneath the above note, he wrote: ‘The note of £5 to Walker should not be charged to me.’
The charges for individual titles despatched also vary. A buyer called Lucraft received 7 titles at 2s each. They included the third Canto of The Lousiad (on 7 March 1791), the Rights of Kings (on 7 June), the Remonstrance (on 20 October), More Money (on 27 February 1792), The Tears of St Margaret (on 28 June), Canto Four of The Lousiad (on 1 December), and A Poetical, Serious and Possibly Impertinent Epistle to the Pope (on 24 June 1793). The others he received included Odes to Mr Paine at 9d on 6 December, Odes of Importance at 2s 6d on 19 May, A Pair of Lyric Epistles to Lord Macartney at 1s 3d on 4 September, and Odes to Kien Long at 2s 6d on 16 October. Over the same two-year period, a similar number of titles were despatched to a Mrs White, while 3 (Rights of Kings, Odes to Mr Paine and Remonstrance) were sent to Mr Polwhele, presumably Wolcot’s friend, the Revd Richard Polwhele (1760–1838), the Cornish historian and poet, for 5s 3d. 
A further glimpse of the distribution of Wolcot’s works out West is highlighted in a scrappy notebook ‘Mr Brice’s Book’ (GMS 5, ll. 52–53). On 9 September 1790 the Exeter-based printer and bookseller Thomas Brice despatched 200 copies of A Complimentary Epistle to James Bruce by coach to George Kearsley in London. The following two days another 600 copies were sent. There was also local distribution. On the 11 September, 50 copies were sent to Benjamin Haydon, a printer and bookseller in Plymouth, 12 to Sweetland, 12 to Trewman, via Mrs Sweetland, an unknown number to Woolmer at Fore Street, Dyer, and James Manning.  On the 13 September, 5 more copies were sent to Mrs Sweetland and 52 to Edward Hoxland, another bookseller and printer in Exeter. On the 14 September, 12 copies went to James Penny, another Exeter-based bookseller and binder, while on 16 September, 24 more were despatched to Sweetland and a further 448 to Kearsley.  Wolcot was given or sold 12 copies and Brice sold 3. Thus in matter of 8 days, 1,430 copies of a run of 1,500 were distributed, and, as expected, most were destined to London for sale.
* * * * *
Although Wolcot’s reputation suffered much in his last years, there were those such as John Taylor, who remained a true and loyal friend. Acknowledging his stormy relationships with the reading public, Wolcot still expressed some fondness towards them. It would be appropriate to completed this study of Wolcot by allowing him the last word in full. In an apparently unpublished account, intended as a preface and written some time after 1800, Wolcot addresses the ‘Public’ much like an old friend. Beginning with warm salutations, it closes on a note of separation and departure. It is worth giving in full.
My Old Friend,
Many a year have I written for thee and my own amusement, as well as emolument, and I really have vanity enough to fancy that I have not been unpleasant to thee. The numerous editions through which my celebrations[?] have passed in more than ones language form a neat little pedestal for my statue to exhibit itself, and which to the disgrace of your likes[?] where be it said my envious enemies, the proprietors of the Reviews & their journeymen have been most unsuccessfully endeavouring to pull down. Thou sawest their cruel dilapidating spirit and did’st with thy friendly hand did’st sustain it to their unspeakable mortification as well as disappointment, for which I here make thee my best bow. The Reviewers thou knowest, or oughtest to know and all authors & authorlings hired at an easy expence [sic] to puff off the wares of their employers and decry shit of others like those fellows thou frequently observest in this great City, called Barkers, inviting and rollicking the passing crowd to enter a dirty auctioneer’s shop to be taken in by the purchase of most excellent & cheap articles, not worth one farthing. Indeed I have been treated in a most barbarous manner and great, let me own has been my danger. With propriety I may quote an old Ballad and apply it to myself: For Death he was so near / He took away one ear / But yet thank God I’m here.
In my ramble I have called at the lodgings of some of those mine enemies, with whose characters thou will be somewhat acquainted. Although I have christened this my youngest child a sentimental brat, thou must not find much on its wisdom. Should it fall into the hands of a Frenchman he may possibly exclaim: Ah! Mon Dieu, que ce Monsieur Pindare est plein de genie, de fel, d’agremens et meme d’urbanite. How antipodically opposite to the language of my countryman, coarse inquisitors, the Reviewers. Let me not ostentatiously assert that I have never been irritated by those wasps. Not long ago in a splenetic humour I caught up the Pen, and began an imitation of Juvenal’s first satire in the following manner:Heavens! Shall the patient Muse restrain her rage,
While vice and folly stain th’ abandon’d age.
Condemn’d to silence say must I peruse
The stuff that issues from our vile Reviews,
The nonsense of each literary shrimp
Two booksellers, three parsons & a pimp.
The canting hypocrites of Paul’s churchyard
All busy lab’ring for God’s Glory hand
One eye with tears to heav’n uplifted floating,
The other down upon their Mammon glowing
One hand imploring Grace with the hearts sob
The other proding a blind Nation’s Job.
Quick let my vengeance on their heads be hurl’d
Quick on th’ impostors be my vengeance hurl’d,
And let me whip the rascals through the world.Such was the poetical foam of my fury but on reflection I threw the verses aside consoling my wounded vanity with an old reflection: a fly may sting a horse, yet a fly is still a fly, and a horse, a horse. And now my Friend I take my leave and let me thy sweet smile receive. I care not for the scowl of dull Reviewers, such stuff as forms for their flimsy mind. In every ragshop I can find, nay find it floating in a common sewer. (GMS 5, ll. 7–10)
The Human Face whilst others humbly paint
Northcotes bold art attempts the form divine;
So with each Grace celestial blooms the Saint,
and like her Beauties shows th’immortal Line
—Verse on Mr Northcotes Picture of a St Catherine at the Exhibition of the Royal Academy.
(AND/2/120 and AND/2/121, Royal Academy of Arts Archive, London)
This article is copyright © 2004 Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, and is the result of the independent labour of the scholar or scholars credited with authorship. The material contained in this document may be freely distributed, as long as the origin of information used has been properly credited in the appropriate manner (e.g. through bibliographic citation, etc.).
D. KERR. ‘ “Satire is Bad Trade”: Dr John Wolcot and his Publishers and Printers in Eighteenth-Century England’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 12 (Summer 2004). Online: Internet (date accessed): <http://www.cf.ac.uk/encap/corvey/articles/cc12_n02.html>.
Donald Kerr is currently the Special Collections Librarian at the University of Otago, Dunedin. In 1992, he completed an MA on Frank Wild Reed (1874-1953) as a collector of works of Alexandre Dumas père, and in 2002 completed a PhD thesis on Governor Sir George Grey (1812–98) as a book collector. Other publications in the field of the history of libraries and book collecting include work on Henry Shaw (1850–1928), another Auckland book collector, and the Auckland City Library’s holdings of Malagasy manuscripts and books. He is currently working on a history of duelling in New Zealand.
Last modified 10 August, 2004 .