The Letters of John Murray to Lord Byron by Andrew Nicholson - review by Peter Washington

Peter Washington

The Publisher & The Poet

The Letters of John Murray to Lord Byron


Liverpool University Press 204pp £18.15 order from our bookshop

As writers know to their cost, most are at the mercy of publishers. When sales dip, contracts vanish. This makes them anxious to please. Occasionally roles are reversed and a writer is so successful that his publisher becomes his creature. More rarely still it happens that writer and publisher are evenly matched. They may not be alike in outlook – this book suggests that they never can be – but they do have complementary talents and purposes. Byron and Murray were the very pattern of such a relationship: two powerful men with an eye for the main chance, each ambitious and successful in his own right, and each ready to fight his corner against the other while knowing when to give way in their common interest. The loving battle between these equal monsters is vividly detailed in this book of letters from Murray to Byron which constitutes a sort of joint biography, despite the fact that few of Byron’s own letters appear.

At first sight, it looks odd to publish only one side of a correspondence, especially when the other side is extant and well known, but the wisdom of the approach soon becomes clear in Andrew Nicholson’s exemplary edition, not least because it allows Murray to emerge from Byron’s

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