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CHAPTER V - MY FIRST SUCCESS - 1849-1855
I had at once gone to work on a third novel, and had nearly completed it, when I was informed of the absolute failure of the former. I find, however, that the agreement for its publication was not made till 1850, by which time I imagine that Mr. Colburn must have forgotten the disastrous result of The O'Kellys, as he thereby agrees to give me œ20 down for my "new historical novel, to be called La Vendee." He agreed also to pay me œ30 more when he had sold 350 copies, and œ50 more should he sell 450 within six months. I got my œ20, and then heard no more of œa Vendee, not even receiving any account. Perhaps the historical title had appeared more alluring to him than an Irish subject; though it was not long afterwards that I received a warning from the very same house of business against historical novels,--as I will tell at length when the proper time comes.
I have no doubt that the result of the sale of this story was no better than that of the two that had gone before. I asked no questions, however, and to this day have received no information. The story is certainly inferior to those which had gone before;--chiefly because I knew accurately the life of the people in Ireland, and knew, in truth, nothing of life in the La Vendee country, and also because the facts of the present time came more within the limits of my powers of story-telling than those of past years. But I read the book the other day, and am not ashamed of it. The conception as to the feeling of the people is, I think, true; the characters are distinct, and the tale is not dull. As far as I can remember, this morsel of criticism is the only one that was ever written on the book.
I had, however, received œ20. Alas! alas! years were to roll by before I should earn by my pen another shilling. And, indeed, I was well aware that I had not earned that; but that the money had been "talked out of" the worthy publisher by the earnestness of my brother, who made the bargain for me. I have known very much of publishers and have been surprised by much in their mode of business,--by the apparent lavishness and by the apparent hardness to authors in the same men,--but by nothing so much as by the ease with which they can occasionally be persuaded to throw away small sums of money. If you will only make the payment future instead of present, you may generally twist a few pounds in your own or your client's favour. "You might as well promise her œ20. This day six months will do very well." The publisher, though he knows that the money will never come back to him, thinks it worth his while to rid himself of your importunity at so cheap a price.
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