Next year you'll be able to read all about 1893 in the first volume of 'An Unco Adventure'. For now, here's a taster of some of the December 1893 activity from letters in the archive:
December 1st 1893
Dear Mr Unwin,
I am sending you the second part of the Raiders – making rather more than half of the whole – I have been very careful, though I fear the intricacy of some pages will [cause] evil language among the Comps. Still, it is all there as I want it. The second part will not be so difficult. It is much brisker in action.
Is there any chance by the way of getting the first thirteen volumes of St Nicholas (Vols 1 – X111) for a Xmas present to Sweetheart. I would also like a copy of Miss Symond’s Doge’s Farm. I met her not long ago at Davos soon after her father went there, and went tobogganing with her – though it might have been her sister.
The same day...
Dear Mr Unwin,
This is no canny! Do you know that in the good old time a little preceeding The Raiders I could have got you certainly hanged and probably burned for wizardry. How did you know that I wanted a copy of Miss Symond’s book. It is a fact that only two hours ago I wrote and had posted a note to you ordering a copy. It beats Stead’s telepathy. If the letter gets to you before this (which it may) you will think me a very ungrateful fellow. But it came with a great surprise, especially as I had been telling you that I remembered the author long ago, though among the fleeting myriads that flowed through Davos I cannot hope that she will remember me, but it will make a point in a Borrowish half adventure half fiction book which in the intervals of my leisure I am writing – on half a dozen years knapsacking through Europe – don’t trouble, it will not be ready for long.
As a book this was never to see the light of day, though some of the stories were plundered for Bog Myrtle and Peat a couple of years later. But Sam would take any opportunity to show Unwin that he was working on interesting, new projects. Those youthful travels seemed far away from his desk in Penicuik, but being blessed with a good memory, he could travel in his mind and with his pen at least. Despite the restrictions of parenthood, he sincerely hoped it would not be long before he could travel again. It might be his ‘Scotch’ stories that were drawing interest at present, but he felt it important that he remind everyone this was but one string to his bow. In short, he had itchy feet.
But I am indeed very grateful for your charming gift – it is delightful to be so remembered. I shall look at it with a great deal of delight for I know the place well, have tramped all these dusty Lombard roads till I could find my way by feeling in the dark. I have been reading the Memoirs of your old friend the Breitmann. They are intensely amusing. What an old Trojan to talk about itself it i! It beats Bannachet, as we say.
With kind regards ever truly
On December 4th he wrote to his cousin asking for a book and updating him on his writing work.
I am passing one of my new books through the press and [ ] another. It would be a great favour if you could lend me the copy of The Castle Douglas Miscellany which I know your father bought at Joseph Trains sale. I have advertised in every literary paper in the country for a copy for six weeks in the Publishers Circular. I should take the greatest care of any vols. We thought there was a vol about Cotton Street but Uncle Willie cannot trace it. I remember your father speaking about it some years ago.
I don’t suppose you are needing it much. There are many of Trains articles in it would be a rich treasure trove for me. I got a set of the Scots Magazine 1728-18 at Stallies Sale and a copy of Trains [ ] of the Isle of Man.
My arrangements at present are as follows.
The Raiders to be issued March 1st. The Playactress (Great Preacher) May Lilac Sunbonnet where metamorphosis Oct Sweetheart Travellers about then. I have many articles accepted in periodicals and altogether I have a great deal of work written and in typewriting the flow of publishing tide.
Only (the fly in the ointment) I am sorry to say Mrs Crockett has been very poorly indeed and her condition gives us great anxiety.
Remember us to Jim and all good greetings to him and all friends at L’pool.
The March 1st deadline was creeping ever closer, and Unwin kept wanting changes. He sent Sam more notes to pore over and after he had written to his cousin, he undertook the slightly less pleasant task of responding to Unwin.
Dear Mr Unwin
Your letters are to hand. I think the criticism of your critic is very true and helpful, and in going over the Playactress I shall benefit by it. I must pull it together as far as I can, and I have no manner of doubt that I can considerably improve it. I shall do my best. Be good enough to convey my thanks to your critic for his kindness, and for his patience and courtesy.
On the matter of the PlayActress he acted conciliatory. It was best to do that. And the suggestion of a Raiders map excited him. If only he had time to put pen to paper in a creative way. He wrote:
I shall try my hand at the Raiders map some of these days and see how it comes out. It is, with a great deal of other rubbish, safe in my head.
I am delighted with the Doge’s Farm. It pleases me more than anything I have read for a long time and bring back old days most vividly. I read it yesterday and was much improved and pleasured thereby.
He had enjoyed the book by Mrs Symonds which he had sat down and read in one sitting. He hoped that in future he would be allowed to write such books...
I am glad to hear of the new type for the Raiders – and shall pass the proof rapidly when it begins to come in. I have passed half of the Lilac to Appletons – I like it better as it goes on, being about the only thing I ever wrote that … as far as I have seen it in type, I can say I am pleased with .Not that that makes it any better of course.
I have noted a note re the St Nicholas on a separate sheet. Of course I shall be glad if you can be troubled to get the thirteen vols for me at your leisure. Since 1887 I have got in in vols, each half year, and Sweetheart counts the week till it is time to get another, and informs me of the results of her calculation nearly every night when I lay aside the toiling oar and take to the nursery for the Children’s Hour.
Pardon the brevity of the letter. I shall not be able to do anything more to the Raiders for a day or two… Mrs Crockett has been very ill indeed and still is so. We are extremely anxious about her, and I have not been able to leave her for long. We hope that our great anxiety will soon be relieved.
George Milner Crockett was born on December 5th. It was not an easy birth, but viewed retrospectively, hardly as difficult as getting The Raiders through press! The day after the birth, tried to get back in harness, though Ruth was still far from out of the woods. He wrote in reply to Unwin who had sent a letter chiding him for his handwriting - not the first and not the last to do so.
Penicuik Dec 6th
Mr dear Mr Unwin,
I am ashamed that my MS is so bad ,but it is always so. I have not the moral courage to rewrite a thing the third time. Then I have always had the chance of serial correction. I don’t think I shall so worry you again. I said to the Y.M.C Magazine Man that we did not care to allow the republication of the Stickit or any part of it, but that he might if he chose to reprint the substantial short story John Smith of Arkland, he might do so, provided he made it part of a general article on the book.
With many thanks and promising better ‘copy’ for the future and generally to be a better boy to the ‘comps’ (Mr Watt hurried it out of my hands rather fast)
But it will come out all right
On 12th Sam wrote to Unwin again:
Penicuik Dec 12th
My dear Publisher,
You had not had any letters from me for some days – a remarkable circumstance. But the reason is that we had had my wife very near the edge of the Valley of Shadow – she is not quite out of danger – is very weak, but is now again conscious and as it were again one of ourselves. But it was a hard time and I have not been able to do much. I hope that proof of the Raiders will soon begin now. Try and hurry them up. I can’t do my revision with spirit till I see some proofs to encourage me. Appletons are nearly through with the Lilac for American copyright. Still, I am working hard at various things.
I am hunting up all my artistic friends, trying to get them to give me sketches for the illustrated edition of ‘Stickit’ that we may make a beautiful book out of it. You might look at the directory (I have not one) for the address of Earnest Warterlow. ARA He is a good friend of mine and would give us one. He was up there with me the year before last. He ‘flitted’ as we say and sent my wife a note of the new address but I cannot find it. I send also some other things. They are by Burn Murdoch, who illustrated Andrew Lang’s angling sketches and he does them very beautifully. He would do the head and tail pieces very beautifully. Some of his ideas are exceedingly good.
Then yesterday Denholm Young a member of the Glasgow Institute and I think of the Watercolour Soc, sent me in a present two the most beautiful studies of the ‘Raiders’ Country, one of which would I think do instead of the map. When I have heard from him I shall send them to you. He sent them as a practical contribution to the ‘Stickit’ which he admires. He had seen a notice of the Illustrated Edition. I may say that it is creating great interest in Scotland and I am sure it would be a success. I was speaking about it to my friend Thin of Edinburgh, and he told me that there was not a doubt that all the Edinburgh firms (except perhaps Mach??) Would subscribe largely. Glasgow, Wylie would work. I think we should get under weigh as soon as possible now. What do you think?
With kind regards, Ever truly yours
The letters kept coming. The corrections kept coming. The distractions kept coming. Ruth was still bed bound and still not out of danger, but Sam must press on. Unwin wouldn’t leave him alone. On 16th he responded to the latest letter about the Illustrated. Nothing was easy with TFU. The negotiations were taking their toll and trying to deal with them as well as The Raiders corrections, was difficult, what with a parish to minister to. But the family had to be provided for and he was doing the best he could.
Dec 16th Penicuik
Mr dear Unwin,
Thanks for your kind letter of yesterday’s date. I think with you that the insert plates on finer paper without setting up again would not do at all. I think that the second plan is far the best, and after talking the matter over with some of the leading Edinburgh booksellers I think that 250 ought to be the minimum edition. I had a pleasant letter fom Waterlaw promising heartily to give me a plate for the book and saying that he would set to work at once. Then there are Pennell’s drawings which would do for the Edinburgh stories, though we could not spread them over the rest of the book. We might get MacGeorge to do say ten drawings throughout the book. He is on the spot and I could tell him what to do. There is another man down there who would do one or two for nothing. Murdoch does very beautiful work – as you may see if you come across Lang’s Angling Sketches. Those things were only jottings. You might return them.
Clearly TFU was not as impressed with Murdoch’s work as Sam was.
Denholm Young is coming to see me on Monday and then I shall send you his drawings and tell you what I should propose to do with them. Most of his drawings however, would far better illustrate the Raiders … if ever that came to an illustrated edition.
I think what you describe in your second page of your letter ‘setting up the book de novo; little illustrations for the capitals others small illustrations in the text, full page plates – at a guinea – think that is just right. It is entirely my idea as to size … do you like a pleasant small quarto? Bound in buckram cream colour with title on leather. There is a delightful book Napier’s Tennyson Homes and Jaunts which I have always had in my mind as a kind of model in a general way. I would send it to you to see if you have not seen it. But perhaps you have something better in your own mind.
By the way, I think the fourth edition the handsomest yet. Have you any spare copies of the admirable list of reviews at the back. They are sometimes useful to send. Wearying on Raiders proof. I send you a Leader Xmas No. There are some things in it of mine that you may care to look at.
Then silence. No Raiders proof materialised. Sam wrote to Unwin again on 20th heading the letter:
O that Raiders proof. Would that I could see the first of it.
My dear Unwin,
I shall undertake the whole of the illustration (barring the Pennell blocks) and shall use the £21 and some added of my own for the credit of the book, and shall make the best bargain I can. You remember that I had a copy of No of the CY with the Pennell blocks and I marked those I could use and returned it to you. In your note acknowledging the list you say ‘I see you can use practically all’ So you can get all.’ They can all go in. I shall set the men on as soon as possible now and guide them to the work. I shall send you the ‘Homes and Haunts of Tennyson’ to show you what I mean. It will need to be a larger paper but the size of page (printed would do for the cheaper illustrated edition)
MacGeorge will do I am sure. He can draw when he likes. He is impressionist but he took the concour at the Paris Beaux Arts and has got it in him.
The [para] ‘is good’ in your letter you say ‘early autumn’ and in your letter [sic] spring. It will, I fear be nearer the former than the latter. It would be a good thing to drop the slips into the Xn Leader, the British Weekly, and some of the periodicals where my stories are coming out before long Pall Mall Maga, Longman’s, Woman at Home, Young Man, Bookman etc.
But here I am again teaching my grandparent the simple art of sucking eggs.
He wrote again on December 23rd
My dear Unwin,
I quite understand that 20 guineas is a very considerable part of the necessary expense of the illustrated edition of the ‘Stickit’ and I quite agree that that is as large a share as you could be expected to contribute.
On the other hand I think it is fair that I should give at least ten pounds for the general good of the book, because the drawings in all cases will remain my own property, and you have to provide for their reproduction. £10 or £15 from me will therefore to my mind, be a suitable contribution to the excellence of the book. For 335 we shall be enabled to have pen and ink initials for the twenty four chapters, each initial giving an illustration of the story which follows – six or eight drawings by MacGeorge, two by Earnest Waterlow, one or two by James Paterson RWS some by Denholm Young, and one or two others. The book will therefore be thoroughly well illustrated.
I shall send you on the stuff as it comes in. Most of the full-page drawings will be in wash, but the smaller ones, including the head and tail pieces will be in black and white pen drawings.
Of course I had no idea of the cost of the inserted slips in all these journals. You invited me to offer suggestions and must expect that some which I do offer are quite ridiculous. However, I am certain that you know best about the matter.
I received the books and drawing, which you returned, and am glad that you liked them. I daresay you are right about preferring Royal Octavo and Small Quarto, though I think you should see ‘The Homes and Haunts of Tennyson’ before we finally decide.
With kindest regards of the season
Yours very truly
PS If you would allow me say 12 extra copies to give one each to the illustrators I could do a great deal with them. You will let me have one of the fine £5.5 copies at cost and one unbound to bind up with the original drawings.
Christmas came and went. Sam carried Ruth down for Christmas Dinner including a wonderful plum pudding about which he wrote to his artist friend Waterlow, the provider of said pudding, on Boxing Day. Waterlow had been most helpful while Ruth was ill. It was nice when people rallied round. Mostly people turned to a minister when they needed help. They didn’t think that the boot might be on the other foot. Or that the minister was, first and foremost, a man, with problems the same as any other man. It was friendships such as Waterlow that kept Sam going during that time.
My dear Waterlow,
I cannot ask you to do any more for us. It is too good of you to do so much. But as you go on reading, if your thoughts crystalise into anything nad you care to send me a scubble you may take it for granted that anything that is like Connemara - solemn, severe, grim, bald even, will be like Galloway. They are very much like one another in land lochs and all. All except the people who are not like in many ways as you will see from the books.
We had a grand Xmas. I carried our dear little mother downstairs to the Xmas dinner. We had a great time and the plum pudding was brought in with the shutters shut and the blinds drawn and we all stood up and shouted. It was a magnificent success - you could not see it for fruit.
Mrs Crockett gets daily better and the babe sleeps and feeds with and equal mind and no cares. With all kind regard
In his study, he had, of course, to write to Unwin. He started with the best of intentions.
My dear Unwin,
All seasonable greetings. I trust all No 11 are well and that Mrs Unwin has not more than half her servants ill at once. 75% is the usual proportion and 20% who have to go to take care of an agent grand-aunt.
And then turned to business. Unwin had made such a fuss about his handwriting that he hand sent the manuscript to a typist so that there would be no cause for further griping. At his own expense.
What about ‘the Raiders’ typewritten and proof. I have sent to a typewriter my finished copy to be written fair in the last 3/5th of it. The first 2/5 you have had some time. I should like to look over it before it goes to press unless it has already gone, and then we must push on like Lightning for Marc 1st. I have my part through now, and except correction of proofs we should have no difficulties.
He felt that The Raiders was all but ready. He did not want any unexpected surprises so close to the publication date. But in the cat and mouse game of proofing, he did not want to be eaten up. He turned to the matter of illustrations. Waterlow had promised the goods and had been so helpful - he wanted to make sure he repaid him in some small way. He knew the importance of good friends in business - having already had the experience of some less than good friends.
I am pushing the artists for the Illustrated edition. I have got Waterlow, a good many of Denholm Youngs, and some others. It will be a fine book if we watch the setting carefully and get a printer to do it who is also a bit of an artist in setting blocks among letter press.
He was, understandably, impatient. 1894 was to be his year. But if so, it would not be without his full hearted commitment in making it so.
I shall write you in a little telling you how I get on with my artists. Try and hurry up the Typewriter and let us get to the first proofs.
Unwin had what he wanted, and had a habit of dragging his heels when that was the case. Sam would not let that happen.
Unwin’s immediate response was questions about the rights of the Illustrated Edition. Sam must have wondered if Unwin ever really read the letters he wrote. He was sure he had been clear, but here he was, explaining it all again. It must have been infuriating.
My dear Unwin,
I think you misunderstood me about the illustrated edition. I arranged with the artists for the whole rights of every kind connected with the drawings. These rights in every shape (except only the possession of the originals) I make over to you. I am willing to pay a little more to the artists for the privilege of possessing the originals. I think your £21 quite enough for your share. The cost and rights of the book are wholly yours. I do not expect to make much money out of it. My ten per cent will not be a great deal, and I shall be quite willing to pay the £2 each for the Japan copies. I shall probably ask you to keep one Japan copy to be bound up with the originals for my wife –which would be unique. It is as you say too early to speak of format, but when it comes I would still, if the page could be so devised as to suit a cheap edition, give my voice for a small quarto.
I have been staying a day or two with Thin of Edinburgh and I met a good many of the Edinburgh trade there –they preferred a small quarto. I put the question every evening at supper. That is, of course, the booksellers point of view, and you have the opinion for what it is worth.
He had spent a couple of days with Thin mid December and the talk was all of his forthcoming books. Thin gave him hope and what he believed was some good advice. While the London pond was calling, Sam did not want to either turn his back on his Scottish friends, nor undervalue the help and advice they could proffer. Those in London believed it was the centre of the world, and though Edinburgh was not the hotbed of publishing it had been a century before, there was still much experience and activity. It was simply that Sam had the chance to play on a bigger stage and he would take it.
I think it is generous of you to give me the extra dozen ordinary and I am quite willing to bear the cost of the two Japan copies.
With the kindest regards of the season
And the year turned.
I hope these insights have been interesting - I'm working hard at turning them into a 'proper' book... watch this space! 2019 will be a BIG year for Crockett.