Meanwhile, Charlotte pressed on. After Newby rejected The Professor, she sent the manuscript to Smith, Elder and Company. Like Newby they refused but in a thoughtful and courteous letter. The consequence was that later that same month the furiously writing Charlotte sent another manuscript, Jane Eyre. Its first reader, W. S. Williams, immediately saw its quality and passed it on to George Smith, who spent a Sunday ( ! ) reading it. This was late August 1847, as Charlotte’s cover letter is dated 24 August. By October, Smith, Elder and Company had published it. By December it was the talk of literary London.
Newby in October 1847 was still dilly dallying on Wuthering Heights, hesitating at a dubious commercial undertaking. He did not so neglect all his authors. In the same year as Wuthering Heights appeared, Newby published Anthony Trollope’s first novel, The Macdermots of Ballycloran, obligingly sent him by Trollope’s mother, Frances, a successful novelist. Judging shrewdly that the Trollope name was worth something, he brought out Trollope’s book at his own expense, suggesting when he could that it was the work of the then more famous mother. It was only when Jane Eyre proved that the Bell name might also be worth something that Newby resumed production on Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. Even then he rushed the job, ignoring corrections Ellis and Acton Bell had made on the proofs he had supplied.
The three volume novel was, in mid-Victorian England, a standard format—Jane Eyre was so presented. Newby had no qualms about stretching what were really at most two volumes, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, into three by heavily leading the text—putting more white space between the lines. Volume I is 348 pages, Volume II 416—extended by today’s standards but not obviously fattened. Like the First Folio of Shakespeare, his three volumes from two Brontës are superficially well produced. There were two bindings, a ribbed deep claret for private purchasers and a plain cloth with paper labels for circulating libraries such as Mudie’s. Also like the First Folio, the text abounds in typographical errors, some obvious, some not. Charlotte noted to her publishers, “The books are not well got up—they abound in errors of the press.” There is no record, however, of any such point’s being mentioned in reviews, and such public as the book immediately had was too small to make much of an objection. Read more: englishmatters
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