John Murray Archive, 1820s-1840s: (re)establishing the house identity
Banks, Kirsten Francesca
This thesis examines the continuing growth of the House of Murray during the 1820s-1840s. Prior to the 1820s, Murray had enjoyed massive success with the publications of the work of Lord Byron, whose celebrity, and the profits generated, contributed significantly to the House’s prestigious reputation. Murray’s move from Fleet Street to Albemarle Street in 1812 also signified the House’s shift from bookselling to publishing, which enabled Murray to attract an increasing number of high-profile names from the worlds of literature, travel and exploration, the sciences, and politics. Murray’s drawing-room at Albemarle Street became renowned throughout the trade for its gentlemanly gatherings, comprising of the luminaries of the day. The four chapters of this thesis explore how Murray (re)established the House identity in different markets during the 1820s-1840s, as the Romantic epoch diffused into an increasingly commercialised era, with new production methods, an expanding marketplace, and increasing competition. Chapter One considers Murray’s use of the drawing room at Albemarle Street to construct a House identity amongst selected members of his inner circle. It also looks at the importance of the Byronic legacy to the House and the means by which Murray sought to protect it. Chapter Two engages with the contrasting side of the House, namely the ‘cheap’ publications, which Murray published in response to the growth of this market in the late-1820s and early-1830s. During this time Murray used some of his well-established assets, such as Byron, Crabbe and the Quarterly Review, to retain the prestige of the House, while attempting to reach new readers within the burgeoning middle class. Chapter Three examines Murray’s correspondence with some of his female authors to consider how the House responded to authors of both genders, and, with reference to ongoing scholarship regarding ‘women’s writing’, questions the veracity of a gender-centric approach when applied to the study of archival materials; the chapter’s findings suggest that both Murray’s male and female authors were treated similarly. The final chapter explores how Murray strove to retain control over the House’s reputation as international trading possibilities developed. The roots of the 'Handbooks' and the 'Colonial and Home Library' are also traced back further than has previously been considered, and read within the context of the ongoing re-branding of Byron discussed in Chapters One and Two. The House’s literary figures, and the Quarterly Review, were used by Murray in the 1840s to promote the values and prestige of the House in America, Europe and the Colonies. This thesis offers much previously unpublished archival material from the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland. It builds upon previous scholarship on John Murray and seeks to contextualise some of these lines of enquiry through providing a sustained study of the House during the 1820s-1840s. It uses quantitative analysis, where possible, to provide further grounding for some of its claims, and situates the findings within the growing body of research in this area. It is the underlying aim of this thesis to foreground the House’s shift from the ‘Romanticism’ of the early-nineteenth century towards the ‘commercialism’ of the mid-nineteenth century, whilst serving as a point of reference for further scholarship on the John Murray Archive during this time period.