Novels by Eminent Hands, by William Makepeace Thackeray

A Plan for A Prize Novel.

in a letter from the Eminent Dramatist Brown to the Eminent Novelist Snooks.


“MY DEAR SNOOKS — I am on the look-out here for materials for original comedies such as those lately produced at your theatre; and, in the course of my studies, I have found something, my dear Snooks, which I think will suit your book. You are bringing, I see, your admirable novel, ‘The Mysteries of May Fair,’ to an end —(by the way, the scene, in the 200th number, between the Duke, his Grandmother, and the Jesuit Butler, is one of the most harrowing and exciting I ever read)— and, of course, you must turn your real genius to some other channel; and we may expect that your pen shall not be idle.

“The original plan I have to propose to you, then, is taken from the French, just like the original dramas above mentioned; and, indeed, I found it in the law report of the National newspaper, and a French literary gentleman, M. Emanuel Gonzales, has the credit of the invention. He and an advertisement agent fell out about a question of money, the affair was brought before the courts, and the little plot so got wind. But there is no reason why you should not take the plot and act on it yourself. You are a known man; the public relishes your works; anything bearing the name of Snooks is eagerly read by the masses; and though Messrs. Hookey, of Holywell Street, pay you handsomely, I make no doubt you would like to be rewarded at a still higher figure.

“Unless he writes with a purpose, you know, a novelist in our days is good for nothing. This one writes with a socialist purpose; that with a conservative purpose: this author or authoress with the most delicate skill insinuates Catholicism into you, and you find yourself all but a Papist in the third volume: another doctors you with Low Church remedies to work inwardly upon you, and which you swallow down unsuspiciously, as children do calomel in jelly. Fiction advocates all sorts of truth and causes — doesn’t the delightful bard of the Minories find Moses in everything? M. Gonzales’s plan, and the one which I recommend to my dear Snooks, simply was to write an advertisement novel. Look over The Times or the ‘Directory,’ walk down Regent Street or Fleet Street any day — see what houses advertise most, and put yourself into communication with their proprietors. With your rings, your chains, your studs, and the tip on your chin, I don’t know any greater swell than Bob Snooks. Walk into the shops, I say, ask for the principal, and introduce yourself, saying, ‘I am the great Snooks; I am the author of the “Mysteries of May Fair;” my weekly sale is 281,000; I am about to produce a new work called “The Palaces of Pimlico, or the Curse of the Court,” describing and lashing fearlessly the vices of the aristocracy; this book will have a sale of at least 530,000; it will be on every table — in the boudoir of the pampered duke, as in the chamber of the honest artisan. The myriads of foreigners who are coming to London, and are anxious to know about our national manners, will purchase my book, and carry it to their distant homes. So, Mr. Taylor, or Mr. Haberdasher, or Mr. Jeweller, how much will you stand if I recommend you in my forthcoming novel?’ You may make a noble income in this way, Snooks.

“For instance, suppose it is an upholsterer. What more easy, what more delightful, than the description of upholstery? As thus:—

“‘Lady Emily was reclining on one of Down and Eider’s voluptuous ottomans, the only couch on which Belgravian beauty now reposes, when Lord Bathershins entered, stepping noiselessly over one of Tomkins’s elastic Axminster carpets. “Good heavens, my lord!” she said — and the lovely creature fainted. The Earl rushed to the mantel-piece, where he saw a flacon of Otto’s eau-de-Cologne, and,’ &c.

“Or say it’s a cheap furniture-shop, and it may be brought in just as easily, as thus:—

“‘We are poor, Eliza,’ said Harry Hardhand, looking affectionately at his wife, ‘but we have enough, love, have we not, for our humble wants? The rich and luxurious may go to Dillow’s or Gobiggin’s, but we can get our rooms comfortably furnished at Timmonson’s for 20L.’ And putting on her bonnet, and hanging affectionately on her husband, the stoker’s pretty bride tripped gayly to the well-known mart, where Timmonson, within his usual affability, was ready to receive them.

“Then you might have a touch at the wine-merchant and purveyor. ‘Where did you get this delicious claret, or pate de fois gras, or what you please?’ said Count Blagowski to the gay young Sir Horace Swellmore. The voluptuous Bart answered, ‘At So-and-So’s, or So-and-So’s.’ The answer is obvious. You may furnish your cellar or your larder in this way. Begad, Snooks! I lick my lips at the very idea.

“Then, as to tailors, milliners, bootmakers, &c., how easy to get a word for them! Amranson, the tailor, waited upon Lord Paddington with an assortment of his unrivalled waistcoats, or clad in that simple but aristocratic style of which Schneider ALONE has the secret. Parvy Newcome really looked like a gentleman, and though corpulent and crooked, Schneider had managed to give him, &c. Don’t you see what a stroke of business you might do in this way.

“The shoemaker. — Lady Fanny flew, rather than danced, across the ball-room; only a Sylphide, or Taglioni, or a lady chausseed by Chevillett of Bond Street could move in that fairy way; and

“The hairdresser. —‘Count Barbarossa is seventy years of age,’ said the Earl. ‘I remember him at the Congress of Vienna, and he has not a single gray hair.’ Wiggins laughed. ‘My good Lord Baldock,’ said the old wag, ‘I saw Barbarossa’s hair coming out of Ducroissant’s shop, and under his valet’s arm — ho! ho! ho!’— and the two bon-vivans chuckled as the Count passed by, talking with, &c. &c.

“The gunmaker. —‘The antagonists faced each other; and undismayed before his gigantic enemy, Kilconnel raised his pistol. It was one of Clicker’s manufacture, and Sir Marmaduke knew he could trust the maker and the weapon. “One, two, THREE,” cried O’Tool, and the two pistols went off at that instant, and uttering a terrific curse, the Lifeguardsman,’ &c. — A sentence of this nature from your pen, my dear Snooks, would, I should think, bring a case of pistols and a double-barrelled gun to your lodgings; and, though heaven forbid you should use such weapons, you might sell them, you know, and we could make merry with the proceeds.

“If my hint is of any use to you, it is quite at your service, dear Snooks; and should anything come of it, I hope you will remember your friend.”

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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00