small but significant market for Thackeray's works also developed in Europe, in both English-language reprints and translations. The Yellowplush Papers was the first to appear in Europe, as it had been in America, coming out in tandem with Charles Dickens's Master Humphrey's Clock in Paris, 1841, published by Baudry, a firm owned at least in part by Thackeray's friend John Bowes Bowes and for which the author may have worked briefly in the I830s. Continental interest in Thackeray did not really begin until 1849. In that year A. and W. Galignam, publishers of Galignani's Messenger in Paris, for whom Thackeray had also worked "for 10 francs a day very cheerfully 10 years ago" (Letters 2: 475), issued Doctor Birch and followed up the next year with Rebecca and Rowena. There is no extant record, but Thackeray's previous connection with the publishers makes it possible that he was paid.
The important Continental Story, however, concerns the Bernhard Tauchnitz firm in Leipzig, Germany. Baron Tauchnitz's Collection of British Authors series was begun in 1846 and soon dominated the English language fiction market in Europe; only one other European publisher besides Galignani tried to compete with the German company for Thackeray. Aggressive acquisition and marketing made possible what could not be guaranteed through copyrights; for, as in America, there was no international copyright in Europe. In 1848 Vanity Fair was added to the [136/137] collection; Pendennis and the first of what would eventually be eight volumes of Miscellanies followed. Tauchnitz was very anxious, in spite of the absence of a legal standing for his contracts, to develop personal, amicable financial relations with his British authors. The terms of his agreement for Vanity Fair have not survived, but Thackeray wrote in October 1848 to the baron's English representatives, Williams and Norgate, acknowledging receipt of a check, promising to send proof sheets of The History of Samuel Titmarsh, and announcing that Pendennis "now commences, I hope it will turn out as well as its predecessor" (Letters 2:444). The inference is that the check was for Vanity Fair.
Tauchnitz's response to the hint about Pendennis came in due course, and Thackeray agreed on 23 April 1849 to send the numbers of the new novel as they appeared. In August he wrote again warning that the novel was to be extended to twenty-four numbers; he did not expect more money in consequence, "but I thought it would be right to make the change known to you so that you may accommodate the Leipzig edition to the proposed arrangement." (Verlag Bernhard Tauchnitz, p. 122) The accommodation was simple: the third volume is thicker. The first volume of Pendennis and the first volume of Miscellanies (with The History of Samuel Titmarsh and The Book of Snobs) appeared in 1849.
In 1851 Charles Jugell, of Frankfurt am Main, issued The Kickleburys on the Rhine along with Tales for the Road by William Howitt, apparently without agreement with the authors. Thackeray did have an agreement with Tauchnitz, who included the work in Volume 2 of Miscellanies. This incident of competition between European publishers was brought up the next year by Williams and Norgate in a letter that is characteristic of Tauchnitz's business dealings with British authors: open and generous but firm. Thackeray had written in October 1851 proposing his next novel, Esmond, which he anticipated would be published in February of the next year, and noting that "though not so large as Pendennis, I shall expect the same price wh. I received from Mr. Tauchnitz for the foreign copyright of that work; as it will be published all at once, and as soon on the continent as in London" (Letters 2: 806). Presumably what Thackeray meant by the last phrase was that the Tauchnitz edition would be a simultaneous publication, not a later reprint, and would therefore have the advantage of competing with the English edition on an even basis on the Continent. However, the novel was not published in England until October 1852, and [137/138]in the meantime Thackeray had had an offer for Esmond front a French publisher - probably Galignani28 - which depended on Thackeray's undertaking to keep the Tauchnitz edition out of France. Thackeray raised the matter with Williams and Norgate, whose response explains several aspects of Continental publishing.
I shall forward your letter to Mr. Tauchnitz but I may mention that to the best of my knowledge all the previous agreements are in the same terms as the present. - They do not secure Mr. Tauchnitz any copyrights in France but they enable him to sell his editions there, and that is of consequence to him for to be restricted to the sale in alone would I fear hardly enable him to print at all, much less to give any sum worth mentioning for the continental copyrights - I do not think he cares to have the exclusive copyright for any other part of the Continent except Germany, but he must have the right of selling his editions all over the continent and particularly in France.
I have drawn up a rough memorandum which if you please we will add to the contract and I will undertake either to sign it for Mr. Tauchnitz (as I have a general authority) or to get him to sign it. -
I am not quite certain what is Mr Tauchnitz's intention as to the future, but I am inclined to think that he will prefer giving a little more and securing the entire copyright for the Continent if it will be possible for him as a stranger to hold a copyright in France - At all events I believe if Mr Tauchnitz is a competitor with other for the copyrights in France he will have a preference (upon otherwise equal terms) with those authors with whom he has been in correspondence hitherto -
P. S. I would mention that in selling Mr. T. copyright for Germany only, you do not even sell him any except in Prussia or Saxony or about one fourth part of Germany - thatfor instance some of your works were reprinted at Frankfort without let or hindrance from Mr Tauchnitz. [Copy of the letter supplied by Gordon Ray]
The proposed memorandum was given in both German and English: "Though according to the laws in force hitherto, Mr Tauchnitz can claim no exclusive copyrights except in Saxony and the states united with her, he is however expressly hereby permitted to sell copies of his edition everywhere on the continent, particularly in France.-" How much this [138/139]addition cost the baron is not recorded, but there were no other Continental editions of Esmond in English in the period.
Bernhard Tauchnitz's domination of the Continental market seemed to suit Thackeray well. He wrote friendly letters from time to time, commenting in July 1855 that people in Baden and Frankfort had reported reading and enjoying The Newcomes with the Tauchnitz imprint and offering Barry Lyndon and the English Miscellanies. Tauchnitz replied with a check for an undisclosed sum and a remark about his poor English Thackeray reassured him: "A letter containing . . £ is always in a pretty style. You are welcome to the Miscellanies for that sum." Thackeray went on to reveal the perfectly casual and trusting nature of his relations with the baron' s firm when he remarked, "I don't think I ever sent you the sealed paper investing you with the right over The Newcomes - I fear I have lost it: but you need not fear that I shall shrink from my bargain." Further evidence of Thackeray's satisfaction with the baron appears in his 1856 recommendation that Charles Reade's novels should be included in the Tauchnitz collection, adding, "I have no doubt our friend of Leipzig will deal as liberally with Mr. Reade as he has with other men of our craft," And in 1857 he left "the agreement for the new book [The Virginians] to your discretion entirely, premising that my publishers here pay me twice as much as for the Newcomes. ... Send me over any agreement and I will sign and return it." (Verlag Bernhard Tauchnitz, p. 123).
When Thackeray signed with George Smith in 1859, he signed away his interests in foreign contracts, but Tauchnitz continued to publish Thackeray's works in agreement with Smith. Some problem arose in September 1861 causing Smith to reduce an expected payment to Thackeray. The author sent the publisher a drawing of a long face - "because your speculation is not so good as it might be, not for the personal loss to yours always, W M. T" The ledgers do not reveal the problem, but it seems in part to have involved Tauchnitz, for Thackeray in a cryptic postscript said, "In respect of Tauchnitz (as in some other cases) to be thankful for what I can get is my maxim." (NLS; Ray, reprinting from the Biographical Edition, did not include the postscript, Letters, 4: 246).
Translations of Thackeray's works developed another small but significant Continental market. As with the English-language reprints, no records survive about actual income, though one offer for the rights to translate Esmond into French came in March 1852 from Armand François [139/140]Léon de Wailly, translator of, among other works, Tom Jones, Evelina, and Tristram Shandy. Thackeray's reaction was enthusiastic on two grounds: "M de Wailly is the very man of all France I would like to translate me but is it possible he can give as much as 4000 francs to me? - there must be some mistake I fear.32 Nevertheless I empower you to act, and get what you can for me." (Letters, 3: 23-24) In September, Thackeray wrote Smith that "the Paris publisher who made that fabulous offer of 4000 francs has declared off as I expected: and I shall now be very glad to take what ever the Gods will send me. Will your acquaintance still give [£]50? it is [£]110 worse than 4000 francs: but it is 1250 francs better than nothing" (NLS). In the end Wailly undertook the work, but what the gods sent Thackeray in compensation is not known.
Others who translated Thackeray's works into French include G. Guiffrey (Snobs), Edouard Scheffter (Pendennis), William Hughes (Yellowplush), and Amédée Pichot (Samuel Titmarsh and Pendennis). To the latter, whom he had known for several years, Thackeray wrote: "I would counsel no publisher to reproduce Vanity Fair it is too long for any body's reading nowadays.33 I thought part of it very well translated in the Union but it fell off at the last and was also 'arranged.' Wh. you gentlemen are perfectly authorized to do and wh. you especially (who know much more about our literature than English literary men themselves do) do very well - but here is the difficulty with an author - I can't say that yours are faithful translations - that I would not prefer to have them more faithful: - but you may be sure that I wish your little project every success."34 Vanity Fair appeared in French as La foire aux vanites, in 1855.
Translations in book form appearing in Thackeray's lifetime include Russian (Snobs), Swedish (Esmond and Samuel Titmarsh), Hungarian (Esmond), German (Pendennis), Dutch (Yellowplush), and Spanish (Vanity Fair).35 To an unknown German translator concerning an unknown title, Thackeray wrote: "To be sure I am but a poor judge of German style - but [140/141]your translation reads very pleasantly, & seems to me very correct. I hope you and Mr. Cotta will be able to make terms." As an afterthought he added, "You can of course make use of this letter if it is likely to forward your wishes" (NLS).
Last modified 29 November 2021