University of Virginia Library


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Supplementary Notes on Samuel Richardson as a Printer by Alan D. McKillop


The list of books printed by Richardson given in Professor Sale's Samuel Richardson: Master Printer (Ithaca, 1950) is so comprehensive that random and incidental additions would be of little use. The following title, however, deserves special consideration:

The / Matchless Rogue: / Or, An / Account / of the / Contrivances, Cheats, Stratagems and Amours / of / Tom Merryman, / commonly called / Newgate Tom: / Who Stiled Himself, / Baron of Bridewell, Viscount of New-Prison, / Earl of Holborn-Hill, Marquiss of Newgate, / And Duke of Tyburn. / With / A particular Detail of his Life and Actions, both / Comical and Tragical, from the Time of his / Birth in Newgate, to the Hour of his Unhap-/py Exit at Tyburn. / [Rule] / [Motto] / [Rule] / London: / Printed for A. Moore, near St. Paul's. MDCCXXV. / [Price 1s. 6d.]
The presence of Sale's ornaments 20, 29, and 65, with identifying defects, shows that this fictionalized criminal biography is from Richardson's press. The name of the pamphletshop proprietor A. Moore appears in the imprint of a few other early pieces of Richardson's printing. I have examined copies of The Matchless Rogue in the Newberry Library and the British Museum, but it is not listed by Arundell Esdaile.

Before Pamela, Richardson seems to have printed very few works that can be classified as prose fiction. Sale's findings give us, besides Ramsay's Travels of Cyrus and an abridgement of Gulliver, only Defoe's New Family Instructor, and, in part, the New Voyage Round the World and Religious Courtship. The eighty-seven pages of The Matchless Rogue carry Tom through a series of varied and disconnected adventures to his final condemnation. The Preface emphasizes the intention to convey a moral with every incident, whether related in "a Serious, Ludicrous, Tragical, or Comical Manner." For example, "The unhappy tale of the Mercer's Daughter, ought to caution all young Women from giving Credit to the Promises; nay, even to the Oaths of deluding Men" (p. v). A passage on the importance of paying heed to dreams as warnings sent by Providence (pp. 52-53) may be imitative of Defoe. Nine years later Richardson in his Apprentice's


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Vade Mecum expressed his disapproval of Newgate characters on the stage.[1] Despite the professed didactic intention of The Matchless Rogue, there is nothing here that he could not have got elsewhere and little of which he could have approved, but the existence of this ignoble little story helps us to realize that his work as a printer gave him an enforced familiarity with the popular fiction of the day.


Existing correspondence between the Rev. James Hervey and Richardson and other references in their letters give fairly full information about Richardson's printing of Hervey's Meditations among the Tombs, Reflections on a Flower-Garden, and later the collected Meditations and Contemplations. The evidence is gathered by Sale, pp. 174-175, and the present note includes only additional details gathered from a few other letters. The earliest surviving reference to the project seems to be in a letter of May 25, 1745, dated from Thomas Hervey's, Basinghall Street, from James Hervey to an unnamed correspondent, possibly a printer associated with Richardson:

Your last two favours I received together. I thank you for the specimen of types. I hope better paper is intended to be used, than that whereon the types were printed; which I think coarse and slovenly. I am most inclined to send abroad the pieces in a matrimonial state: I mean, not in separate pamphlets, but united in a volume. They seem to be a contrast to each other, and may, perhaps, mutually recommend one another. Probably the 'Meditations among the Tombs' may carry too doleful an aspect; and, if not enlivened a little with the brighter scenes of 'The Garden,' may terrify the reader, and create disgust. I shall take an opportunity of talking with Mr. Richardson on this affair; and shall, if he take the trouble of perusing it, put one of the letters into his hands: though it must be the mourning piece, because I have no copy of the gayer essay, but what is in shorthand. What you hint at, with regard to the largeness of the character, that old and enfeebled eyes may be able to read it, is perfectly right. I shall desire that this suggestion may be observed.[2]

On June 28, 1746, Hervey wrote to the Rev. Mr. Thompson of St. Ginnys: "My little piece, entitled 'Meditations among the Tombs' and 'Reflections on a Flower Garden,' has been published a considerable time. . . . Mr. Richardson, the author of 'Pamela,' is my printer. Seven hundred and fifty copies are struck off; the printer and writer are joint adventurers with regard to pecuniary advantages, if any such should accrue from the sale."[3] Though the Meditations and the Reflections have separate titlepages,


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collation, and pagination, they were simultaneously published as a single piece; the Dedication and the Preface, printed as pp. i-viii of the Meditations, are designed for and refer to both parts.

Richardson also brought out the second edition, and took so long about it that Hervey had time to add contemplations on night and on the "Starry Heavens." On August 22, 1747, he wrote to Dr. Stonhouse asking to borrow a copy of Andrew Baxter's Matho for use in completing the latter piece: "If your Matho is not lent out of Town, I wish you woud be so good as to send for it, & favour me with a Sight of it by the Bearer. The Reason of my requesting this, is, that Mr. Richardson informs me by my Brother, if He has not this last Piece by the middle of next Week, his Press must stand still. And, methinks, I wd gladly peruse Matho, before I suffer my last Essay to depart."[4]


Dr. Thomas Birch, a close acquaintance of Richardson during the whole of his literary career, gives us from time to time in his letters some interesting details of the printer's business:

The Business of Printing has of late met with great Interruption from a Rebellion of the Compositors against their Masters upon a Demand of a Shilling a Sheet to be added to their Pay: which the latter have refus'd, & are resolv'd to stand still for the present, & starve the Seceders into Submission, who have no Pretence for Complaint, a Compositor of common Skill & Industry being able to earn 30 s. a Week: & I am told, that Bettenham, when he was a Journeyman, us'd constantly to get near 50 s. Richardson has kept the Masters firm to their Interests, & drawn his Pen (which, you know, is a very ready & copious one) upon the Subject, & wrote a Circular Letter to his Brethren.[5]

Birch gives us the fullest account we have of the fire of 1752 in Richardson's printing house:

The Element of Fire has this Year shown a peculiar Enmity to the Interests of Learning; of which the irreparable Calamity at your


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Brother's Chambers is one Instance, & Mr. Richardson' [sic] the printer's whole House & Magazines narrowly escap'd being another on Thursday sennight. I knew nothing of the Accident when I last wrote to you, my first Intelligence of it being from the Bishop of Oxford in a Visit on Sunday Afternoon. It was occasion'd by the Negligence of a Boy, who in a back Room full of paper printed or unprinted, on the Ground floor, was folding of Sheets, which caught fire from his Candle about seven at night, fortunately before the Men had left their Work, & while Mr. Richardson himself was at home; who felt the Heat in the Floor of the room where he was, so intense, that it was scarce tolerable, for the Boy had not given the Alarm till after his own fruitless Efforts to suppress the Flame, which however was restrain'd from spreading beyond the room, where it began, tho' the Mischief done there by Water as well as Fire is computed at 600 £. The Destruction fell chiefly on the Journals of the House of Commons & Chambers's Encylopaedia. But the Transactions, of which between thirty & forty sheets are printed off, escap'd unhurt.[6]

Mr. Sam: Richardson is reputed to have died worth fifteen thousand Pounds; in which Sum is probably included 3000 £. given to his eldest Daughter married to a Surgeon at Bath. His Widow, besides an Annuity of 40 £ during her Widowhood from the Stationers Company is, according to the Custom of the City, intitled to a third of his fortune. He had form'd a Plan for carrying on his Busines after his Death for the benefit of his Family: but they have no Inclination to continue it, & seem resolv'd to part with his spacious & well furnish'd Printing House as soon as a proper Offer shall be made them.[7]

Birch, though a friend and admirer of Richardson, remarked unsympathetically some weeks later: "Sam. Richardson's Will is a real Curiosity, as I am inform'd by all, that have seen it, being an odd Compound of Vanity and Spleen."[8]


One of the oddest contemporary references to Richardson appears in an obscure tale of low life in London, The Life and Imaginations of Sally Paul, which bears the imprint, "London: Printed for S. Hooper, at Caesar's-Head, near the New Church, in the Strand. 1760." The caption-title is "The History of Sarah Paul." I do not find this title recorded in any bibliography, but there is a copy in the Fondren Library, The Rice Institute. Sally, a prostitute, lives with an old man, and the wretched couple are trying to eke out an existence in the City. She is disguised as a boy.

The winter preceding, and while we were on the London side of the


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water, we were in the same manner distressed for work, he then applied to Mr. Richardson, the parliament printer, in Fleet-street, and worked for him at the Press a considerable time, in a business quite new to him, while I had the honour to attend the same press in the capacity of a devil, and I do assure you executed my part with as much dexterity as any imp in those black regions could pretend to.[9]
The reference to parliamentary printing and the location of the press 'in Fleet-street' (really in White Lion Court, running from Fleet Street to Salisbury Square) identify the printing house of the novelist, who thus makes an appearance in a work of which he would have heartily disapproved.



See Alan D. McKillop, Richardson's Advice to an Apprentice, JEGP, XLII (1943), 49.


Luke Tyerman, The Oxford Methodists (London, 1873), pp. 236-37.


Ibid., p. 243.


Autograph letter in my possession. This letter found its way into Richardson's files, and is endorsed in his hand. As printed in the Letters (1760), I, 193, asterisks are substituted for "Richardson," and in the second edition of the Letters (1784), I, 157, the name is given as "Rivington." I have already printed this extract from Hervey's letter in a study of his interest in natural science (University of Texas Studies in English, XXVIII [1949], 130).


To Philip Yorke, later Earl of Hardwicke, October 1, 1748. British Museum, Addit. MS. 35397, f. 170v. This passage has recently been printed by Edward A. Bloom, Samuel Johnson in Grub Street (1957), p. 279n. Sale, p. 27, quotes a letter of Richardson's dated November 1748 referring to this dispute with the compositors. Birch's figures for an average compositor's wages seem high; about a guinea a week is indicated by the scanty evidence. See Ellic Howe, The London Compositor, 1785-1900 (1947), p. 70; Sale, pp. 21-24.


To the same, October 7, 1752. British Museum, Addit. MS. 35398, f. 102.


To the same, July 11, 1761. British Museum, Addit. MS. 35399, f. 214v.


To the same, August 22, 1761. British Museum, Addit. MS. 35399, f. 245v. For Richardson's will, see Aleyn Lyell Reade, N&Q, 12 S. XI (1922), 242-244.


P. 42. Girls and women were sometimes employed as printer's devils. Cf. Stationers' Company regulations of 1635, in Ellic Howe, The London Compositor, 1785-1900, p. 21; Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Hill-Powell, IV, 99.