University of Virginia Library



The standard study remains Shirley Strum Kenny's overview, "The Publication of Plays," in The London Theatre World, 1660-1800, ed. Robert D. Hume (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1980), pp. 309-336.


Quotations otherwise unidentified are from this source. We have silently expanded some abbreviations and added a few periods at the ends of sentences for clarity. Exchequer records have rarely been used by literary and musicological scholars, but by the mid-seventeenth century virtually any case that could be brought in Chancery could equally well be filed in Exchequer. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, "Eighteenth-Century Equity Lawsuits in the Court of Exchequer as a Source for Historical Research," Historical Research 70 (1997), 231-246.


Much of what is known about Murphy comes from the documents printed in the early biography written by his executor. See JessÉ Foot, The Life of Arthur Murphy, Esq. (London: Printed for J. Faulder by John Nichols and Son, 1811). Foot has always been regarded as a somewhat treacherous source, and the figures he gives for copyright sales of some of the plays have been almost entirely ignored. Two modern biographies appeared simultaneously more than a generation ago: John Pike Emery, Arthur Murphy: An Eminent English Dramatist of the Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press for Temple University Publications, 1946), and Howard Hunter Dunbar, The Dramatic Career of Arthur Murphy (New York: Modern Language Association, 1946).


The decree is P.R.O. E 126/31 (Michaelmas 1775), no. 8. "It is thereupon Ordered and Decreed by the Court that the plaintiffs Bill be & the same is hereby dismissed Out of this court with Costs to be Taxed for the said Defendant."


If this casualness strains the reader's credulity, let us point out that Oxford University Press did not bother to put together a written contract for Mr Hume's The Development of English Drama in the Late Seventeenth Century (1976) until some months after it was published. The terms, however, were precisely as agreed in early 1975.


One of the more curious features of the differing testimony about prices is that Foot gives copyright sale prices for several of Murphy's early plays (p. 308), and the figures he gives are identical with those claimed by Vaillant. This is interesting: Foot almost unquestionably derived his information from Murphy's own papers—a fact that calls the honesty of Murphy's testimony even further into question.


The full text of the Act is printed by Harry Ransom, The First Copyright Statute (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1956). Quotation from p. 117.


For discussion, see David Saunders, Authorship and Copyright (London and New York: Routledge, 1992), chapter 2, and John Feather, Publishing, Piracy and Politics: An Historical Study of Copyright in Britain (London: Mansell, 1994), chapter 3.


An advance notice appeared in the Public Advertiser for 1 April 1758, and publication "This Day" was advertised in the same paper on 12 April.


Two colleagues had tried to capitalize on the play even before Vaillant announced publication "This Day" in the 2 May 1759 Public Advertiser. R. Baldwin had republished an alternative translation, and J. Coote had offered a 6d Account of the new Tragedy of the Orphan of China, and its Representation (19 and 24 April Public Advertiser). Onstage, The Orphan of China had the nine performances that allowed Murphy three benefits, but no more this season.


Printed by Foot, pp. 174-176.


Arthur Murphy, The Life of David Garrick, Esq., 2 vols. (London: Printed for J. Wright by J. F. Foot, 1801), I, 361.


See Foot, pp. 176-180.


Pertinent parts of Cross's diary are printed in The London Stage, 1660-1800, Part 4: 1747- 1776, 3 vols., ed. George Winchester Stone, Jr (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1962). All performance dates and statistics are from this source.


Cross was, unfortunately, a rather erratic estimator. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, "Receipts at Drury Lane: Richard Cross's Diary for 1746-47," Theatre Notebook, 49 (1995), 12- 26, 69-90, esp. p. 72. In seasons for which treasurer's accounts are preserved Cross can be shown to have overestimated by as much as £81 and underestimated by as much as £29. Overall, he appears to be high by 3 or 4 percent.


"Benefit for ye Author, tho' not put so in the Bills" (26 February 1751); "For ye Author of ye Farce tho' not advertis'd" (6 May 1758).


We have used Folger PR 1241 E4 (1758) and PR 1241 M65 (1763).


We have reformatted slightly for clarity.


Murphy v. Vaillant proves beyond question that Murphy was the translator of Belisarius, by M. Marmontel (London: Printed for and Sold by P. Vaillant . . . and by Robinson and Roberts, 1767). Emery (pp. 97-98 and notes) says that "Murphy's authorship has been generally overlooked by modern critics" but fails to explain the basis of his attribution. NCBEL does not credit Murphy with the work and neither does the 1975 Garland facsimile.


BÉlisaire received its approbation on 20 November 1766, its privilège du roi on 16 December, and was listed in the Catalogue hebdomadaire of 7 February 1767. See the edition by Robert Granderoute (Paris: SociÉté des Textes Français Modernes, 1994), lix, 212-214.


Belisarius, p. iv.


Later in his reply, Vaillant hedges a bit, denying that he considered the translation a "present," but insisting that it was delivered to him "without bargaining for any Price or Consideration for the same." He "allowed" Murphy credit for £21 on the advice of his attorney, who "thought it was proper to do so to prevent the Complainant from afterwards setting up any claim on this Defendant with respect to the said Translation."


What Vaillant may have told Murphy when not under oath is something else again. Murphy charges in his bill of complaint that Vaillant claimed he had printed 1500 copies, sold 1300 at 2s each, and received in toto only £130, "which . . . he pretends is not sufficient to Reimburse him for the Costs & Charges of paper printing Binding publishing & the copper plate Engravings." On the evidence of this suit, however, Murphy must be regarded as a less than reliable source. The initial publication announcement in the Public Advertiser of 7 March 1767 described the book as "One Volume 12mo, Price 3s. bound."


Vaillant says he sold 1500 at 3s and 2700 at 3/6, which would be a gross of £697 10s.


The Translator's Preface is dated 2 March 1767. Sale of Marmontel's book was forbidden ca. 20/21 February. See John Renwick, Marmontel, Voltaire and the BÉlisaire Affair, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 121 (Banbury, Oxfordshire: Voltaire Foundation, 1974), p. 319. Referring to the controversial Chapter XV, Renwick also notes that whereas most of the book was translated literally, "the gain of c. 300 words in less than eleven pages is both considerable and illuminating" (p. 139, n. 30).


See The Correspondence of Robert Dodsley 1733-1764, ed. James E. Tierney (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988), Appendixes B and E.


John Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, 9 vols. (London: For the Author, 1812-1816), VIII, 296.


See Calhoun Winton, John Gay and the London Theatre (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1993), p. 135. From subscriptions and sales Gay may have netted as much as £3000.


For a broader consideration of earnings from plays in the eighteenth century and a full list of known payments for copyright, see Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, "Playwrights' Remuneration in Eighteenth-Century London," Harvard Library Bulletin, forthcoming.