Monday, July 23, 2012

Archibald Constable


Publisher Archibald Constable died on July 21st, 1827.  It took until two days later for Walter Scott to record his feelings, in his journal.  Scott was affected when Constable failed in 1826, contributing to Scott’s bankruptcy.

‘July 23 [1827]…Constable's death might have been a most important thing to me if it had happened some years ago, and I should then have lamented it much. He has
lived to do me some injury; yet, excepting the last £5000, I think most
unintentionally. He was a prince of booksellers; his views sharp,
powerful, and liberal; too sanguine, however, and, like many bold and
successful schemers, never knowing when to stand or stop, and not always
calculating his means to his objects with mercantile accuracy. He was
very vain, for which he had some reason, having raised himself to great
commercial eminence, as he might also have attained great wealth with
good management. He knew, I think, more of the business of a bookseller
in planning and executing popular works than any man of his time. In
books themselves he had much bibliographical information, but none
whatever that could be termed literary. He knew the rare volumes of his
library not only by the eye, but by the touch, when blindfolded. Thomas
Thomson saw him make this experiment, and, that it might be complete,
placed in his hand an ordinary volume instead of one of these _libri
rariores_. He said he had over-estimated his memory; he could not
recollect that volume. Constable was a violent-tempered man with those
that he dared use freedom with. He was easily overawed by people of
consequence, but, as usual, took it out of those whom poverty made
subservient to him. Yet he was generous, and far from bad-hearted. In
person good-looking, but very corpulent latterly; a large feeder, and
deep drinker, till his health became weak. He died of water in the
chest, which the natural strength of his constitution set long at
defiance. I have no great reason to regret him; yet I do. If he deceived
me, he also deceived himself.

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