[James Bertrand Payne, fraudster who brought down the London publishing house Edward Moxon & Co.] Four Autograph Letters Signed to H. Cholmondeley-Pennell, one explaining his retirement from the firm, and two about Pennell's book 'Crescent'.

James Bertrand Payne (1833-1898), editor, author and fraudster [Henry Cholmondeley-Pennell (1837-1915), poet and writer on angling]
Publication details: 
The first two on letterhead 44 Dover Street, Piccadilly, London, W. [i.e. the premises of Edward Moxon & Co.], 17 and 26 October 1868. The third from The Grange, Brompton, 22 February 1869. The fourth with no place, 23 May 1869.
SKU: 21090

The four letters are in good condition, with light signs of age and wear. Written in Payne's neat and mannered hand, and all four signed 'J Bertrand Payne'. For the background to the correspondence see Jim Cheshire's article 'The Fall of the House of Moxon', Victorian Poetry, Spring 2012. Payne was manager of the London publishing house Edward Moxon & Co., celebrated for their association with poets. In the third letter offered here Payne writes that an 'organic disease of the heart to which I am an hereditary martyr' has caused him to give up his 'Chair of Office at Dover st', but the truth was otherwise. Payne had been forced out following the disastrous publication of a sumptuous edition of Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King', illustrated by Gustav Doré, which was a major factor in the poet's leaving the firm with which he had long been associated. (In spring of 1869, shortly after the writing of the third letter, Tennyson angrily dismissed him as 'peacock Payne'.) In September 1868 Payne had attempted to sell what he claimed was his share in the business to Edward Moxon's widow for £11,457. This 'share' was later proved in court to be the property of the firm itself, and the valuation was fraudulently inflated. In 1871 Moxon's widow instituted legal proceedings against Payne, and when he was found guilty on appeal of the fraud he was ruined. He would not be able to pay off his creditors until 1892. In 1864 Pennell published his poetry collection 'Crescent and other Lyrics' with Moxon's, and the first two letters concern the disposal of the remainders of the book. ONE: 17 October 1868. On letterhead of 44 Dover Street, Piccadilly. 1p., 12mo. Notifying him that 'Hodgson the Auctioneer of Chancery Lane sold the copies of “Crescent,” but I am unable to tell you the people who bought them.' TWO: 26 October 1868. On Dover Street letterhead. 1p., 12mo. Payne has 'secured 75 cloth copies of your “Crescent,” which compose the sole remnant left of the Edition. They are here, awaiting yr. instructions, & you will please me if you will kindly accept them as a Signe de [?] from a deep debtor to yr. Kindness.' He concludes by asking him if he has his 'ancient wish to be an M.P? If so I can help you, & that without costing you more than a bagatelle'. THREE: 22 February 1869. The Grange, Brompton. 4pp., 12mo. Bifolium. 'For once, the report you heard about my giving up my Chair of Office at Dover st, was more than half true. An organic disease of the heart to which I am an hereditary martyr, has made all anxiety dangerous to me. Having enough of the “lubricating metal” to keep me in comfort, it occurred to me easier far to wander down the thymy bye ways of literature, than to climb the arid rocks which environ the temple of Plutus.' He next turns to Pennell's book 'Puck on Pegasus', published in 1868 with illustrations by Leech and Tenniel: 'I am very glad to see that “Puck” in his latest brilliant form, has been received with the same favour & éclat with which his jeunesse dorée was surrounded. This book has certainly given you a name which far older men than yourself might envy'. When Pennell is next in town, Payne proposes to give him 'a copy of the Complete Doré Idylls, which I fancy may possess some interest for you as a lover of Art'. FOUR: 23 May 1869. With embossed mark of the Conservative Club. No place. 3pp., 12mo. Bifolium. Begins: 'A few days after we had the pleasure of seeing you in the placid Vales of Brompton, we went to spend some time in Paris, whence we returned last Saturday.' He is going to 'inflict' on Pennell a 'little histoiriette' (possibly 'The Anglican Mysteries of Paris, Revealed in the Stirring Adventures of Captain Mars and his two friends Messieurs Scribbley & Daubiton', which Payne produced with illustrations by John Moyr Smith, published by Moxons with the date 1870). 'Now however it lies at this palatial Club, awaiting your mandate, & I hope you will accept the book as a very inadequate expression of the sense I entertain of the numberless kindnesses you have showered on me since first I knew you.'