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Showing posts from October, 2014

Harriette Wilson and John Murray: Surviving the Brutal Rejection

In July I wrote a blog about bad reviews and how they have always been an occupational hazard for writers. (July 2014, Dismal Trash: The Time-Honoured Art of the Bad Review ).   This time I’m looking at another literary tradition: the brutal rejection. Harriette Wilson (1786–1845) was the daughter of a clockmaker in Marylebone who went on to carve out a career for herself as a courtesan. Her clients included some of the most rich and famous men in the land, Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, amongst them. Harriette also fancied herself something of a writer. She set about writing her memoirs, but found it a “tiresome” occupation and “a few pages” in grew tired of it. She did not give up her ambition, however. With the encouragement of her friends, she decided to find out if her memoirs were worth publishing. She took her few pages to John Murray, Byron’s publisher.   Harriette approached Murray “in much fear and trembling”. She explained that she had little confidence