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LETTER received from a member of an eminent
publishing firm who seems to take Mr. Meeson very solemnly, suggests that it may be well
to preface this story with a few explanatory words. I cannot begin them better than by saying that Mr. Meeson and his vast establishment exist, so far as I am aware, in the regions of romance alone. There is no class of men more exposed to unjust accusations than are publishers, unless indeed we may give the palm to gentlemen connected with the legal professions. As a matter of fact, my experience is that publishers are in the main just and frequently generous in their dealings. Perhaps I may be allowed to give an example. Some time ago I sold a book to a well-known and respected firm for a certain moderate sum of money.
The book succeeded, and that firm, to my considerable astonishment, voluntarily doubled the amount that they had agreed to pay for it. Such houses as this, however, or as that with which I have the honour to be chiefly connected, need no testimony from me.
But among the numbers who practise publishing, as in every other branch of trade, there are sweaters ” to be found, who deal almost as harshly with the inexperienced producers of the raw literary material as Mr. Meeson dealt with Augusta.
The only part of this humble skit, however, that is meant to be taken seriously, is the chapter which tells of the loss of the R.M.S. Kangaroo. I believe it to be a fair, and in the main an accurate account of what must, and one day will happen upon a large and crowded liner in the event of such a collision as that described, or of her rapid foundering from any other cause; and it is a remarkable thing that people who, for the most part set a sufficient value on their lives, daily consent to go to sea in ships, the boats of which could not on emergency possibly contain half their number.
It may be well to state that the story of the tattooed will had its origin in a trick which was played with some success upon a certain learned Q.C. by his own irreverent pupils, and not, as has been suggested, in any French tale whatsoever. I never even heard of the very foreign story from which I am accused of borrowing an idea till long after “Mr. Meeson's Will” was written, and to this hour I have not seen it. This is not said, however, by way of claiming or disclaiming originality of incident, but merely in order to save a certain class of critics the labour of further research. Possibly the personage in Greek history who