Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cadell, Robert

CADELL, ROBERT (1788–1849), publisher, was a cadet of the family of Cadell of Cockenzie, East Lothian, and born there on 16 Dec. 1788. About the age of nineteen he entered the publishing house of Archibald Constable & Co., of Edinburgh [see Constable, Archibald], becoming in 1811 a partner, and in 1812 the sole partner of Constable, whose daughter he married in 1817. She died a year afterwards (he married a second time in 1821), and with her death began frequent disagreements between the two partners, Cadell being cautious and frugal, Constable lavish and enterprising to rashness. They agreed, however, as to the value of the firm's connection with Walter Scott, to whom Cadell, in the absence of his partner, once offered 1,000l. for an unwritten drama—‘Halidon Hill.’ During the commercial crisis of 1825–6, which brought the house of Constable to the ground, each partner desired to separate from the other, and to retain for himself the connection with Scott, in whose ‘Diary’ for 24 Jan. 1825 occurs the remark, ‘Constable without Cadell is like getting the clock without the pendulum, the one having the ingenuity, the other the caution of the business.’ Cadell's advice led Scott to reject a proposal of Constable's for the relief of the firm from its difficulties, which would have involved him in heavy pecuniary liabilities without averting either the ruin of the firm or Scott's consequent bankruptcy. In his ‘Diary,’ 18 Dec. 1825, Scott speaks gratefully of Cadell, who had brought good news and shown deep feeling. After the failure of the firm, Constable and Cadell dissolved partnership. Scott adhered to Cadell, who was the sole publisher of his subsequent novels, and their relationship became one of confidential intimacy. They resolved to unite in purchasing the property in the novels, from ‘Waverley’ to ‘Quentin Durward,’ with a majority of the shares in the poetical works, and determined to issue a uniform edition of the ‘Waverley Novels,’ with new prefaces and notes by the author. The copyrights were purchased for 8,500l. The publication of the ‘author's edition’ began in 1827, and was most successful. Cadell persuaded Scott not to issue a fourth ‘Malachi Malagrowther’ letter against parliamentary reform, partly on the ground that it might endanger the success of that edition of the novels. Scott made his will in Cadell's house in Edinburgh, and entrusted it to Cadell's keeping. Lockhart speaks of Cadell's ‘delicate and watchful attention’ to Scott during his later years. He accompanied Scott in his final journey from London to Edinburgh and Abbotsford in July 1832.

After Scott's death, the balance of his debts, through his partnership with the Ballantynes, was 30,000l. In 1833 Cadell made (‘very handsomely,’ Lockhart says) the offer, which was accepted, to settle at once with Scott's creditors on receiving as his sole security the right to the profits accruing from Scott's copyrights and literary remains until this new liability to himself should be discharged. Restricting his operations almost exclusively to the publication of Scott's works, he issued, with great success, an edition of the ‘Waverley Novels,’ 48 vols. 1830–1834, and in 1842–7 (12 vols.) the Abbotsford edition, which was elaborately illustrated, and on the production of which he is said to have expended 40,000l. Of a cheap ‘people's’ edition 70,000 copies, it is said, were sold. In 1847 there remained due to Cadell a considerable sum, and to other creditors on Scott's estate the greater part of an old debt for money raised on the house and lands of Abbotsford. Cadell offered to relieve the guardians of Sir Walter Scott's granddaughter from all their liabilities to himself and to the mortgagees of Abbotsford, on the transfer to him of the family's remaining rights in Scott's works, together seemingly with the future profits of Lockhart's ‘Life of Scott.’ Another stipulation was that Lockhart should execute for him an abridgment of that biography, and only gratitude to Cadell for his conduct in the whole business induced Lockhart to perform the task. The possessor of a handsome estate in land, and of considerable personal property, Cadell died on 20 Jan. 1849 at Ratho House, Midlothian, from which he was driven to his place of business in St. Andrew Square, Edinburgh, every morning at nine, with such punctuality, that the inhabitants of the district traversed knew the time by the appearance of ‘the Ratho coach.’ Lockhart characterises him as ‘a cool, inflexible specimen of the national character,’ and (Ballantyne Humbug handled, 1837) as ‘one of the most acute men of business in creation.’

[Lockhart's Life of Scott, ed. 1860, and the 1871 reprint of his abridgment of it, 1848; Thomas Constable's Archibald Constable and his Literary Correspondence, 1873; R. Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen, 1868, art. ‘Archibald Constable;’ Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1863; Athenæum, 27 Jan. 1849.]

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