McClure's Magazine/Volume 9/The Talented Miss Hope
"I SUPPOSE, Mr. Bouverie," said Jackson, after ordering a fresh box of cigars and a new round of liqueurs for his guests, "I suppose you as a publisher have had some more or less curious experiences in your day."
"Yes, several," replied the Briton; "some of them amusing, some of them tragic, and a few of them embarrassing in a sense. The most singular incident I ever had in publishing was in connection with the works of the talented Miss Hope."
"Ah? Yes," said Valentine. "I know her work, and a most extraordinary person she must have been."
"She was," assented Mr. Bouverie. "She took London by storm. Her first book was a novel of very great force. It came to us in the spring of '83. With it came a modestly expressed letter in a dainty feminine hand, asking if we would give it a speedy reading and, if possible, publish it, since it was her first effort and she was anxious to get a start. She informed us that she was entirely dependent upon what she conld earn by her pen for a living; had really no settled home and very few friends. The simplicity of the letter interested me. It was unlike other letters I had received from other beginners, but the difference was in form rather than in substance. What she had to say about herself was expressed with great cleverness, and as for the novel, while it was not great, it was far beyond what most writers who lack experience can produce. It was approved unanimously by our readers, and so glowing were their recommendations that I slipped it into my satchel and took it off to my home to read myself. It was absorbingly interesting, and despite the difficulties of reading a story of that length in manuscript, I went through it from beginning to end in one sitting.
"Of course it was published, and the view the reading public took of its merits, as evidenced by its sale, was not in any way different from that which our readers and I had taken. The first, second, and third editions went off like hot cakes, and we were besieged by the literary causerie fellows for information as to this new star in the firmament of letters. I wrote to the young woman and asked her for some account of her antecedents, and received within a few days a sketch of her life, which was almost as romantic as the story we had published; it was pathetic and humorous, and through it all ran the same delightful quality that had made her book so fetching. Then people began to try to lionize her. Invitations by the dozen were addressed to her in our care, requesting her to honor literary gatherings with her presence. Others wanted her to dine with them. She was elected to honorary membership in certain women's associations, but, as far as I could gather, never accepted any of them. As time went on I began to think that it would be a good thing if she should accept some of the attentions the world seemed so ready to lavish upon her, and I ventured to write to her to that effect, excusing myself for interfering, on the gronnd that as her publisher I took a great deal of interest in her career, and thought it due to herself that she should come out of her seclusion as far as she conld.
"Her reply was full of gratitude for the interest I had taken in her welfare, but she was firm in her refusal to desert the privacy which she so much loved. She was of an extremely diffident disposition, she said. She was wrapped up in her work, and had no taste for social diversions. She added that she was engaged upon another book, which she expected to send me shortly, and closed by saying that she hoped I would like it as well as I did the first. Several weeks later the sccond book came to hand. It was no more like the first than a Chinaman is like a Frenchman. It was in an entirely different vein, but every bit as clever as the first. It was in many ways a complete surprise to me. In the first place, it was a man's book, while the first had been more of a woman's book than anything else. She dealt with the fortune of a young scion of nobility in the second, and in such a way as seemed to indicate that she knew all about the trials and temptations which beget the young men of to-day, a more or less astonishing acquirement in a girl of her tendency to make a recluse of herself. Of course I published the book; and if the first had raised a storm of applause, the second aroused a hurricane of enthusiasm. The magazines began to take notice, and Miss Hope's.work was in great demand. She met the demand with a supply that was absolutely marvellous. It made no difference what she undertook, she did it well, and showed a grasp on subjects of the most diverse kinds. Her poetry was especially taking, and her essays were written with a touch which even Lang might envy. All her literary business was, at her request, carried on through our firm, and we had some difficulty in convincing outsiders that our knowledge of the young woman's personality was ahnost as slight as that of the world.
"When she had written a sufficient number .of poems to warrant a booklet of them, I proposed that it be issued, and she readily agreed. She compiled them herself; made certain alterations in them, which showed that she possessed a nice literary instinct; added a few unpublished verses to the lot, and sent them in. As the book. was about ready for the press, it occurred to me that a photograph of the author would make a.good frontispiece for it. Miss Hope demurred for a while to this. She had never had her photograph taken, she wrote, and was of the opinion that it would add little to the value of the book anyhow. She wished to be judged by her work alone. Her personal appearance had nothing whatever to do with that, and, on the whole, she preferred not to let the public into the secret of how she looked. This struck me as being sensible, and I did not press the point, although I was much disappointed.
"It happened after a while, however, that she was forced to permit an authentic portrait of herself to be published. Some unscrupulous American newspaper syndicate pirated the second book, and, in connection with it, flooded the United States with a wholly fabricated wood-cut of Miss Hope, which would have driven any other creature to suicide. One of these was sent to me by an American friend, and I immediately forwarded it to the fair original, with a jocose note, expressing my regret that she should thus have favored the American public, while denying to her countrymen the coveted privilege of gazing upon her counterfeit presentment. This had the desired effect, and within two weeks I was in possession of a photograph of Miss Hope, with permission to publish it as the frontispiece to a volume of essays which we were making ready. When I saw the photograph I became more interested in Miss Hope than ever, for it was the face of a charming girl of about twenty that gazed back at. me from the print. She appeared to be of a blonde type; had deep, soulful eyes, a wealth of hair arranged tastefully over a high, intellectual forehead; a slightly irregular nose, and a mouth which indicated much firmness of character. To me the essays became the least part of the book when it was issued with that face opposite the title page, and my susceptibilities made me think of a possible Mrs. Bouverie who should be a woman of exceptional mold.
"So a year went on. The popularity of the young authoress suffered no diminution; it increased rather, until one day I received a short note from her, stating that she-was in London and would be pleased to have me call, fixing the hour and date. No sooner was this received than a reply accepting her invitation was sent, though when I came to address the reply, which task I did not care to entrust to the hands of a clerk, I was somewhat disturbed to discover where the fair visitor was lodged. It was in one of the most populous and busy streets of London, the last place in the world where a jewel of humanity such as I had come to think of her as being should find lodgment.
"'An eccentricity of genius,' I thought, and then busied myself with other things until the hour appointed. I dressed with unusual care, called a hansom, and sought the house. I was received at the door by an aged woman who smiled rather broadly, I thought, when I asked if Miss Hope was in. She said she was, and requested me to go up to the third story front.
"'Wouldn't you better take my card to her first?' I asked.
"'Ho, no, sir,' replied the aged woman. 'My horders was to show you hup as soon as you kyme.'
"So up I went, through two dark halls, along three dark stairways, and tapped gently upon the door of the front room. Instead of the soft, silvery voice I had expected—for I had been thinking so much about Miss Hope of late that I had a well-developed notion in my mind as to her voice, manner, walk, gestures, and so forth—I heard a gruff, masculine voice cry out, 'Come in; and, having come, close after you the door. "For a moment I was staggered. Perhaps I had tapped on the wrong door. The thing to do was to apologize and get out. So I opened the door and saw sitting around a table, playing cards and smoking profusely, a half dozen men I knew well—Gaston of the 'Rambler,' Cholmondeley Phipps of the 'Telegram,' and others—all enormously clever men of decidedly Bohemian instincts.
"'Halloo, Bouverie,' cried Gaston, as I entered. 'Glad to see you. This is an unexpected pleasure. "'It certainly is for me,' I answered as well as I could, considering my surprise. 'I had no intention of disturbing you, I am sure. I came here to make a call on—on one of our authors. I believe he has rooms in this house. "Phipps laughed in a way I did not fancy very much, and then he said in a way I liked still less, 'He? "'I don't understand you,' I said.
"'You said you believed "He" had rooms in this house. Sure it's a he, Bouverie? "'Well,' I said slowly, for an idea was beginning to dawn on my mind, 'I wasn't sure of it when I spoke, but— "'There are no rooms let in this house, Bouverie,' said Gaston. 'We have it all. This is our cardroom, and you are welcome. In fact, Bouverie, you've paid for most of it. "'I?' I queried, a little mystified.
"'Yes,' returned Gaston, 'you and the British public. Those blasted Americans didn't pay for the stuff, did they, Phippsy? "'They did not,' said Phipps; 'but they printed our photograph for us. "'Well,' I put in, 'this is all very mysterious—unless I have been made the victim of a practical joke. "'You have,' said Gaston.
"'And you, gentlemen, then, are— "'The talented Miss Hope, at your service, Bouverie,' said Phipps, and then the sextet rose up and salaamed. 'Do you think our photograph looks like us?' they cried.
"And so it was. Those six villains had concocted Miss Hope; had written her books; had started the furor for her work in their own papers, and I was their victim."
"Victim or beneficiary?" asked Jackson.
"A little of both," returned Bouverie. "So much of one that I forgave them for making me a little of the other; but from that time on the talented Miss Hope stopped writing."