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Chapter III. "My Blood Is Like Champagne" MCCLURE HEARD rumors that Irving Bacheller was going abroad for literary material in the spring of 1887, and im­ mediately he left for London, intending to be the first American to tap the resources of the English writer's mar­ ket.1 The move was to make his reputation as an American agent for the best British writers. Being unfamiliar with the current works of European authors, McClure was forced to rely on recommendations and intuition. Every English literary figure and Ameri­ can expatriate he heard mentioned was bombarded with notes requesting manuscripts. A brother-in-law of Century's esteemed Richard Watson Gilder told McClure about a "very remarkable story of adventure, Kidnapped," which had been published by Robert Louis Stevenson the year before.2 When written, Stevenson ignored McClure's let­ ters. Henry Drummond, the Scottish divine, was also coldly disinterested.8 McClure even ferreted out the obscure Margaret O. Oliphant, the once celebrated Eng­ lish novelist and biographer. She wrote acquaintances ask­ ing for the identification of McClure, "who quotes various names of writers here as having dealings with him."4 It was soon obvious to McClure that writers hesitated to deal with an editor who accosted them with such great exuberance and poor credentials. Frustrated with authors, McClure quickly turned to British literary agents, such as A. P. Watt and William Tillotson, the Lancashire publisher. McClure found Watt, upon whom he first paid a lengthy call, a "most agreeable 1 McClure, Autobiography, 183. 2 Ibid. s Henry Drummond to McClure, July 2, 1888, McClure Papers. 4Margaret Oliphant to C.S.S. Windsor, May 10, 1888, Margaret Oliphant Papers, Princeton University. She had a story "Seen and Unseen" in McClure's, 11 (Dec., 1893). " M Y B L O O D I S L I K E C H A M P A G N E " man."5 Despite being in the agent's "good graces," McClure was unable to buy any manuscripts. Instead, Watt suggested that McClure approach Tillotson and Son, who had a number of unsold stories by both Bret Harte and Henry Rider Haggard.® McClure, sensing success, immediately proposed "to see them and make as favorable terms as pos­ sible for the American rights."7 His enthusiasm mounted as his fortunes changed, and he came away from Watt feel­ ing "able to found a great publishing house."8 It was two days before McClure called on William Tillotson , and then only to learn of "treachery."9 One of Bacheller's employees had already written the English pub­ lisher asking for his services. McClure worked furiously. For nine hours he kept the great publisher in conversation. No doubt, if this interview followed the course of others, most of the time was spent talking about Knox College, the courtship of Harriet Hurd, and the founding of the syndi­ cate. At any rate Tillotson was eventually reduced to con­ cluding a "treaty offensive, and defensive to monopolize the syndicate serial service of the world."10 Since Tillotson was not realizing any substantial revenue from the foreign sale of his material, anything that could be ped­ dled to McClure represented a profit. By the terms of the agreement, which served to enhance McClure's reputation, each firm was to pay sixty percent of the total realized from the sale of the other's material. Tillotson was world-famous, being the agent for such writers as Robert Louis Stevenson, Bret Harte, Gerald du Maurier, Anthony Hope Hawkins, John Ruskin, J. M. Barrie, H. G. Wells, Israel Zangwill, Thomas Hardy, and R. D. Blackmore, of Lorna Doone fame.11 On the other hand the only McClure writer in whom Tillotson was in­ terested was Frances Hodgson Burnett, whose English rep5 McClure to Hattie McClure, March 7, 1887, McClure Papers, β Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. β McClure to Phillips, March 9, 1887. ibid. 1 O Ibid. HFrank Singleton, Tillotsons, 1850-1950, 43-44. " M Y B L O O D I S L I K E C H A M P A G N E " utation was based on Little Lord Fauntleroy. McCIure sold her material in his possession for $4,000. With scant reason McClure persisted in thinking his "most dreadful and most successful" negotiations with Tillotson had "suc­ ceeded, absolutely, perfectly."12 Predictably the alliance did not last. In the first place McClure was not content to buy from English agents while the writers themselves were accessible. The "natural McClure ," Henry James wrote...


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