11 JUNE 1937, Page 21


[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.]

Sta,—May I be allowed to protest against one statement in the article published under the above title in your issue of May 7th ?

The writer, Mr. John Carter, asserts that 8o or 90 per cent. of the novels, published by the firm of Bentley (and offered for sale at auction a few days previously) were "rubbish." By this, presumably, he means that a large proportion of them have not survived as acceptable reading matter to later generations.

Even if Mr. Carter has actually read all the books he rather arrogantly dismisses as " rubbish " and considers them by present-day standards negligible, he forgets that a publisher lives on a contemporary market and not on the admiration of posterity.

A large proportion of the novels published by the firm of Bentley were in their day widely popular as light reading and in that capacity were enjoyed by thousands of intelligent persons as well as by an uncritical reading public. If, however, their appeal was to their own day rather than to ours, the inference to be drawn is, surely, that Bentley and Son were shrewd publishers—which, after all, is what they aspired to be.

One further point. Mr. Carter's contemptuous verdict on Bentley's novels may lead his readers to imagine that those issued by other publishers were of greatly superior literary quality. Suppose it were possible to examine an almost complete file of the fiction published during the 'sixties, 'seventies, 'eighties and 'nineties by other firms of Bentley's scope and standing, would the proportion of ephemeral fiction

be any different ?—Yours, &c., LUCY R. BENTLEY.

Upton, Slough, Bucks. (Mrs. Richard Bentley.)