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[Written originally for "Lalla Rookh" in the collected edition of Moore's works.]
THE Poem, or Romance, of "Lalla Rookh” having now reached, I understand, its twentieth edition, a short account of the origin and progress of a work which has been hitherto so very fortunate in its course may not be deemed, perhaps, superfluous or misplaced.
It was about the year 1812, that, far more through the encouraging suggestions of friends than from any confident promptings of my own ambition, I conceived the design of writing a Poem upon some Oriental subject, and of those quarto dimensions which Scott's successful publications in that form had then rendered the regular poetical standard. A negotiation on the subject was opened with the Messrs. Longman in the same year; but, from some causes which I cannot now recollect, led to no decisive result; nor was it till a year or two after, that any further steps were taken in the matter,—their house being the only one, it is right to add, with which, from first to last, I held any communication upon the subject.
On this last occasion, Mr. Perry kindly offered himself as my representative in the treaty; and, what with the friendly zeal of my negotiator on the one side, and the prompt and liberal spirit with which he was met on the other, there has seldom, I think, occurred any transaction in which Trade and Poesy have shone out so advantageously in each other's eyes. The short discussion
that then took place, between the two parties, may be comprised in a very few sentences. "I am of opinion," said Mr. Perry,-enforcing his view of the case by arguments which it is not for me to cite,-"that Mr. Moore ought to receive for his Poem the largest price that has been given, in our day, for such a work." "That was," answered the Messrs. Longman, "three thousand guineas." "Exactly so," replied Mr. Perry, "and no less a sum ought he to receive."
It was then objected, and very reasonably, on the part of the firm, that they had never yet seen a single line of the Poem; and that a perusal of the work ought to be allowed to them, before they embarked so large a sum in the purchase. But, no;- -the romantic view which my friend Perry took of the matter was, that this price should be given as a tribute to reputation already acquired, without any condition for a previous perusal of the new work. This high tone, I must confess, not a little startled and alarmed me; but, to the honour and glory of Romance as well on the publishers' side as the poet's, this very generous view of the transaction was, without any difficulty, acceded to, and the firm agreed, before we separated, that I was to receive three thousand guineas for my Poem.
At the time of this agreement, but little of the work, as it stands at present, had yet been written. But the ready confidence in my success shown by others made up for the deficiency of that requisite feeling within myself; while a strong desire not wholly to disappoint this auguring hope" became almost a substitute for inspiration. In the year 1815, therefore, having made some progress in my task, I wrote to report the state of the work to the Messrs. Longman, adding, that I was