MY FIRST SUCCESS. 1849-1855.
Too Long; Didn't ReadI had at once gone to work on a third novel, and had nearly completed it, when I was informed of the absolute failure of the former. I find however that the agreement for its publication was not made till 1850, by which time I imagine that Mr. Colburn must have forgotten the disastrous result of The O'Kellys, as he thereby agrees to give me £20 down for my "new historical novel, to be called La Vendée." He agreed also to pay me £30 more when he had sold 350 copies, and £50 more should he sell 450 within six months. I got my £20, and then heard no more of La Vendée, not even receiving any account. Perhaps the historical title had appeared more alluring to him than an Irish subject; though it was not long afterwards that I received a warning from the very same house of business against historical novels,—as I will tell at length when the proper time comes.
I have no doubt that the result of the sale of this story was no better than that of the two that had gone before. I asked no questions, however, and to this day have received no information. The story is certainly inferior to those which had gone before;—chiefly because I knew accurately the life of the people in Ireland, and knew, in truth, nothing of life in the La Vendée country, and also because the facts of the present time came more within the limits of my powers of story-telling than those of past years. But I read the book the other day, and am not ashamed of it. The conception as to the feeling of the people is, I think, true; the characters are distinct; and the tale is not dull. As far as I can remember, this morsel of criticism is the only one that was ever written on the book.