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The last great British publishing house,
This review is from: The Seven Lives of John Murray: The Story of a Publishing Dynasty (Hardcover)
Humphrey Carpenter, who died in 2005 aged fifty-eight, was a jazz musician, a writer of children's books, and a radio producer and presenter - he fronted "The Secret History of Conan Doyle" during Radio 4's Conan Doyle Week in July 2000. He was also a perceptive, scrupulous and thoroughly engaging biographer, whose subjects included JRR Tolkien, Ezra Pound, Benjamin Britten and Spike Milligan. His last book, completed posthumously by Candida Brazil and James Hamilton, is "The Seven Lives of John Murray: The Story of a Publishing Dynasty, 1768-2002", published, most appropriately, by John Murray. At the time of its sale to Hodder Headline, Murray's was Britain's oldest and most respected independent publishing house, having been run for 234 years by seven generations of John Murrays. Their authors included Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Washington Irving, Freya Stark, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Osbert Lancaster, John Betjeman, Françoise Sagan, Kenneth Clark... and, most notably, Lord Byron. Oh, and Queen Victoria. And Arthur Conan Doyle, whose publisher, Smith Elder, was taken over just before the Great War. John Murray VI ("Jock") remembered: "During one of my holidays from school, when my grandfather [John Murray IV, then in his last years] was ill, Conan Doyle called in with new stories, which we published as 'The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes' in 1927. He treated me with such courtesy as though I was a grown-up... that I fell under his spell. If this is an author, I said to myself, what fun to be a publisher!" A later memory was of Adrian Conan Doyle, "turning up at Albemarle Street dressed in chainmail, demanding the pistols owned by Sir John Moore, the hero of the Battle of Corunna, which had come into the possession of John Murray II"... I in turn remember Jock Murray as a regular attender at the Sherlock Holmes Society of London's annual dinners in the early 1970s, the guest, I think, of Lord Donegall. "The Seven Lives of John Murray" is a fascinating account of the people who made the firm and maintained it during its centuries as a family concern. It's also evidence in itself that the qualities instilled by seven generations of Murrays still flourish.
Roger Johnson, Editor of "The Sherlock Holmes Journal"