Talking Book

Clearing Through The Thicket


It has been a taxing affair watching Chestnutt navigate the waters of Houghton, Mifflin, and Co. As mentioned before, the initial reaction by the editorial staff was not the warmest. All this said, I think the most was made of that situation. We most certainly turned around the Rena Walden manuscript, and despite the lacking sales, Chestnutt’s literary gifts shine through. However, I must admit I worried about future efforts.

In 1900, I joined in partnership with the Doubleday and McClure Company. Frank Nelson Doubleday founded the firm in partnership with magazine publisher Samuel McClure when his own relationship with Charles Scribner’s Sons soured, and he went his own way. However, they had found great successes with Rudyard Kipling’s A Day’s Work, and with other works by Tony Conrad and W. Somerset Maugham.

It was unfortunate when a similar fate befell Doubleday again, and he and McClure quickly grew cold and bitter towards one another. Here, I saw an opportunity for myself, and I was pleasantly surprised when Doubleday sought me as a partner in this venture, trusting my tenure as a now-former editor of the Atlantic Monthly magazine.

Doubleday, Page & Co., as we now were called, was a platform in which I could exercise my unilateral strengths — and so, by the power of my authority, I could finally offer a greater abundance of Chestnutt’s works to the literary world. This move proved effective! Only 5 years after I came on as a partner at Doubleday, we were able to release Chestnutt’s novel The Colonel’s Dream. No longer will the critical figures of this field stymie the important words (and voices) that Chester shepherds out into the world.

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