On That Time When Edward Carey of Carey & Hart Beat a Man With His Umbrella

by Ann Neilson

In keeping up with published scandals of the 19th century, I am happy to provide the following account, copied from The Publishers’ Circular of August 08, 1891 (no. 1310, pg. 133). In this amusing article, we find two epistles recounting a time when Edward L. Carey of Carey & Hart, a 19th century American publishing company, involved himself in a scuffle while overseas in London. I find it amusing that this gentleman, whom I’d imagined to be genial and well-mannered, instigated the commotion! Check this obscure article out and feel free to comment. Who do you think was truly in the wrong here? I’m siding with Mr. Carey. -Ann

The Publishers’ Circular
The following correspondences regarding the series of articles on “Annuals of Sixty Years ago” explains itself, and is not, we think, without interest.
To the Editor of the PUBLISHERS’ CIRCULAR
AND BOOKSELLERS’ RECORD,
SIR,—Your interesting article, “The Annuals of Sixty Years Ago,” in your June 27 number, revives graphically in my recollection a tradition in the history of our house.
Away back in the thirties my immediate predecessors, E. L. Carey and A. Hart, bought from the publishers in London, with the exclusive American market, 1,000 copies of one of the “Annuals” named in your list. For these books they paid cash with the order. At the time these books arrived in New York, they received a letter from a New York merchant, not a bookseller, stating that he had received by a certain ship—the same which had brought Carey & Hart’s one thousand copies—from the publishers of this book a certain number of copies of the book which they offered to Carey & Hart.
Finding themselves thus treated, and knowing that those London publishers had dealings with a bookseller in Philadelphia who was a large importer of English books, and ascertaining that this bookseller was indebted to the London house in a considerable sum, they employed a lawyer who took out a writ of foreign attachment of a debt due to the London house, and commenced legal proceedings under that writ. These whole proceedings in the premises, when the case came to be tried in the court in Philadelphia, proving to be irregular, Carey & Hart were non-suited.
In the meantime, the debtor of London publishers became bankrupt, and accordingly those publishers lost their claim, when in turn they brought suit against Carey & Hart for the amount of this lost claim, but after years of litigation, way into the forties, it having been proven that the debtor of the London home was bankrupt when the claim was attached by Carey & Hart, the London house was in turn non-suited. Thus this litigation of perhaps ten years, came to an end, and both Carey & Hart and the publishers of the London “Annual” lost their money.
Subsequently to this transaction by the London publishers, Edward L. Carey was in London, and, calling on the firm, had some pretty high words with one of the partners, which resulted in blows, which would probably have further resulted in an arrest, if Mr.Carey had not left London on the following morning, and sailed immediately thereafter for the United States.
Yours truly,
HENRY CAREY BAIRD.
Philadelphia: July 15, 1891


Sir,—I can give you a very clear answer to your inquiry respecting the firm of London publishers referred to by Mr. Henry Carey Baird in his letter of July 15.
One morning, it must have been in 1838 or 1839, I was in the front room of Mr. Charles Tilt’s office at 86 Fleet Street, when Mr. Carey, the Philadelphia publisher, came in, as he had been in the habit of doing for several days, and walked through to speak to Mr.David Bogue[?] (Mr.Tilt’s partner),in the counting-house. Soon afterwards, Mr. Fisher, of the firm of Fisher, Son & Co., of Newgate Street, the publishers of ‘The Drawing Room Scrap Book,’ followed and asked to speak to Mr. Carey, evidently by appointment. The two gentlemen met in my presence (I do not think they had ever seen one another before), and commenced an earnest conversation in a low voice; presently, however, words became higher, and I heard Mr. Fisher say, in a loud and emphatic tone ‘That’s a lie.’ The words had hardly escaped his mouth before I saw and heard a tremendous blow given by the American gentleman fall on the Englishman’s broad breast. I must tell you that Mr. Fisher was a burly man, six feet in height, and Mr. Carey a slim man not half his weight. Of course Mr. Fisher retaliated, and for a few seconds there was a free fight, Mr. Carey using his umbrella when he had a chance. Fortunately they were in a very narrow space between a high desk and a table, and could not do each other much harm. I got in between them as soon as I could, protesting against their unseemly [?] (not without receiving a blow from the umbrella), and very quickly three or four clerks came from the inner rooms, the strife was ended, and Mr. Fisher left. I remember that we took the part of the American, but, out of all who were then present, I am the only survivor, and it is a curious coincidence that you should have applied to me for information.
Yours obediently,
JOSEPH CUNDALL
Wallington: Aug. 3, 1891