Howe, Haliburton, Bentley, and the Clockmaker

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  • Topic: Nova Scotia, Novascotian, Thomas Chandler Haliburton
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Howe, Haliburton, Bentley and The Clockmaker

Before his tenure as the 5th Nova Scotia Premier, Joseph Howe purchased and ran Halifax’s weekly NovaScotian. Encouraged by the popularity of Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s Recollections of Nova Scotia, which ran as a series of sketches in the newspaper, Howe ordered thirty-three sketches in order to publish the first and only British North American edition of The Clockmaker.
Initially, the relationship between Howe and Haliburton was cordial and collaborative. On financial dealings concerning The Clockmaker, printed in 1836 in the NovaScotian, Howe announced that the series was “to be published on our own account solely” (Haliburton xxvii); in the same issue, Haliburton expressed his appreciation for Howe’s endeavour: "If there be any little credit [. . . ] if there be any little emolument, it belongs of right to him, who has already had the trouble of publishing a great part of them [the sketches] gratuitously" (Haliburton xxviii).

These pleasant reciprocities seem to have ended there however, as Howe experienced turbulence in his role as publisher. Howe was an inadequate agent, unable to successfully conduct negotiations with overseas publishers. Furthermore, he mishandled the business’s finances, over-estimating Nova Scotians’ interest and investment in The Clockmaker; though the sketches were indeed successful, Howe did not take into consideration the province’s economic state at the time. (Parker 87) Such matters strained the relationship between the two Nova Scotians, and eventually Haliburton seized the opportunity to publish The Clockmaker series in collaboration with the English publisher Richard Bentley, without informing Howe, bringing much expressed frustration to Howe over the next five years.

In March 1837, only three months after it’s Canadian debut, Bentley published the first, and unauthorized, British edition of The Clockmaker (Panofsky 31). Very soon following the British North American original’s publication, Colonel Charles Richard Fox, an acquaintance of Haliburton and an officer of His Majesty’s forces who had been stationed in Halifax since 1836, traveled back to London and presented Bentley with Howe’s edition of The Clockmaker. The English publish saw much potential in Haliburton’s work:

“[Bentley] who, justly conceiving that the sketches [. . .] would [. . .] be favourably received in England, decided on the experiment of publication. With this view, he made a communication to Mr. Halliburton, who is a British subject, for the purchase of the copyright, which terminated in an arrangement.” (Bentley 81)

Bentley correctly predicted the great reception the series obtained by British readers, and soon Howe was obliged to admit the same. Howe discussed the success of the British edition, and declared as much about The Clockmaker in May of 1837 in the Novascotian, albeit with grievances:

“Though it is gratifying to us in the extreme, to find any book issuing from The Novascotian Press republished in England, [. . .] still we are not quite sure that we shall not bring an action against Mr. Publisher Bentley, for pirating the copyright, and printing an edition without our leave. However, we shall avail ourselves of his exertions, when the Squire has the next volume ready for the Press.” (Davies, “Inventing” 64) Though the message was that of a threat to Bentley, Howe could not have taken any legal course against him because contrary to what he stated, Howe had not secured any such copyright for The Clockmaker. (Panofsky 32)

Howe would continue, for a little under five years, express his grievances publicly in the Novascotian and in private correspondence with both Bentley and Haliburton. In June of 1837, referring to Bentley’s publishing success, Howe states:

“We learn [. . .] that the London edition of this work has had such a run as to make another edition necessary. Should this be the case, it will have run through four...
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