Bacon book means Pen writes to order

by Kelvin Smith

In Thackeray’s Pendennis, young Pen gets his first opportunity to be a published poet in “a beautiful gilt volume called the Spring Annual, edited by the Lady Violet Lebas, and numbering among its contributors not only the most eminent, but the most fashionable poets of our time”. The Spring Annual is published by Mr. Bacon, proprietor of the “Legal Review…and of other periodicals of note and gravity” and is in competition with a similar volume edited by Miss Bunion due to be published Bacon’s former partner in the firm of Bacon and Bungay, Mr. Bungay.

Thackeray notes that “Mr. Bacon, not having the least taste in poetry or in literature of any kind, wisely employed the services of a professional gentleman”. No doubt this “professional gentleman” advised Mr. Bacon that the illustrations were the big selling point of the publication.

This book was daintily illustrated with pictures of reigning beauties, or other prints of a tender and voluptuous character; and as these plates were prepared long beforehand, requiring much time in engraving, it was the eminent poets who had to write to the plates, and not the painters who illustrated the poems.

W.M. Thackeray, Pendennis, 1850