A Fiction Query Letter From Victorian Literature

The following is from Trollope's short story "Josephine De Montmorenci." It's a fictional example of breaking all the query letter rules and simply trying to catch the attention of an editor. In this story, it worked.

Dear Sir,

I think that literature needs no introduction, and judging of you by the character which you have made for yourself in its paths, I do not doubt but you will feel as I do. I shall therefore write to you without reserve. I am a lady not possessing that modesty which should make me hold a low opinion of my own talents, and equally free of that feeling of self belittlement which induces so many to speak humbly while they think proudly of their own acquirements. Though I am still young, I have written much for the press, and I believe I may boast that I have sometimes done so successfully. Hitherto, I have kept back my name, but I hope soon to be allowed to see it on the title page of a book which shall not shame me.

My object in troubling you is to announce the fact, agreeable enough to myself, that I have just completed a novel in three volumes, and to suggest to you that it should make its first appearance to the world in the magazine under your control. I will frankly tell you that I am not fond of this mode of publication; but Messrs. X., Y., and Z., of Paternoster Row, with whom you are doubtless acquainted, have assured me that such will be the better course. In these matters, one is still terribly subject to the tyranny of the publishers, who surely of all cormorants are the most greedy, and of all tyrants, are the most arrogant. Though I have never seen you, I know you too well to suspect for a moment that my words will ever be repeated to my respectable friends in the Row.

Shall I wait upon you with my manuscript, - or will you call for it? Or perhaps it may be better that I should send it to you. Young ladies should not run about, - even after editors; and it might be so probable that I should not find you at home. Messrs. X., Y., and Z. have read the manuscript., - or more probably the young man who they keep for the purpose has done so, - and the nod of approval has been vouchsafed. Perhaps this may suffice; but if a second examination be needful, the work is at your service.

Yours faithfully, and in hopes of friendly relations,

Josephine De Montmorenci

I love the bit that goes, "or will you call for it?" That's an attention getter. I'm not sure why she uses cormorant to describe the greed of publishers, maybe sea birds had a bad name in England. It's a much better bid than an example I dimly recall given by a humor writer, maybe it was S. J. Perlman, in his autobiography. As a young man just out of school, whoever it was wrote to the editor of a large paper in red crayon,

"Need um job!"

and got back the reply, in crayon:

"Get um experience!"

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