Two Letters by Spurgeon on “Piratical Editions”

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

However, the previous year (1859), the Watchman and Reflector had published two letters from Spurgeon addressing a controversy over the unauthorized printing of his sermons in America. The drama played out over the course of several months. Spurgeon had secured the services of Messrs. Sheldon, Blakeman & Co. to publish his sermons as early as 1856.

1856 8 7.jpg

The sermons sold really well, and S, B & Co. issued a fresh set each year, as well as additional books by and about Spurgeon. The funds from these sermons were being used to help build the new Tabernacle back in London.

In 1860, however, a new publisher, the New York Waverley advertised that they would be printing Spurgeon’s sermons.


Here’s how it played out:

September 8, 1859

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


Our readers have seen advertisements in the pa­pers of a new magazine, which professes to republish the sermons of Spurgeon as they are delivered in London, and to do this not only with his consent and approbation, but with his active co-operation, he revising them especially for publication in its pages. But it appears by a letter from Mr. Spurgeon, which we publish in another part of the paper, that he repudiates all knowledge of the transaction, and that it is entirely disapproved by him. This concurs with what we should have inferred from his previous declarations. The Evangelist says: “We happen to know from Mr. Spurgeon’s own lips that he regards Messrs. Sheldon & Co. as his only recognised publishers in this country, and that he feels that they have acted toward him in the most liberal and honorable manner. We cannot, therefore, too strongly condemn this abuse of an author’s name.”


The New York Waverly, published only in Boston, a weekly paper, advertised that it contains Spurgeon’s Sermons, (the new series) “phonographically reported exclusively for this paper.” In another place it states that “they are revised by himself”—thus plainly intimating or conveying the idea that such publication is authorized and promoted by Mr. Spurgeon himself, and that he revises the sermons for the New York Waverly. As a commentary on this announcement we need only quote the following portion of a letter from Mr. Spurgeon himself, dated

“London, June 13th, 1859.


Dear brethren,

…I am greatly troubled to find that a piratical edition is coming out. I have not authorized any one but you, nor have I ever heard of any intention on the part of any one else to print them. You shall have the sermons every week before they are printed… If the Waverly is respectable, it will surely refrain from robbing me.

I am yours respectfully,


This disposes of the author’s alleged sanction of the reprint referred to. In regard to the assertion that the sermons thus printed in the Waverly are revised by Mr. Spurgeon, we have equal authority for stating that they are not so revised, but on the contrary, they are very annoying to Mr. Spurgeon, as being often materially incorrect and spurious. We are reluctant to intrude such a matter on you or the public, but in mere justice to the author of these sermons, it is but right that the facts should be un­derstood rightly by all who are interested in him or his works. It is our intention to issue an edi­tion of this new series so cheap, and so desirable, that no one need resort to an incorrect, ephemeral and unauthorised edition.

Respectfully yours,


November 3, 1859

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


We have received from Rev. C. H. Spurgeon under the following recent date, the letter given below, in which, as will be seen, he vindicates himself in no doubtful language, against an unworthy endeavor to make use of his sermons. It is but simple justice that the preacher should be permit­ted to have control of his pulpit utterances as they pass into printed form. This, so far as Messrs. Sheldon & Co. are concerned, Mr. Spurgeon has had, and of those gentlemen’s dealings with him be has before spoken in high terms. He feels deeply the wrong done him in another quarter as is shown in the following letter, which is a reply to one received from the publishers of the New York Waverly

Clapham, Sept. 26, 1859

GENTLEMEN,—Your courteous note might well demand an earlier answer, were it not that the subject of it is one which even when couched in your very kind language, is unacceptable to me. You must have been fully aware that my honor as a Christian, and even as an honest man, would have been seriously compromised, if by any word or act, I should seem to sanction the pilfering of what I had already sold to another. I therefore thought it far the best to let Mr. Sheldon further inform you of our relationship, and from the open and frank manner of your letter, I had hoped that you would not openly oppose my only legitimate publisher. I was surprised to see that Mr. Sheldon had endeav­ored to make some terms with you. This, I see for the first time, in a Waverly received this morning (which, by-the-bye, is the third I have received.) I wish you could have agreed, for believe me, I have I no wish to do either of you any injury, and would not have regretted some measure of personal sacri­fice, if harmony could have been established. I am sorry to add that I have to complain that you have gone beyond all the rules of honesty in the deliber­ate falsehood which heads several of your advertise­ments, vis., that these sermons are reported “exclusively” for the Waverly, whereas they were never reported for you at all. This glaring falsehood has compelled me to speak out, and I am now about to take some more decisive action. It is no longer a matter between you and Mr. Sheldon; this foolhardy statement compromises me, and I must therefore say something in the matter. I had rather suspend the printing of my sermons altogether, than injure my name by alliance or dealing with men to whom truth is no object. The larger circulation of the Gospel might reconcile me, personally, to any piracy on your part, but when this is coupled with most deliberate and groundless falsehood, the injury I sustain is no longer one of cents and dollars, but of fame and honor. Apart from this crying evil,

I am, gentlemen,

Yours very truly,



(Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash)

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