The Times has a piece about the publishing plans of Nonsuch, a company based in Stroud (i.e. outside London) and part of the Tempus Group. Nonsuch intend to republish a few authors who were huge sellers around the time of Dickens but who have long since dropped out of sight.
The thinking seems to be: these books were once huge sellers, even bigger than Dickens. Dickens is still a big seller. So, these writers could also be huge sellers, all over again. All we have to do is set them before the public.
Chief candidate for this resuscitation process is one Judge Haliburton, once the literary 'lion of London' and originator of such quips as 'the early bird gets the worm' and 'getting blood out of a stone'.
Hmm. Well, we shall see. There are indeed lots of books which were once huge sellers but have now dropped out of sight. And the reasons why they have disappeared are often mysterious. But they have something to do with the style in which they are written, the assumptions on which they are based, and changes in the way we do things. It does not by any means follow that just setting them before the public once again will produce any interest whatever.
All of which is loosely related to a long-held theory of mine that the so-called classics become classics not because of any supernatural skill or genius on the part of their authors (hugely talented though they no doubt were), but because, as a result of a set of entirely unpredictable circumstances, these books somehow remain able to speak to us, even after all these years.
In other words, those writers who survive the test of time are not, and never were, 'better' in any meaningful sense than those who were also all the critical/commercial rage at the same time. They just survive and become revered as a result of randomness: a factor which, as I may have remarked before, plays a significant part in publishing.