English Literary Periodicals

By Walter Graham | Go to book overview

IV
THE RAMBLER AND THE DECLINE OF THE SINGLE- ESSAY PERIODICAL

Essay periodicals fall naturally into two groups; those appearing before 1750, led by the Tatler, Spectator and Guardian, and those appearing later, headed by the Rambler. Johnson's famous essay publication may be regarded as the immediate inspiration of many others, after the middle of the eighteenth century, when new periodicals were numerous. There had come, since the days of the Tatler and Spectator, a considerable change in the form of such publications. The half-sheet folio had developed into the four- or six-page serial. The former's two or three columns of matter had generally given way to the single column to a page, thus emphasizing typographically the importance of the single essay. Finally, the lightly moralizing note struck so admirably by Steele and Addison had very gradually changed either to a heavier didacticism or a gaily bantering tone with little or no moralizing at all.

The Rambler is the most famous example of this later serial-type--a six-page, single-column paper, containing a single essay. It differed from most of its predecessors in the more serious and philosophical nature of its contents--its dignity and ethical precept. The truest imitators of the Rambler are the Mirror, 1779, and Periodical Essays, 1780,--serials which followed the tone as well as the form of Johnson's work. The Rambler began on March 20, 1750, and appeared until March 14, 1752, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, for a total of 208 numbers. It sold for twopence, reaching a circulation of little more

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