English Literary Periodicals

By Walter Graham | Go to book overview

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LITERARY MAGAZINES SINCE 1800

There is a very good reason for distinguishing between the magazines before 1800 and those which were begun later. The Gentleman's Magazine, the London, the Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, the Scots, and others which followed the general plan of Cave's periodical, were for the most part what the term "magazine" implies-storehouses of miscellaneous information, repositories of all sorts of facts and fancies. Much of the entertainment they provided was far from "literary;" their editors sought to amuse readers with mathematical problems, conundrums, rebuses, dances and songs (with musical scores); with lists of births, deaths, marriages, preferments, promotions, bankrupts, and sailings of vessels. Some original matter appeared in their columns before 1750 but the magazine as a periodical made up primarily of original literary material was slow in taking shape. Poems, essays, fiction, and drama, had, since 1692, been used to some extent; yet the modern magazine-- that is, a miscellany of original works of the imagination, like the New Monthly Magazine of the 1840's and the Cornhill Magazine of 1860--as not conceived before the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Strange as it may appear, the Gentleman's Journal of 1692 and the Muses Mercury of 1707-8 were more "modern" in character than many of the periodicals which followed them. They were mainly composed of fiction, verses, and essays, and while they attempted to provide that exhaustive variety of appeals which characterized the magazine during the next fifty years, they actually

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