English Literary Periodicals

English Literary Periodicals

English Literary Periodicals

English Literary Periodicals

Excerpt

There is no more interesting chapter in the history of England than the story of the newspaper press, involving, as it does, religious persecution, partisan struggle, Royalist or Puritan intrigue, and the various enactments designed to restrict printing. The story of the beginnings of English "literary" periodicals, in the form of book catalogues, abstract serials, and serials devoted to moral instruction and entertainment, is equally interesting, although it does not include the passion of party conflict in more than an incidental way, and religious strife is only to a minor degree one of its factors. But religious opinion, partisan bitterness, and the shadow of press surveillance are never wholly absent from the earlier essay sheets, magazines or reviews; and almost to our own century we find political predilections modifying critical verdicts. Moreover, the history of the English literary periodical during the last two centuries is the story of the English author--his struggle for recognition and reward, his miseries and ambitions, his opinions, ideals and sentiments. What English writers have been interested in or moved by, what they have believed, the dreams they have dreamed--these have gone into the making of the "literary" periodical far more than into the periodical devoted wholly or chiefly to the dissemination of news.

It cannot be denied that before the eighteenth century, periodical literature was produced by inferior pens; nor is it less apparent that from the beginning of this century onward the periodical was the nursery of literary genius. Defoe, Addison, Steele and Swift, on the one hand, ele-

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