Lyrical Ballads in British Periodicals, 1798-1800

By Gael, Patricia | Wordsworth Circle, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

Lyrical Ballads in British Periodicals, 1798-1800


Gael, Patricia, Wordsworth Circle


The periodical publication of individual poems from the Lyrical Ballads, 1798, are an index to their popularity. So far, over ninety-three have been identified. In 1954, Robert Mayo compiled a list of fifty-one periodical reprints of poems from Lyrical Ballads., twenty-four of which appeared between 1798 and 1800. (1) In 1902, Robert Woof assembled a checklist of over forty published in the Caroller and Morning Post between December, 1797, and December, 1830 seven from the 1798 edition. David Erdman later added a reprint of Coleridge's "The Dungeon" in his edition of Coleridge's Essays on His Times (3:285-99). In 1970, Oliver Warner discovered a review of Lyrical Ballads in the Naval Chronicle, 1799, that included a lengthy excerpt of "The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere." I now add seven previously undocumented reprints. An analysis of all reprints highlights their value as publicity, their possible impact. on the reputation And sale of the first edition, and proof of Wordsworth's public significance.

The new reprints were discovered by electronic searches in the Gale Cengage Learning data base of British Newspapers, 1600-1900, (2) starting with September. 1798, when Mark Reed notes some copies were first printed and distributed. through the end of 1800 (247). (3) The current additions are all from newspapers, and include one reprint each of "Goody Blake and Harry Gill," "The Convict." and "The Dungeon," as well as four separate reprints of "We Are Seven." (4) For the complete list, see Appendix A.

These seven new reprints affirm the belief that the poetry of the first edition was widely known and read by a diversity of readers. The complete list shows that the poetry appeared in at least twenty-three different periodicals. Review journals included lengthy excerpts or entire poems alongside critiques of the volume. Monthly literary miscellanies like the Edinburgh Magazine and Lady's Magazine published individual poems. Thrice-weekly papers stall as Lloyd's Evening Post, the Whitehall Evening Post, and the General Evening Post (published by Stephen Jones, who was also responsible for the Whitehall Evening Post) each reprinted one of the poems. Even daily newspapers like the Star, the Albion and Evening Advertiser, and the Morning Chronicle (which was edited by James Perry. an acquaintance of Wordsworth) all reprinted poems from Lyrical Ballads--in spite of limited space and commitments to news and advertisements.

Outside of London, the Derby Mercury reprinted "We are Seven" on April 24, 1800. As in many provincial newspapers, however, the Derby Mercury published a great deal from London newspapers. Indeed, on April 7 a reprint of "We are Seven" had appeared in the Courier, followed by a reprint in the Whitehall Evening Post on April 22. Along will location, the periodicals represent a variety of political ideologies. The Star, a pro-government newspaper, and the Morning Chronicle, a Whig publication, each published "We are Seven," proving that at least the less political poems of Lyrical Ballads crossed party lines.

If not for their social and political commentary, what made them so appealing to newspapers? Why did editors choose to publish the poetry of Lyrical Ballads? The table in Appendix B shows the number of times each of the poems of the first edition of Lyrical Ballads was reprinted in newspapers, literary magazines, and review journals. The more popular poems were reprinted often. Newspaper editors, for example, favored shorter poems, probably because space for poetry was limited. Of fifteen total reprints in newspapers, only two were of more than one hundred lines, although eight of the twenty-three poems of the first edition were longer. As Coleridge explained in a letter to Daniel Stuart, publisher of the Courier and the Morning Post, in newspapers "every short poem, that has any merit at all, must be suitable in is turn, whatever kind it may [be] of " (Letters, 2:413). Length may account for two poems most frequently: the sixty-nine-line "We are Seven" appeared in live newspapers, while Coleridge's thirty-line "The Dungeon" appeared in two. …

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