English Literary Periodicals

By Walter Graham | Go to book overview

PERIODICAL LITERATURE BEFORE THE DAYS OF QUEEN ANNE

i

The death of Queen Anne on August 1, 1714, had one far-reaching effect which that unimaginative sovereign could never have foreseen. The political patronage that had made her reign the "Golden Age" for authors of mediocre ability, as well as for the more highly talented, received a blow from which it never recovered. The consequences of her passing were not apparent at first, of course. Addison, and Steele and others who had been loyal to their Whig masters continued to reap for a time the harvest of partisan rewards. But the accession of a king who knew little English, and the gradual emergence of Robert Walpole as the power behind the throne, soon made it clear to men of letters that the golden days were gone. This was to some extent due to Walpole's personal methods and prejudices, but the chief cause for the change was the growth of the newspaper and its influence. Others would have seen, if Walpole had not, that political patronage as a means of support and reward for authors of ability was doomed by the rise of the daily and weekly journal. The appearance of such newspapers as the familiarly-known Read's, Applebee's, Mist's, and Fog's, between 1716 and 1728, to say nothing of a score of other more or less successful enterprises of like nature, offered opportunities for the dissemination of political propaganda. It was no longer necessary for political parties to retain writers, as Addison was retained by the Whigs

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