English Literary Periodicals

By Walter Graham | Go to book overview

XIII
PERIODICAL LITERATURE AND THE NEWSPAPER

It is conceivable that the periodical of literature and entertainment might have developed from the newspaper --an evolution of the features used to fill up pages or attract readers. But such does not seem to have been the case. On the contrary, a study of the newspaper press makes it evident that the early journal of news nearly always borrowed its "literary" features from the serials of learning or entertainment. The earliest news sheet of importance which showed a deliberate aim to entertain readers was the Mercurius Bifrons ( 1681) with its page of serious news matter balanced by its page of "jocular intelligence." A few other seventeenth-century news sheets need to be included in the same category. The first really good example of a newspaper with features was John Dunton's Pegasus, with News, an Observator, and a Jacobite Courant. It was a thrice-a-week half-sheet folio, "written in a different method from all other newspapers." It was begun June 15 and stopped September 14, 1696, after forty numbers had been issued. The "Observator" department was a palpable anticipation of the "observators" of Dunton monthly Post Angel; while the "Jacobite Courant" was designed "to correct the insolences of the Government's enemies and divert its friends." The last department was written in verse at first, and changed to prose on June 29. Articles included "A short character of Ambition," an essay in the manner of Bacon, Old Tredskin's "new ark of novelties," and dialogues between a Williamite and a Jacobite. Dunton closed the first volume with the thirtieth number, and

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