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From the beginning to the end of the Victorian period the fact that a successful periodical must be financially profitable, must supply a demand, was realized and accepted or deplored. In the eighteen-thirties Carlyle, then a leading contributor to Fraser's Magazine (which he variously described as a "Dog's-meat Cart," a "Scavenger-cart," a "chaotic, fermenting, dunghill heap of compost," and "one of the main cloacas of Periodical Literature")[3] wrote hopefully to John Stuart Mill: "A question often suggests itself, Whether we shall never have our own Periodical Pulpit, and exclude the Philistine therefrom, above all, keep the Pew-opener (or Bibliopolist) in his place; and so preach nothing but the sound word.[4] He was never to achieve such a pulpit. In 1833 Richard Henry Horne, poet and journalist, published his Exposition of the False Medium and Barriers Excluding Men of Genius from the Public, in which he made explicit the complaint implied by Carlyle:

Nearly all the periodicals are strictly commercial in their origin and foundation, which commonly influences, directly or indirectly, all the writers which they engage. . . . Few of the very few who know and wish to say what is right, can afford to do so; neither can they afford to be silent. Hence the periodicals in general, while they seem to lead, only follow public opinion, which is a far more profitable proceeding.[5]

At mid-century and after, the success of two magazines edited by their publishers (John Blackwood, who edited his firm's monthly from 1845 to 1879, and George Smith, actual editor of the Cornhill in the sixties)[6] led some observers to believe that such a system was a practical solution to the problem. After his unsuccessful venture as editor of St. Pauls Magazine Anthony Trollope (whose knowledge of the economics of literature was extensive and peculiar) admitted that he had occasionally been too soft to his contributors:

I think, upon the whole, that publishers themselves have been the best editors of magazines. . . . The proprietor, at any rate, knows what he wants and what he can afford, and is not so frequently tempted to fall into that worst of literary quicksands, the publishing of matter not for the sake


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of the readers, but for that of the writer. . . . The object of the proprietor is to produce a periodical that shall satisfy the public.[7]
And in a reminiscent tribute to John Blackwood, the Reverend A. K. H. Boyd, a voluminous and popular contributor to mid-Victorian magazines, expressed the same opinion:
I am quite sure that a publisher makes the best Editor. He is much less likely than a man of letters to fill a periodical with unreadable papers which echo his own crotchets. He is much more accurate. He is absolutely without jealousy. He knows nothing but the success of his magazine or review. Some editors are like certain unpopular clerics of my youth, who would much rather have their churches empty than filled for them by some better preacher.[8]

Both these apologists for success assumed that the publisher's criterion would naturally be commercial, and tacitly approved. Other mid-Victorian observers made the same assumption, but deplored the results. Writing in Bradlaugh's iconoclastic National Reformer on the controversy over Swinburne's Poems and Ballads, James Thomson let out a characteristic growl:

Periodicals—newspapers, magazines, reviews—are the Fools' Paradise of the commonplace, the mediocre, the orthodox, the respectable. . . . A periodical to live must be a commercial success; the faintest thrill of new ideas would affect its circulation by shocking off some of its regular readers; it must suit its articles to the size of its customers—a very little hat for a very little head, a very little thought for a very little brain.[9]
Thomson, whose militant atheism kept him out of respectable journals, may have been expressing a personal pique. But a more cautious commentator, "Matthew Browne" (William Brighty Rands), an indefatigable contributor to the reviews, echoed his sentiments a few years later—in spite of the efforts of Morley in the Fortnightly and Knowles in the Nineteenth Century to maintain open forums for the expression of all shades of opinion:
Since the time when Jeffrey ruled the Edinburgh, and even since the death of Mr. Napier, 'the advertising element' and commercial elements in general have played a great and new part, an increasing part too, in the fortunes, and thus in regulating the quality and tendency, of current literature. One result of this state of things is an ever-inceasing tendency


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to compromise in the expression of opinion. In spite of the spirit of tolerance of which we hear so much, there was perhaps never a time in which the expression of opinion was so much emasculated in the higher periodical literature, or in which so much trickery of accommodated phraseology was going forward. This will last for a long time yet—as long as perodical literature is a matter of commercial speculation.[10]

At the end of the century, when Newnes, Pearson, Harmsworth, and their followers had pushed their mass-circulation periodicals to the half-million mark and beyond, an ambitious and somewhat cold-eyed young journalist then known as Enoch Arnold Bennett commented in the Academy on the "revolution in journalism." (Bennett had served as sub-editor and then as editor of a weekly called Woman, which bore on its cover the motto "Forward! But Not Too Fast"):

The old autocrats of Maga and Cornhill may be conceived as saying to their readers: 'This is good for you; in consideration of a just payment we permit you to read it.' And when those august periodicals were issued, the readers approached the perusal of them, certainly with some pleasure, but also with the austere and braced feeling of duty to be performed. The modern editor proceeds upon a different path. He explores the nature of the demand as patiently and thoroughly as a German manufacturer. With a mixture of logic and cynicism he states boldly that what people ought to want is no affair of his, and in ascertaining precisely what they in fact do want he never loses sight of the great philosophical truth that man is a frail creature. He assiduously ministers to human infirmities.[11]
Here we are plainly approaching the realm of pre-tested consumer response, if not of the engineering of consent.

A few examples may further enlighten some of the problems that had to be faced by publishers, editors, and contributors. John Black-wood, whose magazine was solidly successful in the middle years of the century, once told a young journalist his formula:

I don't, he said, engage the regular literary man. He is apt to be too maniéré. I look out for a man who, say a Dean, has gone in for bee culture for an article—never mind the writing, we will see to that, so long as it has facts. . . . So I get the freshness and knowledge which attract and keep readers.[12]
In 1869 John Murray (third of the honorable name) co-operated in the establishment of the Academy, a learned monthly to consist of


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signed articles by experts; its editor, C. E. C. B. Appleton, hoped to model it on such scholarly German reviews as the Literarisches Centralblatt. Murray had doubts from the start: "No exclusively learned periodical in this country has ever survived to become profitable," he told Appleton on seeing a specimen number. But he helped by his prestige and connections to launch the journal, even contributing an unpublished Byron letter from the family archives to the first number— a concession to sensational journalism which embarrassed the scholarly Appleton. Murray was alarmed by the uncompromisingly learned tone of the Academy, especially, it seems, by the reproduction of cuneiform and Syriac characters in some of the articles. His friend Mrs. Grote suggested that it would be easy "to dilute it with a dash of Athenaeum-like twaddle"; Appleton naturally refused; and after a few months Murray bowed out, taking a considerable financial loss by the surrender of his copyright.[13]

The Fortnightly Review exemplified another sort of publisher-editor relationship. John Morley (editor, 1867-82) made it a vital journal of "liberalism, free-thinking, and open inquiry," and recruited a distinguished group of contributors, including Mill, Arnold, Huxley, and Leslie Stephen. The publisher, Frederic Chapman of Chapman and Hall, Morley recalled, was "a thorough Philistine, hating all our views"; and yet, since the Fortnightly was making a profit, Chapman refused to sell it to Morley for three times what he had paid for it.[14] Later, during Frank Harris's editorship, Chapman apparently asserted himself and began to censor the contents of the magazine, provoking Harris's rueful reminiscence:

I had to be taught that to edit a review in London is not to be a priest in the Temple of the Spirit, but the shopman pander to a childish public with a gigantic appetite for what is conventional and commonplace.[15]
Consider also the difficulties of William Ernest Henley during his five-year editorship of Cassell's Magazine of Art. John Cassell, who had begun life as a temperance lecturer, had launched a number of highly successful family magazines; it was a house rule that beer, wine, or spirits could not be mentioned, nor represented pictorially, in a Cassell publication. Henley as art critic submitted to this regulation. But his praise of Corot, Whistler, and Rodin, his disparagement of moral and


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literary criteria in the judgment of art, were too advanced for Cassell's readers. Circulation dropped, and Henley resigned.[16]