University of Virginia Library


Another danger zone for publishers and editors was the area of political and economic dissent. Partisan and doctrinaire periodicals in which anonymity encouraged the following of a consistent "line" were standard during the first half of the century. An exile in England in 1839, Mazzini attempted to write for a living but found it difficult. "I write for the quarterly reviews," he told an Italian friend, "and for the magazines (monthly reviews),—often uselessly because they refuse all ideas that are too daring, too general, too systematic, too continental as they say."[32] Carlyle's unorthodox views (and style) also caused editorial difficulties. When Sartor was appearing in Fraser's (a strange companion to the rowdy Toryism of Maginn and Lockhart),

Poor Fraser [Carlyle later told M. D. Conway] who had courageously undertaken it, found himself in great trouble. The public had no liking whatever for that kind of thing. Letters lay piled mountain high on his table, the burden of them being, "Either stop sending your magazine to me, or stop printing that crazy stuff about clothes." I advised him to hold on a little longer, and asked if there were no voices in a contrary sense. "Just two— a Mr. Emerson, of New England, and a Catholic priest at Cork." These said, "Send me Fraser so long as 'Sartor' continues in it."[33]


Page 30
Even after Carlyle had established his reputation with the French Revolution he found no editor willing to publish "Chartism" (1839) in a reputable review. It was intended, he told Emerson, for the Quarterly Review:
The Quarterly Review was not an eligible vehicle, but the eligiblest; of Whigs [i.e. the Edinburgh], abandoned to Dilettantism and withered sceptical conventionality, there was no hope at all; the London and Westminster Radicals, wedded to their Benthamee Formulas, and tremulous at their own shadows, expressly rejected my proposal many months ago: Tories alone remained. . . . Finally the thing came out, as an Essay on Chartism; was shown to Lockhart, according to agreement; was praised by him, but was also found unsuitable by him; suitable to explode a whole fleet of Quarterlies into sky-rockets in these times![34]
As Carlyle remarked, "Such an article, equally astonishing to Girondins, Radicals, do-nothing Aristocrats, Conservatives, and unbelieving Dilettante Whigs, can hope for no harbour in any Review."[35] And ten years later John Forster had to cut Carlyle's article on the fall of Louis Philippe and suppress a sequel; their "excessive candour," he said, "might damage the circulation of the Examiner."[36]

Carlyle's friend and disciple James Anthony Froude, as editor of Fraser's in the sixties, agreed with his master in condoning Negro slavery and favoring the South in the American Civil War. It is therefore to his credit that at a time when, as John Mill remarked, there was a "rush of nearly the whole of the middle and upper classes, even those who passed for Liberals, into a furious pro-Southern partisanship," Froude accepted Mill's plea for the Northern cause, "The Contest in America" (January, 1862).[37] In publishing it, however, Froude departed from the usual practice of Fraser's and gave the author's name; he protected himself in the same way when he accepted anti-slavery and pro-Lincoln articles by Moncure Conway, which were signed "By an American Abolitionist."[38] Here Fraser's seemed more enlightened than the Cornhill. Thackeray asked Bayard Taylor for an article stating the case for the North, but George Smith vetoed it as controversial (and unpopular).[39] Froude, however, did refuse to publish


Page 31
an anti-Prussian article by Sarah Austin in 1866, though backed by authentic facts; he was glad, he said, "to see a great Protestant power established in the north of Europe."[40]

The Fortnightly under Frank Harris, as we have seen, was a trial to its publishers. A sensational series on Czarist tyranny in Russia by "E. B. Lanin" caused an increase in sales but also, apparently, objections from the Foreign Office (as well as an appeal from Swinburne for tyrannicide). Hence, according to a historian of the Fortnightly,

before another editor was appointed, a clause was inserted in his agreement, providing that the proposed table of contents of each number should be submitted four days before going to press to the managing director of Chapman and Hall, who should be entitled to exercise a veto upon any article, poem, or story, which he might not approve.[41]
After Harris's departure, it should be added, the custom lapsed: the new editor, W. J. Courtney, was emphatically a safe man.

Unorthodox economic and social views were also productive of trouble. John Parker, publisher and editor of Fraser's in the forties, sympathized with the lively Christian radicalism of Charles Kingsley. But Kingsley's chaotic novel, Yeast, and especially some verses on the Game-laws ("There's blood on the game you sell, Squire") infuriated propertied readers and brought complaints and cancellations. At Parker's request, Kingsley brought the serial to an abrupt conclusion.[42] Even unfavorable mention of some unpopular names was forbidden. The Quarterly, in attacking the Co-operative movement, listed (as was the custom) a half-dozen books on the subject at the head of its article. But one of them was George Jacob Holyoake's History of the Rochdale Pioneers; the editor could not include Holyoake's name, for fear of scandal, and so omitted all the writers' names. "For the first time," Holyoake noted with amusement, "an article in the Quarterly was devoted to six nameless authors."[43] Henry Adams, too, found that some subjects were untouchable in respectable reviews. His article on "The Gold Conspiracy" was rejected by Henry Reeve of the Edinburgh. "One knew," Adams recorded in his Education, "that the power of Erie was almost as great in England as in America, but one was hardly prepared to find it controlling the Quarterlies." And yet, "for fear of


Page 32
Jay Gould and Jim Fisk" Reeve and the Longmans would not risk the publication.[44]

Perhaps the most glaring instance of this problem, as involving economics, was the case of John Ruskin, Unto This Last, Munera Pulveris, the Cornhill, and Fraser's. Ruskin, who had contributed at Thackeray's request to early numbers of the Cornhill, in the summer of 1860 sent the manuscript of his first essays attacking the orthodox economic theory to William Smith Williams, George Smith's reader, with this word:

I send you some Political Economy, which, if you can venture to use in any way for the Cornhill, stigmatizing it by any notes of reprobation which you may think necessary, I shall be very glad. All I care about is to get it into print, somehow.[45]
The articles were accepted, with the stipulation that initials be signed; the editor, according to Ruskin's father, "would not be answerable for opinions so opposed to Malthus and the Times and the City of London." Objections began at once; the Saturday Review was especially bitter, remarking that these were "eruptions of windy hysterics" and that England would refuse to be "preached to death by a mad governess." The result is best told in Ruskin's own words:
The editor of the Magazine was my friend, and ventured the insertion of the three first essays; but the outcry against them became then too strong for any editor to endure, and he wrote to me, with great discomfort to himself, and many apologies to me, that the Magazine must only admit one Economical Essay more.[46]
The series was accordingly stopped. There was no quarrel between Ruskin and Thackeray or Smith as a result, but Ruskin "sulked," as he said, "all winter." The violent reprobation of his essays in the Cornhill, Ruskin later remarked, made him think more gravely on the subject, and he resolved to make it the central concern of his life.

Two years afterward Froude wrote Ruskin saying that he believed there was something in his theories and would risk the admission into Fraser's of what he chose to write on "this dangerous subject." Ruskin thereupon sent four articles which were published as "Essays on Political Economy, Being a Sequel to Papers which appeared in the 'Cornhill Magazine.'" Fraser's was sold by Parker to the Longmans in 1863 (the last of Ruskin's essays appeared in April of that year). Then, as Ruskin


Page 33
explained, "though the Editor had not wholly lost courage, the Publisher indignantly interfered; and the readers of Fraser, as those of the Cornhill, were protected, for that time, from farther disturbance on my part."[47] His articles were later published as Munera Pulveris. In the same year Ruskin was attacked for his views on the gold standard by J. E. Cairnes in Macmillan's Magazine. Froude asked him to reply in Fraser's and Ruskin sent him "Gold: A Dialogue." But this time the elder Ruskin apparently interceded for the suppression of the article, for his son's unconventional views had caused him pain.[48]

Ruskin's experience was significant in that a decade or so later he could probably have found a free platform in the Fortnightly or the Contemporary or the Nineteenth Century, to all of which controversy carried on by "big names" was the breath of life. But editorial caution died hard. In 1873 the semi-legendary Delane of The Times shied away from allowing an article on Samuel Butler's Erewhon; it was too dangerous for the "organ of the common, satisfied, well-to-do Englishman," as Matthew Arnold called it. "Erewhon," Delane told a member of his reviewing staff, "I won't touch. It could not be reviewed as favorably as perhaps it deserves without alarming the goodies—and they are powerful."[49] And at the end of the century the young H. G. Wells found that the new mass magazines were cramping to new or unfamiliar ideas. He wrote to his father (December, 1898): "I'm under a contract to do stories for the Strand Magazine but I don't like the job. It's like talking to fools, you can't let yourself go or they won't understand. If you send them anything a bit novel they are afraid their readers won't understand."[50]