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Finally, publishers and editors were concerned to protect their readers from moral shock.[50a] Observers at mid-century and later commented frequently on the improvement in the moral tone of the press, looking back to such scurrilous and indecent journals of the twenties and thirties as Theodore Hook's John Bull, Charles Molloy Westmacott's Age, Barnard Gregory's Satirist, and Renton Nicholson's Town.[51] One cause was the wide circulation of "improving" journals


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aimed at the lower-middle and upper-working-class reader. In 1836 a witness before the Select Committee on Arts and Principles of Design described how his firm, with their steam printing machines, produced the Penny Magazine (published by Charles Knight and sponsored by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge), the Saturday Magazine (published by Parker for the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge), and Chambers's Journal. "And every Saturday," he said, "I have the satisfaction of reflecting that 360,000 of these useful publications are issued to the public, diffusing science and taste and good feeling, without one sentence of an immoral tendency in the whole."[52] Another cause—and symptom—was the success of Punch: Bradbury and Evans, publisher, and Mark Lemon, editor, took pride in the fact that "Punch has blotted out the Age and the Satirist, and other vile publications which, before Punch existed, were the only amusing journals of the day."[53] Thackeray in 1854 commented characteristically on the change. Humor, he said, is a satyr:
But we have washed, combed, and taught the rogue good manners. . . . Frolicsome always, he has become gentle and harmless, smitten into shame by the pure presence of our women and the sweet confiding smiles of our children.[54]
By the end of the century W. T. Stead could remark approvingly, in a review of the republication of the first fifty years of Punch:
The reader may examine every page of these twenty-five volumes without finding a single specimen of the indecent cartoon, or the more or less questionable innuendo. . . . You might read Punch from beginning to end without ever being reminded of the existence of the demi-monde.[55]
And a commentator in the Quarterly noted that this moral tone was financially profitable. "If the literary level of the weekly press be low," he wrote, "its morals are irreproachable. Fortunately it has been found that immorality and indecency do not pay. . . . A print such as the


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Vie Parisienne, the Gil Blas, or the Petit Journal pour Rire would not live for a month in London."[56]

One important function of periodicals is of course reviewing and literary criticism, current or retrospective; here the caution of publishers and editors, and the alleged sensitiveness of readers, operated significantly to limit free expression. An essay by William Hale White on "The Morality of Byron's Corsair," for example, was rejected by Strahan for the Contemporary as "a defense of immorality."[57] When Swinburne in the early sixties attempted to hoax Richard Hutton of the Spectator with a review of an imaginary Baudelairean French poet (Les Abîmes, by Ernest Clouet), Hutton was understandably hesitant. "Les Abîmes are in type," he wrote Swinburne, "but I cannot say I think they will appear. The subject seems to me to deserve no more criticism than a Holywell Street publication, nor could I speak of it in the Spectator without more real disgust than your article inspires. There is a tone of raillery about it which I think one should hardly use to pure obscenity."[58] After his experience with the reviews of Poems and Ballads in 1866, Swinburne replied with a blast at the prudery of the journals:

The disease, of course, afflicts the meanest members of the body with most virulence. Nowhere is cant at once so foul-mouthed and so tight-laced as in the penny, twopenny, threepenny, or sixpenny press. . . . The virtue of our critical journals is a dowager of somewhat dubious antecedents; every day that thins and shrivels her cheek thickens and hardens the paint on it.[59]
Since John Morley had referred to him in the Saturday Review as "the libidinous laureate of a pack of satyrs," his indignation was perhaps pardonable.

Admirers in England of Walt Whitman found it difficult to express their critical admiration for him in reputable periodicals. Edward Dowden had a laudatory article on Whitman turned down by the Cornhill and by Macmillan's; it was finally accepted by the Contemporary, then (1869) edited by Dean Alford. Strahan approved, and the article was set up (though Dowden admitted that he felt Whitman out of place in such a clerical company as the Contemporary would introduce him to). At the last minute Alford objected: the article was too "dangerous," too "alarming," to appear. It finally came out in the


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Westminster. In Dowden's first contribution, it should be noted, on "French Aesthetics," Alford had asked him to change the word "nude" ("an indecent, or rather, a nice word"); Dowden substituted "unclothed."[60]

Refusal to publish critical opinions if the subject-matter was unacceptable seems to have been the rule rather than the exception. George Moore was not allowed to publish in the Fortnightly a defense of Henry Vizetelly, prosecuted for publishing translations of Zola in England. H. W. Massingham, the distinguished editor of the Daily Chronicle in the nineties, stated his intention of defending the scientific value of Havelock Ellis's Sexual Inversion in his paper. When the book was suppressed as obscene, however, the Daily Chronicle attacked it as morbid and scientifically worthless. "The courts of law and the criticisms of the press," Massingham wrote, "are the responsible organs of public opinion in such matters."[61]

It was in the censorship of creative writing—principally of fiction— that the publishers and editors of Victorian magazines found the most pressing need to interfere with their contributors to avoid giving offense to their readers. While serving as editor of Bentley's Miscellany in 1837, Dickens wrote to an unnamed author of a paper which had been delayed in publication:

Mr. Bentley considers it too broad, although it does not strike me as so broad, as to render its insertion dangerous. The question is, whether you can so alter it, as to make the doubtful lady a mantua-maker and give the interview more of a "courting" character.[62]
In 1880 William Blackwood, who succeeded his uncle John as editor of the family magazine, warned a contributor about a passage in a serial novel. "Parsons," he said, "will tolerate any amount of looseness if you don't point it against themselves, and in a novel of this kind we do not want to provoke the Parsons."[63] Ten years later, in setting up his immensely successful Weekly, Arthur Pearson proclaimed as his motto "To Interest, to Elevate, to Amuse"; he promised a supply of pure fiction as well as the "tit-bits" of curious information which his master, George Newnes, had found so profitable; and he assured his readers that "from title to imprint no word or suggestion will ever appear that is capable of giving offense to the most fastidious."[64]

The history of the Cornhill—conducted for forty years under what


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Leslie Stephen called "the moral code proper to a popular magazine, the first commandment of which is 'Thou shalt not shock a young lady'"[65] furnishes perhaps the best examples of this phase of the problem. Mrs. Browning, contributing at Thackeray's request, sent "Lord Walter's Wife" (1861) and Thackeray rejected it, with apologies:
You see that our Magazine is written not only for men and women, but for boys, girls, infants, sucklings almost, and one of the best wives, mothers, women in the world, writes some verses, which I feel certain would be objected to by many of our readers—Not that the writer is not pure, and the moral tone pure chaste and right—but there are things my squeamish public will not hear on Mondays though on Sundays they listen to them without scruple. In your poem you know there is an account of unlawful passion felt by a man for a woman—and though you write pure doctrine and real modesty and pure ethics, I am sure our readers would make an outcry, and so I have not published this poem.[66]
When Thackeray turned down Trollope's short story "Mrs. General Talboys" on the ground that allusion is made in it to a man with illegitimate children and to a woman not as pure as she should be, Trollope wrote understandingly:
An impartial Editor must do his duty. Pure morals must be supplied. And the owner of the responsible name must be the index of the purity. A writer for a periodical makes himself subject to this judgement by undertaking such work, and a man who allows himself to be irritated because judgement goes against himself is an ass.
He defended himself none the less by reference to other novelists, including Thackeray. "You speak of the squeamishness of 'our people,'" he added. "Are you not magnanimous enough to feel that you write urbi et orbi:—for the best and wisest of English readers; and not mainly for the weakest?"[67] Leslie Stephen, editor in the seventies, had to continue such censorship. His troubles with Thomas Hardy will be discussed later; other contributors were also carefully watched.


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"The fear of Mrs. Grundy was ever before his eyes, and this rendered him inexorable," W. E. Norris recalled.[68] And in the nineties when Reginald Smith, George Smith's son-in-law, became editor, contributors complained of his propriety: he would not permit such words as "stays" or "corsets" to appear in the magazine.[69]

A number of Victorian writers, including Trollope, Charles Reade, and Wilkie Collins, were made to undergo bowdlerization by magazine editors.[70] The most striking example of this was Thomas Hardy, who was plagued during his whole career as novelist by problems of this sort. When two instalments of Far from the Madding Crowd had appeared in the Cornhill, Leslie Stephen wrote urging that Fanny's seduction be treated in a gingerly fashion. "I mean," he wrote, "that the thing must be stated, but that the words must be careful." Complaints from readers had been received about a passage of rustic humor already published. When the novel appeared in book form, the Times singled out the very passage for quotation and commendation, and Hardy was triumphant. Stephen replied, "I spoke as editor, not as man. You have no more consciousness of these things than a child."[71] So in The Hand of Ethelberta Stephen asked Hardy to change "amorous" to "sentimental," and to "Remember the country parson's daughters. I have always to remember them!" After reading the opening chapters of The Return of the Native, Stephen feared that the story would develop into something dangerous for a family magazine, and Hardy wrote no more for the Cornhill.[72] In Belgravia, however, where the novel did appear, it had to be substantially softened, especially as to the past actions and future intentions of the tempestuous Eustacia.[73] The Mayor of Casterbridge, A Group of Noble Dames, and Tess all were subjected to similar censorship in the Graphic, The Woodlanders in Macmillan's, and Jude in Harper's (American and English editions simultaneously). Before sending Jude Hardy had promised that it would be "a tale that could not offend the most fastidious maiden"; but the first instalments brought protest from H. M. Alden, editor of Harper's. He wrote, "My objections are based on a purism (not mine,


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but our readers'), which is undoubtedly more rigid here than in England." Hardy agreed to bowdlerize. He must have known, however, that British standards were if anything stricter than American, for A Group of Noble Dames and parts of Tess had appeared uncensored in Harper's Weekly and Bazar, purified in the Graphic.[74]

The changes Hardy made for magazine publication were partly verbal: "lewd," "loose," and "bawdy" in Far from the Madding Crowd, for example, appeared in the Cornhill as "gross," "wicked," and "sinful."[75] More substantial changes, such as the omission of the seduction scene in Tess and the substitution of a mock marriage, were more damaging to the structure and characterization of the novels.[76] Hardy restored and revised for book publication nearly all that the caution of editors had made him modify; but marginal notes on his manuscripts ("deleted against author's wish, by compulsion of Mrs. Grundy," for example) show how he felt. In an article on "Candour in English Fiction," published in the New Review in 1890, he made his views explicit. Magazines and circulating libraries, as media for "household reading," tend to exterminate by monopolizing all literary space the novel "which reflects and reveals life." Not only do they pre-empt the market, but they modify the shape of the product:

The opening scenes of the would-be great story may, in a rash moment, have been printed in some popular magazine before the remainder is written; as it advances month by month the situations develop, and the writer asks himself, what will his characters do next? What would probably happen to them, given such beginnings? On his life and conscience, though he had not foreseen the thing, only one event could possibly happen, and that therefore he should narrate, as he calls himself a faithful artist. But, though pointing a fine moral, it is just one of those issues which are not to be mentioned in respectable magazines and select libraries. The dilemma then confronts him, he must either whip and scourge those characters into doing something contrary to their natures, to produce the spurious effect of their being in harmony with social forms and ordinances, or, by leaving them alone to act as they will, he must bring down the thunders of respectability upon his head, not to say ruin his editor, his publisher, and himself.[77]
Hardy's conclusion was that as a vehicle for fiction dealing with human feeling on a comprehensive scale the magazine was tottering to its fall, and might as well assume openly the position it already covertly occupied, that of a purveyor of tales for the youth of both sexes.


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A reply appeared in Macmillan's in the following month, probably by Mowbray Morris, the editor who had warned Hardy about The Woodlanders ("If you can contrive not to bring the fair Miss Suke to too open shame, it would be as well. Let the human frailty be construed mild").[78] It was no answer, but an appeal to the past in defense of the status quo:

He must be a very remarkable novelist who does not think that form of publication good enough for him which has satisfied Thackeray, Dickens, Lytton, Lever, Whyte Melville, George Eliot, Mrs. Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, the Kingsleys, Charles Reade, Wilkie Collins, Miss Braddon, Mr. Blackmore, Mr. Besant, Mr. Meredith and Mr. Thomas Hardy! So we will leave the editors and their magazines alone.[79]

One recurrent theme may have been noted in this examination of the problem. Editors and publishers, in warning and censoring contributors, implied a double standard of judgment in protecting the reader. It was "my squeamish public"; it was "a purism not mine but our readers'." "Forgive this shred of concession to popular stupidity," Leslie Stephen wrote to Hardy, "but I am a slave." I think there is no hypocrisy here. Editors and publishers acted in this matter under a complex of influences: economic pressures, literary conscience, social and political and religious influences all played their part. It is doubtless just to say that the reading public got, from publisher and editor, the kind of periodicals it deserved. But public demand — the satisfaction of the reader, as Trollope called it — was considered a legitimate influence.

It was a part of the Victorian compromise — a serving of God and Mammon, of which Dickens, with his sensitivity to the circulation of Household Words and All the Year Round, was a conspicuous example. But the compromise is potent today in the affairs of the few gallant survivors ("quality" or "upper-middle-brow") from the great age of periodicals. For, setting aside subsidized specialist journals and little magazines, the publisher must keep his readers or perish. The result is bound to be conservatism in ideas, opinions, and literary forms. The successful editor, however, can adjust the conflicting demands of publisher and contributor without either alienating his readers or (at the other extreme) merely supplying what they are supposed to want. That he must occasionally strain his literary and intellectual conscience in doing so, this glimpse of some Victorian prototypes has demonstrated.