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Unlike John Henry Newman, editor of the British Critic during most of its final and turbulent years, the conductors of the early series of the periodical left no extant master list of contributors. Though Archdeacon Robert Nares's authorship of the prefaces to volumes 1-42 is well established[1] and though Derek Roper in Reviewing before the "Edinburgh," 1788-1802 (London, 1978) notes in passing a handful of reviewers whom he mentions as British Critic contributors,[2] no list exists in print of attributions of authorship in the first series of the British Critic (1793-1813) comparable to that appearing in Esther Rhoads Houghton's "The British Critic and the Oxford Movement," Studies in Bibliography 16 (1963): 119-137 (encompassing the years 1836-43). Nevertheless it is possible, using John Nichols's invaluable Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century (9 vols.; London, 1812-15) and Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century (8 vols.; London, 1817-58) as well as the Gentleman's Magazine's obituary columns and the rich literary memoirs of the Cornish clergyman and poet Richard Polwhele, among other sources, to unearth the identities of a number of contributors to the British Critic during its first series, over which Nares presided as editor. It is the purpose of this article to identify the authors of over 100 reviews that appeared during Nares's editorial regime and integrate them with Nares's prefaces, thus lifting to a degree the curtain of anonymity that has long made the first series of the British Critic virtually terra incognita among eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century British literary periodicals.[3]

The British Critic in its early years was very much a product of its times, and any attempt to explain the deep sense of commitment of Nares and his fellow contributors to preserve the status quo in Church and state falls short


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if it does not take into proper consideration the political climate from which the British Critic sprang and which molded its editorial outlook. Quite simply, the two decades during which Nares served as editor constituted one of the most traumatic periods in recent British history, and to Nares and his fellow conservatives the events of those years must have resembled nothing less than a political and social earthquake whose aftershocks never seemed to end. The British Critic came into being early in that volatile period as part of a deliberate counterattack launched by a variety of conservative groups (some of them interconnected) to stem the sudden and alarming groundswell of Jacobinism within the British Isles. In January 1793 a coalition of High-Church followers of the Reverend William Jones of Nayland, calling itself the Society for the Reformation of Principles by appropriate Literature, established a new monthly literary review to be published by the old and respected firm of Rivingtons, which under the joint aegis of the devout and ardently Tory brothers Francis and Charles Rivington then stood at the head of the religious book trade in London. According to its prospectus the purpose of the periodical was two-fold: to provide an alternative to the powerful Opposition literary reviews--the Monthly, the Critical, the English, and the Analytical--and to defend the Constitution and the Church against all attackers (BC 1 [1793]: 1-2). Thus the British Critic was ushered into the world, blessed by the imprimatur of the Church and funded in part by William Pitt's secret service money,[4] with "PRO PATRIA" on its frontispiece and the defense of orthodoxy on every page.

Religion was without a doubt the dominant element in the character of the British Critic, and to the periodical's original conductors, the Reverend Robert Nares (1753-1829) and the Reverend William Beloe (1758-1817), fell the task of shaping the British Critic's religious policy during its first series. Beloe, classicist, prebendary of Lincoln and St. Paul's, and (briefly) Keeper of Printed Books in the British Museum ("which situation he lost, by an act of treachery and fraud on the part of a person admitted to see and examine the Books and Drawings" [Lit. Anec. 9: 94]) was the High-Church force on the editorial board of the periodical. Nares, the author of "several timely pamphlets, well calculated to abate the torrent of revolution and infidelity" (GM 99-i [1829]: 370), Keeper of Manuscripts in the British Museum, and archdeacon of Stafford, represented the more moderate wing of the Church. Scholarly opinion for a long time has differed concerning which of the two, Nares or Beloe, should be accorded the title of official editor. Though some earlier press historians have named Beloe as first editor and Nares as his assistant and successor,[5] John Nichols can safely be trusted in calling Nares the


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editor and Beloe the co-proprietor.[6] "Mr. Beloe was joint Proprietor with Mr. Archdeacon Nares, and the respectable house of Rivington," Nichols asserts. "The Editorship was entrusted to the judgment, sagacity, learning, and acuteness, of Mr. Nares . . ." (Lit. Anec. 9: 95n). Nichols's evidence is conclusive. Not only was he the most scrupulously accurate press historian of his day, incessantly revising his massive Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century and Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century and his meticulously compiled obituary columns in the Gentleman's Magazine; in addition he was a personal acquaintance of Nares, the colleague to whom Nares appealed to print in the Gentleman's Magazine unpublished installments of several ongoing British Critic reviews[7] when Nares was replaced as editor by William Van Mildert, Thomas F. Middleton, and Thomas Rennell. Certainly Nares's correspondence with the British Critic's contributors is testament to his editorial responsibility in assigning review articles to his stable of writers, determining the printing schedule for reviews, offering to send proofs, making editorial emendations, and apologizing for an omission in text.[8]

To a greater degree than any other literary journal of its day, with the possible exception of the Anti-Jacobin Review, the British Critic was a periodical with a mission. Nares's rather florid preface to the 1800 volume makes clear the sense of ideological commitment that he and his contributors shared. "At a time of gloom and apprehension," he tells his readers, "when Faction and Impiety had grown insolent and menacing, and those principles which our Church and Constitution support . . . had scarcely any public advocates; . . . duty bid us quit our private walk, to do our utmost for the general cause." Nearly a decade of revolution and war abroad and political turmoil at home had brought no security and surely, in Nares's mind, no justification for letting down his guard. "The season of gloom is not yet past! Britain, after exhausting her strength to support the liberties of Europe . . . [is still menaced]. The storm lowers on every side; and the power that wages


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war against all duties, human and divine, is daily gaining strength by victories." Consigning the nation's fate to God's hands, Nares reiterates his intention to do his part as a foot soldier for Church and King. "Our office is clearly marked. It is, to wield the arms that we are competent to use, in defence of a pure church and wisely ordered state . . ." (BC 16 [1800]: i-iii). The battlefield imagery Nares invokes was no mere rhetorical flourish; and the 1801 preface even more explicitly employs the language of combat, as Nares conjures up a picture of the British Critic's Old Roman contributors, sacrificing their peaceful leisure, like Cincinnatus leaving his plough, to fight the good fight against the Jacobin menace. "[T]here are enemies with whom, for the sake of public happiness and tranquillity, BRITISH CRITICS must not make even a moment's truce," Nares declares. "These are, the assailants of religion, infidelity and impiety; or the disturbers of the state, faction and disloyalty; enemies, whose inroads called us from our voluntary studies, to a state of literary warfare; to wield the pen, and shed the ink, which otherwise would have been quietly consumed, in defence of all that we hold sacred in religion, valuable in law, or useful in society" (BC 18 [1801]: i).

Though the British Critic's spirit never faltered, its effectiveness in the fight against radicalism eventually waned. To a large extent the decline was the result of a chain of unsettling shifts in management and recastings in format. The commencement of the second series saw drastic changes in organization and soon the elimination of the entire British Catalogue section, that monthly conglomeration of thumbnail reviews that allowed conservative reviewers such scope in awarding damnation or praise to scores of authors, popular or obscure. With the mid-1820's came the end of the second series, a short-lived third, the change from monthly to quarterly publication, the commencement of a fourth series, and merger with the Quarterly Theological Review to form the British Critic, Quarterly Theological Review and Ecclesiastical Record. Meanwhile a parade of short-term editors--Archibald Montgomery Campbell,[9] James Shergold Boone, Samuel Roffey Maitland, John Henry Newman, and Thomas Mozley--brought another element of discontinuity to the review's career.

The British Critic fell in 1843, the victim not of victorious Jacobins or later British radicals, but of its own extremism. A take-over by the Oxford Movement, in the form of Newman, Mozley, and their adherents, precipitated a drastic decline in circulation and led the Society for the Propagation of the Christian Gospel to sever its 75-year connection with the Rivington publishing house. In 1843 the anti-Oxford-Movement forces, led by William Palmer of Worcester College, prevailed upon Francis Rivington (great-grandson of the founder of the firm) to halt publication of the British Critic on the grounds that it was dividing the Church that it had been established to defend.[10] It was an ignominious end for a periodical that had always prided


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itself on the purity of its principles and the sacredness of its mission.

While the fight against political and religious radicalism consumed a disproportionate amount of the British Critic's attention, the review did upon occasion become embroiled in apolitical controversies. One of those was a contentious dispute over the existence and location of ancient Troy, a dispute launched by the publication of Observations upon a Treatise, entitled A Description of the Plain of Troy, by Monsieur le Chevalier (1795) and A Dissertation concerning the War of Troy and the Expedition of the Grecians, as described by Homer, shewing that no such Expedition was ever undertaken and that no such city of Phrygia existed (1796) by Jacob Bryant (1715-1804), classical scholar and author of theological treatises. The debate was joined with passion by contending armies of Troy skeptics and Troy apologists, two in the latter camp being the British Critic's William Vincent and John Whitaker.

The attribution of the various articles appearing in the British Critic concerning the Troy controversy requires an especially careful sifting of evidence. The root of the difficulty lies in William Vincent's categorical claim to have supplied all the reviews printed in the British Critic dealing with the querelle over Troy. Writing to John Nichols on 1 February 1814 with regard to the British Critic's two-part treatment of J. B. S. Morritt's A Vindication of Homer, and of the ancient Poets and Historians who have recorded the Siege and Fall of Troy (BC 12 [1798]: 632-645; 13 [1799]: 116-135), Vincent declares, "[T]he Review which you impute to Gilbert Wakefield, and call indecent, was mine, as were all the articles in the 'British Critick,' on the several publications relative to the Controversy about the Troad. . . . Mr. Bryant's answer [to the review] in his 'Expostulation' was outrageous," Vincent adds. "He called the Writer an Assassin, which in a following article, and by private correspondence I called upon him to retract. This he would not do; and therefore I dropped the controversy . . ." (Illust. 3: 772-773). Vincent relied upon a colleague to reply to Bryant on his behalf in the British Critic's critique of Bryant's Expostulation (BC 15 [1800]: 55-69), appending several trenchant paragraphs of his own.[11] Vincent himself clearly wrote the joint review of J. B. S. Morritt's Additional Remarks on the Topography of Troy, &c. in Answer to Mr. Bryant's last Publication and of William Francklin's Remarks and Observations on the Plain of Troy, made during an Excursion in June, 1799 (BC 16 [1800]: 418-424). He supplied the review of Richard Chandler's The History of Ilium or Troy (BC 22 [1803]: 545-549), an article devoted entirely to the Troy controversy, noting that "we enter with pleasure into every part of the debate . . ." (p. 545). He specifically claimed authorship (in Illust. 3: 773) of the review of William Gell's Topography of Troy (BC 25 [1805]: 349-361), in which he seized the opportunity to attack Bryant's contention that Troy did not exist, while professing "that


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we have always respected . . . [Bryant's] abilities, his learning, and integrity" (p. 350). Vincent in addition may have written the critique of Bryant's Observations upon some Passages in Scripture (BC 24 [1804]: 665-679; 25 [1805]: 46-58), a critique that includes a paragraph (p. 666) seeking to refute Bryant's opinions concerning Troy. He may also have reviewed Edward Daniel Clarke's Travels in various Countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Part the First (BC 38 [1811]: 484-497, 603-616), though it contains no reference to the Troy controversy, since Vincent acknowledged authorship of the review (BC 40 [1812]: 97-110, 616-624) of Part the Second of Clarke's Travels, which covers Clarke's visit to the supposed site of Troy. In fact, the first installment of the British Critic's two-part review of that work is almost entirely devoted to a recapitulation of the various opinions of Chevalier, Bryant, Morritt, Francklin, Chandler, Gell, and others with regard to the Troy controversy. Conversely, in a letter of 3 February 1814 to John Nichols, Vincent noted that he was not the author of the review of Hobhouse's comments on the Troy controversy and that in fact his critique of Clarke was his final review for the British Critic on the subject of Troy, adding, "I have concluded my labours, with my friend Nares's resignation of his concern in the 'British Critick'" (Illust. 3: 773-774).

Vincent's claims to a virtual monopoly of the British Critic's coverage of the Troy controversy notwithstanding, Richard Polwhele provides evidence that Polwhele's friend, John Whitaker--not Vincent--wrote the articles concerning the debate over Troy that appeared in the numbers of the British Critic before December 1798:

In 1796 [Polwhele writes], the famous controversy began respecting the very existence of Troy, and of the Trojan War, which had been opened by the learned and excellent Jacob Bryant in two quarto tracts. One of these was entitled "Observations upon a Treatise entitled, 'A Description of the Plain of Troy, by M. Le Chevalier:'" [sic] the other, "A Dissertation concerning the War of Troy and the Expedition of the Greeks, as described by Homer; showing that no such Expedition was ever undertaken, and that no such City of Phrygia ever existed." . . . Nor was he overlooked in the British Critic.

It was not possible that Dr. Vincent should be inattentive to this contest, or indifferent to the subject of it; but at the time when it commenced, he was too much occupied by his own objects to take up the pen. The Review [i.e., the British Critic] had then its most learned contributor in Whitaker; who furnished two powerful articles on Bryant's first Dissertation [BC 9 (1797): 535-547, 591-603]. It was not till Mr. Morritt's able Vindication of Homer appeared in 1798, that Dr. Vincent began to take an active part in the controversy. He then entered the field with spirit against the venerable, but paradoxical mythologist; and though assailed by rather unfair weapons, never afterwards receded from his ground. He fought with vigour, but with a strict regard to the laws of literary chivalry. His first critique, upon the subject of Homer and Troy, appeared in the Brit. Crit. Vol. XII. p. 632 [BC 12 (1798): 632-645], in a Review of Mr. Morritt's work. . . . (Biog. Sketches 3: 100n-101n)

Polwhele also supplies evidence[12] of an additional Whitaker contribution concerning the Troy controversy, Whitaker's review of Bryant's A Dissertation


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concerning the War of Troy, and the Expedition of the Grecians, as described by Homer
(BC 9 [1797]: 604-615). The attributions of authorship listed below accept as conclusive Polwhele's intimate knowledge of his friend Whitaker's reviews. Polwhele's information thus provides a useful corrective to Vincent's blanket claim to the authorship of "all the articles in the 'British Critick,' on the several publications relative to the Controversy about the Troad" (Illust. 3: 772-773).

The attributions that follow encompass, besides Nares's prefaces and several of his reviews, articles by twelve additional British Critic contributors: John Brand, George Ellis, George Gleig (Bishop of Brechin), John Hellins, Samuel Parr, Thomas Percy (Bishop of Dromore), Richard Polwhele, Richard Porson, John Stoddart, William Vincent, John Whitaker, and Joseph White. All attributions of authorship appear first in the "Synopsis by Contributor," which provides a convenient listing of the finds according to author. The "Chronological Listing in the British Critic" next sets forth for each item the full citation from the British Critic, the author's name, and the source of the attribution. Abbreviated titles used in the "Chronological Listing" as well as in the notes appear as follows:

BC   British Critic
Biog. Sketches   Polwhele, Richard. Biographical Sketches in Cornwall. 3 vols. Truro, 1831. 
DNB   Dictionary of National Biography. 1908-1909 ed. 
GM   Gentleman's Magazine
Illust Nichols, John. Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century. 8 vols. London, 1817-58. 
Lit. Anec.   ----. Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century. 9 vols. London, 1812-15. 
Reiman  Reiman, Donald H., ed. The Romantics Reviewed: Contemporary Reviews of British Romantic Writers. Part A: The Lake Poets. New York, 1972. 
Roper  Roper, Derek. Reviewing before the "Edinburgh," 1788-1802. London, 1978. 
Trad. and Recoll.   Polwhele, R[ichard]. Traditions and Recollections; Domestic, Clerical, and Literary. 2 vols. London, 1826.