London University Magazine 1828-30

Unlike the subjects of my previous two posts, there is virtually nothing written about the  The London University Magazine.

It was intended to be, according to its first article, “a magazine whose principle is to encourage merit, wherever it is to be found, and foster youthful genius, wherever it may have been discovered” (“A Young Head, and, what is better still, a Young Heart”, p. 4). While it claims to have been set up by students of London University for students of that institution, The Marauder, a 24-page publication intended as a monthly critique of the Magazine (but of which only one issue survives), denies that this was the case (p.4). Whether this was true or not, the magazine declared itself to be free of the control of the Council of the University, which in turn gave it leave both to praise the institution and to “record its errors with sorrow”. The Marauder was not the Magazine’s only gadfly: the London University Chronicle was set up in 1830 to attack both it and the professors it lauded. On the other hand, the press in general heaped praise upon it: many favourable reviews, from publications as diverse as the Athenaeum and Bell’s Life in London, were reprinted in the prospectus for volume II (bound in the volume in the library of the University of London at Senate House).

Dating is difficult but reviews of it suggest it ran for 8 numbers September 1829-April 1830. Its was ambitious in its publishers in London, Edinburgh and Dublin: Hurst, Chance & Co (London); Constable & Co. (Edinburgh); Curry Jr & Co (Dublin). Ambition is legible too in its number of pages per issue (c. 144) and price:  7/6.

It had many precedents at Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin, most recently the Oxford Literary Gazette and Classical Foreign Journal (1829) and the Cambridge Snob (later The Gownsman, 1829-30) – see the bibliography at the end for detail of where to locate more about university magazines. Its appearance therefore is a sign of determination that London was to be a fitting alternative to those with an appropriate organ to disseminate the information particular to it: it is, in other words, a sign not of having arrived but of determination to arrive.

Starting off as a predominantly scientific, legal and medical quarterly with emphasis on material clearly thought useful to students (the first volume carried the timetable and prices of lectures, and examination papers for law, medicine, botany and classical languages, with answers for some of them), it announced a wish to continue in the tradition of the quarterlies – not the university magazines – in terms of independent thought, but it also distanced itself from the quarterlies by ostentatiously refusing alliance with any political party. Later, however, its predominant political stance becomes clearer. In the leading article of issue 2, an imaginary Japanese debate over education between a business-man, a priest and a “radical” “votar[y] of common sense, philospher[], follower[] of reason”, the latter decidedly wins (“On the Improvement of Education and the Simplification of Knowledge”). While not explicit, this was a radical Whig trope.

The “Address to the Public” of volume II admits that the magazine has been like the omnibus, a mode of transport introduced in the very year the magazine was launched: the analogy indirectly acknowledged the criticism of its opponents that  in its early days it had taken wrong turnings. To rectify what is now presented as a too specialised focus, “common sense” language will now be employed, “articles of a lighter nature” will be printed as well as what is called the “golden mean” in terms of reviews: somewhere between the lengthy essays of the quarterlies and the brief notices of the magazines. There are also now included reviews of the London theatres, lists of patents granted, share premiums, and even Births, Marriages and Deaths.

Early issues had included a serialised but incomplete translation of Goethe’s Metamorphosis of Plants (1790), but the press (even including The Marauder) delighted most in the two-part essay “The Personal and Poetical Character of Lord Byron”, the two brief series on “The Troubadours” and “The Decline and Fall of Roman Literature”, and the gothic tale “The Eve of Walpurgis”.

Finally, of great interest to print media historians will be “The Secret History of the Connoisseur, an Irish Periodical” by “N.” in volume II, a comic account of the difficulties of setting up and maintaining a periodical in Ireland.

Bibliography

Andrew King, “University Magazines”, Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism (London and Gent: British Library and Academia Press, 2008), pp. 647-8

H. C. Marillier, University Magazines and their Makers (London: H.W. Bell, 1902)

Rosemary T. Vanarsdel and John S. North, “Student Journals” in Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Society, ed. J. Donn Vann & Rosemary T. Vanarsdel, Scolar Press, 1989: 311-331

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Andrew King

Andrew King is Professor of English Literature and Literary Studies at the University of Greenwich. He has always been interested in how and why certain texts are kept for posterity and others disappear. His first degree was in classical and medieval Latin, and he has MAs in Medieval Studies and English. He completed his PhD in English at Birkbeck, supervised by Laurel Brake. He taught for many years at Universities overseas, though immediately before he came to Greenwich in May 2012, taught at Canterbury Christ Church University. His official profile can be found at http://www2.gre.ac.uk/about/schools/humanities/about/departments/cca/staff/andrew-king.

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