Ouida A Dog of Flanders/ Nello e Patrasche

Ouida, “A Dog of Flanders” (1872)/ Nello e Patrasche (1880)

 editions in English and Italian

1893 Giftbook edition of "A Dog of Flanders", Lippincott's (USA)
1893 Giftbook edition of “A Dog of Flanders”, Lippincott’s (USA)

English edition: A Dog of Flanders edited by Andrew King

Italian translation (large file – be patient): nello e patrasche trans T Cibeo Treves 1880

“A Dog of Flanders: a Story of Noel” was originally written as a Christmas tale for the American Lippincott’s Magazine, where it appeared in volume 9, January 1872, pp.79-98.

Later that year it was published in London, Philadelphia and (again in English) in Leipzig as part of a collection of short stories given various titles but which was (in textual terms) virtually the same: A Dog of Flanders and Other Stories (London: Chapman & Hall) with illustrations by Enrico Mazzanti; A Leaf in the Storm, and Other Stories (Philadelphia: Lippincott); A Leaf in the Storm; A Dog of Flanders; and other stories (Leipzig: Tauchnitz).

In 1873 there was a pirated Australian edition – and soon a flood of translations (some pirated and some not) in various languages. Beyond the usual French and German, there were also Russian, Polish, Finnish, and eventually Japanese, Korean and – surprisingly perhaps given its specifically Christian setting – Yiddish, as well as an enormous number of pirated American editions in English. There are at least 11 film and TV versions (the 1999 film can be found in its entirety here ) plus a documentary made in 2007 on the story’s incredible popularity still in Japan.

There was of course an Italian translation (called “Nello e Patrasche”).  It came out in 1880 with the Milanese publisher Fratelli Treves, with whom Ouida published translations of several of her novels as well as collections of stories.  “A Dog of Flanders” was, however, a makeweight in a volume whose principal part – and the only one mentioned on the title page – was Zola’s short novel / long short story “Nantas” (1878). Besides “Nantas” (pages 5- 177), the volume in fact also contained “Storia d’amor sincero” by Dickens (pages 181-196; actually an extract from chapter 17 of Pickwick Papers – the tale of Nathaniel Pipkin); “Nello e Patrasche” (pages 199-238); “Una Strage in Oriente” (pages 241-313) by the Russian journalist and traveller Lidia Paschkoff (or Lydia Pashkoff and other variant spellings in Roman script).

I’ve made an uncorrected PDF of Nello e Patrasche taken directly from this out of copyright edition. It is a very large file as it comprises images of the pages. It you missed it at the top of the page, here it is again:  nello e patrasche trans T Cibeo Treves 1880

"A Dog of Flanders" in 1906 Roycrofters edition - it's covered in suede and very tactile --like the fur of a dog!
“A Dog of Flanders” in 1906 Roycrofters edition – it’s covered in suede and very tactile –like the fur of a dog!

This translation is significantly different from the English not in its plot (though a significant name is changed) but in its lack of interest in sound and rhythm. Several descriptive passages are simplified it seems to me, which is strange as these were one of the key things Ouida was most appreciated for in Italy as elsewhere. This is how “Memini,” the translator of some of Ouida’s short stories as Affreschi ed altri racconti (Milano: Treves, 1888), described her powers of painting the Italian landscape in words:

I suoi paesaggi sono mirabili illustrazioni descrittive; alcune pagine… raggiungono la perfezione del genere e ci obbligano all dolorosa confessione della nostra inferiorità nello studio e nella descrizione letteraria del nostro paesaggio… (pp. xvi-xvii of the “Appunti critici”)

Why therefore did “T. Cibeo”, the translator of “A Dog of Flanders,” choose not to try to aim for similar effects in Italian? Why too is the title changed from a representative animal to the names of the two main characters? It’s a quite common title change in translations of this tale – try searching for “Nello e Patrasche” online – but we must ask what the implications of such a change might be.

And then there’s another curious thing. “Nello e Patrasche” was not reprinted in Italian so often as other Ouida stories. Her children’s story “La stufa di Norimberga” (“The Nurnberg Stove”) is very easy to find, for example, and has been translated several times, whereas the 1880 translation of “Nello e Patrasche,” buried in a  volume whose main attraction was Zola and not even mentioned on the title page, was the only one I could locate really to exist (others turned out to be mistakes). Why was this story not so popular in Italy when it is so popular elsewhere? That is surely a question for investigation. It can’t be just the quality of the 1880 translation but something about the story itself. What values does it suggest that might prove unattractive to the Italian market? That is something that can and should be discussed in dialogue with Italian native speakers.

We’ll never know how many copies and translations of “A Dog of Flanders” were sold or how many people read this story. Certainly many millions in Japan alone beside the many millions in other languages. All we can say is that it was very successful amongst a very wide cross-section of society in many countries, including not only the general public but also amongst the elite. The artist Burne-Jones wrote a letter to a friend telling a lovely story of how he recalled (the influential Victorian art-critic) Ruskin and Cardinal Manning (Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England from 1865 until his death in 1892) one day grubbing about on the floor desperate to find a copy of this story they both loved.

There are various free online editions of “A Dog of Flanders” available in English though none in Italian besides the one I’m offering you here. Some of the English texts are digital versions with little indication of what the source volume was, though you can find PDFs of actual books containing the texts through the very useful http://archive.org/details/texts site (see for example the beautiful – and certainly pirated – American Christmas gift-book version with lots of illustrations or the equally lavish 1909 Lippincott version illustrated by the famous children’s illustrator Louise M. Kirk).

The edition that I made is based on the Project Gutenberg text version, which claims to be a checked transcript of the 1909 edition from Lippincott.

I have, however, checked the Gutenberg edition against both the 1909 Lippincott version, the original serialisation and the first British edition by Chapman and Hall (no manuscript seems to have survived). I have edited so as to return the spelling to British standard (which Ouida always wrote in) and also adjusted the paragraphing again to the original (the Gutenberg text was in fact very faulty and didn’t even accord fully with the Lippincott edition, let alone the original).

If you missed the link at the top of the page, here it is again. It’s not a large file as it’s a PDF created from Word.

A Dog of Flanders edited by Andrew King

John Dicks, Publisher, and “Dicks’ English Library of Standard Works”

My thanks to Louis James for the gift some time ago of six volumes (bound as 3) plus 10 monthly numbers of Dicks’ English Library of Standard Works and, in anticipation, to Anne Humpherys’ ongoing research on Dicks and reprinting, to which this post is intended as a small contribution.

To both these remarkable scholars this post is dedicated.

advert of Dicks' various reprint series from Dicks English Library March 1884
advert for Dicks various reprint series from Dicks English Library March 1884

As William St Claire has assertively reminded us on more than one occasion, the bibliophile connoisseur’s fetishisation of the “original” – the first – edition of texts has often occluded how reprints are actually more valuable in telling us about the cultural penetration of texts. The first edition is always to some extent “experimental” on the market. The publisher may have a good idea of who it will sell to and how how many copies will be shifted but the risk remains that he (for Victorian publishers were overwhelmingly male) may be wrong. Reprint editions still carry this risk of course, but to a lesser extent: the publisher already knows that the first edition or, indeed, the many previous editions, have sold and how quickly, and may even have evidence about who bought it, how the critics understood it, and so on. To that extent the risk is less. But reprints can also be aimed at radically different markets, as when Ouida is repackaged and sold in 6d form at the end of the century. The launch of a text in a new market may meet with considerable success, or it may not, so we cannot say with absolute conviction that reprinting involves less risk than first printing.

dicks standard plays
List of Dicks Standard Plays, c. 1884

Anecdotally, one of the best selling series of reprints of the latter part of the nineteenth century comprised a periodical entitled Dick’s English Library of Standard Works. This was issued from one of the most successful London publishing houses of cheap fiction, John Dicks, on which there is almost no work at all outside an excellent volume privately published in 2006 by a descendant of the founder (Guy Dicks, The John Dicks Press, Lulu.com). Nonetheless, Dicks is certainly well known as a name not only to students of Victorian popular reading, to whom Bow Bells (1862-1897), Reynolds’s Weekly Newspaper (1850-1967) and Reynolds’s Miscellany (1846-1869) along with Reynolds’s Mysteries of the Court of London  (1849-1856) are all familiar, but also students of the Victorian theatre, for without the over 1,000 “Dicks Standard Plays” (published at a penny each between 1864 and 1907), many theatrical pieces would not be available to us at all.

John Thomas Dicks was born in 1818 and entered the London printing trade aged 14 or 15 “in a very humble capacity” (says the Bookseller in its obituary of Dicks, 3 March 1881). Around 1841 he became “assistant to P. T. Thomas, the Chinese scholar, who at that time was carrying on the business of publisher, printer and stereotyper to the trade on Warwick Square”. In the mid 1840s he started to be associated with  G. W. M. Reynolds and in 1863 seems to have amassed sufficient capital to set up as a printer and publisher at 313, Strand, London, where he entered into formal partnership with Reynolds.  After Reynolds died in 1879, Dicks bought his name and copyrights from his heirs for a very considerable annuity.

A major part of Dicks’ business, however,  already comprised reprinting which he organised into several  series, including “Dicks’ Complete Shakespeare,” and of course “Dicks’ Standard Plays” (see the first illustration in this post).

A measure of Dicks’s commercial acumen is suggested by  his death (in 1881) at his villa in Menton, a resort in the south of France where the European and Russian nobility kept their winter villas. Dicks also had a large house, the Lindens (which no longer survives except in the name of a post-war housing estate), in the exclusive west London suburb of Grove Park, Chiswick (the location was not accidental, for not only does the nearby railway station go to Waterloo, from where Dicks could cross the river easily to his office, but census data reveal that his wife was born in Hammersmith, the next suburb east of Chiswick). His estate, valued at “under £50,000” – a very considerable sum –  was left to his widow Maria Louisa and his sons Henry and John (see Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010).  Clearly, cheap publishing and reprinting could be a very profitable business indeed.

The indefatigable journalist, gossip and bon viveur George Sala has an amusing anecdote at Dick’s expense, however, suggestive of how despite almost all authors’ interest in money, financial and cultural capitals might be inversely proportional to one another. It’s part of a longer story about his encounter at Nice with a “Captain Cashless”  –“ middle-aged, good-looking, well-preserved…  spent most of his money before he came of age; lived for several years on the credit of his credit; is a widower and spent every penny of his wife’s fortune” (Life and Adventures of George Augustus Sala, volume 2: 293). The Captain cannot understand where Sala gets his money from, but Sala feels he might

sala life and adventures vol 2 294
Sala, Life and Adventures, Cassell, 1895, vol 2: 294

Sala lets us know that he can just toss off this profitable magic, turning the lead of his scribbling pencil into financial gold he can spend (and no doubt dispend) in Monte Carlo with his friend the glamorous rake. His methods of income generation and expenditure here seem to mirror one another in their low “real” value: both are fun, light, silly, worthless entertainments; good times, easily come by, easily left; in all Victorian senses, “fast”. In an analogue of the bibliophile connoisseur’s dismissal of the reprint as repetition, Sala dismisses his tales as the result of iterable alchemical formulae or repeated tricks of prestidigitation he has learned in the trade. Yet besides their illustration of the distance between cultural and financial capitals, such stories by their very comedy can hide from us the very serious business sense that lies behind them. It’s not that the fun is deceitful – on the contrary, without it there would be no commercial success – but that it is only one side of the coin.

dicks english novels Reynolds the seamstress

Dicks English Novels no 102: Reynolds, The Seamstress

 Turning now more specifically to the reprinting side of Dicks’s business, in the 1870s  a series of 6d volume-form reprints under the generic title “Dicks’ English Novels,” began to be published: they cost 6d and seem to have started as reset versions of novels originally serialised in Bow Bells. They also recycled the original illustrations. Many other novels were soon added, including, after the copyrights had been secured, works by G.W.M. Reynolds (see the image on the right for an example). In the end almost 200 titles were published in this series (more of which below). It was so successful a second series was begin in 1894.

After his death, Dicks’s sons developed the reprint with Dicks’ English Library of Standard Works, a periodical consisting entirely of the  serial re-issue of well-known novels. It came out in the usual 3 formats: weekly comprising 16 pages with four illustrations (costing 1/2d); monthly, consisting of the weekly numbers for the month costing 3d, in orange covers comprising mainly adverts; and in volume form of 416 pages plus title page and frontispiece costing 1/6. “Dicks’ English Library” was a quarto – the same size and format as most 1d or 1/2d periodicals such as the London JournalBow Bells or Reynolds’s Miscellany – and was first published on 27 June 1883. It ran for 38 volumes right up to 2 March 1894 whereupon (just as with Dicks’ English Novels”) a new series was started. Percy B. St. John was the editor of the first few volumes (on whom see a subsequent post).

Dicks English Standard Library no1
Dicks English Standard Library no1
dicks standard library title page 1
dicks standard library title page 1


dicks standard library vol 1 frontispiece
Dicks Standard Library vol 1 frontispiece

A typical announcement for the periodical can be seen here, justifying its publication not (of course) in commercial terms but in those of Whig public utility  that could have come from the 1830s. (The following is from the Pall Mall Gazette, but similar adverts were placed all over the press)

pall mall gazette 21 June 1881 15 (2)
The Pall Mall Gazette 21 June 1881: 15

Besides the  list of authors above and the more obvious suspects in the world of Victorian popular fiction – G.W.M. Reynolds, Bulwer Lytton, Charles Lever, G.P.R James, Captain Marryat, Paul de Kock and Dumas ‑  also included were Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (and Percy Bysshe’s Zastrozzi, both illustrated by the well-known illustrator Frederick Gilbert – Shelley’s complete “Poetical Works” are published later in the series), Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda, Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Hawthorn’s Scarlet Letter and Godwin’s Caleb Williams. Most intriguing (not least from the point of view of copyright) is the heavy presence of Dickens, including, later on, Dombey and Son as well as numerous individual tales.

The reissue of these texts cannot be taken to be an unalloyed index of popularity amongst the readers of cheap publications. The Dicks firm is clearly aiming at respectability and the aspirational reader keen to build up that sign of cultural capital, a “library” – the page numbers of each weekly and monthly number are incremental, asking the reader to keep them so as to build up the volume. The Shelley poetry may have been suggested by the revival of interest in him amongst the literati with Rossetti’s Moxon edition in 1870: it is a mark of what the public should aspire to rather than of already extant popular demand. Publication in this form is no indication that any particular author was read unless the author’s other works are also issued, and even then business reasons other than consumer demand may have prevailed – for example, copyrights might have been bought as a job lot in advance, and accordingly had to be exploited, or there were vacant pages that had to be filled with works whose copyright had lapsed. One also has to take into account what other works were serialised with, before and after any particular text, for it may be any or all of those that carried the periodical through rather than the particular text one is looking at.

What one also has to do is try to establish the publishing history of a series. Adverts are always useful for this and one on the monthly cover of “Dicks’ English Library” (October 1888) shows that by then 197 titles had been published in the “Dicks’ English Novels” series for example. The missing titles were presumably exhausted, but they can be identified by reference to other adverts elsewhere, either in other publications or earlier in the series (cf. the following with the first image of this post).

dicks english novels advert 1 October 1888
Advert from cover of Dicks’ English Library for Dicks English Novels, 1 October 1888

The history of the Dicks reprinting series has yet to be mapped: even a basic bibliography is lacking. After that is done, one of the many questions that can be answered concerns the relations of synergy between the various publication forms: for example, how far did the English Library reprint works previously available in the volume-form English Novels series? More complex questions can also be addressed, including the implications for the history of the canon, its creation, modification and its reception – if any – of the publishing choices of  this financially rich but status-poor house. The use of a garland of portraits of authors as a frontispiece for “Dicks Standard Library” suggests the prioritisiation of some authors over others: this prioritisation needs to be charted and compared to the number and positioning of authors actually published (a front-page author is lent greater prominence than one whose work starts on a middle page, for example).

These, and many other questions about this most interesting publisher, still await answers, and we look forward to them in due course.

Ouida and the Parergic 2

Guy_Livingstone frontispiece
US cheap reprint of Guy Livingstone by Routledge (1867) for both US and UK markets

Ouida, of course, from when her first story appeared in Bentley’s (she was just 18), had had to write for money. She knew where the power and money lay, and “mythical swelldom” was one place. In 1857 George Lawrence’s Guy Livingstone had appeared. It went through at least 6 editions by the mid-60s (the image is of an 1867 reprint by Routledge who evidently thought it worthwhile to print – and so establish copyright – in the US as well) and started the cult of the “muscular” hero. Even Dickens had to respond to it  (see Nicholas Shrimpton’s excellent article on Lawrence and the “Muscular School” of heroes in Dickens Quarterly, 29: 2). Lawrence himself was given no less than £1,000 for his novels – a very high sum indeed – by his publisher Tinsley, and Tinsley it was who published in volume form Ouida’s first novel, Held in Bondage in 1863, a novel which combined the dashing muscular school with bigamy and sexual deception, themes newly marketable since Lady Audley’s Secret. Ouida though only managed to get £50 from Tinsley for the rights to publish it (though she did manage to negotiate that he should only keep the copyright for a limited period. Tinsley, rather unpleasantly, wrote that he could have got the complete copyright had he driven a hard bargain). Strathmore followed the same publication pattern, though published, after negotiations, by Chapman and Hall who were now to become Ouida’s regular British publishers. She managed to sell them the short-term copyright for just £75.

Even to get these small sums was an effort. Ouida, a half-foreign woman of 20 from Bury St Edmund’s with no real connections, had to work out a way to make money in the cut-throat male world of London publishing. Hers is in a sense “surplus” labour which has to make itself needed: she is an outsider who has to get in. The solution Ouida seems to have arrived at was to  reflect back to power the image of itself it seemed to like. This is where the concept of parergy starts to become useful.

Fig 3 Under Two flags (421x640)There is an oft-repeated story that Ouida used the conversations she heard between men at her Langham gatherings for her now most famous novel, Under Two Flags. But, as Jordan demonstrates in her chapter for Ouida and Victorian Popular Culture, Ouida’s knowledge of military life was derived from reading rather than from conversations with military men. Such textual knowledge is legible from her earliest publications, the short stories she had published in Bentley’s in the early 60s, several of which we can read today as devastatingly critiquing male pomposity exemplified by the soldier (e.g. “Little Grand and the Marchioness”). But they can also be read as simply amusing in their accounts of masculinity. That they concern “mythical swelldom” as opposed to what the male critics regarded as reality is key: Ouida doesn’t get it quite “right” i.e. she presents the men from the outside, exposing men’s little blind spots and tricks of evasion. At this stage, that doesn’t matter: for the critics these deviations – these failures to adhere to the powerful norm – are a laugh, “brilliant nothings”.

By the mid 60s Ouida’s prices had risen slightly. Over 186566 she received £6 per monthly instalment for Under Two Flags in the British Army and Navy Review, a monthly to which she had contributed a series of stories and non-fiction articles on military matters since July 1864. Just as Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret was left incomplete in its first manifestation as a serial in the twopenny weekly Robin GoodfellowUnder Two Flags was unfinished when the British Army and Navy Review folded in June 1866. Bentley had taken over the Review in December 1865 but failed to save it. He later refused to publish the novel in volume format on the advice of his reader Geraldine Jewsbury who concluded that ‘the story would sell but … you would lower the character of your house if you accept it’.  Ouida wrote to another potential publisher, Frederick Chapman, a few months later claiming that the premature termination of the serial had left ‘military men’ waiting ‘with intense impatience’ to read the end. Her sales pitch to Chapman worked, for he published it as a triple-decker in November the following year. The American publisher Lippincott gave her £300 ‘by trade courtesy’ for his one-volume edition, and the continental publisher Tauchnitz brought it out in 1871. Three years later, Ouida was to sell her copyright outright to Chapman for less than £150.

This was to prove a costly mistake for, contrary to what has been claimed, the novel was initially only moderately successful. Its real success came in the 1890s when it sold in enormous numbers in cheap editions: Chatto and Windus, who bought the copyright from Chapman in 1876 as part of their vigorous expansion policy, were to print around 700,000 copies. Ouida got nothing from this. No wonder she was to write to her solictor in November 1884 that “Chatto & Chapman are two rogues who play into each other’s hands to keep down prices like the publisher in ‘Pendennis.’” Men still ruled the publishing industry, as they rule the wider media today.

By the 1890s, then, Ouida’s fiction has migrated downmarket. Interestingly, the penny papers do not treat her with the same attitude as the up-market expensive magazines and newspapers. On the contrary, for them she is “the leading female novelist of England” who has

“no rival in passionate eloquence, and the pathetic, emotional power by which she can change the lowly and the sinning into a glorified humanity, and lift up and ennoble and sanctify even the rudest nature by some one divine gem of supreme manifestation of sacrificial love” (Bow Bells 17 January 1890).

By this time, too, she had herself become comically wicked in that market. Unlike with the negative high-culture reviews of the 1870s and 1880s, this is surely a marketing ploy which positions Ouida as safely transgressive: her eccentricity is part of her scandalous appeal. One can have one’s desires enacted by someone else on the page without ever having to confess them as one’s own. Ouida is contained: once again we don’t have to read her seriously.

London journal extract on Ouida
London Journal 3 September 1898
To return again to parergy.

Parergy is not dismissal de haut en bas by critics who claim to know better – it is not a weapon in cultural warfare that the powerful wield. It is a wheedling weapon of the disempowered, a demand to be heard which knows it will fail, an attempt to participate in power while knowing that the odds are stacked against it. Is this what Ouida does in her early work?

I don’t think Ouida’s imitations of the “Muscular School” fail in an unambiguous way so much as lay that school open to the possibility of ridicule or parody:  they depart from it certainly, exposing its weaknesses and limitations and hidden assumptions. We are never allowed to forget that the hero of Under Two Flags is nicknamed “Beauty” and that he’s much more interested in his horse and his male friend “Angel” than in the heroine Cigarette or the paragon Lady Venetia or the actress he keeps (powerfully objectified as merely “the Zu-Zu” ) or his aristocratic mistress with the absurdly accurate name “Guenevere”. The women Beauty has a relationship with are all part of the appearance of masculinity. Even Beauty’s affair with Lady Guenevere is part of the system of masculine show: everyone knows about it and yet, in that complex game of respectability, at the same time they don’t. In any case, we are shown how this affair adds a potency to Beauty’s allure. How are we to take this exposure of the structuring of masculine power and image? Is it a flattering celebration or a merciless critique?

If the parergic can be found in Ouida it is gendered:  excluded from literary-economic power, she mirrors back those representations of masculinity which generate it, while at the same time departing from them by the acuteness of her vision and anxiety as an outsider.

It is very different from the non-gendered, generic parergy I located in the 1840s. If anything, that kind can still be found in the penny paper reviews of the 1890s – think of the rather strained description of Ouida in Bow Bells, with its anxious determination to dazzle with rhetorical devices (most notably a tricolon) at all costs, or the anecdote in the London Journal which could be funny were its rhythms more bouncily organised, and were it less determined to excuse its subject as distracted.

Whether Ouida’s vision of men is parergic or parodic depends on whether we read it as undermining or supporting that masculinity. I think her version of muscular literary power in her early work walks a tightrope between parergy and parody: can we say with absolute conviction that her early work parergically supports its models while failing to live up to them or parodically undermines them by exaggerating and revealing? It does both, sometimes simultaneously but mainly, I think, it lurches from one to the other from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, page to page. The reader is in any case left uncertain, able to take from it in the end what she or he wants. Indeed, the ability of Ouida’s writing to have it both ways in terms of gender is one of the secrets of its success, and why it gives us such scope to write about this author and gender in what seems a mini-Ouida revival in the teens of the twenty-first century.

Over a hundred years after her death, we have started to find ways of reading Ouida again.


Ouida and the Parergic 1.

For perhaps a hundred years the idea that Ouida could ever have a serious relationship with high-status culture would have been laughable. Her contemporary critics thought her merely pretentious: she claims to be part of respectable culture but she can’t manage it, she emulates the high but doesn’t get it right.

lay figure
Artist’s Lay Figure from 1870

When the Saturday Review (12 July 1873) reviews Ouida’s Pascarèl, a novel set in the revolutionary Italy of the 1860s, it begins by announcing that Ouida’s

“chief literary quality is a flux of words and her dominant characteristic audacity. If we analyse her rushing gorgeous sentences, full of sound and colour as they are, we find only some poor, meagre, little thought as the residuum; and even when her phrases are sentimental, the action of her stories too often appeals to a prurient taste. Her ideas are like an artist’s lay figure, the same thing draped up in a dozen different costumes, but always the same thing underneath, and that thing wooden.”

Ouida can’t, according to this witty reviewer,  be bothered to move from the “lay figure” to real people: she remains all pose (as Malcolm Elwin described her in his 1930s book Victorian Wallflowers).

Now when I used  the term defined in a previous post, “parergic,” to refer to a failed emulation of high culture that did not undermine but supported it, I wanted to get away from the value judgement implied by the terms “pretentious” (or words often used in a similar way, like “imitative” or “derivative”) to help us think about what was at stake: what are the violent hierarchies we participate in, unconsciously or otherwise, when we dismiss a writer as laughably pretentious? Sometimes the violence takes place in the field of culture, at other times of class, gender, race, age, disability and so on. Sometimes consumer identity which may be “horizontal” rather than vertical is at issue, whereby for instance, supporters of one successful pop group will deny the validity of another which is, in the field at large, in a very similar cultural position. At all times the issue is tribal status: “we” are better than the failed “them”. My deployment of the term “parergy” was intended to create an analytic  distance from those struggles, to stand outside them insofar as such is possible (that one cannot stand outside entirely doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try).

Now how far can parergy be related to Ouida’s early work?

First to note is  that the critics’ view of Ouida as pretentious only fully emerges after her identity as a woman is revealed. Early comments on her work in periodicals – she had started to contribute to Bentley’s Miscellany in 1859 – suggest that the critics thought “Ouida” a clever gentleman who wrote “brilliant nothings” for pleasure (see e.g. Morning Post 4 February 1862:3). They even thought Ouida  had seen military service. So thorough was the deception that the Standard (8 May 1862: 6) wryly interpreted Ouida’s temporary absence from Bentley’s in May 1862 as a possible sign that the author had decided it was too vulgar to write in such a magazine:

“What has become of him? Has he got a notion that it is plebeian to write, or is he only taking a rest from his arduous labours as the chronicler of mythical swelldom?”

Ouida’s morality – but, more, “discretion” – were issues that some papers took issue with: the The Morning Post (8 May 1865: 2) didn’t like “his” article on duelling for the Army and Navy Review mainly because “he” dared to voice opinions that should have been kept within “his” set.

By 1866 that the name referred to a woman author was already public: The Sporting Gazette of June 23 that year refers to her as “she” confirming The Pall Mall Gazette‘s outing of Ouida as a woman in its review of Strathmore (4 May), in which it had defined her novel as “the hen book to ‘Guy Livingstone'” (on which novel see below) and proceeded to slash it for, exactly, pretention:

The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), Friday, May 4, 1866  2 review of strathmore Ouida outed cropped
Pall Mall Gazette, 4 May 1866

Soon, Ouida’s real identity becomes more and more public. The Bury and Norwich Post, and Suffolk Herald  (23 October 1866: 4) even relates how “she” had spent her childhood in Bury. The next post will think through more specifically the implications of this for an understanding of the parergic.


Parergy and the Beginnings of the Mass Market in the 1840s


1st page of The London Journal 1845

One of the key concepts was what I called the parergic after Derrida, though I used the term in a very different way from him. It was an attempt to explain in a serious and non-condescending but at the same time intellectually rigorous way the particular position in the literary market place of texts right at the beginning of the commercial mass-market: what was the relationship of these texts to the more general field? Here in this first post revisiting what seems like a long ago (and indeed I first came up with the idea in the 1990s), is an extract from the original. Later posts will test the concept against other work.

Having provided paragraph-length biographies of several journalists and marked their career paths – they all started aiming for high status and ended writing for money – I came to a conclusion and then sought to explain that conclusion and link it to curious stylistic features characteristic of these texts, features very different from the Edward Lloyd-type serials I had encountered previously which did not seem to care about their status as commodities. The material I was studying from The London Journal seemed worried about being ‘economic literature’ – how did this worry manifest itself exactly?


… The London Journal was thus a precipitate out of surplus labour which would prefer the greater symbolic (and at this stage usually economic) capitals of the up-market magazines. The desire for a unified cultural field that I discussed in Chapter 2 is visible here, supported sociologically by the very limited socio-cultural group that writers in general came from (Altick, 1989). In that sense, the impression gained from Vizetelly’s description of the magazine as staffed by ‘failures’ is correct.

The longing for the high but exclusion from it that such career paths suggest results in what I term the parergic. This comprises a set of specific textual effects and practices, which, while underpinned by sociological narratives, does not inhere in specific bodies or corpora (a writer, artist, a periodical or even an article may display the parergic or not at various points). It is a system whereby texts are based on originals that are invested with greater symbolic capital and authority. Officially respectful and emulative, the parergic is tinged always with a resentment, caused by exclusion from desired cultural areas, that brings about mutation in what is supposedly emulated. The parergic sometimes raids authority aggressively and seems therefore to attack it, but nonetheless paradoxically buttresses cultural boundaries even in the act of transgressing them. Unlike parody, which always in some sense undermines the authority of its original even while being complicit with it, the parergic fully acknowledges and maintains this authority even when it effaces its model. Unlike straightforward imitation of the high, which depends on large cultural capital to judge its value, the parergic does not use the exclusive codes or high prices that cultural authority wraps itself in to keep out the uninitiated.[1]

The weekly ‘Essays’ furnish typical examples of the parergic in terms of that practice which is ‘style’. Essay L on ‘The English Language’, signed by John Wilson Ross (III: 7-8), begins with the commonplace thesis that ‘the progress of language marks the progress of the human mind’, and swiftly interprets this in a nationalist sense. It continues by placing the ‘rise’ of the English language at the Reformation because then ‘men began to argue’ and to do so ‘they [had to] express themselves with precision’. Thereafter,

Addison was unquestionably the first of our writers who introduced elegance of expression into the composition of English prose. He found the writings of his predecessors disfigured by a loose, inaccurate, and clumsy style. He changed all this, and made himself a model for imitation. In his works we find no forced metaphor – no dragging clause – no harsh cadence, – no abrupt close. He is, also, a happy model for the use of figurative language. They seem to spring spontaneously from the subject: and are never detained till the spirit evaporates or the likeness vanishes. They are just like flashes of lightning in a summer’s night – vivid, transient, lustrous, – unexpected but beautiful, – passing over the prospect with a pleasing brightness, and just vanishing before you catch a sight of all the beauties of the scene they gild. The copious and classic mind of that writer gave our language the greatest degree of elegance and accuracy of which it is susceptible. Since his time fine writing has not improved. Simply, because it cannot be. You cannot give the English language a nicer modification of form, or a greater beauty of feature than Addison gave it. But you can give it more nerve and muscle. And subsequent writers have done so.                                                                                                     (III: 7)

It was Johnson, ‘[t]hat Colossus of English literature’, who provided the muscle. Since his time ‘there has occurred no variation in the style of English prose’ except, possibly, by increased use of the ‘Gothic, whence [English] sprung; and that is a feature in language which our readers will agree with us is more deserving of disgust than admiration, and a variation in style more worthy of punishment than praise’ (III: 8).

The essay’s claims to authority depend largely on the assumption of a common standard throughout the literary field…

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.


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

The Monthly Repository 1806-1837

monthly repository preface vol 1

While the Monthly Repository has been well studied (see the bibliography at the end) – and it occupies a central place in the ncse project – it is nonetheless worthwhile here assembling information here that is not available elsewhere.

Running January 1806 – December 1837, this shilling monthly went through quite a series of publishers:

Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme 1806

Sherwood, Neely and Jones 1810

Sherwood, Jones & Co, 1824

Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, 1825

Monthly Repository Office, 3 Walbrook Buildings, and R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard, 1827

Monthly Repository Office, 3 Walbrook Buildings, and R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard; Bell and Bradfute, Edinburgh, G. Hamilton, Edinburgh; Bowles and Dearborn, Boston US, 1828

C. Fox, 67 Paternoster Row; R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard; Bell and Bradfute, Edinburgh, G. Hamilton, Edinburgh; G.G. Bennis, 55 Rue Neuve St. Augustin, Paris, 1832

C. Fox, 67 Paternoster Row; R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard; William Tait, Edinburgh; G.G. Bennis, 55 Rue Neuve St. Augustin, Paris; Gray and Bowen, and L. Bowles, Boston, 1833

C. Fox, 67 Paternoster Row; R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard; William Tait, Edinburgh; G.G. Bennis, 55 Rue Neuve St. Augustin, Paris, 1834

It was more stable in its printers:

C. Stower, 1806

George Smallfield, 1817

William Clowes, 1832

The Monthly Repository is mainly famous today for its volumes from 1832 onwards when, having become completely secular, it carried contributions by noteworthy radical and literary figures such as Harriet and James Martineau and John Stuart Mill. Earlier volumes are however very useful for the student of Dissent and Radicalism.

It had been founded by the 24-year-old Reverend Robert Aspland who, from a modest background, had converted to Unitarianism four years previously and become the minister at the Gravel Pit Chapel, Hackney. The same year he established the Unitarian Fund of which he was secretary and later founded other periodicals and societies, by means of which he became a leading light in Unitarianism.

Unitarianism can be considered a means by which the industrial managerial class consolidated its identity through cultural and religious means, and the Monthly Repository in its first 21 years functioned as an important method of creating and sustaining a communicative network amongst this class. Typical of Unitarianism, it prioritised reason and toleration over tradition and was one of the first periodicals actively to embrace the new methods of biblical criticism developed in Germany. Poetry in its first two decades was largely devotional, but there is an exceptional amount of translated work, with again the emphasis on German.

The Monthly Repository also embraced Utilitarianism and was active in politics, promoting a radical agenda, which included the education of women. In 1813, a member of Aspland’s congregation introduced the Trinity Bill into Parliament which abolished penalties for refusing to believe in the Trinity: unsurprisingly, this is covered extensively in the volume for that year.

Under Aspland’s editorship there are several areas of especial interest, not least of which is the use of obituaries. These, along with the extensive coverage of Unitarian activities and debating points and the finely engraved portraits that acted as frontispieces, were key to the monthly’s identity. One of the principal commonplaces of attack on Unitarians comprised claims of deathbed recantation: many of the obituaries stressed on the contrary unwavering adherence to, and indeed comfort in, Unitarianism throughout long illness and death. As Ruston points out, the proportion of women whose lives were recorded in this way is high ‑ some 27% ‑ though this is typical of nonconformist journals in general.

A further point — of interest for post-colonial historians — is the coverage of the ‘Calcutta Controversy’ and the space devoted to the Indian Unitarian Rammohun Roy. Even one of the frontispieces is given over to his portrait (1824). Considerable space is devoted to the role of the press, both Indian and British, in this controversy 1823-1824.

After 21 years, Aspland, never having earned anything for his editorial work, ceded the task to William Johnson Fox, a Unitarian famous for his oratorical powers. Fox was also noted as a drama critic, and had written for the Contemporary and Westminster Reviews. He was also moving away from Unitarianism, and, having bought the magazine from Aspland, he transformed the Monthly Repository into a secular periodical: from January 1832 it may be considered wholly so, acting now less as a medium of interchange amongst a commercial and religious network as amongst a radical cultural élite. Its years under Fox are today the most famous and studied, when it was very much concerned with social and political reform, and sophisticated literary criticism. It also carried some fiction and, importantly, gave voice to early feminists (see Robson, 1987).

Every month from July 1834 it also carried an insert consisting of a song for voice and piano that was tied into the relevant issue of the body of the magazine in some way, enabling thus the domestic performance of the magazine.

In June 1836 Fox resigned the editorship to R.H. Horne. A year later, Fox gave the magazine to Leigh Hunt, who, with his son, wrote a very large proportion of it. Although this was Hunt’s tenth editorship, his experience failed to help the magazine make money and under him it died.


Francis E. Minneka, The Dissidence of Dissent: The Monthly Repository 1806-1838, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944

Ann Robson, ‘The Noble Sphere of Feminism’, Victorian Periodical Review, 20, 1987: 102-7

Walter Graham, English Literary Periodicals, New York: Octagon Books, 1966: 272-3

Alan Ruston, Monthly Repository 1806-1832: Index and Synopses of Obituaries, 1985

Contributions to The Monthly Magazine, Dr. Aitken’s Athenaeum, The Monthly Repository, and the Christian Reformer by the Late Reverend Eliezer Logan, extracted and compiled by his son Richard Logan, London: Woodfall and Kinder, 1856

R. Brook Aspland, Memoir of the Life, Works and Correspondenc of the Reverend Robert Aspland of Hackney, London: Edward T. Whitfield, 1850

The DNCJ of course has an entry (by the indefatigable Matthew Taunton), but the most important resource remains the ncse.

Flowers of Literature 1801-1809

flowers of literature title page

Flowers of Literature for 1801 and 1802 [1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808, 1809] or, Characteristic Sketches of human nature and Modern Manners. To which is added A General View of Literature during that Period with Notes, Historical, Critical and Explanatory

[from 1803 the following is added] Portraits, and Biographical Sketches

Though described  and extracted in the Cardiff Corvey database (http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/encap/journals/corvey/articles/database/flowers.html) I thought it might be useful to add more information and offer another take on this interesting periodical. Several volumes are available free through Google Books.

The Flowers of Literature was a commercial miscellany composed of extracts from other publications. It is useful to the publishing and literary historian for several reasons: as an indication of the changing tastes of the market; for its general overview of the literary scene (including fluctuations in the trade) in its annual prefaces; for (from 1805) its catalogues raisonnés of recent publications; and as being one of the many productions of Francis William Blagdon (1778-1819). It was published throughout its run by B. Crosby & Co, Stationer’s Court, London, and printed by J. Swan in  Angel St, and had a circulation of around 3,000. Its first two volumes cost the very considerable 11 shillings but thereafter the price was reduced to 6 shillings.

Its target readership – according to the preface of its first volume was (pace the Corvey Index) threefold:

1)       “gens du monde; who are desirous to become, without serious application, conversant with modern literary taste”

2)       “the lovely British fair, whose minds are formed for tenderness… and whose sensitive faculties, when not involved in the vortex of fashionable dissipation, are susceptible of every passion which can dignify human nature”

3) “the noble youth of our country… whom we will gradually and safely introduce to the path of literary studies”

Begun as a joint publication (of around 400 pages long) with the Reverend F. Prevost (about whom virtually nothing is known), after the first two years Blagdon took sole charge. Blagdon, from a humble background, had been taken up by a Dr Willis who taught him French, Italian, Spanish and German. Around the time Flowers first came out, Blagdon was publishing many translations from French and had just brought out, again in collaboration with Prevost, Mooriana, or Select Extracts from the works of Dr. J. Moore, in 3 volumes in 1803. In 1802 he had begun Modern Discoveries, which amounted to eight volumes over two years. In 1805 he published a pamphlet, with the signature of Aristides, condemning the administration of the navy under Earl St. Vincent. As he describes it in the Preface to the volume of Flowers for 1805, the government had changed by the time the pamphlet had come out and he sent the whole of the print-run to the Earl – who prosecuted him for libel. Blagdon went to prison for six months and had to find sureties of £1,000 to keep the peace for three years. Unsurprisingly, this delayed the appearance of Flowers that year.

Other volumes of Flowers also appeared irregularly, especially from 1807 when Blagdon began to devote more energy to his newspaper, the Phoenix (later the Phoenix and Political Register or Blagdon’s Political Register) and to politics.

The preface to the first volume claims that the compilation was begun initially for the private use of the editors: they are careful to distinguish it from the reviews which are “much more confined in their extracts”. Annotations to the selected texts (actually quite rare) are “designed to direct the taste, to explain obscure passages, and to record facts and circumstances not generally, but worthy of being, known”. Extracts in volume 1 are taken from, amongst many others, Mrs Inchbald, Mrs Opie and Scrofani’s Travels in Greece; a few are translated from French (e.g. Le Brun’s Portefeuille politique).

flowers of literature frontispiece

There is a 32-page overview of the state of literature in the first volume: in later ones the overview, called the “Introduction”, is sub-divided into various classes. In these later volumes too are frontispieces comprising portraits of five writers, always four men surrounding a woman in the centre: in 1803 these comprise Darwin, Cowper, Pratt and Colman around Seward. The five writers are then always granted biographies in the early pages of the volume.

While claiming to describe the state of literature in Europe as a whole, in fact the foreign writers referred to are mostly French, sprinkled with a few German. The effect of the contemporary war with France is visible not only in the inclusion of many explicitly patriotic and/or francophobic texts but in their arrangement within the volume: there is usually a concentration of such texts at the end. The 1806 volume, foe instance, concludes with two letters from Josephine to her daughter Fanny (supposedly revealing the “Character of the French Nation, and the present state of its usurper” – a footnote informs the reader that omitted from the translation is a passage where Josephine describes how Napoleon beats her) and a “National Song” attacking Bonaparte (a footnote declares that when the piece was selected it was thought the war would soon be over).

Thomas Walker’s The Original 1835

Here is the first of an irregular series describing individual Victorian periodicals.

The title of the first is The Original. A lively, unillustrated 3d weekly 16-page miscellany (though its first issue comprised 12 pages and its last just 4),  it ran 20 May 1835 – 2 December 1835 for 29 numbers, coming out every Wednesday for 3d and also monthly in a wrapper (its last number, the 4-page issue, cost only a penny). It was published by Henry Renshaw, 356 Strand, London and printed by Ibotson & Palmer, Savoy Street.

The Original was directed mainly towards the male upper middle classes “aloof from sect and party” (no.1 p.2), concerned, as its “Preliminary Address” states, with “whatever is most interesting and important in Religion and Politics, in Morals and Manners, and in our Habits and Customs”, leavened with anecdotes and autobiography, in an attempt to raise “the national tone in whatever concerns us socially or individually”.

It was written entirely by Thomas Walker, the son of a Manchester manufacturer and Whig reformer. Walker was born in 1784, gained his B.A. and M.A. from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1808 and 1811 respectively, and was called to the bar in 1812. In 1829, he became a police magistrate in Lambeth court. Six years later, he began The Original for, he claimed, two reasons. Firstly, it would provide “a constant and interesting stimulus to my faculties of observation and reflection” – in other words, it would act as a kind of public diary – and secondly, it would provide for the reader “an alternative diet of sound and comfortable doctrines blended with innoxious amusement” (“Preliminary Address”). Walker was, however, unable to maintain a constant flow of new material and reprinted material from works he had already published, the most substantial of these being the pamphlet Suggestions for a Constitutional and Efficient Reform in Parochial Government (1834).


In social and political terms, the periodical criticises both Tories and Whigs in the interest of “Truth”, both being presented as oligarchic at bottom. True democracy, Walker opines, implies attrition of centralised government and devolution to the parish level where future men of state can be trained. Walker is staunchly against the Poor Law and indiscriminate charity of all sorts, positing bad morals on an individual level as the root of poverty in Britain, citing his experience of the courts as evidence. In this sense,  it is a typical Whig/Radical miscellany of the 1830s.

The most famous and influential section of the miscellany in the nineteenth century and beyond was, however,  “Aristology; or, The Art of Dining”. Beginning in number 13 and continuing until number 22, it received particular favour in the Quarterly Review. It was eventually published separately in 1883 with the rather unlikely suggestion it become a school textbook, edited by no less than Sir Henry Cole, founder of the Albert Hall, the Royal College of Music – and the National School of Cookery. It is possible to see the influence of Brillat-Savarin’s famous Physiologie du Goût (1825) in Walker’s mixture of charming anecdote and pseudo-science. However, recipes are conspicuously lacking: unlike Brillat-Savarin, Walker concentrated on refining the delights of consumption rather than production. His work relates to the gastronomic literature associated with gentlemen’s clubs such as George Vasey’s Illustrations of Eating (1847) and J. Timb’s Hints for the Table (1859) rather than to practical cookbooks such as Esther Copley’s Cottage Comforts (1825), Acton’s Modern Cookery (1845) or Beeton’s Household Management (1861).

To the media historian the most interesting parts of The Original comprise an irregular series of addresses to the reader in which Walker describes in detail his processes of composition in the tone of intimate letters to a friend. This ironic and stylish self-reflexivity is actually, as Walker explains, the result of the pressures of periodical publication: he can’t think of what else to write about except the problem of what to write. Typical of the romantic journalist, this, like the pieces on dining, is a variant of the “subjectified occasionalism” discussed by Carl Schmitt almost a century ago whereby  “The romantic subject treats the world as an occasion and an opportunity for his romantic productivity” (Schmitt, p. 17). One may disagree with Schmitt’s condemnation that the author may “take any concrete point as a departure and stray into the infinite and incomprehensible – either in an emotionally fervent fashion or in a demonically vicious fashion, depending upon the individuality of the particular romantic” (p. 17) but the widespread attempt to capitalise on – even monetarise – individual bodily experience is certainly characteristic of the time. The political implications of such a valorisation will be one of the tributaries that feed into individualism (about whose elater development I have written elsewhere). 

The last issue of The Original comprises mostly an “Address to the Reader” in which Walker begs leave to resume his periodical “the first Wednesday in March”, for “London living and authorship do not go well together”. He had become a celebrity: “My writings have latterly drawn upon me more numerous and cordial invitations than usual.” He was never able to fulfill this promise: after a short illness, he died in Brussels on 20 January the following year.

Useful Bibliographical References

Waterloo V: 3647 (NB information there erroneous)

editions 2-4, 1836, 1838, all published by H. Renshaw. I have not seen the 3rd edition. American editions were published certainly from 1837 e.g. by E.L. Carry & A. Hart in Philadelphia.

Walker, Thomas, The Original, 5th edition, edited and arranged under distinct heads, with additions by William A. Guy, M.B. Cantab, FRS, Renshaw, 1875

[Hayward, Abraham], review of The Original,Quarterly Review, February 1836

[Hayward, Abraham], The Art of Dining; or, Gastronomy and Gastronomes, Murray, 1852

Schmitt, Carl, Politische Romantik, 1st edition 1919; 2nd and revised ed. 1925;  trans. as Political Romanticism by Guy Oakes, MIT Press, 1986

[Walker, Thomas], Aristology, or The Art of Dining, with Preface and Notes by Felix Summerly (i.e. Sir Henry Cole), G. Bell & Sons: London, 1881 (subsequently, with “The Art of Attaining High Health”, ed. by Philip B. M. Allan, P. Allan & Co.1921; also with a Preface by Brooke Crutchley and illus. by Lynton Lamb, in a limited edition of 500 copies, CUP, 1965)

“Walker, Thomas, 1784-1836” in the DNB.

Lynette Hunter, “Proliferating Publications: The Progress of Victorian Cookery Literature”, in Luncheon, Nuncheon and Other meals: Eating with the Victorians, ed. C. Anne Wilson, Alan Sutton, 1994, 51-70.

The Book in the Twentieth Century Part 4: war and competing media

This historical definition of the twentieth century as related to book publishing  over the last two posts has covered 6 elements. Before ending this series, I want to cover two more areas: first, the vital importance of war to publishing, and secondly, and inevitably, the relationship of book publishing to other media, a crucial characteristic of twentieth-century publishing.

We may not like to think this, but war is a time when information storage and retrieval and transmission of all sorts leaps to prominence, whether it be the effect of the Crimean and Peninsular wars in the nineteenth centuries on demand for newspapers, the effect of WWI on increasing demand for published images of the war and on staff shortages at printing works – which obviously caused its own problems – or what I’m going to write about here, the effect of WWII on the book as we know it.

In many ways, WWII is just as important as anything previously mentioned in previous posts.

First, it promoted the idea of a national literature. In America, for instance, it had an enormous impact on the consolidation of the canon of Great American Books. In 1941 was published one of the foundational books that defined what was to be included in the American canon – and of course excluded from it. This was F.O. Matthiessen’s American Renaissance, a volume that effectively set the syllabus for schools and universities for decades to come.

If this was what we may call a top-down effect, there was also some influence of what people were actually reading on what academics decided should be canonised: Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby had sunk without trace, an utter flop on its appearance in 1925. Chosen for free distribution amongst the American forces during WWII partly because the copyright was very cheap, The Great Gatsby began to be read by large numbers of people for the first time. Following the war, academics who had read it when serving in the forces started to publish on The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald in general.

That very brief paragraph and the previous blog’s pointed opening with the Penguin “forces edition” of A Room of One’s Own can only open the subject up for discussion rather than explore it in detail – I shall certainly return to it at a later date – but it is important to acknowledge the very obvious fact that historical events, of which war is a very powerful example, impact enormously on the configuration of the book publishing industry.

During the war there was enormous demand for reading matter: people not only wanted information on specific subjects such as the military – no fewer than 229 new titles were published on military matters in 1943 alone, as opposed to only 62 in 1937 – but people had long empty periods of waiting between scenes of action and long evenings to kill with not much to do because of blackouts and rationing.

The publishing industry found in fact that due to rationing of paper it was unable to meet demand. Fortunately for publishers, it had a ready-made lobbying body in the Publishers Association which succeeded in preventing the imposition of Purchase Tax on books and in negotiating on a national scale the Book Production War Economy Agreement. This latter determined both the quality of paper and the size of type in order to produce savings.

Paper rationing – which came to an end only in 1949 – was instrumental in establishing the dominance of the paperback for the production methods used for paperbacks actually used less paper than their equivalent in hardback. Furthermore the pared down visual style imposed by wartime restrictions was highly influential on later developments in design.

The final element in my analysis of the “twentieth century” in publishing terms is competition between media technologies. For books and the literature they carry cannot be separated out from other media. We need in theory to consider film, radio and TV. I’ve no intention of going into the interaction of these media in any detail here, but there are some points I feel it’s important to make.

These media have all interacted in complicated ways with literature: not only is there the obvious phenomenon of the spin-off, the film of the book, the talking book (on radio, tape or CD), the radio play of the book and so on, but also these other, electric, media have all affected printed book “literature”. The influence of film on literature is well documented, especially in the eraly twenteth century, from Kafka, Thomas Mann, Joyce to Fitzgerald (at the end of the century and at the obvious level of cultural reference, one recalls the importance of Rogers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music (1965) in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997)). More importantly from my perspective is the dating of the electric  media’s  influence on considerations of literature. While film had been widely consumed since the early years of the twentieth century, radio from the 1920s, from the 1950s it was TV that proved to be the rival technology to the book. Consumed sitting in the home, TV became a rival not to radio (one could by the 1950s listen to radio all around the house) but to the book. The similar physical postures involved in the consumption of  TV and the book put them into competition.

It’s important to remember how poor people were before the war. Over the 1920s and 30s leisure accounted for less than 5% of national expenditure. Such poverty unsurprisingly hampered media expansion. It was the post-war boom that saw the greatest changes in media consumption – I’ve already mentioned the importance of the 1950s for the transformation of book production methods. In many ways the nineteenth century ended 50 or even 60 years too late as the old production methods were replaced wholescale by the new only after the second world war.

Now at exactly this time we see the birth of modern media studies – a birth largely and paradoxically in book form: not only Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy of 1962 and his Understanding Media of 2 years later, but work on the history of popular reading by Margaret Dalziel, Richard Altick, Louis James, Mary Noel and others. Richard Hoggart was considering The Uses of Literacy in 1957 just two years after ITV started in London and the BBC killed off Grace Archer in an attempt to prevent the curious tuning in to the upstart channel. Of course, there had been studies of mass or popular reading before – one thinks of Q.D. Leavis’s ill-informed and inaccurate (but very influential) Fiction and the Reading Public of 1932 ‑ but what was new at this time was the extent of interest in and concern over the new media and a corresponding re-evaluation of the old. No longer did “English” and “American Literature” remain with their sights on a few canonical classics, but the field began to widen to include texts not previously considered “literature”: not only was contemporary popular culture analysed (Barthes’s journalism collected as Mythologies in 1957 remains a key example), but popular fiction and even journalism began to be studied historically. Important for me, this is the period when the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals was born, and when the interdisciplinary Victorian Studies was first published. Television was not of course the only or even an obviously direct or major propellor of these paradigm shifts in the study of literature, but the incursion of popular entertainment into the home, once the province of the book, must surely have contributed to the gradual (and by no means inevitable or certain) democratisation of literature that the following years witnessed.

What, we may well ask, will the twenty-first century do to the book?

When I wrote the first version of these past 4 blogs as a lecture in 2000, I thought that perhaps we were entering a similar phase to the 1950s and 60s of new technology and new awareness: the world wide web was only 7 years old and everyone was excited about the possibilities for new configurations of meaning. A lot of writing appeared about that.
Thirteen years on and the www is now post-pubescent, well through its university course and thrilled less with new configurations of meaning than new possibilities for consumption. The paper book seems an antiquated medium from which targetted ads are excluded. Will that be sufficient reason for its survival?