Anthony…though a delightful companion, and brimming over with active intelligence, was in no accurate sense of the word intellectual, and as unhelpful and impatient an arguer as I ever met…
– Alfred Austin, 1864.
THE FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW, one of the most influential English-language periodicals of the 19th century, was the invention of Anthony Trollope, who, with the support of Frederic Chapman, James Cotter Morison, Danby Seymour, Alfred Austin, and others, decided to launch a magazine designed to free the “higher journalists” of the time from “the views of an Editor or Political party.” Under the editorship of George Henry Lewes the first issue appeared on 15 May 1865. The subeditor was John Dennis.
The Fortnightly (Trollope often did not include the article as a formal part of the full title; usually, we do) had been inspired by Matthew Arnold’s call for “a current of true and fresh ideas” in his then-controversial 1864 lecture on “The Function of Criticism“. According to Arnold, such a thing just did not exist in England, where magazines published unsigned pieces that adhered predictably to the views of the political party supplying the magazine with material support. A better model, he said, might be found in the Revue des deux mondes, a French periodical established in 1829, “having for its main function to understand and utter the best that is known and thought in the world, existing…for a free play of the mind.” It offered readers a mixture of fiction, reviews and commentary in signed pieces. A British version would be a publishing novelty. Even the Revue‘s frequency of publication was unusual; it appeared on the first and fifteenth of each month. (It is now a monthly.)
Trollope and his associates decided to openly emulate the magazine Arnold famously had blessed, right down to the twice-monthly publication schedule, which, as a prospectus (published simultaneously in the Saturday Review and the Athenaeum on 25 March 1865) noted, was an interval “neither too distant for influence on passing questions, nor too brief for deliberation.” As for the “free play of the mind,” Trollope wrote, “We shall endeavor to further the cause of progress by illumination from many minds, with every contributor to speak on his own responsibility. In all matters of conduct and discussion the Fortnightly Review is to be impartial and absolutely honest, thoroughly eclectic, opening its columns to all opinions, without any pretensions to editorial consistency or harmony.”
Trollope was an open-minded man, but he had his limits. He required, for example, “that nothing should appear denying or questioning the divinity of Christ.” Under Lewes, however, the Fortnightly quickly became a champion of Comtean criticism and often irreligious comment, so Trollope simply backtracked:
‘That theory of eclecticism was altogether impracticable….Of course the project broke down. Liberalism, freethinking, and open inquiry will never object to appear in company with their opposites, because they have the conceit to think that they can quell those opposites; but the opposites will not appear in conjunction with liberalism, free-thinking, and open inquiry.’
THE PRESENT ‘NEW SERIES’ seeks to disprove Trollope’s assumption that “opposites will not appear in conjunction with liberalism, free-thinking, and open inquiry” by inviting views both complementary to and divergent from those expressed in the pages of the Fortnightly and other similar periodicals and presenting them in a medium that encourages eclecticism and contrast.
This New Series of The Fortnightly Review is an editorial experiment, as was the Fortnightly from its inception. In the case of this series (more precisely the third series of the periodical; a “new series” first appeared in January 1867, reflecting the change in publication frequency to a monthly), the experiment is in the use of a new medium in which editorial juxtaposition is an interesting component of the presentation of ideas, often providing a modern context for older texts – especially those not easily obtainable elsewhere – and the critical and other values they represent. (A simple example is seen here.) The intention is to provide a basis for the examination of ways in which innovations in publication shape literary art and illumine older work in the light of new – and vice-versa.
The Fortnightly Review was always engaged in exploring the relationship between material and spiritual ideas, and that fascination continues. Likewise, our interest in art and literature, philosophy, and culture is informed by an awareness of the Fortnightly‘s archived content. The work published here represents a quality we think is consistent with the standards appreciated by the Fortnightly‘s earlier editors. We think many of our principal articles would delight them, and that they would not be surprised to see them published in this New Series. (Indeed, a few of our major articles would have been familiar to Morley, Harris, Courtney, et al., since they originally appeared in the Fortnightly or elsewhere contemporaneously.)
The Fortnightly‘s additional use is in the occasional workshops of The Brouzils Seminars. It is updated often, although what is called a “principal article” appears every week or two – sometimes three. Comments (either by one of our correspondents or from sources elsewhere), along with miscellaneous reviews and notes, appear daily in the Fortnightly‘s Chronicle & Notices department. (For an extended view of periodicity and this publishing model, see here.)
The Trollope Prize: The Fortnightly Review provides a modest honorarium to the graduate winner of The Trollope Prize awarded by the University of Kansas. The winning graduate essay will be published here first.
A thorough history of the Fortnightly Review by Janet (Hogarth) Courtney, the wife of W.L. Courtney, the Fortnightly‘s longest-serving editor and a very attentive observer of London’s literary life, has been transcribed for the editors of this New Series and appears here. Additional comment by the Courtneys on the life and career of John Morley appears here. Further information will be found in the sources cited at the bottom of this page.
The New Series’ motto, “The stroke of an oar given in true time,” is by Ruskin who used it to describe “one of the simplest pieces of perfect art” in a lecture, “Of Wisdom and Folly in Art,” given on 8 February 1872 and published concurrently in the Fortnightly Review.
In 1954, The Fortnightly (“Review,” the most appropriate of the two words in the original title, had been dropped earlier and the article was incorporated on a formal basis) was incorporated into The Contemporary Review. The Contemporary Review, established as a rival in 1866, was, until 2011, published by the Contemporary Review Trust and had no association with this website. Sadly, The Contemporary Review has now apparently ceased publication.
This New Series of The Fortnightly Review is edited by Anthony O’Hear and Denis Boyles. For more information on the current editors and contributors, please click here.
Research and other notes: The Rossetti Archive has a limited number of entries archived from the Fortnightly Review. The Internet Archive has a selection of digitized issues online. A nearly complete index of The Fortnightly Review through 1900 may be found in The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals 1824-1900 (Vol 2). Trollope’s obituary of Lewes, published in The Fortnightly Review on 1 January 1879 – and republished in an abridged version in The New York Times on 16 February 1879 – is available online at Ellen Moody‘s website. Lively reading about Trollope and others may be found at the Anthony Trollope website. Those interested in digital research relating to the “long” 19th century (1789-1914, according to historian Eric Hobsbawm) will find the contents of Patrick Leary’s Victoria Research Web and the work of NINES useful; those interested in ‘little’ magazines published between 1880-1945 will be grateful for the index at the Modernist Magazines Project (which also includes The Germ from 1850) and the joint project of Brown University and the University of Tulsa at the Modernist Journals Project. We encourage students and scholars to join and support the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals.
Sources consulted for this page: Trollope: An Autobiography (Oxford World’s Classics); W. Houghton: The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals 1824-1900 (Vol 2); R. Mullen: Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in His World; R. Super: The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope; Sullivan: British Literary Magazines: The Victorian and Edwardian Age, 1837-1913 (Historical Guides to the World’s Periodicals and Newspapers); Everett: The Party of Humanity: The Fortnightly Review and Its Contributors, 1865-1874.; “What’s in a Name?: Signature, Criticism, and Authority in The Fortnightly Review.” Sarah Nash. Victorian Periodicals Review – Volume 43, Number 1, Spring 2010, pp. 57-82. For more on Trollope and his world, visit Amazon’s page for Richard Mullen.
The Fortnightly Review‘s initial prospectus, as published in the Saturday Review and in the Athenaeum, 25 March 1865, appears here. Source: Everett.