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The Fortnightly Review under Escott, 1882-1886.

Mrs Courtney’s history continues.
Part Three.

T.H.S. Escott.

MORLEY CAN HARDLY HAVE had much say in the appointment of his successor. Thomas Hay Sweet Escott was a surprising choice. Though a competent journalist—he had been one of Mudford’s leader-writers on The Standard—and a social historian of some merit,[3] he was in no sense a man of mark or likely to stamp his personality upon any periodical he edited. But possibly Morley’s publishers had become a little nervous concerning the character stamped upon their Review. Even in literature, as Trollope remarked, “our present editor is a man of opinions far too settled to admit of eclectic principles.” Escott was nothing if not eclectic. It stands recorded in the Minute-book of Chapman & Hall that “Mr. Escott attended a Board Meeting and gave his views as to the future conduct of the Review on a broader and less partisan basis and that his suggestions were approved.” Incidentally it was fortunate for Courtney that Escott was the son of his old headmaster at Bath and, as already recorded, at once enlisted his help as Reader.

The immediate result of the new Editorship was an incursion of Conservative contributors. In his first two months, November and December 1882, Escott publishes four anonymous articles by Conservatives, two on The Conservative Leadership (Disraeli had died the previous year) and two on The State of the Opposition (at that time the Conservative Party). The first of these articles evidently attracted considerable notice, for Lady Frances Balfour writes on 6th November, 1882, to Gerald Balfour:4 “There has been considerable talk about this month’s Fortnightly which under Escott has taken a new start. Edmund Fitzmaurice attributed the political article to ‘a Scotch metaphysician,’ everyone knew who he meant, but Arthur could not put the cap on and deny it: it appears it was really written by Randolph Churchill.” For some time Escott rather identified himself with the young and rising ‘Fourth Party.’ In the following year, 1883, on the occasion of the unveiling of Beaconsfield’s statue, he published over Lord Randolph’s own signature the article Elijah’s Mantle, which, as all the political memoirs of the time testify, created a considerable sensation.

Of writers new to the Fortnightly he brings in Sir Bartle Frere on the Future of Zululand, and Mowbray Morris with an article on Dickens. Old names also appear, Laveleye on Egypt for the Egyptians, a subject so topical in view of Arabi’s rebellion that the new Editor himself also tackles it, concluding that, whatever might be said for abandoning so difficult a country, we could not in prudence withdraw just then. Froude and Frederick Myers, who had both written for Morley, contribute on A Lesson on Democracy, and the other paper on Natural Religion.

To 1883 belongs Escott’s most definite bit of organization, a campaign conducted with a view to instructing his readers in The Radical Programme. The articles were unsigned, but Joseph Chamberlain wrote a preface to them when they were published in book form just before the General Election of 1885. They had, for a political book, a remarkably large sale, and they seem to have been mainly written by the Birmingham group of politicians, one at least being attributed by general opinion to Chamberlain. He also contributed over his own signature an article on Labourers’ and Artisans’ Dwellings, and Jesse Collings described Russian conditions in A Radical in Russia, and dealt also with Occupying Ownership.

It fell to Escott’s lot to tackle the later Egyptian troubles which led up to Gordon’s mission to Khartoum. Names which Egypt was soon to make famous begin to appear. Lt.-Col. Kitchener writes on The Future of the Fellab, and Col. W. F. Butler on The New Army and the Old Test. Wilfred Scawen Blunt contributes his Ideas on India in three instalments, and J. E. Gorst an article on The Kingdom of the Nizam. When the long suspense concerning Gordon’s fate reaches its tragic close Ernest Myers devotes to is memory an In Memoriam poem, and Charles Williams, a correspondent with the relieving force, writing from Korti on 9th March, sends a strong indictment, especially of Sir Charles Wilson, for avoidable delay. A little later Mary St. Leger Harrison (Lucas Malet) contributes a beautiful article, The Youngest of the Saints.

Anonymous political articles are numerous, sometimes single, sometimes grouped. Conservatives on themselves form a group in 1885, one by Curzon, one by G. C. T. Bartley and one by “An English Tory.” Escott was fond of having articles in pairs, or groups; for instance, Labouchere on The People and the Peers with a counterblast, signed Arthur Arnold, on People, Parliament and Peers. After the passing of the Reform Act of 1884 we get The Ideas of the New Voters dealt with by three writers, one Henry Broadhurst, the Labour M. P. for Leicester; one a Trade Union official, and one a Conservative.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS TO NEWSPAPERS, as later in Courtney’s editorship, are fully drawn upon for articles. One notes the names of Valentine Chirol, Beatty-Kingston, Archibald Forbes, Col. Frederick Burnaby. The large number of articles on the theatre, infrequent in Morley’s time, may perhaps without straining the point be attributed to Courtney’s influence. They certainly reappeared in full measure in his own later editorship. Between 1882 and 1886 Lord Lytton writes on The Stage in relation to Literature; Professor Jebb on Old Comedy (“The Birds” at Cambridge); F. C. Burnand contributes Behind the Scenes and Councils and Comedians; Augustus Harris discusses The National Theatre, and interesting early attack on a problem not yet solved; William Archer enters A Plea for the Playwright; Edmund Yates writes of Bygone Shows; and Henry Irving gives his views on The American Audience.

Other articles of special interest are James Bryce’s Future of the English Universities, Andrew Lang’s amusing skit In the Wrong Paradise, J. Woulfe Flanagan (for so many years a leader writer to the Times) on Home Rule, Socialism and Secession, T. E. Holland on The International Position of the Suez Canal, Sir Bartle Frere on The Abolition of Slavery in India and Egypt, A. V. Dicey on The Church of England and the Legal Aspects of Disestablishment, Dean Farrar on F. D. Maurice’s biography, Edmund Gosse on Equestrian Sculpture for London (a somewhat unexpected subject from that author), F. D. Myers’ Personal Recollections of the Duke of Albany (who died in 1884), Goldwin Smith on the danger of Separation where Ireland in concerned, and T. M. Healy on The Irish and the Government, a burning subject in that year. Meredith’s Diana of the Crossways ran through 1884. Frederic Harrison reviews the Life of George Eliot in 1885, and Canon MacColl that of the Princess Alice of Hesse. A young Russian scholar, lately come to Oxford, Paul Vinogradoff, tells us how Oxford and Cambridge look through Russian spectacles, and there are a good many articles on psychical research, some from Myers and Gurney, one, more profoundly metaphysical, from F. H. Bradley on The Evidence of Spirit. There is one article only by the late Editor; Morley reviews his friend Sir Henry Maine’s new book on Popular Government.

Escott’s own contributions are mostly personalia concerning well-known figures in politics, or literature, a species of journalism in which, at his best, he was interested because he knew his world and had a gift for gossip, but which not infrequently with him, as with others, degenerated into triviality. These articles continued at intervals right through Courtney’s editorship, becoming more and more discursive and increasingly hard to decipher—his handwriting was atrocious and his letters on busy mornings had to be laid aside for a more convenient season—until his death in June 1924. Throughout the three years of his editorship the Review contained plenty of good stuff. Eminent persons in all walks of life were ready to write for it. What it seems to lack, glancing through the volumes with Morley’s achievement still fresh in the memory, is evidence of a settled plan, or any very definite consciousness of aim on the part of the Editor. This may have been due in part to breaks in continuity. His health was very bad, and frequent absences were made up as far as might be by Courtney’s help from Oxford and the employment of Major Arthur Griffiths as temporary Editor in London. On 13th March, 1886, Edmund Yates, writing to Courtney, says: “I had a distressing letter from Escott yesterday. He is evidently making little, if any progress, and fears he will be compelled to take the whole time of absence, six months, which the doctors prescribed. He is now en route to Cairo.”

Less than six months later the Review had been handed over to Mr. Frank Harris.


A brief introduction.
Part I: Under Lewes, 1865-1866
Part II: Under Morley, 1867-1882
Part III: Under Escott, 1882-1886
Part IV: Under Harris, 1886-1894
Part V: Under Courtney, 1895-1928