Mrs Courtney’s history begins, following a brief introduction.
THE REVIEW, ORIGINALLY INTENDED as its name indicates to be bi-monthly like the Revue des deux Mondes, was founded in 1865 by Anthony Trollope, Frederic Chapman and George Henry Lewes, with Lewes as its first Editor. One of its fundamental principles, as appears from its original prospectus, was the signing of contributions. The Review was to be in no sense a party organ. Every writer was to be free “to express his own views and sentiments with all the force of sincerity”—provided he put his name to them. How revolutionary this proposal seemed to a public used to quarterlies directed by an editor of pronounced views and entirely regardless of any standpoint by his own, is clear from the criticism of an Edinburgh publisher, who said he had always thought highly of Lewes’s judgment “until he had taken up the senseless notion of a magazine with signed articles and open to both sides of every question.”
Anthony Trollope in an early number defends this practice and attacks anonymity in literature. “It is, I think, now generally presumed that all literature of a high order which presents itself to the public alone, standing on its own merits… should present itself accompanied by the name of the author.” But though this is recognised with books, it is not so yet with “that other class of literature which we call periodical.” Of this difference in practice Trollope disapproves. “A man should always dare to be responsible for the work which he does.” He doubts “whether we shall in England ever have such another instance of concealed name as that which Walter Scott created; and the author of the ‘Pickwick Papers,’ were he to begin now… would probably commence as Charles Dickens and not as ‘Boz’.” He goes on to say that “in France all writings in newspapers and reviews are signed,” and attributes to this the high professional standard attained by French critics. To daily journalism he will, however, allow that anonymity may be strength. Men “do not choose to be guided in politics by Johnson, Thompson or Watson,” by they will consent to be guided by “the Times, the Daily News, or, it may be, by the Morning Herald.”
An Editor of a Review, employing young and unknown writers, may possibly think it advisable to keep back their names, though he himself recognises their talent. From this course, however, Trollope dissents. Good criticism should be signed. It will not necessarily, therefore, be uniformly eulogistic; much censorious criticism shelters itself under anonymity. In any case “a man should be ashamed to do without his name that which he is not prepared to do with it.” Hence “in this new Review of ours, we intend to try what signatures will do for us.”
An exception to this rule may be noted towards the close of 1866, when an article on The Army appears, by “a (late) common soldier”; but no doubt there were Service rules here to be considered, and the Editor could not jeopardise his contributor’s future.
The Fortnightly venture had evidently taken some time to mature. Lewes writes to Thomas Adolphus Trollope, elder brother of the novelist, as early as March 1864 asking for contributions and telling him to propose his own subjects. In May 1865 the first number actually appears, written so largely by the Editor and his wife [Mary Ann Evans, writing as George Eliot] and Anthony Trollope that it looks almost like a family affair. Lewes himself contributes a first instalment of a work on Principles of Success in Literature which runs through several numbers, an articles on The Heart and the Brain, a review of Munro’s Lucretius and presumably the dissertation on Public Affairs which is throughout his editorship a regular “feature,” preceding the book reviews. On this occasion he has to begin by chronicling “one of those great crimes in high places” which are “landmarks of history,” the murder of Abraham Lincoln. The number contains also Personal Recollections of the murdered President by the American publicist, Moncure D. Conway, then resident in London. One can picture the Editor, forced at the eleventh hour to make room for this topical paper, upsetting all his previous arrangements which were mainly for articles of a review or abstract nature; but he does not, as a twentieth century Editor would have done, put it at the head of his number. That distinguished place is occupied by the first chapter of Walter Bagehot’s The English Consitution, of which subsequent chapters appear at irregular intervals. Anthony Trollope’s serial novel [The Belton Estate] comes next, an odd position for it to occupy. Then follows a long review by George Eliot of Lecky’s recent history of Rationalism. Only fourth comes Conway of the President. Then Lewes with his Heart and the Brain, J. Leicester Warren reviewing Atalanta in Calydon, J. F. W. Herschel On Atoms—a four-page dialogue in a classical garb between Hermione and Hermogenes, —the first instalment of Lewes’s Principles of Success in Literature, followed by Frederic Harrison’s The Iron-Masters’ Trade Union, set up in smaller type, one does not quite see why. Of the unsigned seven pages on Public Affairs, five and a half are given to the United States, the rest mainly to Europe and only a couple of paragraphs to home politics. Four reviews, one by the Editor, one by his wife and the other two by F. T. Palgrave and [subeditor] John Dennis, conclude a number which is typical of the early issues.
There is a haphazard air about this arrangement, very likely due to exigencies of setting-up according to the date at which articles were received rather than in order of their importance. But the whole editing strikes a later critic as that of an amateur. In such matters as the position of the serial there seems to be no principle. Sometimes it is at the head of the number, sometimes second, sometimes dropped down to the middle. Type is varied for no very apparent reason. Articles begin anywhere on the page, as though saving of space and economy in the printers’ bill were the sole consideration. The third issue contains no book reviews and no explanation of their absence. The bound volumes possess no index, only a table of contents unalphabetised but with the articles more or less in order of publication. No one before Morley seems to have so much as thought of indexing articles under contributors’ names, or in any sort of alphabetical order. No wonder difficulties soon occurred on the business side, and it is not surprising that within a twelvemonth the Review was under “reconstruction.”
IN THE SECOND NUMBER Lewes is less predominant, but Anthony Trollope pervades it, providing a review of Sir Henry Taylor’s Poems as well as a long instalment of the serial. This review heads the number for no very obvious reason except that the book is published by the firm. E. S. Beesly makes a first appearance with Catiline as a Party Leader, and George Meredith has a three-page poem, “Martin’s Puzzle.” Robert Buchanan, in an essay on Thorvaldsen and his English Critics, attacks “the odious cruelty of bad biography” and is indignant because those who object to Thorvaldsen’s statue of Byron as bad, go out of their way to blacken the character, not merely the capacity, of the sculptor. It is a very characteristic essay.
Someone must, before the third number, have suggested to Lewes that his contents bill needed brightening, for The Derby of 1865 by C. Clarke makes its surprising appearance. (Was this perhaps due to Trollope, lover of horses?) Also F. W. Burton writes on Glimpses of the Levant and John Dennis on Our Rural Poor. But Huxley’s Methods and Results of Ethnology and Frederic Harrison’s The Limits of Political Economy keep up the philosophical tradition.
In the fourth number M. D. Conway on Modern Times in New York, Macfie’s Life in San Francisco and R. Lane Poole’s account of Palgrave’s Journey through Arabia are concessions to light reading. So too is Anthony Trollope’s On Anonymous Literature, already quoted. But Herschel On the Origin of Force and J. Godkin’s exhaustive account of The Irish Land Question weigh the balance down on the heavy side, and Herbert Spencer begins the fifth number with a portentously serious discussion of Mill versus Hamilton.
Besides Meredith’s poem in the first number, we get a rather long poem by Robert Buchanan, A London Idyl, in the fourth, which gives Lewes an opportunity, or he took it as such, of printing a long critical study of his own on Buchanan’s poetry. Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon had been reviewed in the first number by a critic who recognises “a freshness and remarkable power about his book which entitles him to be counted henceforward amongst our contemporaneous minor poets.” The “minor poet’s” Chastelard is dealt with by Lord Houghton in the following year. But no actual Swinburn poem appears until 1867, when Morley had become Editor. F. T. Palgrave contributes a survey of English pictures, Academy shows and otherwise, for 1865 (another effort perhaps a brightening a number?). It is a little less incongruous than the Derby, though why, with Lewes’s well-known knowledge and love of acting, did it never occur to him to have anything on the drama? Was the theatre too shocking for Victorian readers? It could hardly be more frivolous than the Derby!
Amongst other well-known names appearing in Lewes’s lists of contributors, we note Sheldon Amos writing on Civilization and Crime, Democracy in England and other subjects; E. A. Freeman on the Swiss constitution and on the relation between the Crowns of England and Scotland; F. Seebohm on The Black Death, and Thorold Rogers, roused by Seebohm’s articles, on the population of England before and after that pestilence. P. G. Hamerton contributes various articles on Aesthetics and Art Criticism; S. R. Gardiner makes an appearance in 1866 on his own period, the first Stuart Kings; Professor Tyndall discusses The Constitution of the Universe and F. C. Bain The Feelings and the Will, and, in a second articles, The Intellect, all from a physiological standpoint.
Meredith’s Vittoria is the serial for 1866. Anthony Trollope contents himself with a long “short story” and a variety of articles, on Public Schools, on the Civil Service, on Anonymous Literature, on the keeping of the Fourth Commandment. The Editor still plies a busy pen, now reviewing Victor Hugo’s new Novel, now discussing Spinoza, and again Comte and Mill. He begins a monthly Causerie on books and various topics, in addition to signing a number of the book reviews. But all this feverish activity fails to keep the Review floating. The first “Company Ltd.,” who put up the money—principally the three founders—are soon at the end of their resources. Lewes retires from the Editorship and John Morley, introduced by Cotter Morison, is chosen as his successor.