Skip to content

The ‘Fortnightly’—a retrospect.

By ‘M’.


“The success of Reviews, of which our own was the first English type, marks a very considerable revolution in the intellectual habits of the time. They have brought abstract discussion from the library down to the parlour, and from the serious student down to the first man in the street.” –Mr. John Morley in his Valedictory as Editor of the FORTNIGHTLY, October, 1882.


How did the FORTNIGHTLY take being?

IT MIGHT APPEAR from a remark in its prospectus that it was suggested by the Revue des Deux Mondes. At all events that model occurred to the immediate founders—George Henry Lewes, Anthony Trollope, and Frederic Chapman. But this was the stage of realisation, and for that of actual conception we must go to Anthony Trollope’s account, in an article which he wrote following the death of George Henry Lewes.

Early in the year 1865 a few men, better, perhaps, acquainted with literature than trade, conceived the idea—an idea by no means new—of initiating a literary ‘organ’ which should not only be good in its literature, but strictly impartial and absolutely honest … we would get the best literature we could, and pay well for what we got, whether good or bad. We would in all cases require the signature of the author for open publication, and we would think more of reputation than of profit. The enterprise was to belong to a Company ‘Limited,’ which was duly formed, and was to be published by a published whose property in it was to be confined to the share which he might hold.”

The first difficulty of the undertaking, as Anthony Trollope regarded it, was to find an editor well equipped for the task to be confronted. George Henry Lewes was named, but while he lent all his heart to the proposal, he doubted his power to give sufficient of his strength. This frailty of physique was an obstacle that could not be argued away, but eventually Lewes agreed to accept the post. He did so at Trollope’s urgency. No doubt it was Lewes’s pen that framed the prospectus already alluded to; but anyhow it is a document on which any review might be content to rest its traditions. One or two clauses ought to be quoted from it, since they indicate with great clearness what the FORTNIGHTLY was meant to be, and where it was new fashioned.

            It will address the cultivated readers of all classes by its treatment of topics specially interesting to each; and it is hoped that the latitude which will be given to the expression of individual opinion may render it acceptable to a very various public.

            “As on means of securing the best aid of the best writers on questions of literature, art, science, philosophy, finance, and politics generally, we propose to remove all those restrictions of party and of editorial ‘consistency’ which in other journals hamper the full and free expression of opinion; and we shall ask each writer to express his own views and sentiments with all the force of sincerity. He will never be required to express the views of an editor or of a party. He will not be asked to repress opinions or sentiments because they are distasteful to an editor, or inconsistent with what may have formerly appeared in the review.

            “He will be asked to say what he really thinks and really feels; to say it on his own responsibility, and to leave its appreciation to the public.”

Two courses, it was pointed out, were open to an effective journal in discussing questions that have an agitating influence, which admit of diversity of aspects, upon which men feel deeply and think variously. One was to become the organ of a party and to maintain a vigilant consistency which would secure the intensive force gained by limitation. The other was to withdraw from all such limitations and rely on the extensive force to be gained from a wide and liberal range.

“The latter course will be ours. Every party has its organ. The FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW will seek its public amid all parties. It must not be understood from this that the review is without its purpose or without a consistency of its own; but the consistency will be one of tendency, not of doctrine; and the purpose will be that of aiding progress in all directions. The review will be liberal, and its liberalism so thorough as to include great diversity of individual opinion within its catholic unity of purpose.

“This is avowedly an experiment. National culture and public improvement really take place through very various means, and under very different guidance. Men never altogether think alike, even when they act in unison. In the FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW we shall endeavour to further the cause of progress by illumination from many minds. We shall encourage, rather than repress, diversity of opinion, satisfied if we can secure the higher uniformity which results from the constant presence of sincerity and talent.”

So the FORTNIGHTLY was launched, a “new departure” in the realm of reviews and quarterlies, a literary venturer in strange seas. No party, but a free platform! This was the fresh cry that 15th of May, 1865, when the first number appeared. In the years to follow, reviews on kindred lines, the Contemporary in 1866, the Nineteenth in 1877, the National in 1883, arrived to join in the campaign and make it triumphant. Yet a shrewd Edinburgh publisher, himself the editor of a famous magazine, once said to Mr. Morley, about George Henry Lewes, that he had always thought highly of his judgment “until he had taken up the senseless notion of a magazine with signed articles and open to both sides of every question.”

The title of the FORTNIGHTLY explained itself; the review was to appear on the 1st and 15th of each month, the price two shillings.


THE OPENING ARTICLE was one of a series on the English Constitution, by Mr. Walter Bagehot, of whom Mr. Morley wrote later: “Though himself extremely cool and sceptical about political improvement of every sort, he took abundant interest in more ardent friends. Perhaps it was that they amused him; in return his good-natured ironies put them wholesomely on their mettle.” Then came the two opening chapters of Anthony Trollope’s story, “The Belton Estate,” for fiction was in the programme of the FORTNIGHTLY, and there has ever remained. It is noteworthy that the only number to which George Eliot appears to have contributed was this one, although George Henry Lewes remained editor for nearly two years. She discussed “The Influence of Rationalism,” àpropos of Mr. Leeky’s History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe. Again, in the department of the review devoted to “Notices of New Books” she criticised Owen Jones’s Grammar of Ornament. Lewes, himself, contributed a couple of articles, one entitled, “The Heart and the Brain,” the other, “Principles of Success in Literature,” besides helping George Eliot, Mr. F. T. Palgrave, and Mr. John Dennis, with the “Book Notices.” Then Sir John Herschel wrote “On Atoms,” Mr. Frederic Harrison on “The Ironmasters’ Trade Union,” a very long article; the Hon. Leicester Warren on Mr. Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon, and Mr. Moncure D. Conway, of President Lincoln as he recollected him. Add a chronicle of “Public Affairs,” which, like the “Notes on Books,” reminds us of how few “original features” remain for discovery by editors, and you have the FORTNIGHTLY, as it stepped into Piccadilly, where the firm of Chapman and Hall were then located, and into the world of letters.

But the advertisements have been forgotten, which they should not be, because they also hold up the glass to the mid-Victorian period. Glancing through these advertisements we find Mr. Carlyle’s new work, The History of Frederick the Great, announced, and side by side Mr. Charles Dickens’s tale, Our Mutual Friend, to be completed in twelve monthly parts. Anthony Trollope, most lavish of writers, was in freshly bound boards on the counters of the booksellers, as well as in the maiden pages of the FORTNIGHTLY. Charles Lever was pouring out his sparkling brew of Irish life and character; and George Augustus Sala, Edmund Yates, Henry Kingsley, “Ouida,” and a score more, were, by token of these advertisements, in the full flight of work. On the first page of advertisements in the FORTNIGHTLY in intimation of Atalanta in Calydon: A Tragedy, by Algernon Charles Swinburne. The advertisement parades a “press notice,” wherein those who thought of buying Mr. Swinburne’s volume were assured that “as the work of a new poet it is surprising.”

Throughout his editorship George Henry Lewes wrote frequently, for the most part on literary topics, and in editorial Causeries. Who became contributors, besides those already mentioned? Tyndall, Huxley, Freeman, Captain Burton, Lord Houghton, Lord Lytton, Professor Bain, Professor Beesley, Mr. Robert Buchanan, Mr. Alfred Austin, Professor Gardiner, Mr. George Meredith, Mr. John Morley—the list can only be sampled at random. It alone was a convincing answer to the plea of the old order, that little could be expected of a review which did not take sides, and let its contributors sign their articles. Said George Henry Lewes in his farewell Causerie:—

That we have been enabled to bring together men so various in opinion and so distinguished in power, has been mainly owing to the principle adopted of allowing each writer perfect freedom; which could only have been allowed under the condition of personal responsibility.

“The question of signing articles had long been debated; it has now been tested. The arguments in favour of it were mainly of a moral order; the arguments against it, while admitting the morality, mainly asserted its inexpediency. The question of expediency has, I venture to say, been materially enlightened by the success of the review.”

The “Sacred principle of the Anonymous” was thus assailed, and the ancient fastness carried. At least things were moving that way, for we get this measured estimate from Anthony Trollope, “I think it may be granted that the review has done very much towards introducing the French system of adding the signatures of the authors to magazine writing.” A high success in the literary sense, what had been its fortune in a commercial sense? There also Anthony Trollope, in his brisk fashion, affords us information:

Financially, as a Company, we failed altogether. We spent the few thousands we had collected among us, and then made over the then almost valueless copyright of the review to the firm of publishers which now owns it. Such failure might have been predicted of our money venture, without much sagacity, from the first. But yet much was done.

“While our funds were gradually disappearing, the periodical was obtaining acknowledgement and character. That dream of eclecticism had to pass away. No review can stand long which shall be colourless. It must be either with, or must be against, some recognized set of opinions, either as to religion, politics, philosophy, or other subject of commanding interest.”

These remarks, however they may bear upon the early history of the FORTNIGHTLY, take us to its second editorship, that of Mr. John Morley. George Henry Lewes resigned, feeling that he was bound to husband what strength he had, for philosophy and the pursuit of his own literary work. Note also that the Review had become a monthly with the issue of October 1st, 1866, though the formal announcement, kept in use for a long time, only said, “The publication on the 15th is for the present suspended.”


WITH THE NUMBER of January, 1867, the present series of the FORTNIGHTLY was started, the price being raised from a florin to half-a-crown. Mr. John Morley now took the Editor’s chair, and was to be there for fifteen years—grande mortalis aevi spatium, as he has said himself. If only for that reason, and because the FORTNIGHTLY was in the warmth of his heart, his reign calls for rather a detailed record.

An editor of a review of great eminence once said to Mr. Morley that he regarded himself as equal in importance to twenty-five members of Parliament. In recording this, Mr. Morley remarked, within brackets and with a sly humour, that for his own part he took a slightly more modest view. To look back, however, is to perceive very clearly, what must have been felt at once, that Mr. Morley stamped the FORTNIGHTLY with his own personality. “It must be admitted of the review as it now works,” Anthony Trollope tells us of Mr. Morley’s editorship, “that it is very much with, and also very much against, certain views on matters of commanding interest. Our present editor is a man of opinions too far settled to admit of eclectic principles in literature.” The FORTNIGHTLY in Mr. Morley’s hands, is best described in his own words, taken from the “Valedictory” of 1882:—

Though it has been open, so far as editorial goodwill was concerned, to opinions from many sides, the review has unquestionably gathered round it some of the associations of sect. What that sect is, people have found it difficult to describe with anything like precision.

“For a long time it was the fashion to label the review as Comtist, and it would be singularly ungrateful to deny that it has had no more effective contributors than some of the best known disciples of Comte. By-and-bye it was felt that this was too narrow. It was nearer the truth to call it the organ of Positivists in the wider sense of that designation. But even this would not cover many directly political articles that have appeared in our pages, and made a mark in their time.

“The memorable programme of Free Labour, Free Land, Free Schools, Free Church, had nothing at all Positivist about it. Nor could that programme, and many besides from the same pen and others, be compressed under the nickname of academic Liberalism. There was too strong a flavour of action for the academic and the philosophic. This passion for a label, after all, is an infirmity.”

There we have a saying which Mr. Morley would probably be willing to repeat, at the beginning of a new century, in another connection. “Yet people justly perceived,” he went on about the FORTNIGHTLY, as he shaped its course, “that there seemed to be a certain undefinable concurrence among writers coming from different schools and handling very different subjects.” So far as the review had been specially identified with one set of opinions more than another, it had been due to the fact that a certain dissent from received theologies had been found in company with new ideas of social and political reform.

This suspicious combination at one time around considerable anger. The notion of anything like an intervention of the literary and scientific class in political affairs touched a certain jealously which is always to be looked for in the positive and practical man. They think as Napoleon did of men of letters and savans: ‘Ce sont des coquettes avec lesquelles il faut entretenir un commerce de galanterie, et dont il ne faut jamais songer à faire ni sa femme ni son ministre.’ Men will listen to your views about the Unknowable with a composure that instantly disappears if your argument comes too near to the rates and taxes.”

It was amusing, as one read the newspapers of 1882, to think that fifteen years earlier, a powerful defence of Trade Unions, by Mr. Frederic Harrison, had caused the FORTNIGHTLY to be regarded as an incendiary publication. Some articles that appeared in it on national education were thought to indicate a deliberate plot for suppressing the Holy Scriptures in the land! Extravagant misjudgment of that kind had passed away.

But it was far from being a mistake to suppose that the line taken here by many writers did mean that there was a new Radicalism in the air, which went a good deal deeper than fidgeting about an estimate or the amount of the Queen’s contribution to her own taxes. Time has verified what was serious in those early apprehensions.

“Principles and aims are coming into prominence in the social activity of to-day which would hardly have found a hearing twenty years ago; and it would be sufficient justification for the past of our review if some writers in it had been instrumental in the process of showing how such principles and aims meet the requirements of the new time.”

The personal note has been evident—very attractively evident—once or twice in these extracts from Mr. Morley, designed to show on his authority how he edited and regarded the Review. That note rings clear again in the following:

Reformers must always be open to the taunt that they find nothing in the world good enough for them. ‘You write,’ said a popular novelist, to one of this unthanked tribe, ‘as if you believed that everything is bad.’ ‘Nay,’ said the other, ‘but I do believe that everything might be better.’

“Such a belief naturally breeds a spirit which the easy-goers of the world resent as a spirit of ceaseless complaint and scolding. Hence our Liberalism here has often been taxed with being ungenial, discontented, and even querulous. But such Liberals will wrap themselves in their own virtue, remembering the cheering apophthegm that ‘those who are dissatisfied are the sole benefactors of the world.’”

So much for the spirit and mission of the FORTNIGHTLY in Mr. Morley’s consulship: things which it is well to understand because of their effect on the contemporary world of English affairs, especially in helping to create the “New Radicalism.” As to the conduct of the review in a purely literary sense, there also we can quote Mr. Morley:


Personally I have attached less stern importance to signature as an unvarying rule than did my predecessor; though even he was compelled by obvious considerations of convenience to make his chronique of current affairs anonymous. Our practice has been signature as the standing order, occasionally suspended in favour of anonymity when there seemed to be sufficient reason. On the whole it may be said that the change from anonymous to signed articles has followed the course of most changes. It has not led to one half either of the evils or of the advantages that its advocates and its opponents foretold.”


GEORGE HENRY LEWES, he of the “vivacious intelligence,” remained cordially interest in the fortunes of the review. We find him strengthening Mr. Morley’s hand with one article after another, and no doubt often calling at the old office for a gossip. Anthony Trollope sketches Lewes to the life, as one fancies, when he says that his clothes—the velvet coat and the rest of the outward garniture,—helped to make him a man peculiarly pleasant to the eye, in conversation.

No one could say that he was handsome. The long bushy hair, and the thin cheeks, and the heavy moustache, joined as they were, alas! almost always to a look of sickness, were not attributes of beauty. But there was a brilliance in his eye, which was not to be tamed by any sickness, by any suffering, which overcame all other feeling on looking at him.

“I have a portrait of him, a finished photograph, which he gave me some years since, in which it would seem as though his face had blazed up suddenly as it often would do, in strong indignation against the vapid vauntings of some literary pseudo-celebrity. But the smile would come again, and before the anger of his sarcasm had had half a minute’s play, the natural drollery of the man, the full overflowing love of true humour, would overcome himself, and make us love the poor satirised sinner for the sake of the wit his sin had created.”

Then John Stuart Mill showed the warmest interest in the review from the moment when Mr. Morley took it up. This, the latter tells us, was partly because of the friendship with which Mill honoured him, but much more because he wished to encourage what was, at the time, the only attempt to conduct a periodical on the principles of free discussion and personal responsibility. “Time,” wrote Mr. Morley, eighteen years ago, “has done something to impair the philosophical reputation and the political celebrity of J. S. Mill, but it cannot alter the affectionate memory in which some of us must always hold his wisdom and goodness, his rare union of moral ardour with a calm and settled mind.” Bagehot, Cairnes the political economist, and Clifford the mathematician, were all among Mr. Morley’s early contributors. The last named, on one occasion, wrote a FORTNIGHTLY article of eighteen pages, at a single sitting which lasted from a quarter to ten in the evening till nine the following morning. The pen of Mr. Meredith went actively, at the behest of Mr. Morley, and Meredithians might pick out many a book review—essay and review in one—from the far back numbers of the FORTNIGHTLY. When the editor left England on a visit to America in the autumn of 1867, Mr. Meredith—so it has been understood, anyhow—took the editorial chair. Perhaps the December number is proof positive of the thing, for it contains “Lines to a Friend Visiting America,” by Mr. Meredith. It is the going over-sea of “One of my dearest whom I trust,” and this far-flung verse goes with him “o’er the western rounds”:—

We send our worthiest: can no less,
If we would now be read aright—
To that great people who may bless
Or curse mankind; they have the might.”

Between the years 1875 and 1878, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, to whom some already looked as “the rising hope of the stern, unbending” Radicals, was a frequent contributor to the FORTNIGHTLY. He wrote on the larger Radical questions, as instanced in Free Schools, and Mr. Morley’s subsequent reference to the rise of the New Radicalism is to be read in relation to this propaganda. The New Science, as proclaimed by leaders like Huxley and Tyndall, also had its place in the same hospitable pages. A paper from Huxley’s pen, “On the Physical Basis of Life,” made a sensation when it appeared in February, 1869. Another paper on the subject of evolution was by Mr. Arthur Balfour, against whose name in the file of the Review there stands a discussion of the Indian Civil Service. To turn over that file is to find an array of articles by Mr. Herbert Spencer, mostly, as might be supposed, on the subject of his great system of philosophy. Again, we have the Pre-Raphaelites, of Rossetti and Burne-Jones and Bell Scott, as well as of Mr. Swinburne and Mr. Meredith. Nonconformity was given its full voice, but, indeed, taking the mere test of names, to what phase of work or thought did Mr. Morley not give the opportunity of print? Newman, Manning, Mazzini, Freeman, Walter Pater, William Morris, Henry Morley, Max Müller, Symonds, Congreve—that is the kind of contributors’ gallery which opens out.

To it Mr. Morley appealed when the Saturday Review, on one occasion, charged his FORTNIGHTLY with being the “effective and consistent organ of the followers of Comte.” This Mr. Morley would not admit, remarking, “The writer probably said this in good faith, simply repeating a careless and wholly unwarranted hearsay, in a particularly definite and unwarrantable form.” Already we have had his definition of what Positivism was, and was not, in his programme of editorship. His retort upon the Saturday is merely mentioned as an incident in the history of a review which, as Mr. Morley pointed out, professed itself in every advertisement to be “An organ for the expression of many and various minds.” Stevenson was one of these, and as he wrote little outside his books, a word about one of his articles—there were only two, the second a review of Lytton’s Fables in Song—may be acceptable. In the FORTNIGHTLY of April, 1881, he writes on the morality of the profession of letters, being induced to this by those who seemed to favour a “penny wise and virtue foolish spirit.” He pleaded eloquently that the mission of the writer was before all else, and sketched the high-road to the true heights of literature, in the following sentences:—

A lad, for some liking to the jingle of words, betakes himself to letters for his life; by-and-bye, when he learns more gravity, he finds that he has chosen better than he knew; that if he earns little, he is earning it amply; that if he receives a small wage, he is in a position to do considerable services; that it is in his power, in some small measure, to protect the oppressed and to defend the truth. So kindly is the world arranged, such great profit may arise from a small degree of human reliance on oneself, and such, in particular, is the happy star of this trade of writing, that it should combine pleasure and profit to both parties, and be at once agreeable, like fiddling, and useful, like good preaching.”

The FORTNIGHTLY’s chronicle of “Public Affairs,” which George Henry Lewes started, was continued throughout his editorship, and for some time afterwards. Mr. Frederic Harrison was responsible for the last half-dozen or so of these chronicles, signing his name to them. The feature was dropped in 1875. Rather, it would be correct to say that, with a breath, it passed into a survey of “Home and Foreign Affairs.” Composed of two sections, coming from two writers, this contained a criticism of the more significant incidents of each month at home and abroad.

To be useful, such criticism had to be systematic and directed by fixed principles, so a certain consistency was maintained in this section. The body of the review, however, remained as freely open as it had always been to the advocacy of various views. The survey of “Home and Foreign Affairs” began in 1876, three years after Mr. Edmund Gosse—he signed himself “E. W.” in those days instead of the now familiar “Edmund” –had in the FORTNIGHTLY “discovered” Ibsen to the English people. Apparently Mr. Gosse’s article was the first on the genius-gifted Norwegian to be published in this country. He told what he knew of Ibsen, and then set out to deal with his three great satires. “Love’s Comedy, Brand, and Peer Gynt,” he said, “despite their varied plots, form a great satiric trilogy, perhaps for sustained vigour of expression, for affluence of execution, and for brilliance of dialogue, the greatest of modern times.” He prophesied that “sooner or later they would win for their author the homage of Europe.” Giving specimens, evidently translated by himself, of the volumes, Mr. Gosse made a remark to which a thread of literary history can be traced back:—

It was a white day for me when I first took Brand into my hands in the languor of a summer’s day in Trondjeim, and I may trust that some competent translator will one day set these books before my countrymen in an English dress.”

Rochefort wrote in French for Mr. Morley, and was printed in French; among the verse of the Review were Matthew Arnold’s charming poems on the death of his two dogs, “Geist’s Grave” and “Kaiser Dead!”

To add that the author of Diderot, Rousseau, and Voltaire was also the author of frequent articles in his own Review, is almost unnecessary.


IN THE AUTUMN of 1882 Mr. John Morley handed over the editorship of the FORTNIGHTLY to Mr. T. H. S. Escott. He held it for over three years, when his health compelled him to resign. No immediate appointment was made, the hope being that he might be able to return; and meanwhile Major Arthur Griffiths conducted the Review. Mr. Frank Harris issued his first number in August, 1886; in November, 1894, the present editorship1 began.

The flag has been kept flying on the policy of the open door—all the “isms” have been welcome when they have had anything worth saying. A powerful monthly is now most powerful as a searchlight, as a speaking gallery of thought and affairs. It has its traditions, its associations, its clear aims, but not a policy so-called. The “great anonymous” has not disappeared, and this suggests a change which is specially worthy of attention. It is that within recent years the element of fresh information, bearing upon actual events, has more and more gone to the making of review articles. Often those best able to throw the light of fact upon events, would be prevented from doing so, if they had to sign their names. Thus the anonymous writer has found a new mission, and the fruit of it has been evident scores of times in these pages.

“Who is E. B. Lanin?” The mystery remains, but “E. B. Lanin’s” articles on Russia and Russian administration sent various numbers of the FORTNIGHTLY into various editions. This was in no wise owing to the demand from Russia itself, though indeed that might have been considerable; only the Review was firmly interdicted by the censor. How “E. B. Lanin” collected his information in Russia, how he contrived to get it into the hands of the printers in London, how he must have been sought for by the Russian authorities—all that, perhaps, would make a story-book. Once a review article was a fireside thing, a product of study, scholarship, thought, and so it may be to-day. But it may also be “a human document,” gathered in, at imminent peril, from the farthest confines of the earth.

As much and more might be said of Sir Robert Hart’s article from Peking, which sent the Review into a number of editions never before reached. That article could, in no wise, have been veiled in anonymity, because there was only one man who could have written it.

A remarkable set of verses gave rise to a question in the House of Commons. The poem was Mr. Swinburne’s “Russia: An Ode,” written after he had read an account of Russian prison life contributed by “E. B. Lanin” to the FORTNIGHTLY for July, 1890. It appeared in the August number, all hot from the poet’s anvil, as the opening lines proclaim:—

Out of hell a word comes hissing dark as doom,
Fierce as fire and foul as plague-polluted gloom.”

On went the poem from the general indictment, “Night hath but one red star—Tyrannicide,” to impassioned lines about the Tsar, which we are not going to repeat at this distance, lest the Clock Tower should again threaten.

One goes further back—to the years 1883-4-5—for a series of seven articles which appeared under the general heading “The Radical Programme,” and which were made into a volume. It came out just after the Election of 1885, and for a work of the sort—politics, not light reading—had an enormous sale. For weeks the publishers could not supply copies quickly enough, thanks always to the personality whom the public most intimately associated with the volume. This, of course, was Mr. Chamberlain. He had written at least one of these manifestoes of the New Radicalism. Moreoever, he contributed a preface to the volume, wherein he commended the contents “to the careful and impartial judgment of my fellow-Radicals.” To the early eighties also there belong a couple of articles which almost assume a present interest. One was by Lieutenant-Colonel Kitchener, R.E., as Lord Kitchener then was. It was a consideration of “The Future of the Fellah” of Egypt, and a plea addressed to England to—

alleviate the sufferings and hardships of this down-trodden people; to give them a chance of once more becoming a race with some self-reliance, and by justice and civilisation to raise future generations to the position of a free nation.”

The other article likewise referred to Egypt, but indirectly rather than directly. Its main interest here is its bearing upon the subject of army reorganisation, for it is a study of the results of the last reorganisation. Under the title, “The New Army and the Old Test,” Colonel W. F. Butler, C.B., as Sir William Butler was at the time, examined the short service soldier as a campaigner at Tel-el-Kebir. He traced the question of army reform from the time of the Crimea to its actual arrival many years later. No effort was made towards the formation of a reserve until the subject was forced under the notice of all parties by the defeat of France at the hands of Germany, the essence of whose system was short service. The autumn of 1882, when Lord Wolseley took an English army to, and over the defences of Tel-el-Kebir, and then into Cairo, was a test of the worth of changes which had come about. Three sentences may be quoted from Sir William Butler’s verdict, if only for the sake of the last one, which suggests, with a rare satire, the axiom that the soldier must keep advancing now as then:—

The New Army had come well through the Old Test; and Time, looking down through his forty centuries from the top of the great pyramid, and the critic from the bottom of his easy chair looking up from his forty winks, beheld with amazement the short-service soldier sitting placidly smoking under the shadow of the Sphinx. ‘It is magnificent,’ muttered Time. ‘But it is not club rule,’ murmured the critic.”

Nor was Lord Wolseley terrified by it, when he wrote his articles on the soldier’s life and duty. Subsequently Sir Evelyn Wood wrote on the Crimea.

Grant Allen was a frequent and winning visitor within the covers of the FORTNIGHTLY. He it was who wrote an anonymous article which dealt faithfully, wisely, and merrily with “Our Noble Selves.” It was an oration, so to speak, on behalf of modern writers, and each of these wondered to the other, “Did you write it?” “What we need,” the learned counsel declared, “is more strenuous and more open log-rolling.” It was Grant Allen, over his signature, who in the FORTNIGHTLY did so much to discover William Watson. His “Note on a New Poet” brought that poet full into the glare of fame, and, what is not to be despised, sold his verse. Brand new the singer was not, for seven years earlier he had published; but “Wordsworth’s Grave” was the ascent of Parnassus, Grant Allen being one of the heartiest guides. He described the poem as a “delicately finished piece of fine and austere handicraft in the metre of Gray’s “Elegy,” and felt altogether that here was “no small meteor of the hour” which would blaze and vanish.

Until his play appeared last month, Mr. Barrie would seem to have written only once in the FORTNIGHTLY. This paper was a good humoured and humorous hit at the writers of reminiscences, “2 vols, 8vo.”; a satire at their expense in the hope that they would take thought and mend. It was in the form of a letter supposed to come from the “Society for Providing Materials for Volumes of Reminiscences.” Here were quotations as to price, specimens of quality; the offer of everything needed to carry on the old firm—on the instalment system if necessary. You can read that crusade—alas, it has not been entirely successful!—ten years after, and laugh all the time. The FORTNIGHTLY which contained it—September, 1890—jumped into several editions. It also contained an article by “E.B. Lanin” on sexual morality in Russia.

The echoes of the great symposium on the morality of marriage—marriage as an institution—have hardly died out yet. Opened in the FORTNIGHTLY by Mrs. Mona Caird, it thundered far and wide, so that people could talk of nothing else. Another, of a different sort, was a discussion of modern theology and religious thought. The width of the field is to be seen from the texts set: (1) What dogmas of Christianity I have rejected, and why? (2) What religious beliefs I still hold, and why? Dr. Clifford, the Rev. Charles Voysey, and other eminent lights took part in the debate; just as the leaders of literature offered their selections towards an anthology of “Fine Passages from Prose and Verse.” To read over a full list of them is to think of many who have contributed to the FORTNIGHTLY besides people already mentioned. So here, as a conscience clause, is a little table which the eye can master at a glance:–

Matthew Arnold. Edmund Gosse.
Grant Allen. Vernon Lee.
F. C. Burnand. Sir John Lubbock.
Thomas Hardy. W. H. Mallock.
Andrew Lang. Olive Schreiner.
W. S. Lilly. J. A. Symonds.
E. Lynn Linton. Theodore Watts.
George Meredith. Sir Edwin Arnold.
A.C. Swinburne. Frederic Harrison.
Wilkie Collins. Lady Dilke.
Lord Derby. Sidney Colvin.
Dean Farrar. Alfred Austin.

And many of our dramatic authorities, foremost actors, and others entered into a controversy on Ibsen’s plays and on the actor-manager question.

It is strange that Mr. Gladstone, whose pen went so widely, should never have written in this Review, not even when Mr. Morley edited it—so you say to yourself when, after an exhaustive search, you fail to find an article with his signature. Neither does the file yield one by Thomas Carlyle, who wrote ardently in Fraser’s. Perhaps if Frederick Chapman was still with us—alas, here is a memoir to remind us of all that he was!—he might be able to speak of Carlyle. Anyhow, a qualification has to be made as to Gladstone’s absence. The number of May, 1880, contained a very remarkable article on “The Conservative Collapse,” meaning the rout which the Tories had just sustained at General Election. It was in the form of a letter “from a Liberal to an old Conservative”; it began with all form, “My Dear Sir,” and it closed equally in accord with the forms of correspondence, “My Dear Sir, Yours Sincerely, INDEX.” Now, at the time, as our oldest inhabitant very clearly recalls, this article was generally attributed to Gladstone, and the belief appears to have received no contradiction. Mr. Morley gave it a place of honour in the Review, and to read it now is to be reminded of the style—the grand style—of the Grand Old Man. Even there is a classical quotation, not from Homer though, but from the Aeneid. More cannot be said, except, indeed, that the article is an impressively keen examination of the then position of the Tory party, viewed in the light of history and the future. Why had the Tories so lamentably fallen? “Index” endeavoured to show, and, in doing that, he wrote as follows of Gladstone’s great antagonist:—

This extraordinary victory has been won by the nation against an extraordinary man. The time probably has not arrived, and certainly my ambition is not bold enough to attempt a full or exact portraiture of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. He is too big for a little critic. He is passing, as others have passed, before the tribunal of history. He is not a man of mere talent but of genius. The moment of his great downfall is not the moment for dwelling on the matters, grave as they may be, which will be put down on the wrong side of his account. This much is certain, that in some of his powers he has never been surpassed; and that his career, as a whole, is probably the most astonishing of all that are recorded in the annals of Parliament.”

“Liberal foreign policy,” wrote “Index” some pages later, “is irreparably associated with liberty, to be developed in action according to opportunity.” And he acceded to the thesis that “A strong Conservative opposition is needed for the well-being of a Liberal Government, and for the due and safe performance of its work.”

The affairs of the moment suggest the quotation of such sentences, but whether Mr. Gladstone was, or was not, the “Great Anonymous” of that FORTNIGHTLY, he necessarily was the subject, from time to time, of many articles.

“M.” was B.W. Matz, who worked for Chapman & Hall, often in the company of George Meredith. He is the author of a 1915  survey of the Fortnightly‘s history and a devoted Dickensian. He was a member of the ‘Dickens Fellowship” and the longtime editor of The Dickensian, along with a number of books relating to Dickens’ works. This essay was first published in our January 1901 number.


  1. That is, Mr William Leonard Courtney’s. –Ed.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *