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Mrs. Courtney’s history of the Fortnightly Review.

By Janet (Hogarth) Courtney
Arranged in five parts.

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


UNDER LEWES, 1865-1866

G.H. Lewes.

THE FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW, LIKE its forerunner The Westminster, was founded and guided by philosophers. It is rather interesting to note how that kind of training seems to produce the particular type of mind that makes a good Editor. Henry Reeve of the Edinburgh, as his letters have shown, had a very definite philosophical bent. The Westminster, founded by the Benthamites, was edited by John Stuart Mill for four years; whilst out of the five Editors of the Fortnightly, three—Lewes, Morley and Courtney—had, before they took on the editorship, already made their mark as philosophers. And of those three, two, Morley and Courtney, had taken their training in the Oxford Final School of Literae Humaniores.

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.

Anthony Trollope.

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 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 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 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.

UNDER MORLEY, 1867-1882

John Morley.

MORLEY HAD MADE HIS first appearance in the pages of the Fortnightly in September 1866, when in thoroughly characteristic fashion he attacked the proposed Annexation of Mysore. Only to flutter the pages of his article is to hear once more the trumpets of radicalism sounding the assault, and to see the banners of “Peace, Retrenchment and Reform” borne forward before the advancing hosts. Any increase of our Indian territory is an increase of our civil and military expenditure, already excessive. England cannot afford it, and all the less as she is weakened in Europe by this unneccary drain upon her economic strength. What is this policy of “drift,” his “no-policy,” this mere surrender to departmental go-as-you-will? “There is no such thing as a policy. Each increase in each department is considered and settled just as it turns up.” In consequence “we have abandoned our legitimate influence in the West in order to annex in the East. We preach moral suasion in Europe so that we may be free to practise material repression in Asia. We make ourselves despised in one continent in order to make ourselves despised in another.” And so on, and so on. The vigour recalls the giants of Palmerstonian politics; much of the phrasing might have been coined only yesterday.

With Morley’s hand on the helm, fresh vigour begins at once to flow into the Review. The very pages take on a different look. The index is systematised. The Contents bills are better varied—still sufficiently philosophical but with a stiffer admixture of politics. Literature has its due place and its better selected. The new Editor writes less and writes better. On controversial topics he strikes a bolder note, and contributors respond. Tyndall discusses Miracles and Special Providence, an article calculated to startle the orthodox. Beesly leaves the Romans and tackles a trade union subject. New names appear. Cotter Morison considers The Significances of Ritualism and American Religious Utopias. Miss Frances Power Cobbe doubts whether we are really progressing and whether the taint of commercialism will not cause England to be written down as “The greatest, wisest, meanest of nations.” Vambéry carries us off to Central Asia and its Slave Trade, and Swinburne and Meredith contribute poems.

The Editor thoroughly endorses his predecessors’ views on anonymity. He marshals all his army by name. Anonymous journalism was indeed never to his taste. A contibution by himself in his first year of editorship is devoted to this subject; it contains a most interesting estimate of the power of journalism and a protest against the prevailing practice of anonymity. Morley, who had served under Lewes on The Leader, took his profession very seriously. “The immeasurably momentous task of forming national opinion,” he thought, should not be entrusted to a body of men whom secrecy made irresponsible. He admits that much journalism, though strictly speaking anonymous, can by the initiated be identified as the work of particular writers; but he justly urges that the great mass of newspaper readers have neither the knowledge nor the capacity to make the necessary allowance for the personal equation. “Let us never forget that the exertion of mental activity upon public transactions, still more upon questions involving some powers of abstract thought, is thoroughly exceptional.” The leader writer, therefore, is only too often in the position of an oracle; it is of the utmost importance that he should be imbued with a sense of full responsibility, and there is no greater safeguard against frivolous and irresponsible writing than the necessity of signing it and possibly having to defend it in person. There was never a period, in his opinion, when it more behooved men to speak out. He complains of the “artificial and unnatural silence” of English society. “On every kind of subject men shrink from speaking the things which are clearest and most constant in their own minds…. But silence cannot be an eternal condition of things. Men will not always continue to revere hollow and eviscerated conventions…. If controversy is to become more sincere, more earnest, more direct, and if, therefore, there is to be more hard hitting, it is indispensable that those who take a part in it should give the strongest possible guarantee that they mean exactly what they profess to mean, neither more nor less, and that they are ready to stand by it.”

Frederic Harrison.

There was plenty of hard hitting, both within and without the pages of the Fortnightly Review, during John Morley’s editorship. Frederic Harrison’s powerful defence of the trade unions was denounced by outside critics as “incendiary.” The Fortnightly’s advocacy of free education and its defence of Forster’s modified undenominationalism in the public schools, were interpreted as a deliberate plot for suppressing the Bible in education. Because writers like Harrison, of Comtist opinions, were allowed to contribute. [CK] the Review was often called the organ of Comtism. When Morley was giving up the editorship, in 1882, he frankly admitted that the Review under him had “unquestionably gathered round it some of the associations of sect.” But he argued that the wider term Positivist better described it than Comtist, since only a few of its contributors were disciples of Comte, and he urged that the great political programme, Free Labour, Free Land, Free Schools, Free Church, preached in its pages, was wider even than the Positive creed. It a label must be found—and “this passion for a label is, after all, an infirmity”—he would have preferred the great word Liberalism, the religion of himself and those like-minded who had left the orthodox creeds.

It is no detraction from the brilliance of Morley’s editing to point out the he was fortunate in his period. Period indeed and editor were happily matched. The ’seventies in England offered many analogies to the Aufklärung in Germany or to the Encyclopédie in France. As Morley says in his Reminiscences, it was an age of “fresh flowing currents of thought, interest and debate… the gospel of free intellectual and social expansions” needed “a fresh organ of independent thought,” and it found that organ, under the guidance of a mind, itself akin to the French philosophers of the illumination, in the Fortnightly Review as edited by John Morley.

The Review had most decidedly an ethos of its own. Can any Review with a strong and able Editor escape it? Morley himself defined it as “Rationalism without chill.” In those same Reminiscences, the occupation of his retirement and published some forty years later during the Great War, he writes:

“The latest historian of English rationalism in the nineteenth century says that if any one year can be specified as that in which it reached its most its most intense expression, 1877 must be named as the date. Nearly every number of the Fortnightly… during the second half of that year contained an attack by some powerful writer, either on theology as a whole, or on some generally accepted article of theological belief. That is quite true. In the sixteenth century Scottish theological faction was divided between Puritanism with the chill on and with the chill off. Or Review was Rationalism without chill in one sense, though with much of it in another. People quarrelled for a short time as to whether we should be labelled Comtist, Positivist, Naturalist. They were conscious of a certain concurrence in the writers, though it was not easy to define. Everything that the illuminating explanation of all things in the earth and in the heavens above the earth by Evolution could be stretched to bring within its sphere, was pressed through our ordeal. Evolution was passed on from the laboratory and the study to the parlour, and the eternal riddles that a dozen years before had been proposed and answered, and then in their crudest form, in obscure debating societies and secularist club, now lay upon the table with the popular magazines.”

In other words, in place of Bradlaugh and tub-thumping, you had Huxley, Leslie Stephen and W. K. Clifford writing in the Fortnightly; in place of torn-up railings in Hyde Park you had Frederic Harrison fighting the battle of Trade-Unionism in the pages of a first-class Review.

It is interesting to trace in a little more detail the working out of the fourfold programme: Free Labour, Free Land, Free Church and Free Schools. Beesly and Frederic Harrison in particular stand for the first, with W. T. Thornton, the economist, seconding them.1 Beesly heads the July number of Morley’s first year with an article on The Trade Union Commisson; Harrison two years later discusses the Trade Union Bills which resulted from their deliberations. Thornton’s Stray Chapters on Labour, begun under Lewes, continue. John Stuart Mill reviews Thornton’s economics.

With 1870 J. A. Cairnes begins weighty economic articles and we discern Free Land on the horizon. Political Economy and the Land is his first contribution. He also criticises with penetration the Comtist economics, provoking a reply from Frederic Harrison. The following year, 1871, has Henry Fawcett’s article Is England Prospering?, which concludes with a strong plea for more and better education of the people. In 1872, W. E. Bear begins a long series of articles on Agriculture and the position of all engaged in it with The Strike of the Farm Labourers. Henry Fawcett also writes on The Nationalization of the Land. That year saw also the first of Alfred Lyall’s subtle and penetrating studies of Indian religions, articles of inestimable value to the students of comparative religion but very disquieting to the devout supporters of missionary societies in England. The Church of England and the People, by George Potter, makes a strong case against the esclusiveness of Establishments, and an earlier article by J. S. Mill had considered the morality of Endowments.

The programme is well launched, but the Editor is too wise in his generation to let the Review degenerate into propaganda. He devotes much space to current politics, both at home and abroad, though he quickly drops the monthly chronique on Public Affairs, which Lewes had inaugurated. It reappears spasmodically in 1873-4 but signed by Frederic Harrison, not the Editor, an interesting anticipation of the rôle of general commentator so ably filled by that almost nonagenarian contributor in 1918 and 1920. Before the Election of 1868 Morley writes himself on Old Parties and a New Policy, outlining the programme of Liberalism; whilst Dr. Pankhurst, forestalling his relatives, discusses The Right of Women to Vote under the Reform Act of 1867. This question comes up again more than once. Morley himself reviews an anonymous work on the Social and Economic Dependence of Women and also Condorcet’s plea for the Citizenship of Women. Mill’s step-daughter, Helen Taylor, examining the Politics of Sir Thomas More, brings out his enlightened views on women’s education; and Mrs. Fawcett, a very young wife in those days, writes on their Electoral Disabilities.

But before the close of 1870 the cataclysm across the Channel relegates home affairs to the background. The Editor himself deals with the situation both in September and October, first under the title France and Germany, secondly England and the War. In November he publishes a “Letter” from Sir George Clooney and a Note by himself in reply. He holds France to blame and looks forward to a French Republic. But in December he allows Frederic Harrison, a life-long friend of France, to expose the policy of Bismarckism.

Harrison, who lived to see the second great German invasion and to comment on its results in the Fortnightly in 1918, was, when the War of 1870 broke out, so little expecting it that he was on a honeymoon tour in France. He stayed abroad until October so as “to watch the great war and its results from abroad.” Though bitterly opposed at the time to the histrionics of Napoleon III at the opening of the war (the action of Bismarck as agent provocateur was then unknown), Harrison was no stranger to the danger that had long threatened European peace from the ambitions of Prussia. As early as 1864, at the time of the Schleswig-Holstein affair, he was urging this upon Palmerston’s Government in letters to the press. “Mr. Gladstone, the Peace Radicals and the general public were blind to the vast and sinister power which was gradually being built up by the great Prussian statesmen. Cavour, the greatest statesman of the nineteenth century, was gone; Palmerston was in his decrepitude and actually favoured the aggrandizement of Prussia.” But when the Napoleonic dynasty had fallen and the war was degenerating into an attempt on the part of Bismarck to crush France and leave her impotent, Harrison spared no effort to enlist British sympathies for the young French Republic. He protested vigorously against the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine, denying that Germany needed them to protect her strategic frontier, or that their German populations were panting to be freed. And he denied still more vigorously that the influence of German culture would be for the good of Europe, a favourite academic doctrine at the time which for many only met its final refutation in 1914. But even in 1870 Frederic Harrison was saying: “Why are we to take the future freedom and peacefulness of Germany on faith? We know that for one hundred and fifty years the present dynasty and its servants have held Prussia in the grasp of a strict military discipline…. The Prussian rule has ever been defiant of public opinion…. Germany will do whatever the Hohenzollerns think most to redound to their personal glory…. And we are asked to entrust the peace of Europe to the keeping of these men.” What they made of it is now bitter knowledge to the whole world.

It is very interesting to find that even then Harrison and his friends were urging upon Queen Victoria’s Government the very policy of active intervention which King George’s Government took forty-four years later. It seemed to him at the time, and he saw no reason to change his opinion later, “that it was the clear duty of England and was within the power of England” to prevent annihilation of France as a great Power. He urged that “failing a coalition of neutral Powers to bring the war to a close, England should throw herself into the rescue of France with her whole forces, moral, and material, naval and military. Let money, guns and supplies be poured into France, with the aid of the English fleet; and it may well be believed that France could turn the tide.” He even advocated, if necessary, the sending of a British army to some spot in Brittany, where it could be covered by the fleet—just such an expeditionary force as was sent over the Channel in August 1914. “Looking back after some forty years,” he writes in 1910, “with all that we now know, I still assert that this was the true, the practicable policy, in January, 1871.” It would have prevented the despair which led to the French surrender, the fall of Paris, the break-up of all government, and the horrors both of the Commune and its repression. But Gladstone would have none of it—“In my opinion this was his gran rifiuto.”

Read in the light of 1914 some words from his 1870 article have indeed a prophetic ring:

“In spite of all out suspicions and differences France and England have long worked together in the common interests of the world…. With France powerless, England becomes an island with a vast scattered body of dependencies across the sea. With Prussia, with Bismarck, with military autocracy… we can have no such sympathy, no such common policy. We can only watch it anxiously, hoping for the best. We have stood by to see our old and natural ally suffer its Austerlitz and its Ulm. Let us trust has in store no Jena for ourselves.”

Early in the next year Harrison returns to the charge in an article on The Effacement of England. France must be preserved for the sake of England. “A man may desire” (as Morley clearly desired) “the unity of Germany without finding it in the smoking ruins of Paris.” He writes again on The Fall of the Commune, a movement which had his sympathy but which was doomed to failure through the weakness of its initiators, “a singularly unpractical, unbusinesslike and ineffectual set,” as he found them to be later, “often nursing in exile visionary schemes and the jealousies and suspicions of rival sects.” No wonder that they failed. But however much Harrison might “deplore the blunders of the Commune and abhor its crimes,” he was too good a Republican not to sympathize with its principle of municipal self-government and with the claim of the working-men of Paris to take their part. He was one of the few to defend them and to insist on Englishmen hearing the other side, the barbarity of the methods employed to suppress a perfectly just attempt to establish government on a democratic basis. It was Harrison’s abiding belief that the Commune, with all its horrors and its apparent failure, saved the French Republic and frustrated a monarchical reaction. Other articles on France and on the Commune appear by Helen Taylor, by Jules Andrieu, by the Editor himself and by Karl Blind. Von Sybel on the other hand deals with The German Empire and Émile de Laveleye with The Future of France.

On the literary side Morley writes a good deal himself, contributing those studies of Burke, which made later a volume in the English Men of Letters series, and articles on Rousseau, Condorcet, Voltaire and the French illuminati of the eighteenth century, who so greatly attracted him, and with whom he had so strong an affinity. Swinburne continues to write for him, and he recruits also such literary critics of the first order as Dowden, Saintsbury, John Addington Symonds, Leslie Stephen and W. H. Pater. Pater contributes several of the studies which made up his Renaissance volume, Symonds a considered article on Arthur Hugh Clough, and Stephen papers on Balzac, on De Quincey and on Waxburton. Dowden writes on Landor and Buxton Forman on Richardson. Morley also himself reviews many of the poems of the period, William Morris’s Earthly Paradise, Browning’s The Ring and the Book, whilst Swinburne writes for him on Morris’ Life and Death of Jason, Matthew Arnold’s New Poems and Victor Hugo’s “L’Année Terrible.” Rossetti contributes sonnets, and Robinson Ellis translations from Catullus—here Morley the scholar vanquishes Morley the moralist—Meredith reviews Myers’ St. Paul and Capes Newman’s Verses on Various Occasions.

Serials continue for a time, but they are of little amount. Evidently the Editor paid small heed to them. But indeed serials—I give away here for what it is worth a well-known editorial secret—are always much more the choice and the concern of the publisher of a Review than of its Editor. The publisher sees in them his last chance of holding is authors by serialising their works in his own periodical, whilst the Editor, though he may breathe a sigh over valuable space wasted, knows very well that not ten per cent. of his public care twopence whether there is a serial or not.

Still Morley, now firmly in the saddle, must have about 1875 have asserted himself. He had stood a Whyte Melville novel, on by Marmion Savage, at one time Editor of The Examiner, and two Trollopes, The Eustace Diamonds and Lady Anna, the second appearing anonymously but signed in the last instalment. Meredith’s Beauchamps’s Career runs through 1874. Then serials cease and never reappear during Morley’s editorship until his last year (1881) he admits Meredith again with The Tragic Comedians. The space saved he devotes from 1876 onwards to a chronique on Home and Foreign Affairs.

With 1873 and the decline of the Liberal ascendancy Morley seems to embark upon a still more vigorous and combative period, as though anxious to make good in his pages the comparative weakness of his party in Parliament. In 1874 Frederic Harrison deals trenchantly with The Conservative Reaction, and Leslie Stephen a little unkindly selects that year of Dizzy’s political triumph to review his novels, attributing to their author’s increasing absorption in politics the gradual deterioration from the promise of Henrietta Temple and Contarini Fleming down through the political novels to Lothair where the writer can only be supposed to be parodying himself. Disraeli the Premier has quenched Disraeli the novelist. The shaft struck home, as Dizzy’s correspondence with Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield proves. He more than once refers to the review, which had obviously annoyed him.

More serious political onslaughts on the new Government appear over the signature of Joseph Chamberlain, who makes a first appearance with The Liberal Party and its Leaders and follows it up by The Next Page in the Liberal Programme. Free Land gets further advocacy from H. R. Grand, whilst in addition to an important series of articles on The Struggle for National Education by the Editor himself, Free Schools are advocated both by Charles Wentworth Dilke and by Joseph Chamberlain. Beesly keeps the land programme to the fore with articles on the Game Laws and on Deer Forests and Culpable Luxury, and Chamberlain, Lowe and others tackle the Liquor Question and its proper relation to Municipal Government. From 1878 onwards Goldwin Smith appears as another champion of uncompromising Liberalism, and in that year the Editor admits the unusual feature of three anonymous articles on The Political Adventures of Lord Beaconsfield. He had, however, seen some reason, as his editorship progressed, to modify his views on anonymity in journalism, for in his Valedictory (1882) he admits 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.” Some men, he has found, “write best when they sign what they write… with others it is just the reverse.” Still journalism, by having become more personal, has, he thinks, increased in power; and though he depredates the claim, made to him in conversation by “the Editor of a Review of great eminence,” that he felt himself the equal of twenty-five members of parliament (for his own part, he says, he takes “a slightly more modest view”), he does claim for the Fortnightly that during his fifteen years of editorship it wielded an unquestioned and powerful influence.

Nowhere was that influence greater than in the struggle for freedom of thought. We that are free-born hardly realize the great price with which our fathers bought this freedom. But on has only to turn over the memoirs and the periodical literature of the ‘sixties and ‘seventies to recognise that the generation which drove Maurice from his Chair at King’s College because he attached a slightly different meaning to the word “eternal” than the orthodox ascribed to it, were only too ready to ostracize and drive out of public life any who threw doubts on the most mechanical and literal interpretation of scripture. Science and philosophy were practically forced into revolt, and chains of reasoning that seem to us either slightly puerile or not in the best of taste were merely efforts to throw off shackles to us almost unimaginable. Such, for instance, is an early article by Francis Galton on the possibility of A Statistical Enquiry into the Efficacy of Prayer, the first two or three pages of which are devoted to proving by comparative tables that Sovereigns live on the average some two years less than other “affluent persons.” Yet the Church prays continually “Grant them in health and wealth long to live.” Such an argument would nowadays be laughed out of court.

But serious and weighty attacks upon prevailing beliefs were fearlessly published almost every month in the Fortnightly. The “profound sensation” caused, as Morley himself records, by Huxley’s Physical Basis of Life in 1869, was only the first of many such intellectual shocks. In particular, Huxley’s much younger colleague, W. K. Clifford, from 1874 onwards was carrying the war right into the enemy’s camp. Body and Mind as necessarily correlated, the second having no proved independent existence and carrying therefore no promise of survival, was the first line of attack. The First and the Last Catastrophe, The Ethics of Religion, The Unseen Universe, this last, an 18-page article, composed, so Morley tells us, in one sitting lasting from 10 p.m. to daylight, were further expressions of “that curious audacity” with which Clifford, who died worn-out at thirty-five, “proclaimed at the pitch of his voice on the housetops religious opinions that had hitherto been kept among the family secrets of the domus Socratica.

Leslie Stephen.

Less strident, but equally, perhaps more subtly, disturbing to religious minds were Leslie Stephen’s articles, An Agnostic’s Apology, The Scepticism of Believers, or Dr. Newman’s Theory of Belief. As epoch-making in its way was the Editor’s own treatise On Compromise which appeared in instalments through 1874. Though not, perhaps, directly prompted by Mill’s vacillation towards the close of his life in the direction of Theism, as evidenced in his posthumous Three Essays on Religion, it did, as a matter of fact, appear a few months after Mill’s death, and is contemporaneous with the review of the Essays, in which Morley expressed his strong dissent, though he is careful to refer his readers back to the very beautiful and touching tribute to his lifelong friend’s memory which he had published earlier in that year.

Morley himself was made of sterner stuff than Mill. “No compromise about it but the name,” said a contemporary critic, when the articles appeared in book form; and indeed on the book’s title-page Morley quotes Archbishop Whateley’s saying: “It makes all the difference in the world whether we put Truth in the first place or in the second place.” After analysing at some length the English dislike of general principles, neglect of Historic Method and persistent tendency to compromise, he gives two striking instances of the moral confusion introduced into politics by this exaltation of expediency above truth—England’s expressed sympathy with the Southern Slave States during the American Civil War, and her condonation of the unscrupulous methods whereby Louis Napoleon made himself Emperor of the French.

Writing so soon after the event he cannot but be stuck by the swift Nemesis which overtook the Imperial adventurer. “Not often in history has the great truth that ‘morality is the nature of things’ received corroboration so prompt and timely.” Yet this is no occasion for surprise:

“We need not commit ourselves to the optimistic or sentimental hypothesis that wickedness always fares ill in the world…. The claims of morality to our allegiance, so far as its precepts are solidly established, rest on the same positive base as out faith in the truth of physical laws. Moral principles, when they are true, are at bottom only registered generalizations from experience. They record certain uniformities of antecedence and consequence in the region of human conduct. Want of faith in the persistency of these uniformities is only a little less fatuous in the moral order than a corresponding want faith would instantly disclose itself to be in the purely physical order…. The system of the Second Empire was an immoral system. Unless all the lessons of human experience were futile and all the principles of morality were articles of pedantry, such a system must inevitably bring disaster…. Yet because the catastrophe lingered, opinion in England began to admit the possibility of evil being for this once good and to treat any reference to the moral and political principles which condemned the imperial system… as simply the pretext of a mutinous or utopian impatience.”

The essay contains many pregnant sayings. The time in which he wrote seemed to him, as to Matthew Arnold, more than any previous time an ages of “transition in the very foundations of belief and conduct. The old hopes have grown pale, old fears dim; strong sanctions are become weak, and once vivid faiths very numb. Religion, whatever destinies may be in store for it, is at least for the present hardly any longer an organic power… conscience has lost its strong and on-pressing energy and the sense of personal responsibility lacks sharpness of edge…. The souls of men have become void. Into the void have entered in triumph the seven devils of secularity.” What is the remedy? Not, as the timorous urge, hiding the light and allowing error to persist for its usefulness’s sake. To the contention that “for the mass of men… use and wont, prejudices, superstitions—however erroneous in themselves—are the only safe guardians of the common virtues,” Morley replies that though the mass may walk in little light, “whatever impairs the brightness of such light as a man has it not useful but hurtful.” To hold error is to make intelligence less and less ready to receive truth. Moreover, to associate virtue with error, as for instance to threaten children with hell fire, is to risk the associated virtue directly they discover the baselessness of the threat.

No, none are more deeply interested in up-holding a high ideal of conduct than “those who no longer place their highest faith in powers above and beyond men.” To these the “cherishing the integrity and worthiness of man himself” must be a supreme object.

By sinning against intellectual honesty, more than by anything else, man can make his own hell. “We do not find out until it is too late that the intellect… has its sensitiveness. It loses its colour and potency and finer fragrance in an atmosphere of mean purpose…. Those who deliberately and knowingly sell their intellectual birthright for a mess of pottage… have a hell of their own; words can add no bitterness to it.” Such self-deception is Plato’s “lie in the soul,” the Gospels’ “sin against the Holy Ghost,” “and it is not any more shocking to the most devout believer than it is to people who doubt whether there be any Holy Ghost or not.”

It would be tedious to labour further the chronicle of Morley’s editorial achievement. Suffice it to say that no great name of the period, in philosophy, in science, in free thought, seems to be missing from his lists of contributors. Notorious controversies, such as that on the ethics of vivisection, are given their place, well-known Comtists like Bridges and Beesly, reinforced by Helen Taylor, entering the lists on the side of humane treatment of all living things. There had been an earlier and rather amusing controversy on the morality of field sports, initiated by E. A. Freeman, who attacked them, and replied to by Anthony Trollope “with the Editor’s permission but without his sympathy.”

As the decade progresses, “younger” literary names are added—veterans to us of the twentieth century, and most of them now passed over to the other side—H. D. Traill, Edmund Gosse, W. L. Courtney, Grant Allen, Sir John Lubbock (On the Habits of Ants) and, with increasing frequency, Matthew Arnold. Alfred Russel Wallace is allowed to expound Modern Spiritualism in two long articles and Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake to explain the need of a Medical Education for Women. Montagu Cookson (later Crackanthorpe) breaks new ground with The Morality of Married Life, a plea for reason restraint on population, which was later to develop into the Eugenics movement of to-day. And Bagehot, something of a free lance and a rebel in Morley’s Rationalist camp, follows up his English Constitution by the chapters of Physics and Politics.

In the closing years the Editor turns more and more to current politics. Liberalism is again in the ascendant and Ireland in particular calls for a large share of his attention. Morley the Liberal statesman, Morley the future Home Ruler, Morley the advocate of a measure of self-government for India, are foreshadowed in the Contents bills of his 1880-1882 volumes. During those years he was editing also the Pall Mall Gazette with W. T. Stead as his assistant, and contesting one or two elections. In 1883 he is successful in a by-election at Newcastle-on-Tyne and henceforth journalism knows him no more.

In October of 1882 he takes leave of his Fortnightly public and reviews with modest but justified satisfaction a brilliant fifteen years; “Fifteen years are enough to bring a man from youth to middle age,2 to test the working value of convictions, to measure the advance of principles and beliefs, and, alas, to cut off many early associates and to extinguish many lights.”

Lewes had gone, Mill, Bagehot, Cairnes, Clifford; to all of these he pays moving tributes. He goes on to characterise the Review. So far as it has been “more specially identified with one set of opinions than another, it has been due to the fact that a certain dissent from received theologies has been found in company with new ideas of social and political reform. This suspicious combination at one time aroused considerable anger.” There is always some jealousy “of the intervention of the literary and scientific class in political affairs…. 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…. Whatever gives freedom and variety to thought and earnestness to men’s interest in the world,” he concludes, “must contribute to a good end. The Review has been an attempt to do something in this direction.”

One is tempted to think that Morley, fortunate in his epoch, could draw on a galaxy of talent denied to his successors. But here it must be remembered that Reviews were themselves fewer, and talent, therefore, more concentrated. The Westminster was extinct. The Contemporary had certainly come into existence, but was not then very prominent. The Nineteenth Century did not begin until 1877, and the National not till 1883. Moreover the practice, now so common, of publishing in daily newspapers important articles of a review character, for a remuneration which only a great circulation can make economic, was quite unknown. Long before the end of Courtney’s editorship he was convinced that in that particular form of competition lay the greatest danger for the monthlies.

UNDER ESCOTT, 1882-1886

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.

UNDER HARRIS, 1886-1894

Frank Harris.

FRANK HARRIS, THEN A young man just thirty, born in Ireland but by upbringing American, had had a roving education in various American and Continental universities. Who’s Who in America credits him with belonging to eight and adds the perhaps significant parenthesis “(no degrees).” He can hardly had stayed long enough in any one of them to allow of graduation. After being admitted to the Kansas Bar he came to London and joined the staff of the Evening News. Thence he moved on to the Fortnightly. He was at once a daring and, from the literary side, a discriminating editor, but one prepared to take serious risks and unable to resist a “scoop.”

His very first number, that of September 1886, affords an instance in point. He had apparently promised to publish as his first article a strong attack on the Ordinance Department of the War Office by an officer who for years had alleged wholesale corruption in that quarter. An editor of longer experience would certainly have hesitated to give such prominence to a thirty-year old grievance, however apparently well-documented. Fortunately for Mr. Harris, a timely promise by W. H. Smith on 23rd August, in reply to a question in the House, that the matter should be sifted, led the author to withdraw his article, and Mr. Harris got off with two pages explanation and apology, and his first number at the last minute thrown out of gear.

It may have been his own Irish instincts that led him to tackle the Home Rule problem himself. He does so in an early number; and in his first few months deals also, through Stepniak, the revolutionary, with the Russian democracy. Coventry Patmore, from whom he seems to have had a special cult, contributes an article on William Barnes, and J. A. Symonds, who throughout Harris’ editorship was a constant contributor, begins with Some Notes on Fletcher’s “Valentinian.”

In the following year, 1887, he collects the opinions of “Living Men of Letters” on Fine Passages in Prose and Verse, and betrays his own tendency to confuse passing prominence with lasting authority by inviting the young Senior Classic of that year, Miss Agneta Ramsay, to contribute her views. It was hardly fair to bring her thus into comparison with Meredith, Hardy, Matthew Arnold, Andrew Lang, or even G. A. Sala—in odd juxtaposition here with Swinburne. But on the literary side Harris was strong, with a predilection perhaps for writers in the Pater tradition, with the flavour which in the next decade we learnt to call fin-de-siècle, but with a strong admixture of sound literary criticism, able to meet any test that might be applied to it. Of the older men of letters, he secures articles from Andrew Lang, W. S. Lilly, George Saintsbury, Edward Dowden, Paul Bourget, Leslie Stephen, Oscar Browning, Edmund Gosse, Frederick Myers (pretty often), Walter Pater, William Morris, Coventry Patmore. Swinburne and J. A. Symonds write, if not in every number, at least twice or thrice in every half year. Henry James, not in general much of a contributor to periodicals, sends studies of Guy de Maupassant, Perre Loti, and the de Goncourts. George Moore, not then such a sought-after master of prose as he has since become, deals with Turgenieff and with Balzac, and contributes also art criticism. A. C. Benson also makes a first appearance. And Meredith, the veteran, in 1890-1 runs One of Our Conquerors as a serial.

There are notable contributions by Oscar Wilde, one his Preface to “Dorian Grey,” and another his famous essay, Pen, Pencil and Poison. Grant Allen writes very often and often very provocatively, as in his Plain Words on the Woman Question (readers old enough to remember the ’nineties will not have forgotten The Woman Who Did). But the Editor was out to cause a stir and did it very successfully. His own short stories, A Modern Idyll, Elder Conklin, Montes the Matador helped to achieve his object. So, too, did Mrs. Clifford’s A Modern Correspondence and Mrs. Mona Caird’s The Morality of Marriage, which set everyone talking in 1890.

On the other has he secured serious and deeply interesting contributions on many kinds of subjects. Frederic Harrison’s Apologia pro Fide Nostra and Future of Agnosticism and Charles Voysey’s The New Reformation, with Dead Burgon’s counterblast, are instances on the religious side, whilst Sir Robert Ball’s fascinating astronomical papers and Sir William Crooke’s studies in Electricity are instances on the scientific side, not to mention Spencer’s Ethics of Kant in 1888 and Huxley’s An Apologetic Eirenicon in 1892. On burning topics of the moment he secures the right man to write, or at any rate the man whose name will arrest most attention. Thus, Manning deals with Distress in London at the time of the Dock Strike, and with the Education Commission and the School Rate when the Salisbury Government were tackling education. When Newman dies in 1890 W. S. Lilly is asked to write on him, and the young poet, Lionel Johnson, pays the last tribute to Pater in 1894. Browning’s passing is saluted by a series of Swinburne Sonnets. Morell Mackenzie discusses Influenza in an epidemic year; Sir Charles Dilke, by then thrown out of active politics, attacks Our Foreign Policy in 1892. Lord Curzon contributes several articles on Central Asia, Theodore Bent writes on Mashonaland, Brinkley on Japan, and J. B. Bourchier on the Balkans. The more revolutionary aspects of European politics were dealt with by irreconcilables as Stepniak, and Karl and Mathilde Blind. But perhaps the most striking contributions of Harris’ period were the series of articles signed “E. B. Lanin,” a signature which, as he has now avowed, masked Dr. E. J. Dillion, the foreign correspondent who more than any other penetrated into the dark and secret places of Russian life. Some of his revelations, especially those concerning Russian prisons, shocked the British public almost unbearably, and so stirred the poet Swinburne that he contributed an Ode which nearly caused the Review to be censored, but in the meanwhile sent it into several editions.

“Out of hell a word comes hissing, dark as doom,”
it opens, working up through a recital of nameless horrors to its climax,
“Night hath but one red star—Tyrannicide.
God or man be swift—hope sickens with delay.
Smite and send him howling down his father’s way

* * * * * *
Bid the lips whose breath was doom yield up their breath
Down the way of Tsars awhile in vain deferred
Bid the Second Alexander light the Third.”

The Foreign Office must indeed have sat up and wondered what excuses they could offer, if confronted by the protesting Ambassador of a “friendly Power”!

Now and again the Editor runs full tilt, or allows an anonymous contributor to do so for him, against stupidity in high places at home. A notable instance occurs at the beginning of 1891, when the Parnell débacle provokes an article on Public Life and Private Morals by “M.” “If we tolerate atheists like Mr. Bradlaugh and Mr. Morley, if we tolerate felons like Mr. Dillon and inaccurate persons like Mr. Gladstone, we cannot as a nation be otherwise than hypocritical in pretending to be unable to tolerate Mr. Parnell on account of a love affair. While professing to aim at exhibiting vice as hateful we have exhibited virtue as ridiculous.” Thus “M” sums up the final victory of the Nonconformist Conscience.

Or again, when desirous of showing up the English contempt of letters, the Editor publishes an amusing and anonymous dialogue on An Election at the English Academy, the final outcome of the discussion being an election satisfactory to all but a few bewildered lovers of letters, who slowly realize that there is “not a single writer in the d—-d gang”!

A brilliant eight years, all the talent of the ’eighties and ’nineties, and some young men whom the twentieth century was to make famous. H. G. Wells writing on Cycling, and especially Military Cycling, then a glimpse into the future; G. Bernard Shaw mocking at The Religion of Pianoforte; J. M. Barrie, with a brilliant skit on biographers, Pro Bono Publico; Walter Sickert on the Whistler Exhibition; A. B. Walkley on Some Plays of the Day; the Fabians generally spewing the Gladstonian Government of 1892 out of their mouths, To your Tents, O Israel!; and serious persons like Sidney Webb, H. W. Massingham and Justin McCarthy considering on their side What Mr. Gladstone ought to do. Many articles appear on modern, somewhat decadent, French literature by Delilly, Arthur Symons and others—Baudelaire, Verlaine, J. K. Huysmans being among the subjects discussed. W. H. Mallock writes on the Souls, that famous “coterie” of the early ’nineties. There are a number of women contributors, not perhaps as well selected as the man, though Mrs. Meynell appears once with one of her most finished essays. They include Mrs. Lynn Linton, Mrs. Mona Caird, Miss Clementia Black, Ouida, Lady Dilke, Miss Menie Muriel Dowie (a passing notoriety, recognised perhaps prematurely), Miss Flora Shaw, Lady Jeune. These are various aspects of a memorable if risky editorial career, which in September, 1894, steered too close to the rocks, and wrecked itself on the prejudices of both public and publisher.


W. L. Courtney.

MALATO’S GLORIFICATION OF ANARCHISTS was not the first severe shock administered to the Fortnightly’s publishers. Their Minute-book indicates that previous remonstrances with their daring Editor had met with acrimonious replies. But the “box-office” test had hitherto been uniformly favourable. The circulation of the Review, stimulated by this and that sensational article, had gone up by leaps and bounds. It became a question between financial gain and freedom from anxiety. In the autumn of 1894 Frederic Chapman chose the second.

Courtney, therefore, in taking over the Review in November, took it over at a moment of some difficulty. It was in no need of stimulation but it was in considerable need of steadying. Quite apart from Mr. Harris’s alarums, the literary world was, as they say on the Stock Exchange, “extraordinarily sensitive.” Scandal was already rife in the Clubs, and within a very few months the Wilde-Douglas revelations, culminating in the trail and sentence of Oscar Wilde in May 1895, caused a tremendous public revulsion against the literary coterie, whose favourite organ had been the Yellow Book and many of whom were numbered amongst Mr. Harris’s regular contributors. Courtney, who had known Wilde well both at Oxford and in London, was perhaps peculiarly fitted to hold the balance even. He had no animus against Wilde and his friends, he had himself been on intimate terms with their greater precursors, John Addington Symonds and Pater; but he recognised that for a time, at any rate, that page in literature must be resolutely turned. I remember very well that in a short article which I wrote for his April number on Nordau’s Literary Degenerates, I quoted some saying of Wilde’s—one could hardly avoid it in the early ‘nineties when Wilde’s epigrams were household words. Courtney’s pencil hovered over the page for a moment and then he said: “I think we’ll have that name out just now,” and deleted it. The public outcry was, of course, too strident and its indignation excessive; but for the moment it would have none of Wilde and his works and his followers. George Alexander, in spite of warnings from Courtney, tried to continue the run of The Importance of being Earnest, an innocuous comedy if ever there was one; but his audience melted away from his theatre and he had to bow before the storm. It was years before that, or any other Wilde play, could be revived in London.

Apart from this public difficulty, we had at first our special one in that the outgoing Editor had ordered the immediate return of all that came in, and some of the articles arranged for by Courtney fell back into the hands of their astonished authors by return of post. But we had great fun with those early numbers. Courtney was radiantly happy and interested. He had got his heart’s desire, and he enjoyed to the full the social opportunities and the enlargement of his literary acquaintance which the Editorship brought to him. He dined out and lunched out and went about as freely arduous night work in Fleet Street permitted, and I used to look in at Henrietta Street for a cup of tea and a discussion of articles as often as my bank ledgers were balanced in time to set me free at four o’clock…

Note: The published text ends here. The longest-serving editor, W. L. Courtney, ran the magazine for 34 years until his death at the end of 1928. At a later date, the editors may seek to complete the transcription of this account by Janet Courtney to include those years. This text was first published as an extended chapter in Courtney’s biography of her husband, The Making of an Editor: W.L Courtney 1850-1928, published in 1930 by Macmillan. It has been manually transcribed exclusively for this New Series, with very minor edits to track usage. To obtain the unedited text, please see the copyright page for instructions. Please note The Fortnightly Review and in citations based on this transcription. For an explanation of the New Series, please see here.