- Perceptions of the Press in Nineteenth-Century British Periodicals: a Bibliography by Eugenia M. Palmegiano
This latest addition to Palmegiano’s always useful set of bibliographies (which stretch back to Women and British Periodicals 1832–1867 in 1976) is likely to become one of the essential starting points for any serious researcher on the nineteenth-century press. It has already received glowing advance reviews from academic luminaries in press history (the volume prints them as blurbs both inside and on its cover). It does exactly what it says in the title, offering an annotated list of articles which have something to say about periodicals and newspapers from 48 different periodicals over a period that starts in 1802 and ends in 1900. After a very brief introduction of fewer than six pages and a two-page preface, the bibliography is divided into 48 sections according to journal. At the head of each section, there are a couple of lines that describe the relevant periodical in very general terms. Two final sections comprise Author and Subject indexes that I suspect most researchers will turn to first.
The 48 journals that Palmegiano has mined are centered on what we may regard as the Victorian periodical “canon” sanctified by their inclusion [End Page 79] in the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals: Palmegiano fails to cover only five periodicals included in the Wellesley, almost all of which – the Eclectic Review is the curious and unexplained exception – were short lived and reasonably obscure. The omissions are compensated for by the inclusion of nine less august magazines: readers of this journal will be most interested in All the Year Round and Household Words, but there are also Chambers’s Journal, Good Words, Hogg’s (Weekly) Instructor and its successor the Titan, Howitt’s Journal, the Leisure Hour, and Murray’s Magazine.
While it is a standard practice to admit defeat in the face of the vastness of the nineteenth-century press, the limitations of this selection may already be clear. Palmegiano points out in her preface that since “Wellesley captions spoke primarily to upper and upper middle / middling class readers” she includes “organs that addressed otherwise underrepresented audiences such as Chambers’s Journal and Hogg’s Instructor” (viii). That said, Palmegiano has not consulted any really mass market periodicals like Reynolds’s Miscellany or the London Journal. This is a pity, even if in some respects understandable, for such magazines contain plenty of material that could have been included under this rubric (e.g. the London Journal’s 23-part “historical and commercial” series on London newspapers, 1845–46). More understandable is how Palmegiano has not included any newspapers, either metropolitan such as the Illustrated London News or regional such as the Northern Star, even though they too were often garrulous both about their own status as newspapers and about other periodicals and newspapers, and, more generally, about the relation of the press to the state and society. Perhaps the greatest loss from the bibliography’s focus on what the Wellesley had already selected and bibliographically mapped for us, however, is that no relevant trade papers are included. The Paper and Printing Trades Journal, Charles Knight’s Companion to the Newspaper, or the Publisher’s Circular, for example, would all have offered very different material from the decidedly literary selection that Palmigiano has chosen to mine for us.
This is not to deny the usefulness of her achievement in this volume but to warn users of the bibliography about its specific orientation. For all its additions to the Wellesley (and some of these added journals have very short sections devoted to them – Howitt’s has 15 entries, the Titan just 7) it remains representative of the respectable literary establishment, and not of the regional, Chartist, Socialist, mass-market or women’s presses. With that caveat in mind, besides the general utility of this volume for background, of most interest to readers of the Dickens Quarterly will be Palmegiano’s inclusion of Household Words and All...