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Print Culture and the Blackwood Tradition

Print Culture and the Blackwood Tradition

Edited by David Finkelstein
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Print Culture and the Blackwood Tradition
    Book Description:

    Two hundred years after the founding of this significant influence on British literary, political, and social history, this collection of essays reappraises the place of the Blackwood firm and its magazine in literary and print culture history.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2747-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    A theme recurs throughout the 1897 house history of the Edinburgh publishing firm William Blackwood and Sons, one that portrays its directors as romantic literary enthusiasts and supporters, daring adventurers seeking nuggets of gold in the mines of Literature. As the firm’s chronicler, Margaret Oliphant, exclaimed about the founding of the firm in the early nineteenth century, ‘The Revival of Literature was like the opening of a new mine: it was more than that, a sort of manufactory out of nothing, to which there seemed no limit. You had but to set a man of genius spinning at that shining...


    • William Blackwood and the Dynamics of Success
      (pp. 21-48)

      ‘This active, energetic, and in every way remarkable man ... has never been properly understood nor appreciated, either abroad or at home, owing to circumstances the public are unacquainted with.’¹ So wrote John Neal of William Blackwood I in 1865, and Blackwood has remained a shadowy and undervalued figure, despite his enormous impact on his age, and the outstanding longevity and international success of the publishing house he founded. Blackwood rose from humble beginnings to become the publisher of some of the most famous writers of the day, and to found and edit the most influential and exciting magazine of...

    • ‘The mapp’d out skulls of Scotia’: Blackwood’s and the Scottish Phrenological Controversy
      (pp. 49-69)

      In September 1814, amidst considerable public interest in phrenology – the ‘science’ of delineating character from an examination of the shape of the skull – Lord Byron was visited by the German practitioner Johann Spurzheim. After the physician had pronounced upon the significance of the contours of the poet’s head, Byron confessed himself ‘a little astonished’ by Spurzheim’s assessment that ‘every thing developed in & on this same skull of mine has itsoppositein great force so that to believe him my good & evil are at perpetual war.’ ‘[P] ray heaven,’ he continues, ‘the last don’t come off victorious.’¹ Byron’s...

    • Blackwood’s and Romantic Nationalism
      (pp. 70-89)

      Scottish periodicals and fiction, the products of an Edinburgh publishing boom, dominated British literature during the first third of the nineteenth century. The decade after Waterloo (1815–25) was distinguished by the international success of Scott’s Waverley novels, the rise of a rival school of Scottish fiction associated with the publisher William Blackwood, and a ‘culture war’ waged between Edinburgh Whig and Tory periodicals that accompanied the escalation of Reform agitation and government repression throughout Great Britain.Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, ferociously Tory, pitched itself into the midst of the fray. In its key early years, 1818–19,Blackwood’sgenerated a...

    • Blackwood’s Subversive Scottishness
      (pp. 90-116)

      From the beginning of the Scottish Enlightenment down to the Age of Scott, there occurred a transfer of an important philosophical enquiry about what can be known and thought ofin commonwith others. The notion of common sympathy, or a sympathy orsenseof the common, became an intellectual nexus in early-nineteenth-century Scotland for coalescing not only a Scottish national identity – through common cultural heritage, traditions, and rituals – but also a pro-British, Unionized identity. Arguments about the issue of sympathy and common sense ranged across philosophical, political, economic, and intellectual terrains, with battle lines fixed along political lines. On...


    • ‘On behalf of the Right’: Archibald Alison, Political Journalism, and Blackwood’s Conservative Response to Reform, 1830–1870
      (pp. 119-145)

      The year 1867 marked something of a political turning point for the House of Blackwood. The Second Reform Act, while not seriously threatening the political power of the landed classes, did make the threat or promise of democracy more tangible, and accelerated the eventual arrival of a permanent change in the political and social landscape: the cleavage between owning property and the right to vote. Also, the death of Sir Archibald Alison in that year marked the demise of one of the most steadfast defenders of the old order. ‘The oldest Tory’ had been perhaps the most consistent and reliable...

    • Editing Blackwood’s; or, What Do Editors Do?
      (pp. 146-183)

      In the spring of 1885 William Blackwood III, editor, ‘proprietor’ ofBlackwood’s Magazine, and head of the Edinburgh-based publishing firm William Blackwood and Sons, made his annual pilgrimage to the firm’s London office. Ever since the base in Paternoster Row had been founded in 1840, it had been a ritual for the director of the firm to travel south during the summer months for an extended period in the City, Westminster, and the West End. This excursion afforded William opportunities to renew political and literary acquaintances, to scout for new authors, and to remind London publishers that the Blackwood firm...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • Maga, the Shilling Monthlies, and the New Journalism
      (pp. 184-212)

      This is a piece about the impact of distinctive types of competition onBlackwood’s Magazinebetween 1860 and 1895, and how the definition of the magazine as a genre changes over those years in Britain. From its inception in 1817,Blackwood’spresented itself as an exemplar of atypeof periodical – the magazine – as distinct from the upmarket, high culture reviews of the day. Accordingly it welcomed and circulated the sobriquet ‘Maga,’ by which affectionate term it was known to its editors, contributors, and readers. As an exemplar at its origin of a genre whose defining characteristics are breadth, heterogeneity,...


    • At the Court of Blackwood’s: In the Kampong of Hugh Clifford
      (pp. 215-235)

      Of the writers who contributed imperial stories toBlackwood’s Edinburgh Magazinein the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Sir Hugh Clifford was in good company: Joseph Conrad had contributed imperial fiction to ‘Maga,’ notably,Heart of Darkness(1899) andLord Jim(1900); and Sir Frank Swettenham was also a regular contributor. What singles out Clifford from his close friend Conrad, however, is the fact that Clifford’s stories were almost exclusively concerned with life in the Malay Archipelago during the period of British governance in the province. While Conrad, through his experiences as a merchant seaman, was writing stories that...

    • ‘A sideways ending to it all’: G.W. Steevens, Blackwood, and the Daily Mail
      (pp. 236-258)

      To see the importance of George Warrington Steevens to the House of Blackwood, one might look no further than his sales. No other author of the 1890s was as profitable. By June 1902,With Kitchener to Khartum(1898) in its various editions (priced from sixpence to six shillings) had sold 189,438 copies for a total profit of £6,524. By the same date, FromCapetown to Ladysmith(1900, posthumous and uncompleted) had made £1,863 from a total of 35,272 copies, despite yielding extraordinarily lavish advance royalties.¹ Nevertheless, to dwell on Steevens’s ability to write best-selling reports of famous campaigns in far-off places...

    • The Muse of Blackwood’s: Charles Whibley and Literary Criticism in the World
      (pp. 259-286)

      If only for sheer prolixity, Charles Whibley’s monthly causerie inBlackwood’smust rank as one of the monuments of twentieth-century literary journalism. Published almost continuously between February 1900 and December 1929, ‘Musings Without Method’ exceeded the magazine’s combined serialization of George Eliot, John Buchan, George Warrington Steevens, Hugh Clifford, and Joseph Conrad, a sprawling corpus of two million words or the equivalent of four and a half annual volumes.² Whibley’s adherence to the mid-Victorian convention of journalistic anonymity, by this time as ostentatious a badge of conservatism as his quill pen, meant that ‘Musings Without Method’ appeared without a byline;...

  9. Appendix: Blackwood’s Magazine Table of Contents, August 1872–July 1872
    (pp. 287-290)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 291-308)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 309-312)
  12. Index
    (pp. 313-326)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 327-327)