The Literary World

Nineteenth-century print culture was a product of and participant in the dramatic changes taking place throughout English society. The growth of literacy greatly increased the number of readers, especially among the middle- and working-classes, while industrialization in every sector of the book trade reduced production costs for books, pamphlets, newspapers, and periodicals and made very large print runs possible. The production of all forms of printed materials, from religious works, political tracts, and children's books to fiction and poetry grew dramatically. Estimates are that the rate of publication was approximately 500 titles a year at the beginning of the nineteenth century to about 4,000 by mid-century and around 10,000 a year by 1914.

Perhaps no other genre of publication was more affected by this growth than the periodical, s works intended to be published at regular intervals for an indefinite period of time. The Waterloo Directory of English Periodicals and Newspapers, 1800-1900 estimates that the project will identify approximately 125,000 titles. Many famous works of nineteenth-century poetry appeared in periodicals before their authors were able to find a publisher; and later in the century fiction became a staple of the periodical press.

Existing forms of publishing continued and many new ones emerged. Some books were still published by subscription, a model in which subscribers paid for their books prior to publication to cover the costs of production. Publishers increasingly took on this risk and authorship became a more viable profession. By mid-century, publication in parts and cheap reprints made fiction and the works of older authors available to a vast audience. Nineteenth-century anthologies of classic and contemporary writers provide a window on the taste of the era. And in literary criticism that appeared in periodicals of every political perspective, in prefaces, biographical, and theoretical works, writers from Wordsworth and Coleridge to Matthew Arnold explored the nature of poetic genius and the place of literature in society.

During the nineteenth century, poets achieved a level of stature and celebrity unknown before or since, both for their works and their lives. This would not have been possible without a robust print culture that brought both to the attention of an eager reading public.

The Annual Anthology
[Robert Southey (1774-1843)]
Bristol: Printed by Biggs and Co., for T. N. Longman and O. Rees (London), 1799-1800. 2 vols.

On loan from Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

An important Romantic anthology edited by Southey, it included contributions from early Romantic authors. Besides Southey himself, the most frequent contributor is Coleridge, with no fewer than 27 poems, including "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison." There are also poems by Charles Lamb, Charles Lloyd, Joseph Cottle, Robert Lovell, George Dyer, Francis Wrangham, Humphry Davy, Mary Robinson, and Amelia Opie.

Wachs No. 422

The Reflector, a Collection of Essays, on Miscellaneous Subjects of Literature and Politics...
London: Printed and Published by J. Hunt; and Sold by J. Miller; J. Carpenter; and Gale and Curtis, [1811]

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB'92

There are a great many contributions here by Hunt himself, but the The Reflector is also of great interest to students of Charles Lamb, who wrote many of the articles, his first serious efforts as an essayist. E. V. Lucas has suggested that the experience which Lamb gained here was essential to the quality of his work as Elia.

Wachs No. 452

Annals of the Fine Arts for MDCCCXVI [-MDCCCXX]
London: Published for the Proprietors by Messrs. Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, etc., 1817. 5 vols.

On loan from Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

An arts journal edited by the architect James Elmes, with some of the contributions that are of literary interest. In the second volume includes two original sonnets by Wordsworth. In the third volume are two sonnets by Keats on the Elgin Marbles and in volume four is the first printing of his "Ode to the Nightingale" [sic], and "On a Grecian Urn." Both texts reveal that certain changes were made for publication in book form, beyond a rewording of the titles.

Wachs No. 413

Biographia Literaria; or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
London: Rest Fenner, 1817. Two Vols.

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Included in this work is some of Coleridge's most important literary criticism. The beginning of the second volume describes the genesis and publication of Lyrical Ballads, and of his relationship with Wordsworth.

Wachs No. 284

Poems, by an Amateur
[Bernard Barton (1784-1849)]
London: Printed for the Author, by J. M’Creery, 1818

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Barton's fifth book of poetry, privately printed by subscription; the four-page list of subscribers includes the names of William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, and Thomas Moore. Included here is a poem addressed to Wordsworth, and another, "Madame Lavalette," which was widely thought at the time to be by Byron (as Barton says in his preface).

Wachs No.461

Select British Poets, or New Elegant Extracts from Chaucer to the Present Time, With Critical Remarks. . . . Embellished With Seven Ornamental Portraits, After a Design by T. Stothard, R.A.
William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
London: Published by Wm. C. Hall, and Sold by All Booksellers, 1824

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Hazlitt may have begun to compile this anthology as early as 1818, but he was certainly at work on it in 1821, as both Keats and Shelley, who died in 1821 and 1822, are included in the section of "Living Poets." As soon as the volume was published, it was discovered that many copyrights among the writers in the "Living Poets" section had been infringed, and the book was immediately withdrawn from circulation. At some point Thomas Tegg took over as the publisher, and the text was entirely reset; the contents of the new edition are the same, except that the "Living Poets" have been omitted.

Wachs No. 221

The Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language
Francis Turner Palgrave (1824-1897)
Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1861

On loan from Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

This volume is inscribed on the half title from England's foremost literary critic, Matthew Arnold, to his French counterpart, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve ("souvenir affectueux," dated January 1, 1861). Tipped in at the front is a splendid three-page ALS in French from Arnold to Sainte-Beuve, sending the book ("un très modeste cadeau -- parvum sed bonum"), and commenting upon it at length. Arnold names Palgrave as his friend, and praises his efforts, particularly his ability to find poems of great quality not widely known.

Wachs No. 440

Essays in Criticism
Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)
London: and Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1865

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’922

This volume introduced a new form to the English critical essay, using Saint-Beuve as a model, and attempted to raise the intellectual level of the British reading public.

Wachs No. 93