Tinsley’s Magazine, later The Novel Review
49 vols. Aug. 1867-May 1887, Feb 1888-Jan 1892 Tinsley’s Magazine Feb-Dec 1892 The Novel Review
Aug 1867-1869 Tinsley Bros, and Edmund Yates
1869-May 1887 Tinsley Bros.
Feb-Dec 1888 Goldsmid & Co.
Jan-May 1889 Eglinton & Co.
June 1889-Mar 1890 Hansard Publishing Union
Apr 1890-Jan 1892 Author’s Co-operative Publishing Society
Feb-Dec 1892 unknown
Aug 1867-1869 Edmund Yates
1869-May 1887 William Tinsley with the assistance of William Croft (1869-1879) and Edmund Downey (Autumn 1879-Sept 1884)
Feb 1888-Jan 1892 unknown
Feb-Dec 1892 Margaret Elise Harkness
Edward and William Tinsley entered the publishing trade as half-proprietors of the firir of Tinsley Brothers in 1858 . They began business, claims Edmund Downey, with ‘scant knowledge of the inwardness of publishing’ and ‘an entire lack of capital and commercial training.’1 William Tinsley, still in his mid-twenties, had some experience in the secondhand book trade, while Edward, some years his junior, had given up a railway engineering apprenticeship to try his hand at literature. Tinsley Brothers published sensational novels – their most successful publishing venture was Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. While the circulating library market was buoyant the firm, prospered. In 1865 Tinsley Brothers was reckoned to have an annual profit of £5,000 and had the financial prospects to offer £50,000 for the rival firm of Chapman and Hall. Of Edward Tinsley in this period, Henry Vizetelly writes: ‘He extravagantly outbid his confreres in their dealings with popular authors, offering the latter wildly liberal terms, and speedily gathering around him most of the pet novelists of the day and many other writers of distinction… proud of the array of notable names he was enabled to marshal forth in his catalogue.’2 It was ascertained after Edward’s sudden death on 15 September 1866 that the firm, had debts of £4,000. William Tinsley was confident, however, that the business was in no danger. The years of easy profit left their mark on him – he was eager for instantaneous success and tended at times to extravagance, but equally to alarm and false economies when his bank balance fell. Trading as Tinsley Brothers, he faced bankruptcies in 1878, 1884 and 1887. The firm did not survive this last bankruptcy.
In 1867, encouraged by the success of the shilling magazines Temple Bar and Cornhill Magazine, William Tinsley was tempted to venture into periodical publication. The copyright of London Society was offered to him, but James Hogg managed to raise sufficient funds to keep the magazine within the family. William Tinsley and Edmund Yates then jointly established Tinsley’s Magazine, with Yates resigning the editorship of Temple Bar to conduct it. The prospectus which appeared in the Spectator on 13 and 20 July 1867, introduced it as a new ‘Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Light Literature.’ Articles of topical interest and two serial stories – The Adventures of Doctor Brady by W.H. Russell and The Rock Ahead by Edmund Yates – were announced. To attract female readers, articles on dress in Paris and a coloured plate of the latest fashions were promised for each issue. These last features were innovations in serial literature and evidently originated with Yates. After he resigned the editorship in 1869 they disappeared.
On 24 July 1867 the first number of Tinsley ‘s Magazine was published. The Illustrated London News could ‘hardly remember a better first number and urged Yates to persevere in maintaining the standard for ‘he will have added materially to the entertainment of the reading public.’3 The Athenaeum commended the spirit of the editorship; The Daily Telegraph found it ‘well edited, well written, and produced in a neat and handsome style.’4
Novels by such popular favourites as George Lawrence (author of Guy Livingstone) and Mrs Henry Wood followed those by Yates and Russell. But despite the popularity of the fiction, the special women’s features and the favourable reviews, Tinsley’s Magazine was not a financial success. William Tinsley lost £3,000 on the first twelve numbers. In his memoirs William Tinsley attributes his business failures largely to the expenses associated with the publication of Tinsley’s Magazine. He is reported to have frequently remarked during the early 1880s ‘What cheaper advertisement can I have for twenty-five pounds a month? It advertises my name and publications and it keeps my authors together.’5 Yates wrote that ‘this new enterprise was started with all liberality and energy, with a number of excellent contributors, with the advantage of having the first fruits of Dr. Russell’s attempts at novel-writing,’ but that the market was not so favourable to shilling magazines as when Cornhill Magazine and Temple Bar had been established.6 William Tinsley admitted that ‘there were more magazines in the wretched field than there were blades of grass to support them,’ but also censured the extravagant style of Yates’s editorship. He claimed that Yates overpaid his ‘old comrades and literary friends.’7 It was Tinsley, though, who had offered Russell, the Special Correspondent of The Times, £1,300 for the rights to The Adventures of Doctor Brady, a first novel. Tinsley’s standard rate for a novel by the author of Guy Living stone was £1,000. With the slump in the library trade in 1869-70 Tinsley faced serious financial difficulties. Yates was unable to pay his share of the loss on the magazine. Tinsley commented that Yates later ‘twitted’ him more than once for removing him from the editorship, for Yates believed he could eventually have made a success of the magazine. William Black, then editor of The London Review, offered in 1868 or 1369 (186S or 1870 according to Downey) to sub-edit or read proofs for the magazine for a nominal sun. G.A. Sala at one time offered to edit the magazine. But Tinsley himself, with the assistance of William Croft, an accountant and former printer’s reader for Clowes, conducted Tinsley’s Magazine from 1869 until 1879.
The standard of the magazine slipped as Tinsley reduced costs by paying his contributors less and by cutting the number of the illustrations. From January 1874 the magazine was not illustrated, and the sub-title ‘An Illustrated Monthly’ was dropped. Downey comments:
William Tinsley became suddenly timorous and economical about his bantling…. He lopped off the illustrations, and, by degrees, he cut the standard price for contributions to such a low figure that it was v/ell-nich impossible to keep any life in the Magazine. The circulation, after Edmund Yates’s departure, dropped slowly, steadily, and with it the income derived from advertisements.8
Tinsley’s financial losses on the magazine were in part attributable to these false economies.
An example of his false economy is afforded by his dealings with the young, and so far unsuccessful, Thomas Hardy. Among Tinsley’s own publications Hardy’s Desperate Remedies and Meredith’s Rhoda Fleming were his favourites, and he had paid Hardy £200 for the rights to A Pair of Blue Eyes. But when Hardy approached him with the news that the editor of Cornhill Magazine, Leslie Stephen, had offered him £300 for his fourth novel, Tinsley was unwilling to better the offer. The story was Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy’s first successful novel.
During the period of Tinsley’s editorship (1869-79), his magazine featured serials and stories both by well-established authors like James Grant and VJalter Besant and James Rice and by authors who were later to become very popular – William Black, Justin McCarthy, B.L. Farjeon and Rosa N. Carey, for instance – or, in the case of Thomas Hardy, to establish a place in the English literary tradition. B.L. Farjeon contributed most of the Christmas numbers and many serials in this period. In August 1878 Tinsley filed a petition for liquidation. His liabilities were reckoned at £33,000, his assets being various copyrights, Tinsley’s Magazine and Mirth. After the sale of copyrights the debts amounted to £4,000. Tinsley arranged with his creditors to pay them 2s. 6d. in the pound.
In the autumn of 1879 Tinsley engaged Fdmund Downey as ‘editor’ of Tinsley’s Magazine. Downey found his hands tied by the conditions of the production of the magazine. Tinsley wanted to employ him in the same capacity as he had William Croft, as a general assistant. To raise the circulation to its original level, Tinsley’s Magazine needed, in Downey’s view, ‘some of the old courage and enterprise which had distinguished the early days of the house of Tinsley’.9 Downey did persuade Tinsley to try to emulate the success of the Christmas numbers by issuing holiday numbers in July. This move proved profitable. The first of these holiday numbers appeared in 1880, the last in 1883. They ceased after Downey resigned the editorship. Fiction in this period was provided in large measure by members of the Gaiety Bar set – Richard Dowling (Downey’s cousin), Byron Webber, John Hill, John Augustus O’Shea and George Moore. Moore’s first published story appeared in Tinsley’s Magazine in February 1882. In order to boost sales, Downey suggested to Tinsley that he reduce the price of the magazine to sixpence, modernize its appearance and illustrate it again. When the Cornhill Magazine was announced as an illustrated sixpenny magazine in July 1883, Downey was given leave to initiate his plans. Tinsley, however, backed down at the last moment, declarina the illustrations and the contributions to be too costly.10 Shortly afterwards Downey resigned the editorship to found a publishing house with Osbert Ward.
Tinsley had announced the change of price and was forced to sell the magazine for sixpence. But within six months he raised the price to its original shilling, a move which proved a death-blow to the magazine. In July 1884 he was declared bankrupt owing £3,000. He again paid his creditors 2s. 6d. in the pound. George Moore writes that Henry Vizetelly said of Tinsley at this period: ‘He has had great luck in his life but he has squandered his luck… To restore him to his former prosperity I am afraid we should have to remove the Gaiety Bar.’11
After Downey resigned, William Tinsley conducted the magazine single-handed until it ceased publication in May 1887. The standard of the contributions slumped. Tinsley’s habit of making his publishing office an ‘asylum for lame ducks, literary and theatrical’12 became more evident. In this period Tinsley published in the magazine five serial stories and three Christmas numbers by his sister, Lily. The Christmas numbers were illustrated by Minnie Tinsley. The magazine became stale through lack of variety. It was abruptly discontinued in May 1887, two serialized novels being left incomplete. In November 1887 Tinsley was again declared bankrupt with liabilities of £1,000 and assets of some £278. This time the firm was not able to trade out of its difficulties.
Tinsley’s Magazine was not of the first rank of periodicals. Tinsley published fiction suited to the circulating library market – exaggerated action and ingenuity of plot abound. Tinsley was neither an adventurous publisher nor one to maintain faith in an author’s literary abilities in the light of disappointing sales. Though Downey comments favourably on Tinsley’s ability to gauge the commercial value of the work of young or untried authors – he nominates Hall Caine (who contributed an article on Rosetti), George Moore, Mrs Hungerford, Mabel Collins, William Westall, Fitzgerald Molloy, Aaron Watson, Tighe Hopkins, Percy Fitzgerald, John Augustus O’Shea, George Henty, B.L. Farjeon, Byron Webber, Annie Thomas, Henry S. Leigh, and Richard Dowling as authors who found a start and encouragement in the pages of Tinsley’s Magazine13 – lost his better authors through meagre rates and through pressuring them to write for the circulating library market. Downey also suggests that Tinsley would have been unable to adapt his trade to the changing marketing practices and literary tastes of the late 1880s and 1890s.14
Tinsley was deeply affronted when, after his last bankruptcy, ‘a much too enterprising but not good-natured young gentleman’15 approached his trustee with a generous offer for the copyright of Tinsley’s Magazine. The magazine was revived as a sixpenny monthly in February 1888 by Goldsmid and Co. Its most popular features were a series on British Mansions and Their Mistresses and a series on Fashion’s Phases. The proportion of fictional matter was greatly reduced, and its quality was poor. In January 1889 the magazine passed into the hands of Eglinton and Co. Clifton Bingham, Bevis Cane and Mrs Thos. Woollaston White then became the principal contributors of fiction. Eglinton and Co. quickly became disillusioned with the property. Its prospects however must have been better than those of Time, because the Hansard Publishing Union, brainchild of Horatio Bottomley, purchased the copyright of Tinsley’s Magazine, while declining that of Time.
Bottomley and his partners had bought the copyright of Hansard, offering to print it without government subsidy. The Hansard Publishing Union was formed in April 1889 to effect the amalgamation of printing and allied firms. The Union diversified its interests to paper mills and publishing companies. Eager to capitalize on the traditions of Tinsley ’s Magazine, the Union made grandiose plans to restore it to its former high reputation. Contributions from well known authors were solicited and lavish illustrations planned. The most popular features of the magazine, though, were the series on British Industries and the sketches of prominent people, beginning in the June 1889 issue with an account of Bryant and May’s match factory and a biography with frontispiece portrait of Sir John Lubbock.
In April 1890 the copyright of Tinsley’s Magazine passed to the Author’s Co-operative Publishing Society. The series on British industries and the portraits of prominent people were retained; in addition, a series on popular pastimes, a series on the weather, a monthly chess tournament, and gossip about artists were announced. The fiction was of poor quality.
In February 1892 the format of the magazine was changed and it acquired a new name: The Novel Review. Ownership in this period is difficult to ascertain. In February and March The Novel Review was published from 48-49 Temple Chambers; from April until October it was published for the proprietors by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Co. The editor was Margaret Elise Harkness, a writer on labour problems and, under the pseudonym of John Law, of realistic novels of the working class and the Salvation Army. Her association with the Author’s Co-operative Publishing Society suggests that she may also have edited the magazine from April 1890 until January 1892, or for at least part of that period. The Novel Review, it was announced, ‘is intended to meet a want created by the increasing quantity of fiction published each year. In 1891 the number of new novels published was 896, an average of nearly three per diem. It is therefore, manifestly impossible for ordinary readers to exercise a proper selection in the choice of novels they should read, or to know what may be safely left unread.’16 Each issue was to contain a complete list of novels published during the month, critical notices of important novels, a special review of the most significant novel of the month, a complete story, a translation of a foreign story, and interviews and character sketches of English and foreign novelists. In January 1892 Review of Reviews commended the role of discriminating critic which The Novel Review intended to adopt; but in November 1892 it complained that the magazine did not live up to its promise of contemporaneity – articles on Assyrian and Egyptian literature had appeared – and was wanting in delicacy.17 The authors interviewed or sketched in The Novel Review include Pierre Loti (1-10), Oscar Wilde (42-46), George Gissing (97-103), Olive Schreiner (112-115), Clark Russell (133-139), George Ileredith (140-152), Jessie Fothergill (153-160), Paul Bourget (189-197), Robert Buchanan (210-215), Bjornstjerne Bjornsen (217-224), Lanoe Falconer (225-227), Grant Allen (261-262), C.F. Keary (294-300), Emilio Pardo Bazan (311-323), Fdmondo de Amicis (357-363), John Oliver Hobbes (399-405), Thomas Love Peacock (406-415), Edna Lyall (500-503), Barry Pain (569-574), and Morley Roberts (700-708). George Bernard Shaw reviewed his own fiction in the March number (236-242). His prophecy of March 1892 about the fate of The Novel Review (‘Nothing but reviews of fiction… They can’t succeed; it’s impossible’)18 was soon fulfilled.
When William Tinsley envisioned a shilling magazine bearing his name, he was anxious for the success and ebullience which attended the firm in his brother’s days. A man of more timorous and unimaginative nature, he was quickly alarmed at the extravagance of his and his partner’s original scheme for Tinsley’s Magazine. An examination of the magazine in this early period shows it to be of substantially the same format as its more popular and established rivals – its contents and style could offer the reader nothing very original. When the magazine came under Tinsley’s control his personality and limited business flair cramped its prospects. None of the owners of the magazine after it passed from Tinsley’s hands could revitalize its stale format successfully. The last period of the magazine’s history (1888-1892) was one which witnessed the popular successes of productions such as the lavish Strand Magazine and the bizarre Tit-bits. The Novel Review,an attempt perhaps to emulate the success of Review of Reviews, could not fulfil the promises of its prospectus and its role was too circumscribed to guarantee popular appeal. In December 1892 publication of The Novel Review ceased.
- Edmund Downey, Twenty Years Ago: A Book of Anecdote Illustrating Literary Life in London (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1905), p.4. [↩]
- Henry Vizetelly, Glances Back Through Seventy Years: Autobiographical and Other Reminiscences (London: Kegan Paul, 1893), 1: 138. [↩]
- Illustrated London News, 10 Aug 1867, p. 143. [↩]
- Publisher’s advertisement, Spectator, 10 Aug 1867, p. 903. [↩]
- Downey, pp. 246-47. [↩]
- Edmund Yates, Edmund Yates: His Recollections and Experiences (London: Bentley, 1884), 2: 90. [↩]
- William Tinsley, Random Recollections of an Old Publisher (London: Simpkin Marshall, 1900), 1: 324. [↩]
- Downey, p. 247. [↩]
- Downey, p. 248. [↩]
- Tinsley’s standard rate for contributions at this time was seven and sixpence per page (Downey, p. 267). [↩]
- George Moore, ‘A Communication to my Friends,’ A Mummer’s Wife with A Communication to my Friends, Ebury Edition (London: Heinemann, 1937), p. xx. [↩]
- Downey, p. 215. [↩]
- Downey, pp. 271-72. [↩]
- Downey, p. 6. [↩]
- Tinsley, 1: 329. [↩]
- The Novel Review, n.s. 1 (1892), Feb no.: n.p. [↩]
- Review of Reviews, 5 (1892): 36; 6 (1892): 487. [↩]
- George Bernard Shaw, Letter to Stanley Little, 21 Mar 1892, Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters 1874-1897, ed. Dan H. Laurence (London: Max Reinhardt, 1965), p. 335. [↩]