Murray’s Magazine: A Home and Colonial Periodical for the General Reader
10 vols. 1887-1891 Proprietor: John Murray
Editor: Jan 1887-Apr 1890 Edward Augustus Arnold
May 1890-Dec 1891 William Leonard Courtney
Murray’s Magazine: A Home and Colonial Periodical for the General Reader made its first appearance in January 1887. In choosing both the title and the range of contents for the new magazine, John Murray III and his editor, Edward Arnold, were making a calculated appeal to the class of reader who had formed the market for Murray’s books since the time of John Murray II. John Murray III, like his father, was anxious to publish works of an instructive, improving nature. He published the famous Murray’s Handbooks and the Home and Colonial Library, a series of works “useful and entertaining” and giving “nothing offensive to morals or good taste.”1 Lord Derby’s translation of Homer’s Iliad had been his most successful publication. Edward Arnold expresses in his editorial preface to the first number the hope that the title and contents of Murray’s Magazine would prove an excellent advertisement for the periodical.2 He was, in effect, pledging the maintenance of a serious, instructive tone and the publication of material inoffensive to the morality and propriety of the educated middle class. The prospectus made reference to the tradition of the family company and its association not only with Lord Byron but also with The Quarterly Review, a magazine renowned for its conservative bias. It was anticipated that the new magazine would provide for the educated middle class, which aspired to improvement of intellect and moral sympathy, popular articles on social and political topics of the day, opposing views on controversial issues, information on recent literature, art, natural history, science, geography and travel, foreign correspondence, and lastly, novels, serial stories and tales, with “intrinsic merit alone” being the “passport to admission.”3
The low priority given to fiction is typical of John Murray. He did not care for novels or poetry, though he admired the work of Sir Walter Scott. His aged father had transferred his copyrights of novels to other publishers in order to concentrate on publishing serious literature. The ban on fiction remained in force until 1886, when John Murray III published Miss Emily Lawless’s novel of Irish life, Hurrish. The first serial for the magazine, Major Lawrence F.L.S. , was provided by Miss Lawless. Its emphasis is on the interaction of character and moral discrimination. The pace is slow; it lacks the excitement of a well-developed plot. The fiction which followed provided, in like manner, scenes of social and domestic comedy. Lucas Malet depicts in A Counsel of Perfection a daughter’s sacrifice of her happiness for that of her scholarly father; W.E. Norris presents the petty motives of his characters in Marcia. The most highly acclaimed novel to appear in Murray’s Magazine was Esther Vanhomrigh, a historical novel of the love story of Swift and Vanessa with portraits of Addison, Steele, Pope, and Bolingbroke. Edward Arnold, after consultation with John Murray, rejected the serialized version of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. He acknowledged the power of the story and Hardy’s didactic intention, but found it unsuitable for publication because of the “frequent and detailed reference to immoral situations.”4 Serious novels were reviewed in the monthly feature, “Our Library List.” Critical and biographical articles were devoted to Walter Besant and George Gissing (3, 506-18), Matthew Arnold (7, 289-303), Thomas Gray (9, 471-487),.Lewis Morris (9, 43-56), George Meredith (10, 859-868), Henry James (10, 641-654), Mrs. Barbauld (10, 706-726), Adam Lindsay Gordon (10, 93-102), Robert Bridges (10, 280-290), Thackeray (10, 229-236), and the Goncourt brothers (10, 541-553).
Murray’s editors were both Oxford graduates, of good family background, and published authors, but they had limited editorial experience. Edward Augustus Arnold was a grandson of Thomas Arnold of Rugby, a son of Edward Penrose Arnold (a clergyman, fellow of All Soul’s College and assistant inspector of schools in Cornwall), and a nephew of Matthew Arnold. After graduating with a B.A. from Hertford College in 1880, Edward Augustus Arnold edited, from Lord Randolph Churchill’s utterances, Plain Politics for the Working Classes (1885). In April and May 1886, he made unsuccessful offers to Swan Sonnenschein proposing that he edit Time with a view to eventual purchase of the magazine.5 The rumours of Murray’s projected magazine evidently excited his interest.
The reviews of the first numbers of Murray ‘s Magazine welcome Murray to the field of the shilling monthly. The varied interest of the magazine earned praise for the editor; the Byroniana which appeared attracted attention; the matter was commended as being “solid,” “instructive,” and of “high character.”6 But the magazine was not a popular success. Serious losses were incurred in the first year of publication, although Murray still had faith in the magazine and its editor.7 Murray and Arnold were most disturbed at the prospect of W.T. Stead’s Review of Reviews. Arnold tried to organize a united stand of fellow publishers and editors against Stead’s proposed terms of reproduction.8 Arnold resigned the editorship in April 1890 to found his own publishing house, Edward Arnold and Company, which specialized in educational books.
Murray chose an Oxford don, William Leonard Courtney, as Arnold’s successor. An author of works on philosophy, Courtney had acted as reader and general assistant to T.H.S. Escott, editor of the Fortnightly Review, from 1882 until 1886. In 1890 he became the literary editor of the Daily Telegraph. The tone of the magazine did not alter; Murray’s charges to his editor did not allow for great flexibility or innovation. In 1891, the magazine took a distinctly more literary turn as many more articles of literary criticism and biography were published. Courtney cites the publication of the work of two old Oxford friends – Mrs Margaret Woods and Andrew Lang – as the memorable literary events of his editorship.9 His biographer writes: “This short period of editorship was for Courtney no more than a preliminary canter. It did little for him beyond enlarging his circle of literary acquaintances and his knowledge of the details of printing and make-up.”10
Courtney was to hold his position on the Daily Telegraph until 1925 and to edit the Fortnightly Review from 1894 until 1928. From September 1890 until December 1891, only 5,000 copies of the magazine were printed for anticipated circulation each month.11 In considering the history of the magazine it is apparent that it had a limited market appeal. Arthur Waugh comments, in relation to the fate of Murray’s Magazine, and of periodicals issued by many other publishing houses, on the difficulty of competing with the new, lighter, and profusely illustrated magazines like the Strand Magazine12 While Murray’s Magazine was not a financial success, its proprietor was proud to have published in its pages the work of Emily Lawless and of Mrs Margaret Woods, with whose Esther Vanhomrigh he was delighted.13 Murray could comfort himself that his publication had met his surest gauge of literary worth: it had satisfied a discriminating audience.
- Sir Walter Farquhar quoting from the prospectus for the series in a letter to Lord Ashley (undated). Quoted by George Paston, At John Murray’s: Records of a Literary Circle 184 3-189 2 (London: John Murray, 1932), p. 54. [↩]
- Edward Arnold, ‘Editorial Announcement, ‘ Murray’s Magazine, 1 (Jan-June 1887): 1-2. [↩]
- Prospectus, The Athenaeum, no. 3086 (18 Dec 1886): 810. [↩]
- Edward Arnold, Letter to Thomas Hardy, 15 Nov 1889. Quoted by Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: His Career as a Novelist (London: Bodley Head, 1971), p. 284. [↩]
- Swan Sonnenschein, Letters to Edward Arnold, 30 Apr 1886, 6 May 1886 and 10 May 1886, The Archives of Swan Sonnenschein and Co. 1879-1911 (Bishops, Stortford, Teaneck: Chadwyck-Healey, Somerset House, 1973), 5, pp. 215, 272 and 298. [↩]
- Advertisement, The Athenaeum, no. 3097 (5 Mar 1887): 307 . [↩]
- Edward Arnold, Letter to John Murray, 23 Jan 1888. Quoted by Paston, pp. 28 2-3. [↩]
- Edward Arnold, Letters to Richard Bentley, 24 Dec 1889 and 3 Jan 1890, The Archives of Richard Bentley & Son 1829-1898 (Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1976), correspondence files. [↩]
- W.L. Courtney, The Passing Hour (London: Hutchinson, 1925), p. 225. [↩]
- Janet Courtney, The Making of an Editor: W.L. Courtney 1850-1908 (London: Macmillan, 1930), p. 86. [↩]
- Letter from John Murray, 22 Aug 1968. Quoted by J.R. Tye, comp., Periodicals of the Nineties: A Checklist of Literary Periodicals Published in the British Isles at Longer than Fortnightly Intervals 1890-1899 (Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, 1974) , p. 11. [↩]
- Arthur Waugh, A Hundred Years of Publishing: Being the Story of Chapman & Hall, Ltd. (London: Chapman & Hall, 1930), p. 191. [↩]
- Paston, p. 293. [↩]