We are in the process of reissuing seven classical journals from the period when the scholarly journal (in the humanities at any rate) was a relatively new phenomenon. The eighteenth century saw the rise of the periodical – though I had not realised how short-lived some of the most famous and influential of these works were. Richard Steele founded The Tatler in 1709 (using the pseudonym Isaac Bickerstaff, formerly employed by Swift in a satiric squib), but it ran for barely two years, after which Steele and Joseph Addison launched The Spectator, which ran for a year. Dr Johnson’s The Rambler ran from 1750 to 1752.
All these journals were addressed to the educated man (and woman – ‘but there are none to whom this paper will be more useful than to the female world…’), intending, in Addison’s famous declaration, ‘to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality’, and were therefore very general in their subject matter. The Gentleman’s Magazine (published from 1731 and surviving in various manifestations until 1922, and, incidentally, the first instance of the word ‘magazine’ being used in its modern sense) contained ‘useful’ information for the gentleman – from news, including trading prices, to history, archaeology, philosophy and ethics. As the century progressed, informal and formal societies developed both locally and nationally. (The Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, for example, was begun as a regular meeting in a local coffee-house to discuss the contents of the Tatler.) Many of these began to exchange minutes with other societies, and then to publish their transactions for a wider audience.
The idea for the earliest of ‘our’ journals, Musei Oxoniensis Litterarii Conspectus, was first discussed by Thomas Burgess (1756–1837), who was then a classical scholar at Oxford and Thomas Randolph, the university’s vice-chancellor, but was initially rejected. (A stumbling block was apparently the inclusion of English text – too radical at a time when Latin was still the standard medium of scholarly communication and publication.) Nevertheless, two issues were published between 1792 and 1797, but Burgess had in the mean time decided to focus on the ecclesiastical side of his career, becoming in 1803 bishop of St David’s – where he promoted the use of Welsh in his parishes – and subsequently of Salisbury. This volume, which includes papers on both ancient Greek and New Testament texts, illuminates the close relationship between classical scholarship and Anglicanism in the period, as well as the fitful nature of the early development of specialist academic journals.
Our next offering, chronologically speaking, is the quarterly Classical Journal, published between 1810 and 1829, which we are reissuing in forty volumes. It was founded and edited by Abraham John Valpy (1787–1854). Educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, Valpy established himself in London as an editor and publisher, primarily of classical texts. Edmund Henry Barker (1788–1839), from Trinity College, Cambridge, became a contributor and then co-editor: he fuelled an energetic scholarly feud with the editors of the Museum Criticum (see below). The Classical Journal included general literary and antiquarian articles as well as Oxford and Cambridge prize poems and examination papers, and so has become a valuable source for the history of the study of classics.
The Museum Criticum had a similar lifespan, but much less content: eight issues, published between 1813 and 1826, which we have reissued in two volumes. It was edited by James Henry Monk (1784–1856) and Charles James Blomfield (1786–1857), Cambridge contemporaries who both went on to ecclesiastical careers: Monk left his position as Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge to become Dean of Peterborough and subsequently Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, while Blomfield, who already held a country living when the journal was founded, later became Bishop of London. Encapsulating the dominant contemporary style of English classical scholarship – the close linguistic analysis of (primarily Greek) texts, as practised by Richard Porson (1759–1808), Monk’s predecessor as Regius Professor – the Museum Criticum became a rival to the Classical Journal, and some of the exchanges in their pages are remarkable – impugning of scholarship, or accusations of plagiarism, in extremely forthright language.
Next up is the Philological Museum, two volumes only in 1830–1. This was a venture by two Cambridge graduates, Julius Charles Hare and Connop Thirlwall. Hare had been brought up partly in Italy and Germany by his parents, who had radical and republican sympathies, and who had eloped (she being the daughter of a bishop) in order to marry. When Hare arrived at Trinity College, he was fluent in German and heavily influenced by the new German discipline of comparative philology. Liberal in outlook, and speaking foreign languages(!), let alone suggesting that foreigners might know something about the classics that Britons didn’t, the pair did not remain long in the university. Thirlwall later (like Burgess) became bishop of St David’s, as well as the writer of an eight-volume history of Greece intended for the educated amateur as much as for the student or scholar.
Leonhard Schmitz (1807–90) studied at the University of Bonn, from which he received his PhD, before marrying an Englishwoman and becoming a naturalised British citizen. A friend of Thirlwall, he became rector of the Royal High School, Edinburgh, where one of his pupils was Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. He also briefly tutored the future Edward VII (having previously taught his father, Prince Albert, in Bonn). He founded the Classical Museum, published quarterly between 1844 and 1850 (seven volumes in total): unsurprisingly, one of the journal’s strengths was in revealing advances and trends in German classical scholarship to a British audience.
The Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology was another fairly short-lived journal, though the intellectual qualifications of its founding editors are not in doubt. Contemporaries as Cambridge undergraduates in the late 1840s, J.B. Lightfoot (1828–89), F.J.A. Hort (1828–92), and J.E.B. Mayor (1825–1910) all went on to distinguished careers. Mayor, a classical scholar, became President of St John’s, while Lightfoot and Hort – members, along with Brooke Foss Westcott (1825–1901), later Regius Professor of Divinity, of the ‘Cambridge triumvirate’ – were eventually appointed respectively Bishop of Durham and Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. The journal, which they founded and edited from 1854 to 1859, was followed ten years later by the Journal of Philology, edited at first by Mayor along with the Cambridge polymaths W.G. Clark and William Aldis Wright (as in Shakespeare, the Revised English Bible, and much else), which survived until 1920, and contains articles on historical and literary themes, from contributors such as J. P. Postgate, Robinson Ellis and A. E. Housman, as well as ‘pure’ philology, across its 35 volumes.
Inevitably, some parts of these periodicals are more interesting than others (I speak with feeling, having lovingly typed out the contents of each volume for our bibliographical data). Among the most exciting are the book reviews: we can see how Burckhardt’s Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, or Evliya Celebi’s memoirs, or Gell’s works on the Morea, struck the contemporary reader. (Dauntingly, the Stanley/Butler Aeschyli Tragoediae Quae Supersunt is dismissed as altogether too trivial an edition…) There are also unexpected items like a note on Mungo Park’s death in Africa, a description of the Cornish language, the latest research on the Rosetta Stone, or the Great Plagiarism Row. Not books to be read cover to cover, but full of fascinating insights not only into classical topics but into how the subject of ‘classics’ developed.