Title: Charles Wentworth Dilke as a literary critic
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098012/00001
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Title: Charles Wentworth Dilke as a literary critic
Physical Description: iv, 204, 1 leaves. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Garrett, William, 1928-
Publication Date: 1958
Copyright Date: 1958
Subject: English thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 201-203.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Vita.
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Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
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Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000570747
oclc - 13723972
notis - ACZ7729


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JUNE, 1958


In the preparation of this dissertation I have

incurred many obligations to many people. To the members

of my committee, Dr. Frederick W. Conner, Dr. Alton C.

Morris, Dr. James W. Oliver, Dr. Thomas Pyles, and Dr.

Nathan C. Starr, I owe my greatest debt for their careful

reading and constructive criticism of this study. I am

especially sensible of the concern, effort, and time that

Dr. Morris, my chairman, expended on this dissertation, and

I hope that my sincere gratitude will in some measure repay

him for his direction and encouragement. To other individ-

uals I owe a profound debt of thanks: to Dean L. E. Grinter

and the Graduate Council for their financial support which

enabled me to gain first-hand access to materials in the

Library of Congress and to the New York Public and J.

Pierpont Morgan Libraries; to Mrs. Mabel Steele for allow-

ing me a free hand in the examination of Keatsiana in the

Houghton Library at Harvard. Without Professor Leslie A.

Marchand's kind gesture in placing at my disposal his notes

on the Marked File of the Athenaeum, this study would

scarcely have been possible. The staff members of the

University of Florida library have ever given me their full

cooperation, and Mrs. Chapman, especially, has demonstrated

more than dutiful concern in assisting me to secure mate-

rials not easily accessible for this study. Mr. Robert

Harris has been an ever-constant source of information and

suggestion. To all of these benefactors and to my wife,

Helen, who not only endured my inadvertencies but cheered

me by thinking this dissertation interesting and worthwhile,

and to Mrs. Glenn Cummins, who assisted in its typing, I

wish to express my gratitude.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ..................................... ii

INTRODUCTION ......................................... .1


I. CHARLES WENTWORTH DILKE ....................9

NINETEENTH CENTURY ........................33

AND THE ATHENAEM4 .........................51


LITERARY SCHOLARSHIP .....................101

VI. DILKE IN HIS AGE.......................... 14


BIBLIOGRAPHY........................................ 201


Nineteenth century literary critics are today

generally respected for their all-inclusive interests in

the various arts. John Ruskin wrote of literature, painting,

sculpture, architecture, and music and enjoyed some acclaim

as an authority in each. No less admired is Matthew Arnold,

who, though he concentrated on one art instead of contem-

plating all, proved his acute familiarity with the whole

range of English literature in discussing the functions of

criticism in his time. The age was one of versatility, in

which breadth of interests was not confined to the illus-

trious alone. From time to time some unknown person,

perhaps honored in his own day but forgotten in ours, can

justly be a claimant for literary recognition. This study

frankly projects as its paramount purpose a restitution in

the stature of Charles Wentworth Dilke II, a literary

critic of the nineteenth century. His wide range of inter-

ests proves him to be no exception to his age. His cath-

olic tastes fitted him for intense study in practically

every phase of English and classical literature.

Though the name Charles Wentworth Dilkel is known

only to a few specialists in the eighteenth and nineteenth

lHereinafter referred to as Dilke.


centuries, he merits recognition for various reasons, the

first of which is the establishment of the Athenaeum, a

literary journal for which he was sixteen years editor.

Dilke for the first time in the history of literary period-

icals proved that complete impartiality from all influences

was possible. His untiring efforts and courage in vocif-

erously condemning the unsavory practices of contemporary

booksellers and editors should merit the perpetuation of

his name.

But Dilke is most often remembered in connection

with his friendship and intimacy with some of the most

illustrious literary figures of his time. He was one of

the three or four of Keats' closest friends. His connections

with the London Magazine and later the Athenaeum resulted

in almost daily intercourse with such famous men as Hunt,

Lamb, Cunningham, Hood, Thackeray, and the Brownings. He

worked side by side with Charles Dickens in a variety of

projects for a good part of a lifetime.

Yet, not from reflected glory is Dilke most deserving

of honors; in his own right, he was a critic of the first

rank. His familiarity and insight into the Elizabethan

age, the Age of Dryden, the eighteenth century, and his

own are amply evidenced in various articles and volumes

he produced over a period of a half-century. This thesis

attempts to evaluate Dilke's contribution to the literary

milieu of his age, especially his activities as a critic,

and to measure the extent of his influence upon his contem-


It is not intended in this study to consider the

entire body of criticism that Dilke published. While it

is felt that a sufficient quantity of criticism known to

be his is examined in this thesis, two types of limitations

prevent a definitive treatment. The first limitation is

the inaccessibility of letters and other papers in the

British Museum, the Dilke Papers, Addenda h3,910-43,913.

However, Professor Leslie A. Marchand, who has examined

these papers in the preparation of his book The Athenaeum:

A Mirror of Victorian Culture (1941) testifies that

criticism contained in the Dilke Papers is inconsequential

in both quantity and quality.

A second limitation imposed on this study is the

lack of information on the location of various of Dilke's

articles scattered throughout periodicals in the early

nineteenth century. In his early period Dilke is said to

have contributed many such articles of a critical nature

to numerous literary journals. Because he rarely signed

his name to any of these articles, their authorship must

be established from internal evidence. A number of contri-

butions appears to be written by him in the London Magazine

and in the Retrospective Review, both of which have been

carefully examined in the Library of Congress for the

background material of Chapter II. Proof of Dilke's author-

ship is in most cases unfortunately lacking. Where evidence

as to their authorship is merely inferential, these suspect

articles have been rejected for this study.

Various types of external and internal evidence

serve in some instances to establish Dilke's authorship

beyond doubt. Unquestionably, the greatest aid in the

identification of his hand in the Athenaeum articles is

Marchand's list in Dilke's handwriting of the contributors

to the Athenaeum during the period when he was editor.

These notes, hereinafter referred to as the Marked File,

which Professor Marchand has generously placed at my dis-

posal, establish almost beyond question the editor's con-

tributions to his own journal. Sir Charles Dilke IV,

grandson of this critic, demonstrates in his two-volume

edition of eighteenth century criticism by Dilke that he

often employed a unique signature which is easily identi-

fied--the initials of the title of the article. If the

title were lacking, he signed the contribution with the

initials of the first three words. Thus, if the title of

the article was "Macleane not Junius," the signature was

M. N. J. A third means of identification of Dilke's

contributions is afforded in various types of internal

evidence. A review of Milnes' Life of Keats (1848) is

admitted as Dilke's because it contains many phrases and

some entire sentences found in Dilke's annotated copy of

Milnes' Life, which fortunately was available for exami-

nation in the J. Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.

Chapter VI of this study assumes an article on Heywood from

the Retrospective Review, March, 1825, to be his for its

unique form, which is exactly like that in the Continuation

of Dodsley's Old English Plays, known to have been edited

by Dilke. This assumption is supported by his grandson's

authority; only one of the three articles for that month is

about subjects befitting a literary critic. Finally, mere

testimony in friends' letters without other supporting

evidence has not in itself been admitted as sufficient

grounds for identification. Distinguishing stylistic

qualities have been of assistance in furnishing such

supporting evidence: his frequent use of the ejaculation

"why"; his penchant for quoting Shakespeare in the course

of the article; his love for understatement; his repeated

questions of "what are the facts?" But most suggestive of

his authorship is his frequent practice of using the same

statement--with a significant difference--at the beginning

and end of his articles.

Except for the memoir by his grandson in the two-

volume selection of Dilke's eighteenth century studies, The

Papers of a Critic (1875), the only other extended comment

about Dilke is Marchand's The Athenaeum: a Mirror of


Victorian Culture (1941), wherein Marchand demonstrates this

critic's untiring and ultimately successful efforts to estab-

lish the Athenaeum as a thoroughly impartial and independent

magazine. Gwynn and Tuckwell's Life of Sir Charles Dilke

(1917) discusses Dilke's life and devotion to the education

of his grandson. The Dictionary of National Biography con-

tains an article on Dilke by Norman MacColl, though the

grandson's memoir is largely MacColl's authority. Brief

mention is given to Dilke in such works as Porman's edition

of the Letters of Keats (1956) and in Rollins' edition of

the Keats Circle (1948). His intimacy with Keats is noticed

by Colvin, Lowell, and all subsequent biographers of Keats.

So far as is known, no comment on Dilke's literary criticism

has been published, and no extended account of his life has

been written since the short sketch by his grandson in 1875.

The basic primary source materials for this study,

therefore, are, in order of their importance, the Papers

of a Critic; the six-volume Continuation of Dodaley's Old

English Plays (1814-6), edited and prefixed by introductions

by Dilke; articles in the Athenaeum and in the Retrospective

Review; Leslie A. Marchand's unpublished notes on the Marked

File of the Athenaeum; Dilke's annotated copy of Milnes'

Life of Keats (1848); Rollins' edition of the letters of

the Keats Circle (1948); and Dilke's unpublished letters

in the Hampstead Library in England, now on microfilm in

the Houghton Library at Harvard.

The main body of this study has been divided into

six chapters. Chapter I presents Dilke's background, his

forbears and descendants, a brief review of his publishing

career, his paramount interests, his politics, religion,

philosophy of life, and personality. Chapter II is an

inquiry into the status of periodicals just prior to Dilke's

term of editorship. Here are noted certain special interests

and unethical procedures practiced by proprietors of maga-

zines and booksellers in the nineteenth century when Dilke

came upon the journalistic scene. Chapter III contains an

analysis of various measures taken by Dilke in his efforts

to combat the unwholesome influences pointed out in the

previous chapter and, in addition, notes his success in

overcoming other difficulties peculiar to his own career

as editor. Chapter IV reviews the history of Dilke's rela-

tionships with his contemporaries--Keats, Hood, Lamb,

Cunningham, Dickens, and others--and suggests the degree

of influence he exercised over these writers.

Chapter V illustrates his insistence that factual

detail be the paramount consideration in biographical schol-

ship by reference to his articles in the Athenaeum and Notes

and Queries on eighteenth century studies. Chapter V also

notes the value of his biographical criticism by comparing it

with that of other critics in his own and of the present day.


Chapter VI attempts to measure Dilke's stature as a critic

by comparing his views, prejudices, and methods of criti-

cism with those of other contemporaries. After noting

likenesses and differences, this chapter indicates Dilke's

contribution to the Romantic age and mentions his influence

over certain contemporaries. The conclusion of this study

reviews his career, influence, critical method, critical

preferences, and suggests his degree of success and rank

as a literary critic.



Charles Wentworth Dilke, the second in a long line

of Charles Wentworth Dilkes, was praised by many friends and

censured by a few enemies during his long career of nearly

sixty years in public life. Almost every important literary

figure of his time, as well as many lesser personages, had

something to say about him. His influential position as

owner and editor for sixteen years of England's largest

weekly literary periodical, the Athenaeum, caused him to be

respected by most of the important men of the day, and the

many letters and opinions of his contemporaries attest his

unique character, his forthright principles, and his varied


Charles Wentworth Dilke II came of an upper middle-

class family that dated back to the Civil Wars in the fif-

teenth century. His forbear, Fisher Dilke, who married into

a Wentworth family distinguished for their connections with

Cromwell's Council of State, inherited property through his

wife on the condition that the heirs should assume the name

of Wentworth. His descendants, in keeping with this pledge,

were known through succeeding generations as the Wentworth

Dilkes or Dilke Wentworths until the end of the seventeenth


During the reign of George II a Wentworth Dilke was

clerk to the Board of Green Cloth at Kew Palace. To this

Dilke was born an only son, Wentworth Dilke Wentworth, sec-

retary to the Earl of Litchfield. He in turn left an only

son, Charles Wentworth Dilke, a clerk in the Admiralty, who

became the first of five in succession to bear that name.

A friend of the Dickens family, Charles Wentworth Dilke I

married in 1783 Sarah Blewford and had two sons, Charles

Wentworth II (1789-1864) and William (1796-1885) and one

daughter. This daughter later married John Snook, at whose

home Keats spent his last night in England.

The second Charles Wentworth Dilke had one son,

Charles Wentworth Dilke III, upon whom it is believed he

probably bestowed too much attention. Though not an intel-

lectual, this son became an eminent man. He was extremely

royalist, was a good friend of the Prince Consort, and came

to be regarded in Europe as an authority on horticulture and

truck-gardening. He was one of the main promoters of the

Great Exhibition of 1851 and of another Exhibition a decade

later, for which service Queen Victoria bestowed upon him a

baronetcy, which he accepted against his father's advice. He

died in 1869, leaving two sons, Charles Wentworth Dilke IV

and Ashton Wentworth Dilke (1850-83). This fourth Charles

Wentworth Dilke, generally called Sir Charles Dilke, 2nd

Baronet, edited the Papers of a Critic, a two-volume


selection of his grandfather's writings on the eighteenth

century. He was a prominent radical politician and extensive

traveler in France, Italy, Russia, the United States, and was

the author of several books. He had an only son, Charles

Wentworth V, third baronet, who was a civil servant,and died

without leaving any lineal descendants.

Dilke was self-educated. Early in life he accepted

a position in the Navy Pay Office, a position which his

father before him had held and which Dilke continued to hold

until the office was abolished in 1836. This unpretentious

occupation, though not very remunerative, afforded Dilke

ample time for extensive reading and literary research.

Before he was nineteen he carried Maria Dover Walker, who was

noted for her gaiety, beauty, and gentle disposition. Sir

Charles Dilke, her grandson, after her death in 1850, reports

that she and Dilke "lived in the most complete happiness for

more than forty years."I

Dilke began his extended publishing career by editing

in 1814-15 a Continuation of Dodsley's Old English Plays, in

which he intended to present not especially the best works of

particular writers in the Elizabethan period, but rather to

make public the best plays that were not generally available

in print. In the opinion of most readers the critical

1Dilke, Papers of a Critic, ed. Sir Charles Dilke,
2 Vols. (London, 87,, I, p

judgment he exercised in the editing of the Continuqtion of

Dodsley's Old English Plas2 was painstaking, accurate, and

just. The result was that Gifford, editor of the C.jurt.rly

Magazine, spoke highly of him, an endorsement which helped

Dilke to achieve early recognition as an acute critic. This

reputation was made yet more substantial as a result of

Dilke's many contributions to various magazines from 1814 to

1830. In January, 1818, Dilke succeeded John Keats as theat-

rical reviewer for the Champion Magazine, though Dilke did

not remain in this position for more than two or three months.

Either as editor or as contributor, Dilke had pub-

lishing relationships with numerous periodicals of his time.

Sir Charles Dilke details in his "Memoir" in the Papers of a

Critic some of Dilke's contributions to various journals. A

political pamphlet in the form of a letter to Lord John

Russell, published separately in 1821, appears to have

attracted much attention for its radical overtones. In 1822,

in addition to Dilke's contributing to the London Review and

Colburn's New Monthly, Charles Brown confidently asserts that

some of Dilke's articles were republished in the Parisian

Literary Gazette, edited by Galignani.3 Sir Charles Dilke

2Hereinafter referred to as Continuation.

3Dilke, Papers, I, p. 15; no periodical by that name
is apparently in existence now, and a thorough investigation
in the Library of Congress and in the British Museum fails to
reveal any trace that such a periodical ever existed.
Galignani was in 1822 editor of The Paris Monthly Review of


erroneously records that in 1823 Dilke wrote in the London

Magazine as "Thurusa."4 Other contributions appeared in

Colburn's New Monthly, November, 1823, and in the retro-

snective Review, March, 1825. From 1823 to 1825, he was one

of the coterie writing for the London Magazine, along with

Lamb, Hood, Reynolds, Hazlitt, Poole, Talfourd, Barry Corn-

wall, Allan Cunningham, De Quincey, George farley, Hartley

Coleridge, and others. Dilke is best remembered, however,

for his articles in the Retrospective Review, which was con-

cerned only with authors before 1800, and for his political

articles in the Westminster review, which claimed to no great

literary pretensions but was a propaganda device for the


In 1826 Dilke went to the continent with his son,
whom he left in Charles Brown's care, and visited Keats's

tomb. He continued until 1830 to write for various magazines,

particularly the New Monthly iAqgn:ne. In that year he

gained sole control and three-fourths ownership of the

Athenreun'. With cool-headed, deliberate judgment, with

fierce honesty, with during and precarious juggling of prices,

British and Continental Literature, continued in 1823 as
;1i rI'j i- ".rZlne and Paris Monthly Review. These holdings
in trh Britls-"h lseum were destroye-uring World War II.

4Ibid.; from 1820-30, no articles are signed by that
name; "Theisitis" and "Thurma," however, do appear, and Sir
Charles' memory may have been faulty hare.

and undoubtedly, with some pure luck, Dilke succeeded grad-

ually in establishing this journal not only on a paying

basis, but also as the leading magazine of its type. During

this time he wrote comparatively little, yet he contributed

mo"e than Sir Charles Dilke and others give him credit for

writing. Leslie A. Marchand's notes of the Marked Pile of

the AthenaeumS point out at least twenty-five articles of

Dilke's, not to mention those unsigned articles appearing

almost weekly. Most of these are of no great literary value

except insofar as they illustrate a method of reviewing.

In 181)6 Dilke resigned editorship of the Athenaeum to

become manager, without salary, of the Daily News, which was

at that time in a precarious financial position. Sir Charles

Dilke records that the newspaper was only three months old

when Dilke was first called in as "consulting physician."

The purpose in securing Dilke for the position was to estab-

lish the newspaper on a sound financial basis. In a short

time he was vested with absolute power in all business

matters. He was second in command, with the right to dis-

charge any of the staff except his chief editor and friend,

John Forster. Using the same strategy he had employed in

increasing the circulation of the Athenaeum, Dilke immedi-

ately lowered the price of the paper to one-half its original

5Collected by Professor Marchand for research on the
Athenaeum: A Mirror of Victorian Culture (Chapel Hill, 1941)
from the offTce of the I 7w :'t rt5msn and adM'r cn.

cost and gained 18,000 new readers. His announced plan was

to establish "a daily newspaper which shall look for support,

not to comparatively few readers at a high price, but to many

at a low price."6 Even so, the newspaper did not fare well

financially. Dilke, after all, was not editor, and the

powers he did have were limited to financial matters, In

effect, it appears that the wishes and political affiliations

of many proprietors were at cross-purposes, so that it was

difficult for the editors--at first Forster and then Dickens

--to maintain harmony and satisfy everyone, a condition that

militated against the newspaper's chances for solvency. Nat-

urally, Dilke's position of rendering substantially remuner-

ative the conflicting propositions of various proprietors

proved even more difficult. He had signed an agreement to

serve as manager for three years, and at the end of his term

in the spring of 1849 he submitted his resignation. The

following letter "in the name of the staff," showing an

esteem for him as a man and as a superior, was sent to Dilke:

I am sure there is not an individual connected with the
Daily News--who knows its true interests--who will not
look on this day as the blackest in its calendar, for
today, I am told, you finally retire from the management
of the paper. . Without your energy and consummate
skill, the OailyNews would have died a few months after
its birth.
Judging from expressions which I have heard since
your intention to retire became known, I am certain that
from the sub-editors down to the smallest boy, there is
not one in the office that has had direct communication

6Dilke, Papers I, p. 62.


with you, who does not look upon your loss as a personal
misfortune. There has been such perfect reliance in the
justice of even your censures, that I never yet heard a
man say he was aggrieved by the severest of them, and
when you found room for praise and gave it, the recipient
felt he had something to be proud of.7

Although Dilke did not meet with such financial success in

this venture as he did with the Athenaeum, he was in some

measure rewarded for his efforts, since the newspaper had

attained greater solvency when he left it than when he

assumed managership.

This resignation marked Dilke's retirement from pub-

lic life. His remaining fourteen years were devoted to lit-

erary research and to the education of his grandson. In

1850, when Maria died, Dilke toured Scotland and Ireland

(1851-1852), during which time he "corresponded incessantly

with his daughter-in-law, to whom he was much attached."8

His grandson reports that in nearly all these letters Dilke

showed himself to be, like all old radicals, a violent Tory

in everything but pure politics. He rails against the cities

of Manchester and Leeds, probably because of their railroads

and manufacturers, and defends Bristol because "it has a

human heart in it." Sir Charles explains that Dilke's liking

for Bristol was largely attributable to his fondness for the

old book shops he found there.9 He returned in 1852 to live

71bid., pp. 69-70.
Ibid., p. 75.


with his son, to whom he assigned most of his property.

At this period in his life Dilke had, aside from lit-

erary research, two paramount interests: the education and

rearing of children--applied in a practical manner to his son

and later his grandson--and the mismanagement of the Literary

Fund, a foundation organized to aid literary figures in finan-

cial need. In the opinion of Dilke's friends, his strong

sense of the family bond caused him to worry too much about

his son Wentworth's progress in school. In a letter to his

brother George, Keats writes concerning Dilke's unusual

interest in his son:

Dilke has continually in his mouth "My Boyl" . One
would think Dilke ought to be quiet and happy--but no--
this one Boy makes his face pale, his society silent and
his vigilence jealous.10

Perhaps Keats was justified in censuring Dilke on this matter.

But Dilke realized and perhaps excused, as Maria did, his

overemphasized interest in his son's welfare. In a long

letter to Wentworth in Italy he writes:

I ought to be in bed, but somehow you are always first
in my thoughts and last, and I prefer five minutes of
gossiping with you. .. How, indeed, could it be
otherwise than that you should be first and last in my
thoughts, who for so many years have occupied all my
thoughts. For fifteen years at least it has been my
pleasure to watch over you, to direct and to advise.
Now, direct and personal interference has ceased. . .
It is natural, perhaps, that I should take a greater
interest than other fathers, for I have a greater inter-
est at stake. I have but one son.11

lOLetters of John Keats, ed. B. Forman (London and
New York, T57, p. 3 '--
11Dilke, Papers, I, p. 18.

As to the education of children, Dilke sets forth his theory

and offers advice in a letter to Wentworth, after the manner

of Lord Chesterfield, but with infinitely more of affection

and tenderness and probably with considerably less expecta-

tion that it would someday be examined in the cold light of


I like your purchases, and envy you the pleasure of
reading the Letters of the Younger Pliny. You seem to
have something of your father and of your grandfather in
you, and to love books; but do not mistake buying them
for reading them, a very common error with half the
world. If you have, as I hope, bought Terence, and
Plautus, and Valerius Maximum, and the others, because
you intend to read them, and if you do read them in defi-
ance of the little difficulties you will at first meet
with, you will very soon be of my mind; there will no
longer be much occasion for me to think for you, or to
advise you; the thing desired will be accomplished. Once
feel the pleasure of learning, or rather of knowledge,
and I cannot conceive a man ever forsaking it.12

Dilke offers his son advice about books and how to use them.

Perhaps he had in mind Bacon's famous essay on this subject;

the terse, brief, and to-the-point style indicates as much:

If you buy what you do not intend to read, your library
is no better than a curiosity-shop. A library is nothing
unless the owner be a living catalogue to it. I do not
mean that you ought not to buy what you cannot irmedi-
ately read, or read through; some books are to be skimmed,
others are for reference, others are to be read, though
not at that time. 3

Then Dilke advises his son concerning the importance of Latin

and Greek, advice which is consistent with his interest in

12lbid., p. 21.


the classics. While he does not expect nor desire his son to

be a great Latin or Greek scholar, he does wish him to know

and understand Latin as well as English. His reason for

stipulating such a mastery of these languages is that such

proficiency is the best and most direct means to acquiring

general knowledge. Though Dilke considered a knowledge of

the classic Latin and Greek writers necessary to the educa-

tion of children, these interests must not be so all-engros-

sing that factual, practical knowledge is neglected.

I should recommend you to run over Virgil's Bucolics.
In Italy you will find the very scenes. After such
reading, a walk will illustrate Virgil, and Virgil
explain a walk. Keep your mind always awake to what is
going on about you--to the habits of people, especially
the country people. Get into talk with them, observing
their manner of cultivation, the rotation of crops, the
price of land, both for purchase and rental. This is
knowledge, and knowledge gained by merely opening your
-rs and your eyes. It costs no time, no labour, no
money .4

In addition to Dilke's interest in the education of

children, he held some definite convictions concerning child

psychology. Where his grandson was about eight, Dilke wrote

Mary, his daughter-in-law, a long and interesting letter on

the subject of rearing children. He begins by a kind of

analysis of thought and behavior suggestively modern in

its attitude but replete with understanding and sympathy:

The subject is to me one of the deepest interest and
ever has been. . .Children live wholly in the present.


The past is with them clean gone, and the future unknown
and undreamt of. You may easily make them actors, and it
is thought a fine thing when they are actors. You may
even make them artful, cunning, hypocritical, but you
cannot alter their nature. They are still children. You
may make them miserable for a moment by bringing the past
or the future before them as if it were the present, but
leave nature play for an hour and they are living only in
the present again. You cannot trifle with this part of
child-n ure without fearful mischief to the moral

The child's awareness only of the present, Dilke seems to

imply, is responsible mainly for misbehavior. He suggests,

moreover, that it is useless to attempt to instill in chil-

dren at this age a sense of the future or past. This kind of

knowledge must come with time, and correction must be admin-

istered accordingly:

They are not corrected at all by external force. The
fault remains, with hypocrisy superadded,--cunning to
conceal. The only true correction is self-correction,
and this must be consequent on increased knowledge and
enlarged sympathy and feeling. It is well to direct a
child's attention to a bad habit and to help him correct
it; but only to one error or habit at a time. To attack
all is to keep up a worry, in which all the authority
derived from affection is lost.16

The predominant ideas in Dilke's scheme of child psychology,

then, appear to be sympathy and knowledge. From these the

parent gains parental respect, but he must not abuse that

respect for authority by being too critical: "only . one

error . at a time." The wise parent will not concern

himself much with the child's little mistakes in the growing-

up process:

151bLd., p. 74.
16Ibid., pp. 74-75.


Children are children as kittens are kittens. A sober
sensible old cat, who sits purring before the fire, does
not trouble herself because her kitten is hurrying and
dashing here and there, in a fever of excitement, to
catch its own tail. She sits still and purrs on. People
should do the sane with children.17

Because he applied these psychological and educational prin-

ciples in the rearing and education of children, Dilke lived

to see their happy fruition in his grandson: "What a bless-

ing that boy has been to my old agel"8

Dilke's other great interest, beginning when he was

forty-seven and lasting into his seventies, was an attempt

to bring about reform in the Literary Fund. As early as

1836, he had expressed in a letter to Britton, Junius schol-

ar and antiquary, his interest in the correction of certain

abuses in the administration of the Fund. In this letter he

confesses himself pleased that his "eternal opposition" at

the Literary Fund meetings had not been mistaken for "per-

sonal and fractious carping." He explains his reasons for

his opposition:

I should not, indeed, presume to question the decisions
of the committee, if they were but consistent, but rather
my own judgment. . All I want is some well-defined
and intelligible course of proceedings, some recognized
principle that we may rest on and refer to as a rule of

171bid., p. 75.
18Stephen Gwynn and Gertrude Tuckwell, Life of Sir
Charles Dilke, 2 Vols. (London, 1917), I, p. 45 ---

19Dilke, Papers, I, pp. 43-44.

Dilke then points out several instances of apparent mis-


It stands recorded on the books that the largest sum of
money (double the amount of any other vote) was given to
the widow of a member of the committee--a nan who had
died possessed ofF-7000. When this fact was proved--and
it was proved, though the committee would not furnish
the proof--it was stated that the money had been voted in
error. What, then, is so reasonable as to inquire how the
committee were led into so extraordinary an error? Who,
according to the established forms, applied for the
grant? Who certified to the "distress"? And yet, for
want of such certificates, I have seen fifty cases
rejected. No trace was to be found on the books or on
the papers. Was it on the representation of a member of
the committee? Who moved and seconded the resolution?
Again, money was lately voted to one person as the widow
of a literary man, and a few months afterwards there was
a second voted to a second widow. How was the committee
misled in the first instance?20

The interest in this organization continued to grow until

1858, when, together with Dickens and Forster, his former

co-workers on the Daily News of a decade before, Dilke

launched an attack on the current management of the fund and

called for reform.

As stated by Dilke, Forster, and Dickens, the case of

the Reformers was as follows:

. The Literary Fund Society is a Society of abuse,
because it is governed, in direct opposition to the evi-
dent and expressed intention of its Charter, by an irre-
sponsible Committee; because it limits its proceedings,
in direct opposition to the evident and expressed inten-
tions of its Founder, to dealing with the followers of
Literature as beggars only; and because its enormous
annual expenditure will not bear comparison with the
expenditure of any other similar institution on the face

20Ibid., p. 44.

of the earth.21

It is reported by Norman MacColl, however, that although the

reformers had the best of the argument, they had the worst of

the voting.22 The three leaders in the revolt, with the aid

of Lord Lytton, then attempted to found the Guild of Art and

Literature, which, it is further reported, did not meet with

the success anticipated.23

Dilke's political opinions changed very little

throughout his life. If he was not so outspoken, it was

because the times had changed, not his own views. He pro-

fessed himself to be a Radical early in life, and he was

remembered later for his controversial contributions to the

Radical Westminster Review. As Carlyle did later, Dilke in

1821 vigorously advocated the repeal of the Corn Laws. He

addressed to Lord John Russell24 a pamphlet in the form of a

letter, which he later had Rodwell and Martin publish under

the title "The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties,

deduced from the Principles of Political Economy." In this

pamphlet he remarks that he believes Lord Russell to be

21Charles W. Dilke, Charles Dickens, and John Forster,
The Case of the Reformers in the Literary Fund (London,
T"8T,7-."-f4 --

22Norman MacColl, "Charles Wentworth Dilke," NWB, ed.,
Stephen and Lee, (London, 1917), p. 982.

2In one year Russell introduced three reforms in the
House of Commons about a decade later.

sincere and zealous in his public opinions and conduct and,

because of his youth, not likely to have his understanding

clouded by established theories. Having been convinced by

one of Russell's essays that this author was inclined to

liberal principles, Dilke set forth certain arguments in

favor of the laboring classes:

S. the richest nations are those where the greatest
revenue is raised; as if the power of compelling men to
labour twice as much at the mills of Gaza for the enjoy-
ment of the Philistines, were the proof of ar thing but
a tyranny or an ignorance twice as powerful.25

As editor of the Athenaeum, Dilke fought for liberal meas-

ures, such as the unstamped press.26 Later in life, however,

his interest in politics became more passive. He declared

that having "once committed myself by trying to take the tin

kettle from the tail of a Socialist," he did not care to get

further embroiled in politics.27 In 1864, he was quite sat-

isfied with the British Constitution. He maintained that

each form of government may be good under certain circum-

stances and bad under others. He believed that no form of

government could be permanent, for conditions are not perma-

nent. But in his own opinion, a democratic form of government

is best:

25Dilke, Papers, I, p. 15.

26The "stamped press" was a tax levied against
printed media; Dilke believed that instead of economical, the
issue was political.
27bid., p. 47.

The best government . is that which best represents
the wishes and the feelings of the governed; and by its
plasticity, mobility, adaptability . most easily
adopts itself to the varying circumstances and feelings
of the people. In this respect the British Constitution
has shown itself good beyond all the hopes of my early
life. . The just will of the people peacefully

Dilke shared the optimism of the Romantic poets

about the future. He was strongly influenced by Godwin,

though unlike the Romantic poets, who visualized a better

world largely through improved moral and ethical precepts,

Dilke's hope lay in science and machinery. Barry Cornwall,

a popular author in his day, once leveled innocent fun at

Dilke on this score:

Illustrious Dilke,
You are sitting there in all the pride of science,
railroads, your Elysian fields, chimneys, your delectable
mountains, artesian wells, your castles; and yet with
all this disadvantage and prejudice against me, I drive
on, head foremost, and send you a dozen lines, rendered
literally almost from Victor Hugo--a gentleman of some
mark (God save itl)--and who will be remembered, perhaps,
when Tredgold and the 999 associates have been pounded
and pulverized into fresh magnesia, to supply the future
bones of the mechanical geniuses of 1939. Why do you,
a man of large heart, take under your wing (your waist-
coat) the wheels, and levers, and cogs, and spinning
jennies of the time. Jennies I would excuse, and even
laud you for but spinning jennies are good for nothing
but to spin.9

Coupled with this faith in the scientific future,

however, was Dilke's belief that the "humanizing influence

of literature" would keep pace with scientific discovery.

28As quoted in Marchand, p. 31.

29As quoted in Dilke, Papers, I, p. 37-38.

Humanity then would still retain its individuality and gradu-

ally become more humane. In a "bowing out" comment in the

final Athenaeum issue of 1835, Dilke writes:

If literature have its humanizing influence--and who
can doubt it?--what mighty engines, for the happiness
and improvement of society, are at this moment in
operation all over the worldi30

It is probable that this "scientific-ethical" optimism

rather took the place of religion in Dilke.

Concerning Dilke's religious principles little has

been said by himself or by his contemporaries, but what few

comments have been made indicate two things: first of all,

it appears that he was not a firm believer in traditional

Christiarity; and secondly, it appears, as in politics, that

once his mind was made up about matters of religion, he

never changed them. In March, 1818, Dilke reviewed in the

Chamnion a sermon published by his friend Benjamin Bailey,

who tells a correspondent "for the sake of the book, &, I

think, for his own, he had better have let it alone. He is

at best a Sceptic in his principles."31 Nearly a decade

later in an oft-quoted letter to his son, Dilke, after

acknowledging that his one son "had been brought up dif-

ferently from others," writes that from "the first hour

30Athenaeum, December 26, 1835, p. 968.

31The Keats Circle, ed. H. H Rollins, 2 Vols.
(Cambridge, 19l77TI, p. 20.


I never taught you to believe what I did not myself believe.

I have been a thousand times censured for it, but I had that

confidence in truth, that I dared put my faith in it and in

you."32 It is likely that this "difference" refers to

religious training; otherwise, it is difficult to imagine

how Wentworth could be different.

Again, in reference to Dilke's religion, his grand-

son writes:

My mother had been a strong Low Church woman, and those
of her letters which I have destroyed very clearly show
that her chief fear in meeting death was that she would
leave me without that class of religious training which
she thought essential. My grandfather and my father,
although both of them in their way religious men, (and
my grandfather, a man of the highest feeling of duty),
were neither of them churchgoers, nor of her school of

Thus, while it is difficult to generalize about Dilke's

religious views, it is safe to say that he possessed a deep

moral and ethical sense and a profound faith in mankind: a

type of "social perfectibility" optimism. It appears that

the grandson was correct in affirming that Dilke was

religious in his way.

Dilke's personality was often a matter for conver-

sation among his friends. Perhaps the chord most expressive

of Dilke's character was sounded by Keats in a letter to

32Dilke, Papers, I, pp. 18-19.

33Gwynn and Tuckwell, pp. 17-18.


Ceorge and Georgians at Louisville. Keats in October, 1818,

had called Dilke a "Godwin Perfectibily /si/ Man,"34 and

nearly a year later referred to him a "Godwin Methodist."35

He perhaps meant by these epithets that Dilke must arrive at

conclusions through very logical, skeptical steps, a trait

which hints at a lack of imagination, though Keats never says

as much. But in the same letter Keats writes:
I wrote Brown a comment on the subject, wherein I
explained what I thought of Dilke's Character. Which
resolved itself to this conclusion. That Dilke was a
Man who cannot feel he has a personal identity unless
he has made up his Mind about every thing.3o

Keats felt that Dilke was stubborn and argumentative, always

testing the truth of any assertion, and, at the same time,

obstinate and unchanging in his attitudes. This character-

ization is borne out by Dilke's relatively unchanging relig-

ions and political ideas.

Of the many features that are prominent in Dilke's

character, the salient one is his cool-headed, deliberate

judgment. Even before he took control of the Athenaeum,

he had gained a reputation for sound scholarship, sound

reasoning, and above all, his capability for giving sound

advice. Sir Charles Dilke writes that he ". . was a man

who made a great impression upon his friends by the solidity

34Letter p. 234.

35Ibid., p. 426.

361bid., pp. 425-426.

of his judgment. The phrase 'consult Dilke'"37 occurs

repeatedly in the letters that Keats, Hood, Lady Morgan,

Lamb, and others wrote to various people.

Many letters attest Dilke's good humor, geniality,

and capacity for sympathetic understanding, in spite of

Chorley's testimony of Dilke's "many prejudices":

No two persons could be more unlike in many matters of
taste, opinion, and feeling than the editor of the
"Athenaeum," the late honoured Charles Dilke, and myself.
But it was impossible to know and not respect him, how-
ever so many were his prejudices (and they were many),
however so limited were his sympathies (and they were

But the Hampstead home was noted for its hospitality. The

pleasant, witty, and pretty Maria and congenial Dilke had,

as a result, almost continuous visitors. Keats' sister,

Fanny, more than once spent a pleasant week there, and Keats

himself lived with Brown in Hampstead next door to Dilke.

Keats writes to his brothers that "Brown and Dilke are very

kind and considerate towards me."39 Dickens, too, calls

Dilke a "capital old stout-hearted man,"40 and again, on the

notice of Dilke's death:

You LWentworth/ know how heartily I admired and respected
him, and what interest I derived from the association I

37Dilke, Papers, I, p. 26.

38Henry Fothergill Chorley: Autobiography, Memoir,
and Letters, ed., Hewlett, 2 Vol. (London, 1873)1, p. o.
letters, pp. 106 and 296.

40John Forster, Life of Dickens, 2 Vols. (London,
1872-74), II, p. 310.

was so fortunate as to have with that sound head, and
staunch true heart. Never on this earth shall I fight
any fight by the side of a more reliable and faithful
man, though I live as long as hel41

Testimonials to Dilke's honorable reputation as a man are

abundant. Forster, the third member of the "reformers,"

voiced praise for Dilke at his death:

Sorrow may be . expressed that no adequate record
should remain of a career which for steadfast purpose,
conscientious maintenance of opinion, and pursuit of
public objects with disregard of self, was one of very
high example. So averse was Mr. Dilke to every kind of
display that his name appears to none of the literary
investigations which were conducted by him with an acute-
ness wonderful as his industry, and it was in accordance
with his express instructions that the literary journal
which his energy and self-denial had established kept
silence respecting him at his death. . .-

Mr. Thoms, who was formerly on the staff of the Athenaeum

under Dilke and who enlisted Dilke's aid in setting up the

new Notes and Queries, wrote:

Mr. Dilke was one of the truest hearted men and kindest
friends it has ever been our good fortune to know. The
distinguishing feature of his character was his singu-
lar love of truth, and his sense of its value and impor-
tance, even in the minutest points and questions of lit-
erary history. What the independence of English Literary
journalism owes to his spirited exertions, clear judgment,
and unflinching honesty of purpose, will, we trust, be
told hereafter by an abler pen than that which now
announces his deeply lamented death.43

41As quoted in Marchand, p. 32.
42Forster, II, p. 310. Forster's last statement is
somewhat in error; in the "Weekly Gossip" column for the
issue August 13, 1864 (p. 214) is the following announcement:
"Died, on Wednesday, August 10, at Alice Holt near Farnham,
in his seventy-fifth year, CHARLES WENTWORTH DILKE: who was
for many years intimately connected with the Athenaeum."
43Dilke, Papers, I, p. 86.

Mr. Thorns had known Dilke for more than twenty years. He

had stated earlier in this article that of the many contrib-

utors that had submitted papers to Notes and Queries, none

had submitted such excellent ones as had Dilke. In answer

to inquiries of a certain correspondent, Thoms wrote again

the following month:

None but those who know how thoroughly our lamented
friend exhausted every inquiry he took up, can form an
idea of the perseverance and ingenuity with which he
pursued such researches. He had no pet theory to main-
tain. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth, was the end and object of all his inquifres, and
in the search after this he was indefatigable.w

His contemporaries likewise recognized Dilke's worth

as a literary critic. Elizabeth Barrett told a correspondent

that Dilke was not brilliant, but that he was "a Brutus in

criticism."45 Even during Dilke's lifetime, indeed, even

before the main body of his work was completed, he was an

acknowledged critic. As early as 1836, Mr. Britton, the

noted antiquary, called Dilke the "first critic" in England.46

In 1852, a writer for Men of the Time reports:

Now and then he may be seen in the Reading Room of the
British Museum . poring over some seldon-searched
page, printed perhaps by a flying press during the tur-
moil of the Civil Wars, or, it may be, in the less san-
guinary but scarcely less exciting day of "Wilkes and
'45," when lord mayors and sheriffs L,_/ bearded Parlia-
ments and Ministers, and the press was struggling to be

45April, 1850, to Miss Mitford; Letters of Elizabeth
Barrett Browning ed. F. Kenyon, London, 197.
46Dilke, Papers, I, p. 42.


free. In some number of the "Athenaeum" thereafter may
be detected, perhaps, a paper evidently written by a man
who had . looked at it, turned it about, examined
every passage of its history, connexions and relations,
had tested it by the standards of logic and of strong
cormmon sense, and then wound up pen in hand, by pouring
out the whole results in some fluent columns of type
deserving a more distinctive existence than that ener-
ally attaching to the articles in a weekly journal.47

Dilke's reputation as a critic rests largely upon

his introductions to the plays in the Continuation, his con-

tributions to the London Magazine, and his eighteenth century

studies that appeared in the Athenaeum and Notes and Queries.

But his worth as a literary figure does not reside wholly in

his valuable criticism. His prominent place in the Keats

Circle, his intimate relationship with practically all the

leading literary men of his day, and most of all his editor-

ship of England's leading literary magazine for over a decade

and a half merit for him a prominent place in the literary

history of nineteenth century England. In the eyes of his

contemporaries, at least of those who knew him, one of his

greatest achievements was his editorship of the Athenaeum.

In order to appreciate the difficulties facing this editor,

and to evaluate his direct and indirect influence upon the

literary periodicals of the first half of the century, it is

appropriate to examine the status of these periodicals and

bring Dilke's contribution into proper focus.

47Men of the Time (London, 1852), p. 123.



The age in which Dilke lived was a heyday for the

literary periodical. It was a period of tremendous growth

not only in the number that came into existence but in the

variety of interests that these periodicals served. Peri-

odicals that were started near the turn of the century were

radically different in format, feature articles, editorial

policy, and even day-to-day news coverage from those that

came twenty-five to thirty years later. Owing, no doubt,

to the tremendous competition at that time, the later maga-

zines are characterized more than anything else by their

variety. Each periodical appears to have sensed a need

for some peculiar or distinguishing feature. Thus, the

magazines of the 1830's could boast of many features not

found in the earlier magazines.

The political, literary, and even personal preju-

dices that governed the editorial policies of these peri-

odicals were of paramount importance. The industrial

revolution had by 1802 forced issues between Whig, Tory,

and Radical to become sharply defined, while at the same

time the Romantic type of literature, so different from

the eighteenth century's approach to style, subject matter,

and purpose, was beginning to demand a hearing from the

critics. These considerations were not overlooked by the

editors and the sponsors of periodicals.

The critic as well as the editors sometimes reacted

according to personal, political, literary, religious, or

even mercenary considerations. Walter Graham defines in

part the outside pressures serving to influence literary

criticism of the nineteenth century:

S. in two ways the Review of the nineteenth century
differed from earlier periodicals of the same type--it
was comparatively free from the bookseller's influence,
and it was affected as never before by political par-

Although evidence does not bear out the first of Mr.

Graham's distinctions, there can be little argument over

the soundness of his second. However, the practice of

securing political backing for nominally literary produc-

tions was not peculiar to the first part of the Romantic

Period. The eighteenth century, too, had its share of

political propaganda in literary magazines. The Tatler

and Spectator, with their comparatively pale political

connections, are notable exceptions to the rule. Even so,

the nineteenth century periodical, as Graham states above,

"was affected as never before by political partisanship."

1Walter Graham, English Literary Periodicals (New
York, 1930), p. 227.

At the turn of the century noteworthy periodicals, osten-

sibly literary, sprang up to disseminate political propa-

ganda. It is true that the Edinburgh Review was begun in

1802 not primarily as a party organ, although its founders--

Smith, Jeffrey, and Horner--were decidedly Whiggish. Wit

and fun were to be their first concern. Graham explains

that the idea "was not to avoid politics altogether, but

to allow them to be handled by the partisans of either

camp, as long as they could provide amusement and informa-

tion for the reader."2 But as Francis Jeffrey gradually

took over complete editorship of the Edinburgh Review, so

did the magazine gradually gain the reputation as a party

mouthpiece. Furthermore, Jeffrey's conservative literary

leanings cause him to be remembered for his bad criticism.

In reviewing Southey's Thalaba, Jeffrey says: "Poetry has

this much, at least, in common with religion, that its

standards were fixed long ago, by certain inspired writers,

whose authority it is no longer lawful to call in question."3

Such a dogmatic and absolute basis for criticism was out-

moded and could not be reconciled with Romantic experi-

mentation and novelty.

The Quarterly Review was established in 1809 for

the purpose of opposing the Whig-governed Edinburgh Review:

2bid., pp. 233-4.
3lbid., p. 23$.

". .. it was frankly intended as a party organ,"4 though,

like the Edinburh Review, its avowed paramount interests

were literary. Smarting under the Edinburgh Review's

adverse criticism of his Marmion, Sir Walter Scott has con-

sidered setting up a magazine in opposition to the

Edinburgh Review's Whiggish principles. He was persuaded

by Murray, publisher of the proposed journal, to be a

member with Southey on the regular staff of the Quarterly

Review.5 The general political conservatism of the Lake

Poets was becoming known, and paradoxically enough, as the

Whiggish organ rebelled against the new poetry, the Tory-

minded Quarterly became liberal-minded so far as literature

was concerned, and, in consequence, championed the Lake


But if Jeffrey frequently allowed his conservative
bias to affect his literary Judgment of Wordsworth and

others, the Quarterly Review's critics evinced an even more

narrow-minded attitude in their championship of the

Established Church, "the palladium of privileged

4Josephine Bauer, The London Magazine (Copenhagen,
1953), pp. 46-7.

5He was "one of the most conservative influences in
the circle of the Quarterly pens, and helped to give the
Review throughout a number of years the character of narrow-
ness and intolerance which was peculiarly his own."
(Quoted from Bauer, p. 47)

6raham, p. 245.


Whatever tended to decrease general respect for the
established order, the Church, the monarchial form
of government, the laws, the king, and the landed
aristocracy, was evil. Modified and varied by its
applications, this was always the major considera-
For this reason, the Quarterly Review, during
the first half of the nineteenth century, earned
a reputation for unfairness and vituperation. The
abusive and usually unwarranted eastigations of
Keats, Leigh Hunt, Hazlitt, Lamb, Shelley, Tennyson,
Macaulay, Carlyle, Dickens, and Charlotte Bronte
owed their virulence to party or reliEious prejuelce.7

Probably of this group Hunt and Haslitt were the chief

antagonists of the Quarterly Review policy. Both their

,works and their characters were assailed, but the .ncr.yous

attackers doubtless came off second-best in the articles in

the examiner and in flazlitt's Letter to Gifford and later

in his Spirit of the Age. It is said that while neither

side gave nor expected quarter, probably "Hunt and ,Rzlitt

rather gloried in these mud-sllnging, name-calling battles."f

At any rate, Hunt's and Hazlitt's effective defense against

unwarranted attacks in the puarterly Review probably served

as well as anything else to give that periodical its

deserved bad reputation. It was felt that,in view of the

disfavor the Querterly nRview had brought upon Itself, a

new Tory organ was needed. Accordingly, William Blackwood


BEauer, p. 48.

projected Blackwood's Magazine in Edinburgh, the northern

capital harboring the dinturIh Review. The Tory magazine

purported to offer "more scope for lightness, variety,

humor, and original composition."9 After some difficulty

with two editors, Pringle and Cleghorn, who, as it happened,

proved false to Blackwood's design and joined Whig forces,

Blackwood engaged John Wilson (Christopher North), James

Hogg (the "Ettrick Shepherd"), and John Gibson Lockhart,

to assume editorial responsibility. In their first number

they included the famous "Chaldee Manuscript," a somewhat

blasphemous satire giving the history of the Cleghorn-

Pringle episode and saturated with Tory propaganda. This

article resulted in lawsuits, outraged rebuttals, and an

immediate fame throughout the country for the new Tory

publication. "Blackwood was delighted. He cheerfully

paid off outraged individuals, made apologies, disclaimed

knowledge of the contents, and attributed the whole thing

to the injudicious high spirits of youth, secretly patting

his impudent young crew on the back and encouraging them

in their reckless buffoonery."10 But while it was true

that as a political instrument Blackwood's Magazine was

9Ibid., p. 52.
10Ibid., p. 54.

unscrupulous, its relative fairness and impartiality as a

literary magazine redeemed it to some extent. John Scott,

who will never be remembered for undue kindness towards

Blackwood's Magazine, observed:

Its principal recommendation is a spirit of
life. . Generally speaking, it has done important
service to the cause of taste and truth by its poetical
criticisms: indeed, before its appearance, there was
no periodical work whatever, belonging to any part of
the united kingdom, that could be looked to for a
decent judgment on poetry. . It has vindicated
with ability, energy, and effect, several neglected
and callumniated, but highly deserving poetical repu-

The final contending titan, the first issue of

which appeared in 1824, was distinguished from a literary

standpoint in that it professed no literary pretensions.

Poetry could not help England "spin cotton or abolish poor

laws or institute free trade."12 This was the Westminster

Review (1824), and its radical policy saw fit to castigate

not only the tamer Edinburgh Review or the diametrically

opposed Quarterly Review and Blackwood's Magazine, but

Leigh Hunt's liberal Examiner as well. The Benthamite

school boasted such luminaries as James and John Stuart

Mill and John Bowring. What literary value this frankly

political magazine did possess is contained in its book

reviews, and even in these the ultimate purpose is

11Quoted from Bauer, p. 54.
12Ibid., p. 51.


Utilitarian propaganda. Furthermore, authors and institu-

tions under traditional Tory sponsorship finally became

vulnerable to attack. For the first time Sir Walter Scott

received unfriendly reviews, the Benthamite reviewers

claiming that his Tory prejudices rendered him unfit for

interpretation of literature. The classics were attacked

by the Utilitarians. Certain books were admitted as bene-

ficial to mankind only because of their tendency to

". . help the more enlightened to share in the sympathies

and understand the thoughts and feelings of a portion of

our fellow men."13 Finally, the Westminster Review vio-

lated the most sacred of publisher's creeds, by modern-

day standards at least, in hiring free-lance reviewers to

spread the word of Jeremy Bentham on well-defined and pre-

determined stands, depending on whether or not a particular

book was friendly to Utilitarian thought. One of the few

good things to be said for the literary pretensions of the

Westminster Review is that it is one of the few contempo-

rary magazines favorable to Coleridge, who, at the time

Mill reviewed the Works of Coleridge (1829), was well known

to have Tory leanings. Yet even here the weakness of

biased criticism is well illustrated in the reasons for

Mill's admiration for Coleridge, who, according to Mill,

13Bauer, p. 51.

desired to promote happiness in the world, was a great

thinker, and evinced a great interest in the individual.

Graham states that "certainly, only a Benthamite critic

would have regarded these as evidences of poetic genius,

and only a Radical would have given such disproportionate

attention and praise to Coleridge's revolutionary poems"14
From a literary viewpoint these four great periodicals were

anything but impartial, as everyone knew. During this time

conscientious men of letters envisioned a literary journal

noted for its impartiality, regardless of politics, book-

sellers, religion, or familiarity with authors.

What consequently evolved between the years 1809-

1828 was a literary magazine devoted primarily to criti-

cism and "original papers." It was somewhat different

from anything the preceding ages had seen, but more impor-

tant, it suggested that competition was forcing editors

to adopt policies different from those of other contempo-

rary publications. Although political propaganda was not

14Graham, p. 253. Still, if we consider needed
reforms brought about largely through the influence of this
organ, much good was accomplished. At least one critic
protests: "Fathers of Philistinism though they were, they
uttered much truth and uttered it bravely and with dignity.
One feels that when, in 1828, their school already breaking
up, the Utilitarian intellectuals who followed Mill seceded
definitely from the review which they had made great but
which had never been their own, there passed away a glory
from the earth." (George L. Nesbitt, Benthamite Reviewing,
New York, 1934, p. 129.)

yet dormant, nearly all the nominally literary magazines,

like Leigh Hunt's Examiner, proclaimed impartiality in

large capitals.

Yet the "new magazine" represented by no means a

break from the past. Aiken's Athenaeum, an ill-fated

weekly started in 1807, may be remembered for two reasons:

it gave its name to a better and more fortunate enterprise,

and it incorporated in its columns a variety of subject


. .not only poetry and essays, but meteorological
reports, discoveries and improvements in the arts and
manufactures, obituaries, domestic and foreign occur-
rences, bankrupts, a retrospect of public affairs,
commercial reports, prices of stocks and agricultural

These varied additions were by no means new to the early

nineteenth century periodical, and yet it is clear that

such publications began more and more to take on the

appearances of a weekly newspaper.

Aside from the elusive ideal of impartiality and

the attempt to appeal to tastes not strictly literary,

there were other less-pronounced differences, if we may

judge from an editorial by John Scott:

The days are passed when Vindex could be suffered
to dispute with Eudosius, through various successive
Numbers, which is most eligible--a married or a single
state? When an editor might announce, with self-
congratulation, a series of Letters from Silvanus on

5bid., p. 272.

affectation of manner, or expect Amicus to recruit
his subscription list amongst respectable families,
by reconmending the Ladies to read Roscomon's Lssay
on Translated Verse. Opinion now busies itself with
more venturesome themes than of yore; discussion must
start fleeter and subtler game; excitement must be
stronger; the stakes of all sorts higher--the game
more complicated and hazardous.16

Thus in the accelerated evolutionary process of the liter-

ary magazine it is apparent that competition was forcing

periodicals to appeal for their financial support to a

wider reading public than the merely literary or political.

Leigh Hunt's Examiner (1808) could hardly be con-

sidered typical of the new magazine; it was too successful

for that. But it may be considered representative in its

attempts at impartiality. Hunt had fought with Tory pub-

lications, especially the Quarterly Review, for some time.

At the same time his crusade for fairness in judging liter-

ary merit was rewarded with fair success:

S. The object of the paper was chiefly "to assist
in producing Reform in Parliament, liberality of
opinion in general (especially freedom from supersti-
tion), and a fusion of literary taste into all subjects
whatsoever. It began with being "of no party; but
Reform soon gave it one."17

And again, in dismissing editorial policies of rival maga-


"There is a flourish of trumpets, and a worm is thrown
up." Hunt proposed IMPARTIALITY in large capitals,
dwelt on the independent intention of the journal in

16Quoted from Bauer, p. 34.

17Edmund Blunden, Lei h Hunt's "Examiner" Examined
(New York and London, 1928), p. ix.

politics, the theatre and the fine arts, assailed
jockeys and cock-fighters, ad declared NO ADVER-

But whether Hunt would have conceded it or not, he was,

by virtue of opposing the Tory stand, taking a stand him-

self. Politics was still at this time an important factor

in literature. On the other hand, this final statement,

the declaration that "No Advertisements Will Be Admitted,"

refers to his hatred of puffery, the practice of certain

unscrupulous booksellers who would pay for a friendly

review. These bookseller puffs, like politics, were yet

another type of pressure. But for the later efforts of

Dilke, puffery might well have become an instrument of

bigotry, dishonesty, and partiality gross enough to dwarf

the significance of any political unfairness.

The London Review (1809), the New Monthly ~-;1zlne

(1814), the Retrospective Review (1820), and the London

Magazine (1820) to some extent sounded the alarm for

impartiality and freedom from political bias. Especially

did the London Magazine and its editor, John Scott, per-

sistently deplore the practice of puffery. Their make-up

was largely traditional, including besides articles of

literary interest, obituaries, market reports, and the

like. Yet each claimed a particular province of its own,

and these were, so to speak, their distinguishing features.

181bid., p. xi.


The discriminating characteristic of the London

Review is that all articles were signed. In the first

issue the editor states:

The Man, who in the genuine spirit of criticism
impartially distributes praise or blame to the work
he reviews, has no more need to hide his name than
the tradesman has, who records himself over his shop-
door; for whom has he to fear, or of what to be ashamed?
Learning has no truer friend; genius no better coun-
sellor, no safer guide.
Every one must confess, that there is a dangerous
temptation, an unmanly security, an unfair advantage
in concealment: why then should any man, who seeks
not to injure but to benefit his contemporaries, resort
to it? . A piece of crape may be a convenient mask
for a highwayman; but a man, that goes upon an honest
errand, does not want it and will disdain to wear

For a man on a genuinely "honest errand" anonymity may in

some cases promote honesty rather than fraudulence. Cer-

tainly, Dilke thought so in reference to impartial book-


The New Monthly, too, elected to retain the tradi-

tional make-up of its predecessors. Well aware of the

public's taste and desire, this magazine tamely declares

on its title page for several years its intent at conven-


Monthly Magazines have opened a way for every kind
of inquiry and information. The intelligence and dis-
cussion contained in them are very extensive and var-
ious; and they have been the means of diffusing a
general habit of reading through the nation, which in

19Quoted from Graham, p. 240.

a certain degree hath enlarged the public under-
standing. HERE, too, are preserved a multitude of
useful hints, observations, and facts, which other-
wise might have never appeared.20

Yet the New Monthly found its cause for existence in

opposing the policies of the Monthly Magazine, which the

New Monthly was determined to put out of business. Coming

dangerously close to politics, the New Monthly declares:

We need but to cite the Monthlj M a-azlne, whose
Editor, nursed in the school of Jacobir!niqm, commenced
his career as a promulgator of Paine's 3,1nts of Man,
and who, with all the consistency of our pseudo-patri-
ots, has of late years been one of the most zealous
worshipers of that Moloch, Buonaparte. The political
poison so artfully introduced into every department of
that work, and mixed up with a due proportion of
ribaldry and irreligion, was calculated to produce a
mischievous impression upon the minds of the unthinking
and inexperienced at home, and to misrepresent and
degrade the character of the country abroad. These
considerations could not but excite in every honest
mind a thorough abhorrence of its principles and a
strong desire to counteract its tendency. To such
feelings the New Monthly Magazine owes its existence.21

As one might suspect, this periodical proved to be one

whose critical independence was later called in question

for the bias of its editorial policy.

The Retrospective Review included in its "pro-

spectus" a double editorial policy, presumably under the

delusion that if one editorial policy would sell, two ought

to sell still better. While stating that it intended to

preserve the interesting form end manner, that is, the

20Ibid., p. 284

21Ibid., pp. 284-285.

traditional makeup of the present Reviews, the Retrospec-

tive announced certain general purposes:

The design of this review of past literature had
its origin in the decisively modern direction of the
reading of the present day--, it is an attempt to
recall the public from an exclusive attention to new
books, by making the merit of old ones the subject of
critical discussion. . from the nature of the work,
and from our unfeigned horror of either political or
personal invective, we shall neither pamper the
depraved appetites of listless readers, by piquant
abuse--nor amuse one part of the public, by holding
up another to scorn and mockery;--at any rate, we
shall not be driven to a resource of this description
through a paucity of interesting matter which we may
legitimately present to our readers. While the present
Reviews are confined to the books of the day, we have
the liberty of ranging over the whole extent of modern
literature. Criticism, which, when able and just, is
always pleasing, we shall combine with copious and
characteristic extracts, analyses, and biographical
accounts, so as in some measure to supply the dearth
of works on the history of literature in our own
language; for it is to be lamented, that except the
unfinished work of Warton, and a few detached Essays,
we have no regular history of English poetry--and
that of the prose writers, their language, style,
spirit, and character, there exists no account at all.22

By showing prejudice to no person or group, the Retrospec-

tive claimed an impartiality attained by no other contem-

porary magazine. Unfortunately, the plan of the Retrospec-

tive Review apparently did not offer sufficient attraction

to the "depraved appetites of listless readers." It was

relatively short-lived. The reading public wanted contro-


One other major magazine, the London Magazine, also

22Ibid, p. 249.

had its salient characteristics. The short career of its

admirable editor, John Scott, was distinguished by the

crusading efforts in his editorship of the leading literary

magazine of the day. The London Magazine, which proposed

to portray the "mighty heart" of London, soon had the repu-

tation of being "fearless and fair." For a matter of

political principle, Editor John Scott was killed in a duel

with one of Lockhart's seconds.23 While he was editor,

Scott did more than anyone else before Dilke to hold up

to deserved ridicule and scorn the growing practice of puf-

fery. The London Magazine lasted not quite a decade, but

volume for volume, it probably contains as many as or more

literary masterpieces than any magazine before or since.

It accepted or rejected contributions according to strict

literary merit, from radical Dilke through middle-of-the-

road Lamb, to conservative DeQuincey.

In this milieu of literary periodicals Dilke made

a career for himself and gave needed direction to subse-

quent literary, political, and social criticism. These

were periodicals "in their palmy days," writes an anonymous

commentator in Men of the Time a generation later. And it

23Lockhart, one of the editors of the Quarterly
Magazine, engaged as a second Christy, whom Dilke remembers
meeting "before and after" and who seemed to be a "mild,
amiable man."

is against this background of political, literary, reli-

gious, or professional bias that the Athenaeum under Dilke

ultimately attained marked success as a thoroughly inde-

pendent magazine: independent of politics, though its

editor professed himself a radical; independent of puffery,

though its early publisher was the most notorious of all

puffing publishers, Henry Coburn. The first editor was

James Silk Buckingham, who wrote in the first issue in

January, 1828:

We shall endeavor . first to lay a foundation of
solid and useful knowledge, and on this to erect a
superstructure of as much harmony, ornament, and
beauty, as our own powers and the encouraging aid of
those who approve the design, will enable us to con-
struct. If the edifice so reared be worthy of the
name we have chosen for it, and, like the Athenaeum
of antiquity, should become the resort of the most
distinguished philosophers, historians, orators, and
poets of our day,--we shall endeavor so to arrange
and illustrate their several compositions, that they
may themselves be proud of the records of their fame,
and that their admirers may deem them worthy of pres-
ervation among the permanent memorials of their times.24

If ever the Athenaeum became "the resort of most distin-

guished philosophers, historians, orators, and poets of our

day," it was not to Buckingham's credit. He simply had too

many experiments going at one time to do justice to any of

them. The fortunes of the new magazine varied considerably

for the next two years, finally being offered for sale at

the ridiculously low price of eighty pounds. There were

no buyers. Then in 1830 Mike became its editor and three-

fourths owner.

24Athenaeum, January 2, 1828, p. 2.

Under Dilke's regime the Athenaeum was established

on a sound financial basis; its success was astounding even

to contemporaries. In time it achieved the position of

undisputed pre-eminence among literary magazines. It was

respected for its honesty, accuracy, and most of all, for

the crusading efforts of its editor in maintaining complete

freedom from all outside pressure. Chapter III of this

dissertation is devoted to an analysis of the Athenaeum

under the editorship of Dilke.



Though many Journals from 1808 to 1830 appear to

have made honest and conscientious attempts at imparti-

ality, few, if any, gained the confidence of the public.

Eventually political, literary, or puffery interest

prevailed in spite of good intentions. Purely personal

vituperation, as in the case of Hunt and Hazlitt, and to

a lesser extent, Keats, appears to have declined somewhat.

The Cuarterly Review in 1833 was less enthusiastic about

Tennyson's poems than it might have been if Tennyson had

not been one of the Cambridge Apostles, a group of young

men who fought for reform mainly through the church.l

While Tennyson tended to exaggerate the treatment he

received at the hands of Gifford and Croker, the editors

of the Quarterly Review, it is not unfair to suppose that

high Tory principles in a poet still meant more to these

editors than Tennyson's actual merit as a poet.

In addition to the pressures upon him from politi-

cal owners, the church, and practitioners of puffery,

1Tennyson was more than usually sensitive to criti-
cism; actually, the review is only slightly caustic.


Dilke had at least one other problem to contend with--fin-

ances. While the Athenaeum appeared reasonably prosperous

and maintained a front of dignity and respectability from

1828 to 1830, it belied its appearance with its forced

variations in price, its number of issues per month, its

changes of proprietorship and editorship, and even its

name. After only six months of ownership, James Silk

Buckingham in June, 1828, sold his stock to Maurice, one

of the Cambridge Apostles, and others of his friends.

The Athenaeum, under the editorship of Maurice, was prob-

ably financed by the Cambridge Apostles.

By this time the journal was becoming an "organ"

of propaganda for the Cambridge Apostles. The editor and

his associates were upright, conscientious, sincere men,

devoted to the principles of fair play, but their affili-

ation with the Cambridge Apostle group resulted in blatant

and overt propaganda. As a consequence the Athenaeum's

policies were right or wrong depending on its readers'

sympathies. R. C. Trench, in sympathy with the new pub-

lication, wrote to a correspondent in 1828:

That paper, the Athenaeum, which by-the-by, is entirely
written by Apostles, should it obtain an extensive
circulation, is calculated to do much good. It is a
paper not merely of principle, but, what is almost
equally important, of principles--certain fixed rules
to which compositions are referred, and by which they
are judged. In this it is superior, not merely to
contemporary papers, but to the reviews of the highest

2Quoted from Marchand, pp. 10-11.

On the other hand, a writer in the relatively independent

London Magazine did not share these sentiments concerning

the Athenaeum's publishers, who were to him "a set of

dreaming half-Platonic, half-Jacob Behmenite mystics, who

hate all useful arts, think it vulgar to talk of free trade,

pay no attention to literary novelties, and consider educa-

tion a disadvantage."3

The Cambridge Apostles were intelligent, devoted

young men and included among their membership John Kemble,

Lord Tennyson, Arthur Hallam, and R. M. Milnes, who later

wrote the Life of Keats. They dreamed of peaceful reform

in the world mainly through the church. Maurice, editor

of the Athenaeum and one of the most active members in the

society, had good intentions and worked towards strict

impartiality. But in spite of his determined efforts, the

magazine was soon known to be published by men having like


The Apostles who strove for impartiality, doubtless

believed that they had attained it; but they could, in fact,

lay claim to little more of that elusive ideal than any of

their contemporaries. To one acquainted with the history

of periodicals to 1830, it would seem that complete imparti-

ality towards friends, booksellers, religion, politics was

3Ibid., p. 12.

virtually impossible, especially when compounded in an

editor with incompetence, narrowness, ignorance, or other


Early in 1830, the Athenaeum End London Chronicle

once more changed its name to The Athenseum and Weekly

Review of English and Foreign Literature, Fine Arts end

Works of Embellishment and was sold to Holmes, a printer.

In May, 1829, Maurice had resigned and John Sterling had

become editor, in which position he remained even after

Holmes had become owner. The entire stock of the

Athenaeum was reputed to have been offered for sale

shortly thereafter for eighty pounds. Financially, it

had not proved a success.

That the fortunes of the new magazine were in a peril-

ous state was no secret to the British reading public. If

it were to survive, something had to be done to rescue the

Athenaeum from the oblivion into which it was rapidly

sinking. According to Professor Marchand, something was


LIn/the early months of 1830 it began to be apparent
that some new blood had come into the management as
well as the contributors' lists of the Athenaeum.
There was more liveliness and satiric punch in some
of the reviews. Increased attention was given t-
foreign literature, both in reviews and in correspond-
ence from Vienna, Madrid, Naples, Rome, Florence,
Munich, Berlin, and St. Petersburg, as well as Paris.4

4Iblid., p. 24.

Sterling had called in from the London Magazine, which had

failed and ceased publication the preceding year, a number

of competent men, among whom were John Reynolds, Allan

Cunningham, Charles Dance, perhaps also Thomas Hood, Charles

Lamb, and Dilke. The "Prospectus of the New Series" for the

issue of January 16, 1830, stated that the literary manage-

ment would continue to be "under the direction of the

parties who have hitherto conducted it," but that "a great

accession of literary talent has been secured. by

engaging the aid of several eminent and popular authors."5

It is difficult to say exactly how much influence

Dilke exercised on the management in early 1830. That he

had at least a partial interest by January is evident. At

this time one of Dilke's favored projects--that of assirn-

ing specialists to review works in certain fields--was

beginning to be evident, as the notice "To the Reader"

which appeared in the issue for February 27, bears out:

The departments of the Fine Arts, the Sciences, and
the Drama, are all under the direction of separate
individuals, distinguished by their attainments in
the part allotted to them; and even in the Literary
Reviews, the same classification has been carried
into effect to a degree, it is supposed, hitherto

This practice of having specialists in their various fields

do the reviewing apparently was, as the article states,


6Ibid., p. 25.

"hitherto unattempted," but in later days the Athenaeum

could point with pride to its record of "specialists,"

even though many of their articles were unsigned.

Marchand conjectures that Dilke was probably responsible

for this innovation, even though the first major change

under the new editorship occurred in June, 1831, after

Dilke had been editor for about a year. It was apparent,

notwithstanding the new talent, that some drastic meas-

ures were necessary to keep the Athenaeum from financial

ruin. It had never been a paying venture and for most

of its short period of existence had been actually a

burden on the proprietors' purses. Dilke, apparently

about the first of the year 1831 and apparently without

support for his proposal from Reynolds, Hood, and perhaps

other stockholders, considered lowering the price per

issue to one-half its original cost, from eightpence to

fourpence. His proposal was not viewed with favor by

other proprietors, notably Reynolds and Hood, who objected

strenuously to the slash in price for fear it would give a

tatterish character to the journal. Consequently, Dilke

took his friends' advice--for a time, at least. But in

June, 1831, the price was lowered not to the "respectable"

sixpence, the figure Reynolds would tolerate, but to Dilke's

original suggestion of fourpence; whereupon Reynolds and

probably Hood sold their shares of the Athenseum to Dilke,

though both continued to be close friends of Dilke and to

contribute to the magazine for many years. Says Sir

Charles, "The change was made. . and with magnificent

results."7 On the second day after the price-cut the cir-

culation increased to six times its former sale, or to a

phenomenal 18,000. At the same time Dlike announced to his

readers that the change would have been effected at the

first of the year but for the entreaties of "earnest friends

who advised against price reduction." Directed probably to

these "earnest friends," Dilke's next issue attempts to

justify his hopes for such a large sale:

If the readers of Literary Papers be so limited as they
imagine, who were the thirty thousand purchasers of the
early volumes of the Family Library?--who the fourteen
thousand purchasers of the Lives of the Painters, a
subject limited in its interest to the highest and most
refined class of informed minds?8

Six months later Dilke wrote concerning the success of his

venture that the Athenaeum maintained a circulation greater

than that of cny other literary paper, and still later that

the Athenaeum's "success has been more rapid and complete

than any in the history of periodical literature."9

But this was only the first step of many throughout

the years in the struggle to keep the periodical from failing

7Dilke, Papers, I, p. 26.

8Quoted from Marchend, p. 37.


financially. Sir Charles Dllke writes that in 1840, ten

years after Dilke became editor, the Athenaeum's dividends

were yet very small:

It was now a success, but not yet a financial success,
if past losses were added to the wrong side of the
account. It was paying well, but had not repaid the
money which had been sunk on it at first. It was
fifteen or twenty years--from 1830--before this was
the case. . .

From the beginning Dilke realized that to keep the

Athenaeum solvent he must establish a well-recognized,

clear-cut editorial policy. Years of experience and obser-

vation had convinced him, too, that the Athenaeum trademark

had to be genuine, as the majority of its predecessors were

not. Dilke chose as that trademark impartiality.

The cry for impartiality had been echoed by honest

and well-meaning editors for a long while, by Leigh Hunt,

by John Scott, and by a host of others. In varying degrees

they had all failed. Dilke saw that impartiality necessi-

tated alienation from all influences, and this required

drastic actions on the part of an editor. He had seen

enough of literary periodicals to know that the success of

such a venture depended almost entirely on the character

and principles of its editor. His consequent actions, for

which he has been mildly criticized, can perhaps be better

appreciated if considered against the background of maga-

zine history.

10Dilke, Papers, I, p. k7.


One such instance of impartiality was his refusal

to enter into society, to communicate in fact with no one

in a social manner except a few old and established friends.

Furthermore, he insisted that his staff follow his example,

one that proved irksome to many of his employees. Chorley,

an old Quaker and music critic for the journal, wrote to

Dilke in 1834 to ask permission to attend a social function

at Lady Blessington's. Dilke replied that he may attend

"because she is Lady Blessington," but to go nowhere else.ll

Other measures were taken to insure impartiality.

Dilke made it a practice to keep the identity of his re-

viewers a well-guarded secret. Sir Charles Dilke tells of

a "wigging" Chorley received from the editor for confes-

sing to Miss Mitford that George Darley was the author of

an article in the Athenaeum.12 While other less scrupupulous

editors used anonymity as a protection, Dilke looked favor-

ably upon it as still another aid towards honesty and fair-

ness. He took care that the author of the book to be re-

viewed should not be acquainted with the reviewer. Dilke

and Reynolds had a slight altercation over that matter at

one time. Reynolds had written to Dilke to request

Ibid., p. 31.

12Ibid., p. 33.

permission to review a particular book, only to receive a

veiled reply in Dilke's inquiry as to whether Reynolds

knew the author; whereupon Reynolds answered: ". . you

may consign it to some independent hand, according to your

religious customs. I, alasl know author and bookseller."13

It was an unkind cut, but this was not the first or last

instance of strained relationships between Dilke and

Reynolds. Nor was it the only incident in which the editor

suffered for his principles. To the poet Robert Montgomery,

who had sent some works to his home, Dilke writes:

I am sensible of your kindness, but it has ever been a
rule with me since my first connexion with the
Athenaeum to decline presents of books from authors or
publishers. Even duplicates have invariably been
returned. There have been many occasions when the abid-
ing by this rule has given me pain and hps had the
appearance of affectation and pretence.14

And there were occasions, of course, when the editor had to

assert himself in no uncertain terms to publishers, to dis-

gruntled authors, and even to staff members. This tough-

minded streak in Dilke was doubtless in great part respon-

sible for the Athenaeum's ever-rising reputation as a fair

and just journal. In a letter to his Paris correspondent

he administered a tongue-lashing for the letter's unsaga-

clous acceptance of advance prints:

131bid., p. 45.

14Ibid., p. 38.

I cannot let a single post pass without replying to
your letter. You have, it appears, been in communi-
cation with the principal publishers in Paris. Having
accepted advance-sheets you are unable to condemn
their works. What then is the value of your criticism?
During the many years that I have had the Athenaeum I
have never asked a favour of a publisher. Favour and
independence are incompatible. It is no use under these
circumstances for you to send me reviews at present.15

This tough-minded resistance to outside interference

extended also to authors. Mr. Atherstone, who was treated

rather harshly for his Fall of Nineveh, "writes in a rage,

and is told in reply, that the only three definite state-

ments that he makes are all, without his being aware of

it, absolutely unture, and that he 'has moreover, been only

tickled, not tomahawked.'"16 Finally, as illustrative of

the lengths to which Dilke would go to keep from compro-

mising the dignity and honor of his journal, he writes to

a firm complaining that Alaric Watts gave an unfavorable

review of a book because he disliked its author:

It is utterly false that Mr. Alaric Watts is, or ever
was, connected with the Athenaeum. After this, I need
scarely add, that he did not write the review of Mr.
R.'s book. I now submit that I ought not to rest con-
tent with your stating this fact to Mr. R. for the
purpose of disabusingg his mind." I care not in what
ridiculous suspicions the mortified vanity of a weak
man may find a consolation, but he has, it appears,
stated these circumstances to others; circumstances
which, if true, seriously affect the character of the
journal, and, I think, I have a right to require,

15Ibid., pp. 18-49.

16Ibid., p. 34.

either that he give up his authority, or admit in
writing, that he is satisfied there never wvg the
slightest foundation for such an assertion.1'

Dickens was probably impressed most by this trait in Dilke

when he called him a "capital old stouthearted man."18

A third major obstacle that Dilke was forced to

overcome in his crusade for independence was political and

religious pressure brought upon him. This might have been

a difficult one for Dilke, for early in his career he was

known to favor liberal measures and to hold somewhat unor-

thodox religious views. Even during his editorship, he

never made a secret of it. But he circumvented the issues

rather neatly in that he would allow no reviews or "original

papers" to appear in his journals that might raise political

or religious controversy. The Athenaeum was, after all, a

literary magazine.

We do not concern ourselves with politics--our paper is,
as it professes to be, a sanctuary for literature and
literary men; and when compelled to notice political
works, we confine ourselves usually to an exposition of
the writer's views, and express our own opinions rather
of the manner than the matter of the books.19

An instance of his eagle-eyed scrutiny of what went into its

pages is afforded in one of Elizabeth Barrett's letters

wherein she agrees to do a series of articles on "Christian

171bid., p. 49.
18Forster, II, p. 310.

19Athenaeum, July 10, 1830, p. 425.


Greek Poets" under the stipulation that the will avoid con-

troversial theological matters.20 Such was Dilke's safe-

guard against possible misinterpretation of the Athenaeum's

neutral policies. The Examiner a score of years earlier had

proclaimed "impartiality" by "being of no party," but having

been draw into political controversy, "reform soon gave it

one."21 The only safe method was for Dilke to refrain alto-

gether from taking rides in such controversial issues.

Still another complaint against periodical reviewers

in the 1830's was that personal likes or dislikes for the

authors of hooks reviewed were deciding factors among the

critics rather than any intrinsic merits of the books them-

selves. To this charge Dilke and his staff could give assur-

ances only that such was not the policy of the Athenaeum.

Commenting on sa article appearing in a rival magazine, the

Souvenir, Dilke agreed with the editor that book reviews are

influenced too much by private feeling:

S. t is a charge to which all criticism ever has
been, and ever must be subject; end against which the
Athenaeum does not affect to have any special armour of
proof; we have warm hearts in our bodies, and not flint
stones; and there is no doubt we know our friends from
our enemies. But what is the amount of the possible
wrong judgment from this wrong bias?--out of five hun-
dred works reviewed, we doubt f twenty, or even ten, be
written by friends or enemies.a

20Letters I, p. 9

21Blunden, p. ix.
22Quoted from Marchand, p. 109.

Perhaps the Athenaeum had no impenetrable armor, but

Dilke was too modest in saying that it had none at all. In

view of his social policies, not only for himself but for

his regular staff as well, it is safe to assume that the

Athenaeum was less vulnerable to private feeling than were

most magazines. Furthermore, Elizabeth Barrett writes in

at least two letters that it was Dilke's specialty as a

critic "to consign his most particular friends to the hang-

man,"23 though this last statement is largely without foun-

dation in fact. In accordance with his policy of delegating

reviews of books to staff members not known to the authors

of the books they were reviewing, Dilke rarely reviewed

tooks of his friends at all, excepting perhaps, those of

Hood and one or two others. On at least two occasions,

however, Dilke may have written unfriendly reviews of books

of his friends.2 The first was the Polish Tales by Mrs.

Gore, a rather popular romance writer of the time, who had

temporarily turned from her medium of insipid novels to a

more scholarly experiment in Continental works. Following

the practice of the majority of Victorian writers in hinting

for a favorable review, she unquestionably took advantage of

Dilke's friendship by very subtle measures:

23etters, to Miss Mitford, I, p. 446.

24That is, if Charles Brown in 1835 can be called
Dilke's friend. See Dilke-Brown-Keats controversy in the
following chapter.

I should feel greatly obliged if you would not notice it
at all, unless, indeed, you find that it contains some-
Ti rM demanding reprobation. As you may imagine there
is something mysterious in this Medea-like proceeding
towards my offspring, I ought to add that general com-
mendation has rendered me somewhat ashamed of my sickly
progeniture of fashionable novels, and that I have now
in the press a series of stories founded on the history
of Poland, ,h!ch I hope will prove more worthy of

Mrs. Gore got her wish. Sir Charles Dilke reports that in

a book review the "Polish tales were dammed."26

The second of two reviews of Shakespeare's Autobi-

ographical Sonnets by Charles Brown was unfavorable. Brown

claimed that Shakespeare's sonnets, correctly arranged, pro-

vided a reasonably complete history of the poet's life. The

theory was violently attacked by Dilke with the assistance

of another reviewer in the Athenaeum by referring to Brown's

volume as "a silly book."27 Dilke made good his promise to

his readers that regardless of its author or publisher, a

good book would be referred to as a good book, while a bad

one would be treated according to its deserts.

In the Athenaeum's fight for recognition as a truly

independent journal, Dilke had to combat the practice of

puffery, which had grown so entrenched that it was all but

expected by the literary public. The situation was made

2SDilke, Papers I, pp. 34-35.
26bid., p. 35.

27Keats Circle, II, p. 33.

even more complicated for Dilke in that Henry Colburn, the

most notorious of all puffing publishers, had owned a half

interest in the magazine under the editorship of Buckingham.

Evidence that Colburn's methods were known to all even in

1828 is afforded in Buckingham's assurance to the readers

that no bookseller interference would be tolerated:

Mr. Colburn has, in the most open and explicit manner,
disclaimed all exercise of authority, or interference,
even in the minutest particular, as to any matter con-
nected with the Literary management of the Work; leaving
to me the sole and undivided power of doing whatever I
may think just in this respect.20

In justice to Colburn, it can be said that he never became

affiliated with magazines for political reasons. He was, in

fact, concerned solely with making money by paying or other-

wise influencing editors for a friendly review of one of his

books. In this practice he seems to have been quite suc-

cessful. He owned stock in a number of puffing magazines,

such as the New Monthly, the Court Journal, the United

Service Journal, and the Literary Gazette, which claimed in

1830 to enjoy "by many thousands the greatest circulation of

any purely literary paper."29

Colburn had no monopoly on puffery. Charges were

hurled back and forth at various editors and booksellers, and

it appears that only Colburn was insensible to their taunts.

28Marchand, p. 102-103.

29Ibid., p. 103.


The several professedly independent magazines and their

puffing publishers took great pains to give commendatory

reviews of mediocre books. More than one of these "inde-

pendent" editors who Joined in righteous indignation at

these practices were rot wholly sincere. It is obvious that

this duplicity greatly hampered Dilke's crusade in stamping

out such unsavory practices.

The Athenaeum articles on puffery were slightly

different from those in other magazines, in that those in

the Athenaeum sounded nore honest, sincere, and sensitive to

the evil. Unquestionably, the Athenaeum attacks were more

specific. With the aid of Reynolds and Picken, Dilke

singled out individual publishers and individual magazines

that puffed for these publishers and called them by nane.

The Athenaeum held it the duty of an independent journal to

protect the unwary reader from the "arts of the insidious

advertiser." Only a month after he had assumed editorship,

Dilke levelled a barrage at the Literary Gazette, which had

attacked Lamb's Album Verses only because, as Dilke stated,

"the volume was published by Moxon and not by Colburn."30

The New Monthly, the Literary Gazette, and the unethical

practices of the publishing firm of Colburn and Bentley were

largely the targets of the Athenaeum's attacks. At the same

time, the Athenaeum professed itself careful to "call a good

30Ibid., p. 125.

book a good book," regardless of its publisher. That the

reviewers on Dilke's staff did in fact guard against favor-

itism towards books of other publishers is manifest in even

a cursory examination of the Athien. um. Because Dilke

transferred most of the journal's strength from "original

papers" to reviews of books, most of the books reviewed were

those published by Colburn and Bentley. Of these far more

are friendly than otherwise.

Even so, when the Athenaeum found evidence of

puffery, it religiously and vociferously proclaimed it as

such. A typical example of Dilke's methods may be observed

from his review of Clarence: A Tale of Our Own Times, pub-

lished by Colburn and Bentley, who had inserted advertisements

and commendatory reviews in Journals under their control:

Will these deceptions "stretch out to the crack of
doom"?--is there to be no end of them?--"another and a
seventh"?--yet "another"?--nothing but falsehood's issue?
--Nothingt and, backed by the Literary Gazette and half
a dozen journals of their property, to say nothing of
the whole press of England, their unwilling friends--but
friends nevertheless, as all must know who know anything
of the good service of advertisements to a periodical--
what need they care? the book is sold before the decep-
tion is knoim. "Clarence, a Tale of Our Own Times,"
will of course be supposed, by thousands, to have some
reference to the life of a certain illustrious personage.
No such thing--it has no imaginable connection--the name
is an impudent imposition. Surely the very footmen and
the ladies' maids, the most hungry after such anecdotes
and slanders as the title promises, cannot be gulled and
disappointed forever. Why "Clarence" is, in reality, a
miserable clerk in an insurance-office, living somewhere
in the back settlements of New York, who takes into his
care and house a more miserable man than himself, a Mr.
Flavel, who turns out to be his own father, and who, on
his death-bed, informs his son that the real name of the

family is neither Plavel nor Carroll, but Clarence . .
and this is sufficient for a title-page, and out comes
"Clarence, a tale of our own Timel" It is no use
wasting words on these shameless proceedings--we have
here done our duty to the readers; and the public, who
put their trust in paid puffs and title-pages, may buy
the volunes.31

A few weeks later the Athenaeum levelled a double

attack on publishers and titles; this particular review

concerned Lady Charlotte Bury's Journal of the Heart, which

was published, as most "sensational" volumes at that time

were, by Colburn and Bentley. Aside from the evidence sug-

gested by the Marked File, Dilke's authorship of the review

is manifest in the peculiar humor and mock-serious attitude,

in the penchant for quoting Shakespeare, and in the quiet

and gentle digs at authors and readers who bare their pious

and uninteresting souls to the public. In the course of the

review Dilke speaks somewhat condescendingly of the "aris-

tocratic authoress" and of her feeble claims to literary


The piety indeed is sometimes a little too obtrusive,
and occasionally assumes a sing-song tone in its redo-
lency of common-place, which not even the pious who have
any remains of taste can well bear; nevertheless, the
little of the reflective and essayical which the volume
contains, shows the authoress in a point of view so per-
fectly amiable, gentle, and benevolent, and, withal, so
anxious to convey warning and instruction, that we, of
the republic of letters, are almost in love with the
aristocratic authoress, who, coming into that republic,
shows so enthusiastic and self-humbling an affection for
her species. . .3

31Athenaeum, August 7, 1830, p. 481.
32Ibid., August 21, 1830, p. 517.


The quiet allusion to the pious who have any "remains" of

taste could not have escaped Dilke's more sophisticated

readers, nor could his mock-enthusiasm of his "perfectly

amiable, gentle, and benevolent" authoress.

Then dropping the playful and mock-serious tone to

assume that of defender of good books, Dilke lashes out at

the puffing practices of Colburn and Bentley:

Ten thousand times more mischief is done by puffing and
commendation than by all the weapons of ridicule that
critic ever wielded. The slow ripening of genius--the
indefatigable perseverance of learning, have no chance
in this age, leaving literature to fight its own battles,
good books would have their sale, and precedence, and
honour--for honest men and honest critics would commend
them; but what a publisher wants is commendation for his
bad books.3

Then refreshing the reader on the Athenaeum's previous con-

demnation of the first volume of the Juvenile Library, Dilke

says, assuming critics to be honest men:

. Ridicule . would have consigned it, as we did,
to the trunk-makers' and honesty would have recommended,
as we did in the same number, Pryse Gordon's Memoirs, as
a good gossiping entertaining volume, by the same pub-
lishers. Would Messrs. Colburn and Bentley thank us
for this? Assuredly not. What they wanted was, commen-
dation for the bad book and the costly speculation . .
it is in literature as it is in alms-giving, the good and
deserving are robbed of that which is given to the idle
and the unworthy. . A great deal more mischief is
done by puffing pnd pampering imbecility than strangling
a stray genius.34

In such manner the all-out fight against puffery was



carried on through almost successive numbers for years.

Every conceivable method, every resource, apparently was

employed to its fullest extent in stamping out this intol-

erable practice. The Athenaeum called attention to adver-

tisements, notices, and sometimes reviews in other magazines

of books that were not yet even published. The battle with

the dragon of puffery was carried on throughout the 1830's,

though repeated assurances, always premature, that the fight

was won appeared from time to time in the pages of the

Athenaeum. But by 1840 no reader of what was by then the

nation's largest literary periodical could fail to be well

informed concerning the vicious practice. Dilke's stubborn

perseverance was rewarded by an increasing trust in and

respect for the Athenaeum. He was as successful in exposing

bookselling malpractices as he could reasonably expect to be.

By 1850 puffing was the exception rather than the rule; a

paid advertisement was labelled as such; a dishonest critic

found it increasingly difficult to gain a few pounds on the

side. The public was puff-conscious, and puffs were there-

fore less influential with the public.

Dilke carried on other projects and arguments, and

espoused other causes during his period of editorship, as

for example, the championing of the unstamped press, the

fight for stronger copyright laws, and an attack on Miss

Martineau's supernatural beliefs in hypnotism. But his


greater concern--that of establishing in the public mind

the fact that the critic and his criticism must be free from

all influences--was recognized and honored in his own day.

In our day, journalism and criticism owe Dilke a great debt

for proving that impartiality is possible.



Dilke was on very friendly terms with a large number

of literary men and women of his time. An interesting aspect

of the Romantic period is the curious interrelationship

between many of the major and minor figures. Starting with

Byron and Shelley, one may trace intimate friendships through

nearly all the men of letters of the second generation of

Romantic writers as well as most of the first. The nucleus

of these almost-phenomenal links is the so-called "Keats

Circle," of which Dilke was one of the three or four most

important members. It was through John Hamilton Reynolds,

the man who was most responsible for the formation of the

Keats Circle, that Dilke met Keats.1 Dilke's close connec-

tions with this circle is important not only for his intimate

friendship with the poet, but in his later relations with the

surviving members of that group, most of whose names or sig-

natures occur regularly after articles on the pages of the

1Reynolds is ultimately responsible for introductions
of Keats to Brown, Rice, Bailey, Taylor, and Hessey. It is
not known how or when Dilke met Reynolds, but their friend-
ship is known to have begun before 1817. Before this date
Reynolds had shown great promise, had in fact been classed
with Byron and Shelley as one of the greatest poets in England.
Reynolds had met Keats probably through Hunt and Haydon.

London Magazine.

Sir Charles Dilke writes that his grandfather's "most

affectionate friendship" was with Keats.2 After Reynolds

introduced Keats to Dilke, a meeting which probably took

place no later than January or February, 1817, they quickly

became intimate friends. In a short time the Wentworth

house, as Dilke named it, became a social center for the

Keats circle. The first mention of the Dilkes by Keats is

in a letter to Reynolds, dated larch 17, 1817. By September

of that year, Keats had spent some days at the Wentworth

home; and in a letter to the Reynolds sisters the tone of a

passage wherein Keats jokes at the Dilkest expense offers

reasonably strong proof of their quickly ripening friendship:

S. tell Dilk /sic/ that it would be perhaps as well if
he left a Pheasant or Partrige alive here and there to
keep up a supply of Game for next season--tell him to
rein in if possible all the Nimrod of his disposition, he
being a mighty hunter before) the Lord--of the Manor.
Tell him to shoot far and not have at the poor devils in
the furrow--when they are flying he may fire and nobody
will be the wiser. Give my sincerest Respects to Mrs
Dilk saying that I have not forgiven myself for not having
got her the little Box of Medicine I promised her for her
after dinner flushings--and that had I remained at
Hampatead I would have made precious havoc with her house
and furniture--drawn a great harrow over her garden--
poisoned Boxer--eaten her Cloathes pegs,--fried her
cabbages fricacced (how is it spelt?) her radishes--
ragouted her Onions. . .3

For half a page Keats tells how he would have harassed Mrs.

2Dilke, Paners, I, p. 2.

3Letters, p. 42.

Dilke had he remained at Hampstead. A short time later Keats

wrote to Dilke to request a copy of Sibylline Leaves; by

December, 1818, probably less than a year after their first

meeting, Keats apparently saw Dilke and Maria daily.

One important result growing out of Dilke's friend-

ship with Keats is the theory of "negative capability," the

desirable state of mind that is content with "not knowing."

Unquestionably, many of their discussions centered on philos-

ophy and aesthetics; it may be assumed that such discussions

between the impressionable, idealistic Keats and the opin-

ionated, logical Dilke usually got nowhere. It was Dilke,

however, who in a negative manner motivated and ultimately

convinced Keats of the value and necessity of "negative

capability." In December, 1817, Keats writes to his brothers;

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on
various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind,
and at once it struck me what quality went to form a
Man of Achievement especially in Literature and which
Shakespeare possessed so enormously--I mean Negative
Capability, that is when man is capable of being in
uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable
reaching after fact and reason.4

Dilke naturally would have been unsympathetic to any theory

that favored contentment with half knowledge. That he chose

to disagree with Keats about the matter is quite understand-

able to all familiar with their attitudes of mind.

The theory of "negative capability" is essential to

41bid., p. 71.


the main body of Keatsian aesthetics. Again and again Keats

insists in so many words that a wearisome "striving after

fact" is no way to arrive at truth. Dilke, says Keats,

would never arrive "at a truth as long as he lives; because

he is always trying at it."5 The imagination arrives at

truth intuitively, and that is what makes a thing of beauty

a joy forever. According to Keats, one has merely to accept

a thing of beauty as such; it will remain a thing of beauty

without the help of aesthetic explanation or apology. Dilke,

along with the majority of mankind, who are not gifted with

a Keatsian imagination, must test the "truths" of beauty

discursively, incapable of enjoying the spontaneous, intui-

tive qualities of the imagination. Dilke, who was a sound

scholar and an outstanding exponent of hard-headed logic, was

somewhat of an enigma to Keats. This striving after factual

verification in Dilke, however, was largely responsible for

crystallizing in Keats' mind the working thesis of negative


Early in 1818, the friendship continued to mellow.

Keats writes to his brothers "I and Dilk are getting capital

Friends--"7 and "I am a good deal with Dilke and Brown, we
are very thick; they are very kind to me. . ." A partial

5Ibid., p. 426.
6See p. 75.
7Letters, p. 75.
8lbid., p. 106.

glimpse of his indebtedness to Dilke is revealed from a

passage in a letter to George and Ton, wherein he stated

"I am in the habit of taking my papers Lof the Endymion/ to

Dilke's and copying there; so I chat and proceed at the same

time."9 During this time Keats was preparing copy of

Ehdynion for publication, apparently doing most of his copying

at Dilke's. At the beginning of lay the poem was published,

and Keats soon began to make plans with Brown for a walking

tour of Scotland and Ireland. Beginning about this time,

however, Keats was dogged by disappointment and misfortune of

one kind or another. In July, he contracted a violent illness

of throat ulcers, from which he never fully recovered; Brown

wrote that Keats would have to return to London. To Dilke,

however, fell the unpleasant task of informing Keats of his

third brother Tom's illness, which task he performed when

Keats arrived at Hampstead about the middle of August, in a

physically depleted condition.

In September, Dilke received a letter from Keats, who

was ill and who had "become worse after getting well."10 But

the cloie attachment and large philosophical and aesthetic

deliberations between the two friends continued despite Keats'

many troubles:11

9bid., p. 88.
llIbid., p. 215.
11At this time Lockhart violently attacked Keats'

I have been over to Dilke's this evening, . there
with Brown we have been talking of different and indif-
ferent Matters--of Euclid, of Metaphisics of the Bible,
of Shakespeare . .12

About this time Keats met Fanny Brawne and almost immediately

fell in love. Dilke apparently thought well of Fanny,

although he felt that their engagement was a "bad thing for

them."13 He and Maria realized Keats's and Fanny's recip-

rocal love and foresaw the impasse that was bound to come;

hence, Dilke's pessimism.

The gradual realization of frustrated love and morbid

premonitions of death most certainly had debilitative effects

on the mind and personality of Keats.14 During this period

of despondency Keats made unkind remarks about certain of his

friends, even though Dilke was spared Keats' most unfeeling

condemnations. But these were the ravings of a sick man.

poetry, political principles, and personal habits in the
"Cockney School" articles in the Quarterly Majagine. Caring
for his dying brother Tom aggravated his own illness to a
great extent. Tom's death in December played no small part
in forcing Keats' mind to dwell on thoughts entirely out of
keeping with his nature.

12Ltters p. 237.
13Dilke, Papers I, p. 11. Keats met Fanny at Dilke's
home after he returned from his Scottish tour. They became
engaged four months later.

14Although Keats appears to have remained friendly
with Dilke until his death, at times he could not bear to
"endure the society of any of those who used to meet at Elm
Cottage and Wentworth Place" (Letters, D. 503). Keats made
other unfeeling statements about his friend Brown, but at
this period in his life Keats made many resolutions and con-
tradicted himself a week later.

They were in no way indicative of the happy evenings spent

at the Dilkes, copying dyon and chatting, or meditating

on Euclid, metaphysics, and negative capability, or fencing

with Maria with celery stalks. These earlier days are sig-

nificant of one of the warmest and most memorable friendships

in the Keats circle and of Dilke's part in helping to shape

Keats' aesthetics.

Dilke's associations with the Keats circle after the

poet's death are important for the influence he exercised in

both the welding together and the subsequent splitting

asunder of the surviving membership. He was from the time of

Keats' death in 1821 to Charles Brown's departure for

Australia in 1841 at the very center of an explosive contro-

versy concerning the disposition of various Keatsian relics.

The controversy between Dilke and Brown stemmed largely from

a disagreement over the finances of George Keats, the poet's

younger brother. Brown charged that George had knowingly

swindled his brother John out of a sum of money. Dilke's

defense of George caused friends of the original circle to

align themselves on one side or the other; as a result, long-

lasting friendships were broken. But more important, both

factions refused to surrender to any prospective biographer

the literary remains of Keats for fear that George might be

treated in a manner not to their liking. As long as Keats'

friends were in disagreement as to George's relationships

with the poet, no biography of Keats could be written.

Dilke considered for a long while writing the Life of

Keats himself. Many letters from 1824 to 1838 passed between

Dilke and George Keats, who implored Dilke to undertake the

"labor of love," as Dilke termed it. He was promised all

assistance possible by George, Reynolds, and others. But

his being unneutral thwarted the project and posed an insur-

mountable obstacle: the opposing factions would not surren-

der to him the unpublished works of Keats.

The argument between Dilke and Brown over George's

finances lasted over a period of seventeen years. In 1824,

George appealed to Dilke to convince Brown and Haslam, both

of whom had for five years sent George taunting letters, that

George was guiltless of any unfair financial transactions

regarding his brother John's funds. Dilke sent the infor-

mation to Brown in Italy, and two years later visited him,

at which time Dilke left his son Wentworth under Brown's care

for over two years. Brown must have realized Dilke's com-

pliment in so doing. There, as Rollins suggests, Dilke and

Brown discussed George's fate amicably.15 But Brown in 1828

remained unconvinced of George's innocence, and the taunting

letters continued to arrive at George's home in Louisville.

Brown was determined that the world should know of George's

duplicity. Dilke was equally concerned that his friend be

15Keats Circle I, p. Ixviii.

cleared of the gross charges made against him. From 1829 to

1833 Dilke and Brown exchanged insulting letters. Finally,

Brown ceased all correspondence with Dilke and began to write

a 'emoir of Keats; whereupon George empowered Dilke to invoke

copyright laws to prevent publication of Keats' material

without Dilke's consent. With Dilke, therefore, rested the

final decision as to who would be Keats' biographer.

Hampered as he was by the unavailability of Keats'

unpublished works, Dilke could only join in the almost unan-

imous condemnation of the haphazard attempts of others to

furnish a biography of Keats. He and other close friends of

Keats had been shocked at the announcement by John Taylor

in August, 1821, of a forthcoming biography so soon after

Keats' death.16 Steps were taken, notably by Dilke, Reynolds,

and Brown, to prevent publication. In 1828, however, the

bare outlines of Keats' life were published by Hunt in Lord

Byron and Some of His Contemporaries and in The General

Biographical Dictionary. Dilke was in complete sympathy with

George's displeasure in Hunt's association of Keats with the

so-called "Cockney School" of poets:

Hunt's sketch is not altogether a failure but I should
be extremely sorry that poor John's name should go down
to posterity associated with the littleness of L. H., an
association of which he was so impatient in his lifetime.

16Severn, who had been with Keats at his death, was a
close friend of John Taylor and had kept in touch with Keats'
friends through him. Taylor asked Severn for Keats' papers,
but Severn had judiciously forwarded his Keatsiana to Brown.

He speaks of him patronizingly, that he would have
defended him against the Reviewers if he had known his
nervous irritation at their abuse of him; the fact was
he more dreaded Hunt's defence than their abuse--You
know all this as well as I do .17

And in a letter to Dilke, Brown derides Hunt for making Keats

a "whining, puling boy."18

Because George empowered Dilke to invoke powers of

copyright to prevent publication of Keats material without

Dilke's consent, it was not until 1846, twenty-five years

after Keats' death, that Richard Tllnes was finally approved

as a suitable biographer by all factions. He was an outsider

to whom each member could in good conscience surrender valu-

able Keatsian relics. However, during the previous decade,

Brown had, after many false starts, completed a brief Memoir

of Keats. Correct in feeling that a life without the poems

is of merely nominal value, Brown had passed his memoir

around in manuscript. It was circulated and lauded for some

time until Severn sent it to Dilke in 1841, after its author

had emigrated to Australia. Dilke was thoroughly dissatis-

fied with Brown's representation. The criticisms he sent to

severn were unsparing in their destructiveness of Brown's

version of Brown's and Teats' relationship, and Brown's dis-

honesty in this regard probably irritated Dilke more than any

17Keats Circle, I, p. 313.

18Charles Brown, Life of John Keats, ed. Dorothy
Bodurtha and Willard Pope (Lon-n, New 'York, and Toronto,
1937), pp. 9-10.

other single aspect about the memoir. His expose was dam-

aging to Brown in that it showed clearly that the latter

attempted to establish himself in importance far above that

of Keats' other friends. It shows, too, that Brown was not

truly magnanimous during Keats' most destitute period; in

fact he charged him for room and board. Finally, Dilke shows

Brown sacrificing sound scholarship for personal glory.19

In 1846, having secured Dilke's blessing, Milnes,

later Lord Houghton, was industriously gathering materials

for the proposed Life of Keats. He was Brown's happy choice

for a biographer. Prior to his departure for Australia in

1841, Brown had relinquished to Milnes all Keats' unpublished

material in his possession. Formerly a Cambridge Apostle and

a poet himself, tilnes was a great admirer of Keats, though

he had not 1ncwn him personally.20

Dilke was pleased with Milnes as a biographer and

helped him with "letters and remembrances," dates, locations

of published and unpublished poems, and anecdotes. In relin-

quishing his own Keatsiana to Milnes in 1846, Dilke expressed

19See Keats Circle, II, pp. 103-106.
20George died without hope of ever finding a suitable
biographer to perpetuate his brother's name, and, without
knowing any more of Milnes than that he was a friend to Brown,
probably would never have relinquished John's works to that
biographer. But John Jeffrey, who married Georgianna after
George's death, was contented with the choice, provided that
any profits, if relinquished by Milnes, should revert to the
children of George.

his own satisfaction that Milnes had rid himself of "poor

Brown's prejudices:"

When I lived at Hampstead Keats was at my house generally
half a dozen times a week, so that few letters passed. I
have added a few of George's which throw a light on char-
acter. These I would not have entrusted to any one who
had not got rid of poor Browns prejudices--for George in
his admissions to a friend & his desire to state the
whole truth, does not do justice to his own case, as I
could prove. I have numberless others from George but
relating to the private affairs of the family & 2he
Settlement with his Sister, whose Trustee I am.

In December, 1846, Dilke persuaded Reynolds, the last of the

circle of friends to be so convinced, that Milnes was a suit-

able biographer.
In August, 1848, the first full-length biography and

poetical works of Keats was published. Milnes was praised

from every side for his diligent research and handling of

difficult matters. Even Keats' friends were well satisfied

with his representation, and nearly every one of them wrote

letters of congratulation and gratitude. It appears that

Dilke, however, was one of the least enthusiastic of that

group of friends. His annotations in Milnes' Life of Keats

show that he was more than once irritated at the treatment

of various details concerning the relationships of friends
within the circle.22 However, the two Athenaeum reviews, at

21Keats Circle, II, p. 161.
22His incisive notes and comments lead Rollins to
believe that "he could have done an infinitely better job
than Milnes" and that he was the member of the circle best
fitted to give an accurate, factual biography." (Ibid. I,
p. Ixxxv.)

least the second of which Dilke probably wrote, were favor-

able.23 His letter to Milnes, on the other hand, was not

without overtones of regret. Although few others of the

group of friends speak of errors at all, Dilke complained of

at least three: Bailey, whom Milnes had quietly buried in

1821, was still living; and John and not George was the

eldest of the brothers. But probably the greatest cause for

Dilke's coolness was the treatment of George. Milnes had

evidently absorbed enough of Brown's prejudices to assume

that John, with or without good reason, had been annoyed with

George over finances. Dilke and Reynolds would not concede

this point at all. Milnes struck what he thought was a

happy compromise and was willing to assume no ulterior

motives in George, but felt that John was careless about

money matters. Dilke in a letter to Milnes hints already of

a second edition wherein the truth shall be made known:

S. I am sure you meant to be not only just but kind.
But poor George is, it appears, dead, and I am only the
more anxious that the truth & the truth only should be
told of him. You must equally desire it--and therefore,
on the chance of a second edition, I will express a wish
that you would, some leisure morning, put down in black
& white, John's known & unavoidable expenditure, & then
tell me what was the possible 'remainder' in Deer 1819
or Jany 1820 from which George could have taken any

Dilke's numerous notes in Milnes' Life of Keats

evince his recognition of Brown's penchant for assuming the

23Athenaeum, August 12 and 19, 1848, pp. 789-791;
24Keats Circle, II, p. 250.


role of magnanimous patron and father-confessor. One such

instance of Brown's influence is to be found in a passage in

Milnes wrongly implying that Brown intended to follow Keats

and remain with him in Italy. Opposite this passage Dilke

writes in obvious disgust: "This Mr Milnes must have stated

on the authority of Brown and no other--What are the facts?

Keats embarked in Septr 1820 & Brown was then in the River

/The Thamea/25--Keats died FebY 1821 and Brown started for
Italy in July or August 18222 fifteen or sixteen months after

he was deadl"26 Dilke, then, was not pleased with the treat-

ment of George nor with Brown's influence over Milnes. But

his total impression may have been prejudiced by the first

statement in Milnes' preface:

It is now fifteen years ago that I met . Mr. Charles
Brown, a retired Russia-merchant, with whose name I was
already familiar as the generous protector and devoted
friend of the poet Keats.27

The words "generous protector" aroused Dilke's wrath. He

proceeded to write the greatest tribute ever paid to Brown,

remarkable for its detachment and fairness, in view of what

had passed between them:

What Mr. Milnes means by a "generous protector" I know

25Unknown to either of them at the time, Keats and
Brown had been on ships that docked side by side as Keats was
leaving England.
26In Dilke's annotated copy of Milnes' Life of Keats.

27Richard M. Milnes, Life of Keats (New York, 1848),
P. 5.

not--assuredly it had nothing to do with money. When
John Keats died Brown sent in an account to George for
Board, Money lent, & Interest amounting to about 72
pounds--which by George's order I paid. Neither Mr
Milnes nor his distinguished crack-brained friend of
Flesole, /Walter Savage Landor/ knew any thing about
Brown--They were not sufficiently on an equality to
penetrate the heart of his mystery. If it were to the
purpose, I could here write down a character of Brown,
that would be greatly to his honor--though there would
be nothing in it abt the retired Russia Merchant or the
generous protector. I saw him under all varieties of
fortune, they under only one, of moderate, very moderate,
independence. He was the most scrupulously honest man
I ever knew--but wanted nobleness to life this honesty
out of the commercial kennel. He would have forgiven
John what he owed him with all his heart--but had John
been able and offered to pay, he would have charged
interest, as he did to George. He could do generous
things too--but not after the fashion of the world and
therefore they were not appreciated by the world. His
sense of justice led him at times to do acts of gener-
osity--at others of meanness--the latter was always
noticed, the former overlooked--therefore amongst his
early companions he had a character gfr anything rather
than liberality--but he was liberal."'

It is evident that Dilke was not entirely pleased with Milnes,

biography of Keats, nor with the biographer. Dilke's demands

for honesty and accurate representation of incidents and

relationships in the life of Keats foreshadow his concern

with detail and factual data in his eighteenth century crit-

ical studies, which followed later.

The majority of Dilke's early acquaintances were made

through his connections with the London Magazine. His essays

appear from time to time competing for space alongside arti-

cles by "Elia" or "X.Y.Z." Since paths crossed often in this

28I. Dilke's copy of Milnes.

talented company, Dilke's relationship with this journal gave

him a splendid opportunity to know the foremost writers of

his time.

John Scott, a fiery liberal, established the London

Magazine in 1820. While it purported to be above purely

political considerations, this periodical drew young liberal

enthusiasts to its support. It held almost exclusive print-

ing privileges over the works of Hazlitt, Reynolds, Lamb,

De Quincey, Hood, Cunningham, Hartley Coleridge, and others

slightly less well known. After Christie killed Scott, the

editor, in a duel in February, 1821, Taylor and Hessey,

friends and publishers of Keats, became proprietors of the

magazine with Taylor as editor and Hood, Hessey's friend, as

"sub-editor." Dilke was probably a frequent contributor by

this time.

In 1824, Taylor resigned from editorship of the

London Magazine. Henry Southern became editor about the

middle of the following year. Sir Charles Dilke suggests

that his grandfather may have edited the journal in late 1824

and early 1825. That the editor was Dilke is a plausible

guess, but a number of other persons connected with the mag-

azine were as well qualified as he. Dilke continued to write

for the journal under Southern, as did a number of his friends.

After the Athenaeum made its faltering starts in

1828-1829, the ghost of the old London Magazine began to stir

again in the Athenaeum. Reynolds, Hood, and perhaps Lamb

and others joined with Dilke to become proprietors of the new

magazine. Those personal relationships that Dilke developed

as a result of his connection with the old London Magazine.

then, were with Cunningham, Hood, Hazlitt, and Lamb. Details

concerning his daily intercourse with Hazlitt, Lamb, and

other figures of less note are unfortunately lacking. But

these intelligent, enthusiastic men who engaged in similar

interests and who met frequently in familiar surroundings

over a period of ten years, undoubtedly came to know one

another well.

Thomas Hood was one of the London Magazine luminaries,

and yet he somehow managed to remain outside the circumfer-

ence of the Keats circle. Probably owing to his entry into

the world of letters late in life, Hood seemed to have joined

that circle only after Keats' death. He was well known,

however, to Hessey (of Taylor and Hessey, publishers and

befrienders of Keats), who on his return from Scotland, where

he was sent for his health two years earlier, engaged him as

sub-editor of the London Magazine in February, 1821, the

month of Keats' death. Hood's friendship with Dilke began

sometime after 1821, according to Hood's son, but Sir Charles

Dilke places their first acquaintance earlier in 1816.29

29See Memorials of Thomas Hood, ed. Frances Broderip
and Thomas Hood, Jr., 2 ?'ls. "~Boston 1860), I, p. 10;
Dilke, Papers, I, p. 54.

The relationship between Dilke and Hood does not

appear to be intimate until 1830. When Dilke gained finan-

cial control and editorship of the Athenaeum, Hood and

Reynolds still owned stock and were therefore justified in

expressing grave concern over Dilke's proposition to lower

the price per issue to one-half its original cost.30

Dilke appreciated Hood's wit, for which the latter

was noted. Hood had a special weakness for practical jokes,

directed chiefly at his forgiving wife,31 but aimed occa-

sionally at some friend. In 1833, Mrs. Dilke received this

bit of startling intelligence:

By having seen some Benevolent recum mendations in
the Athenium and supposing their by the Editor too be
human disposed and Having no othe Means of Publishing
my own case which is as follows I humbly Beg leave to
say I am left with Eleven offspring the youngest off whom
But a munth old none so Much as taste Butchers Meat and
nothing in the World to lay on xcept straw winter and
summer owing to my Family am unabel to get or do ether
nedle work or sharing and there father am sorry to say
not willing if he could get work but people wont employ
Him on account of character to Be sure he was Born to
very different Prospects in life my mane object being
to get sum of the children of my hands am intending to
send one up to you by the Saturdays carryer hoping you
will excuse the offence and if approved of god willing
may be the Means of getting him into sum sittiation in
London witch is very scarse hearabouts and the Allmity
Bless and prosper you for such and as the well noon gud-
ness of Hart of you and Mr. Dilke will I trust exert in

30qarchand, p. 35.

31Hood's wife was one of the two Reynolds sisters
with whom Maria Dilke quarreled concerning Jane's (Hood's
wife) and Marianne's bad opinion of Fanny Brawne. (See
Letters of Fanny Brawne to Fanny Keats, ed. Edgcumbe, 1937,
P -82.-T


Behalf of our deplorable states and an begging your Hum-
bel pardin for troubling with the distresses of Stranger
But not to your gudness your humbel servant LP.32

Sir Charles Dilke explains that "The next morning there came

by carrier's cart a suckling pig from Hood, of which this had

been the "envoi."33

The period of Dilke's warmest friendship with Hood

came shortly before Hood removed himself and family from

England to Germany. Because of the failure of a firm? Hood

had in 1834 become involved in financial difficulties. He

determined not to avoid his responsibilities to his creditors

by declaring bankruptcy. Accordingly, on Dilke's advice, he

left England for the continent, where living was much cheaper.

At Dilke's suggestion, he settled in a beautiful villa on

the Rhine at Coblenz. Prior to his departure, he and Dilke

planned every detail of life in Germany, even down to such

routine as walking tours for Hood's health.

Just before Hood left England, a serious rift devel-

oped between the Reynolds and the Hood families. Some idea

nay be formed of Hood's close attachment to Dilke from one of

Hood's letters Just prior to his departure for Coblenz. This

letter indicates that Dilke's character was such that friends

felt free to confide in him. From all indications, it appears

32Dilke, Papers, I, p. 39.


3*Probably publishing firm.

that Hood's wrath was directed at Marian and Charlotte, the

two sisters of Hood's wife, Jane, and the husband of the

former, Mr. Green.35 Jane had become critically ill just

before she and Hood were to leave England. It is certain

that these three made injudicious and unfeeling comments

about the approaching death of Jane, not only to Rood, but to

her. Hood writes in a rage to Dilke about their astounding

behavior and complains of some of their statements:

What think you of such Infernal sentiments as follow . .
Lotte said to me "I hope she will wake sensible, & then
pass away quTeeTy." And .. "What gave her horror was,
that if Jane had been let alone she would have died days
agol" Damn such pestilental sensibility--Does she want
a dead sister to cry over, let her give her good wishes
to Marian.3b

Hood confides to Dilke that Jane was visibly shaken by her

unfeeling sisters: "Think me not mad, my dear Dilke, but I

am writing of things words cannot reach. Horrors, horrible,

most horrible, must have been her portion."37 Hood had, as

a consequence, thrown his relatives out of the house. He

35Again, details of the quarrel are omitted in the
memorials; the editors are willing to allow but two bare hints
that any disharmony at all troubled this domestic circle.
(See pp. 10-11 and 17.) But by the editors' own admission,
amiable John Reynolds took Hood to his heart and must have
been proud of his illustrious and urbane brother-in-law.
Evidence is lacking to affirm that Hood's feud with his in-
laws extended to Reynolds.
3 Letters of Hood, ed. Leslie A. Marshand (New
Brunswick, -T4-5, 5 7.
37Jane recovered, however, and in April, 389?, Hood
departed from England for Coblenz ahead of Jane and their two
children, who arrived shortly afterwards.


therefore had to write this letter to Dilke to unburden his

mind.38 This, then, is a significant letter, especially as

it comes from one of Hood's temperament, and reveals the

close attachment between him and Dilke.

In the next two years Hood writes many letters to

Dilke, each with literally a score of pages but important

only insofar as they reveal Hood's antipathy to the "dishonest"

Germans, his penchant for punning, and his sense of obli-

gation to Dilke, whom he repeatedly calls his "best friend."

A section of one letter in 1835 to Maria contains a homey

and ridiculously accurate portrait of Dilke:

"Upon my soul, Maria, this is a delightful place So
like Coblentz So you call this Margate, do you, my
beauty? Well--" (a grunt like a paviour's) "and I sup-
pose you call that the fort--humphi Considering we might
have stood before Ehrenbreitstein instead of it--hahl"
(a sigh like an alligator's). "My God1--that we could be
so insanel--how any Christian being could stay a month in
itl--why I should hang myself in ten days, or drown
myself in that stinking sea yonderl There is not one
thing worth looking at--not onel I know what you are
going to say, Beauty; but because the Crosbys and the
Chatfields are such donkeys, and the Lord knows who
besides, is it any reason because they don't act like
common rational beings--? But come along" (no offer to
stir though) "let's go up to the market and look at the
fish, for I suppose you know there is none to be had
here, because it is so near the coast. To be sure, says
you, there is whiting--and so there is at Billingsgatel
If ever I go again to a watering-place--I believe that's
what you call it, Maria--it shall be Hungerford Market.
My God! it is a nmdness--a perfect madness--to leave
home and come down here to see--what? a parcel of yellow
slippers and pepper-and-salt dressing-gowns." Here he
draws down his mouth, and hoists up his shoulders, till
his coat-collar hides his ears. "Well, it's too late now

38See Ibid., pp. 18-19.

to listen to common sense. It serves me right for being
such an ass. By the time my holidays are over, I shall
know how to spend them But perhaps you like it better
than I do, for there's no disputing oftastes."39

In September, 1836. the Dilkes visited Coblenz, but

the eagerly awaited visit with Hood was disappointing in that

Dilke was too ill to talk, and before he recovered Hood had

to accompany an army regiment to Berlin. The Dilkes had left

for England before he returned. In the following year the

Hoods moved to Ostend, Belgium, and again were hosts to the


From 1835 Hood had been much handicapped by ill

health; instead of improving, he had suffered a gradual

decline, though he completed with regularity his Comic Annual

from 1830 to 1838. He regularly dispatched long, witty

letters to Dilke, who, when he replied at all, answered in

very brief epistles. But in spite of his failure to answer

Hood's letters, Dilke cane to be regarded as Hood's "dearest

friend." Hood complains to Maria about Dilke's poor writing


I write to you instead of the D because I am sick
of him as a correspondent; as a countryman of Taylor's
said, "who would go out with a fellow, that when you
fire at him with a blunderbuss only returns it with a
pocket-pistol?" Even so have I sent Dilke huge letters
full and crossed, enough to drive him blind and stupid,
and give him a chronic headache; and what does he send
in answer but a little letteret that cannot do anybody
any harm? I suppose some day I shall come to, "T. H. is
received" the fag end of the Athenaeum, amidst the

39Memorials I, p. 112-113.

miscalled Answers to Correspondents.40

Hood understood Dilke's time-consuming Job as editor, however,

and thoughtfully excused him for his bad habits.

Dilke received from Hood while he was abroad several

articles for the Athenaeum, the most important of which are

those on "Copyright and Copywrong," which had considerable

influence in the passage of copyright laws.41 Shortly after

his return with his family to England in 1840 Hood succeeded

Theodore Hook as editor of the New Monthly Magazine.

Although this position made Hood and Dilke business rivals,

the friendship continued as before. In 1842, Dilke enter-

tained Hood at his summer house at Twickinham, and Hood in

turn invited the Dilkes and Dickens to dinner. Dilke

received from Hood helpful suggestions and research for some

of Dilke's articles in the Athenaeum.42 Dilke lost his

closest friend when Hood died in 1845 after a lingering ill-
ness. He was still destitute, but he was known and loved by

every lover of wit and humor.

40bid., p. 98. See Athenaeum, January 28, 1837,
p. 68, where Dilke acknowledges receipt of one of George Keats'
letters: "G.K., of Louisville, received, and shall be
attended to."
4lSee Marchand, Mirror, pp. 69-70.
4See Dilke's cutting satire in an article in the
Athenaeum (February 25, 1843, pp. 178-179), wherein he points
out cases of gross plagiarism in Lord Lennox's Tuft Hunter.
Although Hood was editor of the rival magazine The New
Month at that time, Hood had assisted Dilke in col-ecting
evidence to support Dilke's charge of plagiarism.

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