Dude had some mad mutton chops

I chose that barbarism of a periodization for my periodicals list, because, while 1851 is definitely Mid-Victorian, there’s lots that happened in the Mid-Mid-Victorian Era that makes those years quite a different beast. For one thing, there was a sense that, after the Continental Revolutions of ’48 and the defeat of Chartism, England was entering a new phase of peace, stability, and prosperity. Tennyson was chosen as Poet Laureate, and then the Crystal Palace put a cap on everything. 1851 was a very good year if you weren’t among the millions and millions fucked over by British imperialism. And then, the Crimean War came in 1853, Sepoy Uprising in ’57, Second Opium War from ’56 to ’60: the national mood was quite different. But yet what both the Early Mid-Victorian Era and the Mid-Mid-Victorian Era shared (of the Late-Mid-Victorian Era I am lacking in expertise) was a sense of being in a transition state, escaped from the violence of the Napoleonic Wars, the threat of Revolution, and, not to be underestimated, the immoralities and debaucheries of the Regency, and moving towards… nobody was sure what. As Matthew Arnold put it in his inimitably cheerful manner (from “Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse” [1855, which we might consider Early-Mid-Mid-Victorian]), Victorians felt as if they were “Wandering between two worlds, one dead, / The other powerless to be born.”

Everything I said just now I believe I knew before reading Richard Altick [can I just call him Dick?], at least it doesn’t sound unfamiliar. What is new is thinking about the above periodization in terms of periodicals. During the thirties, there was an extraordinary struggle between those who wanted to disseminate, and those who wanted to repress, the circulation of news among the working class: hence the Newspaper Stamp Duty. The forces of repression won (as they always do, Thomas Hardy might say), in large part because working-class periodicals now focused on useful knowledge and education (or lurid fiction) instead of political issues. What if, in Althusserese, the ruling class could opt for the ISA over the RSA? And so, in the year of the Great Exhibition, the powers that be instituted a “Newspaper Stamp Committee,” investigating whether one might lift the so-called taxes on knowledge without upsetting existing relations of production. Lo and behold, in the Mid-Mid-Victorian period, the duties were lifted. And then, in the late 50s, there occured the “schilling monthly” phenomenon. I’m not paying much attention to this, because this is venturing into late Mid-Victorian period, but it looks like here we’ve got a further class subdivision: those who read Chambers’ or Household Words could sit at the kids’ table of the great monthlies, Blackwood’s and Fraser’s. And then in the 1890s, we get all sorts of crazy stuff like Tit-Bits and The Yellow Book and The Lady Cyclist and photogravures–everything gets too confusing and appealing!

I realize I said before I was going to make rationale pages for each list. This is probably the beginning of one, but I don’t feel like making the page right now. I have to be up in five hours, after all.

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