Periodical Essays

793 Words4 Pages
RISE OF 18th CENTURY PERIODICALS What Matthew Arnold describes as “our excellent and indispensable eighteenth century” added three new literary genres to the fund of English literature. These genres are the mock epic, the novel, and the: periodical essay, the most popular of all, even though it did not extend beyond the century. Periodical essays typically appeared in affordable publications that came out regularly, usually two or three times a week, and were only one or two pages in length. They were often narrated by a persona or a group of personas, commonly referred to as a “club.” For the most part, readers of the periodical essay were the educated middle class individuals who held learning in high esteem but were not scholars or intellectuals. Women were a growing part of this audience and periodical editors often tried to appeal to them in their publications. While the periodical essay emerged during the eighteenth century and reached its peak in publications like the Tatler and the Spectator, its roots can be traced back to the late seventeenth century. An important forerunner to the Spectator is John Dunton’s Athenian Mercury, which played a key role in the development of the periodical essay. The Athenian Mercury began publication in 1691 with the purpose of ‘resolving weekly all the most nice and curious questions propos’d by the ingenious.’ It did not publish essays. Instead it followed a question and answer or “advice column” format and is one of the first periodicals to solicit questions from its audience. Several features of the Athenian Mercury, such as its epistolary format and its creation of a fictional club, would be continued by another influential periodical published during the eighteenth century, Daniel Defoe’s The Review. the Review began publication in 1704 as an eight page weekly. Most issues of the Review consisted of a single essay,

More about Periodical Essays

Open Document