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Fine Arts, Freemasonry, Philology and many other subjects. And, for the most part, these diverse journals are of a high class.
In France, the periodicals have faithfully reflected the changing history of the nation; both objectively and subjectively, so to speak; objectively in their appearance and disappearance on the stage of public life, subjectively in their fiery comments upon the affairs of the day. The Décade Philosophique, established about 1796, was the first magazine to appear after the Revolution. "It was a kind of resurrection of good taste." In 1800, Consul Bonaparte, who considered four hostile newspapers worse than one hundred thousand bayonets, carried his views into practice by suppressing nearly all the Parisian journals-the Décade was one of those exempted. From 1815 to 1819 there was a constant struggle between the police and the journalist advocates of freedom of the press. Many expedients were used to escape the government censure. One of these was to publish "semi-periodicals" at irregular intervals. La Minerve Française thus appeared four times a year. An attempt to imitate the great English reviews in the Revue Française met with failure, the journal surviving only two years, 1828-30. Best known among French periodicals is the world-famous Revue des Deux Mondes. It was founded in 1829, went under by the end of the year, but was revived and finally established in 1831, by the strong hand of François
Buloz (1804-1877). It has concerned itself chiefly with literature and art, and has had an important influence. Most of the distinguished men of letters in France have contributed to it. Not seldom has the crown of French literature been bestowed upon those connected with this "vestibule of the Academy." There have been many reviews published in France. The Revue Critique d'Histoire et de Litérature (1856) was one of the earliest of European weekly reviews. The Revue Contemporaine (1852) and the Revue Européenne (1859) both at one time were subsidized by the government. To the critic Sainte-Beuve, writing in the Revue des Deux Mondes, we owe the literary causerie, or short essay, which is so popular in magazines. That journalism occupies a high importance in France may be seen from the fact that, in 1883, there were upwards of 1200 periodicals of all kinds published in Paris.
Of other countries but a word may be said. Italian journalism was long retarded by the ban of the Austrian authorities. The Biblioteca Italiana ran from 1816 to 1840 under their favor. It was an important force acting against extravagance and false taste in literature. The Conciliatore was founded at Milan in 1818. Under the guidance of Silvio Pellico and other prominent writers, it essayed a more dignified and outspoken style of criticism than was then in vogue. Consequently it was suppressed in two years' time. The Antologia, a monthly also, was similarly dealt with in 1833, because of an
epigram in which danger was scented. Various other journals went the same path to ruin. The Revista Contemporanea (1852) followed the type of the Revue des Deux Mondes. More recently, Italy has evinced a good deal of activity in the matter of periodicals. Two may be mentioned especially— rivals: the Nuova Antologia (1866), a combined magazine and review, and the Revista Europea, published at Florence. Before 1830 Spanish refugees had issued magazines of all sorts in London and Paris. El Censor died a violent death in 1823, at the ripe age of twenty-three years. In 1832 appeared the Cartas Españolas, which under varying designations has survived to the present day. The Revista de España and the Revista Europea are two modern Spanish reviews.
The magazine of to-day is very different from its predecessors of the early century. There has been a steady improvement in the methods of printing and in the illustrative processes. At the present time most of the finest magazine work in this respect is done in the United States. Such a result has been obtained by the most careful attention to every detail; so that in the best magazines even the advertising pages are excellently printed and illustrated. As has been said, there are in America no periodicals at the present time which attain the standard of literary excellence reached by the great English reviews; but in the lighter magazine types the scale inclines the other way.
The immense multiplication of periodicals during the last half-century has not been to the advantage of good literature. A glance at the average magazine of the day will show that its excellence is not particularly intellectual. Typography and illustration are often above praise, but the accompanying literary value is quite another question. This, perhaps, is only to be expected in view of the enormous increase in the public demand for reading matter. In England that increase in periodicals, excluding newspapers, was from 662 to 1041 for the ten years 1874–84. In America, during the same decade, it was still more surprising: from 7,339 to 12,671, but this includes newspapers. So that it were vain to hope for a corresponding increase of the literary spirit. Another tendency also militates against literary excellence: the shortening of the intervals of publication. First came the quarterly, published only four times in the year; next the monthly, a radical and startling departure in publication; later came the weekly, which has gradually encroached upon the monthly's ground. Finally, every one will recognize the manner in which the daily cuts into the others; London and New York alone afford plentiful instances of this. What will be the outcome of multiplication and of more frequent appearance, it is difficult to say-quite possibly the matter will work its own cure by reactionary methods.
In any case, nothing can alter a very considerable debt that stands to the credit of the magazines.
They have contained some of our finest literature. For example: in fiction, Esmond, Pickwick Papers, The Cloister and the Hearth; in the essay, the work of Macaulay, and of nearly all his fellows; in verse, some of the most noteworthy poems have been ushered into the world by periodicals. They have gradually attracted to themselves most departments of literary expression; even history and philosophy have not disdained, in some instances, this mouthpiece. Especially is the remark true of fiction; many of our finest novels are, as a matter of fact, reprints from magazines. The origin and development of good criticism, the popularization of the essay and the widening of its scope, most of the century's best fiction, and no small amount of its best poetry—these are owing chiefly to the influence of periodicals. The present decline of literary merit may be forgiven when we think of the splendid achievement of their past.