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tinguished names at once occur to us of individuals, not officially çonnected with the church, from the time of Scaliger and Grotius to that of Heyne and Wolf, whose researches have furnished the most important data towards solving the complicated questions of morals and religion, and were perhaps secretly determined by impulses that had never ceased to actuate the heart of society since the first great separation from the hierarchy of Rome! - From all these causes Europe was overwhelmed in the centuries following the Reformation with a literary productiveness, under the most varied phases of opinion, on all the topics then dividing men's thoughts, which rendered the duty of selection and criticism imperative on the few who felt themselves qualified by their attainments, or called upon by their position, to direct the public mind, amidst the perplexity of influences to which it was exposed : critical tribunals were thus erected, governed by certain acknowledged principles, before which the most important productions of the age were passed in review, and had their character pronounced upon them. These courts of literary judicature, holding their assize periodically for the pronouncing of critical verdicts, were first established, if we are not mistaken, in the great centres of learned activity both in the Catholic and in the Protestant parts of Europe. With an earnest wish for fuller information, we ask those who are better acquainted with the literary history of Europe than ourselves, whether we may not rank among the earliest appearances of a distinct periodical literature, such works as the Journal des Savans published at Paris, the Acta Eruditorum, which appeared at Leipsic, and the Bibliotheque Universelle, with its sequels, conducted at Amsterdam by Le Clerc.*
It is true, these publications were addressed to the learned, and intended to influence the judgments of the studious and reflecting; because, in the actual state of education, these were supposed to be the only parties capable of forming an opinion on the controverted topics of morals and religion, and the higher philosophy of civil and ecclesiastical government. But the popular agency of literature was silently and steadily extending its sway. The religious wars which distracted England and Germany in the course of the 17th century, and which had their ultimate source in the impulse of the Reformation, drew forth from both parties engaged in the contest a constant declaration of rights and principles, in pamphlets, manifestoes, and political papers, in which literature began already to assume its important function, of influencing the great masses of public opinion, and descended from the quiet region of philosophical speculation into the stormy arena of popular debate. Still there was nothing corresponding in strength and constancy of influence to the modern press. Its place was supplied by the
* Le Clerc was Professor of Philosophy and Belles Lettres in the Remonstrant College at Amsterdam, from 1684 till his retirement in 1732. During this period, he reviewed, with indefatigable industry, in the periodicals which he successively conducted under the various titles of the Bibliotheque Universelle, the Bibliotheque Choisie, and the Bibliotheque Ancienne et Moderne, all the most important works in his own departments of study. The Acta Eruditorum commenced 1682, and were continued with the Supplementa and Nova Acta till 1765. It was proposed in this journal to give a periodical account of what was doing in the different departments of science, philosophy, and literature. The intelligence wbich it communicated was distributed under the different heads of Theology, Jurisprudence, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, History and Geography, Philosophy and Philology, with an obvious reference to the ordinary division of intellectual labour in the prelections of an University. With the increasing subdivision of labour in later times, each of these departments has become the subject of a distinct branch of periodical literature. Le Journal des Savans was commenced at an earlier period still, in 1665. At Rome, the great seat of Catholic learning, a periodical flourished in the latter half of the 17th century, conducted by the Abate Nazari, and entitled Giornali de' Letterati. See preface to Acta Erudit.; and De Bure, Bibliographie Instructive.
by the political harangue, and especially by the pulpit, that “drum ecclesiastic," as it is called by Butler, which, in England at least, fed the flame of controversy with continual fuel, and dispersed the elements of civil and religious disputation into the remotest corners of the land. Newspapers had not yet risen above the character of mere gazettes of intelligence; but it is said, that the earliest weekly periodical of this description, circulated in England, appeared during the Thirty Years War, and was intended to gratify the intense curiosity with which the nation watched the progress of that great Continental struggle.
The warfare of principles, which had raged through the whole of the troubled dynasty of the Stuarts, subsided at the settlement of 1688. Wearied with strife and controversy, the most influential portion of the nation adopted, from that time, a tone of moderation and cool rationality in its modes of thinking and writing, which courted refinement and perspicuity, but repressed earnestness and enthusiasm, and became the distinguishing characteristic of English literature and philosophy, during the first half of the 18th century. But literature, having once taken a popular turn, was not to be diverted from the channel in which it ħad begun to flow. A new public opened itself to the critic and social philosopher in the numerous and respectable middle class, which had brought with it a fresh moral significance out of the deadly struggle in which it had been so deeply engaged, and was now profiting by the return of tranquillity, to perfect and consolidate the advance it had gained on the ancient aristocracy. The general movement of the age, modified by the peculiar spirit of the English Revolution, is very perceptible in the series of periodicals, chiefly conducted by Addison and Steele, which marked the commencement of the century. They are supposed to have been suggested by the papers which were published by the opposite parties during the civil war, and which, evincing the moral power of literature even amidst the sterner conflict of physical force, had prepared the way for a most important change in the conduct of human affairs. In the periodicals of Queen Ann's reign the tone of controversy is almost banished. They appear rather as the indicators of what was established. We should not, perhaps, greatly misrepresent their object and character, if we described them as intended to uphold the principles and extend the moral effects of the Revolution. In their political articles they express the sentiments of Whiggism that were embodied and consecrated by that event. They are conservative on the side of a moderate liberty. Without any great depth of thought or feeling, they touch lightly and gracefully on the varied topics of manners, politics, religion, and literature; and breathe into them that spirit of tempered refinement, of sober piety, and of playful elegance, which distinguished the
These periodicals by Steele and Addison produced various imitations through the remainder of the century. Those conducted by Johnson were the most celebrated. But in these later publications the moral and literary elements greatly predominated over the political and religious, † which, becoming of sufficient importance to demand an independent existence, withdrew into separate spheres, and expressed themselves through appropriate organs. By this timely retreat from the more frivolous companions with which they had been so long associated, they seemed, by a sort of instinct, to be preparing themselves for the searching conflicts in which they were again to be shortly engaged.
Events of the most startling character, and fraught with consequences that could not be calculated, followed each other in rapid succession towards the close of the century, and brought once more into the field of controversy, with all the fearful in
* The Tatler was the earliest of the series, commenced by Steele 1709. This was succeeded, 1710, by the Spectator, which is dedicated to Lord Somers. The Guardian, 1713, was more deeply tinged with party politics. The Freeholder, by Addison, and the Englishman, by Steele, are avowedly political publications.
+ We believe the statement in the text will be found verified by an inspection of the general contents of such works as the World, the Rambler, the Idler, the Adventurer, the Connoisseur, the Observer. The publication of these works ranges from about 1755 to 1790, comprehending the greater part of the last half of the 18th century.
terest of practical application, those great fundamental questions of human rights which had lain dormant, except in the writings of a few speculative men, ever since their agitation in the times of the Stuarts. The American first, and then the French Revolution, aroused men's minds to an intensity of thinking on these momentous topics, before which every lighter interest at once gave way. The organs of popular literature, which had entertained the public mind with elegant trifling, with an amplification of universally-admitted axioms, with the playful artillery of good-natured satire, with criticisms on the drama, or with the discussions of questions of taste, seasoned now and then with a passing inuendo at political measures or political men, abandoned now the easy and pleasant style of the impartial friends and instructors of every class of society, took part in the thickening fray, and assumed forthwith a more emphatic and impassioned tone. From this time must be dated the rise and rapid increase of the moral influence of the newspaper press, with the endless division and subdivision of periodical literature, corresponding not only to the constant extension of the field of general knowledge and speculation, but also to the innumerable parties and interests which spring up with the progress of civilization in the body politic, and each of which must have a voice to set forth its wants and its views, and to make its importance felt. Within the last half century, from the causes alluded to, the multiplication of this species of composition, whether in the form of newspapers, or in that of journals and reviews, almost exceeds computation, and presents a phenomenon unparallelled in the history of literature.
It would be foreign to the purpose of this paper to attempt to enumerate even the more important periodicals which, during this period, have arisen and disappeared with the fluctuations of parties and opinions, but still, amidst all these changes, with a steady, constant increase, both of numbers and influence in the entire class. The course of events since the close of the last century; the protracted war with France; the revulsion of interests occasioned by the peace ; the renewed intercourse with the continent; the discussion, and at length the adoption, of great political changes at home,-have continually added fresh stimulants to the activity of this form of literature, have called forth into prominent existence the most diverse elements of the social system, have endued them with a sort of personality, and gifted them with the power of distinct utterance. Discussion of first principles seems to be at an end. Each party takes its stand on its own view of the controverted question, and, through its constituted organ, summons literature, opinions, institutions,
to its tribunal, and tries them by the canons which it has established. The verdict to be pronounced upon a work may be confidently anticipated from the principles which it espouses, and the court before which it is arraigned. It must be admitted, that great and splendid talents, and the noblest minds of the country,—statesmen, philosophers, and poets of the highest order, are now engaged in the service of periodical literature; and that in the most dignified of the party forms which it assumes, as, for example, in the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, where the warfare is conducted in a spirit of manly and generous courtesy, it presents an emphatic embodying of the two great principles of progress and conservatism, which divide the national opinion between them, and from the decision and straightforwardness, so entirely consonant to the character of the English mind, with which it expresses the critical judgments of opposite parties in the state, enables the impartial observer to form a correcter estimate of the influence of different political principles on the great interests of civilization and humanity, and to anticipate with a surer tact the distant mean of right and truth, that may be ultimately evolved in the continuance of the struggle between them. Should any other principle of equal importance develope itself in the country, it will in time acquire an equally efficient organ for its expression. But it is not the great ħistorical elements alone of public opinion which find a voice in literature. The world has become a Babel. The gift of tongues has fallen on society; and interests which were not known to exist, or in former times slept silent and undeveloped in the womb of the commonwealth, have now learned the use of speech, and are clamorous to be heard. There is not a shade of opinion, not a diversity of taste or pursuit, not one interest of business, pleasure, or politics, not one fraction, however diminutive, of religious or philosophical sentiment, but finds a representative in the great literary parliament of the nation. All grades of society, from the peer to the mechanic, from the lordly episcopacy which bears sway in the high places of the earth, down to the humblest forms of sectarianism, which dispense the tidings of the Gospel among the poor and outcast-all-are here represented, and through organs which fully and fairly express their sentiments. The principles of Milton's Areopagitica are carried out into practice. The old prestige, which the lingering influences of popery had still left hanging loosely about men's minds, that there must somewhere be a supreme autho-, rity—a final standard in opinion-is now dissolved for ever. Universities and seats of learning have lost the reverence which once attached to their decisions. The world of practice and ex