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This is a sample entry from the Dictionary Nineteenth-Century Journalism (DNCJ), part of C19: The Nineteenth Century Index from ProQuest. Cross-links and other functionality have been removed from this version of the entry. Find out more about DNCJ.

Title: PENNY PAPERS
Type: Topics
Entry:

The often used 'Penny' in magazine titles suggests that something more than cheapness was at stake, and indeed the concept of the totemic penny formed a battleground between competing ideologies and commercial motives from the 1830s. The 35 titles listed by Wiener that use 'penny' as the first word in their title range from the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge's celebrated mass circulation weekly Penny Magazine. which tried to equate cheapness with respectability and celebrate a self-help ethic, through various down-market self-help journals produced by radical publishers, like William Strange's the Penny School-Book (1832) to the increasingly despised yet perennially popular penny fiction of the Penny Novelist (1832-1834). The diversity of serialized 'penny' publications in the 1830s suggests the range of meanings ascribed to the term by anious metropolitan commentators, many of whom were alarmed equally by the populist appropriations of the term in radical political journals and by the increasing availability of sensational illustrated fiction in penny formats. Either way, many critics, in spite of the appropriation of the term by the S.D.U.K. and other sectarian organizations, sought to associate the concept of 'penny' issue serial literature with a range of social threats, exemplified by journals like the Penny Satirist (1837-1846), which took considerable delight in attacking public figures with scurrilous and, often, invented stories.

Penny issue fiction, which gave rise to the term 'Penny Dreadful', was similarly absorbed by the many but despised by the influential few, who believed such cheap literature inflamed ill-educated emotions and wasted potentially socially useful time. In a famous article published in Fraser's Magazine in March 1838, ('Half a Crown's Worth of Cheap Knowledge') Thackeray offered a not entirely jaundiced overview of the variety to be found in the penny press. Four of the 15 journals he reviewed had 'Penny' in their title. The competing meanings implicit in the 'penny' tag were never resolved in the Victorian period, and penny journals included weekly papers, often religious in orientation, fiction-led miscellanies like the London Journal and useful knowledge publications.

The launch of Newnes's Tit-Bits in 1880, followed by Answers and Pearson's Weekly, began a new era in the penny press. The press barons of the New Journalism claimed to be able to reconcile cheapness with the provision of 'healthy' reading. Penny magazines for women were at the heart of Harmsworth's publishing empire, and Newnes and Pearson followed. Domestic magazines like Home Notes, Home Chat, Woman's Life and Woman competed for the pennies of woman readers along with novelettes and new style fiction serials like Sweethearts. Penny papers for the young included the Religious Tract Society's hugely successful Girl's Own Paper and Boy's Own Paper which were designed to combat the influence ofsensational serials. The huge expansion of these titles modified, but did not allay, middle-class anxieties about the cheap press, though the totemic importance of 'the penny' was diminishing by 1900.

Figure 51: The cover of the Penny Magazine, Sept. 1844.

Figure 51: The cover of the Penny Magazine, Sept. 1844


Sources: Altick 1957, Anderson 1991, Wiener 1969.
Author: Margaret Rachel Beetham, Manchester Metropolitan University (Affiliate) / Brian Maidment, University of Salford
See also: BOY'S OWN PAPER (1879-1967)
CHEAP JOURNALISM
CIRCULATION
FRASER'S MAGAZINE FOR TOWN AND COUNTRY (1830-1882)
GENDER AND THE PERIODICALS
GIRL'S OWN PAPER (1880-1956)
HARMSWORTH, ALFRED CHARLES WILLIAM (1865-1922)
HOME CHAT (1895-1958)
HOME NOTES (1894-1957)
ILLUSTRATION
LONDON JOURNAL; AND WEEKLY RECORD OF LITERATURE, SCIENCE AND ART (1845-1928)
MASS JOURNALISM AND THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY PRESS

NEW JOURNALISM
NEWNES, GEORGE (1851-1910)
NOVELETTES
PEARSON, CYRIL ARTHUR (1866-1921)
PEARSON'S MAGAZINE (1896-1939)
PENNY MAGAZINE (1832-1845); KNIGHT'S PENNY MAGAZINE (1846)
PENNY NOVELIST (1832-1834)
POLITICS AND THE PRESS
POPULAR PRESS
PUBLISHERS AND THE PRESS
READING AND GENDER, READING AND CLASS
READING AND GENDER, READING AND CLASS
READERS AND READERSHIP: REAL OR HISTORICAL READERS
RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY
SDUK SOCIETY FOR THE DIFFUSION OF USEFUL KNOWLEDGE (1826-1846)
SERIALS AND THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY PUBLISHING INDUSTRY
STRANGE, WILLIAM (1801-1871)
THACKERAY, WILLIAM MAKEPEACE (1811-1863)
<TIT-BITS (1881-1984)/u>
WEEKLIES
WOMAN (1890-1912)
WOMAN'S LIFE (1895-1934).
WOMEN'S PERIODICALS
Themes: Autodidacticism
Education
Fiction
Morality and the press
New readership
Radicalism
Sensationalism


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