John Thelwall: Critical Reassessments

John Thelwall’s Panoramic Miscellany: The Lecturer as Journalist

Angela Esterhammer
University of Zurich


1.         Why did the sixty-two-year-old Thelwall embark on the expensive and exhausting project of almost single-handedly writing and marketing a monthly periodical under the title The Panoramic Miscellany? The venture only survived for six months—January to June 1826—and if readers during the 1820s evidently gave it little attention, Romanticists and print-culture scholars have paid virtually none at all. Robert Lamb and Corinna Wagner, who include the first-ever reprints from the Panoramic Miscellany in their recent Selected Political Writings of John Thelwall, remark that “There was a huge difference between this periodical and [Thelwall’s] earlier ventures” (4: 199). However, a detailed look at the contents of the Panoramic Miscellany along with Thelwall’s editorial policy, his discursive tone, and his relationship with readers and contributors suggests that this last journalistic venture manifests the continuity of his commitments to political causes, public education, elocutionary training, and literary criticism. The Panoramic Miscellany represents Thelwall’s attempt to adapt these long-standing commitments to the new media context of the 1820s. Reflecting an awareness of the rapid changes that had taken place in print culture since the time he began his journalistic activities in the late eighteenth century, this short-lived publication opens a window onto a late-Romantic era notable for its experiments with print and visual media.

2.        Although there is scant documentation of any historical and biographical context surrounding the launch of the Panoramic Miscellany, Thelwall’s overriding motivation for starting the journal is sufficiently clear from his editorial comments in its first two issues, if not from the title pages alone. The Panoramic’s sub-title—“Monthly Magazine and Review of Literature, Science, Arts, Inventions and Occurrences”—references another periodical publication: the Monthly Magazine to which Thelwall had contributed since its founding by Richard Phillips and Joseph Johnson in 1796. In late 1824, Phillips sold the Monthly and the new owners hired Thelwall as editor until November 1825 (Carnall 162-63). At that point they fired him and re-oriented the Monthly Magazine with a new series that was launched in January 1826. Thelwall’s resentment over his abrupt dismissal overflows onto the pages of the independent periodical he started that same month: the Panoramic Miscellany. Several of the articles in the Panoramic feature bitter editorial headnotes or footnotes emphasizing that these articles should have appeared in “another publication”—i.e., in the Monthly Magazine—in order to fulfill commitments Thelwall had made when he was editor of the Monthly. [1] 

3.        The straw that broke the camel’s back was evidently a long article ascribed to an anonymous naval officer, entitled “Hints on the Impressment of Seamen,” that Thelwall accepted for the Monthly Magazine. Its publication was interrupted after the first two installments when Thelwall lost control of the Monthly; even worse, that magazine’s new owners went on to publish an unauthorized continuation of it, an action that Thelwall must have felt violated his agreement with the author. Thelwall seeks to set the record straight by publishing the “Impressment” treatise in its entirety in the first two issues of the Panoramic Miscellany. His outraged headnote and postscript, conspicuously signed “J. Thelwall,” suggest that he considered it politically urgent to publish the “Impressment” article and that this was the primary motivation for his decision to launch his own magazine. Thelwall’s honour demands not only the fulfillment of his commitment to the contributor, but also the rebuttal of the Monthly Magazine’s “disgraceful” and “perverted” forgery with the “authentic article,” so that the author will not have to go to the expense of “republish[ing] the whole, in another form” (PM 297). [2]  At the end of the first issue of the Panoramic Thelwall actually reprints some of the acrimonious correspondence that resulted from a final meeting between his son, his solicitor, and the acting proprietor of the Monthly Magazine in December 1825. Thelwall’s repeated references to “duty,” “honour,” “responsibility,” and “fulfillment,” “my correspondents,” and “my contributors” (PM 146) leave no doubt about his sense of injury and helplessness over the decisions taken at the Monthly Magazine and his self-justification in starting his own rival periodical with the same format and several of the same contributors.

4.        The contents of Thelwall’s Panoramic Miscellany correspond very closely to the regular contents of the Monthly Magazine as listed on its title page for 1825. These range from the current “Topic of the Month” to literature and the arts (“Philosophy of Contemporary Criticism,” “Poetry,” “Review of the New Music”), public education (“Proceedings of Learned Societies”), and routine departments (“List of Bankruptcies and Dividends,” “Report of the Weather,” “Domestic Occurrences,” etc.). Contributors who followed Thelwall to his new journalistic venture include Mary Russell Mitford, medical doctors James Field and H. Robertson, meteorologist James Tatem, and the authors of the five-part “Egyptian Zodiac” series and of “History of the Captivity of a Russian Officer among the Turks,” another piece that Thelwall had previously accepted for the Monthly Magazine (MM 60 [1825]: 384). Thelwall’s continuing goodwill toward his “old friend” Sir Richard Phillips, the founder of the Monthly, is evident in the special notice the Panoramic takes of Phillips’s new publication Golden Rules of Social Philosophy, to which Thelwall devotes a generously balanced review in the February issue while confessing perplexity with some of Phillips’s odder ideas, such as his vegetarianism and his infamous refusal to believe in the force of gravity (PM 235).

5.        In accordance with the journalistic practice of the time, nearly all the articles and items in the Panoramic Miscellany are unsigned or signed with obvious pseudonyms. This makes Thelwall’s deviations from the usual practice all the more revealing. Clear exceptions are the numerous headnotes and footnotes signed “Editor” or (occasionally) “J. Thelwall,” and the lectures on elocution included in most issues, each of which is identified in the title as “Mr. Thelwall’s Lecture.” Some of the “Original Poetry” is signed by Thelwall himself, and some of the regular pseudonyms used in the poetry department (“Ausonia,” for instance) seem to belong to him as well. He may also have followed the practice he used when editing The Champion a few years earlier, of including original and translated poetry that began as “school exercises of the pupils of his Institution for the Cure of Impediments” (Thelwall, Poetical Recreations 243). Other pieces likely written by Thelwall himself are a multi-part series on “The London University,” reports on public societies and educational institutions, articles on political economy, the three-part “Tour thro North Wales,” some of the regular features including the agricultural reports, and—significantly—the literary-critical articles. Foremost among his acknowledged contributions, however, are the leading articles that begin each issue, which are signed either with Thelwall’s name or with a coded symbol consisting of a triangle followed by three dots in the shape of a second triangle (Δ ). As elucidated in Thelwall’s lecture on “Elements of Prosody” in the May issue, these two signs represent the “Thesis and Arsis of human speech” (PM 636): a long/stressed syllable followed by a short/unstressed one. Rhythmically (as a trochaic foot) as well as phonetically (THesis + Arsis), they stand for “Thelwall.” After beginning to use this cipher as his signature for the leading article, Thelwall also signs some shorter items with it as well. Interestingly, too, most of the repeated pseudonyms under which other Panoramic articles appear fit the same trochaic pattern: “Civis,” “Cosmo,” “Thermes.”

6.         Apart from such clues, the only indicators as to what Thelwall did and didn’t write himself are his frequent editorial comments on individual articles and the “Notices to Correspondents” pages at the end of each issue, where he refers directly and (it appears) sincerely to articles contributed by other writers, although without naming any of these contributors. The rhetoric of editorial headnotes and footnotes sometimes implies that Thelwall is not the author of a given article—for instance, when a headnote obviously singles an article out for praise (presumably Thelwall would not introduce his own work to readers as “invaluable”), or, conversely, when he explicitly distances himself from the claims made in an article by adding a critical footnote. The running dialogue that he carries on with contributors on the pages of the Panoramic is, in fact, a characteristic and revealing aspect of Thelwall’s editorial practice, evident also in the issues of the Monthly Magazine that came out under his direction. Thelwall regards his editorial role as a sustained conversation with other writers and readers. The dialogic tone of his editorial interventions suggests that he places the periodical miscellany on the same continuum with oral media of communication such as public lectures, elocutionary training, and the educational institutions and debating clubs whose activities receive so much coverage in the Panoramic.

7.        A few collaborators and contributors are identifiable, including John Timbs (1801-1875)—antiquary, journalist, editor, and Richard Phillips’s secretary during his last years with the Monthly Magazine (Gibbs 386). But it is hard to tell with which sections Timbs assisted Thelwall, since they had equally wide-ranging and miscellaneous interests (not to mention the same initials). Mary Russell Mitford contributed one short story to each of the first three issues of the Panoramic under the signature “M.” James G. Tatem and the physician and medical lecturer James Field, respectively, continued to contribute meteorological and medical reports each month, as they had done for the Monthly Magazine. Nevertheless, not only does Thelwall seem to have produced an immense amount of copy for each 143-page issue of the Panoramic single-handedly, but his contributions seem to have increased as the magazine neared the end of its six-month run. Until April, he increasingly (and perhaps with increasing defensiveness?) refers to the overwhelming amount of material he has received from contributors, yet in the last (June) issue, which is also eight pages shorter than the others, there is little that can be reliably ascribed to writers other than Thelwall. Short of both contributors and readers, the Panoramic also suffered from the lack of a reliable technological infrastructure. Thelwall frequently apologizes to readers for errors in production: the hasty and disorganized printing of the first issue, a lost manuscript of music criticism, his inability to attend theatrical productions in person and the lack of a trusty reviewer to send in his place, multiple mix-ups at the printer’s. The inclusion of such references serves to give the editorial voice a certain conversational immediacy and even intimacy.

8.         In the competitive periodical market of the 1820s, Thelwall’s policy on paying—or rather not paying—for contributions differentiates the Panoramic from some of its major rivals. According to Mark Parker, during the 1820s payments to contributors per sixteen-page sheet were made “in a fairly tight range across the industry”; he cites per-sheet rates of twelve to sixteen guineas (12-13). The Panoramic confirms this pay scale with a rather arch mention in a regional report from Edinburgh that “Mr. C[onstable] is said to have paid Mr. Jeffery [sic] 700 £ for editing every number of the Edinburgh Review, and Sir J. Mackintosh and Mr. Brougham have sometimes received 100 £. each, for articles; and the lowest recompense for any contribution received and published, was 16 guineas per sheet” (PM 441). By contrast, Thelwall reacts with high-minded disdain to potential contributors who inquire how much his journal pays for contributions. “Poetry, in particular,” he huffs, “when it is such as we require, will generally be regarded by its authors as above pecuniary compensation; and as for Critics—so far from hiring anonymous criticism by the sheet, we will take care that the reputation of no literary work whatever shall, in our pages, be at the mercy of any censor whose honor we cannot depend upon” (PM 298). Only “authors of already established reputation” or those whose samples have passed a careful vetting might qualify for remuneration from him. Thelwall’s policy runs counter to standard industry practices, from the accepted pay scale to the near-universal habit of anonymous reviewing. While he may be making a virtue of necessity, by maintaining that poetry and criticism alike transcend commercial transactions Thelwall also sustains the image of his journal as free conversational exchange and promotes his vision of literary reviewing as a kind of honourable patronage that singles out worthy authors for non-pecuniary rewards and recognition.

9.        Like many other editors during the periodical-rich 1820s, Thelwall writes on the topic of periodical writing itself. His leading article in the inaugural issue of the Panoramic Miscellany bears a title that is a virtual thesis statement: “On the Connexion of Periodical Literature with the Moral and Intellectual Progress of Society” (PM 1). This lengthy editorial echoes the main goals articulated in the editorial preface of the first issue of the Monthly Magazine published by Richard Phillips and edited by John Aikin in February 1796. Their magazine was to “open new sources of entertainment and instruction for their readers,” to propagate liberal principles, to provide a forum for the “lighter exertions of learned and ingenious writers” and to publish genuinely good poetry—none of which was then being offered by other “Periodical Miscellanies” (MM 1 [1796]: iii-iv). Thelwall’s editorial statement of January 1826 re-affirms these goals by analyzing how periodicals like the Monthly have revolutionized print culture over the intervening thirty years. His defence of periodical literature links the proliferation of magazines during the 1820s to the “rapid march of mind” and the notable increase in refinement, morality, intelligence, and taste, especially among the middle classes. By contrast, only one generation earlier, middle-class tradesmen had eschewed literature and book-learning while they deemed card-playing and drinking more useful and acceptable recreations, and the only “wretched flimsy and ill written sixpenny magazines” that were then available were read by young women (PM 1). When periodicals like (Thelwall implies) the Monthly Magazine entered this unenlightened marketplace and addressed a large-scale, middle-class, predominantly male readership, they joined with the newly formed public societies for learning, mechanics’ institutes, and middle-class universities in a grand mission of public improvement that is, in 1826, still awaiting appropriate recognition: “Of the powerful influence of periodical literature in forwarding the progress of general intellect, and the necessity of its agency to the end proposed, there are few, perhaps, who, even yet, have formed a proper estimate” (PM 4). Thelwall refutes the idea that the brief information offered in miscellanies is superficial and displaces more profound scientific publications. Instead, he claims, accessible popular knowledge and serious research reciprocally support one another:

It is the business of the periodical essayist to remove this veil of mystery from science, to translate its revelations into familiar language, and dispense to those who have more of thirst, than leisure, or opportunity for acquisition, so much as they have time to receive, or are prepared to comprehend. Is this a task for superficial minds? (PM 5)
It is already evident from these opening pages of the Panoramic Miscellany why the aging Thelwall felt he had to find a way to continue the original mission of the Monthly Magazine. The Monthly’s aim to spread instructive and amusing information along with liberal principles has only gained in importance in the climate of heightened media awareness and “march of mind” that characterizes the 1820s, a climate that periodical literature itself has helped to form. Magazines, according to this mission statement, are as important an organ for contributing to the improvement of society as the public lecturing and elocutionary training with which the Panoramic goes hand in hand.

10.        Against the background of Thelwall’s attempt to sustain the Monthly Magazine’s original principles, however, the changes he does make stand out in greater relief. First of all, the Panoramic expands and highlights its national and international scope. Whereas the 1825 Monthly Magazine represents itself simply as published in London by “Geo. B. Whittaker,” the title page of the Panoramic Miscellany lists a much wider geographical range of establishments where it can be obtained, not only in London but in Glasgow, Paris, Boulogne-sur-Mer, and “all booksellers in town and country.” [3]  According to its title page, too, the Panoramic maintains a special commitment to “the Science and Literature of Italy.” Why? In the absence of further evidence that Thelwall became an Italophile later in his life or that he had a collaborator with special Italian interests, it looks very much like an attempt to make the Panoramic popular with readers (even if Thelwall’s opening editorial eschews “the cheap expedient of ministering to the caprice of fashion” [PM 3]). London in the mid-1820s saw a remarkable spike of interest in things Italian, documented for instance in rival publications such as Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine and Knight’s Quarterly. No doubt this interest was fuelled by the presence of a significant intellectual and artistic community of Italian expatriates exiled from Italy after 1820 due to the events of the early Risorgimento. The advertisement for Italian literature on the Panoramic’s title page is amply borne out by the “Letters on Italian Literature” included in each of the six issues, which are advertised as “Translated from original communications.” It is likely that Thelwall—or his wife Cecil—is at least the translator of these essays even if they originate from an Italian correspondent, perhaps a contact in the expatriate community. Moreover, the “Original Poetry” section often contains translations of Italian verse and other contributions with the by-line “Ausonia” (i.e., “Italy”). One of “Ausonia”’s contributions to the March issue, a “Sonnet to L.E.L.” that follows up Thelwall’s review of Letitia Landon’s poetry that appeared in the January issue, makes it very likely that Ausonia is either John or Cecil Thelwall.

11.         The Panoramic Miscellany also features expanded links to European culture through partnerships with French periodicals. Among the places where the magazine can be obtained, the Panoramic’s title page lists one foreign outlet: “the Bureau of the Revue Encyclopédique, Paris.” A consistent dialogue with the Revue Encyclopédique is evident throughout the Panoramic’s run. Most issues contain at least one article that is translated from the French journal. At the end of the April issue, Thelwall gratefully acknowledges a favourable notice of his Panoramic Miscellany in the Revue Encyclopédique, and reciprocates by calling the Revue “the first literary journal of Europe” (PM 586). In the January issue, Thelwall mentions an intended agreement with another new French journal, the Athénée Britannique (published in Paris and London), for “reciprocation of intelligence and communications” (PM 130), although there is no further evidence of how active this exchange turned out to be. The first issue of the Panoramic also received a favourable review in the London-based French-language periodical Le Mercure de Londres, as did Thelwall himself for being “l’un des hommes le plus recommandable que posséde [sic] l’Angleterre” (Mercure 1, no. 5 [25 March 1826]: 73).

12.         Favouring these Italian and French connections, the Panoramic maintains other international interests, regularly reviewing literature from across Europe and featuring articles on Spanish history and culture, Danish superstitions, the climate of France, new developments in engineering and statistical surveys throughout the world, and regular attention to India and Burma (the latter no doubt because of the ongoing Anglo-Burmese War). Revealingly, though, the Panoramic does not assume any knowledge of foreign languages on the part of its readers, but conscientiously provides English translations of every non-English text or phrase, however brief, that appears in its pages. This practice seems to reflect a dedication to accessibility and a target audience among male middle- and working-class readers who are not expected to have an education in either modern or classical languages.

13.        These international exchanges are one aspect of a dialogic orientation in Thelwall’s journalism that is worth exploring further in the context of the 1820s media environment. In his study Literary Magazines and British Romanticism, Mark Parker convincingly identifies fundamentally different orientations in some of the decade’s leading periodicals. He demonstrates, for instance, that the London Magazine manifests a “bias . . . toward representation” while Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine is biased “toward performance” (135). By comparison, the fundamental rhetorical bias of the Panoramic Miscellany seems best described as the pedagogical mode of lecture-discussion. When applied to Thelwall’s journalism, this means that he as editor persistently gestures toward conversational exchange with contributors, correspondents, and readers. Yet he maintains a controlling role in the conversation: his voice is that of the lecturer who initiates topics and frames the contributions of others by claiming the last word. Thelwall’s editorial stance thus differs from that of Phillips’s Monthly Magazine, which, as Jon Klancher writes, used the “‘original correspondence’ format” to “collect[ ] readers and writers as interchangeable participants” (39, italics added). It differs also from contemporaneous experiments with group or coterie publication, such as Blackwood’s or its London-based imitator, the short-lived Knight’s Quarterly. The Panoramic Miscellany offers an alternative model of unequal dialogue—not among a coterie of editors, writers, and readers, but between a pedagogically-inclined editor and his reader-learners.

14.        More than other magazines of the 1820s, the Panoramic Miscellany privileges the public lecture as a form of communication. Thelwall’s own lectures on elocution form the centerpiece of most of the issues. Several of the other articles in the Panoramic are printed versions of lectures delivered in London or elsewhere, and the “Proceedings of learned societies” section contains brief eyewitness reports of further lectures. Some of Thelwall’s articles, particularly his continuing series on “The London University,” include remarks on the practice of lecturing itself (e.g., PM 504-07). Thelwall is also in the habit of constructing his articles as responses to other people’s lectures or speeches. In the May and June issues, for instance, he prints long excerpts from “Mr. Jacob’s Report to the House of Commons, on the Trade in Foreign Corn” and develops his own counter-position in a passage-by-passage running commentary. Similarly, February’s leading article is a running commentary on a lecture recently delivered by Mr. Banks at the City and Western Institutions, and in March Thelwall follows the same practice with a lecture on geological phenomena that was delivered by Professor Brande at the Royal Institution. The editorials become dialogues between Thelwall and the lecturers, who are thereby put in the position of involuntary “contributors.” Thelwall’s frequent interventions as editor of articles by voluntary contributors to the Panoramic work the same way. He carries on a dialogue with other writers in footnotes or endnotes to their articles, in editorial comments that are often rather patronizing. The conversational tone of Thelwall’s periodical writing is also evident in the responsive relationship between letters from contributors and the editor’s replies, and in the editor’s direct address to contributors on the “Notices to Correspondents” page at the end of each issue.

15.        In the pages of the Panoramic, Thelwall resorts to a variety of tactics for trying to provoke debate. He includes brief queries on etymological questions—asking about the origin of the terms “Grub Street” or “John Bull,” for instance—that solicit involvement from readers. These queries of a few lines in length also mark an increasing tendency after the first issue—once Thelwall presumably got some of his initial technical problems under control—to fill in blank space after a regular article with a tiny interrogative, humorous, or thought-provoking item, then begin the next feature article at the top of a new page. In the March issue, such interpolated questions become more philosophical: “What is eloquence?” (PM 315), “What are metaphysics?” (PM 374), “What is time?” (PM 306). The last of these queries also marks the beginning of a new mini-series consisting of brief items with the by-line “From the Manuscript Sketches of a Correspondent.” It is tempting to identify the “Correspondent” responsible for these intriguing sketches as Thelwall himself, for they reflect his lifelong interests in language, acting and the theatre, pedantry, and imagination—although, when one such item promotes “a little opium” as an aid to imagination, Thelwall appends a disapproving editorial response in defence of sober genius (PM 761).

16.        Another variant on the lecture-discussion mode appears in Thelwall’s literary criticism and reviewing, and here the Panoramic Miscellany sets itself apart from rival magazines. The individual book reviews in the Panoramic’s long “Review of Literature” department are completely unsystematic and vary widely in length. They clearly reflect Thelwall’s own interests; for instance, reviews of fiction and poetry are likely to highlight linguistic and metrical aspects, and substantial column inches are devoted to books on language itself, such as dictionaries, grammars, and philological works. In contrast to the reviewing style that was nearly ubiquitous in periodicals from the Edinburgh Review to the European Magazine, where reviews included lengthy quotations from the primary work, Thelwall quotes minimally and instead offers his own evaluation. This can range from long, section-by-section commentary on books that particularly engage his interest to a brief overview paragraph of ones he considers worthy of notice but lacks time or linguistic abilities to review in detail (for instance, books in German). Also interesting is the gender perspective of Thelwall’s reviewing and literary criticism. Among the books he singles out for unusually lengthy treatment are publications by prominent women writers: Letitia Landon’s The Troubadour (PM 74-82), Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (PM 380-86), and Joanna Baillie’s The Martyr (PM 665-68). Elsewhere in the Panoramic, too, Thelwall explicitly promotes his own reputation as a fair and well-inclined reviewer of women’s literature. In addition to his characteristic mode of biased dialogue with male contributors, lecturers, or treatise-writers, there is a more deliberately pedagogical mode of lecturing to younger female writers, who are nevertheless treated with notable seriousness and respect.

17.         But the most striking reflection on gender relations in the Panoramic Miscellany is the short poem “To Maga” that appeared in the first issue, signed “J.T.” and evidently addressed to the Monthly Magazine. In an extended metaphor, Thelwall figures this magazine as a beloved woman that he longed to make his own even though she remained for thirty years “in other arms,” then was “resigned . . . to shame” and almost ruined (i.e., when Phillips sold “Maga” in 1824), yet unexpectedly given over by “chance” to Thelwall’s loving care (when he assumed editorial responsibilities for the Monthly). Ignoring Thelwall’s tireless efforts to restore “Maga,” however, her new owners tear her from his arms, and he laments that she will now end up completely degraded:

They’ll deck thee out in trim array,
More gaudy to the eye;
But steal the inward worth away
That did thy charms supply. (PM 84)
Thelwall says farewell to the Monthly as he turns to “another love . . . To whom I’ll father-lover prove”—i.e., the Panoramic Miscellany. Here, in lyric form, Thelwall’s emotional commitment to the Monthly and its original values meets his judgment on early nineteenth-century print culture: running after “trim” and “gaudy” publications, the periodical press of the 1820s risks abandoning the ethics of public education and diffusion of knowledge that motivated Thelwall’s own journalism since the 1790s.

18.        The dedication “To Maga” remains odd, though, and not just because of the inherent strangeness of figuring a magazine as the object of erotic desire. Denominating the Monthly with the feminine-sounding name “Maga” allows the conceit to work (more or less). Yet “Maga” must have been familiar to Thelwall and everyone else as the nickname, not of the Monthly, but of another publication entirely: Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. Throughout the 1820s, Blackwood’s best-known contributor “Christopher North” used the feminine associations of “Maga” to figure his magazine sometimes as a coquette, sometimes as a virtuous woman. [4]  Why does Thelwall make use of an image and a name that would inevitably remind readers of a “trim,” “gaudy,” fashionable publication seemingly contrary to his own principles? Paradoxes like these in the Panoramic Miscellany suggest the challenges Thelwall faced in launching a publication that would fulfill his long-standing aims yet be viable in the 1820s marketplace.

19.        For his new love, Thelwall chose a title that married the well-established eighteenth-century designation “Miscellany” with the new nineteenth-century adjective “Panoramic.” First recorded by the OED in 1813, “panoramic” did not gain its abstract meaning of “universal” until after Thelwall’s lifetime. In the minds of his readers in the 1820s, it might have conjured up recollections of another recently defunct publication, the Literary Panorama (1806-1819), but also direct associations with panoramas and other very current visual media. Like virtually all literary-cultural magazines of its day, the Panoramic Miscellany includes reports about the new visual entertainments in London, particularly the Diorama (PM 252, 396-97), the Cosmorama, and the Poecilorama—a “variously coloured,” supposedly time-travelling exhibit at the Egyptian Hall (PM 397, 445). The link between these “-ramas” and the title of Thelwall’s magazine is made explicit in the April issue when a correspondent writes in as “John Bull” expressing appreciation for the Poecilorama, but ridiculing its pretentious Greek name. “John Bull” notes that Thelwall himself appears to share the “Greek mania” that led him to use the “scrap of every day Greek ‘Panoramic’” on his title page rather than calling his journal, in plain English, “Thelwall’s Monthly Magazine” (PM 486). In a good-natured response, Thelwall concedes the point. But he consoles his “bluff correspondent”—and puts in a brief marketing plug—by noting that anyone who prefers asking at his local bookseller’s for “Thelwall’s Monthly Magazine” will surely be put in possession of the publication he desires. Still, the reference in Thelwall’s title to the very current visual medium of the 1820s, the panorama, seems indicative of his engagement with another live experiential medium of the 1820s, the public lecture, which continues to stand at the centre of his commitment to rational communication, education, and public engagement.

Works Cited

Carnall, Geoffrey. “The Monthly Magazine.” Review of English Studies ns 5 (1954): 158-64. Print.

Gibbs, Warren E. “John Thelwall and the Panoramic Miscellany.” Notes & Queries 155 (1928): 386. Print.

Klancher, Jon P. The Making of English Reading Audiences, 1790-1832. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1987. Print.

The Panoramic Miscellany 1 (January-June 1826). Print.

Parker, Mark. Literary Magazines and British Romanticism. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. Print.

Thelwall, John. The Poetical Recreations of The Champion, and His Literary Correspondents; with a selection of essays, literary & critical, which have appeared in the Champion newspaper. London, 1822. Print.

---. Selected Political Writings of John Thelwall. Ed. Robert Lamb and Corinna Wagner. 4 vols. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2009. Print.

[1] See, for instance, Thelwall’s remarks on the medical article “Distortions of the Spine” (PM 50-54) and on his own extended review of “The Poetry of Miss Landen [sic]” (PM 74-82). Since the single six-issue volume of the Panoramic Miscellany uses consecutive page numbering throughout, references in the present essay are given by the abbreviation PM and page numbers only. BACK

[2] Nevertheless, Hints on the Impressment of Seamen, by a Commander of the Royal Navy, did appear in another form: as a two-shilling pamphlet published in 1827. BACK

[3] Judith Thompson (in private e-mail correspondence) has identified Thelwall’s primary contacts in these locations as friends who hosted him in Glasgow in 1804; Maury Duval, the proprietor of the Dépôt Bibliographique, whom he visited more than once in Paris; and his wife Cecil’s sister in Boulogne-sur-Mer. My thanks also to Judith Thompson for information about Cecil Thelwall’s likely knowledge of Italian. BACK

[4] An instance that precedes Thelwall’s “To Maga” is the editor Christopher North’s “An Hour’s Tete-a-Tete” in Blackwood’s 8 (February 1820): 78-105; another example appears in “Notices to Correspondents,” Blackwood’s 28 (July 1830): 136-44. My thanks to Chris Lendrum for drawing my attention to these passages. BACK

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September 2011