Purpose and Features of the Quarterly Review Archive - Introduction to the Website

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Quarterly Review Archive

Purpose and Features
of the Quarterly Review Archive

A Celebration of the Murray Archives
With the imminent sale of the Murray Archives (one hopes to the National Library of Scotland, as planned), it is fitting to point out that the Quarterly Review Archive is, essentially, a celebration of that wonderful repository. The great majority of the documents cited or quoted in the over 250,000 words of this website are from Murray's. The editor and the users of this site owe a debt of gratitude to the Murray family for preserving over a period of 200-odd years—and for providing generous access to—what is by any measure an extraordinary national treasure, the record of an illustrious publishing house's negotiations with a panoply of authors great and small.


Original Attributions of Authorship
The main purpose of this website is to publish original attributions of authorship of unsigned articles in the Quarterly Review for the period 1809-24 and to be an accessible archive of primary source material on the journal.

Articles in the Quarterly, as was the custom for literary-political reviews at the time, were published unsigned. Discovering the identities of the journal's writers has involved four separate groups or individuals:

  • John Murray III who, in the mid-nineteenth century, recorded his researches into his company's archives in what is now called his "Register"
  • Hill Shine and Helen Chadwick Shine in the late 1940s, who depended largely upon Murray's "Register" and published their work in The Quarterly Review Under Gifford: Identification of Contributors 1809-1824 (1949)
  • The editors of The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals Volume I (1967), who also depended largely upon Murray's "Register"
  • And the present writer, most of whose work appeared in three articles in Victorian Periodicals Review (24:3; 27:4; 28:4). Readers who are interested in full details of how and why the present effort came about may consult in particular my "Wellesley Index I's Quarterly Review Identifications: Was the Murray Register a Reliable Source?" (VPR 27.4:294-299). A considerable amount of new material that may be of interest to scholars is published for the first time in this website's index pages. In preparing my work I have attempted to make use of all available primary and secondary sources (concerning which, please see the acknowledgements page and the primary sources bibliography; secondary sources are pointed to in the Shine volume and, supplementary to Shine, in the notes on this website).

The Shine volume (The Quarterly Review Under Gifford), to which scholars most often refer as an authority in the matter of Quarterly Review attributions, reflects the best information available at the time of its publication (1949). The Shines' claim to have identified authors for almost 90 per cent of the articles published under Gifford is not accurate. Fully 60 per cent of the attributions in Shine are unsupported by evidence or offer evidence that is unconvincing; a few of the attributions in Shine are incorrect. Much of the work in Shine is in fact a transcript of the original investigations of John Murray III. Murray's attributions, recorded in an unpublished manuscript the Shine volume designates as the "Register," have turned out to be generally reliable, but a majority of the Register's attributions are not backed by evidence. Despite this lack of evidence, the Shine volume more often than not accepts the Register's attributions at face value.

When I set out to write a history of the Quarterly Review, I soon realized that the work could not proceed until the inadequacies of the Shine volume were rectified. In order to secure the scholarly reliability of John Murray III's work, and to extend it, I therefore undertook to reinvestigate all of Murray's sources, and then some. As a result, of the 733 articles published during Gifford's tenure the authors of 706 have now been identified. (Some of these attributions, lamentably, must be designated "probably" while a few, on the lowest rung of certainty, are designated "possibly".) Of the 77 articles the Shine volume lists as unattributed, fewer than 25 remain for which no suggestion of authorship can be made.

On the question of assigning authorship, I hold views similar to those of P. N. Furbank and W. R. Owens, Defoe scholars: "there is something unsatisfactory in works being attributed to an author ... on internal evidence alone. It is not till there is some scrap of external evidence present that internal evidence comes into its own." The editors of the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals thought so too, until they discovered that stylistic or internal evidence, when used by knowledgeable investigators, can yield excellent results. Still, in the absence of external evidence, regardless of how certain the individual scholar may be that he or she recognizes the mark of an author in a work, others have a right to be less than certain. Consequently, I agree with Furbank and Owens that, with rare exceptions, attributions based on internal evidence can at best be considered "probable". In the early Quarterly the exception, to my mind, is John Barrow, who by design left clear signs of his authorship. Against intuition, it is also possible for objective evidence to mislead, or appear to, and I have tried to be cognisant of that weighing evidence. Ultimately, each reader of the evidence will have to form his or her own judgment.

Complete index to the Quarterly Review 1809-1824
The 61 index pages posted on this website provide voluminous information on each of the 733 articles published in the Quarterly Review under the editorship of William Gifford. In these index pages, users will find attributions of authorship and never-before-published information on the publishing history of each article.

Structure of entries in the index pages


There is one index page for each Number of the review in the period 1809 to 1824. For each Number the following information is supplied:

  1. Volume and issue numbers. Publication date as indicated on the Number's or Volume's title page
  2. Extensive notes on the Number as a whole appear at the head of each Index page
    • If available, information about number of copies printed and sales
    • Again, if available, information about cancelled or rejected articles
    • For the first Number in a given year a listing of key British and world events, with an emphasis on politics and literature
  3. This note establishes the actual publication date of the Number. In many cases the real publication date differs from the publication date that appears on the title page (concerning this, see the essay on Publication Dates)
  4. Following the head note to each Number are entries for each of the articles in the Number. Each entry is introduced with basic identifying information, as follows
    • Article serial number inherited from Shine, The Quarterly Review Under Gifford (1949)
    • Article number as indicated in the Number
    • Full titles of the volumes under review
    • The article's inclusive page numbers
    • The article's author as established through original research. The following conventions are used to indicate the article's primary author or authors and sub-editorial contributions. The article's primary author is indicated first, in bold. The conjunction 'and' indicates multiple primary authors, as in 'George Ellis and George Canning'. The preposition 'with' indicates the article's sub-editor or minor collaborators, including persons who merely supplied materials. Less than certain author attributions are indicated as 'probable' or 'possible', depending upon the strength of the evidence. The degree of certainty assigned to each attribution represents an assessment by the present writer of the objective evidence presented in the Index pages.
    • The article's running title
  5. Next, for each article Notes are provided, arranged as follows:
    • The Shines' evidence in favour of the attribution is supplied and commented upon by the present writer. For abbreviations the reader is invited to consult the Shine volume. Some additional abbreviations are identified in a popup window that can be opened from a link in the Index pages
    • Evidence supplied by the present writer follows. This evidence is based on original research. The evidence may support, supersede, or qualify the attribution in Shine or it may establish a wholly new attribution. These notes extend our understanding of the complex editorial life of the Quarterly Review. Information in these notes clarifies author attribution and supplies details about the article's publishing history. The information in many cases identifies the article's sub-editor and the often-complex negotiations between the editor, the publisher, and the article's contributor.
    • Also original to this website are exact transcriptions of the entries in the so-called Murray Register and JM II's notations in his marked run of the Quarterly Review preserved at John Murray

As finding aids, the site provides

  • a bibliography of authors' contributions arranged alphabetically
  • a handlist of attributions arranged by article serial number. Also indicated in this handlist are attributions that are original to the present writer or that have been modified by him as compared with the entries in the Shine volume
  • a Search function, by which the user can search across the site or within one of the site's main elements

An archive of primary resources
The site provides annotated transcripts of a number of contemporary letters, including letters of John Murray to his wife Annie and 43 letters of the editor, William Gifford, to an important contributor, Edward Copleston.

Additional features
In addition to these major features, the site also includes

  • A bibliography of contemporary published responses to articles that appeared in the Quarterly Review
  • Sales figures for the first fifteen issues of the Quarterly Review. These sales figures are incorporated in head notes to the Index pages.
  • John Murray III's notes prospective to a history of the Quarterly. In the mid-1840s, John Murray III projected a history of the Quarterly Review. In preparing his history he took notes from letters in his company's archives.
  • Transcription of JM II's 1808 planning notes. In late 1808 and early 1809, JM II kept planning notes in a memorandum book that has miraculously survived. This remarkable document lists prospective contributors and supporters, it identifies early articles under consideration by the publisher, and it records Murray's thoughts on what we would now call his marketing strategy and audience evaluation.
  • Life dates of the Quarterly's main contributors and supporters. The graphic illustrates that the work of three generations defined the journal under the editorship of William Gifford
  • The Quarterly's publication dates. The Quarterly Review seldom appeared on the date promised to booksellers and subscribers. For that reason the title page date tends not to correspond with the date the Number actually appeared. Although advertised as a quarterly, fifty per cent of the time during William Gifford's tenure as editor the journal appeared less than four times a year. An essay discusses the significance of this phenomenon. A table lists title page dates and actual publication dates. The table is essential to a proper reading of primary sources.
  • A Chronology of the founding of the Quarterly Review. The story of the founding of the Quarterly Review has never been fully and accurately told; the exact circumstances of John Murray's early discussions with Walter Scott, George Canning, William Gifford, Robert Southey, George Ellis, and James Ballantyne have never been properly traced. Examination of letters at John Murray publishers, the National Library of Scotland, and elsewhere, provide a view of each man's motives and interests in founding the journal. The chronology outlines the main events and includes some information never before published.

Citing the Quarterly Review Archive
Any published use of information from the Quarterly Review Archive should be properly cited. Please consult the Conditions of Use statement.

Published @ RC

February 2005

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