William Hone and the Reading Public, 1825-26

Issue: Vol 4, No 1: Summer 2012
Pages: 8-26
Author(s): Lucy Hodgetts (University of York)
Citation: http://www.victoriannetwork.org/index.php/vn/article/view/29

Abstract

This article will offer a detailed understanding of the cultural, literary and political space occupied by William Hone’s popular anthology The Every-Day Book (1825-26) within the literary marketplace of the early nineteenth-century. I will be focusing on aspects of The Every-Day Book which contribute to Hone’s notion of “the people” as a political and commercial entity, beginning by outlining the diverse literary attitudes towards the growth of the reading public at this time. The article will go on to explain Hone’s attempts to combat this tension with his own egalitarian definition of the common readership and its new commercial and political character. I will detail the journalistic methods of compilation and circulation which Hone exploited in order to anchor his anthology within the tradition of print publication. The article also aims to open up a new critical discourse on literary consumption by considering pre-Victorian figures such as Hone alongside later chroniclers of popular culture, whilst also giving credence to the anthology in its own right. Comparing accounts of Greenwich Fair by Hone and Dickens will illuminate a topography of influence across the period. I also address the dearth of material on Hone’s antiquarian endeavours. Critical interest in radical literary culture has surged in recent years, but there is little attempt to address the broader implications of the radical underpinnings of Hone’s later work. This article aims to elevate The Every-Day Book beyond its current status as a footnote in literary history.



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