I’m delving into my archive of 40,000 magazine images to show what publishers have been producing in the month of February over the past 150 years. It runs the gamut from Dickens’ Boz to Oz, from Good Housekeeping to Sublime, from Madonna to green jelly.
Today, it’s some pages from the second issue of Bentley’s Miscellany from 1837. The February issue marked the publication of the first part of Oliver Twist, a serial that was published in Bentley’s until April 1839. Charles Dickens was the first editor of Bentley’s and filled it with stories, poetry, humour and gossip (though he would ‘have nothing to do with politics’).
Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, or, The Parish Boy’s Progress, under his pseudonym, Boz, and each issue was illustrated with an engraving by George Cruikshank. The first image was of the scene where Oliver asks for more gruel.
Note that this was not the serialisation of a book that had already been written or published. Dickens started writing Oliver Twist as it went along. At the end of each year, the issues were collated and bound in one volume. The covers – then called wrappers – and advertising pages were discarded and a title page and index of the year’s articles added.
The whole of Oliver Twist was published as a three-volume book in 1838 by Richard Bentley, the magazine’s owner.
Dickens resigned from the post after two years, and struck up a publishing relationship with Bradbury & Evans, the publishers of Punch. Bentley’s continued until 1868.
Oliver Twist was not the first example of the prolific Dickens’ work in magazines. His stories had already been published in Monthly Magazine, the Morning Chronicle newspaper and other periodicals. His first published work was A Dinner at Poplar Walk in Monthly Magazine in December 1833. This was republished as Mr Minns and His Cousin along with other early stories in a serial starting on 8 February 1836, and in an 1839 single volume, Sketches by Boz.
After Bentley’s, the next main vehicle for Dickens was Master Humphrey’s Clock, a weekly that he edited and wrote himself for 18 months in 1840 and 1841. He then became the publisher, editor, and main writer for Household Words (1850–1859, Bradbury & Evans) and All the Year Round (1858–1870, Chapman & Hall). The latter was founded after he fell out with Bradbury & Evans and was ‘conducted’ by Dickens.
Dickens left All the Year Round to his eldest son Charles Dickens, Jr. Mary Dickens also contributed to this and it continued until 1895.
Dickens’ friend and agent John Forster inherited the original manuscripts of nearly all of his novels, as well corrected proofs. These are now held by in the Forster Collection of the National Art Library at the V&A Museum. I show some of these in my book, A History of British Magazine Design.
To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design