Sale Of Magazines
Sir John Hawkins, in his "Memoirs of Johnson," ascribes the decline of
literature to the ascendancy of frivolous Magazines, between the years
1740 and 1760. He says that they render smatterers conceited, and confer
the superficial glitter of knowledge instead of its substance.
Sir Richard Phillips, upwards of forty years a publisher, gives the
following evidence as to the sale of the Magazines in his time:--
"For my own part, I know that in 1790, and for many years previously,
there were sold of the trifle called the Town and Country Magazine,
full 15,000 copies per month; and, of another, the Ladies' Magazine,
from 16,000 to 22,000. Such circumstances were, therefore, calculated to
draw forth the observations of Hawkins. The Gentleman's Magazine, in
its days of popular extracts, never rose above 10,000; after it became
more decidedly antiquarian, it fell in sale, and continued for many
years at 3000.
"The veriest trifles, and only such, move the mass of minds which
compose the public. The sale of the Town and Country Magazine was
created by a fictitious article, called Bon-Ton, in which were given
the pretended amours of two personages, imagined to be real, with two
sham portraits. The idea was conceived, and, for above twenty years,
was executed by Count Carraccioli; but, on his death, about 1792,
the article lost its spirit, and within seven years the magazine was
discontinued. The Ladies' Magazine was, in like manner, sustained by
love-tales and its low price of sixpence, which, till after 1790, was
the general price of magazines."
Things have now taken a turn unlooked for in those days. The price of
most magazines, it is true, is still more than sixpence--usually a
shilling, and at that price the Cornhill in some months reached an
impression of 120,000; but the circulation of Good Words, at sixpence,
has touched 180,000, and continues, we believe, to be over 100,000.
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