Paterfamilias. Good evening, my energetic friend. So you are about editing a new penny publication. Well, there may be room; but I have a certain curiosity as to the grounds on which you anticipate success when so many are making the most frantic attempts to increase their circulation. What sympathies do you aim at enlisting? What void are you undertaking to fill up?

Ed. (drily.) I always hear those two phrases with suspicion. The first reminds me of a Society for Inducing Cannibals to Use Knives and Forks: the second, of those lunatics who are always manufacturing tons of waste paper to supply the omissions bequeathed by Solomon and the other old sages.

Pater. Well, to be more definite: you will cater largely in the "fiction" way. Now, what will be the nature of your Romances? Will they be all milk or of a more ensanguined colour?

Ed. Something in between--say, coleur de rose.

Pater. Yes, but will they be sensational?

Ed. You mention that word in a tone of alarm. Now, I am happy to say that those romances which rake up the gutter of human depravity are a commercial mistake. Their hideous portraits repel most readers, and, though some of our country cousins may feel qualmish at the horrors depicted, they need only to listen to the horse-laugh of a London boy on perusing the same adventures. But, if you ask me whether our tales will bristle with incident, curl round the reader, and drag him along with them, I answer that we will use any known recipe for affecting that object. You must not be deluded by a cuckoo cry. The most "correct" magazines endeavour to be sensational. You will see a tenderly devout article by a canon of the Church at page 10, and a learned treatise on the aurora borealis at page 20, but they take care to insert a relishing sensational novel between them!

Then as to Useful Information. Are the matrons to be told a worse way of managing their households, or of cooking a leg of mutton?

Ed. No: the press has already done its worst in that line; but I fancy the best cooks and housewives keep the art to themselves, for it never appears in print. However, if we come across any useful suggestion, we shall record it for the benefit of those who might have better food, raiment, and lodging without the expenditure of one more shilling.

Pater. What sort of stuff will you put into your Topographical articles? Will they be mere mash-ups from the old Penny Magazines?

Ed. No: they will be mostly written by eye-witnesses of the scenes they describe, and to any one who has worked at the grindstone all his life will afford graphic illustrations of Men and Things at Home and Abroad.

Pater. Then as to Jokes: will they be original or select?

Ed. We have, regardless of expense, engaged a real live wag, who will always be retained upon the establishment, but liable to fearful penalties if he is not funny at a moment's notice. Him I call Our Invalid, for he will never be cured: but we also have Two Amphitryons, who occasionally show symptoms that are only relieved by a plunge into the comic element.

Pater. Then there is another ill-cultivated space. Look at the Correspondence page. It is a perfect wilderness--full of great bores. What if Annie is pretty, has flaxen hair, and is waiting for an offer? Do you think I would let my girls hawk themselves about for before the 500,000 readers of a penny pub.? Then, again, there is the male atrocity. Only imagine a Scottish clergyman with £40 a year parading his desolate heart and empty pockets before the same fluttering audience!* Worst of all, perhaps, is that abominable fellow with pimples, putting all sorts of questions when apothecaries are hanging out at every corner with red signal-lights for the guidance of the afflicted.

Ed. Stop, my friend: you are fighting with a shadow. There are plenty of charming Annies, and by a rare chance you may find a clerical gentleman wanting a wife with money; but these answers to Correspondents are mostly written by an intellectual boy at eighteen shillings a week, and he writes the questions, too!

[Exit Paterfamilias, apparently satisfied, but, we should say, resolved to keep an eye upon the London Miscellany. We shall try to stand well with Paterfamilias.]

*For this piece of impertinence see a recent number of one of our most respectable confrères.

Published @ COVE

August 2021