The paradox of a periodical: Temple Bar under the editorship of George Augustus Sala (1860-1863)

Peter Blake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The success of William Thackeray’s shilling monthly periodical, The Cornhill Magazine, which first appeared in 1859, spawned a series of imitators in the 1860s with titles drawn from London landmarks. Temple Bar, St Paul’s, Belgravia and St James’s all attempted to court the same metropolitan middle-class family readership that Thackeray had enjoyed with his inclusion of apolitical and non-controversial articles, serialized novels, and poetry. The editor of Temple Bar, George Augustus Sala — one of Dickens’s ‘Young Men’ — promised in the prospectus that his periodical would be ‘full of solid yet entertaining matter, that shall be interesting to Englishmen and Englishwomen . . . and that Filia-familias may read with as much gratification as Pater or Mater-familias’. But, paradoxically, Sala decided to surround himself with a team of contributors hand-picked from his own bohemian circle, London journalists whose political and social outlook were at odds with those of a family readership. This article will argue that Sala, along with sub-editor Edmund Yates and publisher John Maxwell, deliberately and cynically packed the first edition of Temple Bar with material designed to ensnare a ‘respectable’ middle-class family readership. With selective anonymity and a serialized novel later described by Yates as ‘Trollope-and-milk’, along with articles of a conservative and London-centric nature, 30,000 copies of the first edition were sold. Once this readership had been established, the editorial team began to introduce content of a more liberal nature. Serialized sensation novels, such as Sala’s Seven Sons Of Mammon and Mary Braddon’s Aurora Floyd, attacked the dominance of the domestic realist novel, while hard-hitting articles and poems alerted readers to the misery and poverty to be found on the streets of London. Sala slowly created a periodical that, for a time at least, was the most unconventional of the shilling monthlies. This article will reveal the difficulties and subtleties involved in creating a brand personality for a monthly periodical, and by doing so will highlight the complex relationships that existed between nineteenth-century London journalists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-209
Number of pages25
JournalThe London Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010


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