Wednesday, May 24, 2017

304. The Earliest Review of The Dial No 1?

As a curator in a national library I see how much research profits from digitization projects on a national scale, as long as the data are in open access. The British Library gives access to hundreds of newspaper pages, and it is worthwhile to repeatedly conduct searches in the online files.

Take a question such as: what was the earliest review of Ricketts's and Shannon's magazine The Dial that was published in August 1889?

Most researchers can't spend months on end leafing through old newspapers, even if allowed to do so by the wary librarians who see the pages crumble when touched. In the past, scholars took their refuge to references in later publications. The announcement of the second issue of The Dial, for example, lists seven quotes under the caption 'Some Press Cuttings', some positive, some negative.

Announcement of The Dial, No. 2 (1892)
In studies about The Dial, these quotes find their way, and serious scholars have, on the basis of the announcement, found the original reviews, and their dates of publication. The earliest one, I have seen quoted, appeared in The Pall Mall Gazette of 24 August 1889. The copy of the first issue of The Dial in the British Library collection has a slightly earlier date-stamp: 21 August.

It now turns out, that an earlier review was published on the basis of an 'advance copy'. This review was published in The Glasgow Herald of 17 August 1889.

It is a hesitantly positive review: 

One must go back to “The Germ”, with its band of ardent young Pre-Raphaelites, to parallel a venture so unique and individual as “The Dial,” of which an advance copy lies before me. This sumptuously produced quarto emanates from The Vale, Chelsea, heretofore the residence of Mr Whistler, where its co-editors, Charles H. Shannon and C.S. Ricketts, now reside. It is a periodical quarto in size, and illustrated with lavish outlay, with designs in colours and black and white. The editors’ “apology” explains the position adopted by its projectors, who say, “The sole aim of this magazine is to gain sympathy with its views. [...]. 

The reviewer then quotes in full the 'Apology' that Ricketts and Shannon had printed on the last page.

'Apology' by the editors, The Dial (1889)

The review then continues to say:

The whole of the designs and texts are the work of the editors, with two other contributors, and are singularly novel in idea and conception. While obviously influenced by such different masters as Rossetti, Millais (in early black and white work), Willette and Puvis de Chavannes, there is a distinct quality unlike these, or, indeed, any other decorative artist, throughout the work. The influence of the latest French mood in letters and art is as evident as that of the early Italians and their followers. Among the many full-page plates that adorn the first number, one in colours and gold illustrating “The Great Worm and a very beautifully wrought “Circe,” both by C.H. Shannon – may be specially noticed.

A small mistake: the colour illustration for “The Great Worm” was by Ricketts.

The articles include a delightful rhapsody on Puvis de Chavanni [sic], another on the Goncourts, and a series of “Sensations.” This feature is probably without parallel in any kindred enterprise. The cost of the magazine is 7s 6d.

This doesn't change the actual date of publication, but from it, we may assume that the number must have been for sale around 17 August.

Ricketts and Shannon didn't quote from this review; they may have missed it, although they personally must have send the advance copy to the newspaper.