The Nineteenth Century (periodical)


Front Cover of the magazine in September 1905, featuring the Janus-symbol adopted after 1901

The Nineteenth Century was a British monthly literary magazine founded in 1877 by James Knowles. It is regarded by historians as 'one of the most important and distinguished monthlies of serious thought in the last quarter of the nineteenth century'.[1]

Editorial Policy

The magazine was designed as an 'utterly impartial' forum for debate and discussion among leading intellectuals.[2] Many of the early supporters and contributors to The Nineteenth Century were members of the Metaphysical Society, of which Knowles had been secretary. The first issue, for example, contained pieces by former Society members Lord Tennyson, William Gladstone and Cardinal Manning.[3] It quickly became one of the most successful literary magazines in Britain, selling over 20,000 copies a month by early 1878.[4]

An important part of the magazine's success was its regular 'Modern Symposium' section.[5] This offered a series of essays and responses from different authors on subjects such as science or religion, collected together and published as a single structured debate. In this way the magazine quickly gained a reputation as a responsive forum where its contributors were given freedom to disagree without editorial interference.[6] However, the magazine's focus on publishing established literary figures meant that it often excluded younger or unknown writers.[7] Although it generally lived up to its reputation as a 'neutral ground', the magazine did at times abandon impartiality to support positions dear to Knowles himself.[8] For example, it was famously at the forefront of the campaign to prevent the building of a Channel Tunnel between Britain and France in 1882.[9]

The Nineteenth Century and After

In 1901 the title was changed to The Nineteenth Century and After. To emphasise this change, a two-headed Janus-symbol of an old man and a young woman (the former representing the nineteenth century and the latter the twentieth) was added to the cover.[10] Knowles was prevented from simply renaming it The Twentieth Century because the copyright to that name was already owned by someone else, who allegedly demanded a ransom for the rights to use it.[11][12]

Knowles remained editor until his death, in 1908.[13] During the twentieth century the magazine became more politically right-wing.[14]

The magazine's title was finally changed to The Twentieth Century in 1951; it ceased publication in 1968.[15][16]


1877-1908 - James Thomas Knowles
1908-1919 - William Wray Skilbeck[17]
1919-1925 - George A.B. Dewar[18]
1925-1930 - Carrol Romer[19]
1930-1934 - Charles Reginald Schiller Harris[20]
1934-1938 - Arnold Wilson[21]
1938-1946 - Frederick Augustus Voigt[22]
1947-1952 - Michael Goodwin[23]
1952-195? - Bernard Wall[24]

During the magazine's final years it was run 'on a voluntary basis' by an editorial board chaired by Eirene Skilbeck, daughter of William Skilbeck and granddaughter of James Knowles.[25]


  1. ^ Brake, Laurel; Demoor, Marysa (2009). Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Academia Press. p. 456.
  2. ^ Metcalf, Priscilla (1980). James Knowles: Victorian Editor and Architect. Oxford University Press. p. 273.
  3. ^ Metcalf, Knowles, pp. 279-280
  4. ^ Metcalf, Knowles, p. 281
  5. ^ Small, Helen, 'Liberal Editing in the Fortnightly Review and the Nineteenth Century', in Kyriaki Hadjiafxendi and Polina Mackay (eds.) Authorship in Context: From the Theoretical to the Material, Palgrave, 2009, pp. 56-71 (p.67)
  6. ^ Brake and Demoor, Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism, p. 456
  7. ^ Small, 'Liberal Editing', pp. 56, 71
  8. ^ Metcalf, Knowles, p. 295
  9. ^ Wilson, Keith (1994). Channel Tunnel Visions, 1850-1945. Hambledon Press. p. 39.
  10. ^ Metcalf, Knowles, p. 348
  11. ^ Clarke, Arthur C. (1990). Astounding Days: A Science Fictional Autobiography (1st ed.). New York, NY: Bantam Books. p. 56. ISBN 0-553-34822-1.
  12. ^ Metcalf, Knowles, p. 348
  13. ^ Lee, Sidney (1912). "Knowles, James Thomas" . Dictionary of National Biography (2nd supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  14. ^ The magazine is described as 'conservative' by Markus Huttner: 'Voigt, Frederick Augustus', ODNB (Oxford University Press, 2004); online edn, Jan 2008. Accessed 13 June 2021.
  15. ^ Brake and Demoor, Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism, p. 456
  16. ^ "The Twentieth Century". Library Hub Discover. Jisc. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  17. ^ 'Death of Mr. Skilbeck', The Times, 18 July 1919, p. 18.
  18. ^ 'Obituary: Mr. G.A.B. Dewar', The Times, 23 March 1934, p. 19.
  19. ^ R.T. Porter, Romer and his Romer, Sheetlines (Journal of The Charles Close Society no.63 (2002), pp. 39-42.
  20. ^ 'Argentine Railways: Reported Appointment for Former British Editor', The Scotsman, 17 July 1935, p. 12.
  21. ^ Robert Pearce, 'Wilson, Sir Arnold Talbot', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) (Oxford University Press, 2004); online edn, Jan 2008. Accessed 13 June 2021.
  22. ^ Huttner, 'Voigt, Frederick Augustus', ODNB
  23. ^ 'Obituary: Mr. Michael Goodwin, The Times, 9 Sept. 1988, p. 18.
  24. ^ 'Obituary: Mr. Bernard Wall, The Times, 4 May 1974, p. 14.
  25. ^ 'Obituary: Eirene Skilbeck', The Times, 28 Oct. 1969, p. 12.

External links

  • Examples of The Nineteenth Century at The Internet Archive