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Response to Review no. 249

In his review Mr. Pooley has quite rightly characterised the Gentleman’s Magazine as “an inexhaustible mine of information for scholars of eighteenth century life” and has graciously described my anthology, Daily Life in Georgian England as Reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine, as “an indispensable companion to this vast emporium for Hanoverian history.”

I would like to reiterate the contention that the Gentleman’s Magazine is one of the most valuable (and, until recently, one of the least appreciated) sources for scholarly research into numerous facets of eighteenth-century English life. In particular, scholars seeking contemporary raw material pertaining to crime, medicine, economics, science, exploration, public opinion during the epoch of the American and the French revolutions, and the reception of literature, can find an invaluable and scarcely tapped treasure trove within its pages.

Making maximum use of such source material requires as thorough as possible an understanding of the contributors who wrote for the Gentleman’s Magazine as well as of the editorial practices and print culture which shaped it. In those two respects, my ongoing research, and Mr. Pooley’s, offer exciting new possibilities for expanding existing knowledge of the Gentleman’s Magazine.

Since 1988 I have been engaged in the task of identifying as many as possible of the thousands of contributors who wrote for the Gentleman’s Magazine, sometimes anonymously, sometimes cloaking their identities in pseudonyms, and sometimes signing such incomplete names to their letters, poems, and articles that for all practical purposes they have remained unknown. Over the course of the last 14 years I have published three books in the form of electronic databases concerning the authorship of the magazine, all accessible under the general title, Attributions of Authorship in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1868, at the web site of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia . The three databases present my own attributions of authorship, as well as those discovered by numerous other scholars, in a format that is both fully browsable and key-word searchable. I am currently nearing completion of the creation of a union list, likewise to be published under the auspices of the Electronic Text Center of the University of Virginia, which will bring together in one integrated list all of the finds encompassed in my three earlier databases, together with several thousand new attributions of authorship. The union list will thus provide scholars at last with one electronically searchable database of approximately 1,200 pages of fully browsable text, encompassing all of the some 22,000 known attributions of authorship in the Gentleman’s Magazine.

I am eagerly anticipating as well the future publication of the massive electronic database that Mr. Pooley has been compiling from his many years of research in connection with The Nichols Archive Project. Mr. Pooley has set himself the tremendous task of bringing together in an easily searchable electronic format not only archival listings but also content summaries of thousands of letters written by or to John Nichols, John Bowyer Nichols, and John Gough Nichols, who for three generations edited and published the Gentleman’s Magazine and personally oversaw every aspect of its development from the 1770’s through the mid-nineteenth century. As those letters are scattered throughout numerous public and private collections on both sides of the Atlantic, their inaccessibility has been a major deterrent to scholarly investigation of the magazine. Mr. Pooley’s research, when it is published, will at one stroke provide the scholarly community with an incomparable resource for understanding the print culture and the publishing milieu of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century England as seen through the prism of one of the most influential printing families of the day. With the publication of Mr. Pooley’s electronic database, and with the publication of my electronic union list, scholars should at last have the tools necessary to make maximum use of the extraordinary source of English history that is the Gentleman’s Magazine.