File 3 - Letters and papers relating to the Review of English Studies

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MCKW/A/3

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Letters and papers relating to the Review of English Studies

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  • 1923–8 (Creation)

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1 file

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Archival history

These papers were found together, with the exception of A3/15, which was loose but which evidently belongs with the rest. Two items which were obviously misfiled have been removed from this file and listed elsewhere (A5/4 and C4/9).

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The papers listed under this head relate to the establishment and early progress of the Review of English Studies (RES), a quarterly journal founded by McKerrow in 1924 (the first number was dated January 1925, but it was issued during the preceding month).

Before the RES was founded the only periodical in England dealing with English studies was the Modern Language Review (MLR), of which, however, only about a third was given to English. But the idea of a journal devoted solely to the subject had been canvassed for some time. G. C. Moore Smith, editor of the MLR’s English section, had previously suggested publishing that section separately, while Percy Simpson had proposed an Oxford Journal of English Studies, and the Clarendon Press, perhaps in connection with Simpson’s proposal, had entered into discussions with members of the English Association; but none of these ideas had borne fruit.

McKerrow, as managing director of Sidgwick & Jackson, took up the idea towards the end of 1923, and began contacting interested parties. In view of the fact that the new journal must necessarily affect the one already in being, one of his first actions was to write to his friend Moore Smith, who forwarded the letter to J. G. Robertson, the MLR’s founder and chief editor. Receiving only encouragement from these sources, McKerrow began assembling an advisory board to oversee the projected publication, a task accomplished partly with the help of the indefatigable E. K. Chambers, whose monumental study The Elizabethan Stage had just been published. In due course a prospectus was drafted and printed, and contributors for the first issue were gathered. Some slight irritation was apparently felt by representatives of the Clarendon Press, who in previous discussions with the English Association had been given to understand that they would be consulted if the idea of an English studies journal were revived, but the matter appears to have been smoothed over amicably enough.

The first issue of the journal was received with general approval, but after a few months the number of subscriptions remained insufficient to finance publication for more than a year or two, and in April 1925 the publishers issued a circular and prospectus (A3/34–35) explaining the situation and soliciting further subscriptions. The subsequent rise in the number of subscriptions was large enough to keep the publication in being, but a few years later it became necessary to issue another appeal, a draft of which is preserved here (A3/39). At the time of this appeal, the date of which is uncertain, the steady increase in the number of reviews included in the journal had compelled the publishers to reduce the space given to articles, and in order to rectify this situation it was necessary to increase the number of pages, which in turn required a larger number of subscribers. It was proposed, therefore, that certain classes of persons—current students of English, recent graduates, and departmental staff under the rank of professor—should be offered the Review at a reduced subscription. Another appeal was issued in 1934, asking the journal’s well-wishers to help to obtain an additional one hundred subscribers, in order that the size of the journal might be increased from 128 pages to 160 (see Pam. c. 90. 75).

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