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ENTERTAINMENT AND INSTRUCTION
FOR GENERAL READING.
With Blegant daood Engrabings.
NOVEMBER 1845 TO APRIL 1846.
T. B. SHARPE,
very lively feeling of satisfaction, not altogether unmixed with anxiety, that we find ourselves arrived at the important stage of the completion of a volume of our Magazine. Hitherto we have had every cause to be satisfied with our reception by the public. The commendations we have received have been dealt out to us in no grudging spirit. What claims we may possess upon public favour have been amply and liberally acknowledged, while few have suffered less than we have done from adverse criticism.
The experiment we entered upon was by no means without danger. It had already been established, indeed, by the remarkable success of publications which had preceded us in a similar field, that there is an abundant harvest of literary patronage to be reaped among the middle and lower walks of society, by those who will submit themselves to the conditions necessary for obtaining it ; that is, who will receive their return in the pence of the many, as willingly as in the shillings of the few. We had little doubt that a spirit of inquiry, a desire for mental cultivation, and a taste for literary pleasures, were spreading among the less affluent classes of the people, with a rapidity which fully warranted an increase in the means existing for satisfying and keeping them in exercise. So far our course was tolerably plain. With a reasonable command of the ordinary editorial resources, and the exercise of due care in availing ourselves of them, there was little risk of ultimate failure, should we be satisfied with merely treading in the footsteps of our predecessors. But we did not content ourselves with simply adding in amount to what already existed. We resolved to try whether we could not improve its value ; whether, without increasing our demand upon the purses of our readers beyond that of our predecessors, we could not do something more than they had yet attempted. With that view we determined to add to the usual contents of a magazine, illustrations of such a character as would not merely form a pleasing and ornamental appendage to its literary matter, but possess in their intrinsic excellence a distinct and independent value of their own. We knew that this could only be done at a very serious expense ; that we must have recourse to the very highest names in the two great branches of the pictorial art, for whose services a price must be paid correspondent to their professional eminence. Here was our danger ; that we should strain to breaking the principle on which the success of cheap publications depends, viz., that lowness of price in proportion to the value of the article will produce a more than corresponding demand for it. We were fully alive to this danger : at the same time we thought it was one which energy, attention, and perseverance might enable us to escape. We have made the attempt; we have, without permitting ourselves to lower in any degree the standard of excellence set up for the literary contents of our Magazine, accompanied them with numerous illustrations, executed in a style, we believe we can say with truth, unprecedented in any publication of similar price. And we have found our reward in the loud and unanimous approbation of the organs of public opinion throughout all parts of the country, and in a bright and cheering prospect of assured and triumphant success.
One guiding principle we have never for a moment lost sight of, from the first preparations for our first number till now, that, though depending for success rendering our publication attractive to the many, we should write and select every line as if meant only for the eyes of the enlightened and judicious few. We have long been satisfied that the only difference necessary to be made in publications intended for the rich and for the poor is in price ; that purity of style, elevation of sentiment, correctness of taste, closeness of reasoning, richness and variety of illustration,-whatever qualities commend any work to men of refined and cultivated understandings, are those which are most relished wherever the first seeds of a literary taste have been sown. To whatever extent we have fallen short of those qualities, the deficiency has been in our power to command them ; we cannot plead that we have designedly held them back, as deeming our readers incapable of appreciating them.
For the rest, our Magazine is before the public, and must speak for itself. If they think that up to this point we have done at all well, we beg them to admit the fair presumption that as we go on we shall do better. We shall at least gain experience. Of one thing they may be fully assured, that whatever measure of industry, attention, and ability, has been employed in making this work what it is, will be steadily and indefatigably applied to the endeavour to render it every day more and more worthy of the support and approbation of all good men.
Loxton, April 1846.