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fter the glory days of the brilliant editor-novelists Charles Dickens in 1837-38 and William Harrison Ainsworth in 1838-39, the sales of Bentley's Miscellany dropped catastrophically from 10,000 per monthly issue when the journal was featuring Oliver Twist (February 1837-April 1839) and Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard (January 1839-February 1840), both "Newgate" novels exploring the lurid criminal underworld of London in the 19th and 18th centuries respectively. With Dickens at the helm, the new venture for publisher Richard Bentley (1794-1871) and his brother, Samuel, as head printer, launched brilliantly, its arrival anticipated by advertisements in the London daily newspapers. Originally entitled Wit's Miscellany, the monthly magazine also featured the work of George Cruikshank, illustrator of Sketches by Boz, and therefore was as hot a publishing property as young Dickens.

Owing to Richard Bentley's interfering with editorial decisions such as the revisions of proofs, editorial quarrels ensued, so that each novelist lasted as editor only two years, and the journal declined in the quality of its articles under Bentley's ensuing editorship, although it is now regarded as the forerunner of the middle-brow Cornhill Magazine (1860-1975), a highly successful illustrated monthly issued by publisher George Smith. In 1854, Bentley's reverted to the editorship of Ainsworth under its new owners, Chapman and Hall, but Richard Bentley had essentially presided over its demise, and Ainsworth never fully resurrected it. George Bentley took it over in 1868, and immediately submerged it in a new vehicle for publishing new fiction, Temple Bar (founded in 1860 as a rival to the Cornhill under George Sala).


Sutherland, John. The Stanford Guide to Victorian Fiction. Stanford: Stanford U. P., 1989.

Created 1 April 2015