Cruikshank's decorated initial 'T' he advent of children's publishing, Bratton notes, really begins with the Evangelical movement. (13) In fact, although the prevalence of broadsides and chapbooks throughout England indicate a general ability to read, the Sunday School Movement with its emphasis on literacy as a means to true faith really heralds the beginning of an organized approach to education for all classes. In response to the Sunday School movement and the new emphasis on literacy, religious tracts flourished throughout the late eighteenth-century. In fact, several organizations such as the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) actively sought and published cheap books for distribution in the Sunday schools. More importantly, the Religious Tract Society (RTS) was founded in 1799 with the express aim of providing moral stories in the form of serials for young children. The authors and publishers for the RTS shamelessly copied the sensationalist titles and engaging, roughly constructed layouts of chapbooks. Indeed, this sly marketing tool ensured that by 1818, twenty-five to thirty million tracts had been printed by the RTS (Bratton 34).

Youth's Magazine; or, Evangelical Miscellany Youth's Magazine; or, Evangelical Miscellany

Left: Youth's Magazine; or, Evangelical Miscellany. Right: "The Reformation" (Frontispiece) [Click on the thumbnails for s larger images.]

While the RTS continued to produce cheap picture books and serials for children, its members also explored the prospect of producing periodicals by the turn of the century. Thus William Lloyd, aged nineteen, launched The Youth's Magazine; or, Evangelical Miscellany in 1805, inviting contributors to provide "biographical communications, essays, obituaries of young people, extracts from scripture history, remarks on passages of scripture, anecdotes, poetry, or with instances of the beneficial effects of schools for religious instruction, &c." (1 [Sept. 1805]: 2). The title page and accompanying frontispiece give a clear idea of the subject and tone of what appears between the covers of The Youth's Magazine: The frontispiece, which bears the title "The Reformation," illustrates the text on p. 200 and has the following caption: "She took an opportunity when they were alone of throwing herself upon her knees at their feet and with a voice interrupted by sobs imploring their pardon for the uneasiness she had given them &tc."The mother against whom the repentant child leans looks at her with an intense expression while the father seems to stare ahead in thoughtfulness. Next him a large book, almost certainly the family Bible, lies open on a table, while several other books and the father's top hat rest on a sideboard or cabinet. Behind the figures appear a framed mirror and a painting. These objects, like the sofa on which the well-dressed mother sits, establish the prosperity of the family. The frontispiece with its kneeling girl is juxtaposed with the image of a kneeling boy on the title-page. He has placed an open book on the ground while apparently picking a flower. The subject of this illustration, which appears without a caption, remains unclear, but the reference at lower right ("Vide page 164") seems intended to prompt the curious reader to go directly to that text.

Following the Youth's Magazine, over forty other titles flooded the Sunday School market within the first half of the century. For example, the Child's Companion; or, Sunday Scholar's Reward was launched by the RTS in 1824 under the auspices of George Stokes and claimed to provide "scriptural beacons" by publishing stories of dedicated missionaries, poor but pious children and pieces on natural history and geography. By 1828, the Child's Companion averaged sales of 20,000 copies per month. Significantly, the Child's Companion also continued production for well over a century, and its last publication was not until 1932 (Drotner 27). The tone of the Child's Companion, and of religious periodicals in general, is clearly illustrated a moral published in April 1834: "Perhaps you are poor; but this need be no hindrance to your being religious. You, my young friends, may be pious without being rich; and it is far better to be pious than rich, for man, when he dieth, can carry nothing away with him." (Child's Companion, new ser. 3, no. 28 [Apr. 1834] p127).

Other editors of popular periodicals include the Rev. W. Carus Wilson, the publisher of the Children's Friend, who was immortalized by Charlotte Bront&eauml; in Jane Eyre as Mr. Brocklhurst. Despite Wilson's grim portrayals of children's deaths and obituaries, the Children's Friend shared a monthly circulation of about 50,000 by 1850 with the Friendly Visitor and the Visitor's Friend, two other publications by Wilson (Drotner 27).

Related Material


Bratton, J.S. The Impact of Victorian Children's Fiction. London: Croom Helm; New Jersey: Barnes and Noble Books, 1981.

Drotner, Kristin. English Children and their Magazines, 1751-1945. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988.

Haining, Peter, ed. The Penny Dreadful. London: Victor Gollancz, Ltd., 1976.

Hannabuss, C. Stuard. "Nineteenth-century Religious Periodicals for Children." British Journal of Religious Education. Vol. 6, No. 1, (1983), p. 20-40.

Springhall, John. "Disseminating Impure Literature": The 'Penny Dreadful' Publishing Business Since 1860." Economic History Review: New Series, Vol. 47, No. 3, (Aug., 1994), p. 567-584. Accessed on JSTOR, Brown University.

The Youth's Magazine; or, Evangelical Miscellany for the Year 1807. Vol. 2. London: H. Teape, 1807.

Last modified 1 August 2007