[This represents a much revised and abbreviated version of material in Law & Taylor, E.S. Dallas in "The Times" (xii-xxiv), where full details of sources are provided. - Graham Law]

Decorated initial B

uilding on the broad liberal education he enjoyed at Edinburgh University, Dallas's explorations of the psychological and sociological underpinnings of literary creation and reception placed him among the most innovative of Victorian critical theorists and practitioners; his evaluations became crucial not only in forging the literary reputations of upcoming writers as different as George Eliot and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, but also in recalibrating the response to well-established authors such as Tennyson, Thackeray, Trollope and, of course, Dickens. All the same, since his premature death early in 1879, Dallas has often been regarded as the most unjustly overlooked of Victorian critics: in 1904 his writing was described by George Saintsbury as revealing "real critical talent . . . it is a pity that it has not had more adequate recognition" (A History of Criticism, 513); in Arthur Quiller-Couch's 1934 essay collection his contribution was referred to as "most undeservedly neglected" (The Poet as Citizen, 4); and in a work published posthumously in 1984, Dallas was characterised by Hugh MacDiarmid an "important and far too little known Scottish writer" (Aesthetics in Scotland, 55). As reflected in the current entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, information about his life has remained generally sketchy and occasionally erroneous. More particularly, neither Poetics (1852) nor The Gay Science (1866), the two monographs issued by Dallas in his efforts to create "a systematic theory of poetry" was reprinted for well over a century, while the latter has only very recently been reissued for the first time in a modern critical edition.

Moreover, it can be argued that his contribution to the theory and practice of journalism has been overlooked just as comprehensively. Especially as his career lasted for little more than a quarter of a century, Dallas's journalistic output remains remarkable not only for its quantity and quality, but also for its diversity in terms alike of publishing venue, generic form, and intellectual content. Yet this still has to be found almost exclusively in unsigned and uncollected contributions, a significant number of which clearly remain unidentified as his work. Most of Dallas's articles in both quarterly reviews (the North British, in particular) and monthly miscellanies (most notably Blackwood's and the Cornhill) are firmly identified in the Wellesley Index, although it is now known that during the later 1850s he wrote also on more than one occasion for both the Eclectic Review in London and Hogg's Instructor in Edinburgh, monthlies partially or wholly unindexed there. Yet it is concerning his labours for the weekly and daily press that information remains most deficient. Little is known about his writings for the Edinburgh Guardian, The Mirror, Once a Week, and The World, all hebdomadal journals where he briefly played editorial roles; and even less is clear about when and what he wrote for the weekly critical journal Saturday Review and the evening newspaper Pall Mall Gazette. To these he was linked in unsigned obituary remarks likely relying on first-hand information from his close journalist colleague and friend George Sala.

His plethora of known contributions to The Times between August 1855 and February 1871, amounting to close to 300 articles and rather over 600 columns, clearly represents his largest and most diverse body of journalistic writing. His reviews there covered not only (in frequency order) fiction, poetry, and the drama, but also the visual and plastic arts, biography, travel, history, philosophy, theology, politics, and popular science, plus sociological issues such as the role of middle-class women in work outside the home; moreover, in addition to the leading articles written as part of his training at the newspaper, and, towards the end of his stint there, the correspondence from Paris in both 1867 (during the Great Exhibition) and 1870-71 (on the Franco-Prussian War), he also contributed a significant number of obituaries, general articles of current interest, and even a couple of letters to the editor. Moreover, it has recently been established that Dallas also served as "Special Correspondent" in Paris for the Daily News , filing close to two hundred articles between August 1870 and September 1871, covering both the siege of Paris and its revolutionary aftermath.

Altogether, his many and varied contributions to the press, whether quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily, represent in intellectual terms an investigation of striking verve and originality into key issues of modernity, including the growth of individualism and the power of the unconscious mind, as well as the radical changes in periodical publication witnessed over the nineteenth century which he regarded as "the great event in modern history."


Dallas, Eneas Sweetland. The Gay Science. Edited by Graham Law and Jenny Bourne Taylor, Ebook in PDF format published January 2024. URL: https://glaw.w.waseda.jp/ESD-GS/ESD-GS.pdf.

Law, Graham. The Periodical Press Revolution: E.S. Dallas and the Nineteenth-Century British Media System. London: Routledge, 2024.

Law, Graham & Taylor, Jenny Bourne, eds. E.S. Dallas in "The Times". London: Routledge, 2024.

Created 2 February 2024