Sunday, 4 October 2009

North Devon Magazine, 1824

From Google Books: North Devon Magazine: containing The Cave and Lundy Review, Volumes 1-2 (W Searle, Barnstaple, 1824).

Online in full, this is the 274-page compilation of two early 19th century provincial magazines; here's the general index. The content is varied and quaint, as described in John Presland's 1917 Lynton and Lynmouth:

They are the Lundy Review and The Cave, and they contain stories, poetry, puns, epigrams, acrostics, all with the mild, faint flavour of a curate's tea-party in a cathedral town ... There is poetry of the Lake School fashion, exhortations to Bideford and Woody Bay, to Lynton or "The Beauties of Devon"; there is more poetry of the Byronic fashion, fierce and satiric invective (yet never, be it understood, transgressing the bounds of decency or good manners!) against the lady of the poet's affection; there are stories, in which love and virtue triumph over temptation and evil-doing; there is, of course, at least one story of a blind girl, and one of a consumptive; there is much harmless punning, and in the acrostics which the ladies of 1820 so much loved are fantastically woven the names of the handsome young women of Barnstaple whose only other record is now on a tombstone

Not only the people but also the topical references are long gone. You run into sentences like this:

The Cave ... will also be regularly deposited, for earlier perusal, and the convenience of the wet-paper clubs, at ...
- p5, North Devon Magazine

"Wet-Paper Club" turns out to refer to groups who would gather and get first look at newspapers as soon as they came off the press - see p319, The Visitor: or, Monthly instructor, Religious Tract Society, 1841) - while the paper was still damp from the necessary wetting prior to printing.

Considering the date, the publication is very readable. There's a strong focus on Barnstaple - such as this song about Barnstaple Fair - with frequent use of the old name Barum that was revived in Victorian times. The place sounds very lively, with a lot of gossip and romance conducted in coded form through the pages of the magazines. A handwritten annotation to the Google Books copy identifies the pseudonymous editor, "Dry-Den Beauclerc", as the curate of Braunton. Barnstaple was, incidentally, quite a busy place for literature in the early 19th century: The Western antiquary, Volume 11 (William Henry Kearley Wright, 1893) has a series, "Extinct Devonshire Periodicals", mentioning a number of similar publications, all short-lived: the The Crackling Goose (1823), the weekly The Gossip (1823) and The Universal Medley (1824). A newspaper, the Barnstaple and Bideford Miscellany and North Devon Advertiser, was published in the same time slot.

If you can find it, Sketches of the literary history of Barnstaple: being the substance of a series of papers read at The Literary Institution, Barnstaple. To which is appended the diary of Philip Wyot, town clerk of Barnstaple, from 1586 to 1608 (John Roberts Chanter, 1866) goes into considerable detail about Barnstaple's literary connections. For instance, John Gay was born there; the liberal journalist John Lash Latey was educated in Barnstaple; John Dodderidge of Barnstaple founded the Dodderidge Library; and Percy Bysshe Shelley's early works were published by a Barnstaple printer called Syle.

Presland's Lynton and Lynmouth is itself online: Project Gutenberg EText-No. 22765 includes an HTML version with the colour plates.

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