Henley as Editor



William Ernest Henley edited four different magazines during his lifetime. These magazines were London, The Magazine of Art, The Scots (later National) Observer, and the New Review. London, started in 1877, was his first foray into editing. He was twenty-seven when he began working on it. Most of the work contained in the journal was anonymous, but it can be seen that Robert Louis Stevenson, James Runciman, and Henley himself were the three main contributors. The journal struggled for two years, achieving by 1878 some sort of recognition in literary circles. The journal finally went under in the spring of 1878.

Henley took over The Magazine of Art in 1882, when he was thirty-three years old. From the beginning, he established his unparallelled editorial talent that would assure him a place in literary circles of the 1890's. The magazine featured a wide variety of well-known contributors, including "... the writings of critics so competent as George Saintsbury, Francis Watt, Edward Tyas Cook, William Archer, Brander Matthews, and Cosmo Monkhouse. In its pages Austin Dobson explained the realism and the satire of Hogarth; David Hannan wrote lively descriptions of the structure of clipper ships; Andrew Lang with whimsical erudtion told of Japanese bogies and their place in art; and "Bob" Stevenson made his debut as student of the Barbizon School." (Buckley 113) Henley continued with The Magazine of Art until he handed in his resignation in 1886, after four years of hard and demanding work.

In 1888, Henley was asked to Edinburgh by his friends to assume the role of editor for the Scots Observer, which would later become the National Observer. Despite difficulties, the paper was a journalistic achievement. Popular opinion maintains that it was the best weekly review in its six year run. Henley, however, did not care much for the profit aspect of the paper. According to J.H. Robertson, "the minority of educated and politically adult people to whom the Scots Observer made its appeal was very small..." (145) Henley discovered Rudyard Kipling while editing this paper, and also used it as a weapon against Oscar Wilde in the Dorian Gray controversy. It constantly upheld high standards of production, content, and style.

The final magazine that Henley edited was the New Review. He had replaced Archibald Grove as editor in 1894. The qulaity of its contributors was just as good as that of the National Observer. Henley discovered H.G. Wells while with this magazine. Henley himself wrote little poetry or criticism at the New Review. Unfortunately, the deaths of his daughter Margaret and his friend Robert Louis Stevenson, kept the experience from being as rewarding as that of the National Observer. Henley continued with the New Review until 1897, when at last he resigned from his final job as editor of a magazine.
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