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of the social and intellectual materials of
which a portion, at least, of the Unknown
Public may fairly be presumed to be
composed. Having so far disposed of this first
part of the matter in hand, the second part
follows naturally enough of its own accord.
We have all of us formed some opinion by
this time on the subject of the Public itself;
the next thing to do is to find out what that
Public reads.

I have already said that the staple
commodity of the journals appears to be formed
of stories. The five specimen copies of the
five separate weekly publications now before
me, contain, altogether, ten serial stories,
one reprint of a famous novel (to be
hereafter referred to), and seven short tales, each
of which begins and ends in one number.
The remaining pages are filled up with
miscellaneous contributions, in literature and
art, drawn from every conceivable source.
Pickings from Punch and Plato; wood-
engravings, representing notorious people
and views of famous places, which strongly
suggest that the original blocks have seen
better days in other periodicals; modern and
ancient anecdotes; short memoirs; scraps
of poetry; choice morsels of general information;
household receipts, riddles, and
extracts from moral writers; all appear in
the most orderly manner, arranged under
separate heads, and cut up neatly into short
paragraphs. However, the prominent feature
in each journal is the serial story, which is
placed, in every case, as the first article, and
which is illustrated by the only wood-engraving
that appears to have been expressly cut
for the purpose. To the serial story, therefore,
we may fairly devote our chief attention,
because it is clearly regarded as the
chief attraction of these very singular
publications.

Two of my specimen-copies contain,
respectively, the first chapters of new stories.
In the case of the other three, I found the
stories in various stages of progress. The
first thing that struck me, after reading the
separate weekly portions of all five, was their
extraordinary sameness. Each portion
purported to be written (and no doubt was
written) by a different author, and yet all
five might have been produced by the
same man. Each part of each successive
story, settled down in turn, as I read it, to
the same dead level of the smoothest and
flattest conventionality. A combination of fierce
melodrama and meek domestic sentiment;
short dialogues and paragraphs on the French
pattern, with moral English reflections of the
sort that occur on the top lines of children's
copy-books; incidents and characters taken
from the old exhausted mines of the
circulating library, and presented as complacently
and confidently as if they were original ideas;
descriptions and reflections for the beginning
of the number, and a "strong situation,"
dragged in by the neck and shoulders, for
the end-- formed the common literary sources
from which the five authors drew their
weekly supply; all collecting it by the same
means; all carrying it in the same quantities;
all pouring it out before the attentive
public in the same way. After reading my
samples of these stories, I understood why it
was that the fictions of the regularly-
established writers for the penny journals
are never republished. There is, I honestly
believe, no man, woman, or child in England,
not a member of the Unknown Public, who
could be got to read them. The one thing
which it is possible to advance in their
favour is, that there is apparently no wickedness
in them. There seems to be an intense
in-dwelling respectability in their dulness.
If they lead to no intellectual result, even of
the humblest kind, they may have, at least,
this negative advantage, that they can do no
moral harm. If it be objected that I am
condemning these stories after having merely
read one number of each of them, I have
only to ask in return, whether anybody ever
waits to go all through a novel before passing
an opinion on the goodness or the badness of
it? In the latter case, we throw the story
down before we get through it, and that is
its condemnation. There is room enough
for promise, if not for performance, in any one
part of any one genuine work of fiction. If  I
had found the smallest promise in the style,
in the dialogue, in the presentation of
character, in the arrangement of incident, in
any of the five specimens of cheap fiction
before me, each one of which extended, on the
average, to ten columns of small print,
I should have gone on gladly and
hopefully to the next number. But I discovered
nothing of the sort; and I put down my
weekly sample, just as an editor, under
similar circumstances, puts down a
manuscript, after getting through a certain
number of pagesor a reader a book.

And this sort of writing appeals to a
monster audience of at least three millions !
The former proprietor of one of these penny
journals commissioned a thoroughly
competent person to translate The Count of Monte
Christo, for his periodical. He knew that there
was hardly a language in the civilised world
into which that consummate specimen of the
rare and difficult art of story-telling had not
been translated. In France, in England, in
America, in Russia, in Germany, in Italy, in
Spain, Alexandre Dumas had held hundreds
of thousands of readers breathless. The
proprietor of the penny journal naturally
thought that he could do as much with
the Unknown Public. Strange to say, the result
of this apparently certain experiment was a
failure. The circulation of the journal in
question, seriously decreased from the time
when the first of living story-tellers became a
contributor to it! The same experiment was
tried with the Mysteries of Paris and the
Wandering Jew, only to produce the same

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