Walter Cox: A Manipulative Publisher

I have grappled with authorship and authorial integrity in examining The Irish Magazine, or a Monthly Asylum of Neglected Biographies, a persistent issue as publisher Walter Cox does not use any uniform format in terms of crediting submissions nor distinguishing his own work from the rest. As a collection the magazine form 1810, which attempts to present itself as factual and current, in actuality appears as a rather unreliable text to modern readers. Articles, poetry and other sections within each edition of The Irish Magazine fluctuate in how the author receives credit for their work, if they receive any recognition at all.  In my second post I discussed how inherently, due to the format of the magazine, readers of the publication are essentially removed from the original work. Many of the articles are submissions, and as a reader one cannot be completely certain Cox did not take some liberties as editor in mediating any one text, to have it fall in line with not only his use of language, but also his beliefs. The hand selection of texts and presentation, allow Cox the ability to shape how the reader is introduced to a text and subsequently, possibly how they interpret it.

Especially since Cox’s purpose in publication was the rising tensions between Irish citizens and the British who ruled over them, I saw acute connections to Ellen Gruber Garvey’s “Anonymity, Authorship, and Recirculation: A Civil War Episode”. Although Ireland was not in full-fledged civil war, there were very distinct and polarizing views concerning British rule and the country’s lack of sovereignty. Cox, distinctly of the belief Ireland should rebel, used The Irish Magazine to encourage revolutionary sentiments, circulating and reprinting specific texts under the guise of this effort whether or not that was the original intention. For example throughout all 12 editions in the collection, there is always a section titled “Important Extracts from Newspapers”, but neither are these newspapers named, nor are their authors.  According to Garvey, “The process of reprinting and creating attributions was anonymous, but it was not morally neutral; it was tied in with imagining one’s own side of the conflict populated by virtuous soldiers and imagining a good death for any who had died” (Garvey 161).  Cox himself removes the original context of these experts and creates his own in his personal retelling of this news under the guise of coming directly from a newspaper. In the May edition, on excerpt begins, “Yesterday, arrived at our office, exclusively, a further account of the spirited disposition of the good people of London, in resisting the illegal attack made on their liberties…” (The Irish Magazine 206).  Cox establishes that this is not an excerpt, but rather his narrative of the excerpt he has read. The event addresses the imprisonment of Sir Francis Burdett, MP for libel against Parliament after calling for reform of the House of Commons. Cox obviously identities with Burdett, for he himself was often charged with libel and shared the desire for change in British rule even if Cox did to higher degree. Thus we see rioters as “the good people of London” and the general excerpt itself praising the actions taken. Unfortunately, we do not know which newspaper Cox himself received this information; however, with numerous papers both sides of this issue would have been presented and Cox very well could have either specifically sought out those newspapers that most cemented his own beliefs or rearranged the story presented to him to make the rioters and Burdett heroic in his own piece.

Not only does the writing itself and pedestalling of material affect a reader’s perspective of The Irish Magazine and the characters it portrays, but Cox’s use of authorship and sometimes lack thereof often influences the perception of the pieces  and events within the collection.  Even though the magazine’s publisher may have been understood in its time, the 1810 serialization of the magazine does not have a typical title page stating the publisher and place of publication. Similarly, Cox credit himself in the editor’s addresses throughout the collection. In a similar manner, some letters to the editors, op-ed, or other submissions that actually do have an author, (not all do ) are signed as “student”, “an enemy to extortion” and other general characteristics that could be claimed by many readers. This allows The Irish Magazine some air of anonymity. As mentioned before, Cox was often sued for libel in this magazine because it took many well-known characters, often praised by those in and accepting of British control, and made them villainous characters. In an era of turmoil, Cox allows readers to participate within these sentiments, to share them without persecution by metaphorically inserting their own name where the author is typically listed, but omitted in the magazine itself.  Garvey notes, in discussing poetry of the civil war era, “the circulation and recirculation of work through the press also tells much about how anonymity allowed publishers and readers to participate in, or even take over, some of the functions that authorship with a name attached occupies” (Garvey 160). Without specifying a specific editor, compiler, or publisher, as well as using collective terms to establish the “type” of person as the author, Cox’s magazine gives the impression that The Irish Magazine is the “people’s magazine”. He even uses the collective we throughout the text, allowing the reader themselves to create a relationship with the publication, to feel some ownership over it.  In the same regard, the very specific uses of authorship lend credibility to the readers asserting their individual ownership over the text in that they are not alone. The Irish Magazine specifically uses authors names in poetry, letters to the editor and submissions made from religious entities. Whether or not these authors are genuine or a creation of Cox’s own imagination, it fabricates the illusion that there are many more individuals supporting this ideology and fighting for Irish independence. Not only are does this establish a community, but it involves a respected and privileged community such as the clergy.

Interestingly enough, there are few, very specific instances in which Cox’s name does appear throughout the text—scolding letters to the editor. These letters rather than front and center as we expect in a modern magazine publication, letters to the editor vary in placement throughout The Irish Magazine, more often toward the end than the beginning. This creates just enough separation, especially since his name is most often used in the letter itself, not the title, so that Cox isn’t immediately understood as both editor and publisher.  One especially scathing letter, which uncharacteristically uses Cox in the title is named, “Horish the Sweep’s Letter to Mr. Walter Cox”. Again this, although a letter to the editor, is not listed as such, keeping Cox’s affiliation just far enough away from the publication to assert a perceived dominance over it, thus alienating readers. The beginning of the letter reads, “In truth, I am greatly surprised, Mr. Cox, that you who pretend to be a man such as you ought to be, should go for to give a picture of my misfortune, and then not to tell the truth, but to go and make a game of me” (The Irish Magazine 212-213). This letter goes on to crucify Cox himself, and then attempts to clarify the truth of the sweeps situation.  Cox cements both his position as someone dedicated to the truth in printing a letter that chastises himself, as well as a sympathetic character who is publically berated and scolded for something that readers cannot know the “truth” of.   In manipulating authorial integrity Cox establishes a publication in which he can best influence the perceptions of his readers about himself, his beliefs, as well as the people, places, and events he covers.

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