A Rebellious and Revolutionary Conversation: Perspectives from The Irish Magazine and The Royal American Magazine

Having addressed the differences and similarities between The Irish Magazine or A Monthly Asylum for Neglected Biographies against a publication from its perceived oppressor, it is essential to now position this periodical against a similar publication from another colony of Great Britain. Because Cox’s magazine so thoroughly embraces revolutionary ideals, I believe it is prudent to look at The Irish Magazine alongside The Royal American Magazine or Universal Repository of Instruction and Amusement from the years 1774 and 1775, which was published just previous to the American Revolution. Published out of Boston by Isiah Thomas and then Joseph Greenleaf, this short lived journal attempted to encourage patriot sentiments, not unlike The Irish Magazine. As another English speaking colony with both revolutionaries and British loyalists, prerevolutionary America is a perfect complement to Cox’s Ireland, even if The Irish Magazine is published following the Irish Rebellion not prior to it. In both instances though there is a heightened sense of resentment toward the Crown, which is presented within each of the texts in distinct, but varied ways.

In contrasting The Irish Magazine with Cabinet or a Monthly Report on Polite Literature it was evident that publisher, Walter Cox, was desperately trying to disassociate his own publication with the style and structure of the popular British periodical from the same time period.  Because both America and Ireland were experiencing hardships under British rule and inklings of insurrection in their respective eras, one could believe these publications should look similar to one another. A reader may expect The Royal American Magazine, to make corresponding efforts to undermine loyalist writing in an effort to establish a seemingly grassroots publication as The Irish Magazine did. On the contrary though, The Royal American Magazine mirrors the publications of Britain. The title itself, The “Royal” American Magazine, creates a duality for the journal. Even if it separates and singularizes the American identity, the text also pays homage to the idea of a ruling, royal class in imitating British periodical models for “polite literature”. The text itself is far more structured and uniform when compared against The Irish Magazine. The pages are clean with obvious, lined section breaks and even bold lines separating different columns of text, see below. Where The Irish Magazine has relatively simple engravings in comparison to Cabinet, The Royal American Magazine has comparably detailed, intricate and complex engravings throughout the publication, many of which credit Paul Revere as their creator. The Royal American Magazine also continues the tradition of using preceding imagery as representative of the text as a whole, a recognizable branding to create a succinct identity for the publication. Although there is no separate title page such as in Cabinet, pictured below, The Royal American Magazine does have an intaglio piece that comes prior to the text of each monthly edition, which depicts a Native American man sitting before a colonial woman, also pictured below. The Irish Magazine doesn’t have a separate title page nor does it have a specific defining image for the periodical, but instead goes directly into text. Even if we were to count the image of Lt. Hepenstall, which precedes the text, it only accompanies the prominent story for the January issue and does not reoccur with each monthly issue or signify the collection as a whole as do the images in the other two texts.

img_7572-2unnamed-2

The Royal American Magazine structure                Cabinet Title Page

img_7569-2

First page of January 1774 issue of The Royal American Magazine

As mentioned in a previous post, I believe Cox’s periodical attempts to be the “people’s publication”, supposedly defined by the content submitted by readers, whether or not that is the case. Having a representative image could dissuade potential readers from seeking out the magazine based on the content they perceived to be within the journal. This could alienate certain parties from accessing the text. We know from how many openly negative letters to the editor are showcased in The Irish Magazine that Cox wanted the publication to reach more than just those readers who would identify and embrace the ideals perpetuated in the periodical. The Irish Magazine was published not only to embolden likeminded readers, but also instigate those who were averse to rebellious ideologies. If there was an obvious indicator of what the content inside was, such as an image, stipulating it as a revolutionarily fueled text, the less likely these oppositional readers may be to seek it out. The ambiguity actually acts a clever selling tool; just as I was initially interested in what The Irish Magazine may be about in choosing my pet book, original readers would be similarly intrigued to discover what exactly a “neglected biography” was. In contrast we see with The Royal American Magazine that on the brink of revolution there was a call for unity, for determining a selfhood for the American population separate from British rule. Imagery had a role in defining not only the magazine, but also the American readers that flocked to the text as well. In the early days of possible revolution, The Royal American Magazine did seek to bring together like minds. Following a failed rebellion on the other hand, The Irish Magazine was not necessarily looking for unity, but, as previously mentioned in other posts, hoping to incite revolutionary sentiments rather than collect and unify them.

Speaking of unity, The Irish Magazine never acknowledges the fact that it is a collection of the entire year’s monthly issues. Although one could make educated guesses as to why the collection was published as a singular piece–records, for sale, safekeeping– it is not readily evident why it was published as such. The Royal American Magazine contains several initial pages, a self-aware “To the Subscribers”, explaining that the following issues were composed into a full collection complete with supplementary materials such as a pull out image of Boston Harbor with ships of war, pictured below, and an index of the entirety of the text. This section makes clear the publishers believed the magazine would be an essential document for historicism and continues to detail the background of the publication and reasons for certain decisions, such as changes in editorial team as well as the intentions behind including a “History of Massachusetts Bay” following the monthly editions.  The compilation includes the entirety of the brief publication run, which was from 1774 and the first several months of 1775; the publication ceased printing in March of 1775 as the revolution was gearing up following the British blockade of the port of Boston (Royal American Magazine).

img_7568-2

The magazine had advertised itself well in advance of even its monthly publication, seeking subscribers before it had been completed.  A secondary “To the Subscribers” section, previous to the first issue in January of 1774, made it appear that in the months prior to its printing, The Royal American Magazine was met with great enthusiasm. Because of this expectation the “To the Subscribers” is very involved, pretty self-admiring for something that had yet to reach the public’s eye, but it also explained away any perceived irregularities or possible negative reactions from the audience. The “To the Subscribers” section reads, “New works, of whatever kind they may be, can hardly be expected to arrive at perfection on a sudden” (The Royal American Magazine). Again, The Royal American Magazine is trying to replicate the prestige of British publications, but doing so without the longstanding history of a professional, popular publication. The apologies and excuses are to account for the discrepancies writers may find as Thomas and Greenleaf become accustomed to the trade and perfect their periodical. The Irish Magazine though is unapologetic about its writing. In contrast, Cox’s “The Editors of the Irish Magazine to the People”, reasserts its position, denounces those who may speak against it, and reaffirms their innocence, the “truth” of their material. In revealing the “truth”, the publication cannot be blamed if readers are outraged and speak out. It claims:

“We will observe that a character has never been sketched in The Irish Magazine, of any enemy to Ireland, metaphorically or allegorically, (for we cannot do it otherwise) but the public have immediately discovered whom it would suit, and made the application accordingly. Can it therefore, with justice, be said of us, that we attack those whom public judgement has already condemned as offenders against the wellbeing of society, or traitors, planning the subversion of the shattered edifice of Irish liberty” (The Irish Magazine p.3).

Subsequent to a failed rebellion, The Irish Magazine was a way to continue aggressions; it was a platform to criticize the ruling British class. Its focus was not on propriety and sophistication.

The Royal American Magazine also has an editor’s address section, but these include direct responses to letters to the editor instead of a singular and all-encompassing retort to all those letters received. The letters to the editor’s also function quite dissimilarly within the two texts. As it has been showcased before, within The Irish Magazine letters to the editor either praise Cox and his work of “outing” villainous characters or criticize him for those same actions. In both cases Cox never directly replies to the pieces. The Royal American Magazine uses letters to the editor and editors’ addresses almost as a “Dear Abby”. Readers seeking advice from the publication  write in with their questions addressing  a cornucopia of different issues.  The publication and its creators are seen as gatekeepers of knowledge, the authority on all knowledge as these letters range from social, agricultural, and patriotic concerns. In so answering these letters The Royal American Magazine perpetuates that perception. Since the letters to The Irish Magazine are of an opinionated not questioning nature, Cox does a bit of the opposite in that he allows the readers themselves to interpret these letters to the editor in whatever way they see fit. He will not provide a singular perception of his magazine, but present the spectrum of viewpoints. This also speaks to Cox’s intention to provoke different types of readers with conflicting world views. He sparks a conversation about himself, the magazine and the “neglected biographies” it shares, one that is perpetuated with each issue as more readers respond to the beliefs expressed through these letters.  Rather than a response from the editors or the publication as a whole, The Irish Magazine is a platform to create conversation, rather than simply being the source of conversation itself.

 

Works Cited

Cox, Walter. The Irish Magazine, and Monthly Asylum for Neglected Biography. Feb.

            Nov. 1808, Jan. 1809 – July 1812. N.p., 1810. Print.

Greenleaf, Joseph, and Thomas, Isaiah. The Royal American Magazine, 1774-1775. I. Boston:                    Greenleaf’s Printing Offices, 1775. Print.

“Royal American Magazine, the – Oxford Reference.” N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2016.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *