Mounting the (Century Guild) Hobby Horse
Mounting the (Century Guild) Hobby Horse
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter is entirely dedicated to a pioneering little magazine that elaborated on the example of The Germ and the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine (see Chapter 1), the Century GuildHobby Horse (1884/86–92), which started as the periodical organ of the early Arts & Crafts organisation the Century Guild. To this magazine, the production and design of the material text was as much an opportunity for experiments as its actual contents, a notable aesthetic innovation that was motivated by a notion of artistic artisanship, and that made it a milestone in Victorian print culture. Each issue of the magazine—in which Victorian sages such as Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin made guest appearances— commands for the applied art workers producing it the respect usually reserved for authors and artists working within the category of ‘Fine Art’. So doing, the magazine helped to create a wider appreciation for Fine Printing. After the discontinuation of the Century Guild in 1893, this periodical was temporarily revived by the enterprising publishers at the Bodley Head to boost that firm’s Print-Revivalist credentials. The Hobby Horse is thereby also an early example of how supposedly avant-garde principles are sometimes difficult to distinguish from commercial strategies.
Arts and Crafts in/of the Century Guild Hobby Horse
The Germ and the OCM were trailblazers in both the little magazine genre and in British Aestheticism, and appeared too early to be able to fall back on a subculture from which to draw the contributors, patrons and even readers to make their enterprise an unmitigated success. The publication of their few issues was, however, a pivotal event in the formation of such a community. Whereas The Germ, though largely unnoticed at the time, had caught the attention of the younger generation of Morris and Burne-Jones and supplied them with themes and aesthetic concepts without which their talents might well have died in the bud, these core members of the OCM Set later in turn assumed as important a role by introducing their own younger followers to a coherent belief system that insisted on an unseverable link between politics and aesthetics. While an interesting but failed attempt to institutionalise Aestheticist art and literature was made through the more inclusively marketed magazine the Dark Blue (1871–3) (see Chapter 6), the remarkable earliness of these two pioneering little magazines is best appreciated if one considers that it took nearly three decades for them to receive a genuine successor, that like them was conceived as the periodical platform of an avant-garde group. The magazines under scrutiny in this chapter, the Century Guild Hobby Horse (1884/6–92) and its successor the Hobby Horse (1893–4), served to consolidate across the literary and artistic fields the notion of a diverse but interconnected Aestheticist avant-garde, and went much further than the little magazines of the 1850s in working out alternatives to common practices of the contemporaneous periodical market through aestheticising their own production methods. Thereby they turned the end product of the printed text into a never-before-seen integrated Total Art project, which would stimulate a whole new fashion in artistic (p.37) book design and provide the blueprint for Aestheticist little magazines of the genre’s coming first heyday in the 1890s.
To understand where these endeavours came from we need to return briefly to the background of the journals discussed in Chapter 1. As Linda Dowling put it, ‘[f]or Victorians at mid-century the belief that art could transform society had a name, and that name was John Ruskin’.1 For this Victorian Sage, art history was inseparable from social history, and art criticism from social polemic. In his many writings, he advocated a new kind of social reform, similar to earlier British protosocialist movements such as Chartism for its goal of empowering the working class within the production process, but unique in the sense that its critique of industrial capitalism was profoundly aesthetic. For Ruskin and his followers, who as we have seen included the Set that published the OCM, the utilitarianism of the Industrial Revolution had replaced the time-honoured dignity of collaborating but emancipated craftsmen with the drudgery of mechanised wage slavery, and the results of this are amongst others visible in the arts. Together with likeminded thinkers such as Thomas Carlyle and especially Augustus Pugin, Ruskin instigated a popular interest in the culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, when crafts organisations known as ‘guilds’ would have furnished a context for income protection and the development of skills, allowing even the most modest participant in the production process to leave the mark of their personal touch in the end product, as opposed to nineteenth-century labourers who were exploited by faceless corporations and turned into cogs in the industrial machinery. He therefore promoted the architecture of the period when this so-called ‘Gothic’ (as in late-medieval) element would have been at its height, and found analogues in other forms of applied art from that period. The fine art of the late medieval age and early Renaissance was for him exemplary as well, because of its joint emphasis on moral edification and truthful representation. This made him an early champion of the Pre-Raphaelites, whose principle of ‘truth to nature’ (see Chapter 1) he was one of the first critics to appreciate. Ruskin came to play a vital part in their early careers, for instance by publicly endorsing the early PRB pictorial output and by hiring D. G. Rossetti as a teacher for the Working Man’s College in London, thereby first putting the essentially apolitical Pre-Raphaelite notions of art to work in a politicised environment.2 It was also he who arranged for Rossetti, Morris and Burne-Jones to paint together the Oxford Union murals (1857–9), one of the latter two’s first public projects and a hugely important early collaboration between members of the PRB and of the OCM Set. Without Ruskin, not only the (p.38) philosophy of art of the Victorian age, but also its artistic practice, would have been unrecognisably different.
True to the little magazine’s purpose of showcasing its producers to the right people, it was the OCM that brought the Set to Ruskin’s attention. Robert Hosmon informs us that Ruskin sent an appreciative note to an ‘ecstatic’ Burne-Jones after having received from the latter a complimentary copy, writing to a friend: ‘I am not Ted any longer, I’m not E. C. B. Jones now, I’ve dropped my personality – I’m a correspondent with RUSKIN, and my future title is “the man who wrote to Ruskin and got an answer”.’3 As we have seen, the OCM advocated putting art to the service of society, and this continued to be a major concern for its contributors after the magazine had folded. This was most famously the case for William Morris, who throughout his career pursued this mission in ideological essays as well as artistic practice, and was involved in political activism and social education programmes. Morris, and with him several other former contributors to the OCM, would from the 1880s be active in the burgeoning Arts and Crafts Movement, named by later critics for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society that was founded by Walter Crane in 1887 to promote the applied arts. They did this in the conviction that the design and artisanal production of furniture, decorative objects or books had the same potential for creativity and demonstration of skill as the fine arts. There were many such societies across Britain from the 1880s to the Second World War. Although the activities of many of these made them more closely resemble business networks than actual professional bodies, such societies often claimed inspiration from medieval and early-modern craft associations or guilds. The old guilds were collectivist enterprises that provided training, upheld standards of quality, and extended professional security to their members, all found lacking in Victorian labour regulations. Ruskin himself had set up an organisation that is still extant today, christened St. George’s Company in 1870 but renamed the Guild of St. George in 1878. In the Ruskinian views adopted by the Arts and Crafts Movement, the ancient guilds were a counterforce to the monopoly formation of rising capitalism, which was increasingly perceived as the source of the major social ills of the nineteenth century. It would have had aesthetic implications as well: industrialisation had split production into shoddily produced goods for the masses and unnecessarily ostentatious goods with ‘finish’ for the wealthy, whereas in the age of artisan production everybody would be served with decent workmanship.
The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society gave its name to the movement, but it was not the first of its kind. For a full five years before, there (p.39) had been the Century Guild of Artists, founded in 1882 by the architect and designer Arthur Mackmurdo and his then apprentice Herbert Horne. The Century Guild functioned as a catalyst for the budding Arts and Crafts Movement, and may have provided its first manifesto:
The aim of the Century Guild is to render all branches of Art the sphere, no longer of the tradesman, but of the artist. It would restore building, decoration, glass-painting, pottery, wood-carving, and metalwork to their rightful place besides painting and sculpture. By so placing them they would be once more regarded as legitimate and honourable expressions of the artistic spirit, and would stand in their true relation not only to sculpture and painting but to the drama, to music, and to literature. In other words, the Century Guild seeks to emphasise the Unity of Art; and by thus dignifying Art in all its forms, it hopes to make it living, a thing of our own century, and of the people.4
The Century Guild soon came to proclaim its Gospel through a periodical mouthpiece of its own, the Century Guild Hobby Horse (henceforth CGHH). Work by Century Guild members and associates may be viewed in some of the leading design museums across the globe, and books designed by them now fetch high prices, but it is indicative of the importance of the periodical press at this time that this little magazine was without a doubt the most famous work produced under the Guild’s auspices. It is one of the most influential periodicals of the British Fin de Siècle, and although it does not come up in scholarship as often as later little magazines such as the Yellow Book and the Savoy (see Chapter 4), these journals of the 1890s would never have been founded without its example.
The CGHH has a confusing publication history. After a false start with one number in April 1884, seven annual volumes (priced at 10 shillings) of four quarterly numbers (2s. 6d each) appeared from January 1886 to 1892. This was followed by a short-lived ‘New Series’ of three numbers (1893–4) that, as we shall see, occupied a different position in the market and are best considered separately from the numbers under the old name. The editorial position went back and forth between the two founders. The single 1884 issue was edited by Mackmurdo alone, whereas the 1886 numbers were produced by both, with Horne taking on full editorial duties from 1887, to be superseded again briefly by Mackmurdo for the last numbers of January to October 1892. The ‘New Series’ under the new name, ultimately, would once more be edited singly by Horne.
The CGHH made a point of ‘the spirit of independence’ that would characterise the magazine. The extraneous 1884 number was said to have been published privately, ‘no publisher making a chilling (p.40) third’ between the Guild and the reader.5 However, strictly speaking this is not true. As the title page attests, the magazine at this time was published at least in association with George Allen, who at Sunnyside Villa in the Kentish village of Orpington (nowadays – as if to prove Ruskin’s point – a suburb in Greater London) maintained a publishing business that sought to avoid the trappings of the late-Victorian literary market by delivering well-printed edifying or educational books at prices within reach of a wide demographic.6 Not only had Allen been a close collaborator of Ruskin – who enjoyed regulating those whom he patronised, and had put him up in business and published with him exclusively in exchange for the prerogative to interfere assiduously in the policies of the firm – but he was also close to Rossetti and Morris, and these links must have been a valuable asset to the Century Guild. Although, as Brian Maidment has shown, Allen managed to exert a beneficial influence on publishing in the late-Victorian period through his example of sound workmanship and fair bookselling practices, he was also in much the same plight as his intentionally avant-garde business partners. Allen had to deal with regular conflicts between ‘Ruskin’s publicly argued and ferociously defended views on commercial practice’ and ‘the commercial and practical needs’ of a viable publishing concern, and therefore he would also have made a suitable adviser for an organisation such as the Century Guild.7
The future issues in the first series would be published ‘for the proprietors’ by Kegan Paul. Again, it was not officially part of this publisher’s roster, but the distinction is subtle. Though not by far as radical in his production and distribution methods as Allen, Charles Kegan Paul too had a sound reputation as a publisher of well-designed books, and had championed ‘English Parnassian’ poets with understated Aestheticist credentials such as Andrew Lang and Austin Dobson (the latter also a CGHH contributor).8 A regular contributor on theological issues to periodicals like the Fortnightly Review, Kegan Paul had enough of a literary inclination to contribute two poems (June 1888 and April 1892), an article on Shakespeare (October 1889), and the script of a lecture on ‘English prose style’ (January 1889) to the CGHH. None of these are particularly memorable for their merits or insights, and it is not improbable that the Guild mainly fawned over this experienced and commercially successful publisher because he was valuable for his connections, and because he could offer guidance when the magazine faced dwindling sales figures at the end of the 1880s.9
(p.41) The little magazine, while inevitably an exclusive genre, is not a vanity publication for the contributors; it is published to be noticed, even if only by readers who can make a difference in the careers of its producers. The contents of the magazine confirm this ambiguity. As much as a propaganda tool for its principles, the CGHH, like The Germ before it, was a demonstration of the practical application thereof. It was therefore secondarily a portfolio for the writers who delivered the copy, for the pictorial artists whose work was reproduced, and for the applied artists who worked on its design and material presentation. For the proprietors, who were applied art practitioners themselves, this must have been a major incentive, as the revenue coming directly from the sales of the magazine could hardly justify the work put into it. Mackmurdo states in a letter that the CGHH never had more than 500 subscribers, which added to an unspecified (and therefore likely negligible) number of loose copies sold in bookshops meant that it was not the smallest of the little magazines. Nevertheless, surviving ledger notes on Nos. 9–13 (April 1887–January 1888) indicate that these sold on average about 285 copies, and due to the high production costs the profits per issue in that period will have amounted to only a few pounds per issue.10
From the first number onwards, each number closes with a section called ‘The Century Guild Work’, which to all intents and purposes contains advertisements, albeit of a very particular kind. It is a list of endorsed artists/artisans with annotations on the services these provide. The overwhelming majority of these are not directly affiliated with the Century Guild, which, for all its ambitions, was never a large organisation. There do not appear to have been any official membership registers, but then it never was the intention of the Guild’s founder to subsume the united artists into one monolithic entity. In an obvious tribute to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Mackmurdo and Horne occasionally signed their work with ‘MCG’ – ‘Member of the Century Guild’ – for instance, for programmatic contributions in the 1884 number, but they were the only ones to do so, and besides them the artistic polymath and poet Selwyn Image was probably the only constant member. In contrast to later self-styled ‘guilds’ such as C. R. Ashbee’s Guild and School of Handicraft, the Century Guild did not operate from one joint workshop, but rather viewed itself as a rallying point for applied artists, bringing independent artists together for collaborations. In many cases the parties listed in the CGHH were associates contracted by Mackmurdo and Horne when they had obtained architectural and interior design (p.42) commissions.11 As the first ‘Work’ section attests, ‘[b]y means of the co-operation of artists associated through the “Century Guild,” it is possible to maintain some sort of alliance between the arts when conjointly employed’.12
It is unlikely that this publicity was paid for, but the Century Guild will have been amply compensated by the goodwill it generated. Through this section, they could imply that the Guild was a hub for the avant-garde, and the Guild’s endorsement of the listed applied artists would be construed as reciprocal by its readership. Amongst others we find here William De Morgan (‘painted pottery’), William Morris’s firm Messrs. Morris and Co. (‘Carpets, Silks, Velvets, Chintzes and Wall Papers, and Painted Glass’) and William Michael Rossetti (‘reproductions of Pictures by D. G. Rossetti’). Keeping such illustrious company helped the reputations of the Guild members, as well as those of the many humbler, now forgotten applied artists listed in this section. Besides these mercenary commercial advantages, the Century Guild also created for the first time the perception of an Aestheticist artistic scene sharing the same standards and principles, by bringing their collaborators together within the pages of this section. The newness of the little magazine as such a publicity scheme for a pre-selected clique can be gauged by early press notices on the magazine. Critics for the newspaper the Edinburgh Evening News (1873–) and the Pall Mall Gazette (1865–1923) already dismissed the Century Guild on the basis of its 1884 prospectus, respectively as a ‘mutual admiration society’ and ‘a small but fervent set of mutual admirers’, recalling du Maurier’s Punch spoofs in which gatherings of Aesthetes are described in the same terms.13 Although the ‘Century Guild Work’ section appears at the end of each number, there is something to be said for the cynical idea that the rest of the magazine served as bait to draw attention to it. As Chapter 3 shows, the potential function of the little magazine as a portfolio would be the predominant motivation behind several journals of the 1890s. The contents of the CGHH, however, are certainly interesting in their own right too, and belie all allegations of sectarianism. As Rebecca Mitchell has demonstrated, Mackmurdo and Horne were gifted networkers, which is evident from the list of contributors to the magazine.14 Besides young talent such as Arthur Symons, Ernest Dowson and Lionel Johnson, they managed to persuade famous authors such as Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, Christina Rossetti and William Bell Scott to contribute. Established figures from the preceding generation who were already respected for their critical standards were thereby implied to approve of the ambitious debutants. Even if these greats delivered mostly informal essays or (p.43) occasional verse that might never have been published without their names attached, these – once more – at least helped draw attention to the surrounding contributions by the younger generation.
Unlike later Arts and Crafts guilds for which the two aims were indivisible, for the Century Guild the artistic and professional activities dominated, and politics came decidedly second. In the early twentieth century, Mackmurdo did write a series of pamphlets advocating social and economic reform entitled the ‘Hobby Horse Series’, but in the CGHH itself he is more evasive about political issues than would soon become customary in the Arts and Crafts Movement, noting at the start of the magazine that ‘large social questions’ will be avoided. He goes so far as to call out Morris as ‘[a]n instance of an artist entering the circle of social politics, consequently advocating what we believe to be dangerously narrow-sighted remedies of existent evils’.15 As stated above, the CGHH calls into question the distinction between fine and applied art, but within the early Arts and Crafts Movement, the views of Morris and his socialist comrades on the cancellation of the bourgeois juxtaposition of art and utility were much more radical than those of Mackmurdo and Horne. The primary interest that the CGHH shows for the world outside of the commonly defined artistic sphere concerns the question of how the appreciation of ‘Beauty’ can be introduced into everyday life.
The magazine nevertheless manages to avoid the cliché of Aesthete escapism by its minor educational agenda. While it does, like other little magazines, address its readers as implied connoisseurs, few of its critical articles are bogged down by esoteric jargon. This was no doubt a compromise intended to bring in converts as well as please Bourdieu’s ‘other producers’, but on occasion it goes further than this. In the very first number, the script of a lecture by Selwyn Image appears, in which he exhorts his audience to ‘continue to popularise art’, and he certainly is not (only) talking about that of Century Guild artists.16 To this end, an article by Mackmurdo follows straight after, introducing in very basic terms and with generous background information the earliest Italian painters in the National Gallery, explicitly written as an incentive for the reader to go and see this ‘collection finer than any in the world’.17 This piece of course did not address readers who were already well versed in art history. Typical of the bathos characteristic of the CGHH’s 1884 opening number, this piece is entitled ‘Forenoon Echoes of Love’s Evensong’. The article does not explain this cryptic title, but if it is decoded by means of D. G. Rossetti’s sonnet ‘St. Luke the Painter’ from the programmatic ‘Old Art and New’ triptych in House of Life, it suggests (p.44) that this article was meant to propagate a circular, Pre-Raphaelite take on art history. The ‘noon’ would then be the watershed painting of Raphael and his contemporaries after which art had started to decline (see Rossetti ll. 9–11: ‘past noon, her toil began to irk, / And she sought talismans, and turned in vain / To soulless self-reflections of man’s skill’), and the ‘evensong’ is the return to the sound principles from before this decline that as ‘echoes’ were registered by the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite painters (see Rossetti ll. 12–13: ‘Yet now, in this the twilight, she might still / kneel in the latter grass to pray again’).18 The series is continued for two more instalments after the two-year interval between the abortive single number of 1884 and the fresh start in 1886, under the more sober title ‘Notes on the National Gallery’. Finally, yet again in the first issue, Mackmurdo praises the Art for Schools Association for its efforts to promote arts education for children.19
All this suggests a concern for the common weal that goes beyond aesthetic hedonism or dignified commercialism. Arthur Galton, a regular contributor close to the editors, does not surprise when, two years after the death of Matthew Arnold, he notes smugly that the author of Culture and Anarchy (1869) was ‘always interested in the fortunes of the “Hobby Horse”’.20 In its emphasis on the correction of the uninformed reader’s tastes, combined with its price that put it within reach of a wide audience, the CGHH does recall Arnold’s mission to salvage the expanding British middle classes from philistinism. A laudable cause, but one that suggests that the editors initially misjudged their readership, given that it is not likely that the CGHH was actually read outside of the small segment of the population that was already in the know.
According to Image in the aforementioned lecture, two things were needed for the popularisation of art to succeed: ‘the first is to cultivate a catholic spirit – and the other is to be sincere’.21 Like The Germ’s insistence on ‘a pure and unaffected style’ or, more mischievously, Wilde’s later satirical use of the adjective ‘earnest’, that second qualification could mean anything or nothing, but the first was certainly fulfilled by what Fletcher has called the ‘disciplined eclecticism’ of the magazine.22 The CGHH features a wide array of voices in its essays and literary contributions, and as wide a range of styles in its illustrations. This too is a defining feature of this magazine, the very name of which was explained by Horne in a write-up on the Guild for the Art Journal as follows: ‘“De gustibus non disputandum,” that is, as we find it translated in “Tristram Shandy,” there is no disputing about Hobby Horses.’23 The contents of the magazine span the (p.45) whole spectrum of what is now known as Aestheticism, from the Pre-Raphaelite-inspired illustrations and Arts and Crafts ideological treatises of its beginnings, to the French Symbolist influence and the confrontational literary Naturalism that became trendy in the 1890s. It is a flexible publication that features authors as widely different as Wilde (making this one of the very rare appearances in Aestheticist little magazines of the self-crowned prince of the Aesthetes) in July 1886, and Ruskin in April 1887. Despite Mackmurdo’s earlier negative comments, Morris allowed the magazine to print in its January 1892 number a lecture on ‘The influence of building materials upon architecture’ that he had given to the Art Workers’ Guild, a similar organisation.24
In another lecture script printed in the magazine, Horne states that
[a]s there is but one proper study of mankind, which is man; so is there but one art; the art of a fine and various expression of the human spirit; multipartia sed indivisibilis; of many forms, no doubt, but never possible to divide.25
At first glance, the diversity of its contents would argue against the supposed ‘Unity of Art’ declared here and elsewhere in the magazine. However, Hosmon confirms that, at least during Horne’s tenure,
[a]lthough the diverse contributors to the magazine were obviously free to pursue their personal convictions, no essay, poem, or illustration contradicted Horne’s editorial policy. Unity in art meant unity in the magazine, and the magazine was the device […] to promote that policy.26
For the CGHH, the magazine is not just a vessel for the magazine’s content; through its design and material properties it brings cohesion between the individual input of all the different people who together create it: by editing, writing, illustrating, or literally crafting the material object. This is in line with Arts and Crafts ideology, and goes back to the views of Ruskin as developed in his vastly influential essay ‘The Nature of Gothic’, originally in the second volume of The Stones of Venice (1853), praised by Morris as ‘one of the very few necessary and inevitable utterances of the century’.27 There, Ruskin argues that ‘the principle admirableness’ of Gothic architecture was that ‘out of fragments full of imperfection’ it would ‘indulgently raise up a stately and unaccusable whole’.28 His point is that in a truly collective enterprise, such as the construction of a medieval cathedral, everybody involved, down to the most modest (p.46) workman, would be allowed not only to contribute his labour but also to add the expression of his personal creativity. Or, in the words of Mackmurdo and transferred to the collective enterprise that the CGHH aspired to be:
Each [contributor] stands alone responsible for the literary or pictorial form in which his spirit becomes incarnated. But as a body, we are responsible, and responsible only, for the tone and temper that will characterise this periodical; just as individually, for the local colouring that each writer may give to his subject.29
The Arts and Crafts Movement developed alongside the British labour movement, and their critique of industrial society was if anything more radical than that of most contemporaneous socialist schools of thought. Yet, unlike the early communists and trade unionists, it continuously emphasised the fact that society, though a collective entity, was an aggregate of individuals (see Chapter 5). When Mackmurdo in the same manifesto declares that ‘class character like individual character acts automatically according to its bulk of higher human elements’, this is not only an Arnoldian argument in support of the CGHH’s aforementioned educational mission, but also a reflection of how he would organise the movement for the rejuvenation of art, and the magazine which was to be at its centre.30 The CGHH itself was to unite its producers and thereby exemplify the unity of apparently disparate manifestations of an ideal art, writ large: a Total Work of Art.
This approach was new, and, as with other aspects of the magazine, some commentators found it peculiar. A critic in the Bibliographer (1882–94), likely Grant Allen, does not ‘know exactly how to notice this book’, suspecting ‘that the members [of the Guild] are very young men’ (Mackmurdo was thirty-four at the time), and most of this lukewarm review of the first issue is dedicated to the CGHH’s attempt at conceptual unity.31 The reviewer quotes Mackmurdo’s wish that the magazine would
provide a part song in which many voices may show their fullest harmony, and make that harmony as complete as enchanting, by the firmness with which each insists on his individual part, and thus bring out his most valued and self-distinguishing qualities of voice.32
Similar synaesthetic metaphors had occurred in both the theoretical works of Wagner (at that point not yet widespread in Britain) and also (p.47) in the criticism of Walter Pater, a likelier source given the emulation of a Paterian prose style in the magazine’s prospectus and its 1884 issue, and the frequent references to him in later issues.33
Still, it is no wonder that reviewers would not know exactly what to make of such statements. The Germ and the OCM had declared their conceptual unity only through thematic coherence and by reflecting in their editorial policies the artistic and ideological rapport between contributors. For the editors of the CGHH, situated against a developing Arts and Crafts background, the paratext and the modes of production of the magazine became a concern as well, in order to preserve ‘the delicate balance between the matter to be expressed and the manner of expressing it’,34 and ‘the Artistic character of the Periodical by maintaining Originality of Thought and by making Thorough all workmanship involved in its production’.35 The union of the arts was for the Century Guild not merely desirable for the artistic potential of cross-medial collaboration, it also heralded a valorisation of aspects of the printing trade that up until then were hardly acknowledged. This fits in with the CGHH’s general campaign for emancipating the applied arts. Selwyn Image in January 1887 clarifies that ‘when […] we are talking about Art, let it be understood that we are going to use Art with a meaning which embraces more things than popularly it has the credit of embracing’.36 Returning to the magazine’s central idea, he explains that
when we talk about the Unity of Art, we mean that all kinds of invented Form, and Tone, and Colour are alike true and honourable aspects of Art, whatever the material or purpose may be which employs them. We mean that the man, who is engaged in this invention, is an Artist.37
Painting or sculpture are not slighted, but there are also many articles in the magazine on architecture, glass-painting, woodcarving and metalwork, all artistic crafts in which the Guild and its associates excelled. What is even more important, is that the CGHH reads as an intensely self-aware periodical for its regular discussions of topics relevant to the production of the magazine itself. Quality printing and an elegant page layout had already been valued to some extent in earlier periodicals, including the two earliest little magazines previously discussed. Here, for the first time, the skills and knowledge behind the physical production of the magazine came to the forefront and were presented as of equal importance to those of the contributing writers and pictorial artists. Unlike those of The Germ and the OCM whose acceptance of typographical conventions (p.48) and use of stock ornaments imply that they deferred to their printers, the editors of the CGHH assumed full control of the setting and all other aspects of the periodical’s design. Through this the magazine played a role of importance in the so-called Revival of Fine Printing, a prominent tendency in British print culture of the second half of the nineteenth century that, in the concise description of Robert Seiler, ‘rejected the commercialism that governed book production, and in doing so […] inaugurated a new era in book design, its goal being to bring all the elements of the book into some kind of harmony’.38 Mackmurdo and Horne’s typographical practice and assertions of artistic as well as commercial independence were an inspiration to the much older William Morris when founding the Kelmscott Press, and certainly also for Charles Ricketts (see Chapters 3 and 6) when he set up his own press in the London Vale.
During the 1880s, a trend arose for amateurs to invest in such ‘private presses’, as they are often called, of which we find a considerable number in Britain. Before the Revival caught on in the book trade, its principles were often advocated by such curious artists and book lovers who were cut off from the world of publishing as big business.39 Nevertheless, the term is somewhat misleading as the degree of ‘privateness’ of these presses varied. The earliest were certainly the pastimes of amateurs, such as the Daniel Press of Rev. Charles Daniel that from the late 1840s to the late 1910s produced but a few, though highly acclaimed titles; and even later, few would have been envisaged as commercially lucrative enterprises at the outset, although some did grow into modest businesses that came to be the main occupation of the people involved. It is therefore better to use the then current term ‘small press’ as a catch-all for all (relatively) small-scale ventures that designed their own books and did their own printing, although the latter sometimes using equipment owned by more commercial printing houses. What all Victorian small presses shared was a dedication to skilful printing by means of manual and therefore increasingly dated technology, whereby this restriction to old-fashioned methods, instead of being considered a setback, was approached as an opportunity for experimentation. The most celebrated small press of the nineteenth century was without a doubt the Kelmscott Press of William Morris, whose medievalist masterpieces also form the most enduringly famous work of the whole Revival. Morris worked with an old hand-press of the kind that was favoured by amateur printers, sought out delicate inks, and used especially manufactured hand-made paper. According to William Peterson, all these meticulous preparations were in aid of attempting to recreate the working conditions of early printers as (p.49) much as possible: ‘[b]y selecting the Albion hand-press, Morris was able to turn to inks that were much thicker and slower-drying – and presumably closer in consistency and appearance to the inks employed by fifteenth-century printers’.40
Like Mackmurdo and Horne, Morris had worked in architecture after leaving university, but he soon turned to crafts on a smaller scale, such as furniture, decorated fabrics, wallpapers and eventually books, believing that here would be better prospects for some immediate improvement. As they believed so strongly in intrinsic analogies between the arts, downscaling from buildings to books did not seem a huge conceptual change to these artists. After all, the design and production of printed texts, just like that of buildings, had traditionally been a joint effort involving the labours of several workers, each providing different skills that needed to be harmonised in order to come up with an end product that would be regarded as a self-contained unit. The architectural metaphor, referring to a Total Art construct that is capable of harbouring several constituent art forms, returns time and again in applied art criticism of the period. The most famous artistic book of the nineteenth century, the ‘Kelmscott Chaucer’ (1896), was referred to by its illustrator Edward Burne-Jones as ‘a pocket cathedral’.41 In the CGHH, Horne too stated that ‘a study of Architecture’ alone can teach us ‘the discipline of regarding the disposition of a work as a whole, and relating, both as regards form and mass, every one part to every other part, mindful always of fitness, harmony, proportion and symmetry’.42 It is for this reason, as we shall see, that the last Aestheticist little magazine of the 1890s would be entitled the Dome (see Chapter 6).
Morris had learned the same lessons during his architectural training, and in applying these to texts he aimed for nothing less than the ‘Ideal Book’, explained thus in 1893:
An illustrated book, where the illustrations are more than mere illustrations of the printed text, should be a harmonious work of art. The type, the spacing of the type, the position of the pages of print on the paper, should be considered from the artistic point of view. The illustrations should not have a mere accidental connection with the other ornaments and the type, but an essential and artistic connection. […] This is the only possible way in which you can get beautiful books.43
Morris had been involved in the designing of his own literary publications before, in the emergent conviction of the necessity of ‘reconciling type, border, initial and picture’,44 but his views on the matter (p.50) were brought into focus in November 1888, when he attended a lecture by his Hammersmith neighbour and future associate Emery Walker on ‘Letter-press printing and illustration’ that for the influence it exerted on several audience members is often considered a breakthrough moment in the Revival of Fine Printing.45 At that time, Walker was, amongst others, responsible for the printing of the illustrations in the CGHH, which was indeed the very topic of his lecture. Some years after the dissolution of the Century Guild and its magazine, Morris would also use a Greek font designed by erstwhile Guild member and CGHH regular Selwyn Image for Kelmscott books.
To late-Victorian readers who valued Fine Printing, the justly famous Kelmscott books, such as the edition of Ruskin’s The Nature of Gothic (1892) quoted above that was tellingly one of their first publications (Figure 4), will instantly have recalled the CGHH. The magazine’s front cover bore a woodcut by Selwyn Image, designed to confront the reader immediately with a visual summary of the interests and aims of the Guild (Figure 5). This well-known image of the knights whose lower extremities disappear into a caparisoned toy palfrey would dispel the popular misconception that there was no place for humour in Aestheticism. Perhaps next to the cause of civilising the Victorian middle classes, another hint that the magazine took from Arnold was its notable tension between ‘high seriousness’ and self-relativising irony, a mode that the urbane Image handled particularly well. This illustration is a visual pun on the magazine’s name, referring to the so-called ‘hobby-horses’ used in folkloric Morris dancing (pace William), and a wink at how Victorian cultural nostalgia actually related to the medieval age that had furnished them with the example of the guilds.
Within, the magazine’s letterpress, on hand-made paper and executed by the Chiswick Press that had also printed the OCM, has ample borders and only a single column of text in Caslon on every page (Figure 7). Mackmurdo, Horne and Image had a keen interest in typography and worked as book designers during their involvement with the magazine; from a comparison between any random page from the CGHH on the one hand, and The Germ (Figure 3) or the OCM (Figure 2) on the other, the advantages of little magazine editors participating in the material production of their publications will be plain. In the CGHH, woodcut decorated initials and other ornamental devices were especially designed instead of taken from the printer’s stock as was standard practice, and the artists furnishing these devices were even credited in the magazine’s table of contents. This was unheard of at the time, and brings these visual elements to the same level as that of (p.51) the illustrations, which too are always credited among the other contents. ‘Illustrations’ might actually not be an adequate description of the pictorial art in the magazine, because these images usually are not representations of textual content. As noted in Chapter 1, there was among British artists working in print media a growing impatience with what Linda Dowling, following late-Victorian illustrator Joseph Pennell, calls the ‘merely “explanatory” role’ that was the norm up to this point.46 As the etchings in The Germ were potentially autonomous but always still connected to textual items (see Chapter 1), the CGHH was arguably the first consistent attempt to address this discontent in a periodical. Whereas the original artistic and conceptual motivations of the Pre-Raphaelite illustrators are still relevant here, it additionally fits the political agenda of the Arts and Crafts Movement to question the dominant position of literature in periodicals, demanding that pictures in printed texts be considered as functionally illustrative but potentially autonomous works of art.
More importantly for a largely apolitical publication as the CGHH, however, such a levelling of content categories also enabled the Guild to further integrate verbal and pictorial art into the Total Art project that was their magazine. The art plates are sometimes referred to in the magazine as ‘designs’, which was no doubt not considered derogatory by the artists, as it adds another level to their contributions, functioning both on their own and as an integral component of the number of the magazine in which they appear. Following the example of the authors who were to consider illustrators as their equals, the pictorial artists too take a step down in the Victorian hierarchy of artistic media that assumed that certain skills are more valuable than others, and allow their status to be equalised with their colleagues working in book or periodical design, at the time generally considered a ‘craft’ instead of an ‘art’. In the table of contents, the names of their designers as well as their engravers are listed, a clear statement that even the latter were valued as much as anyone else involved in the production of the magazine (Figure 8). With the CGHH, the Aestheticist little magazine becomes more than the literary organ of a particular group, or a mere repository for pictorial art. The paratextual aspects of the magazine come into focus and gain prominence in this ‘Total’ periodical, where artistic-literary content and paratextual presentation are conceptually integrated to achieve cohesion between the usually distinguished parts, as artistic crafts of equal value. In so doing, the CGHH tried to reform the allegedly insipid and unfair artistic practice of the age in the manner envisioned by Horne: ‘not a merely negative protest, but a practical attempt to do otherwise’.47
Even though they are usually treated as together constituting one single run, there are significant differences between the Century Guild Hobby Horse, running from 1884 to 1892, and the ‘New Series’ published under the shorter name the Hobby Horse (1893–4). To distinguish more clearly between the two, we will henceforth keep on using CGHH for the magazine’s ‘Old Series’, and use Hobby Horse for this ‘New Series’. As we have seen, the CGHH presented itself as the official mouthpiece of the artistic craftsmen united in the Century Guild, a small but devoted organisation founded by architect and designer Arthur Mackmurdo in 1882. Although no specific date is on record for when the Guild was officially dissolved, its activities had largely petered out by the end of the 1880s. Other self-styled ‘guilds’ had recently formed that had a more centralised organisation than the Century Guild aspired to, and the latter had lost their role as a hub for artistic craftsmanship to publicity associations such as the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and pressure groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Art and its Application to Industry (see Chapter 5). The Century Guild had played its part, and the final issue of the CGHH came out in October 1892. Horne, who had been editor from the second issue of the CGHH in 1886 until a quarrel with Mackmurdo got him dismissed at the end of 1891, continued for three more issues with a ‘New Series’ issued as the plain Hobby Horse.
The topics addressed in the magazine do not change significantly. In the letterpress, we still find original literary contributions as well as critical articles and more casual causeries on a variety of artistic topics. The fine and applied arts from book design to painting get as much attention as ever, and while Mackmurdo left, trusty Selwyn Image remained a regular contributor. At first glance, not much has changed in the presentation of the ‘New Series’, either. The magazine looks much like it did under its former title, and is surely still a prime example of Fine Printing. Instead of by the Chiswick Press it was now printed by the equally reputable firm of Folkard & Sons, which maintained its flawless setting and quality image reproduction. Although Mackmurdo did some acclaimed work in book design as well, it is likely that Horne had always been more involved in the typography of the CGHH, because he was the more active book artist. As he received fewer commissions for design in other media after the dissolution of the Century Guild, the book arts became his central occupation, and he was in demand with several central publishers of (p.53) the 1890s. As a rare feat of integrated design, Horne had produced his sole collection of poetry Diversi Colores (1891), according to Jerome McGann a book so thoroughly designed by the poet/typographer as to facilitate a reading that perceives the visual presentation of the text itself as not only an enhancer but also a carrier of content, ‘an aesthetic manifesto for an art of the “Total Book”’.48 A magazine like the Hobby Horse is a different medium than the single-authored book because it as a rule yokes the expressive talents of several contributors, but here too Horne continued the experiments with integrated design that had begun in the CGHH during the 1880s. In this changed context, however, there were significant changes in how this bibliographic vision was being sold to the readership.
The relationship of the CGHH to George Allen and later Kegan Paul had always been kept intentionally vague so as not to cast doubt on the magazine’s boasted independence, which it needed to cultivate to boost its avant-garde credibility. While the front matter of the Hobby Horse continues to assure us that the magazine is ‘published for the proprietor’, the 1893 prospectus for the ‘New Series’ tells a different story:
Messrs. Elkin Mathews and John Lane beg to announce, that they have concluded arrangements with the proprietor of the ‘Hobby Horse’ by which they are now prepared to receive subscriptions for the issue of a New Series of that Magazine […] formerly issued in a half-private manner.49
This makes it quite clear that the Hobby Horse was part of the publisher’s list of Mathews and Lane, better known as the Bodley Head, arguably the most enterprising publishing house of the 1890s, which in the next few years would become publicly associated with well-known Fin-de-Siècle figures as Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley. By 1893, the firm was building a reputation for bringing controversial books with Revivalist design within the grasp of the common reader; harnessing a periodical that had done so much to establish the vogue for such books in the first place was an investment in their brand identity. The importance of the Bodley Head in promoting the ‘affordably exquisite’ Revivalist book and introducing the newest trends in 1890s literature to the uninitiated reader cannot be overstated.50 Their reputation depended on the recognisable ‘Bodley Head book’, which
came to possess a particular meaning and resonance for the public at large. A book issued by that press raised a quite specific set of expectations – expectations about contents and appearance – in a way that the products of no other firm did.51
One of the first books that they published was a treatise On the Making and Issuing of Books (1891) by Charles Jacobi of the Chiswick Press, which had printed the OCM and the CGHH and was frequently used by the recently founded firm as well. Their association with this universally respected master printer was a declaration of their dedication to Fine Printing. However, the very first Bodley Head release Volumes in Folio (1889), by the firm’s future publisher’s reader and personal ‘logroller’ or purveyor of positive reviews Richard Le Gallienne (who in July 1892 – need it even be said? – contributed to the CGHH), was already a highly characteristic publication of their demonstrative bibliophilia.52 This seemingly modest poetry collection announced several of its publisher’s most recognisable characteristics. Content-wise it featured Aestheticist lyrics in the Swinburnian vein, transposing the Fleshly poet’s signature erotic charge to Le Gallienne’s own fetish for beautiful books. With ‘its blue-gray “antique boards”, its imitation vellum spine with raised bands, its Van Gelder handmade paper, and its tastefully designed title page lettered in red and black’, and its setting in the Revivalists’ favourite font Caslon, it was visually and materially made as seductive as possible too.53 This collection may be situated within the then flourishing genre of ‘book verse’, to some extent a literary by-product of the Revival, of which enough appeared during the early 1890s for anthologies to be compiled. For instance, Joseph William Gleeson White, book designer and later editor of the art magazine the Studio and the annual Pageant (see Chapter 6), edited the anthology Book-Song (1893), published as part of publisher Elliot Stock’s fittingly named ‘Book-Lover’s Library’ series, which includes no fewer than six poets who had published with the Bodley Head, and is dedicated to that doyen of bookish singers, Le Gallienne. Gleeson White’s dedication verses read ‘I dedicate this sheaf of verse which then / You bade me gather’, implying moreover that he even played some part in the anthology’s inception.54 The reviewer of Book-Song in the bibliographical periodical the Library (1888–) states facetiously that ‘we are extremely pleased that there are so many minor poets […] who are ready to profess their love for books in verses which are unimpeachable on any score, save that of dullness’.55
Of course, the CGHH had waxed lyrical about the material book as well, and for its associations with Fine Printing it was therefore a useful title for the Bodley Head to be associated with. In October 1889, for instance, Selwyn Image had contributed a characteristically sprightly essay on the joys of collecting books. He praised rare, (p.55) centuries-old titles in terms similar to those that Revival of Fine Printing theorists were using to propagate their own canons of design that had been inspired by the revered early-modern ‘Aldine, the Basle, or the Plantin Press […]’:
How admirably disposed upon the ivory-coloured page lies, before our satisfied vision, the mass of choicely designed lettering! What a sense of proportion and propriety in the simple title-page; the headings with their ordered capitals; the initial letters and head-pieces […]!56
By telling his readers what to look out for in order to discern the distinct quality of old books, Image was by implication also praising the magazine in which his laudation appeared, and by extension the books designed by himself and his friends who also worked by the same principles. In this way, ‘book verse’ and prose appreciations like these were indirect advertisements that helped to establish the brand of the periodical or its publisher, and stimulated the development of new tastes in the public, as when Image states that ‘[a] mean, or vulgar, or unpleasing, presentation, therefore, of an author’s spirit, causes in [him] a revolt, as at something puritanically unreasonable, and unmannerly’.57 Subtly, the piece finishes with a contented sigh that although Image did not have the money for the truly great books, if he sought well enough, affordable gems could still be found. This is hardly subtle enough to qualify as subliminal advertising.
These must have been very welcome sentiments for a firm that wanted to cultivate in a wide audience a gusto for attractively designed books. The Bodley Head’s literary marketeer Le Gallienne never pushed this agenda more blatantly than with the essay Limited Editions, A Prose Fancy (1893), later reprised as ‘The Philosophy of “Limited Editions”’ in Prose Fancies (1894), a collection of causeries on miscellaneous topics. Apart from a luxurious actually ‘limited edition’ of twenty-five vellum copies, the earlier version was ironically published in a regular edition of a thousand copies, which is several times that of the hitherto discussed little magazines, and more than most usual Bodley Head books.58 It was preceded by the sonnet ‘Confessio Amantis’, which opens with a bathetic ‘When do I love you most, sweet books of mine?’, and then goes on to describe the booklover in his library:
- Ere lamplight dawneth, when low croons the fire
- To whispering twilight in my little room,
- And eyes read not, but sitting silently
- I feel your great hearts throbbing deep in quire,
- And hear you breathing round me in the gloom.59
(p.56) Again, the purpose of the library is not (only) to store information: the speaker’s ‘eyes read not’. Books can also be nice to look at, and the pun on ‘quire’/choir emphasises with a typical Aestheticist paradox that they can be artistically expressive even as non-communicating, material objects. Of course, what they express is the good taste of the collector. The speaker wants to bask in the exquisiteness of this collection, the sheer excitement of having acquired these beatified commodities. The fact that even the murmur of the fire is noticed implies that a contented contemplation of the library as a treasury of accumulated cultural capital is seen as its highest attainable bliss.
As Genette candidly remarks of book collecting, ‘[i]t is not enough to be happy; one must also be envied’,60 so an alternative answer to the blissful speaker’s question as to when he loves his ‘sweet books’ the most would be: when the books are rare. In the following essay, Le Gallienne avers that
[t]he ideal world would be that in which there should be at least one lover for each woman. In the higher life of books the ideal is similar. No book should be brought into the world which is not sure of love and lodging on some comfortable shelf.61
The Bodley Head promoted that sentiment by their standard policy of issuing a trade edition at 5 shillings, already attractive in comparison with books by other publishers sold at the same price, and besides this a more expensive limited edition. That would be printed on handmade Dutch Van Gelder paper, issued in a larger size and bound more luxuriously, and sold at twice to three times the regular price. Some had extra special editions that were printed on vellum, an expensive calfskin parchment, for an even more luxurious product. Le Gallienne, and several other authors publishing with the Bodley Head during its formative early years, offered the company an Aestheticist justification for such practices. Hereby not only content, form and production methods are being adapted to form a conceptual unity, even a less obvious feature such as the number of copies in an edition is conceptualised to fit in a Total Art project, although less to enhance the artistic value than to make the publisher more money.
Philip Cohen states that ‘[t]he heightened interest in collecting and rarity had engendered a healthy market for incidental bibliographical variants even of relatively common contemporary titles’.62 Whereas for the Kelmscott Press the limited editions were primarily meant to be exceptional works of book art, surpassing even the regular editions, and were so limited because they were labour-intensive to (p.57) produce and consequently too expensive to find many takers, for the Bodley Head speculation was undoubtedly the main objective. Artistic merit and financial profit are of course not necessarily mutually exclusive, but the deprecating tone in some assessments of the firm’s publishing policy surely is not entirely unjustified. The assessment by Margaret Stetz that ‘in a decade filled with social poseurs and literary masqueraders, the Bodley Head itself was a bit of a fraud’ is representative.63 While this is true, the problem with such a statement is that it presupposes that financially disinterested art is a possibility to begin with, and as such perpetuates the myths that makes it possible for hypocrites to flourish in the first place. The Bodley Head lucratively sought to ‘manufacture in the buyer’s mind the confusion of scarcity with quality’,64 but its cheaper editions were noteworthy productions as well, that were now disseminated to a wider audience that otherwise might have been stuck with shoddy work, and that ironically was not served by the socialists at the Kelmscott Press.
Because Mathews and Lane had the combined aesthetic taste and commercial genius to employ some of the best book artists of the age, and had their books printed by some of the most skilled printers and bound by the best binders, ‘the Bodley Head was from the outset able to embody in its work the ideals and aims of the Revival of Fine Printing so often associated with the founding of Morris’ Kelmscott Press’.65 This even though the market positioning of the two firms was completely different, and Mathews and Lane lacked Morris’s political motivations. Unlike the Hammersmith craftsman, they were nevertheless able to sell their splendid books at a small enough price to reach the lower middle classes. James Nelson elucidates their inventiveness in providing their books with an aura of ‘daintiness’, or implied refinement in the finished commodity:
They did so by effective production practices which cut the cost to a minimum. For example, [they] employed larger-than-usual type sizes (above ten-point) and more leading than normal between lines. […] This habitual use of relatively little text per book, of course, substantially reduced the cost of typesetting. Moreover, the partners printed their editions on remainders of fine paper which they bought at far below the normal price. In addition, they negotiated agreements which paid their [still upcoming] authors at best a modest royalty only after production costs had been paid.66
The dissolution of the Century Guild will inevitably have been a time of reflection and self-evaluation for the former Guild members, and (p.58) Horne’s move to the roster of the Bodley Head, which was beginning to be known for such innovative marketing strategies, must have been a conscious repositioning within a changed market. For the Bodley Head, this was a good deal as well. Mathews and Lane had distributed periodicals before, which are rarely mentioned in critical studies. The Ruskin Reading Guild, which promoted the teachings of Ruskin after his death and were primarily active in Scotland, issued a London edition of their short-lived journals Igdrasil (1890–2) and World Literature (1892) with both George Allen and Elkin Mathews as partners, and the socialist Pioneer Club – not to be confused with Emily Massingberd’s later feminist society of the same name – published their Pioneer (1887–91) with the Bodley Head; all three are rather newsletters for their respective societies than outwardly oriented propaganda organs, and were not much interested in new art and literature.67 Even though the Bodley Head had also taken care of the distribution of Nos. 2 and 3 of the Dial, the Hobby Horse was the first magazine that the company effectively published, and this experience will have influenced their decision to take up the Yellow Book soon after in 1894 (see Chapter 4).
The Hobby Horse was only circulated by subscription, at the price of £1 per annum for four quarterly issues (though only three would actually appear). This breaks down to 5 shillings per number, twice as much as the CGHH had cost, and the price of a regular book or prestigious review periodical. With its forty pages of content per issue it does not deliver a lot of value for this amount of money, and this suggests that the Bodley Head meant it to be seen as another of its limited-edition publications. Its run of only three more issues may mean that it was not found expedient to keep the likely not cost-effective Hobby Horse alive for long after the foundation of the Yellow Book in 1894.
Like everything the Century Guild did, the CGHH had been barely solvent, which it hardly could have been because of its staunch refusal to include external advertisers. The Hobby Horse too only carries one advert in its three issues, and that is for the second issue of the Dial (in No. 1). This in many ways similar publication was distributed by the Bodley Head as well, and the cliques behind the two periodicals overlapped and were sympathetic to each other (see Chapter 3). The first issue of the Dial had been recommended to the readers of the CGHH with the message that ‘without question, “The Dial” is a magazine to be bought’,68 and Horne contributed a poem to the second issue, now advertised in the Hobby Horse. This advertisement was probably not paid for, bearing in mind the (p.59) constant financial troubles of the Dial’s editors Ricketts and Shannon, and their friendship with the Hobby Horse editor. Besides the Dial coterie themselves, the only party to benefit significantly from this advert would have been the clever Hobby Horse publishers and Dial distributors at the Bodley Head, who obviously had stakes in both periodicals.
When assessing the steep price of the Hobby Horse, however, the formal and material characteristics of the magazine have to be taken into account as well. The CGHH/Hobby Horse has not for nothing been declared ‘perhaps the most complete example of an English “Total Art” periodical, with its hand-made paper, specially designed initials, borders and typography, and programmatic content’.69 As the prospectus attests,
the most scrupulous care will be expended upon the form and matter of the forthcoming series. A new title-page, and new ornaments, will be designed by the Editor; and all copper-plates and lithographs will be printed as India-proofs. The paper will be expressly hand-made for the Magazine, and will bear a special water-mark, and new type will be cast for the fresh series.70
The ‘new title-page’ in question is a stylish update by Horne of the earlier cover illustration by Image of the knights and their unlikely mounts (Figure 6). Whereas the first version, used throughout the run as the CGHH, incorporated thorny hedges, simultaneously symbolising organic development and the assertiveness of nature, this motif is now transferred to an ornamental frame. The thorns and their symbolism are thereby arguably contained, while the image of the hobby-horsed knight is allowed to step out of the frame and the self-conscious artificiality of the first version is yet increased. As Julie Codell has found, ‘the Hobby Horse reflected a desire for poetic and mythic explanations with the realization that such explanations were no longer sustainable or appropriate’.71 Of course, the old illustration was already partly humorous, but in this update for the Nineties, its ‘Gothic’ knightly valour is entirely gone. The steed has a jaunty cupid on its caparison, and what counts now is that ‘Amor Omnia Vincit’ or ‘Love Conquers All’, a final goodbye to the last residues of Arts and Crafts cultural nostalgia in the CGHH.
Horne also took other matters into his hands, as the ‘new ornaments’ mentioned above are, according to the table of contents of these three numbers, all ‘from the designs of the Editor’. India proofs are normally trial prints on special paper that yield a finer registration (p.60) of the image than would usually end up in a magazine, and that sometimes were sold in print shops. Concerning the choice of paper, a letter from Horne to Mathews reveals that he thinks ‘[w]e can have a special water mark, which will increase its value in the eyes of collectors’, an idea that must have been music to the ears of his publisher.72 Fletcher mentions that the sort of paper that they chose for the illustrations was Ingres paper, a high-quality but also conspicuously old-fashioned laid paper that was used by artists for prints, and would have been suitable for the India proofs.73 Lay readers would not have known about this, but were informed by the prospectus that they should be duly impressed.
The CGHH was by and large a periodical by and for artistic craftsmen who expressed themselves clearly enough for lay readers to listen in (and maybe develop an interest), but now that the Century Guild was gone, the Hobby Horse appears to have shifted its attention somewhat to the uninitiated. For the second number, Image wrote three short causeries under the heading of ‘A Ternary of Reflections’, the middle one of which tells ‘Of Certain Interleaved Volumes’ that the author had recently obtained. The interleaving of books was a common practice well into the twentieth century, when these were often bought without (final) bindings, and the block of the book could still easily be tampered with. Study books in particular would receive such sheets of blank paper between the pages of text to serve for all kinds of annotations. Image reveals that such books are of interest to him for two distinct reasons. On the one hand, it is pleasant to ponder over the previous owners of the books, one of which in this case used to belong to Pitt the Younger, of whom many character traits might be derived from the preserved notes. On the other hand, the interleaves are usually not all scribbled over, becoming a source of high-quality ‘Old Paper’ that is much sought by ‘[t]hose of us, who are in the way of making pencil drawings, or printing etchings’.74 The materiality of print publications is hereby emphasised by the author in the same way as it is in the prospectus for the Hobby Horse, teaching its readers once again to notice and appreciate such matters.
Though announced in the prospectus, no ‘new font’ would ultimately be cast for the ‘New Series’, as the Hobby Horse retains the reliable Caslon of the CGHH. Of course, the specific mention of there being a new font could have a special appeal to the readership of the Hobby Horse in the same way that they are told to be impressed by its paper. As with the emphasis on the design, on the care put into the printing of the illustrations and on the handmade (p.61) paper, the fonts are hereby too related to the choiceness of the formal presentation of the magazine. There had been articles on typography in the CGHH, and Louis Dyer, a Classicist at Oxford, contributed to the third number of the Hobby Horse a review of ‘A New Fount of Greek Types’ designed by Image for the publisher Macmillan, likely the same Greek font that was used by the Kelmscott Press, as mentioned above.75 The article highlights the scholarship that preceded the efforts of Image as type designer, who had been a prominent contributor to the CGHH since it started, and had been involved in its design.
The CGHH targeted connoisseurs, or at any rate readers who considered themselves as such, and reinforced the image of the Bodley Head as a haven for the more demanding reader like Le Gallienne’s book verse had done before. As we have seen, this periodical wanted to educate its readership about art and show it the way towards the artistic craftsmanship of the Century Guild and its associates. In the Hobby Horse, the educational mission is subordinated to training its readership to be better consumers of Revivalist books. Not long after the third and final number of the Hobby Horse was released, a stormy break-up of the two partners in the Bodley Head firm followed that would end with Mathews leaving the business and setting up shop on his own. Although it would not be correct to discern a clear division between so-called ‘decadents’ and those more concerned with morality respectively assigned to Lane’s and Mathews’s now separate lists, Horne was certainly among those, like most members of the Rhymers’ Club, who would side with Mathews because he was generally perceived as the more conscientious of the two. The Hobby Horse was among the items that Mathews eventually secured, while Lane landed lucrative projects like the Yellow Book. This led the poet Ernest Radford, an unwavering supporter of the Mathews faction, to reassure his publisher that ‘[t]he Hobby Horse is worth 1000 Yellow Books’.76 Unfortunately, the Hobby Horse folded soon after, and the future was the Yellow Book’s. That future, as we will see in Chapter 4, would have its ups and downs as well.
(p.62) (4.) ‘The Century Guild of Artists’.
(12.) ‘The Century Guild Work’.
(35.) Quoted from a mission statement printed on the verso of the front cover in several early numbers.
(67.) For more information on Igdrasil and World Literature specifically, see Maidment, ‘Influence, Presence, Appropriation’, pp. 73–8.