Box icon The Cornhill Magazine (1860-1975)

Detail from the Cornhill Magazine

The one shilling (£2 in modern currency) literary journal 'The Cornhill Magazine' was published monthly by Smith, Elder & Company (1860-1916), then by John Murray (1917-1975). It was one of the 19th century's most important and distinguished literary magazines

Cornhill published literary articles and reviews, often illustrated, as well as serialising new novels. Nineteenth century contributors included:

  • Robert Browning
  • Wilkie Collins
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • George Eliot
  • Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Henry James
  • Lord Tennyson
  • Anthony Trollope
  • John Ruskin.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Popular novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) was Cornhill's first editor. He also contributed his own fiction and his editorial essays: 'Roundabout Papers'. Circulation for the magazin peaked at an incredible 110,000 in the early 1860s, but due to new competition this had dropped to about 20,000 by 1870.

Thackeray's son-in-law Leslie Stephen took over as editor in 1871. Under him the literary essays flourished, where his own contributions were bolstered by outstanding work by Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Edmund William Gosse, John Addington Symonds and others. However, when Stephen left 'Cornhill' in 1882 to edit the Dictionary of National Biography, circulation had dropped to 12,000.

The 20th century

John Murray took over the magazine with the acquisition of Smith, Elder & Company in 1912 although its publication was suspended between 1939-1944. Thereafter it changed from monthly to quarterly issues. John Murray VI was heavily involved in the 'Cornhill' and was assistant editor from 1931 and editor from 1951. The final issue, number 1084, was in 1975.

Notable 20th century 'Cornhill' contributors included John Betjeman, Isahiah Berlin, Maurice Bowra, Sir Kenneth Clark, C Day Lewis, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Dervla Murphy, Anthony Powell, Freya Stark and Evelyn Waugh.

National Library of Scotland holdings: 181 complete volumes (1860-1975) shelfmark NH.297 PER. You can consult these in the National Library of Scotland manuscripts reading room.

Notable 19th century contributors:

  • 1860: Anthony Trollope – 'Framley Parsonage'
  • 1860: Alfred Tennyson – 'Tithonus'
  • 1860-1861: John Ruskin – 'Unto This Last'
  • 1862-1863: George Eliot – 'Romola'
  • 1864-1866: Wilkie Collins – 'Armadale'
  • 1864-1866: Elizabeth Gaskell – 'Wives and Daughters'
  • 1868-1869: Robert Browning – 'The Ring and the Book'
  • 1874: Thomas Hardy – 'Far from the Madding Crowd'
  • 1880: Henry James – 'Washington Square'
  • 1884: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – 'J Habakuk Jephson's Statement'
  • 1891: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – 'The White Company'.

The Cornhill Magazine editors:

  • 1860-1862: William Makepeace Thackeray
  • 1862-1871: Editorial board of varying members, including George Murray Smith, Frederick Greenwood,George Henry Lewes and Edward Dutton Cook
  • 1871-1882: Leslie Stephen
  • 1883-1896: James Payn
  • 1896-1897: John St Loe Strachey
  • 1898-1916: Reginald Smith
  • 1917-1933: Leonard Huxley
  • 1933-1939: Lord Gorell
  • 1939-1944: Publication ceased
  • 1944-1951: Peter Quennell
  • 1951-1975: John Murray VI (assistant editor from 1931) and Osyth Leeston.

Top of page

Topics in the archive

In publishing:

'We secured the most brilliant contributors from every quarter. Our terms were lavish almost to the point of recklessness. No pains and no cost were spared to make the new magazine the best periodical yet known to English literature.'
– George Murray Smith, 'Our Birth and Parentage' in The Cornhill Magazine, January 1901.

Who's who?

Key figures in Murray publishing: