19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, No 16 (2013)

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W. T. Stead’s ‘Penny Poets’: Beyond Baylen

Tom Lockwood


This article considers the founding publications in what became W. T. Stead’s ‘Masterpiece Library’, the ‘Penny Poets’, which were first published in 1895. It offers a detailed account of the series and its publishing contexts, and then proceeds to set that account within a larger inquiry into the canon created by and in Stead’s series, and its relation to late nineteenth-century educational reforms. In doing so, the article interrogates Stead’s own account of the success of the series in the Review of Reviews and elsewhere, used uncritically by Joseph Baylen in the only substantial account to date. By moving outside the critical ‘intercommunication’ that marks Baylen’s approach, the article brings our account of the materiality of the Penny Poets up to date, and suggests areas where further research might now be directed.

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