The Dark Blue

British and Colonial

General Description

Date: 1871-1873


◦ Houghton, Walter, ed. “The Dark Blue”. The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900. Vol. 4. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1966. pp. 178-183.

Scholarly Commentary


The Dark Blue. London: [Sampson Low, Son, and Martson 1871], [British and Colonial Publishing 1871-1873].

The Dark Blue was a briefly brilliant journalistic venture of Oxford undergraduate John Christian Freund, who attracted an astounding list of contributors to the early volumes. Freund founded the magazine in 1871, and published essays, tales, poems, and illustrations by names such as William Morris, W.S. Gilbert, Andrew Lang, Thomas Hughes, A.C. Swinburne, Edward Dowden, Ford Madox Brown, Dante Gabriel and William Michael Rossetti, Simeon Solomon, and Sydney Colvin. Despite, or rather because of, the extravagant substance of The Dark Blue, it folded in 1873, with Freund fleeing to America to escape his creditors.

No purpose or perspective seems to unify The Dark Blue, other than Freund's desire to make a splash with a literary journal that would endear itself to a large readership. With little economic consideration, he overspent on publication costs, choosing the prominent publishing firm of Sampson Low to produce an illustrated monthly, and paying (or promising) large fees to his famous contributors. The one shilling per-issue price couldn't begin to balance the books, and by the end of 1871, The Dark Blue was already in arrears and in decline.

The Dark Blue remains an important artifact in the history of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, because of the various contributions it published. Ford Madox Brown provided two drawings for DGR's poem, “Down Stream”, Simeon Solomon illustrated Swinburne's “The End of a Month” and Swinburne returned the favor with an essay in praise of Solomon, Morris published The Story of Frithiof the Bold, and other poets associated with the P.R.B., such as Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Theophilus Merzials, and George A. Simcox, also contributed poetry to The Dark Blue.

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