The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine

General Description

Date: 1856


◦ Georgiana Burne–Jones, Memorials.

◦ Doughty and Wahl, Letters, vol. 1.

◦ Forman, H. Buxton. The Books of William Morris.

◦ Gordon, “Oxford and Cambridge Magazine”.

◦ Houghton, The Wellesley Index, pp. 723-731.

◦ LeMire, Eugene D., ed. The Hollow Land.

◦ MacDonald, F.W. In a Nook with a Book.

◦ Mackail, J. W. Life of William Morris .

◦ Kelvin, The Collected Letters of William Morris, vol. I.

Scholarly Commentary

Guest Editor: PC Fleming


The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine ran for twelve months, from January to December, 1856. It was created by a “set” of Oxford undergraduates who called themselves the Brotherhood. The group was led by William Morris (1834-1896), Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), and William Fulford (1831-1882). The other founding members were Cormell Price (1835-1902), Richard Watson Dixon (1833-1900), Henry MacDonald, Charles Joseph Faulkner (1834-1892), and, at Cambridge, Wilfred Heeley (1833-1876). With the exception of Morris and Faulkner, all had attended King Edward’s School in Birmingham.

All of the members of the brotherhood, except Faulkner, had come to the university planning to enter the clergy. But by 1856 their plans had changed. In 1854 the group had started weekly Shakespeare readings in each others’ rooms (Mackail 47), and they quickly expanded their reading to include contemporary writers like Tennyson, Kingsley, Browning, and Ruskin. By their third year at Oxford, the group’s focus had become secular and aesthetic, rather than religious.

Morris came of age in 1855, and received an annual disposition of £900 (Mackail 49). Though for a brief period he considered using the money to found a monastery, Morris’s familiarity with writers like Carlyle and Ruskin, and his contact with the other members of the Brotherhood, especially Price and Faulkner, had made him aware of the pressing need for social reform (Mackail 64). He and Burne-Jones came across a copy of The Germ in the spring of 1855 (Memorials 122), and it was soon decided that the best way to use Morris’s inheritance was to found a magazine combining social reform with aesthetic investigation.

Dixon was the first to suggest the idea of a magazine (Mackail 68), but the rest of the Brotherhood eagerly supported it. Fulford, Morris, and Burne-Jones traveled to France in the summer of 1855, visiting churches and gathering material that would later find its way into the magazine. They had originally planned to call the magazine “The Brotherhood,” and Morris’s letters to Price during this period use that title (see Kelvin 13). After the three men returned to Oxford, the group began meeting to discuss the details of the magazine, and the kinds of works to be included. Price wrote at the time, “It is unanimously agreed that there shall be no shewing off, no quips, no sneers, no lampooning in our Magazine . . . [the contents will be] mainly Tales, Poetry, friendly critiques and social articles” (Memorials 116). The magazine stayed fairly consistent with these early goals. There are no political articles, and the reviews are rarely negative.

The Brotherhood ultimately settled on the title The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine , though the Magazine was edited at Oxford, and most of the submissions were from Oxford men. Heeley was the only member of the original group at Cambridge, but he recruited other Cambridge men, most notably Vernon Lushington (1832-1912) and his twin brother Godfrey (1832-1907).

The first few issues fed off the excitement the group felt at sharing their ideas with the public, but their energies waned later in the year. Morris edited the first issue, but passed the task on to Fulford in early January, paying him £100 (Mackail 88). Heeley married in September and left for India, and in July Morris and Burne-Jones moved in together in London. Morris began working for Street’s architecture firm, and Burne-Jones began painting under Rossetti (Mackail 102). Morris continued to write, and contributed to all but two issues of the Magazine (June and November), but Burne-Jones’s last contribution was to the June issue.

The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine certainly owes a debt to The Germ , but it is in many important ways an entirely different kind of magazine. The Morris Brotherhood’s aims were more secular than the PRB’s, and they saw the magazine as an agent of social change, rather than a vehicle for espousing specific aesthetic theories. Cormell Price’s works, such as his essays on dangerous occupations and on Elizabeth Gaskell, explicitly call for social reform, and criticism of English society is evident in many of the other articles.

This is not to say that the Morris Brotherhood did not have aesthetic goals as well. The longest of the entries, a five-part essay on Carlyle written by Vernon Lushington, combines aesthetic and social commentary, as does Fulford’s essay on Plato and Bacon. Other important essays, like Fulford’s on Tennyson and Burne-Jones’s on Thackeray, are focused entirely on aesthetic concerns.

Because the Brotherhood met often to discuss their views on art and literature, and to read each others’ work, it is not surprising that several common themes are evident across the various essays. The most prominent is the view, probably drawn from reading Ruskin and Carlyle, that all artistic mediums — poetry, painting, architecture, music — are unified, and should, in Heeley’s words, be “used for bettering of our moral nature” (176). This idea is evident in many of the essays, including Lushington’s on Carlyle, Fulford’s on Tennyson, Burne-Jones’s on Ruskin, and Heeley’s on Macaulay.

There are also remarkable consistencies among the stories in the Magazine. Nearly all use some kind of dream motif, and most have a medieval setting. Important background texts for the stories in the Magazine include Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Ruskin’s Stones of Venice, and Benjamin Thorpe’s Northern Mythology.

Textual History: Composition

Much critical discussion about The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine has focused on the authorship of the works. With the exception of an essay by Heeley in January and Georgiana’s poem in December, all of the works were published anonymously, as was usual in many Victorian periodicals. The Wellesley Index, the best source for determining the authors of works in Victorian periodicals, is generally accurate, but a few entries are speculations, and some are misleading. For those works of which Morris is suspected to be the author, Eugene LeMire’s introduction to The Hollow Land is the best source. Both discuss in detail the main sources of evidence, and the contested articles.


Copies of the first issue were sent to Tennyson and Ruskin, both of whom responded favorably (Mackail 89-90). But the most important reply was from Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whom Burne-Jones had praised in his essay on Thackeray’s The Newcomes. Rossetti, whom Burne-Jones met at the Working Men’s college in 1855 (Mackail 100), would contribute three poems to the Magazine. Over the course of the Magazine’s publication, both Morris and Burne-Jones became close friends with Rossetti, and Walter Gordon attributes the Magazine’s decline to this friendship. Morris later dedicated The Defense of Guenevere (1858), in which he included most of the poems published in the Magazine, to Rossetti.

The London Press reviewed each issue of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine . The reviews began as positive, but became less so with subsequent issues. Several other periodicals — including The Athenaeum, The Guardian, and the Saturday Review — printed notices of the Magazine’s publication. The Athenaeum and the Spectator were the only periodicals to print negative reviews of the Magazine (Gordon 63-65).

Printing History

Although many of the individual works in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine were later reprinted elsewhere, the Magazine was printed only once, and was not revised. At least three cancel leaves were printed, one in January and two in August . F. G. Stephens and George Bell had plans to publish a facsimile edition of the Magazine around the turn of the century (LeMire vii) but the edition was never produced

750 copies of the January issue were printed, and an additional 250 were called for. But many of these were presentation copies, and by the end of the year sales of the Magazine had dropped considerably, leaving a large stock of unsold copies (Mackail 89).

The printing of the Magazine indicates that the Brotherhood intended the issues to be bound together. The pagination and bibliographic signatures are consecutive, and a table of contents published in the December issue lists the titles of all works, under four headings: essays, tales, poems, and notices of books.

The choice of Chiswick Press is important. Morris would use the same press for Defense of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858) and The Life and Death of Jason (1867). Still, there are minor inconsistencies in the printing: for example, “medieval” is usually printed with a ligature, but not always (see for example page 336). Typographic mistakes, like the doubling of the word “no” on page 317 and the misspelling of “Pictures” on the August cover were left uncorrected.

Bell and Daldy provided advertisements for each issue, on inserts and on the unused pages of the covers.


The covers of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine , with ornamental borders designed by Mary Byfield (Forman 24), are clearly in imitation of The Germ , as Dante Rossetti was quick to notice (see Letters 293). But unlike the PRB’s magazine, The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine was not illustrated. Burne-Jones was the official artist of the Brotherhood (see Memorials 122), but the plans to included illustrations were deemed too costly (Mackail 89). Instead, reproductions of Thomas Woolner’s medallions of Carlyle and Tennyson were sold separately, advertised in the April and November issues, respectively. They cost 1s each, the same price as the magazine.

Ornamental letters begin each work. In the first two issues, larger ornaments are used for the first entry (13/16 inches; other ornaments 11/16) but this practice was abandoned in March. The ornaments were designed by Charles Wittingham’s daughter, Charlotte (Later Mrs. B. F. Stephens (Forman 24).


One of the features distinguishing The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine from The Germ is the former’s engagement with contemporary world events, notably the Crimean War. Dixon wrote two articles about the war [1] [2], and Fulford wrote a poem about the battle of Sebastopol.

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