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"The Story of Our Lives from Year to Year"--Shakespeare.

decorated initial 'A' lthough All the Year Round (1859-93) -- whose full title was All the Year Round. A Weekly Journal. Conducted by Charles Dickens. With Which is Incorporated “Household Words” --in many respects continued where Household Words (1850-59) left off, its emphasis on serial fiction by leading authors was a pronounced departure. So much about it must have seemed familiar to the subscribers of the earlier journal: the bannerhead and title drawn from Shakespeare (specifically, the subtitle paraphrases Othello, Act One, Scene Three, Lines 128-29); its 24-page, double-columned format; its tuppenny price and lack of illustration; and even the periodical's Wellington Street North address (although the offices were now at No. 26 rather than at No. 16).

All the Year Round

The extra Christmas issue of All the Year Round (1859), which opened with Dickens's The Haunted House.

Click on image to enlarge it.

The "property" whose value Charles Dickens and his subeditor (now also his general manager) had so carefully safeguarded in the 1850s became even more valuable as the various charges on periodical publication (stamp duty, paper, and even advertising taxes) were reduced or abolished. But competition for the new, unillustrated weekly proved fierce: 114 new magazines (many of them paying their contributors better) appeared in the same year as All the Year Round, and in the next few years a number of high-quality illustrated literary monthlies such as the Cornhill Magazine (founded in 1860). Dickens took the helm financially after winning his freedom in the court of Chancery from Bradbury and Evans, the publishers of Household Words: henceforth, he and W. H. Wills (owning seventy-five per cent and twenty-five per cent of the venture respectively) would cover all expenses (including the printing costs charged by Chapman and Hall) in order to reap the maximum profit, which, with a circulation running as high as 300,000 for the Extra Christmas Numbers (1860-67) and averaging 100,000 the rest of the year, were immense (£2,750 per annum) compared to those of Household Words, which had enjoyed a normal weekly circulation of only 38,500.

Instalments of serial novels occupied the space of two or three self-contained articles or essays, with the result that the average number of All the Year Round offered fewer items (five to seven) than a typical number of Household Words (eight to ten), particularly when the former contained two serials running concurrently. In addition, there was a marked increase of emphasis on foreign affairs in All the Year Round, partly due to Dickens's desire to support the cause of Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-72) and Joseph Mazzini (1805-72) in the wars of Italian unification. Over a representative sample of seven volumes of each periodical, nearly 11 per cent of the non-fiction articles in All the Year Round dealt with some aspect of international affairs or cultures [discounting the American Civil War, which Dickens instructed his staff to avoid unless they had specifically cleared a topic with him first ], as opposed to 4 per cent in Household Words. In most other popular subject areas -- education, industry, emigration or science, for example -- the trend is reversed. [Drew 10]

All the Year Round

All the Year Round

First page (left) and contents page (right) All the Year Round for April 30, 1859, which opened with Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. Click on image for larger picture.

Even Dickens's most admiring readers, however, must have detected the differences, for whereas pride of place had usually been accorded to articles of social import in the former journal, in All the Year Round the opening page always contained one of the two serial instalments of novels then running, the first such novel being Dickens's own A Tale of Two Cities (30 April 1859), specifically designed to give initial sales a boost. In fact, with Wills's astute advertising campaign through W. H. Smith outlets throughout the United Kingdom, distributing 300,000 handbills and "double demy" posters, the opening number sold 125,000 copies. And, whereas Dickens had serialized only one novel in his nine years as editor of Household Words (Hard Times, 1 April through 12 August 1854), within the first twenty-seven months of publication of All the Year Round he serialised two (the other being Great Expectations, 1 December 1860 through 3 August 1861), as well Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White (26 November 1859 through 25 August 1860). On the first of December in 1860, for example, the two current serials and the essay "Inconveniences of Being a Cornish Man" filled thirty of the issue's forty-eight columns, leaving only eighteen columns for the remaining four items. Sometimes novel instalments made up as much as two-thirds of a number, leaving little room for the kinds of social and political commentary that had rendered Dickens such a powerful force on the British scene in the halcyon days of Household Words. According to Edgar Rosenberg,

Dickens himself contributed barely one third of the essays he had contributed to Household Words, largely because he spent more and more time on the road and his public readings brought him into much closer contact -- so essential to him -- with his public than his columns did. [Rosenberg 393]

Whereas Household Words had primarily been a vehicle for journalists, All the Year Round proved a vehicle for novelists: apart from Dickens and Wilkie Collins, within its pages there appeared the works of numerous second-rate and a few first-rate novelists, including Charles Lever, Charles Reade, Sir Edward G. D. Bulwer-Lytton, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Henry Spicer, Rosa Mulholland, Amelia Edwards, Frances T. Trollope, Edmund Yates, Augustus Sala, and Percy Fitzgerald. In addition to A Tale of Two Cities (30 April through 26 November 1859), Great Expectations, and The Woman in White, novels that first appeared as All the Year Round serialisations include Collins's No Name (15 March 1862 through 17 January 1863) and The Moonstone (4 January through 8 August 1868), Lever's A Day's Ride: A Life's Romance (18 August 1860 through 23 March 1861), Bulwer-Lytton's A Strange Story (10 August 1861 through 8 March 1862), Gaskell's The Grey Woman (January 1861), Reade's Very Hard Cash (28 March through 26 December 1863; retitled Hard Cash for volume publication), Sala's Quite Alone (February through November 1864), Anthony Trollope's Is He Popenjoy? (13 October through 13 July 1878) and The Duke's Children (4 October 1879 through 24 July 1880).

Although he continued to insist that all contributors be paid at least the minimum rate, Dickens unfortunately played favourites in remunerating novelists, giving Elizabeth Gaskell only £400 for an eight-month serial, for instance, but his friend Bulwer £1500 for a work (in the judgment of posterity) of lesser quality, and giving Collins for what proved a best-seller (The Moonstone) exactly what he had given Lever for what had been a disaster (A Day's Ride): £750. Meantime, rival publishers such as Smith, Elder (responsible for the Cornhill) were offering much more, up to £26 14s 4d per page for a top-notch writer's work, such as Romola by George Eliot.

Of the twenty-seven novels to appear in All the Year Round in the eleven years Dickens lived to edit it, six have so far escaped being bitten to death by the tooth of time: the two novels by Dickens, the three Collins contributed . . . and (arguably) Charles Reade's Hard Cash. A few more are apt to sneak their way into Companions to English Literature because the authors are still known to a handful of specialists or amateur buffs, even where the books have been long out of print: Charles Lever's A Day's Ride, Bulwer-Lytton's A Strange Story, and an interesting minor work of Mrs. Gaskell's, A Dark Night's Work. (Mrs. Gaskell would have been glad to call the novel A Night's Work, but Dickens persuaded her that the insertion of the modifier would act as a potent aphrodisiac.) [Rosenberg 394]

Probably because Dickens continued to micromanage the editorial department, scrupulously revising copy, his own contributions fell off considerably after 1863, by which time he had already contributed seventy per cent of the material published over his eleven-year reign, including the first two series of The Uncommercial Traveller (January 1860 through October 1863) and five of the eight "framed-tale," multi-authored Christmas Stories (The Haunted House, 1859; the Dickens-Collins collaboration A Message from the Sea, 1860; Tom Tiddler's Ground, 1861; Somebody's Luggage, 1862; Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings, 1863; Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy, 1864; Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions, 1865; Mugby Junction, 1866, which includes a masterpiece of short fiction, "The Haunted Signalman," and the last of the series, No Thoroughfare with Wilkie Collins in 1867).

Even though All the Year Round continued to pay prose writers at the Household Words rate of a guinea per page, competitors wooed novelists away from the grasp of the Dickenses (Charles Dickens, Jr., assuming the editor's mantle as well as the business manager's upon his father's death in 1870):

He inherited his father's 75 per-cent stake in the business, and in January 1871 bought out Wills's 25 per-cent share, following the latter's understandable objection to Charley's decision to award himself both the editor's and sub-editor's salary. The journal continued under Charles Dickens Jr.'s editorship until 1888, and finally ceased publication in 1893. [Drew 12]

In 1973 the tireless Ann Lohrli provided scholars with a complete key to who wrote what and for how much in Household Words thanks to her scrupulous analysis of the office account book maintained by Wills. Unfortunately, the account book for All the Year Round has not survived. As John Drew explains,

An 'office set' of the journal, in which authors' names and other details were recorded, was available to editor B. W. Matz at the turn of the century, but has since been lost sight of; aside from this, only a highly incomplete and illegible file of correspondence, known as the 'AYR Letter Book' (profiled by Collins 1970), exists to assist researchers. [Drew 11]

However, Ella Ann Oppenlander in a work not easily procured, Dickens's "All the Year Round": Descriptive Index and Contributor List (1984), has attempted to provide something comparable to Lohrli's work on Household Words.

Some All the Year Round Authors

Related Material


Bentley, Nicholas; Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1990.

Collins, Philip. "The AYR Letter Book." Victorian Periodicals Review, 10, 1970.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1999.

Drew, John. "All the Year Round" in the Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens, ed. Paul Schlicke. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1999. Pp. 8-12.

Fido, Martin. The World of Charles Dickens. Vancouver: Raincoast, 1997.

Rosenberg, Edgar. "Launching Great Expectations." Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. Pp. 389-423.

Schlicke, Paul. Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1999.

Last modified 22 April 2015