About the Project

THIS WEBSITE dedicated to the Edinburgh Review under the editorship of Francis Jeffrey has been set up with the aid of a Discovery Project grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC) by Professor William Christie (Chief Investigator) and Dr Angela Dunstan (Research Associate).

The aim of the ARC project, entitled ‘The Modern Athenians: Francis Jeffrey’s Edinburgh Review in the Knowledge Economy of the Early Nineteenth Century’, is to develop a broadly historical, interdisciplinary account of the Edinburgh Review as a cultural enterprise, one that keeps faith with the Edinburgh’s aspiration to critical authority across most areas of intellectual endeavour. The project considers the forms of knowledge offered by the Edinburgh in relation to other attempts – by contemporary academies and universities, for example, learned (and not-so-learned) societies and literary and scientific institutions, and by the publishing industry – to define, organise, and disseminate knowledge. To reflect and express this, we have utilized developments in web design and technology to create a comprehensive website, with online components offering previously unavailable or unorganized material, designed as a scholarly resource, not just for the Edinburgh Review itself, but for the Romantic period as a whole.

The emphasis of both the project and the website is on the multi- and cross-disciplinary nature of the contribution to knowledge made by the Edinburgh Review, and on the intellectual and ideological relationship between the many and various disciplines covered by the Review.

The Website

The website comprises three main components:

(1) The Jeffrey Letters Online – the collected letters of the editor, Francis Jeffrey, transcribed and annotated. The situation of ‘sole Editor’, as Henry Cockburn remarked, ‘connected him with all the learned men of the age, & with most of the public men of the British Empire. The critical splendour and political influence of this great & original work, constantly embellished as it was by his own contributions, made him superior to every one, out of office, here, in public affairs, & second in literature, only to Scott’. Their publication allows for a detailed reconstruction of Jeffrey’s editorial negotiations with contributors (formal, intellectual, financial), throwing light on editorial policy and the aspirations of the Review – as well as, more incidentally, on the many private and public controversies generated by the Edinburgh during Jeffrey’s editorship. (Jeffrey’s letters are supplemented by a selection of correspondence relating to the Edinburgh – comprising letters by Smith, Brougham, Horner, Allen, Lords Holland and Grey, and other members of Whig intellectual and political circles, and of its publisher, Archibald Constable.)

(2) The Edinburgh Review: A Critical Heritage – selected pamphlets, letters, prefaces, articles in rival periodicals, and a variety of other commentary, published and unpublished, on the Edinburgh Review and the Edinburgh enterprise, bringing the record forward to include some classic twentieth- and twenty first-century critical characterizations. The material is extensive, various, and rich, and as well as offering sharp analysis of everything from the Edinburgh’s prose style and rhetoric to its ethics and ideology, often involves reflections on the direction of periodical and print culture in particular and of society in general.

(3) The Edinburgh Review Encyclopedia – a major reference site, linked to the Critical Heritage and Jeffrey’s Letters. Entries identify and characterize all the writers reviewing and reviewed in the pages of the Edinburgh, as well as all the topics and countries and ideas and events and issues raised in its articles, and all the intellectual, literary, social, and cultural institutions pertinent to the enterprise and its articles. As well as creating our own entries at the University of Sydney, I have solicited contributions from scholars around the world for the major thematic and character entries.

The Rationale for an Online Edition

The advantages of an online edition for this material are obvious:

(a) Databases and text can be daily enlarged and corrected, allowing for progressive augmentation and cumulative publication.

(b) A far more complex, rapid-access search facility can be utilised than any that is available through the index of a printed book. (The extensive cross-referencing possible with modern linkage technology makes it an ideal resource for mapping and mimicking the complex cross-disciplinary aspirations of an encyclopedic Review.)

(c) Searches can be tailored to fit the individual researcher’s most detailed inquiries.

(d) Searches can isolate recurrent and/or unusual combinations across a number of different articles to reveal patterns of association and establish complex homologies and interdependencies.

(e) Other search options can be utilised to enable readers to find titles or issues or names when they are not certain of the data they require.

(f) electronic searches can be refined, recorded, and/or completed in stages.

The Mechanics of the Online Edition 

‘In the next fifty years’, as Jerome McGann observes, ‘the entirety of our inherited archive of cultural works will have to be re-edited within a network of digital storage, access, and dissemination’. In a critical moment in the migration of our cultural heritage, we offer to students and scholars of the Romantic period an ideological map of early nineteenth-century knowledge made possible by the Edinburgh Review under Francis Jeffrey.