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Do the subscribers to this journal, the
customers at the eminent publishing-houses,
the members of book-clubs and circulating
libraries, and the purchasers and borrowers
of newspapers and reviews, compose altogether
the great bulk of the reading public of
England? There was a time when, if
anybody had put this question to me, I, for one,
should certainly have answered, Yes.

I know better now. I know that the public
just now mentioned, viewed as an audience
for literature, is nothing more than a

This discovery (which I venture to
consider equally new and surprising) dawned
upon me gradually. I made my first
approaches towards it, in walking about London,
more especially in the second and third rate
neighbourhoods. At such times, whenever I
passed a small stationer's or small tobacconist's-
shop, I became conscious, mechanically
as it were, of certain publications which
invariably occupied the windows. These
publications all appeared to be of the same small
quarto size; they seemed to consist merely of
a few unbound pages; each one of them had
a picture on the upper half of the front leaf,
and a quantity of small print on the under. I
noticed just as much as this, for some time,
and no more. None of the gentlemen who
are so good as to guide my taste in literary
matters, had ever directed my attention
towards these mysterious publications. My
favourite Review is, as I firmly believe, at
this very day, unconscious of their existence.
My enterprising librarian who forces all sorts
of books on my attention that I don't want to
read, because he has bought whole editions
of them a great bargain, has never yet tried
me with the limp unbound picture quarto of
the small shops. Day after day, and week
after week, the mysterious publications
haunted my walks, go where I might; and,
still, I was too inconceivably careless to stop
and notice them in detail. I left London and
travelled about England. The neglected
publications followed me. There they were
in every town, large or small. I saw them in
fruit-shops, in oyster-shops, in lollypop-shops.
Villages evenpicturesque, strong-smelling
villageswere not free from them. Wherever
the speculative daring of one man could
open a shop, and the human appetites and
necessities of his fellow mortals could keep it
from shutting up again, there, as it appeared
to me, the unbound picture quarto instantly
entered, set itself up obtrusively in the window,
and insisted on being looked at by
everybody. "Buy me, borrow me, stare at
me, steal me-- do anything, O inattentive
stranger, except contemptuously pass me by!"

Under this sort of compulsion, it was not long
before I began to stop at shop-windows and
look attentively at these all-pervading specimens
of what was to me a new species of literary
production. I made acquaintance with
one of them among the deserts of West Cornwall,
with another in a populous thoroughfare
of Whitechapel, with a third in a dreary little
lost town at the north of Scotland. I went into
a lovely county of South Wales; the modest
railway had not penetrated to it, but the
audacious picture quarto had found it out.
Who could resist this perpetual, this inevitable,
this magnificently unlimited appeal to
notice and patronage? From looking in at
the windows of the shops, I got on to entering
the shops themselves, to buying specimens
of this locust-flight of small publications,
to making strict examination of them
from the first page to the last, and finally, to
instituting inquiries about them in all sorts
of well-informed quarters. The resultthe
astonishing resulthas been the discovery of
an Unknown Public; a public to be counted
by millions; the mysterious, the unfathomable,
the universal public of the penny-novel
* It may be as well to explain that I use this awkward
compound word in order to mark the distinction between
a penny journal and a newspaper. The "journal"
is what I am now writing about. The "newspaper" is
an entirely different subject, with which this article has
no connection.

I have five of these journals now
before me, represented by one sample copy,
bought hap-hazard, of each. There are many
more; but these five represent the successful
and well-established members of the literary
family. The eldest of them is a stout lad of
fifteen years standing. The youngest is an
infant of three months old. All five are sold
at the same price of one penny; all five are
published regularly once a week; all five
contain about the same quantity of matter.

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