Vous êtes sur la nouvelle plateforme d’Érudit. Bonne visite! Retour à l’ancien site

Articles

"Where shall I place my imaginary coterie?": Sociality and Public Discourse in Leigh Hunt’s London Journal

  • Chris Lendrum

…plus d’informations

  • Chris Lendrum
    University of Ottawa

Corps de l’article

"I never pass Covent Gardens (and I pass it very often)," Leigh Hunt wrote in his 1826 essay, "Coffee-Houses and Smoking," "without thinking of all the old coffee-houses and the wits" (50). This is hardly a surprising statement coming from Hunt. He had, after all, declared his admiration for eighteenth-century coffee-house culture in the Examiner years earlier, announcing that it was his fondest wish to "persuade the public to hear me after...celebrated men" like Addison, Steele and Defoe ("On Periodical Essays" 26). Nor is it unexpected that Hunt found the experience of passing Covent Garden to be a melancholy one. It may have given him a few moments of pleasure to think of the "old coffee-houses" and their "wits," but it was also a bitter reminder of their absence, that there were "no such meetings [of wits] now-a-days" (50). For someone so steeped in the history of the periodical press, it would have been further proof that, as Hunt had commented with some sadness in 1808, "the age of periodical philosophy is perhaps gone by" ("On Periodical Essays" 26).

There is more to Hunt’s nostalgia, however, than his well-documented reverence for the "celebrated" figures of the past. The absence of the old coffee-houses underscores something that had long been a source of concern for him: the degradation of the periodical literature of his day and its effect on the public discourse. Since the earliest days of the Examiner, Hunt had been sharply critical of his contemporaries in the periodical industry, condemning their "petty and prejudiced manner" of writing as they strove to further their own political and personal interests ("Preface to the Examiner" n.p.). The literature produced by such motivation was sad, disappointing stuff to Hunt’s mind, lacking both wit and substance. "You are invited to a literary conversation," he famously complained in the prospectus of the Examiner, "and you find nothing but scandal and common-place. There is a flourish of trumpets, and enter Tom Thumb. There is an earthquake, and a worm is thrown up" ("Prospectus" 6).

This problem, paradoxically, was exacerbated by the continuation of the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century practices of anonymity and pseudonymity. "A hundred years back," Hunt argues in the first instalment of the "Round Table" in 1815, "when the mode of living was different from what it is now, and taverns and coffee-houses made the persons of the wits familiar to every body, assumptions of [anonymity] may have been necessary" (11). Steele, for instance, may not have "always been listened to with becoming attention or even gravity" simply because his listeners knew him too well, but once he assumed the "wrinkles and privileges" of Isaac Bickerstaff, readers responded differently to his writing. Anonymity thus became a necessary part of his craft. In Hunt’s era, however, the expansion of the reading market ensured that writers and editors no longer needed to obscure their identities in order to retain some privacy or to assume a different character; they only did so to hide their hypocrisy and ulterior motives. "Where people fancy they are reading the real opinions, and gaining by the experience, of the periodical writers," Hunt complained in 1809, "they little imagine that the writers have nothing to do with the matter; that it is the profits only, and not the opinions, which belong to the proprietor and his hirelings" ("The Newspaper Principle" 481). Such practices obscured the link between private individual and the public persona to such an extent that it became impossible to know the individual behind the words with any certainty.

This deceptive relationship between writers and readers was linked to the loss of public space. Hunt, as his thoughts on Covent Garden suggest, was keenly aware that there were no nineteenth-century equivalents to the seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century establishments that had been "open to all comers," no comfortable spaces to encourage public discussion and social interaction ("Coffee-Houses" 51). Instead of meeting publicly to discuss important issues as they once did, people now secluded themselves away, preferring to "confine themselves too much to their pews and boxes." This seclusion was problematic because it meant that not only could the public not come into contact with each other, but that they were also separated from the writers and editors who produced the periodicals of the day. This, in turn, affected the quality of both periodical literature and the public discourse that Hunt felt it represented. No longer were wits and their readers equals, sharing the same public establishments; now they were total strangers, isolated and private, known to each other through insipid commercial publications, not the exciting verbal cut-and-thrust of the coffee-house. Already missing the substance of its predecessors, periodical literature thus also came to lack any connection between readers and writers, the "more humane openness of intercourse" that Hunt felt had made late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century periodicals so special (50). Public discourse suffered, and meaningful interaction was replaced by the distance and detachment of hollow periodicals, the prolific, but ultimately empty, communication of two groups of complete strangers that denied the chance to participate in any kind of public discourse.

This is why Hunt, as a critic of the periodical press at the time, finds himself musing on the public smoking rooms of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Where, he wonders, could he and a group of like-minded friends find a similar public place for discussion in early nineteenth-century London, where the "warmth of...intercourse" could be enjoyed as it had been in the past?

Where shall I place my imaginary coterie, and fancy myself listening to the Drydens and Addisons of the day?....where is the room in which we can fancy [Drydens and Addisons]? Where is the coffee-house to match? Where the union of a certain domestic comfort with publicity, – journals of literature as well as news, – a fire visible to all, cups without inebriety, – smoking without vulgarity?

"Coffee-Houses" 50

Hunt’s emphasis on the intimacy provided by close proximity and "domestic comfort" certainly suggests his preference for what Kevin Gilmartin has called "a frank discursive fantasy rather than a practical program for social change" (206). While the practicality of Hunt's ideal can certainly be questioned, it is important to note his emphasis on intimacy and sociability is not just a matter of taste; in fact, it has important social implications. Without locations where writers and readers could meet, Hunt felt that literature and the public discourse were doomed to remain ineffectual and degraded, yoked to the service of unscrupulous writers and publishers. In order to reinvigorate them, it was necessary to bridge the gap between the public and private spheres, bringing readers and writers back into personal contact with each other. That said, it was not simply a matter of turning back the clock. Despite his reputation, Hunt could be surprisingly pragmatic at times, and he recognized that returning to an eighteenth-century model of literary production was not possible; even if the primary culprits (partisan politics and an appetite for novelty) could be reformed, the vastly expanded reading public and multiplication of periodicals themselves meant that the periodical arena was far larger than it had been in the days of Addison and Steele. Instead, what was needed was a different approach, one that offered a "certain domestic comfort with publicity" like a coffee-house, but in a new, literary setting. Launched in 1834, Leigh Hunt’s London Magazine attempted to provide just such a suitable location, an intimate, comfortable setting for Hunt’s "imaginary coterie."

I. "A Very Sensible Pleasure": Hope, Enjoyment and Sociability

"Pleasure is the business of this Journal," Leigh Hunt announced in the first number of his London Journal, "we own it: we love to begin it with the word: it is like commencing the day (as we are now commencing it) with sunshine in the room" ("Further Remarks" 1). Such an introduction seems to confirm William Cobbett’s contention that Hunt, following his imprisonment for libelling the Prince of Wales, had lost his stomach for writing about political issues; full of innocent and uncomplicated joy, Hunt’s introduction to his new magazine appears to reject both the traditional gravity of the periodical form and his own contentious past as a writer and editor in favour of something more trivial. Indeed, the London Journal, launched in 1834, represented a change of pace for Hunt in many ways. Expressly published in an attempt to engage a much larger audience than his previous periodicals, the London Journal modelled itself on Chambers' Edinburgh Journal or the Penny Magazine in "point of size and variety," albeit it with a more overtly scholarly focus in order to "furnish ingenuous minds of all classes [with]...the pleasures of taste and scholarship" ("Address" 1). The contents of the publication thus mixed Hunt’s characteristic familiar essays with articles that were more didactic in their tone. Unfortunately for Hunt, readers did not share his enthusiasm for the kind of pleasure offered by the London Journal; it began to falter within the year, and even though Hunt attempted to save the magazine by merging it with Charles Knight’s Printing Machine in 1835, the London Journal folded later that same year.

While it is tempting to read the London Journal’s dedication to pleasure as an invitation to a purely selfish enjoyment of life, Hunt makes it clear from the outset of his publication that pleasure is hardly solitary or antisocial. In fact, he suggests, the pleasure offered by the London Journal is universal, shared by all: "pleasure for all who can receive pleasure; consolation and encouragement for the rest." Rather than being divided from each other by private pleasures, readers are actively united by "the experience of our fellow creatures." In this manner, the London Journal is offering something akin to what Jeffrey N. Cox has called "communal sensibility," a feeling of intimacy and commonality similar to that found in a coffee-house (62). Hunt, Cox explains, "thought of his periodicals as social and interactive texts," and this attitude carried over into his editing, where he sought "to create something like a coterie connection" between himself and his readers that was "open to response from others through letters to the editor." While Cox is specifically discussing the depiction of Hunt and his circle as coterie in periodicals like the Examiner, Reflector or Indicator, the London Journal’s introduction of "pleasure for all" suggests a similar appeal to the reader’s understanding of the communal aspects of periodical reading and the bond that such activity can create between the participants.

It is important, however, to recognize the limits of such a model of collaboration and participation. Hunt never explicitly described his magazines as truly interactive, and he never encouraged participation in the form of contributions from his readers. Rather, he emphasized the intimacy and connection that his publications established with their readers as a product of the imagination, a bond realized through reading, not writing. In an oft-quoted passage from his 1808 article "On Periodical Essays," Hunt defines the periodical essayist as "a writer who claims a peculiar intimacy with the public" (26). This is a relation, however, that is "gradual," tied to the pace of the writer's production and the reader's enjoyment, notably grounded in the material forms and practices of periodical reading. "If you do not like [a periodical essayist] at first you may give up his conversation," Hunt famously explained, before suggesting ways that readers may dispose of unwanted periodical essays ("by lighting your pipe," for example, or "by wrapping the handle of your tea-kettle"). He promotes the ease with which the "conversation" can be ended; it is as simple as not reading. At no time, however, is there any actual feedback in this exchange; it is dialogic without actual dialogue. Thus, when Hunt, in the "Prospectus" to the Examiner, projects the response of sceptical readers ("The Reader anticipates us here….'Ay,' he cries, 'here is the old Prospectus cant'") his projection is a fiction, an imaginary relation of a reader and a publication (6).

None of this is to say that Hunt does not consider the connection between readers and writers to be real; it is tangible, and like the London Journal’s promotion of pleasure, it is based not on the depiction of coterie practices, but on the shared experience and goodwill created in (and through) printed discourse. In "A Pinch of Snuff," a familiar essay printed in the London Journal two months after its launch, Hunt asks his reader to "take a pinch of snuff with us" (89). What follows is an imagined dialogue, where the reader and the editor appear to derive a great deal of enjoyment from the connection and conversation that are inspired by the taking of snuff:

Editor. [The snuff] is of the sort they call Invisible—or as the French have it, Tabac imaginaire—imaginary snuff. No macuba equals it. The tonquin bean has a coarse flavour in comparison. To my thinking it has the hue of Titian's orange-colour, and the very tip of the scent of a sweet brier.
Reader. In fact, one may perceive in it just what one pleases,or nothing at all.
Editor. Exactly that.
Reader. Those who take no snuff whatever, or even hate it, may take this and be satisfied. Ladies, nay brides, may take it.
Editor. You apprehend the delicacy of it to a nicety. You will allow, nevertheless, by virtue of the same fineness of perception, that even when you discern, or chuse to discern, neither hue, scent, nor substance in it, still there is a very sensible pleasure realized, the moment the pinch is offered.
Reader. True, the good-will—that which is passing between us two now.

The precise nature of the snuff—from its colour to its scent—depends entirely on the imagination of the taker who can "discern, or chuse to discern" the features of it as he or she wishes; it can be as mild or as strong as one desires, and it can even be suitable for the more delicate members of the audience. Instead of the specifics of the encounter, what matters is the good-will signified by the gesture of its being "offered," because it is at this moment that, as Hunt says, "a very sensible pleasure" is realized. The pleasure of the intimacy and "good-will" on offer is not reduced for its being produced by an imagined exchange; in fact, this sense of community exists independent of any clear channels for an actual dialogue between the editor and his audience. There is only one channel—that of the magazine—and only one experience: that of reading and sharing the little rituals that allow the author and reader to inhabit a space of mutual "good-will" and friendship.

Pleasure, then, is imaginary, realized through the act of reading, of picturing the shared experience and friendship that the periodical displays. For Hunt, however, pleasure is also related to hope, and that makes enjoyment a powerful force for change. The present may languish in corruption and mediocrity, but the future, bright with unlimited potential, offers hope for something better, something enjoyable that alleviates pain. Pleasure and the optimism that it inspires, therefore, represent a potent opposition to the discourses of death and despair—narratives of contemporary dissolution—that Hunt saw in the pages of many of his periodical competitors. Initially, the change offered by Hunt’s theory of pleasure was limited to the future and its potential for improvement. Opening the first preface to The Liberal with an invocation of authors and poets who he considers to be the greatest liberal writers throughout history, for instance, Hunt highlights those writers who have illuminated man’s inherently hopeful nature, "who have made him a thing of hope....a being progressive, instead of a creeping retrograde creature" (viii). By the time he undertook the publication of the London Journal, however, Hunt’s conception of pleasure and hope had become something subtly different, suggesting not only optimism for the future and a realization of potential, but also a means of alleviating current pain. Such relief, which assumes that pain is merely temporary, is realized through the experience of pleasure. "There is not a man living perhaps in the greatest state of society," Hunt writes in the first number of the London Journal, "that has not some pain which he would diminish, and some pleasure...that he would increase....He will find out the secret, by knowing more, and by knowing that there is more to love" ("Further Remarks" 1). The immediate experience of pleasure offers solace for whatever ills may plague an individual; in fact, hope and optimism themselves become a source of present pleasure. Progress towards an ultimate goal is still posited and the future remains bright, but the emphasis has shifted from what will be the present to what it is now.

Hunt's emphasis on enjoying the present has led to the charge that his theories of pleasure represent a moderation, if not an outright abandonment, of his commitment to reform. Many critics have followed the lead of William Cobbett and argued that Hunt’s later writing was distinctly apolitical.[1] As Ina Ferris has suggested, however, Hunt understood pleasure as crucial to cultural reform, in particular to the expansion of literary culture (118-22). Periodical publications have a central role in this scenario. "One of the very advantages of a periodical," particularly one that appears on "several sheets," Hunt explains in an early number of the London Journal, "is the power it affords a generous reader of enabling the persons around him to do as he does, and partake at the same moment of the same pleasure" ("Unsocial Readers" 101). Not only does a periodical offer the intimacy of a writer addressing his or her readers with the "openness of intercourse, and those impulses of good-will and sociality" that Hunt felt should characterize a publication, but it also allows readers to share that connection and enjoyment with others by physically offering them parts of the periodical to read. The essay, which is actually a response from Hunt to a reader's letter, demonstrates the importance of this practice by depicting a reader who is not so generous in his reading habits. The correspondent, explaining that her husband is meticulous about stitching every periodical he purchases together with no regard for their order before she has a chance to read them, complains that she can never enjoy an uninterrupted "tête-a-tête" with Hunt before "'Chambers's Information for the People' presents itself." The title of the essay, "Unsocial Readers of Periodicals," is therefore telling; it suggests that not only is the husband thoughtless, even impolite, for denying his wife the opportunity to read the periodicals as she wants, but that there is something in his behaviour that is contrary to the "good-will and sociality" that periodicals seek to foster among their readers. The rebuke, where Hunt suggests that "primness and petty exaction have none of the ease and liberality of true order," is a gentle one befitting the mild-mannered Hunt, but it does reveal how periodicals encourage social ability by both providing pleasure and encouraging it to be shared among readers.

Experiencing pleasure, however, requires a certain state of mind, a willingness to take enjoyment in any event or object. Hunt was his own best example of such behaviour, often deriving pleasure from simple, domestic items like a favourite room, book or meal. "Coffee-Houses and Smoking" describes just such an experience. Disheartened by his thoughts on the closed Covent Garden coffee-houses, Hunt searches for a current establishment that serves coffee, and finds one that provides all the charm and the "domestic comfort" that he desires, right down to the warming fires and tables that are "profusely covered with the periodical works of the day" (52). While Hunt is initially disappointed to find that some characteristics of the new establishment differ from those of its predecessors, he is quick to integrate these alterations into his understanding of the evolution of the coffee-houses as a whole, suggesting that the changes may in fact be attributed to the attempts of Addison and Steele to inculcate "a greater taste for literature and domesticity" in the reading public (53). This revelation that the efforts of the eighteenth-century wits persist even in his age fills Hunt with hope and pleasure. His enjoyment of the establishment is both physical and mental, and the dual nature of his pleasure makes it importantly social, leaving Hunt feeling engaged by the establishment and its patrons, tied to them through the shared experience of enjoying a cup of coffee and a newspaper.

Published eight years after "Coffee-Houses and Smoking," the London Journal presents a similar scenario, but it also muses on the role of the imagination in the creation of that pleasure in a reader. "A breakfast-table in the morning," Hunt tells his readers in the second part of a series entitled "Breakfast in the Summer," "clean and white with its table-cloth, coloured with the cups and saucers, and glittering with the tea-pot,—is it not a cheerful object, reader? And are we not always glad to see it?" (111). The object is the catalyst for enjoyment, but the recipient's mind is the key, giving the experience additional resonance by supplementing it with knowledge and memories:

Be willing to be pleased, and the power will come. Be a reader, getting all the information you can; and every fresh information will paint some common-place article for you with brightness. Such a man as we have described will soon learn not to look upon the commonest table or chair without deriving pleasure from its shape or shape-ability; nor on the cheapest and most ordinary tea-cup, without increasing that gratification with fifty amusing recollections of books and plants and colours, and strange birds, and quaint domesticities of the Chinese.

105

Through the use of the imagination, the reader is able to enrich his or her enjoyment of an event or object by infusing it with thoughts that can provide mental pleasure and consolation. Like Hunt’s experience in the coffee-house, this pleasure is both mental and physical, and it is made possible because one is "willing to be pleased." That pleasure is doubled when Hunt writes about it. Thus, while the connection between Hunt and his fellow coffee-house patrons, or the pleasure he feels while at breakfast, occur only in his mind, the experience is no less intense for that, nor is the resulting pleasure an illusion. The solace it provides is very real, making the present enjoyable, and suggesting hope for a brighter future.

II. "Our Most Private-Public Journal": Personal Exchange and Public Discourse

Hunt’s understanding of pleasure is central to his notion of periodicals as emanations of a literary market. Believing that the press was crucial to the dissemination and diffusion of knowledge throughout society, Hunt came to accept that at the root, this process was commercial. As he puts it in an 1831 essay: "the present commercial state of the press...has not been an unnatural, but a natural state; and, as far as it promises a condition of things very different, not an undesirable one; for it simply originates in the diffusion of knowledge, and the thirst for it excited among all classes" ("Success of Periodicals" 777). Kevin Gilmartin argues that such statements represent an "uneasy truce with the market," part of Hunt’s abandonment of his previous outspokenness about political matters, but they also reflect a reconsideration of the relationship between the creators of literature and their audience that is based upon Hunt's theory of social pleasure (206). The act of reading promises shared pleasure, an equitable relation, where a producer like Hunt in his position of editor of the London Journal promises to provide enjoyment by "extracting pleasurable ideas from the commonest objects," ideas which are then realized by the reading audience ("Address" 1). By doing so, he is slaking the "thirst" for knowledge that exists among readers, but his emphasis on pleasure transforms that exchange into something more active and more personal. The reader is linked both to the editor and other readers by a pleasure derived both from the act of reading and its effects. That connection, of course, is not an actual tie; as we have seen, it is imagined. Nonetheless, Hunt believed that a shared understanding is produced, an awareness of a link that infuses a public exchange between a periodical and its readers with the intimacy of a private encounter.

This link is important because, as Hunt explains in an early issue of the London Journal, his goal was always to set "an open example of the bringing into public intercourse the same candour and simplicity that are practised between friends in private" ("Letters" 17). As editor, he goes on to explain, he seeks to do "something towards breaking down the barriers of many stiff and mistrustful conventionalities which serve to keep men asunder." In this way, Hunt hopes to assist in "hastening the coming of that time, when all men shall say candidly and in friendliness, what they think, and nobody shall be thought the better or worse for speaking in public, any more than he is not for talking in a room, or telling his friends of something which he thinks will please them." Readers, writers and editors, in Hunt's vision of the exchange encouraged by his periodicals, are thus friends, tied to each other by a mutual affinity. That intimacy, in turn, facilitates and increases discourse. The result is a fundamental shift in the way that individuals relate to each other; distinctions of "self" and "other," "public" and "private" become attenuated, and the obstructions "which serve to keep men asunder" begin to be overcome. Everyone, no matter the setting, is viewed sympathetically, with an eye to "friendliness" and social ties, resulting in a return to productive discourse.

Even the crowd, that frightening symbol of unknown humanity, becomes familiar in the pages of the London Journal, "the reduplication of ourselves," as Hunt states in the May 1834 essay, "A Human Being and a Crowd" (41). In the crowd we see a duplication "of our own faces, fears, hopes, wants and relations....all the hearts beating in those bosoms are palpitations of our own." His statement confirms Jon Klancher's suggestion that the periodical press can make the crowd a comforting, familiar place, but Hunt's claim also reveals just how much the private and the public can overlap (76-97). The members of the crowd become our friends, our intimate associates, and the distinction between private and public venues or manners largely dissolves. Thus when Hunt famously writes that the Examiner is a "tavern-room" where he can enjoy "a sort of public meeting with his friends" while the Indicator is a retired "study," there is little difference between what occurs in each setting ("The Indicator and the Examiner" 9). Despite the difference in location, each setting is suited for friendship and the expression of the personal experiences traditionally designated as "private." Indeed, as Hunt's experience with the coffee-house suggests, it is the ceremony of sociality rather than the specific location that is important, as it sets the tone for the encounter and the pleasure that results. What matters is the discourse and the personal interaction, which gives "public intercourse the same candour and simplicity that are practised between friends in private" ("Letters" 17).

This elision of the distinction between public and private alters what it means to be a public figure. For Hunt, writers are by their very nature engaged in revealing themselves to the public; the "peculiar intimacy" they enjoy with their readers suggests a measure of private disclosure. A proper union of public intercourse and private identity requires that the disclosure be honest. As Hunt explains in 1811, when it comes to "matters of character, it is only those which are plain in the face of day, or which every body has a means of ascertaining, that are directly fit for comment"; everything else is obscured and unknown ("The Prince Regent" 748). Being public means being visible to all, "plain in the face of day." There is no anonymity, no persona. A public person does not need to perform any particular role; rather, he or she is simply an individual going before a large audience. In this case of writers and editors, this audience is the reading public, but the specifics do not matter: behaviour never changes, and private virtue never alters. The public figure simply is a private man or woman made more visible, exposed to more eyes and minds, but otherwise unchanged. Publicity is hence a matter of scale or accessibility; the individual should never be altered.

Hunt had called for this kind of transparency as early as the first year of the Examiner, but the "discursive fantasy" of periodicals such as the London Journal retroactively rewrote his editorial work as something more than the efforts of a single honest, independent man. From the "good-will" experienced between the editor and the reader in "A Pinch of Snuff" to the "impulses of good-will and sociability" he attempts to encourage through the London Journal, Hunt and his audience are presented as connected by a bond of friendship and community. Where Hunt portrays his relationship with his readers as reciprocal and transparent, he claims the audiences of other publications are trapped in a dysfunctional, deceitful relationship where "writers have nothing to do with the matter" and all that matters is profit and power ("The Newspaper Principle" 481). The contrast is clear: readers can be mere consumers, a vague and nebulous audience whose only response to the author is through their continued patronage, or they can be happy, friendly acquaintances like the audience of the London Journal, connected to Hunt by the experience of shared pleasure. Now he is no longer simply an honest man, but a patron of sociability and discourse for anyone who reads one of his periodicals.

It is tempting, in light of this representation of honesty and friendship, to consider the London Journal as proof of Hunt’s rejection of commercial motives, but such a portrayal is a problematic one. Hunt did not shy away from all the commercial implications of the press; on the contrary, he considered the print trade to be crucial to supplying a demand for the diffusion of useful knowledge. Moreover, he was quite candid about wanting sales himself, admitting in the London Journal that he would be delighted to acquire "a sale of reasonable enormity" ("Address" 1).[2] Instead, by promoting the social rather than the commercial connections of writing, Hunt tried to reform what he saw as dubious, manipulative behaviour on the part of his competitors and to replace it with a model of affective and honest exchange. Rewriting commercial exchange, Hunt made it personal—or, more accurately, interpersonal. The result is a periodical that is a hybrid, a mixture of public discourse and private intimacy with no meaningful separation between the two. Although it addresses a wide audience, the publication nonetheless prides itself on portraying the sort of behaviour "practised between friends in private" (1). Hunt himself, as the producer of the periodical, becomes a similar hybrid of public and private man, existing "immediately before the public" as a writer and editor but addressing them as an intimate acquaintance, one who is not altered by his very prominent role ("Preface" n.p.). Even the title of Leigh Hunt's London Journal encapsulates the double dimension: it is a record both of daily transactions and of personal recollections, the public and the private. The addition of Hunt's name to the title of the publication contributes to the intimacy it seeks to create, "like a part of the frankness and open dealing which our paper recommends" ("Unsocial Readers" 101). Private and public intermingle, leaving Hunt free to "claim the familiar intimacy of the reader, in this our most private-public journal" ("Breakfast Concluded" 121).

Such language is more than a rhetorical device intended to separate the Journal from other publications of its era. Hunt makes it clear that his "private-public journal" is creating a new, ideal discourse, one that offers readers a chance to participate in what Hunt hopes will become a new model of exchange and public discourse for future generations. Instead of being left to distant optimism, however, that model—in keeping with Hunt's concept of pleasure—is enjoyed now, in the present. It remains in the realm of discourse, restricted to the pages of the London Journal, for it can only exist in a place that encourages honesty and community, where the traditional boundaries of public and private have been reduced almost into insignificance. The London Journal thus represents a space where that ideal can exist, untroubled by separations of public and private, historical discontinuities or the ominous future. In this sense it recalls Hunt's description of "Gliddon's" coffee-house in the "Coffee-houses and Smoking" essay. As in that coffee-house, the London Journal establishes an insular, secluded place outside distinctions of private and public. Just as importantly, however, is that time is also suspended, as past, present and future blur into one. The climax of Hunt's experience in "Gliddon's" is his vision of coffee-house wits of the past superimposed on current patrons:

There he sits, over the way,—Steele, I mean,—the man with the short face; for I perceive there is wit at that table. Opposite him is Addison, in black, looking something like a master in chancery. The handsome man, always on the giggle, must be Rowe; and the other one, an officer, is Colonel Brett. But who is this tall formal personage coming up? Look at him,—the very man, Ambrose Phillips.

"Coffee-Houses" 54

Hunt's enjoyment of the coffee-house represents more than a nostalgic retreat; it is an affirmation of the present, of the survival of eighteenth-century public discourse (albeit in an evolved form), and a statement of hope that such community will continue to exist in the future.

Portrayed by Hunt as remaining constant in the face of the "mercantile spirit" of the press, coffee-house culture is idealized as the embodiment of community and interpersonal exchange. While it is the quintessential public place, open to "all comers" and encouraging a wide discourse, the coffee-house also offers the domestic comforts and easy intimacy of a private gathering. Self-contained and free from any obstructions to interpersonal exchange, the coffee-house thus represents Hunt's ideal of public discourse: communal, intimate, unchanging. That is the experience Hunt attempts to replicate in his periodicals, an experience of "wine, wit and natural humanity" available to anyone who can read ("Notice to the Public" 297). Through the power of the imagination, the sense of security and community can be realized by an entire audience. Readers are not just told that they are part of a greater community: within the pages of the periodical (at least in theory), such an inclusion is enacted.

Intent on overcoming the disengagement between reader and writer that he felt was promoted by modern publishing practices, Hunt established what amounts to an idealized coffee-house made of print, a community of readers united around his editorial personality and the reading experience that he promoted. He set out to find friends and made an audience—a living, unified body of readers, sharing the ritual of intimacy and exchange promised by his periodicals. As a concept, it was an audience unique to Hunt, one that—at least in his mind—responded to his representation and idealization of the eighteenth-century and its public discourse. His concerns, bred out of a combination of nostalgia and disgust, optimism and despair, opened a door into a social, communal world for potential readers. Not all readers would have approached Hunt's publication in this way, nor would others have felt comforted and soothed by what a periodical like the London Journal represented, but Hunt's editorial work and his struggles with the tension between audience retention and mass printing mark an important effort to give readers, even hypothetical ones, an identity under the conditions of a mass market. More than just anonymous consumers to Hunt, those readers were invited to share in his representation of a revitalized coffee-house culture and public sphere, to become, even briefly, members in his "imaginary coterie."

Parties annexes