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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: October 2013

The Last Years of a Victorian Monument: The Athenaeum after Maccoll

  • Edited by Sandro Jung, Research Professor of Early Modern British Literature and Director of the Centre for the Study of Text and Print Culture at Ghent University
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 195-212


Question: how did a nineteenth-century dinosaur publication like the Athenaeum (1828–1921) prepare for the twentieth century? Answer: it appointed a new editor. This essay aims to look at the print legacy of this new editor, Vernon Horace Rendali (1869–1960), who in spite of the enormity of the task loaded onto his shoulders, has remained an unknown entity in print-culture history. As was often the case it was through the columns of the Athenaeum that the change of captain was announced:

Mr Maccoll, who will on the 1st of next January have been the chief editor of the Athenaeum for over thirty-one years, i.e. since December, 1869, retires with the New Year from this position, and will be succeeded by his assistant editor, who will give up other work to assume the post of principal editor.

This sudden resignation of Norman Maccoll (1843–1904) as editorin-chief of the weekly was to signal a new but unexciting path for this major Victorian periodical. His assistant editor, Vernon Rendall, had already carried out the editorial duties for several years before being entrusted with the sole management of the prestigious publication. The result of his reign as an editor was not really something he could boast about but he did try hard to make sure the Athenaeum continued to be the cultural flagship it had been up to then. In short, Rendall continued the publication policy he and Maccoll had followed in the previous years.