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Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals: 1800 - 1900
(Access ID: 99192, Book Ref:   2:132)
  Bell's Life in London, and Sporting Chronicle;
combining with the news of the week, a rich repository, of fashion, wit and humour, and interesting incidents of high and low life.

 
  vol 1 no 1, 03 Mar 1822 - no 3429, 21 Mar 1885.
then:  Bell's Life in London. no 3430, 23 Mar 1885 - no 3799, 29 May 1886//

London, Middlesex (1831). Ed: Robert Bell; Francis Dowling; Frank Lewis Dowling (1851); Vincent George Dowling (1824 - 1852); W.R. Macdonald; George Walker; R.B. Wormald. Prop: Robert Bell (1822 - 1824); Bleakley and Co (1885); William Innell Clement (1824 - 1852); Clement and Bleackly (1885 - 1886); Clement and Hulton (1885 - 1886); Clement Brothers (1852 - 1883); Alderman James Harmer; Hulton and Bleackley (1885). Pub: R. Bell (1882); Robert Bell; Bleakley and Co (1886); William Innell Clement (1821, 1846); John Doyle; Thomas Hood; W.R. Macdonald (1822 - 1885?); The Office (1886); James Perry. Printer: R. Bell (1822); Bleakley and Co (1886); W.R. Macdonald (1822). Contributors: Frederick Francis Brandt (1839 - 1864); George Cruikshank (ill. c.1835); William Curtis (Sir); Vincent Dowling; John Doyle; Erskin (Lord); Jack Fogo ('Frosty Faced'); Thomas Hood; William Howitt (on the slave trade); Andrew Maddon; Richard Martin; Robert Martin; Kenny Meadows (ill.); Jack Palmer; Jack Randall; William Ruff; Robert Seymour (ill.); Robert Southey; Robert Surtees; Tibbs (Charles Dickens 1836); John Walsh (1853 sports writer); R.P. Watson; Robert Wedderburn (anti slave trade); Timothy Yardley. Names: Charles Dickens. Size: 39cm, 8pp (1822); 12pp (1872); 4pp (Wed 1883); 8pp (Sat 1883); 61cm, 4pp (1886). Price: 7d (1822); 5d (1846, 1872); 6d (1854); 5d, 6d st (1856); 1d (1883, 1886); 2-3d (Sat); 1d (Wed). Circulation: 20,000 (1822?); 3,000 (1824); 600,000 (first three issues 10 Jan 1836); 1,000,000/a (1838); 17,700-21,000/w (1840s); 30,000 (1852); 26,154; 22,000. Frequency: weekly (Sun 1822 – c.1860, Sat 1872; 1882 - 22 Mar 1884); daily (Sat 1846, 1886, 1895); twice weekly (Wed, Sat; 1883, 26 Mar 1884-21 Mar 1885). Illustration: engravings, caricatures.
Indexing: index for the year [1822], list of remarkable events that took place in [1822] (1822). Departments: Imperial Parliament, police intelligence, law, sporting news, fashionable herald, foreign, poetry, fashionable herald, b/m/d, advertisements, parliamentary news, original sketches, price current, London markets, sporting chronicle, law (1822); race meetings, horse sales (1886); crime reports, murder and execution coverage, general sport, cricket, rowing, billiards, athletics, boxing, wrestling, jokes, comics, sporting news, pugilism. Orientation: liberal (1846 - 1856).
Merges: merged with Sportman; merged with Penny Bell's Life, or Sporting News (q.v.) (1880s); absorbed by Sporting Life (1886).

Sources: Rayner, William. "Comic Newspapers." N&Q 9:[4s] (Jun 1872): 479-80; BUCOP.; DNB.; Dickens, Charles. “Sketches by Boz and Other Early Papers 1833-39.” The Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens’ Journalism. vol 1. Ed. Michael Slater. Columbus, OH: Ohio State UP, 1994.; Gifford, Denis. "The Evolution of the British Comic." HT 21.5 (May 1971): 349-358.; Grant, James. “The Metropolitan Weekly and Provincial Press.” Vol 3 of The History of the Newspaper Press. London: George Routledge and Sons, [1871].; Gray, Donald A. "A List of Comic Periodicals Published in Great Britain, 1800-1900, with a Prefatory Essay." VPN no 15 (Mar 1972): 2-39.; Jack, Thomas C. "English Newspapers." Scottish Newspaper Directory and Guide to Advertisers. Edinburgh, 1855: 141-157.; James, Louis. Fiction for the Working Man 1830-1850. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.; Law, Graham. "Serialising Fiction in the Newspaper Press." Encounters in the Victorian Press: Editors Authors, Readers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. p. 48.; Mason, Tony. "Sporting News, 1860-1914." The Press in English Society from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries. Eds. Michael Harris and Alan Lee. London, Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1986. pp.168-186.; Mitchell's Newspaper Press Directory 1846.; Piers Brendon: "The Life and Death of the Press Barons." Atheneum, New York, 1983. p.16.; Sutherland, John. The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. Burnt Hill, Engl.: Longman, 1988. Harding, Timothy David. "Kings and Queens at Home: A Short History of the Chess Column in Nineteenth-Century English Periodicals". VPR 42:4(2009): pp.359-382.

Histories: Altick, Richard D. "Nineteenth-Century English Periodicals." The Newberry Library Bulletin 9 [2s] (May 1952): 255-73.; Altick, Richard D. Punch: the Lively Youth of a British Institution 1841-1851. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1997.; Altick, Richard D. The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public 1800-1900. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, c.1957.; Bourne, H.R. Fox. English Newspapers. vol 1. New York: Russell & Russell, 1966.; Engel, Matthew. Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press. London: Victor Golliancz, 1996.; Gash, Norman. Robert Surtees and Early Victorian Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.; Harrison, Brian. Drink and The Victorians: the Temperance Question in England 1815-1872. London: Faber and Faber, [1971].; Herd, Harold. The March of Journalism: the Story of the British Press from 1622 to the Present Day. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1952.; James, Louis. Fiction for the Working Man, 1830-1850: A study of the literature produced for the working classes in early Victorian urban England. London: Oxford UP, 1963.; Jones, Kennedy. Fleet Street & Downing Street. London: Hutchinson And Co.,1920.; Koss, Stephen. The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1981.; Lake, Brian. British Newspapers: A History and Guide for Collectors. London: Sheppard Press Ltd, 1984.; Muir, Percy. Victorian Illustrated Books. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1971.; Rose, Jonathan. "Workers' Journals." Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Society. Eds. J. Don Vann and Rosemary T. VanArsdel. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1995: 301-310.; Shattock, Joanne and Michael Wolff. eds. The Victorian Periodical Press: Soundings and Samplings. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982.
  Comments: The Gallery of 140 comicalities appeared in Bell's Life in London". Motto: "Then there's Life in't "(Shakespeare).
Papers such as these "were the only reading matter of a considerable segment of the urban working classes, and hence can tell us more than can any other source of the mentality and quality of the imagination that characterized these people" (Altick, 264). Rose states, "While it has always been presumed that cheap papers like Bell's Life in London circulated among working men, Mason has found some evidence that it also reached middle- and upper-class readers" (Rose, Johnathan; p.303).
This is an early example of developing humour in a particular genre, separating elements from the lower-class elements which it assimilated. It issued sheets of cartoons concerned with the comic aspects of low life in general, accompanied by explanatory text. One print of these cartoons, published in 1831, claims "128,000 copies sold" (James, Louis; p.21).
“A national institution, the premier, indeed unique, sporting paper, without which a gentleman's Sunday was incomplete." "Brought in profits of £ 10,000 a year through the 1850's and into the 1860's." "For several years it was published in three editions town, country and latest" (Ed. Harris, Michael and Lee, Alan, p.169).
The first number of Bell's Life in London, and Sporting Chronicle states, "[w]e look on it as presumptive evidence, at least, that they were not adept in the art of pleasing; that they knew but little of the business they had embarked in; for, a newspaper, 'What is it, but a map of busy Life?' We know, full well, that some contented themselves with performing the dull and insipid drudgery of mill-track journalists; others fancied that their common-place declamation, and unmeaning rant, would be mistaken for solid argument, and lucid reasoning; while not a few have trusted to sheer impudence and indecent ribaldry. But the day of delusion is past; and the public, turning with disgust from political rhapsodies and gross vituperations of character, now seek amusement aye, and instruction too from REAL LIFE! We shall willingly let others describe their scene of waking dreams, their visions of the brain, where the phantoms of pleasure flit about in mockery of reality; we mean to depict Life as it really is, to 'hold as 't were the mirror up to nature,' and not suffer our friends to be, like Tantalus, up to the lip of enjoyments, without being able to taste them" (A Few Words To Our Friends no 1, p.1).
"Combining with the News of the Week, a rich Repository of Fashion, Wit, and Humour, and interesting Incidents of High and Low Life" (no 1, title page).
"The sporting print Bell's Life was always more popular than the more political papers among the drinksellers' customers" (Harrison, Brian. Drink and The Victorians).
"At the same as being the proprietor of the Observer, Mr. Clements was also the proprietor of this newspaper [Bell's Life in London]. This was at this time a weekly sporting paper ... producing profits to the extent of from 7,000£, to 8,000£, a year" (Grant, James; p.32).
"A chronicler of pugilism" (Bourne, p.291).
"In the 1820's and 1830's, [the paper was] pro-Reform politics [and] sponsored many burlesques and squibs attacking the aristocracy, clergy, and the establishment in general. By the mid 1840's, [it] was given mostly to sporting and theatrical news, and political news picked up from other newspapers. In the 1830's, [the periodical] published 'The Gallery of Comicalities', a reprinting of comic cuts from the newspaper in large sheets which were sold at 3d; [it] claimed sale of 600,000 copies of the first three issues" (Gray, Donald; p.11).
"Its name almost sufficiently describes it: importing, as it does, its character as emphatically the 'sporting' paper: sports and games of all descriptions are advocated and depicted in its ample columns from pedestrianism to pugilism, cricketing, boating, sailing, racing, hunting profound in all the mysteries of the 'turf', or of the 'ring', very deep in betting; and shrewd in conjectures as to winners and losers; looked up to by 'trainers'; appealed to by sporting characters all over the country. Its editor often referee or stakeholder, and arbiter of occasional disputes; and regarded as a sort of guardian of the interests and honour of the sporting world. The success of this journal is mainly attributable to the business-like discernment of its spirited proprietor, Mr. Clement, who has never lost sight of judicious amalgamation and first-rate talent" (Mitchell's, 1846).
"Containing poetry (especially humorous and social); social comment; law courts; boxing; the chase, etc. an important feature of this periodical is its abundance of folk movements and its moving expressions through poetry and prose" (Faustus, Catalogue 59).
In the fifties and sixties this paper was published in three editions: town, country, and latest. Occasionally issued free supplements, "which advertised itself as 'a rich Repository of Fashion, Wit and Humour, and the interesting incidents of real life' and provided a vivid miscellany of crime, comedy, sex, politics and sport" (Brendon, p.16). "Another sequel to the Pierce Egan original was Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, which went on to secure an important place in the history of popular journalism. It also contributed to the development of the comic. Starting in 1827, Bell ran a weekly feature called 'The Gallery of Comicalities', a series of caricatures, illustrated jokes, and humorous engravings contributed by George Cruickshank, Robert Seymour and Kenny Meadows. Thirty-four of these were gathered together and reprinted as a single full page of cartoons in issue No. 457, published on Sunday, January 2nd, 1831...The following week the whole page was reprinted in a rival newspaper, The Englishman (No. 820), under the heading 'The Englishman's Comic Annual'; whether with or without permission in not known. The feature was such a success that a further 54 cartoons were reprinted in Bell's Life in London for March 12th, with the interesting note that the engravings 'cost the proprietors two hundred and seventy guineas'. If true, it would seem that the average price per picture was 5 5s, a sight higher than that which comic artists would receive half a century later...George Goodyer...assembled four pages of cuts from Bell's and published them as 'The Gallery of 140 Comicalities' on June 24th, 1831" (Gifford, Denis. "The Evolution," p.350).
"Bell's...was circulating 22,000 copies every Sunday among 'the lowest part of the population'. This issued sheets of cartoons concerned with the comic aspects of low life in general, accompanied by explanatory text. One print of these cartoons, published in 1831, claims 128,000 copies sold" (James, Louis; p.21).
This Robert Bell is not the same as the one who edited Bell's Weekly Dispatch." "Bell's Life in London, which, as its sub-title suggests, was principally a 'Sporting Chronicle'. However, Bell's Life in London was occasionally to carry fiction of a sporting cast, notably the 'Sporting Sketches' of R.S. Surtees" (Law, Graham; p.48). One can speak of a chess column in Bell's Life from January 1835 onwards. Some weeks there was no chess game and sometimes no chess answer, but only one issue in 1835 (25 October) entirely lacked chess editorial content. (Harding, p.364) From 1835-40 Bell's Life in London blazed the trail for chess virtually alone, appearing at just the time when many people were looking for "rational recreations" (Harding, p.364) Until October 1845 it was a four-page broadsheet. Typically the front page was filled with advertisements and some news, usually reports of crimes and trials. The third and fourth pages were devoted to sports. Page two had miscellaneous items including politics, answers to correspondents on various matters, and a cartoon.... On 12 October 1845, several weeks later than had originally been announced, the proprietors re-launched Bell's Life with eight instead of four broadsheet pages (though of a slightly smaller size), made possible by the installation of a new steam press. Now all the chess items were collected together, and the game was given nearly a full column....The re-launch introduced diagrams, elementary chess lessons, and chess problems, all appearing in Bell's Life for the first time. (Harding, pp.364-5)

Location: complete runs: CA/U-1 A (imp), LO/N38 A, OX/U-1 A; Microfilm: {EEN} units 55, 56; partial runs: LO/N-1 A (1831); N.America: ICN (see Altick); The full text is available on CENGAGE from Gale.
 


Reproduced by permission, British Newspaper Library

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