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The Poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731 – 1800:
An Electronic Database of Titles, Authors, and First Lines
– An Ongoing Project –

Emily Lorraine de Montluzin


Engraving of St. John’s Gate
St. John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, here depicted on the cover of the October 1778 issue. Photograph courtesy of Surrey History Centre and used with permission.

Table of Contents


  1. The Scope of the Database

  2. The Evolution of the Project

  3. Methodology of Assigning Authorial Attributions

  4. The Contributors

  5. The Poetry:  Subject Matter

  6. The Poetry:  Incidence of the Poems over the 1731-1800 Period

  7. How to Use the Database

  8. Short Titles Used in the Database


To E. de M.
alia amica Urbani


I wish to express my gratitude to Benjamin M. Johnson for providing the technical expertise, the innovative solutions, and the meticulous care essential for launching this database as an online publication.  I am grateful to Luther Fredrick Carter, President of Francis Marion University, and Richard N. Chapman, Provost of Francis Marion University, for their longstanding enthusiastic interest in my research and for fostering a climate in which scholarly work is supported and valued.  I wish to thank the reference staff of the Francis Marion University library, especially John M. Summer (ret.) and Nathan E. Flowers, for their sustained assistance; and I am particularly indebted to Julian Pooley, FSA, Manager of the Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey, and founder of the Nichols Archive Project, for generously making available to me his vast database of transcripts of the manuscript correspondence of John Nichols and his family, material which has proved critical in identifying the authorship of numerous anonymous contributions to the Gentleman’s Magazine.  Finally, I thank Christopher D. Johnson, my colleague in the pleasures of eighteenth-century studies, for his steady encouragement, insightful suggestions, and valued friendship.

E. L. de M.

1.  The Scope of the Database

The following electronic database is designed to provide users with a comprehensive, key-word-searchable list of the 12,561 poems (of which 4,970 are by identified authors) printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine from its beginning in 1731 through 1800.  Presented chronologically, with full titles, first lines, authors (if known), references or justifications for attribution, and additional historical information where needed, the database is intended to offer researchers ready, rapid, thorough, and user-friendly electronic access to the vast resources of literary (and in many cases historical) source material encompassed in the poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine, one of the greatest repositories of verse in the eighteenth century.

The gathering together of over 12,500 poems printed in the GM, 1731-1800, offers significant new opportunities of scholarship.  Clearly it will enable researchers of eighteenth-century print culture in general and periodicals in particular to examine trends in publication and identify clusters of subjects that found favor with poets, readers, and publishers alike.  It will permit students of specific poets an improved opportunity to track the printing or reprinting of their works.  It will showcase the printing of poems produced by dozens of eighteenth-century women writers, many of whom were ignored by mainstream scholarship until very recently.  It will provide students of the Gentleman’s Magazine specifically a much-enhanced knowledge of the content of the magazine as it passed through seven decades and three editorial regimes.  In addition, it will give eighteenth-century historians expanded access to the GM’s tremendous fund of source material on a variety of topics ranging across political, military, colonial, and economic history as well as science and medicine, theology, literary taste, the arts, leisure, and attitudes toward such social issues as slavery and the role of women.

Though constructed to stand fully alone, The Poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1800 complements my Attributions of Authorship in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1868: An Electronic Union List, Web (Charlottesville: Bibliographical Society of the Univ. of Virginia, 2003) <>.  Only approximately half of the 4,970 attributions of authorship listed in the present database are included in the Union List, since a large number of additional attributions have come to light since the publication of that work in 2003.  The present database includes some 475 supplementary attributions of authorship of poems appearing in the GM that I have published over the years in a series of sixteen journal articles designed to augment the authorial attributions (both prose and verse) contained in the Union List.  (See the table of Short Titles below for a list of those journal articles.)  The database furthermore incorporates hundreds of additional finds that have surfaced only recently, finds that I have thus not had the opportunity to compile in separate published supplementary lists.  The preparation of the database has also afforded me the opportunity to make corrections in dozens of the items contained in the Union List.  Finally, I have incorporated into the present database well over a thousand poems that are signed or fully identified in accompanying cover letters or editorial notes in the GM and that as such did not fall within the scope of the attributions of authorship presented in the Union List.  Bringing together the items in the Union List (as corrected) with the various supplementary finds (published and unpublished), as well as the signed items, results in a total of 4,970 poems of known authorship, representing 39.57 per cent of the verse printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine during its eighteenth-century run.

The seventy-year period covered by the database falls within the editorial aegis of the GM’s first three conductors, Edward Cave (1691-1754), David Henry (1709-92), and his coadjutor and successor, John Nichols (1745-1826), all of whom adopted the convenient persona of a fictitious editor, “Sylvanus Urban,” and identified themselves on the title page only as the GM’s printers.  The space and treatment accorded verse submissions varied, of course, with the editorial vision of those three men.  Cave, the founder, at first conceived of his magazine principally as a digest of reprinted excerpts from the newspaper press, together with a section featuring original poetry, a summary of news, weather, and prices, and a makeshift reconstruction of the parliamentary debates.  Cave’s poetry offerings were substantial, filling on average five or six pages per monthly number, not counting a lengthy GM Extraordinary devoted exclusively to poetry, which he published in 1735.  Only later did he trim the newspaper excerpts to make room for history, biography, reviews, and letters to the editor, a transformational process that David Henry would continue and intensify, especially in terms of jettisoning much of the newspaper digest and greatly expanding the space devoted to the host of letters to “Mr. Urban” that would become one of the GM’s signal features. The monthly poetry section would suffer, however, reduced to some three pages per month.  In 1778 Henry would form a partnership with John Nichols, a rising printer who was well on his way to emerging as one of the preeminent men of letters of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries.  In 1783 Henry and Nichols would double the size of each issue; so that by the end of the eighteenth century the GM’s monthly numbers had swelled to over ninety closely printed two-column pages, replete with original letters, articles, antiquarian engravings, a lengthy book review section, and a greatly enlarged space devoted to obituaries and memoirs (Nichols’s particular delight).  In addition, the monthly poetry sections, which had dwindled during the early decades of Henry’s tenure, had rebounded to an average of nearly five pages, not counting the space allotted for poetry in the annual supplements and the large number of incidental verses Nichols printed exclusive of the poetry sections.

The 12,561 poems included in this database are not limited to the items printed in the formal monthly sections of “Select Poetry.”  The GM printed verses in the prefatory pages of many of the annual volumes and occasionally within the pages of the indices.  Poems sometimes turn up in obituaries and in reprinted excerpts from newspapers, and frequently they make their appearance enclosed within the body of letters to the editor.  In an effort to make this list as comprehensive as possible, I have consistently striven to include all such incidental poems, excluding only prefatory mottoes, verse fragments introduced en passant in letters or articles, and  poems printed within literary reviews or letters to the editor written in the vein of literary criticism.  In the case of mottoes and verse fragments, I consider that their inclusion would so blur the sense of the phrase “the poetry of the GM,” as it is traditionally understood, as to render it meaningless.  Also, it would inflate the database with bits of poetry that I do not believe have a legitimate claim for inclusion.  As for verse printed within letters written in the vein of literary criticism, the parameters are perforce imprecise, and decisions to include or exclude a poem have of necessity been a matter of judgment.  In compiling this list I have attempted always to err on the side of inclusivity, as long as doing so would not violate the dictates of reason and logic or offend against common sense.  In short, a line must be drawn somewhere, and I am confident that the line I have drawn concerning inclusivity constitutes a workable compromise in the nature of medias res.

My principal source text has been the UMI complete microfilmed copy of the GM (Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, n.d.), publication no. 3911.  My secondary source text has been the Cambridge University Library copy of the GM, vols. 1-20 (1731-50) scanned at the Bodleian Library and provided online as part of the Internet Library of Early Journals [ILEJ], Web <>.  In a few cases in which a page is illegible in one or the other or both of those resources, I have used copies scanned by other libraries and available online.  Wherever possible I have taken care to indicate discrepancies in page numbering (a problem that is more prevalent in the early volumes of the GM than in the later eighteenth-century ones).

2.  The Evolution of the Project

The Poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1800 grew initially out of my interest in the problem of attribution.  In compiling the authorial data that forms part of this database, I began my search, just as Arthur Sherbo had done in several of his articles in Studies in Bibliography, by looking for new attributions that could be added to James M. Kuist’s The Nichols File of The Gentleman’s Magazine: Attributions of Authorship and Other Documentation in Editorial Papers at the Folger Library (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1982).  I made those findings available in my own series of six articles that were published in Studies in Bibliography, vols. 44 (1991), 45 (1992), 46 (1993), 47 (1994), 49 (1996), and 50 (1997).  Those authorial identifications were integrated in my searchable electronic text, Attributions of Authorship in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1868: A Supplement to Kuist, Web (Charlottesville: Bibliographical Society of the Univ. of Virginia, 1996; archived at <>).  I then brought together as many as I could of the attributions of authorship unearthed by other scholars in dozens of books and articles and made them available in one list as my second GM electronic text, Attributions of Authorship in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1868: A Synthesis of Finds Appearing neither in Kuist’s Nichols File nor in de Montluzin’s Supplement to Kuist, Web (Charlottesville: Bibliographical Society of the Univ. of Virginia, 1997; archived at <>).   That was followed in due course by my third electronic text, Attributions of Authorship in the Gentleman’s Magazine: An Electronic Version of James M. Kuist’s The Nichols File of the Gentleman’s Magazine, Web (Charlottesville: Bibliographical Society of the Univ. of Virginia, 1999; archived at <>) and after that my Attributions of Authorship in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1868: An Electronic Union List, Web (Charlottesville: Bibliographical Society of the Univ. of Virginia, 2003) <>, which brought all three previous electronic texts together into one integrated, searchable, and scrollable database published on the Society’s web site.  Since 2003 I have undertaken my most systematic and thorough combing through, page by page, of the GM’s eighteenth-century run, a project that has yielded many hundreds of new attributions of verse, prose, and plates, which I have been publishing incrementally in the aforementioned short articles as they have come to light.  The Poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1800––a product of those nine years of work––grew concomitantly out of that investigation.  It emerged from my realization that a database of the poetry of the GM over the magazine’s entire eighteenth-century run would constitute an eminently valuable and useful resource in its own right, whether or not I could determine authorial attributions for all the poems therein.

3.  Methodology of Assigning Authorial Attributions

Identifying authorial attributions requires a combination of methods, some traditional and some facilitated by modern online resources.  John Nichols’s massive Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century (9 vols.; London: the author, 1812-15) and Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century (8 vols.; London: the author, 1817-58) have proved very useful in disclosing authorship of poems printed in the GM, as have the GM’s obituary notices and memoirs, especially since Nichols served as editor or coeditor of the magazine for a long period of time and wrote a large number of the obituaries personally.  In many instances the GM provides incomplete or tentative attributions which can be checked in contemporary editions––The Poetical Works of the Late Thomas Warton . . . , ed. Richard Mant, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1802), or David Garrick’s The Poetical Works of David Garrick, Esq, 2 vols. (London: George Kearsley, 1785), for example––or in standard modern ones: E. L. McAdam, Jr., and George Milne’s Samuel Johnson: Poems (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1964; vol. 6 of The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson), Norman Ault and John Butt’s revised edition of Alexander Pope’s Minor Poems (London: Methuen; New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1964; vol. 6 of The Poems of Alexander Pope, The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope, 11 vols. in 12, 1961-69), Harold Williams’s three-volume The Poems of Jonathan Swift, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), or James Kinsley’s three-volume The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), among others.

In some instances contributors themselves, after months or years of submitting anonymous verses or poems signed with pseudonyms or initials, suddenly decided to disclose their names, occasionally retroactively acknowledging authorship of previous submissions.  In the case of poems signed with initials, a certain amount of sleuthing can frequently turn up clues concerning probable authorship, especially when those poems are dated from specific geographical locations that can be associated with the author.  A good example of the fruitful pairing of initials and place names is the case of a translated motto, printed in GM 22 (November 1752): 532, signed “E.B.” and dated from Seighford, Staffs.  Close scrutiny of the GM’s volumes reveals a letter to the editor (“Elohim a Trinity”) that had appeared the preceding year (GM 21 [March 1751]: 126-127) bearing the signature “E. Bate” and dated from Seighford; and Watt’s Bibliotheca Britannica 1: 83 provides a misspelled but corroborative listing for one “Bate, Edward, Vicar of Leighford [sic], and Curate of Ellenhall, Staffordshire,” author of The Speculative and Practical Atheist (1748).  The GM’s editors tended to print poems by the same author in clusters, and in certain cases the likely authorship of poems with no signature at all can be inferred from their proximity to signed or initialed poems, sometimes on the same subject.  For example, the unsigned verses “To the Crocus” (58-i [March 1788]: 251), printed immediately preceding “To the Cowslip”  (signed “P.H.”) on the same page, which in turn is followed by “To the Violet” (signed “P.H.”) on the next page, can be attributed with certainty to Rev. Philip Bracebridge Homer, who contributed eight poems signed “P. Homer” to the GM in the latter half of the volume for 1789, five of them poems to various flowers.  As I noted in the introduction to the Union List, sometimes all that is required when using traditional methods of authorial identification is to imitate the action of the ferret.

Recent cooperative efforts by librarians and Internet search engines, most notably the Google Books Library Project, to begin making millions of volumes of printed books and periodicals publicly available online, free of charge, have dramatically enhanced researchers’ opportunities to consult rare or out-of-print books.  Online scholarly databases and journals have likewise proliferated, providing additional fruitful resources for investigation.  An exciting byproduct of those developments has been a greatly enhanced capacity for electronic keyword and key-phrase searches––an extraordinarily useful tool for researchers to use in combination with traditional scholarly detective work in uncovering the authorship of printed texts, especially poetry, published anonymously in eighteenth-century periodicals. 

In the case of my own efforts to expand the corpus of authorial attributions in the GM, such electronic searches have been of tremendous value in enabling me to discover numerous authors of poems whose identification had eluded me just a handful of years before.  As part of this project I subjected the first lines of all of the thousands of English-language poems either unattributed in my Union List or unsigned in the GM to the massive resources afforded by Google’s search engine.  I was thus able to locate full-page images of numerous poems published in anthologies such as Robert Dodsley’s A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes.  By Several Hands.  With Notes (London: the author, 1782); John Nichols’s A Select Collection of Poems with Notes, Biographical and Historical, 8 vols. (London: J. Nichols, 1780-82); Alexander Chalmers’s The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper; including the Series Edited, with Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Dr. Samuel Johnson: and the Most Approved Translations.  The Additional Lives by Alexander Chalmers, 21 vols. (London: J. Johnson, etc., 1810); Thomas Campbell’s Specimens of the British Poets; with Biographical and Critical Notes, and An Essay on English Poetry, 7 vols. (London: John Murray, 1819); and Thomas Park’s A Select Collection of English Songs, with Their Original Airs: and a Historical Essay on the Origin and Progress of National Song, by the late Joseph Ritson, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (London: F. C. and J. Rivington, et al., 1813).  Similarly, online searches have brought to light poems (likewise visible in full-page images) in volumes of verse by individual authors: Moses Browne’s Poems on Various Subjects (London: Edward Cave, 1739), Henry Headley’s Poems and Other Pieces (London: J. Robson, 1786), Hannah Parkhouse Cowley’s three-volume Works of Mrs. Cowley.  Dramas and Poems (London: Wilkie and Robinson, 1813), and William Dodd’s Poems by Dr. Dodd (London: the author, 1767), to name a few.  In all instances I have carefully checked the title pages of the volumes in question, verifying or correcting the publication data provided by the online search engine.  Several online databases have proved particularly useful in revealing the authors of poems printed in the GM with no attribution, notably the Index Britischer Lyrikanthologien [IBN], Web <> and David Hill Radcliffe’s Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830: A Gathering of Texts, Biography, and Criticism compiled by David Hill Radcliffe, Virginia Tech, Web <>.  In a few cases I have been able to identify the author of a poem published in the GM by locating the verses in a contemporary book review which has surfaced courtesy of online first-line searching.   Jisc Library Hub Discover (formerly COPAC), Web <>, the union catalogue encompassing the millions of volumes held by dozens of academic libraries in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including the British Library, the Bodleian, the Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, and the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, has proved invaluable for identifying the authors of publications ranging from books to popular songs.  Since the English Short-Title Catalog (1473-1800) is subsumed within the Jisc catalogue, I have made use of it in various instances of assigning attributions, silently taking its authorial listings into account where needed.  In the infrequent instances in which Jisc has included a dubious claim of authorship, I have evaluated those authorial attributions on a case-by-case basis, listing such findings as tentative or rejecting them outright.  Since I worked on this project alone, unaided by graduate assistants, every decision concerning whether or not to attribute an item has rested ultimately upon my judgment.

I have deliberately chosen not to repeat detailed justifications for attribution involving several thousand authorial identifications that are already to be found in my Union List or in the series of thirteen journal articles I have published over the years as supplements to the Union List.  To avoid redundancy I have instead included citations of the Union List or of my supplementary journal articles, where interested readers may find fuller explanations of the rationale for those attributions; and, where needed, I have provided some supplemental material in the “AI” (additional information) fields.  Similarly, I have not judged it necessary or advisable to repeat the detailed trail of authorial evidence Titia Ram cites in her valuable Magnitude in Marginality: Edward Cave and The Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1754, Containing a First-Line Index of all the Poems, With Notes and References on Authorship (Overveen, Neth.: Gottmann & Fainsilber Katz, 1999), which I consulted while preparing the Union List.  Ram’s book, with its index of poems in the first twenty-four years of the GM, makes effective use of attributions gleaned from eighteenth-century poetry anthologies, while drawing heavily on the first two of my earlier GM electronic publications, which were ultimately superseded by the Union List.  Ram’s poetry index, while a very helpful print resource for the early decades of the GM, omits a few of the poems, namely those appearing in the prefatory pages of some of the volumes as well as verses printed outside the magazine’s formal poetry sections.  In addition, Ram does not always include full or exact titles for the poems, especially in the case of multiple short items submitted simultaneously by the same contributor.  My database has addressed those problems, furnishing the items omitted in Ram’s book and supplying exact titles of the poems in question.

Finally, with regard to attributions of authorship, users should understand that The Poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1800 does not purport to be a definitive list.  In all likelihood there can never be any such thing as an all-inclusive list of authorial attributions of the poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine.  As more and more libraries scan their collections and make them available online, and as more and more online finding lists of poems appear, researchers will continue to run authorial attributions to ground.  Such databases as Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and Early English Books Online (EEBO)––both currently of limited availability––as well as the Union First Line Index of English Verse (a database of manuscript verse, predominantly sixteenth- and seventeenth-century verse) provide additional avenues that could be explored by researchers.  The likelihood is strong that subjecting the first line of each of the GM’s over 7,600 unattributed poems to multiple searches in various additional search engines would add at least a modest number to the 4,970 poems of known authorship in this list.  For the time being, that must remain a task for the future, when integrated access to those and other search engines as yet unlaunched has mitigated the redundancy of time and effort required to subject each of thousands of first lines to a variety of separate searches.  By definition, databases like The Poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1800 must always be works in progress, expandable and correctable as new material comes to light.  The limitless possibility for enhancement is, after all, one of the greatest benefits of online publication.

4.  The Contributors

The 4,970 verses of known authorship printed in the GM are the work of 1,294 authors.  They are a combination of original submissions sent to the magazine by the writers themselves (or by friends or other interested parties) and reprinted verses, whether contemporary or the product of past centuries.  The authors run the gamut from well-known poets to writers of ephemeral fame to the truly obscure, with the latter two categories tending to dominate the field in terms of original submissions as well as sheer numbers.

Students of the GM will not be surprised to find that the magazine reprinted dozens of poems by Pope, Johnson, and Swift.  Pope alone accounts for 76 items, among them various excerpts from Essay on Man, which the GM printed with no authorial identification.  Well over fifty of the GM’s poems are verses written or revised by Samuel Johnson (not counting approximately a dozen tentative attributions), while some two dozen are Swift’s (again, not counting eight other possible works).  The GM’s readers were enthusiasts of the theatre, and the magazine’s editors obliged with large numbers of theatrical prologues, epilogues, and occasional verses by Richard Cumberland, George Colman (both the Elder and the Younger), John Home, Arthur Murphy, Hugh Kelly, Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and other playwrights, especially David Garrick, over one hundred of whose works were printed in the magazine.  Leading contemporary poets are represented (Thomson, Shenstone, Gray, Cowper, Burns, and Coleridge, for example), as are poets of earlier periods (Herrick, Marlowe, Butler, Dryden, Addison, and Gay).  Poems by writers better known for prose are there as well––Henry Fielding, Chesterfield, Sterne, Smollett, Horace Walpole, Isaac Disraeli, Voltaire, and Benjamin Franklin; and there are scores of New Year’s and Birthday odes by the poet laureates of the era––Colley Cibber, Thomas Warton, William Whitehead, and Henry James Pye.

An interesting revelation of the GM’s editorial selection process concerns the relatively small but significant number of female writers who saw their poems selected for inclusion in the magazine, not to mention those whose verses were reprinted therein.  The GM printed the poetry of dozens of women, most of them writers who were primarily poets but also some who published in other fields of literature.  Among the writers in the former category the most prolific in terms of GM submissions was Anna Seward, the “Swan of Lichfield,” who supplied 53 poems over the course of the years 1782-1800.  Seward, interestingly enough, unlike many of her fellow contributors, eschewed the disguise of a pseudonym and consistently signed her own full name to her submissions.  Jane Hughes Brereton and her daughter Charlotte Brereton each contributed approximately a dozen poems during the early decades of the magazine, as did Catherine Stephens during the 1790s; and the GM printed a modest sampling of the verse of Mary Barber and Elizabeth Rowe in its early years and of Mary Whateley Darwall and Mary Masters in its mid-century volumes.  In addition, the magazine published one or more poems by (among others) Phillis Wheatley the Boston slave-poet, Mary Leapor, Ann Batten Cristall, Anne Kingsmill Finch (countess of Winchilsea), Mary Latter, Sarah Dixon, Mary Young Sewell, Elizabeth Pennington, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Scott Taylor, Esther Lewis Clark, Mary Chandler, Elizabeth Bentley, Mary Jones, and Ann Yearsley the “Bristol milk-woman.”

A number of the women writers whose verses occur in the GM were not exclusively poets.  Eight were novelists: Aphra Behn, Charlotte Lennox, Ann Radcliffe, Hannah More, Charlotte Smith, Frances Chamberlaine Sheridan, Anne Hughes Penny, and Jane West (a frequent contributor, 16 of whose poems were published in the GM).  Behn, Sheridan, and Penny were also playwrights, as were two other GM poets, Hannah Parkhouse Cowley and Catharine Trotter Cockburn (who published philosophical treatises as well).  The women poets in the GM also included translators, especially Susanna Watts and the polylingual Elizabeth Carter (29 of whose poems were printed in the magazine); the classicist Constantia Grierson; the essayist Hester Chapone; Mary Locke, a prolific GM poet and author of children’s literature; Laetitia Pilkington and Catherine Yeo Jemmat, authors of memoirs; Hester Lynch Piozzi and Anna Williams from Samuel Johnson’s circle; and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, four of whose poems found their way into the GM.

Primarily, however, the mainstays of the GM’s poetry offerings were men of independent means or practitioners of a variety of occupations unrelated to poetry.  They were literary amateurs who had leisure to write and who wrote for their own satisfaction or for the desire to see their verses in print.  As might be expected, large numbers were divines or clergymen (both Church-of-England and Dissenter), but there were also professors and schoolmasters, classicists, translators, historians, orientalists, and lexicographers.  Some of the GM’s poets were playwrights or musicians; some, politicians, civil servants, or barristers; some, booksellers or journalists; some, antiquaries, essayists, or miscellaneous writers; some, soldiers or seamen.  The sciences were represented, with physicians, naturalists, astronomers, and mathematicians.  Their ranks furthermore included “primitive” poets (William Newton, the “Peak Minstrel,” and Stephen Duck, the ploughman-protégé of Queen Caroline, for example) as well as Welsh bards.  Also, a handful were businessmen or skilled artisans, among them William Oland, a prosperous maltster; James Six, a retired silk weaver; William Hamilton Reid, a silver-buckle maker; John Robertson, a journeyman barber; John Threlkeld, a stocking frame knitter; one H. Perkins, a tallow chandler; and Gavin Wilson, a Scottish shoemaker and Masonic poet.  Altogether, the professions, trades, and avocations represented in the ranks of Sylvanus Urban’s poets were legion, resulting in a variety of experience that inevitably enriched the magazine’s poetic content.                        

5.  The Poetry:  Subject Matter

When one considers the poetry of the earliest period in the history of the Gentleman’s Magazine, it is probably prize-poem religious verse that comes first to mind.  Certainly poems on theological topics were a leading feature of the GM’s poetry sections throughout the seventy years encompassed in this database, but religious verse is particularly conspicuous in the magazine’s early years, thanks to several of the prize competitions hosted by Edward Cave.  Most notable among those series is the GM’s first public contest (for an award of £50) for verses “On Life, Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.”  (“Strange subjects for a Prize,” one participant mused [GM 5 (GM Extraordinary 1735): 425].)  The event elicited so many and such lengthy submissions that Cave was obliged to issue a 42-page GM Extraordinary in 1735 to accommodate the bulk of them. 

For the next several years Cave continued the popular custom of hosting poetry competitions, with several of them dedicated to devotional topics: “The Christian Hero” in 1736 and “On the Divine Attributes” in 1737-38.  Not all the prize-poem series had religious themes, however.  Cave conducted similar contests for epigrams in 1735-36 and for verses “On the Queen’s Grotto” in 1733, in the latter case soliciting poems on the artificial cave-cum-temple newly created in Richmond Park by Caroline of Anspach, George II’s consort, to house busts of British worthies.  Though the prize-versifiers were predictably united in their praise of Queen Caroline’s grotto, one earlier anonymous poet did not share their views, drawing instead a disparaging (and unmerited) comparison between Caroline, who erected temples to men, and Queen Anne, who built temples to God.  (See “Anna & Carolina,” GM 2 [October 1732]: 1025.) 

Incited by the announced competitions for prize epigrams as well as by informal challenges printed in the magazine, contributors all but overwhelmed the GM with a plethora of short verses, especially during its early years.  When, for example, Cave reprinted Pope’s Epitaph.  Intended for Sir Isaac Newton, In Westminster Abbey (“Nature, and Nature’s Laws lay hid in Night. | God said, Let Newton be! and All was Light”) together with a translation into Greek (GM 11 [October 1741]: 548), the GM’s readers deluged the magazine with rival versions, supplying over the next several years thirty-one translations into Latin, an additional one into Greek, and one into French, plus several imitations.  Sometimes it was a reader’s request printed in the magazine that elicited a flood of verses, as when one “S.S.” in Tuxford, Notts., wrote to Sylvanus Urban in February 1745 that his neighbor would like to display in gold letters on the ceiling over his dining table a good translation of a pithy remark (taken from Possidius’s Vita Augustini) berating guests who gossip about absent friends behind their backs.  “I [. . .] shall be greatly obliged,” added the brazen writer, “both to you, and to such of your generous correspondents, who shall please, for the sake of society and good manners, to send you their version of the above distich in two lines, early enough to be inserted in your next Magazine for March, for by that time the room will be ready for it.”  (GM 15 [February 1745]: 104).  So popular was the request for “The Dining-room Motto” that over the next several months GM contributors eager to have a go at the problem obliged with no fewer than eighteen English translations and two Latin imitations. 

Interest in the epigrams, distichs, acrostics, and conundrums that so fascinated the GM’s readers in its early decades waned in the late-eighteenth century, especially during the editorial stewardship of John Nichols, who generally favored lengthier submissions.  However, epigrams ranging from the sublime to the silly did not disappear entirely from the pages of the magazine, especially when readers’ interest was titillated by any sort of poetic challenge.  For example, an anonymous contributor (signing his piece “J.R.”) in 1790 submitted a “Humourous Couplet” from the Latin of Peter Paganus of Marburg (“Sta pes, sta mi pes, sta pes, ne labere [sic], mi pes”), supplying his own paraphrase in English (GM 60-ii [September 1790]: 798).  In the next monthly number the GM printed a batch of remarkably similar and equally inane translations sent in immediately by various readers, all along the lines of “Stand foot, stand pr’ythee foot; pr’ythee stand foot; stand, pr’ythee, my foot” (the version submitted, incidentally, by Samuel Pegge the Elder, rector of Whittington and one of the GM’s most prolific contributors on antiquarian topics and idioms; see GM 60-ii [October 1790]: 940).  Clearly, if a piquant epigram reared its head in the pages of the magazine, a legion of avid readers stood ever ready to translate, ad infinitum and sometimes ad nauseum.  One cannot avoid the conclusion that many of Sylvanus Urban’s contributors must have had a remarkable amount of time on their hands.

The GM throughout its eighteenth-century run maintained a long tradition of printing patriotic poems and verse inspired by events of national or international significance: the death of Queen Caroline in 1737, the fall of the Walpole Ministry in 1742, George II’s victory in the battle of Dettingen (1743), the court-martial and execution of Admiral Byng following the loss of Minorca (1757), the Pyrrhic victory at Bunker Hill (1775) and Burgoyne’s ignominious surrender to American forces at Saratoga (1777), the attempted assassination of George III in 1787 and his recovery from porphyria in 1789, and the blood-drenched course of the Reign of Terror in France, to name a few.  Reflecting its readers’ preoccupation with Britain as a seafaring nation, the GM printed poems memorializing naval disasters: the foundering of the Victory, the Royal Navy’s most powerful warship (“To Britain.  On the Loss of Admiral Balchen,” GM 14 [October 1744]: 557), for example, or the tragic capsizing of the Royal George (“Epitaph” to Admiral Richard Kempenfelt, GM 53-i [April 1783]: 358).  Likewise the magazine assured space for the flood of contributors’ verses celebrating triumphant sea-fights: Richard Howe’s victory over the French on the “Glorious First of June” (1794), Adam Duncan’s defeat of the Dutch in the battle of Camperdown (1797), and Nelson’s triumph in the battle of the Nile (1798).  The GM whipped itself into a patriotic fervor during the Jacobite Revolt of the ’Forty-Five, printing for its readers’ use the words and music to God Save Great George Our King (as it was originally entitled; see GM 15 [October 1745]: 552) and filling its pages with contributors’ Francophobic and anti-Catholic rants during Bonnie Prince Charlie’s advance to Derby in 1745, followed by their fervent panegyrics on the Duke of Cumberland after his rout of the Highlanders at Culloden in 1746.               

Nature poetry was another popular feature in the GM’s monthly numbers.  One has only to notice the frequency and predictable recurrence of poignant seasonal verses to realize how powerful and intimate was the influence of weather on the GM’s contributors, especially those who lived in country villages, where they were at the mercy of snow and sleet, rain and cold.  As one examines the poetry section of successive volumes, one comes to anticipate introspective, almost claustrophobic verses as the snows of winter set in, isolating country dwellers who could not or did not choose to escape to London for the season.  Year after year the issues for the spring months are filled with heart-lifting poems about migrating birds, freshening breezes, and reawakening vegetation.  Summer in its turn called forth the traditional poetic imagery of warmth, sunshine, simple rural pastimes, and peaceful plenty.  Autumn brought elegiac verses marking the fading year, as the writers prepared for the secluded, lonely, cold-straitened months ahead which, they sometimes speculated, some of them might not survive.  Nowhere is the dependence of lives on the vicissitudes of the weather more evident than in an anonymous poem printed in January 1740: “On the much lamented Death of many thousand excellent Patriots, and Supporters of their Country, in the Kingdom of Ireland; who were confined, and starved with Cold and Hunger, (cruellest of Deaths!) between Dec. 26, and Jan. 13, 1739-40, to the inexpressible Loss and Grief of that weeping, bleeding, Nation.”  The “patriots” were potatoes, frozen in the fields.  They were “[t]heir country’s glory, and the poor’s supply!” the unknown author wrote, adding, “Here lies two thirds of IRELAND’s daily bread.”  (GM 10 [January 1740]: 30)

For the rest, love poems in the pastoral tradition were a perennial staple of the GM, as might be expected, and the monthly poetry sections were awash with Damons and Strephons saluting their Celias, Delias, and Phoebes in verse.  In the late eighteenth century, under the editorial auspices of Henry and Nichols, the magazine welcomed works by bardic poets, printing excerpts from Chatterton and Chatterton’s imitators as well as Welsh verse (in both original Welsh and English renderings).  Translations of all sorts remained a regular feature of the GM, which printed a considerable number of Latin poems, a smaller number of Greek, and a handful of Hebrew (taking proud advantage of its ownership of Hebrew typeface).  Poems in modern languages or in translations thereof also made their appearance from time to time, occasionally grouped together as submissions by the same contributor, as in the case of the remarkable William Hamilton Reid, the silver-buckle maker and self-taught linguist, who in 1794 supplied the GM with a set of translations from Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, and Latin (GM 64-i [April 1794]: 364).  Furthermore, the GM throughout its run maintained its tradition of serving as a home for verses memorializing the dead.  Contributors submitted tributes to kings and princes, to statesmen, and to military heroes, as well as deeply personal and moving verses written by widowers grieving for their spouses, by children mourning their parents, and by parents who had buried their infants.  There were even eulogies to dead pets––favorite songbirds, dogs, cats, and horses.  Reflecting the antiquarian interests of John Nichols, the GM in the 1780s and 1790s also printed a substantial number of anonymous verse epitaphs from memorial tablets and churchyards, many of them included not in the traditional poetry sections but in the letters from contributors filling the earlier portion of the monthly numbers. 

As should be evident, one of the greatest strengths of the GM’s poetry offerings (and one of the attributes that most endeared the magazine to its thousands of readers) was the infinite variety contained therein, as demonstrated by the editors’ inclusion of submissions from all sorts and conditions of men (and women) on practically any topic that one could name.  A subscriber could open his latest copy and regale himself with Sir William Yonge’s ballad celebrating the Duke of Dorset’s new three-seater privy (GM 6 [February 1736]: 103) or, in like vein, an outrageous verse salute to a turd, written by an anonymous versifier on a dare, to make good on his braggadocio claim that literally nothing was beyond his poetic abilities (GM 18 [March 1748]: 135).  That same subscriber, by contrast, could find in the pages of the magazine “The DANCE of the HEAVENS or MUSIC of the SPHERES.  A Contemplative View of the Solar or Copernican System” (GM 50 [February 1780]: 90-91), a remarkable Drydenesque tribute to science and religion composed by William Oland of Marshfield, the Gloucestershire maltster and one of the GM’s army of gifted amateurs.  Readers craved variety, the GM’s editors welcomed it, and subscribers received it in abundance. 

6.  The Poetry:  Incidence of the Poems over the 1731-1800 Period

(Figures supplied represent the number of poems printed in the GM during each year.)

The Edward Cave Years, 1731-53


(Cave died 10 January 1754 and thus was uninvolved in the production of the 1754 volume.)

David Henry’s Years as Sole Editor, 1754-78


The David Henry and John Nichols Editorial Partnership, 1778-91


(Nichols took over full responsibility for the GM in 1791, before Henry’s death in 1792.)

John Nichols’s Years as Sole Editor, 1791-1800


7.  How to Use the Database

The Poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1800 is overtly constructed as a searchable database, not an electronic book.  The fields I have built into each entry are designed to afford just such searchability.  Likewise, the inclusion of the month as well as the year for each item, applied systemically throughout the database, enhances the stand-alone nature of each poem as a searchable datum.  That said, the over 12,500 poems contained in the database must be presented in some sort of order, and to my mind, as a press historian, chronological order is the most logical, since it provides the valuable added benefit of enabling users to perceive contextual patterns.  This is particularly true in the case of the GM, in which contributing poets very often wrote back and forth over months in response to each other.

The 12,561 poems included in the database are therefore presented first in a chronological list, with each entry consisting of the volume, date, and page reference; the title of the poem; the first line of verse; the author’s name, if known; the pseudonym or signature, if given; the reference or justification for the attribution in the case of verses by identified authors; and additional historical or explanatory information where needed.  The volume number, author’s name, and signature in each entry are clickable for convenient cross-referencing.

Abbreviations for the various fields in the database are as follows:

V: Title of poem
FL: First line
Au: Author’s name
Orig.: Pseudonym or signature
Ref: Justification or reference for the attribution
AI: Additional information

Users searching for proper names, places, or topics—Polwhele, Culloden, slavery, pastoral, or Bath, for example—should use the Simple-Search “Search poems for” function, which provides all sought references regardless of field.  Users searching for specific poem or book titles or first lines of verse are advised always to utilize the Advanced Search function, which furnishes a much more expeditious method of obtaining results than that afforded by simple searches.

Titles and first lines preserve all original spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and accent marks, including those printed in Latin and in modern languages.  In this way users of the database have the opportunity to see the GM’s poetry titles and first lines exactly as they appeared in the magazine, in the version, in short, needed by researchers for textual comparisons of various printings of the same poems.  Though variations in capitalization will pose no problems in the conduct of searches, users of the database should be forewarned of the advisability of searching for a title or first line by means of a cluster of words unlikely to present difficulties as a result of the vagaries of eighteenth-century spelling or punctuation. 

Greek is retained in titles of poems but not in first lines, which are simply designated as “Greek verse.”  The handful of Hebrew poems are likewise listed as “Hebrew verse” without any attempt to reproduce the Hebrew letters. 

All references to the Gentleman’s Magazine within the database itself are listed for the sake of convenience in abbreviated form, as in the following example: 32 (January 1762): 39 (i.e., Gentleman’s Magazine, volume 32, printed in January 1762, page 39).  The designation “[?]”  that is used consistently throughout the text in the author field is intended to indicate tentative attributions.  I have taken care to include tentative attributions, for they may point other scholars in fruitful directions that could lead one day to proof-positive authorial identifications.

The Chronological List is followed by an alphabetical Synopsis by Contributor incorporating all of the 1,294 known authors of poetry printed in the GM.  The Synopsis serves as an authorial cross reference to the contents of the database as well as providing dates of birth and death and authors’ occupations, if known.

Errors are never desirable, but in a project of this type, errors in transcription are inevitable, especially given the fact that the GM’s numbers are in all too many cases imperfectly printed, with broken letters from damaged or worn type, inadequately applied printers’ ink, occasional blotches, dubious punctuation marks, and difficult to decipher ligatures.  I have done my best to minimize such errors in transcription.

8.  Short Titles Used in the Database