As Linda Hughes pointed out in the Michael Wolff Lecture at the 2006 RSVP Conference and in a 2007 essay, "What the Wellesley Index Left Out: Why Poetry Matters to Periodical Studies," the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals decided to exclude poetry from their index, so scholars have lacked comprehensive resources for locating and studying these texts.
The rationale for excluding poetry from the Wellesley made sense when that project was conceived in the 1960s. According to Hughes, the shifts in literary and print culture at the beginning of the twentieth century devalued the kind of popular poetry found in periodicals. The Wellesley’s emphasis on provenance also made the work of indexing poetry in nineteenth-century periodicals exceedingly difficult. As Hughes notes, “Within such a context periodical poetry could not repay the enormous labor and expense required to trace publication and authorship, and the Wellesley editorial team confined its labors to prose” (115). Today, digitized texts and new digital research tools offer new approaches to such research.
The Periodical Poetry Index offers a valuable resource previously unavailable to scholars and students interested in the poetry excluded from the Wellesley 50 years ago by indexing the English-language poetry published in nineteenth-century periodicals. The research methodology and design of our project also departs from the Wellesley in primarily focusing on the poem as it is published in the periodical, rather than author identification and provenance.
The initial version of the Periodical Poetry Index includes over 2,500 poems from Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (1817-1900), Cornhill Magazine (1860-1900), and Macmillan's Magazine (1859-1900), to be released in several phases during 2012. Future versions will index other titles included in the Wellesley Index as well as journals not included in that resource.
Early versions of this project were presented at the 2011 Research Society for Victorian Periodicals conference at Christ Church University and the 2012 Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada conference at the University of Victoria. This work would not be possible without the encouragement of Linda K. Hughes, Patrick Leary, and other members of RSVP. We would also like to thank Michelle Robinson, whose early project plans offered a foundation for the work we have done.
Research for the Index has relied on free, web-based resources, specifically Hathi Trust, Google Books, and Google Forms. The site was constructed in PHP and MySQL. We welcome comments and feedback about the site at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda K. Hughes, "What the Wellesley Index Left Out: Why Poetry Matters to Periodical Studies," Victorian Periodicals Review 40.2 (Summer 2007): 91-125.