Boys of England and Edwin J. Brett, 1866-99
Boys of England was a Victorian boys' periodical. It was published weekly by Edwin J. Brett from 1866 to 1899, initially from the Fleet Street offices of the Newsagents' Publishing Company, and later from Brett's own `Boys of England Office'. It was the first periodical of its kind, and achieved a large sale amongst eager youngsters. The purpose of this thesis is to provide a general history of BOE and Brett, neither of which has yet been attempted. More specifically, the thesis is intended to address misconceptions regarding Brett and his work. Historians of boys' periodical literature have tended to portray Brett's papers as largely supportive of middle class hegemony. They argue that they failed to connect with the lives of their upper working and lower middle class readers. However, this thesis contends that in actual fact BOE engaged closely with the lives of its readership, comprised mainly of boys from the `respectable' working classes. Therefore, BOE should rightly be considered an important, indigenous component of working class society and culture in mid to late Victorian Britain. To provide as comprehensive an analysis as possible, the thesis is divided into three sections: `Paper and Proprietor'; `Content'; `Response'. These sections are divided into further chapters, each exploring a salient facet of BOE and Brett. Some of these engage with, and challenge, the existing historiography of boys' periodical literature. Others introduce historiographies previously remote from the study of boys' papers, widening the remit of this relatively self-contained field. Some examine entirely unstudied, or largely understudied, subject matter. Ultimately, this thesis is intended to make a valuable contribution not only to the historiography of boys' papers specifically, and children's literature in general, but also to the wider historiographies of Victorian social and cultural history and the Victorian working class.