Excerpts of Descriptions of Work Performed by Recipients of Library Fellowships


BSA-ASECS Fellowship

Rachael Scarborough King
Sept. 17, 2015
Report on

I traveled to the United Kingdom from June 26 to Aug. 2 as part of my research trip supported by the Bibliographical Society of America’s BSA-ASECS Fellowship. The purpose of this trip was to conduct research for an article-length project on Richard Steele. This article will examine the influence of Steele’s editorship of The London Gazette, which he ran from 1707-1710, on his creation of the influential periodicals The Tatler (1709-1711) and The Spectator (1711-1714). I plan to argue that Steele’s work in the newspaper industry laid the foundation for both the layout and content of the later periodicals.

This research trip provided ample support for this argument, as well as greater background detail on Steele’s work as a journalist and on the government’s control of The London Gazette. I began by examining the collections of Steele’s correspondence at the British Library, including three volumes of letters sent to him as editor of the Tatler and Spectator and three volumes of his personal correspondence with his wife. The former show how readers immediately began sending letters to the editor of the new periodical, while the latter includes correspondence detailing his income as editor of the Gazette and describing his daily activities at work on the newspaper. The British Library also holds the manuscript contract assigning Samuel Buckley as printer of The Spectator; Buckley was also the printer of the Gazette.

I then moved to the National Archives in Kew, where I examined decades worth of correspondence about the Gazette and its newsgathering methods. This research revealed that government officials regularly ordered diplomats to provide news for the Gazette, but that both the diplomats and the official at home often complained about the inclusion of particular details or misrepresentation of facts. Several letters from the Secretary of State allude to his displeasure at Steele’s management of the Gazette. This archive will both fill in details about Steele’s own editorship, and potential reasons for his transition away from newswriting, and offer a broader picture of the journalistic methods of the period.

This research trip revealed an aspect of Steele’s career that has rarely been discussed, but that offers important insights into our understanding of his influential periodicals and the early eighteenth-century periodical marketplace more generally. The trip would not have been possibly without the support of the BSA-ASECS Fellowship, and I am grateful for the opportunity.