To go directly to the year-by-year list of “At the Sign of the Ship” topics, click here.
To see a list of available scanned volumes of Longman’s, see U Penn’s Online Books Page entry.
According to Asa Briggs, the publisher Longmans is “the oldest commercial publisher in the United Kingdom” (frontispiece). Its eponymous periodical, Longman’s Magazine, however, was not founded until 1882, when Fraser’s failed. The new periodical was relaunched at a cheaper price (6d). Lang was connected with the magazine from the beginning. As Roger Lancelyn Green notes, Lang had first become friends with F. W. Longman when a student at Balliol; he had met the publisher Charles J. Longman by the beginning of the 1870s and “soon became literary advisor to the firm, in which capacity he continued until his death” (Andrew Lang 176). When Longman’s Magazine was founded, Lang was one of the most active solicitors of new contributors. (See Demoor, “Andrew Lang’s Letters,” p. 496.)
Although Charles Longman was Longman’s editor, Lang’s monthly causerie, “At the Sign of the Ship,” which ran from Jan. 1886 to the magazine’s demise in Oct. 1905, led Longman’s to became more and more associated with Lang’s name. Forrest Reid commented on that fact in 1938 after after staying in a country house that had a set: “Being methodical in such matters, I now worked my way through the entire lot, and never before had I realized how much this was Andrew Lang’s magazine. Little wonder that before long he was bombarded with manuscripts intended for the editor” (502).
In Lang’s “At the Sign of the Ship,” readers found a running commentary on new fiction (particularly but not exclusively in the romance genre that Lang most admired), poetry, drama, literary criticism, history, biography, art, folklore, English and foreign languages, Scotland, anthropology, psychical research, and multiple other topics. In an age that was suffering from information overload, Lang, an eclectic and voracious reader, wrote a sprightly and seemingly effortless causerie each month that summarized and synthesized new discoveries and critical arguments in multiple fields. His light and popular style of impressionistic criticism gave readers the feeling that they knew him and that they were taking their reading advice and learning their lessons from a trusted friend.
That is not to say that Lang’s columns were not controversial. Critics accused Lang of log-rolling, a charge he would deny (see particularly the Dec. 1886 “Ship”), and Lang’s taste in fiction and criticism made him some notable enemies, including Thomas Hardy and some of Lang’s onetime friends such as Henry James and William Henley. These facts have sometimes led to the pigeonholing of Lang by literary critics.
Scholars today whose work discusses or touches on Andrew Lang are faced with a great challenge in “At the Sign of the Ship.” There are a total of 238 separate articles, published over a twenty-year period, almost all of which discuss multiple topics. Because each column has the same title, each citation is cited parenthetically as (“Ship”) in criticism that quotes Lang’s work. Each article is thus equated with every other. Although Lang was so prolific, his opinions tend to be boiled down to one or two quotations, and his ideas are often seen as uniform and stagnant. With a few notable exceptions, little work has been done on how his ideas change over time, nor on where his writing does not conform to the standard stereotypes of Lang.
This page, therefore, is an attempt to take a different methodological approach to Lang’s “At the Sign of the Ship” writings, an approach which is meant to supplement digital keyword searches and careful reading of Longman’s Magazine. Digital keyword searches are useful for scholars who wish to find out what Lang said about a particular word or subject, but they sometimes efface the context. Reading all of Lang’s causeries in their entirety, however, particularly with a physical copy, is too lengthy a process for most scholars. Even if accomplished, by the time a scholar has finished even a few years of reading, Lang’s many ideas may jumble together. This site therefore provides a list of the topics discussed in each “At the Sign of the Ship,” allowing scholars to get a quick understanding of the contents and how they build on or vary from what Lang has written elsewhere.
Of course, my attempt to make a list of “At the Sign of the Ship” topics will be limited by the fact that I, like all indexers, may have different interests and tastes than my readers; thus the subjects that stand out to me may occasionally differ from those that stand out to you. However, I hope readers of Andrew Lang will find this site a useful tool in navigating the Ship’s waters.
See the year-by-year list of “At the Sign of the Ship” topics here.
Return to the list of known periodicals to which Lang contributed.
Learn more about Lang’s contributions to The Author, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Folk-Lore, and The Morning Post.
Brake, Laurel and Marysa Demoor. Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Gent: Academia Press, 2009.
Briggs, Asa. A History of Longmans and their Books 1724–1990: Longevity in Publishing. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2008.
Demoor, Marysa. “Andrew Lang’s Causeries, 1874-1912.” Victorian Periodicals Review 21.1 (1988): 15-22.
—. “Andrew Lang’s Letters to Edmund Gosse: The Record of a Fruitful Collaboration as Poets, Critics, and Biographers.” The Review of English Studies, New Series 38, No. 152 (Nov. 1987), 492–509. http://www.jstor.org/stable/515881
Green, Roger Lancelyn. Andrew Lang: A Critical Biography. Leicester: Edmund Ward, 1946.
Maurer, Oscar. “Andrew Lang And Longman’s Magazine, 1882-1905.” University Of Texas Studies In English 34.(1955): 152-178.
Reid, Forrest. Andrew Lang and “Longman’s.” The London Mercury and Bookman 37, no. 221 (Mar. 1938): 502–08.
Reid, Julia. “‘King Romance’ in Longman’s Magazine: Andrew Lang and Literary Populism.” Victorian Periodicals Review 44.4 (Winter 2011): 354–76. Project Muse. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.