Poetry in Annuals

       The British literary annuals spanned the years from the late Romantic to the early Victorian periods.  After the death of Byron in 1824, according to historian Robert Adams, English poetry fell silent, and until 1850, major poetic voices were few (Adams 389).  An objective of this chapter is to show that this assessment is not true, and to provide a broader context for the poets and the poems that are available from the annuals of that period.  The Index lists 1,339 poets that published 9,473 poems that were distributed among the annuals in the Index as follows:
                                            Annual Type                          Number of Poems
                                              Literary                                      6438
                                              Anthologies                                 1509 
                                              Juvenile                                       635
                                              Religious                                     402
                                              Humor                                        354
                                              Travel                                         135

Figure 3-1 shows how these poems were distributed among annual types over time. The literary, juvenile, and comic annuals display a characteristic, rapid rise in the number of poems published peaking in the late 1820s, and then falling in the early 1830s, and then to gradually fade away in the 1840s.  The anthologies of poems, on the other hand, show short bursts of activity in the 1828-30 and in the 1836-8 period.  The anthologies causing the first surge are the Poetical Album of 1828 (295 poems), the Poetical Album of 1829 (224 poems), Laurel of 1830 (201 poems), and The Lyre of 1830 (215 poems).  Alaric A. Watts edited all four anthologies. The later surge was caused by The Book of Gems:  for 1836 (168 poems), 1837 (130 poems), and 1838 (204 poems).  This series of anthologies was edited by Samuel Carter Hall, and they differed from Watts's anthologies because they included some non-contemporary poets.  Are these anthologies annuals?  The Book of Gems was a three-year series containing 149 engravings, and although Watts' four anthologies contained no engravings, there were poems by earlier poets that did not appear in the literary annuals.  These were included as problematic annuals in the Index because one may want their additional contents as collateral data that could be optionally excluded from analysis if desired.
        The same data was plotted in
Figure 3-2 to show the gender of the creators of all poems in the Index.  This display indicates that poetry published in annuals was primarily by male poets until about 1842.  Indeed, of the 9,743 poems in the Index, 55 percent were written by men, 29 percent by women, and the remaining 16 percent were anonymous. Another way of looking at this data is to gender the 1,339 poets who wrote the 9,743 poems in the Index.  There were 874 men or 65 percent, 261 women or 19 percent, and 204 anonymous or 15 percent.  The reason that the percentages are different in these two approaches is that women poets wrote more poems per person, on average, than men.  It is unlikely that most of the anonymous poets were women because the ratio of men to women contributions doesn't change significantly during the period 1839-1845 of low anonymous contributions in Figure 3-2.   Certain women poets contributed considerably more poems than the men as shown in Table 3-1 where six of the seven most prolific poets are women.

      In the tabulation on
Table 3-1, two numbers are indicated for each poet.  The first number is a total of poems published in all annuals in the Index; the second number (in parenthesis) is the total of poems published only in literary annuals as defined in Table 1-1.  A difference is made here to distinguish adult literary annuals for the purpose of drawing further conclusions about them later in this chapter.  The difference between these numbers for any poet might be interpreted as an indication of relative popularity.  For the following discussion, reference is made primarily to all poems in the Index.  As shown in Table 3-1, Letitia Landon (506 poems) was far and away the most prolific poet and editor to numerous annuals.  The top ten poets on this list collectively provided 19 percent, and the top twenty poets provided 27 percent of the poetry in all annuals in the Index.  All of the 83 poets listed in Table 3-1 collectively provided 4,558 poems, or 47 percent, of all the poetry, in the Index.  Of these 83 poets, 25 were women, who provided 1,955 poems, or 43 percent of the 4,558 poems represented in Table 3-1.
      There is a high incidence of 26 annual editors of the 83 poets listed in
Table 3-1.  Eight of the top ten poets edited annuals, and 13 of the top twenty poets were annual editors.  Of the 26 editors, 11 were women or 42 percent.  Felicia Hemans was the only female in the top ten poets that was not an editor of one or more of the literary annuals.  Both Hemans and Landon used the annuals as main outlets for their poems, possibly because they needed the money to support their families.  Only three male poets of the top twenty were not annual editors:  Barry Cornwall [Bryan Waller Procter], a solicitor, Charles Swain, a newspaperman, and Delta  [David L. Moir], a Scottish physician.  Thus, a relatively small nucleus of poets furnished a majority of the poems for the literary annuals. The most prolific poets were usually editors who published their own works in the annuals they managed.