Edinburgh Review or The Critical Journal (1802-1929) is a Scottish quarterly periodical. It was established by Francis Jeffrey, Sydney Smith, and Henry Brougham, and originally published by Archibald Constable.
The first Edinburgh Review was a short-lived venture initiated in 1755 by a group of Scottish men of letters concerned with the Enlightenment goals of social and intellectual improvement. According to the preface of the inaugural issue, the journal’s purpose was to “demonstrate ‘the progressive state of learning in this country’ and thereby to incite Scots ‘to a more eager pursuit of learning, to distinguish themselves, and to do honor to their country.'”
Edinburgh Review (1802-1929) succeeded immediately in establishing a prestige and authority which (shared with the Quarterly Review) lasted for over a century. Thomas Carlyle described it as ‘a kind of Delphic oracle’. Under the influence of its first editor, Jeffrey, its politics became emphatically Whig, but although it was anxious for reform in many spheres an effort was made to hold a balanced view.
Only a section of the journal was reserved for literature, but the views expressed there were highly influential and the few books selected for review were very fully considered. Jeffrey perceived the genius of John Keats, but his veneration for 18th century literature led him to notorious and scathing denouncements of William Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, and Robert Southey as the ‘Lake School’.
Lord Byron’s satirical ‘English Bards and Scotch Reviewers’ (1809) was in part an attack on the Edinburgh Review, which had published Brougham’s hostile response to Hours of Idleness. Between Jeffrey’s resignation in 1829 and the demise of the Review in 1929 contributions were published from almost all the major writers and critics of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Its contributors included the novelist Sir Walter Scott, the essayist William Hazlitt, the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, the educator Thomas Arnold, and the legal historian Sir James Stephen, Leigh Hunt, Sydney Smith, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Brown, Robert Montgomery and many more.