The Literary Souvenir or Cabinet of Poetry and Romance
ed. Alaric A. (Alexander) Watts 2nd ed.
Publisher: Hurst, Robinson and Company, London, 1826
The Literary Souvenir, an illustrated anthology of poetry and prose, was edited by Alaric A. Watts, an individual professed to be one of 19th century London’s most charismatic and best connected editors.
Between 1825 and 1857, The Literary Souvenir was among many illustrated anthologies being published. One of it’s strongest competitors The Keepsake came to market with the “promise of fine literature and romance” that would appeal to female readers.
Although published during a tumultuous period in book publishing (British Book Trade Crash of 1826), these sentimental literary annuals represented a new publishing phenomenon and are believed to have been important to the understanding of nineteenth century book history, gender relations, and the commodification of literature. The Literary Souvenir was claimed to have been one of the most successful and longest running British literary annuals.
Designed to be given as Christmas gifts, many annuals were produced using paper boards which allowed the owner to send the book to a binder of choice.
The first literary annual to use steel-plate engravings appeared in 1825; however Charles Heath used this process for book illustrations as early as 1820 and became famous for his work as an engraver in various publications including The Literary Souvenir first published in 1825. These engravings enabled women to participate in the new art appreciation movement.
The first ten issues of The Literary Souvenir focused on poetry and prose. The final two volumes emphasized fine art, portraiture, and painting. Besides the gift book size and style which were intended to appeal to and interest women, the romantic nature of the stories, captivating illustrations, and sentimental poetry suggest a female audience – primarily girls and young women. A number of the plates feature girls and young women in the bloom of their youth – appearing coy while engaging the voyeuristic gaze of their viewer. The Lover’s Quarrel plate (illustration) which appears in the front inside of this Literary Souvenir offers an excellent example. Women also regularly contributed stories and poems to these annuals.
As shared on page 172 of Alaric Watts: A Narrative of His Life. Vol. I, the price of The Literary Souvenir (1826) was twelve shillings.
British Library Online Catalogue: Call number 004097696