Of the making of magazines there is no end. There are already more periodicals than any one can find time to read. That is why I have to-day added another to the list. For the new comer is not a rival, but rather an index and a guide to all those already in existence. In the mighty maze of modern periodical literature, the busy man wanders confused, not knowing exactly where to find the precise article that he requires, and often, after losing all his scanty time in the search, he departs unsatisfied. It is the object of the Review of Reviews to supply a clue to that maze in the shape of a readable compendium of all the best articles in the magazines and reviews.
Culture, according to Matthew Arnold, consists in knowing the best thoughts of the best men upon the subjects that come before us. The aim of this magazine will be to make the best thoughts of the best writers in our periodicals universally accessible. When Thor and his companions travelled to Jotunheim, they were told that no one was permitted to remain there who did not, in some feat or other, excel all other men. Therein Jotunheim resembled the memory of man. All but the supremely excellent fades into oblivion and is forgotten. The first step towards remembering what is worth while storing in the mind is to forget that which is worthless lumber. The work of winnowing away the chaff and of revealing the grain is the humble but useful task of the editorial thresher. The work of selection will be governed solely by the merits or demerits of the articles, not in the least by the opinions which they may express. Without pretending to be a colourless mirror, in which may be seen, in miniature, a perfect reflection of the periodical literature of the month, the Review of Reviews will honestly endeavour, without fear or favour, without political prejudice or religious intolerance, to represent the best that is said on all sides of all questions in the magazines and reviews of the current month.
At the same time that the furnishing of a guide to the monthlies forms the chief object of the Review of Reviews, it will supplement this resumé of periodical literature by four distinctive features:—
(1) The first place in each number will be devoted to a carefully written Survey of events at home and abroad, some acquaintance with which is indispensable to the right understanding of the articles in the reviews, which are indeed, in many cases, the direct outcome of incidents in contemporary history. (2) Without aspiring to be a Review of anything but periodical literature, such a magazine would be incomplete without some mention, if it were only in the shape of a catalogue, of the New Books and Blue-Books of the month. Every book of importance will be briefly described, and when possible, its price will be given as a guide to intending purchasers. (3) Three-fourths of periodical literature consists of fiction. It is impossible to summarise serials. But without this element the Review of Reviews would be a very imperfect mirror of its contemporaries. To meet this difficulty, each number will contain a condensed novel, with its salient features and best scenes intact. It will often be the best foreign novel of the month. But no hard and fast rule will be laid down, and if a strange true story of real life or a really good original tale should offer it will not be refused. (4) To know the character of the leading actor in the contemporary drama is essential to the right understanding of its history and its literature. Every number, therefore, will contain a character-sketch of some man or woman who has figured conspicuously before the world in the previous month. It will be written with sympathy and with a sincere desire to present the individual as he seems to himself in his best moments, rather than as he seems to his enemies in his worst.
From time to time other features will be added, but always with the same object. To enable the busiest and poorest in the community to know the best thoughts of the wisest; to follow with intelligent interest the movement of contemporary history; and to understand something of the real character of the men and women who rank among the living forces of our time,—that is the aim which will constantly be kept in view in the editing of the Review of Reviews.