The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

IV. The Growth of Journalism

§ 20. The Examiner

In 1808 appeared the first of a distinctive school of weekly periodicals, combining surveys of politics, literature, the drama and the pictorial arts, in articles intended more nearly to resemble a careful and a deliberate essay than the current comments of the daily newspaper. This was The Examiner, launched by John Hunt, and his more famous brother James Henry Leigh Hunt, of whose influence of English criticism and poetry an estimate will be found in an earlier volume of the present work. In 1805, John Hunt issued The News and Leigh, then in his twenty-first year, was its theatrical critic. The Examiner followed. The dramatic criticism of The News had been free and independent, and attracted much attention. Writing of the kind was, according to Leigh Hunt’s Autobiography, a great novelty. Similar independence in politics and literature marked The Examiner; and, not less for outspoken comments than for high quality of writing, it soon attained eminence. Before it was one year old, it came under prosecution for libel, but without result. In 1811, a scathing article on the prince regent—“a violator of his word … the companion of gamblers and demireps”—was followed by prosecution; and, though Brougham, as on a previous occasion, defended the brothers, they were fined £500 each with costs of about £1000, and sentenced to imprisonment for two years. Their confinement was not severe. Leigh Hunt had his wife and family with him, and visitors came every day—Charles and Mary Lamb, Hazlitt, Shelley, Barnes (later to edit The Times), Byron, Moore, Bentham and others. The popularity of The Examiner was not maintained; but, with varying fortunes, it continued in the hands of the Hunts until 1821, and, eventually, found a new and famous editor in Albany Fonblanque, a radical of the Benthamite school. Thus, during a quarter of a century, his paper was representative of the advanced group of politicians. John Forester followed him, and, later, Henry Morley, but the management and scheme of the paper were not modified to suit new conditions arising out of the competition of The Spectator and The Saturday Review, and, in the course of a few years, The Examiner’s career ended.