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Calcutta Review


Calcutta Review a quarterly periodical, first published on 15 May 1844. The prime objectives of the Calcutta Review, as underlined in the prefatory note in the first number, were to disseminate useful information on Indian matters to the general public and to propagate sound opinions on them in order to 'conduce, in some small measure, directly or indirectly, to the amelioration of the condition of the people'.

Owing to its zeal for social welfare, the Calcutta Review, soon gained widespread popularity and attained rapid and continued increase of clientele with each successive number. Subsequently, the Review began to be published quarterly in the months of January, April, July and October. According to the statistics furnished by the Friend of India, dated 13 December 1855 the circulation of the Calcutta Review reached 1500 copies per number by the 1850's. The phenomenal success of the Review was attributed to its purely oriental character by the then editors of the Calcutta Christian Advocate and the Citizen, as well as to the variety of subjects it dealt with together with accuracy in reporting, as pointed out by the editor of the Morning Chronicle.

However, this was ephemeral for the Calcutta Review, and after 1855 it was reputation virtually gasping for existence. The causes for the speedy decline of the Calcutta Review was mainly attributed by the Editor of the Morning Chronicle to gross irregularities in management, together with the amateur nature of its functioning, entitling only the proprietor with the total share of the profits without payment of a single cowrie to the contributors. Although at the initial stage irregularities and delays in publication did not occur, the purely gratuitous nature of contributions and editorship eventually killed all initiative and incentive of the editors and contributors. As a result the publication process was seriously hampered by inordinate delays owing to the failure of contributors to send their writings well on time.

Finally, the Editor of the Friend of India purchased the Calcutta Review in December 1855. Till then eminent editors like of Mr JW Kaye, Rev. Alexander duff, Rev. WS Mackay and Rev. George Smith graced the office of the Review, while Rev. John Macdonald was its Joint Editor for sometime.

The Calcutta Review did not remain long in the hands of the Editor of the Friend of India. Even though its new managing editor adopted the principle of paying for all the literary contributions that were deemed fit for publication, the Review did not get the contributions regularly and on time.

A new proprietor, who took over the charge of the Calcutta Review in 1857 from the hands of the Editor of the Friend of India, faced multiple difficulties with the outbreak of the sepoy revolt. This was principally because the sepoys had killed many contributors with the consequent loss of interest among its readers, particularly in northern India. [Abhijit Dutta]