The Leisure Hour

The Leisure Hour was a British general-interest periodical of the Victorian era which ran weekly from 1852 to 1905.[1][2] It was the most successful of several popular magazines published by the Religious Tract Society, which produced Christian literature for a wide audience.[1] Each issue mixed multiple genres of fiction and factual stories, historical and topical.[1]

The Leisure Hour
The cover of issue 1032, with an illustration accompanying a story about a shipwreck.
PublisherReligious Tract Society
First issueJanuary 1, 1852 (1852-January-01)
CountryUnited Kingdom
Based inLondon

The magazine's title referred to campaigns that had decreased work hours, giving workers extra leisure time.[3] Until 1876, it carried the subtitle "A Family Journal of Instruction and Recreation";[4] after that, the subtitle changed to "An illustrated magazine for home reading".[5]

Each issue cost one penny and contained 16 pages.[6] The layout typically included approximately six long articles, formatted in two columns per page, and five or six illustrations. The articles were a mix, including biographies, poetry, essays, and fiction. Each issue usually started with a piece of serialised fiction.[6]

The creation of the magazine was partly a response to non-religious popular magazines that the Religious Tract Society saw as delivering a "pernicious" morality to the working classes.[1] The ethos of the magazine was guided by Sabbatarianism: the campaign to keep Sunday as a day of rest.[4] It aimed to treat its diverse subjects "in the light of Christian truth".[4] Despite this, The Leisure Hour carried far fewer statements of Christian doctrine than the Society's other publications.[6] Compared to other popular magazines of the time, The Leisure Hour had a greater emphasis on fiction.[7]

Two days before the magazine's launch in 1852, a warehouse fire destroyed the first batch of The Leisure Hour, so replacement copies had to be printed.[3]

The magazine was edited by William Haig Miller until 1858,[5] James Macaulay from 1858 to 1895,[8] and William Stevens from 1895 to 1900.[5] Harold Copping was one of its illustrators.[9] Authors were initially only credited by initials rather than by name, giving the writing a collective rather than individual authority, though naming of authors became more common from the 1870s onwards.[1] In its jubilee issue, published in 1902, the magazine identified 111 authors who had contributed.[1]

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