From Street Ballad to Penny Magazine: ‘March of Intellect in the Butchering Line’

  • Michael Hancher


Early in the nineteenth century much laughter was directed by the British middle and upper classes at the intellectual aspirations of the lower classes. A grandiloquent slogan, ‘the march of intellect’ — sometimes ‘the march of mind’ — was draped over those aspirations, usually to mock them. The first use of this phrase registered by the OED appeared in a satirical poem that The Gentleman’s Magazine published near the end of 1827; the OED notes that the phrase was Very common (esp. in ironical allusion) between 1827 (the date of the foundation of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge) and 1850’.1 In fact, however, the phrase ‘march of intellect’ had become a ridiculous byword at least five years previously. Near the end of a long, anonymous poem called ‘The Press, or Literary Chit-Chat: A Satire’ published in 1822, the phrase is used to connote a general prodigality of the press, and refers more specifically to the growing craze for travel literature, a genre that was identified as both product and cause of ‘the travelling mania that pervades / Both wives and husbands, bachelors and ‘maids’!’


Nineteenth Century Lower Class Family Circle Bodleian Library Print Image 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Hancher

There are no affiliations available

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