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In recognition of the 50th volume of Victorian Studies--inaugurated with this issue--we asked the journal's earliest editors to provide a brief history of its origins. The following is the result, written by Philip Appleman, Donald Gray, George Levine, and Michael Wolff.
In the fall semester of 1955, the Department of English at Indiana University, to accommodate burgeoning enrollments, added to its faculty six new full-time, tenure-track instructors (the title then given to beginners), three of whom were "Victorianists": Philip Appleman, William Madden, and Michael Wolff. In the present contractions of departments of literature (and history), this might have led to rivalry and personal frictions. But in the expansive environment of the 1950s anything seemed possible, and the three instead became collaborators, meeting constantly in the department coffee room, scheming up ways to enliven and enrich the study of things Victorian and to promote their common academic interests. As time went on, the editors and their wives became close friends (a friendship later to include subsequent VS editors), who not only worked together but played together, the most memorable tradition being weekly volleyball: it was a jovial as well as an industrious time.
Of the various ideas that were exchanged and discussed in that coffee room, the most fruitful-sounding was the idea of a new scholarly journal devoted to the Victorian period. But as we (to drop the impersonal mode) talked it over, we developed new thoughts about what such a journal might be, and how it might be something more than another specialist journal, so as to supplement current publications rather than just to duplicate them. Because almost all such journals were narrowly devoted to highly focused topics in traditionally defined fields, what seemed to us most likely to be helpful was a journal that crossed disciplinary lines and integrated …