Short-lived literary magazines and journals of opinion have occurred in New Zealand from the earliest years, even though they have not always equalled the quality of ordinary journalism, their relentless competitor. The first, the quarterly New Zealand Magazine, appeared in 1850 in Wellington, exactly twice. It was founded to “aid the progress” of the new colony and its articles were on utilitarian themes (whaling, geology, the Maori) by such writers as the Rev. Richard Taylor, W. B. D. Mantell, and William Swainson, whose tiff with Jerningham Wakefield provides one of the few gleams of liveliness in a worthy production which in tone anticipated the learned articles of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, a series that began their stately progress in 1869. Again in Wellington, in 1857, a New Zealand Quarterly appeared for three issues. It was in a strict sense a review, and the leisurely and informative articles were based wholly on published books.
In 1860 Taranaki of all places, ironically when one considers the fortunes of war, produced the first of a series of short-lived imitations of Punch which proliferated throughout the country until the eighties. Some of these reached a standard not too far behind the original, and their crude, vigorous cartoons added zest to political encounters and were an amusing distorting mirror of provincial personalities. The most successful of the early versions (which somehow never survived more than a few issues) was Punch in Canterbury (1865), which carried cartoons of quite sophisticated artistry and succeeded in imposing on the popular imagination its own version of stock colonial types, such as the squatter, a rather raffish character combining both privilege and enterprise. Next in merit was Otago Punch. Twenty years later, in 1888, the Dunedin-published New Zealand Punch was a distinguished production and the last in the succession.
Chapman's New Zealand Monthly Magazine appeared in Auckland in August 1862, surviving until December. Its articles were in the same vein as the New Zealand Magazine and attracted some of the same writers.
In spite of this discouraging augury, Aucklanders in 1863 founded the Southern Monthly Magazine which flourished for three years. Aimed more consciously at the “general reader”, it regaled him with fiction, verse (much of it frankly lifted from overseas sources), “colonial experiences”, and good advice on such engrossing topics as draining and fencing. It kept a close eye on the events of the Maori Wars but also scrutinised overseas affairs. The sixties also saw, in gold-endowed Dunedin, the emergence of the first virulent publication of a licensed eccentric, J. G. S. Grant. His weekly Saturday Review (1864) was the vehicle for his waspish attacks on his political and personal enemies and, in fact, on society as a whole, as its editor-author showed marked persecution mania. In 1868 he founded the Delphic Oracle, later to become The Stoic, to be followed by further journals in the eighties. R. M. Burdon gives Grant credit for critical ability and genuine appreciation of the beauties of nature and of the romantic in literature. “When dealing with people or things with which he did not come into immediate contact he kept his head, put some restraint on his prejudices and wrote fairly well.” Grant's chequered career has an eighteenth century flavour: he built his own Grub Street in Dunedin.
In January 1876 the New Zealand Magazine, a quarterly “journal of general literature”, began publication in Dunedin and lasted eight issues. Its editor, R. L. Stanford, enlisted the leading intellectuals of the day – J. E. FitzGerald, William Fox, Robert Stout, the Rev. W. Salmond – and re-examined the scientific and religious topics of earlier journals, but with a new emphasis on political and social questions.