The London Magazine has a publication history spanning almost two hundred years, and has featured work by some of the most prominent names in literature, from John Keats to Hilary Mantel. In this curated selection, we share our favourite pieces from the TLM archive.
Two fairytale poems from 'Mother Goose' by Bernard Gutteridge with a little twist, first published in The London Magazine in 1971.
She is like the Grimms
And all that evergreen black forest
Of all our childhoods
Warned. The hair drawn back.
The small black ribbon. The small
(I can eat them better than
Their mother could').
And she does.
And eats their
His hands blubbering away
In the empty oak chest.
Victim of a fairy tale,
Wags each cropped wrist.
He can't even have his
The sucked wart on that thumb
Or his heartline back.
But tomorrow they'll
Prop up his glass of gin,
The weepy hands. They'll gristle
Do quite remember
He believed the story,
For close on forty years I have pursued
The ghost of my personality
Down endless corridors of a castle
If I could catch him, I wonder,
By the hem of his fading gown
Would he turn and show me a mystery
Or with a silent frown
Repudiate the beckoning finger
Which often at the angle of a stair
Invited me to a solemn tete-a-tete —
When the clock is stirring the shadows
Anxiously I raise
My eyes to the darkened gallery,
Wondering if his face
Closely resembles my face.
And if in fact it does not,
Would I really care to confront him
In a lonely spot?
Who is the owner of the castle?
Is it the...
With The London Magazine Short Story Competition now open for submissions, we delved into our archives for inspiration and found this short by Thomas Hardy from May 1903. The story was accompanied by illustrations by Gordon Browne.
The traveller in school-books, who vouched in dryest tones for the fidelity to fact of the following narrative, used to add a ring of truth to it by opening with a nicety of criticism on the heroine's personality. People were wrong, he declared, when they surmised that Baptista Trewthen was a young woman with scarcely emotions or character. There was nothing in her to love, and nothing...
My writing life began long before I left school, and I began to leave school (frequently) long before the recognized time came, so there is no real demarcation, for me, between school and ‘professional’ life. The quotes are there because I think of professional life as something one enters by way of an examination, not as an obsessional occupation like writing for which you provide your own, often extraordinary or eccentric, qualifications as you go along. And I’m not flattered by the idea of being presented with a ‘profession’, honoris causa; every honest writer or painter wants to achieve...
The Greek author Lucian tells of a lusty, young aristocrat who fell for a statue of Aphrodite and, willing it to be real, attempted to defile it. He had only the experience of other boys to go on and fell short when it came to the anatomy of women; congress was a hopeless failure and he hurled himself to his death. But statues in Lucian are not all silent in their allure. James Joyce has the hero of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom, fascinated by the marble buttocks of Venus and such Pygmalion-like desire has a long aesthetic history. Wanting the...
The village lay among the great red rocks about a thousand feet up and five miles from the sea, which was reached by a path that wound along the contours of the hills. No one in Pete’s village had ever travelled further than that, though Pete’s father had once, while fishing, encountered men from another small village beyond the headland, which stabbed the sea twenty miles to the east. The children, when they didn’t accompany their fathers to the shingled cove in which the boats lay, would climb up higher for their games — of ‘Old Noh’ and ‘Ware...
Better disguised than the leaf-insect,
A sort of subtler armadillo,
The lake turns with me as I walk.
Snuffles at my feet for what I might drop or kick up,
Sucks and slobbers the stones, snorts through its lips
Into broken glass, smacks its chops.
It has eaten several my size
Without developing a preference—
Prompt, with a splash, to whatever I offer.
It ruffles in its wallow or lies sunning,
Digesting old senseless bicycles
And a few shoes. The fish down there
Do not know they have been swallowed
Any more than the girl out there, who over the stern of a rowboat
Tests its depth with her reflection.
Yet how the outlet...
To celebrate the opening of David Hockney's exhibition 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life at the Royal Academy, we've republished an interview with Hockney, which originally appeared in The London Magazine's August/September Issue, Vol. 13 No. 3, in 1973. Within this lengthy interview, Robert Wennersten talks to Hockney about success, teaching in his early career, and the artwork that hung on his walls many years ago.
David Hockney was in Los Angeles the first three months of this year to do a series of lithographs. On the day of this interview, after the morning’s work, he was off to a café on Santa Monica...
The first story written after his acclaimed collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, 'Cathedral' by Raymond Carver was included in the Best American Short Stories 1982. It then appeared in his next collection as the title story. Originally published in America in 1983, in February 1984 The London Magazine published Carver's unnerving story about sight for its readers in anticipation of the English edition.
This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night. His wife had died. So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut. He called my wife...
First published in The London Magazine, Dec/Jan 1986/87
On Sunday, they went to Nicosia. On their right as they drove, but far in the distance, was the faint blue line of the sea. Nearer at hand, pylons were slung across the landscape between the outcrops of white chalk; knolls and tumuli arose from flat green fields. The road began to climb. Sage-coloured trees of perfect form stood against the skyline.
The sun — it was now midday — gilded June's hare arm, and glinted on her nail polish; a shade called Frosted Peach, which she had applied freshly at the hotel...
From The London Magazine January 1960
There was a barrel organ playing at the corner of Torrington Square. It played 'Destiny' and ‘La Paloma’ and ‘Le Rêve Passe', all tunes I liked, and the wind was warm and kind not spiteful, which doesn't often happen in London. I packed the striped dress that Estelle had helped me to choose, and the cheap white one that fitted well, and my best underclothes, feeling very happy while I was packing. A bit of a change, for that had not been one of my lucky summers.
I would tell myself it was the colour...
When Doris Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007 she was the eleventh woman and the oldest person to ever receive the award. The judges marked her out as ‘that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny’. A prelude to these qualities could well be said to appear within the short story ‘The Mother of the Child in Question’ published by The London Magazine in September 1988.
The story follows a social worker who tries to convince a poor Pakistani family to send their disabled...
First published in The London Magazine, October/November 1989
Deep in the Scented House
Deep in the scented house,
a herring merchant
is parting his wife's buttocks
with cold hands;
while she has buried her face
into the pillows
to watch the zebras
passing gently by:
they seem to float
like swollen butterflies,
their rhythmically-cantering bodies
striped and hot.
These are the things one hides,
calmly and quietly trying
to go to sleep.
A high-pitched woman's voice is shouting Basil!
and then a spotty dog comes whizzing past;
and then a little ball of dried-up seaweed
comes rolling and hopping casually along
with that serenely happy air about it
that Mary's naked bush used to have:
Mary, I can see...
Even a London house must have its swifts,
the roof should be a beacon
in the western light to guide them. Now,
at evening, midges rise in beams that sweep
the warmed slates as they brim
with offerings, a salver to the sky. Skimming
the swifts perfect their loops and strokes
with inkless nibs, incline,
address their airy letters home.
Kate Miller's 2015 collection The Observences is published by Oxford Poets (Carcanet) and was shortlisted for the 2015 Costa Book Award for Poetry. She was awarded the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Prize in 2008 and her poems have been selected for Salt Publishing's Best British Poetry anthologies several times.
This poem first appeared in The London...
From The London Magazine January 1961
It is always when a curtain at an open window flutters in the breeze that I think of that frail white curtain, a piece of fine gauze, which was drawn across the bedroom windows of Mrs Van der Merwe. I never saw the original curtains, which were so carelessly arranged as to leave a gap through which that piccanin of twelve had peeped, one night three years before, and had watched Mrs Van der Merwe suckle her child, and been caught and shot dead by Jannie, her husband. The original curtains had now been replaced...
From The London Magazine April 1821
As Hermes once took to his feathers light,
When lulled Argus, baffled, swoon’d and slept,
So on a Delphic reed, my idle spright
So play’d, so charm’d, so conquer’d, so bereft
The dragon-world of all its hundred eyes;
And seeing it asleep, so fled away,
Not to pure Ida with its snow-cold skies,
Nor unto Tempe where Jove griev’d that day;
But to that second circle of sad Hell,
Where in the gust, the whirlwind, and the flaw
Of rain and hail-stones, lovers need not tell
Their sorrows—pale were the sweet lips I saw,
Pale were the lips I kiss’d,...
As the young man came over the hill the first thin blowing of rain met him. He turned his coat-collar up and stood on top of the shelving rabbit-riddled hedgebank, looking down into the valley.
He had come too far. What had set out as a walk along pleasantly-remembered tarmac lanes had turned dreamily by gate and path and hedge-gap into a cross-ploughland trek, his shoes ruined, the dark mud of the lower fields inching up the trouser legs of his grey suit where they rubbed against each other. And now there was a raw, flapping wetness in the air...
From The London Magazine Stories 11, 1979
Then the brothel was raided. Christ, he’d only gone down to Spinoza’s to confront Patience with her handiwork. She hadn’t been free when Morgan ﬁrst arrived so he had chatted to the owner, Baruch — as his better-read clients whimsically dubbed the diminutive Levantine pimp - for half an hour or so, and watched the girls dancing listlessly under the roof fans. His anger had subsided a bit but he managed to stoke up a rage when he was eventually ushered into Patience’s cubicle. ‘Hey!’ he had roared, lowering his greyish Y-fronts, ‘Bloody look at...
In August 1960 The London Magazine published V. S. Pritchett’s short story ‘The Wheelbarrow’ alongside four poems by Derek Walcott and reviews by Louis MacNeice, Roy Fuller and Frank Kermode. Pritchett, himself an avid short story writer, professed that to write a short story 'is exquisitely difficult’ yet - as his word choice suggests - it was also one of his favourite forms to practice. In fact, when interviewed by The Paris Review Pritchett spoke openly of his preference for short fiction:
The short story appealed to me straight away because of its shortness, and I preferred it to the...
from The London Magazine February 1954
"What we need is the magazine which will boldly assume the existence of a public
interested in serious literature, and eager to be kept in touch with current literature
and with criticism of that literature by the most exacting standards."
A message of good will, from an elderly man of letters, on the appearance of a new literary periodical, may easily be regarded as a mere act of courtesy towards a venture in which he bears no responsibility. In order, therefore, to make it evident that this is something more than a perfunctory gesture of benediction, I wish to produce...
From The London Magazine October/November 2009
Translated Love Letters
oh love, doesn't the fact that the world is so big,
laid out like ripe fruit
make you want to stay?
how I long to cleanse you
in the waters of the Tigris
how I long, as though you were a small and
to take you in my arms
I will carry you carry you
through legions of grass
protect you from the thumb,
the sole; the eager-feathered bird
will not swoop for you
love is just love, and I'm in it
for the ride, o.k?
love is just an elevator
and man you sure can push
my buttons but you've got a...
From The London Magazine March 1966
Two Wives and a Widow
A modern version from the Middle Scots of William Dunbar
If one night in the year is romantic,
that night is Midsummer's Eve. Such a night, it was...
about midnight, I went out by myself and came
to a flower garden behind a hawthorn hedge. On a bough,
this crazy bird was splitting its sides,
singing. And such a scent of flowers.
The grass wet with dew, the nightingales shouting.
A night for lovers. Alone as I was,
lonely, I was. Then I heard voices,
loud, laughing voices talking in the garden.
It was a party. Whose party? So I climbed...
From The London Magazine June 1960
Old man, you surface seldom.
Then you come in with the tide's coming
When seas wash cold, foam-
Capped: white hair, white beard, far-flung,
A dragnet, rising, falling, as waves
Crest and trough. Miles long
Extend the radial sheaves
Of your spread hair, in which wrinkling skeins
Knotted, caught, survives
The old myth of origins
Unimaginable. You float near
As kneeled ice-mountains
Of the north, to be steered clear
Of, not fathomed. All obscurity
Starts with a danger:
Your dangers are many. I
Cannot look much but your form suffers
Some strange injury
And seems to die: so vapors
Ravel to clearness on the dawn sea.
The muddy rumors
Of your burial move me