The London Magazine is England’s oldest literary periodical, with a history stretching back to 1732. Today – reinvigorated for a new century – the Magazine’s essence remains unchanged: it is a home for the best writing, and an indispensable feature on the British literary landscape.
Across a long life – spanning several incarnations – the pages of the Magazine have played host to a wide range of canonical writers, from Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Hazlitt and John Keats in the 18th-century, to T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and Evelyn Waugh in the early 20th-century. Meanwhile, in recent decades the Magazine has published work by giants of contemporary fiction and poetry such as William Boyd, Nadine Gordimer, and Derek Walcott.
The London Magazine was founded in 1732 as The London Magazine, or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, a rival to the new, and popular, Gentleman’s Magazine.
Revived in 1820 by a new editor, John Scott, the Magazine went on to publish work by the leaders of a rising generation of English romantics. In September 1821, the first two instalments of Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater appeared in the Magazine. Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt, and Thomas Carlyle were also contributors.
John Scott died in a duel in 1821. He was shot in the stomach by an associate of John Gibson Lockhart, editor of Blackwood’s Magazine: his death was the culmination of a long rivalry between the two. Publication ceased in 1829.
The magazine restarted in 1898 under the ownership of the Harmsworth brothers, famous for starting the Daily Mail in 1896 and the Daily Mirror in 1903. Editorship was given to younger brother Cecil, who embraced the undertaking with gusto. In February 1903, H. G. Wells published his first short story for the Magazine, Mr Skelmersdale in Fairyland. In the following years he was included in the publication several more times, including an article specially commissioned by Harmsworth in 1908, entitled The Things that Live on Mars. During the early twentieth century The London Magazine also published original stories from the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, Jack London, and P. G. Wodehouse. A short story by E. Nesbit was included in almost every issue of 1904, and her most famous novel, The Railway Children, was serialised in the magazine the year before its commercial release in 1906. Thomas Hardy was also published in the Magazine, and famous illustrator W. Heath Robinson contributed several original prints. In 1933 the Magazine closed again.
In 1954 editor and writer John Lehmann founded the most recent incarnation of The London Magazine: it has been published continuously since. In the first issue, T. S. Eliot recommended to readers “a magazine that will boldly assume the existence of a public interested in serious literature…”. Louis MacNeice published his Canto In Memoriam Dylan Thomas, and Henry Green reviewed the diaries of Virginia Woolf.
Under Lehmann, and subsequent editors Alan Ross (who became editor in 1961), and Sebastian Barker (2001), the Magazine became a pole star in the London literary firmament, developing a reputation for publishing the best and most interesting fiction, poetry, criticism and essays from England and across the world, and for helping to bring a new of a generation of young English writers to public attention. The work of a vast array of towering twentieth-century figures found a home among its pages, including William Burroughs, Harold Pinter, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Les Murray, and Paul Muldoon.
Now, The London Magazine is re-launched under the editorship of Steven O’Brien. Here is a magazine re-invigorated for the twenty-first-century, which – just like the city from which it takes its name – combines a rich history with a fiercely contemporary outlook, and which draws together ideas, and voices, from across the globe.
Eclectic in taste, promiscuously interested and unapologetically intelligent, The London Magazine continues to publish the best writing from London and the wider world.
Published six times a year, the Magazine is unmissable reading for anyone with an interest in literature, culture and ideas.
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