Pall Mall Magazine
54 vols. May 1893-Sept 1914
William Waldorf Astor
1893-9 Feb 1896 Sir Douglas Straight
1893-1900 Lord Frederic Hamilton
1900-1905 G.R. Halkett (art editor 1897-1900)
1905-1914 Charles Morley
In 1893 Henry Cust, newly appointed editor of the Fall Mall Gazette consistently rejected every manuscript submitted by the newspaper’s owner, American multimillionaire William Waldorf Astor. It is reported that Astor, a man of literary aspirations, replied: ‘In future I shall expect that anything I send – provided it is not obscene or inciting to a breach of the peace – to [sic] be immediately printed in either the Gazette or the Budget as I may indicate and without the slightest alteration.’1 Both parties were adamant, but Henry Cust defused the situation by suggesting to Astor that his writing was more appropriate to a literary magazine, and persuading him to establish the Pall Mall Magazine. The first issue of Astor’s Pall Mall Magazine, a shilling monthly, appeared in May. Like the Pall Mall Gazette it was to be conducted ‘by gentlemen for gentlemen.’2 In seeking to establish himself as what would today be termed a ‘media magnate’ Astor sought social and political as well as literary recognition.
Astor had served as U.S. cultural ambassador in Rome from 1882 until 1885 and had been a keen art patron. His writing activity dates from this time: Scribners published Valentino: An Historical Romance of Sixteenth Century Italy in 1885 and Sforza, a Story of Milan in 1889. He retained a life-long fascination with the Borgia family. The frustration of his political and social ambitions on his return to the U.S. led to his migration with his family to Great Britain in 1890. On his naturalisation as a British subject in 1899 he is quoted as saying: ‘America is good enough for any man who has to make a livelihood, though why travelled people of independent means should remain there more than a week is not readily to be comprehended.’3
Astor hoped his ownership of the extravagant Pall Mall Magazine, and his reputation as an art collector and benefactor of Oxford, London and Cambridge Universities would establish him as a lavish patron of art, letters and scholarship; his historical romances and occult tales, marked by their Wardour Street or affectedly archaic English, did establish him as an amateur man of letters. His contributions to the magazine were usually distinguished by expensive illustrations. When G.R. Halkett, editor from 1900 until 1905, introduced the double column, Astor insisted his contributions still be printed in a single column. He reserved the right to choose his own illustrators and favoured tinted illustrations. In 1900 his more recent stories were collected and published as Pharaoh’s Daughter and Other Stories by Macmillan.
For his founding editors Astor chose men of less forceful personality than Cust – Sir Douglas Straight and Lord Frederic Hamilton, both old Harrovians. Sir Alfred Watson remarks with irony that Sir Douglas Straight ‘gave as little encouragement to Astor’s journalistic ambitions as we gave to Mond’s on the Westminster’;4 Lewis Hind describes Lord Frederic Hamilton’s attitude to Astor’s stories as ‘genial.’5 Their willingness to accommodate their employer’s literary ambitions was not, however, Straight’s and Hamilton’s only qualification. Both had served or were serving as Conservative Members of Parliament; Straight as the member for Shrewsbury (1870-1874) and Hamilton for West Manchester (1885-1886) and North Tyrone (1892-1895). In 1892 Straight had been knighted on his retirement from the position of judge in the High Court of Judicature in Allahabad, India; the 1914 Times obituary speaks of his ‘social gifts and wide interests in politics, sport and affairs generally.’6 Lord Frederic Hamilton, formerly of the Diplomatic Service, had acted as attache in Berlin, St. Petersburg, Brazil and the Argentine. Straight had tried his hand at literature, including children’s stories and a play produced at the Grecian Theatre.
After his dismissal of Cust, Astor failed to secure the services of W.L. Courtney as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette7 and offered the position to Sir Douglas Straight. Lord Frederic Hamilton then acted as sole editor of the Magazine from 10 December 1896 until 1900, when G.R. Halkett, an illustrator and art editor of the Pall Mall Magazine from 1897, was offered the greater responsibility of general editorship. He was succeeded in 1905 by Charles Morley, nephew of Lord John Morley, who had joined the staff of the Pall Mall Gazette under him and successfully edited the PallMall Budget. Charles Morley was to edit the Pall Mall Magazine until 1914 when Astor sold all of the Pall Mall publications.
Those associated with Astor’s publications spoke of the ‘gay insouciance and extravagance of the enterprise.’8 Early reviewers of the Pall Mall Magazine commented: ‘Expense is evidently no object in the production of this periodical’; ‘The Pall Mall Magazine is a wonderful shillings-worth’; and ‘The Pall Mall Magazine is exceedingly lavish of illustration.’9 The editors solicited fiction from popular novelists of the day, hoping to appeal to a ‘catholicity of tastes.’10 Writers were astonished by the rates of payment. H.G. Wells was paid £5 for a short story in any of the Pall Mall publications and observed that he developed a facility in workinq up suitable scientific or quasi-scientific material.11 Robert Louis Stevenson spoke of the ‘big deal’ offered on St. Ives – £22 10s. per thousand words.12 The first fictional coup for the magazine was the publication of George Meredith’s Lord Ormont and His Aminta illustrated by J. Giilich.
The type of fiction deemed to appeal to a catholicity of tastes was generally romance – adventure, historical or scientific – or comedy. Some writers who contributed serial stories were Rider Haggard, Walter Besant, Anthony Hope, S.R. Crockett, H.B. Marriott Watson, Flora Annie Steel, Joseph Conrad, Maurice Hewlett, John Oliver Hobbes, E.W. Hornung, Mrs Humphry Ward, Albert Dorrington and G.K. Chesterton. More controversial fiction, though, found a place in the first volume in stories by Sarah Grand and Rhoda Broughton.
The fictional tone of the magazine did not alter substantially because Astor always chose ‘safe’, even timid, editors. H.G. Wells had difficulty persuading Halkett to accept Kipps because Halkett thought its range too narrow for the magazine’s public.13 The safe editorial policy did not, however, stale the contents or damage the reputation of Pall Mall Magazine, among authors, their agents and the public as a high quality periodical. J.B. Pinker placed Arnold Bennett’s ‘The Lion’s Share’ with the Pall Mall Magazine; Bennett had insisted it ‘go somewhere good, as it is classy.’14
One innovation during Morley’s editorship was the introduction of a Pall Mall Story Book section in each issue printed on paper of a rough quality. The pieces of fiction published in the Pall Mall Story Books were generally only a couple of pages in length and were often fictional sketches of life in Britain’s colonies. Australian writers whose sketches received such encouragement were Will Ogilvie and Mabel Forrest.
In addition to publishing the work of popular novelists and offering generous payments, the Pall Mall Magazine also encouraged poets and illustrators. The poetry of George Meredith, Algernon Swinburne, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Paul Verlaine, Katherine Tynan, Henry Newbolt, John Davidson, W.B. Yeats, Walter de la Mare and John Masefield appeared in the magazine. The early volumes feature the illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley. From time to time the Pall Mall Magazine ran a causerie conducted by such well-known writers as Israel Zangwill (‘Without Prejudice’), A.T. Ouiller-Couch (‘From a Cornish Window’), W.E. Henley (‘Ex Libris’), G.S. Street, G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.
The extravagance of the Pall Mall Magazine was reputedly underwritten by Astor rather than being justified by actual sales. Under the terms of the original publishing agreement of 3 March 1893 (between Astor and George Routledge and Sons) ‘the Publishers should on behalf of the Proprietor publish in London Edinburgh the provinces and New York a magazine called The Pall Mall Magazine upon certain terms one of which was that the Publishers should pay the Proprietor the sum of Sixpence for every Copy sold by them.’15 It was determined on 16 June 1894 that the publishers owed Astor the sum of £5, 205 9s. 6d. This figure indicates high sales and, if indeed the Pall Mall Magazine did incur heavy losses, it may illustrate the extent of the initial extravagance. In 1914 Astor suddenly sold all of the Pall Mall publications and The Observer, a Sunday newspaper he had bought for his son and heir, Waldorf. Waldorf Astor had been elected M.P. for Plymouth in 1911 and, by controlling both the influential Pall Mall Gazette and The Observer and installing a Unionist editor, William Astor hoped to win political favour for himself and his son. In 1906 Waldorf Astor had married, contrary to his father’s wishes, Mrs Nancy Langhorne Shaw, an American celebrated for her wit.
It is reported that a remark of hers in 1914 about her father-in-law’s control of his ‘money bags’ and Waldorf’s support of his wife in the resulting quarrel led Astor peremptorily to instruct his solicitors to sell the Pall Mall publications and The Observer. The New York Times noted in a leading article the probable damage to Waldorf’s political ambitions and observed that the publications were being marketed ‘ridiculously below’ their asserted value.16 Given the wide publicity accorded Astor’s breach with his son and daughter-in-law and speculation about the motives for sale, Astor may have encountered difficulty in realising the true market value of the various publishing enterprises.
The Pall Mall Magazine was purchased by Eveleigh Nash, a publisher and proprietor of Nash’s Magazine established in 1909. In 1914 Nash’s Magazine claimed to have a monthly circulation of 130,000 and boasted among its leading contributors Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, Marie Corelli, Jack London, G.K. Chesterton and Elinor Glyn.17 I have not been able to verify the circulation or the contributions of these writers. Fear of wartime paper shortages led to the amalgamation of Nash’s and Pall Mall Magazine in October 1914. Under various titles Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine appeared until September 1937 when it was merged with Good Housekeeping.
In 1914 the Pall Mall Magazine boasted that, ‘During the twenty-one years of its existence it has published more important contributions to English literature by more important authors than all the other British monthly magazines combined.’18 This boast is exaggerated but not without foundation: certainly the list of contributors and contributions in the following indexes is impressive.
- John William Robertson Scott, The Life and Death of a Newspaper (London: Methuen, 1952), p. 317. [↩]
- Lucy Kavaler, The Astors: A Family Chronicle (London: George Harrap, 1966), p. 183. [↩]
- Kavaler, p. 187. [↩]
- Quoted by Robertson Scott, p. 392. [↩]
- Lewis Hind, Naphtali: Being Influences and Adventures while earning a living by writing (London: John Lane, 1926), p. 68. [↩]
- The Times, 5 June 1914, p. 5. [↩]
- Robertson Scott, p. 391. [↩]
- Albert Kinross, ‘Coming of Age: Twenty-one Years of the Pall Mall Magazine,’ Pall Mall Magazine, 53 (1914), 574. [↩]
- Review of Reviews, 8 (1893), 184, 312, 421. [↩]
- Editorial Preface, Pall Mall Magazine, 2 (1894), v. [↩]
- H.G. Wells, Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866), v. 2 (London: Victor Gollancz and Cresset Press, 1934), p. 515. [↩]
- Letter to Charles Baxter, rec. 17 Aug 1894, R.L.S.:Stevenson’s Letters to Charles Baxter, ed. DeLancey Ferguson and Marshall Waingrow (London: O.U.P., 1956), p. 361. [↩]
- Norman and Jeanne Mackenzie, H.G. Wells: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), p. 188. [↩]
- Letter to J.B. Pinker, 19 Jan 1906, Letters of ArnoldBennett Vol. 1 Letters to J.B. Pinker, ed. James Hepburn (London: O.U.P., 1966), p. 67. [↩]
- Memorandum of Agreement between W.W. Astor and George Routledge and Sons 12 Dec 1894, Archives of George Routledge and Co. (Bishops Stortford: Chadwyck-Healey, 1974), Contracts 1877-1898/9, Vol. 1 A-K, 45. [↩]
- New York Times, 14 July.1914, p. 1, p. 3. [↩]
- Publisher’s advertisement, Pall Malt Magazine, 54 (1914), 1010-1011. [↩]
- Publisher’s advertisement, Pall Mall Magazine, 54 (1914), 1009. [↩]