Time: A Monthly Miscellany of Interesting and Amusing Literature
23 vols. Aug 1879-Mar 1891
|Aug 1879-Aug 1881||Edmund Yates|
|Sept 1881-Dec 1883||Kelly S Co.|
|Jan-July 1884||Boyd Montgomerie Ranking|
|Aug-Dec 1884||Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey & Co.|
|Jan 1885-Dec 1887||Swan Sonnenschein/Ellen Mary Abdy-Williams (Mrs Whishaw)|
|Jan 1885-Dec 1889||Swan Sonnenschein/Walter Sichel|
|Jan-Dec 1890||Ernest Belfort Bax|
|Jan-Mar 1891||Swan Sonnenschein|
|Aug 1879-Aug 1881||Edmund Yates|
|Sept 1881-Dec 1883||unknown|
|Jan-Dec 1884||Boyd Montgomerie Ranking|
|Jan 1885-Mar 1886||Ellen Mary Abdy-Williams (Mrs Whishaw)|
|Apr-Oct 1886[? ]||E.D. Price|
|Nov 1886[?]-Dec 1887||Herbert Wigram|
|Jan 1888-Dec 1889||Walter Sichel|
|Jan-Dec 1890||Ernest Belfort Bax; sub-editors Dr Edward Aveling and Eleanor Marx Aveling|
Time: A Monthly Miscellany of Interesting and Amusing Literature was launched with the liberality, the energy, and the high standard of contributors which Edmund Yates believed secured popular appeal and an expanding market.1 The history of Time, however, attests to the difficulties the junior monthly faced when competing with the more established periodicals like The Cornhill Magazine. Ownership of the magazine changed seven times in its twelve-year history.
In 1879, Yates was the prosperous owner and editor of The World – a sixpenny weekly notorious for its personalities. Yates perceived a demand for a shilling monthly magazine of the character of Time – it was to supply its readers with material of contemporary interest in science, art, literature, society and politics, and with serials and poems by popular and distinguished authors. The contents of the first number certainly realized this prospectus. The first instalments of The Seamy Side by Walter Besant and James Rice, of Greene Feme Farm by John Jefferies and poems by Violet Fane, Bret Harte and Oscar Wilde (whom Yates also encouraged in The World) appeared. Articles include a controversial account of the Afghan situation, ‘A Talk with the Common Hangman,’ ‘The Queen as a Woman of Business,’ ‘A Visit to Professor Edison,’ and ‘How the Commune Made the Republic.’ The interest of many of the articles was slightly sensationalized and gossipy; the type of articles published while Mrs Whishaw was editor was, by comparison, more serious and probing.
During Yates’ editorship, serials and short stories by such public favourites as Violet Fane, Mrs Newman, Jean Middlemass, David Christie Murray and Rosa Mulholland were featured in Time. Although the spirited editorship of Yates, his prominent association with the magazine, and the quality of the contributions secured good sales of advertising copy – the financial life-blood of the junior periodical – serious losses were incurred. William Tinsley comments: “Yates, when The World newspaper had begun to give him some money to, if I may use the term, play with, started a very good shilling magazine, but soon found it a far too expensive child .”2
From September 1881 until December 1883, Time was the property of Kelly and Company, publishers of Kelly’s Handbooks. There were no major innovations or radical changes of character in the conduct of the magazine, yet much wit and urbane humour were lost. The epigraph was changed from “And life – Time’s fool” to “Would’st thou hear the melodies of Time? – Listen.” Extra Christmas numbers appeared in 1881 and 1882. The standard of the fictional contributions did not fall substantially: serials were provided by Mrs Hungerford, Annie Thomas, R.E. Francillon and Jean Middlemass. Many contributions originated from the Gaiety Bar set of the early 1880s described by George Moore and Edmund Downey.3
A significant literary event in the magazine’s history was the publication, in September 1883, of what appears to be the earliest English translation of a short story by Alexander Kielland, the Norwegian novelist and social satirist. The story, ‘Siesta,’ was translated by William Archer, translator of Ibsen’s work. When the price of Time’s popular competitor, The Cornhill Magazine, was reduced to sixpence in July 1883, Kelly and Company followed suit. Kelly and Company evidently found the market competition difficult, and the property unremunerative. Arrangements were made to serialize Wilkie Collins’ I Say No! during 1884, but the contract fell through when Kelly and Company suddenly disposed of the magazine in January of that year.
The fortunes of the magazine slumped during the .period of its ownership and editorship by Boyd Montgomerie Ranking, a writer of valentines and poetry. He owned the magazine from January to July 1884 and edited it from January to December 1884. Time was purchased by Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey and Company under the enforced notification of the mortgagee in August 1884. Ranking was removed from the editorship in December, as Swan Sonnenschein believed that he attracted an inferior class of writer and that the declining standard of the contributions had materially affected the confidence of potential advertisers.
In January 1885, a new series of the magazine, priced at one shilling per issue, was begun. The new editor was Ellen Mary Abdy-Williams (Mrs Whishaw), a minor novelist who had purchased a half-share in the magazine for £300. So amenable was this arrangement that Swan Sonnenschein were to prefer their future editors to have a pecuniary interest in the success of the magazine. Considerable energy and expense were devoted to improving the marketability of Time. When Swan Sonnenschein attempted to sell Mrs Whishaw’s share in April 1886, they estimated their total outlay in editorial and publishing costs to be £2,250, “the result of establishing the venture on a sound basis”.”It is now in the best repute with the press,” they continued, “and receives each month the most laudatory articles and offers from some of the leading writers of the day.”4 Swan Sonnenschein boasted that circulation had doubled in this period despite the increase in price. Time’s provincial sales were high, and it enjoyed considerable favour with the provincial press. The circulation, though, was reckoned at only 2,000 to 2,400 copies per month. The Cornhill in this period sold 12,000 copies per month. During the period from January 1885 until March 1886 (the dates of Mrs Whishaw’s editorship), ‘The End of Phaeacia’ by Andrew Lang and an unsuccessful novel by William Sime were serialized, and short stories by Julian Hawthorne, Katherine Macquoid, Vernon Lee and George Bernard Shaw appeared. The quality was very uneven. Some early poems and articles by Arthur Symons were published. Time‘s more popular, lauded and highly-priced features were a series of parliamentary articles by T.P. O’Connor, a series of papers on social and revolutionary forces in Russia by Stepniak, and a social essay by Walter Besant. Mrs Whishaw initiated as regular features ‘Time’s Footsteps of the Month,’ a review of contemporary events, and ‘The Best Books: A Classified Bibliography.’
In November 1885 , a dispute, arose between Swan Sonnenschein and Mrs Whishaw over the publisher’s refusal to pay the editor for the serial rights to her novel, The World Below which ran in the magazine. In February, 1886, Mrs Whishaw informed Swan Sonnenschein that ill-health prevented her from conducting the magazine. Editorial responsibility was transferred, in April, to Mr E.D. Price, the editor of Hazell’s Cyclopaedia and literary supervisor of the proof department. Swan Sonnenschein arranged to buy Mrs Whishaw’s share of the magazine for £500. In April and May 1886, Swan Sonnenschein offered the magazine to Edward Arnold at a purchase price of £3,00 0 but the offer was declined; in October 1886, Earl Hodgson was offered and declined a half-interest in the magazine for £1,000. Swan Sonnenschein expressed faith in the future of the magazine and in the capacity of their reader (Price or Herbert Wigram) to conduct it. The sales figures of 2,000 to 2,400 quoted to Arnold had fallen so substantially by December 1887 that when Swan Sonnenschein tried to sell J. Morris Catton a half-share at £600 , they were unable to show to his auditor’s satisfaction sales to the extent of 850 copies per month. During 1887, Time had been conducted by Herbert Wigram, whom Swan Sonnenschein took into partnership in the course of the year. Wigram’s inability to devote sufficient energy to the conduct of the magazine is evident in the indifferent editorship. He published the work of house authors. Many of the articles – Edward and Eleanor Marx Aveling’s series ‘The Labour Movement in America’, for instance – had a socialist bias (Swan Sonnenschein published the work of Karl Marx and many prominent socialists). The major literary event of his editorship was the publication of a censored version of George Moore’s Confessions of a Young Man. Wigram’s successor, Walter Sichel, was to reject Moore’s offer of a serial version of a novel Sichel refers to as ‘Don Juan Junior’ (SpringDays?) on the grounds that Time was a family magazine.5
In December 1887, Walter Sichel bought a half-share in the magazine for £600. Sichel cites as the memorable events of his editorship the publication of the early work of Walter Raymond and Katherine Tynan (her work is untraced), his championship of the then “comparatively obscure” J.M. Barrie, and his conception of a series of papers on ‘Work and Workers.’ He writes: “I was ambitious, but the resources at my command were cramped, and it was wonderful how so much ability responded at rates, that . . . were almost nominal.”6 J.M. Barrie, who contributed two stories and a series of theatrical criticisms, ‘What the Pit Says’, was paid at the rate of 14 shillings per page.7 In January 1886, Swan Sonnenschein had quoted their highest scale as £1 per page. The editorial agreement for January to June 1889 guaranteed that Swan Sonnenschein would pay £35 per month for contributions; in May 1886, Swan Sonnenschein had rated the cost of contributions at £100 per month. The magazine’s fortunes and the faith of the proprietors in its future had declined sharply. In an effort to reduce costs, the format of the magazine was altered – the size was reduced to 8vo, the total number of pages was reduced to 96 and thicker paper was used. The balance sheet for the December 1889 quarter shows minimum sales of 650 copies per month, and payments for contributins of £30 per month. In August 1889, Swan Sonnenscheine proposed to Sichel that Time be sold to the Hansard Publishing Union who would make him an offer of paid editorship. The Hansard Publishing Union declined Time.
Swan Sonnenschein then contracted to sell Time to Edward Belfort Bax, a leading socialist. The transfer was effected with the January 1890 number. Swan Sonnenschein were to continue their imprint as though their propietary interest in the magazine had not ceased. Before December 1891, Bax was to pay two instalments totalling £675 for the magazine. In the event of failture, copyright was to revert to Swan Sonnenschein. Bax relinquished his interest in the magazine in December 1890 after having paid £100 towards the copyright. Swan Sonnenschein ran Time at a dead loss form January to March 1891 hoping to effect a sale. A failure in the advertising department was cited by Swan Sonnenschein as a major contributing factor to the magazine’s failure in Bax’s hands. The statement for the March 1890 quarter shows sales of 1,877 copies for the period. Swan Sonnenschein had expressed to Bax reservations about the sub-editorship of the magazine by Dr Edward Aveling (a notorious libertine) and Karl Marx’s daughter, Eleanor Marx Aveling, believing that the reputation as a Socialist organ would damage sales. Most assuredly the magazine’s audience changed substantially.
The editor proposed to deal each month with “some political or economic subject of immediate interest” (in the January number the gas strike was discussed by union officials; in the June number an account of the May 4 strike in favour of the eight-hour working day was given by Dr Aveling). Each month one or two articles of historical, philosophic or scientific interest were to appear. Fiction was not highly ranked. Mrs Lily Spender was paid £20 for her serials, ‘Lady Hazleton’s Confession’; Swan Sonnenschein’s standard rate was £100. Stories by Annie Thomas, Time‘s most regular, and stale, contributor appeared. Shaw claims Time‘ rates in this period were from nothing to 5 shillings per page.8 Articles by Frederick Engels and such promient socialists as William Morris and Annie Besant were published. Two Norwegian authors to receive special attention were Henrik Ibsen and Alexander Kielland. To guarantee its publication, Shaw donated a fictional account of Nora’s fate after The Doll’s House; William Archer contributed an article, ‘Ibsen as He is Translated.’ Eleanore Marx Aveling, a versatile linguist, translated two stories by Kielland, a working-class sympathiser. The magazine’s change of character is highlighted by the change in the figure of Time who graced the cover. Time, the ageing shepherd, is replaced by Time, the youth, sowing seed. Walter Crane, who interprets the figure, writes: “Time, by the way, wears the ‘bonnet rouge’. For who will dispute he is a revolutionist – if also an evolutionist.”
Swan Sonnenschein’s lack of interest in the magazine when copyright reverted to them is evident in the dispirited editorship and the indifferent quality of the contributions. The magazine had never been a great financial success. Profitability of the magazine in July 1887 was reckoned at £300 per annum; by 1891, losses were being incurred. Publication of the magazine ceased in March 1891 after several prospective buyers turned it down. The high points of Time‘s history had been the energetic editorships of Edmund Yates and Mrs Wishaw. Yates sought a combination of urbane humour, gossipy articles and fiction by popular authors, Mrs Wishaw a balance of probing journalism, reviews and fiction that the magazine could afford. Neither combination proved successful enough to sustain the faith or interest of the magazine’s proprietors.
- Edmund Yates, Edmund Yates: His Recollections and Experiences (London: Bentley, 1884), 2:90. [↩]
- William Tinsley, Random Recollections of an Old Publisher (London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1900), pp. 231-2. [↩]
- George Moore, “A Communication to My Friends,” A Mummer’s Wife with A Communication to My Friends, Ebury Edition (London: Heinemann, 1937). Edmund Downey, Twenty Years Ago: A Book of Anecdotes Illustrating Literary Life in London (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1905). [↩]
- Letter to Edward Arnold, 30 Apr 1886, The Archives of Swan Sonnenschein & Co. (Bishops, Stortford, Teaneck: Chadwyck-Healey, 1973), 5:215. [↩]
- Walter Sichel., The Sands of Time: Recollections and Reflections (London: Hutchinson, 1923), p. 232. [↩]
- Sichel, pp. 231-2. [↩]
- Dennis Mackail, The Story of James Matthew Barrie: A Biography (London: Peter Davies, 1941), p. 256. [↩]
- Letter to Charles Charrington, 28 Jan 1890 in Bernard Shaw, Collected Letters 1874-1897. Ed. Dan H. Laurence (London: Max Reinhart, 1965), p. 241. [↩]