The Storyteller

When I gave my paper on Kipling at the Kent conference, one or two people commented afterwards about the images in my PowerPoint presentation. I had shown the cover of the Storyteller magazine, in which some of Kipling’s stories first appeared. “Looks a bit downmarket, doesn’t it?” one commented.

I suppose that if you’re used to reading Kipling in unimpeachable authorised editions, or in seriously annotated academic paperbacks, and mostly in the context of other canonical writers – Joseph Conrad and E.M.Forster, maybe, as novelists of Empire – it can be a mild shock to see him in the company of E.Temple Thurston and Warwick Deeping.

I like the Storyteller. Every month there was a deliberate mixture of authors and styles – this was a most convivial magazine. There were Americans alongside British writers, comic pieces alongside romantic, adventurous next to homely. Writers whose quality we still recognise – Kipling and Chesterton, for example – would be there beside people who produced magazine fiction in huge quantities but are now pretty completely forgotten – such as Captain Frank H.Shaw and Olive Wadsley. Alfred Noyes is now known for one poetic anthology piece – the ripely romantic Highwayman. During the Great War he published stories – rather dreadful religiose morale-boosters.

Warwick Deeping is a name still sometimes remembered, mostly as a bogey-figure. His Sorrell and Son gets a mention in the literary histories as a sentimental best-seller (but without mention of the book’s ferociously suppressed violence, or its very effective and original time-scheme). His list of published books is very long, but most of vast number of short stories he produced for the magazines (not just in the Storyteller – he crops up everywhere) never made it into hard covers. Many are forgettable, but some are very revealing about their time.

The Storyteller made room for all, and let the stories speak for themselves, without frills. There are few illustrations , though the cover is colourful and sometimes lurid. The paper is non-glossy, and the stories are printed in sober double columns.

What was Kipling doing in this company? For one thing, the magazines paid well. (Unless an author had enough of a reputation to encourage the libraries to buy multiple copies of his work, there was much more cash in producing a number of magazine stories than in publishing a novel. On the other hand, magazines paid more to writers whose reputations were based on novels.) Kipling, of course, had an immense reputation. I’d like to know how much he was paid for a story, and how many copies his name on the cover added to a magazine’s circulation. I suspect that both did well out of the deal. Besides, he had never been a coterie writer, but always had a wide appeal (which was one reason why some coteries found themselves disliking him – though he gave them plenty of other reasons too.)

In the case of In the Interests of the Brethren, Kipling may have had another purpose in appearing in a popular magazine like this one. The editor introduced it with this note, presumably with Kipling’s approval, and possibly at his instigation:

His story was intended as a plea to Masonic lodges to do their bit to help the war-damaged. Kipling knew the market, and knew that the Storyteller was the sort of magazine that his targeted audience was likely to read. I’ve been told that his dream never came to fruition – the Masons failed to meet the challenge of the War as definitely as (it is implied in the story) the orthodox churches had.

After In the Interests of the Brethren Kipling published no more stories for five years (He was busy with his History of the Irish Guards, and with the War Graves Commission). His next story, The Janeites, went to the Storyteller as well.


Both of these stories are celebrations of conviviality. It was fitting that they should be printed in so convivial a magazine.


One Comment

  1. Posted September 21, 2015 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I like The Story-Teller too!

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