The Magnet

I gave my Magnet talk at Manchester yesterday. That’s one I really enjoyed researching, but I ought to move on now.

I had intended to publish the paper on this blog, but I now think I’d rather wait, and incorporate it into a longer piece of writing about ways in which popular culture found ways to be discriminating in their support of the war effort.

A couple of people asked me for copies of the paper, and I have sent some already. Anyone else who would like to read it, please contact me. Tom especially – I don’t think I have your current email address.

Talbot Mundy… and the Magnet again

It’s India month at the Sheffield Popular Fiction Reading Group, and my report on Talbot Mundy’s King of the Khyber Rifles can now be read online on the group’s blog.

Like Buchan’s Greenmantle, also published in 1916, this is a story about one man sent to combat a Turkish plan to inflame the Empire’s Muslims into revolt. It’s a wild and sensational tale, with echoes of Kipling and Rider Haggard – and occasional pre-echoes of Indiana Jones. You can find a Kindle version of the novel free at Project Gutenberg. Read More »

Mr Kennington’s Prophecy


There’s an exhibition at the University of Delaware that I wish I could get to. It’s of documents about the First World War from the collection of Mark Samuels Lasner. The exhibition’s website gives you several specimens, including a letter from Rosenberg and sketches for Gassed by Sargent.

Mr Lasner is  an expert on Max Beerbohm (he edited the definitive bibliography of the works of Enoch Soames), so there is plenty of Beerbohm in the exhibition. An example is the cartoon above: War-experts Discussing Mr. Kennington’s Prophecy. Read More »

‘Dawn’: Edith Cavell and the censors


On Saturday, at the splendid Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds, we had a rare chance to see the 1929 film Dawn, about Edith Cavell. It’s a remarkable film, and it was made more enjoyable by the four short talks that preceded it. Read More »

‘Requiem’: Rose Allatini on Fitzroy Street

When Rose Allatini chose to publish Despised and Rejected under a different name, because of its sexual and political unorthodoxy, she chose for a pseudonym A. T. Fitzroy, after Fitzroy Street, where she was living.
Requiem (1919), the novel she published after Despised and Rejected, gives an idea of what the name ‘Fitzroy’ meant to her. Read More »

Who read the ‘Magnet’?

In its heyday the Magnet sold over 200,000 copies a week. Since many copies were likely to have been shared, passed around or swapped the readership would have been higher than this. In 1916, the magazine printed this page of readers’ photos. One wears a a straw boater and one a yarmulke; others wear cloth caps. Two readers are identified as from South Africa, and three are Sea Scouts. (Click the picture for a larger version.) Read More »

A Pacifist at St. Jim’s

skimmy pacifist

The most famous protest against the war in 1917 was Siegfried Sassoon’s. Much less well-remembered is the sudden and vocal conversion to pacifism of Skimpole, of St Jim’s School, as recorded in the Gem comic. Read More »

‘Horniman’s Choice’ at the Finborough

You could write the significant history of English theatre in the twentieth century by tracing the careers of three dynamic women: Annie Horniman, Lilian Baylis and Joan Littlewood. Of these, Horniman is probably the least known, but when she took over the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester a hundred years ago, it was the beginning of the regional repertory movement in England. She asked for plays on local themes, and the Manchester School of playwrights was created.

The Finborough Theatre in West London are celebrating Annie Horniman with a programme of four one-act plays that represent the work of three major Manchester authors – Harold Brighouse, Stanley Houghton and Allan Monkhouse. Six actors on a skimpy set do a first-rate job of showing us why the plays matter, and convince us that they are still very much worth watching.

Harold Brighouse’s The Price of Coal, set in a mining village, is theatre as anthropology. Read More »

Billy Bunter versus the Suffragettes

wild women

This November I’ll be giving a talk on the wartime Magnet comics to the Being Young in World War One conference in Manchester. I’ll be arguing that the comics had a nuanced approach to the war, remaining firmly patriotic while suggesting that the demands of war should not make people forget the civilised decencies of peacetime.

The problem with this argument is that on some subjects the Magnet was not very nuanced at all.

I’ve just been reading a copy from earlier in 1914, in which Frank Richards gives his version of the Suffragettes. Read More »

Ernst Junger’s ‘Sturm’

Ernst Junger is best known for his 1920 memoir, Storm of Steel, but he wrote a good deal besides. The publishing firm Telos is issuing translations of several of his works, and the latest, published today, is Sturm, a novella of 1923. Telos kindly let me read the text before publication, and here is my review: Read More »


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