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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pearson's Magazine

Pearson’s Magazine No.1

Not many publishers would admit to some dissatisfaction with their new publication, but C. Arthur Pearson took that risk in his opening editorial for Pearson's Magazine. "There seem to us to be several ways in which future issues can be made of considerably more literary and artistic merit," he said... and it would be true to say that he succeeded as the magazine improved rapidly and found a ready audience who would see it through 527 issues, the magazine eventually folding in November 1939 because of the war.

In his editorial, Pearson spent most of his time stressing how much money had been spent in putting the magazine together and attacking the "discount system" whereby some monthly magazines priced at 6d were made available for 4½d. Here is what Pearson had to say about his new publication:
No large sums have been spent in heralding the advent of Pearson’s Magazine by advertisement. The money which might have been spent in this way has gone into the Magazine itself.
At the same time, we have caused statements to be circulated to the effect that the Magazine was to be of unusual excellence.
It is for you, who hold this copy in your hands, to decide whether in saying this we have gone beyond the mark, and to show your condemnation or appreciation by your future action, both as regards subscribing to the Magazine and commending it to the attention of your friends.
If it is not the best sixpennyworth that has been hitherto produced, it will be a failure, for unless it immediately attains, and succeeds in keeping, a colossal circulation, the enormous sum spent in producing each issue cannot possibly be justified.
Writing this with the proofs of No.1 before us, we have to confess that we are not, by any means, satisfied that the highest point has been reached. There seem to us to be several ways in which future issues can be made of considerably more literary and artistic merit, and these will not be neglected.
Succeeding numbers will, we can safely assert, surpass this first essay in both interest and appearance. Below are given brief particulars regarding the literary and artistic contents of some of the eaerly succeeding numbers.
A word now on the price of Pearson’s Magazine. It is sixpence, and the possession of a copy must imply the disbursement of the little silver coin with this name—not of four pennies and a halfpenny. No penny paper can be obtained for three farthings. No sixpenny illustrated weekly journal is sold to the public for 4½d. Why, then, should a sixpenny publication be issued with this disadvantage simply because it is published at intervals of a month? And why should the reader in a large town be able to buy for 4½d. an article for which the reader in the country must pay sixpence?
The discount system is bad for both publisher and newsvendor. It remains to be proved whether it has taken so firm a hold that this attempt to combat it proves unsuccessful. We may say at once that if it does, Pearson’s Magazine will cease to exist, for it cannot be produced to sell at 4½d.
At the same time, the trader who disposes of a copy for 6d, is making more money out of it than he is when he sells a copy of any other magazine for 4½d.
Our remarks upon this point may seem of undue prolixity, but the discount system has obtained so general a vogue that it is thought advisable to dwell at some length upon it.
In conclusion, we beg all those who are in any way interested in the appearance of this Magazine to let us hear from them as to the opinion they have formed of its merits. Suggestions will be most carefully considered, for it is only by pleasing our supporters that we can hope to make Pearson’s Magazine a permanent success.
For issue two, Pearson promised stories by Mr. S. R. Crockett, Mr. Bloundelle-Burton, another ‘Secret of the Courts of Europe’, another play, and more ‘Wisdom Let Loose’. Future issues would include stories by Marie Corelli, Stanley J. Weyman, Rudyard Kipling, Ian Maclaren, Gilbert Parker, Robert Barr, Cutliffe Hyne, George Griffith and “in fact, all the most prominent writers of fiction of the day.”

Mike Ashley has asserted that the magazine owed much of its success to three authors: C. J. Cutcliffe-Hyne, George Griffith and H. G. Wells. Pearson's published Cutcliffe-Hyne's Captain Kettle stories, one of the most popular characters of the era although nowadays almost forgotten, and the fantasy serial 'The Lost Continent' (1899). Both Griffith and Wells penned science fiction yarns for Pearson's, notably 'Stories of Other Worlds' by Griffith (1900) and 'The War of the Worlds' by Wells (1897), and the magazine also featured many articles on scientific progress.

If you want to learn more about Pearson's Magazine (and many of the other magazines I've featured in this little series—and I've not run out of first issues yet), I'd recommend you pick up a copy of Mike Ashley's The Age of the Storytellers, which has essays on 70 of the major fiction magazines that appeared before the Second World War plus a round-up of 70 others.

Contents:

Pearson’s Magazine [#1 v1, January 1896] (6d, cover: photo)
3 * Anon. * Artists and Their Work * ar
14 * Forbes, Archibald * The Bravest Deed I Ever Saw. How Lord William Beresford Won the V.C. * ar; illus. R. Caton Woodville
19 * Hope, Anthony * The Vigil of Count Amadeo * ss; illus. R. Sauber
35 * Anon. * In the Public Eye * ar
42 * Gale, Norman * Waiting for Summer * pm; illus. Anthony Fox
43 * W., A. * First Attempts at Photography *
45 * Upward, Allen * Secrets of the Courts of Europe No.1—A Stolen King * ss; illus. Hal Hurst
57 * Gordon, W. J. * What It Costs to Work a Railway * ar
64 * Harte, Bret * A Convert of the Mission * ss; illus. A. Forestier
78 * Sullivan, J. F. * The Great Water Joke * pm; illus. J. F. Sullivan
83 * Brand, J. * A Colonial King * ar
88 * Barr, Robert * A Dramatic Point * ss; illus. G. G. Manton
96 * Pain, Barry * Five Act Tragedies * pm; illus. J. F. Sullivan
97 * Alden, W. L. * Wisdom Let Loose * ar; illus. Charles May
102 * Besant, Sir Walter & Pollock, W. H. * The Voice of Love * pl; illus. Miss Chris Hammond
112 * Pearson, C. Arthur * The Editorial Mind * ed

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