G.K. Chesterton described journalism in Edwardian times and before as "the largest work ever published anonymously since the great Christian cathedrals". He didn't have The Times Literary Supplement in mind but perhaps he should have done. The journal whose modest first eight-page issue appeared on 17 January 1902 has been a key influence on, as well as record of, contemporary culture. Yet until 7 June 1974, even the most famous of the paper's contributors were, for the most part, unnamed. Still today, no list of the editorial staff appears.
This self-effacingness was partly a matter of standard practice in the daily journalism of the time, though it was already becoming rare in literary periodicals. It also reflected the personality and views of Bruce Richmond who, after a start had been made by his Times colleague J.R. Thursfield, became the Supplement's first long-serving editor. In the words of one of his successors, John Gross, Richmond (1871-1960) was "a self-effacing man, who was content to work behind the scenes and whose name never meant much to the literary public at large; but he deserves to be remembered as one of the most remarkable editors of his own or indeed of any epoch". He remained editor through political dramas and economic crises, whether international or local to The Times, for 35 years. He created and sustained one of the most durable of modern British institutions, an achievement officially recognised with a knighthood in 1935. Yet in his brief entry in Who's Who he was content to summarise his career as no more than that of a "Journalist" who had "joined editorial staff of The Times, 1899".
Richmond was a quintessential member of the high-cultural establishment. He had won scholarships both to Winchester, then as now, intellectually the most demanding of the English 'public' schools, and to New College, Oxford. After reading for the bar he joined The Times, remaining there until he retired. To many people of his formation, anonymity was a virtue in itself, not least because it helped to give the impression of a still greater one: unanimity. The Times and institutions like it aimed to speak with a single voice: intelligent, considered, unexcitable, slightly aloof - the kind of voice which, once the power of radio was recognised, was also required of people talking on the BBC. It was the voice of authority in the sense both of expertise and of another, more collective kind of power: that of members of a club. Literally so, more than 20% of TLS contributors in this period belonged to the Athenaeum and as many more to other gentlemen's clubs in central London.
It's easy to find fault with freemasonry of this kind, which certainly involved risks: of undetected favouritism; of the secret settling of scores; even of a kind of self-promotion the more flagrant for being furtive. In 1903, the Rev. Dr Charles Cox, reviewing the Hampshire volume of the Victoria County Histories, used the cover of anonymity to compliment himself on the readability of his own contribution. In 1911, Lieutenant-Colonel S.H. Hooper seems to have achieved a unique double by publishing a book anonymously and then reviewing it anonymously in the Literary Supplement. Doubtless these instances were practical jokes rather than abuses, and a few such pranks among tens of thousands of sober, responsible reviews must have cheered things up at Printing House Square (the Colonel was a military correspondent of The Times, which was how the author of the book he reviewed was described). But to people outside the club, what went on inside could sometimes look less venial. In the decades after the Second World War, when widening social and educational opportunity had made readers less respectful of authorities and establishments, attacks on the continuation of anonymous reviewing in the TLS became frequent and increasingly vociferous: nowhere more so than in F.W. Bateson's article in a 1957 issue of his journal Essays in Criticism, which became the locus classicus of the argument that "the reviewer's name is an essential part of the meaning of the review".
From the beginning, a small number of pieces were in fact published under their authors' names. We don't know what determined these decisions, though they seem in some cases to have anticipated Bateson's assertion: signed pieces by, for example, Max Beerbohm, Sir Arthur Evans, George Moore, Edith Wharton and Henry James (the last two of whom also wrote anonymously) clearly carried extra clout, in a way that ones by then unknown authors would not have. But Bruce Richmond's belief was that anonymity more often protected than endangered good judgement. Anonymous reviewers were less tempted to show off, and in many cases people who would write well about a book but who might have refused to do so under their own name - whether for professional reasons or just out of the kind of reticence which Richmond himself embodied - could be persuaded to do so by knowing that their identity would be protected. Under anonymity, talent could come before acknowledged expertise. As T.S. Eliot was to put it, "one gradually became an authority in the field allotted". It was for the TLS that the young Eliot wrote some of his most influential essays on 17thcentury drama and literature, benefiting along the way from what he called "the discipline of anonymity": "I am firmly convinced that every young literary critic should learn to write for some periodical in which his contributions will be anonymous.I learnt to moderate my dislikes and crotchets, to write in a temperate and impartial way". Famously, too, the future Virginia Woolf wrote very often for the paper from her early twenties, even more often than was previously known, as our index of contributors reveals. The index also gives access to previously unattributed pieces by scores of other well-known writers. Even the idea that Richmond himself never wrote for the paper turns out to have been untrue.
The first item in the first issue of The Times Literary Supplement, after a list of contents and a brief introductory announcement, was a review of a book which epitomised the idea of the Victorian "man of letters": a selection from the correspondence of Edward Fitzgerald, a biographer, translator, friend of Thackeray and Tennyson, and above all a letter-writer, who had died 20 years earlier. The author of the piece - in publication terms, the TLS's first contributor - was Augustine Birrell. At this stage Birrell was himself best known as an essayist, the author of Obiter Dicta (1884), of a life of Charlotte Brontë, and of a forthcoming book on Hazlitt. But while the subject of his review had been a retiring dilettante, never taking a job or making journeys much more adventurous than between his native Suffolk and literary London, Birrell himself, however unsatisfactorily, embodied another ideal: the writer as homme d'affaires. He was a lawyer, interspersing literary work with publications on matters such as employers' liability and the history of copyright. And he was a Member of Parliament, soon to be President of the Board of Education in the Liberal government, and from 1907 to 1916 - years when Irish independence was among the most crucial issues on the British political agenda - a damagingly ineffective Chief Secretary for Ireland.
The complex layering of identities personified by Birrell, with its mixture of priorities (he later attributed his having ignored the rise of Sinn Féin to his absorption in contemporary Irish literature and drama), typifies something both about Englishness, albeit more so then than now, and about The Times Literary Supplement. The paper's very title somehow manages both to assert and to qualify the centrality of literary values in a way which was replicated in the opening announcement. Readers were informed that Literature, the Supplement's more assertively named but less durable predecessor, had been subsumed into another review, the Academy (which had included Matthew Arnold and T.H. Huxley among its early contributors but was now being fatally popularised by a new proprietor and editor). Meanwhile, the new Literary Supplement, which was published as an insert in The Times until 1914, modestly declared of itself that it would appear "During the Parliamentary Session.as often as may be necessary to keep abreast with the more important publications of the day". But what was an important publication? As far as the first issue was concerned, the works chosen were, in order of review: the Fitzgerald book; a study of Scottish men of letters in the 18th century; a history of Napoleon's first war with Russia (and, on a later page, two novels about Napoleon); a reissue of a book about Kensington by the 19th-century essayist Leigh Hunt; an intellectual history of China; a polemic against British rule in India (case dismissed); a social history of part of Hampshire; collections by two women poets, Katharine Tynan and Mary Robinson; and some handbooks for clergymen. These reviews were followed by surveys of current developments in the sciences, the visual arts, the theatre and music; a piece on a study of Shakespeare; notes on forthcoming publications and a list of recent ones; and two chess problems.
It would be hard to imagine eight less compelling pages as having inaugurated any journal, least of all one which has now continued into its second century. The early 1900s were, after all, a heyday of competition among British literary magazines, though few were as long-lived as the TLS. The Bookman had been founded in 1891, the Sphere in 1900. In 1908, Ford Madox Ford and others began the English Review and A.R. Orage became editor of the New Age. Meanwhile, many older journals continued to flourish, among them Blackwood's, the Athenaeum (later to be subsumed by the New Statesman) and the Saturday Review. In due course, in a pattern which was often to be repeated later, writers associated with the Literary Supplement moved on to run journals of their own. John Middleton Murry, who was in his mid 20s when he first wrote for the TLS, was to edit the Athenaeum from 1919 and the Adelphi from 1923. And when T.S. Eliot began the Criterion in 1922, his chief editorial influence was, as he later acknowledged, Bruce Richmond.
The TLS's initial pattern of eight pages per week of book reviews and related short articles remained generally the same until 1916, when the usual number of pages went up to 12 (it rose again to 16 in 1921). And the style continued to be calm, impersonal, 'objective'. Yet in its unobtrusive way, the paper steadily gained not only in influence, by 1914, sales were averaging 38,000 to 41,000, but also in distinctiveness. For example, the Supplement gave exceptionally full coverage to new books in French. A key figure, here, one of the previously unacknowledged heroines of the British literary establishment, was the poet Mary Robinson, one of whose books was briefly mentioned in the first issue. She had recently married Emile Duclaux, director of the Institut Pasteur in Paris. In the first 1,000 issues of the TLS Mme Duclaux reviewed 338 books, among them many of the leading French publications of the day, by authors including Marcel Proust (whose A la Recherche du Temps Perdu was reviewed in the TLS from the beginning, as each volume appeared in France), as well as Maurice Barrès, Julien Benda, Paul Bourget, Anatole France, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Valéry Larbaud, Pierre Loti, Maurice Maeterlinck, François Mauriac, the Comtesse de Noailles, Marcel Prévost, Ernest Renan, Jules Renard and Romain Rolland.
Paris was, of course, the capital of modernism: a word which, so far as it meant anything in England, was as yet mainly associated there with recent developments in Christian philosophy condemned by Pope Pius X in the 1907 encyclical, De modernistarum doctrinis. But as the list of names reviewed by Mary Duclaux makes clear, far from all modern writers even in France were modernists. One of the uses of the TLS Historical Archive is to facilitate enquiry not only into the reception of cultural movements like literary modernism, to which, despite some lapses, the paper was generally sympathetic, but into their wider contexts: the books which seemed important then, and the interests which they reflected. This was, of course, a crucial time in the battle for women's rights, and while women hostile to the suffragette movement, such as Mrs Humphry Ward, were among TLS contributors, as was George Calderon, Hon. Secretary of the Men's League for Opposing Women's Suffrage, so too were Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Bell and the campaigning feminist and pacifist Margaret Llewelyn Davies. Again, it was an important era in Anglo-Irish relations: one in which the paper published contributions by, among people with quite different views, the Irish nationalists Darrell Figgis and Aodh de Blacam. (Erskine Childers, the yachtsman and spy novelist who became a convert to Irish Republicanism and was executed for gun-running, also wrote for the paper, but not about Ireland.) Of the 46 reviewers in this period who were or became Members of Parliament, 16 were Liberals (a further seven contributors stood unsuccessfully as Liberal candidates). Another, Edmund Morel, became Labour MP for Dundee in 1922 after a career as a campaigner on African affairs.
We are not claiming that the early TLS was a journal of radical social reform. The Webbs did not write for it; nor, except in published letters, did Shaw or H.G. Wells. But it was a much more open forum than tends to be assumed. Then, as often since, its conservative reputation is belied by the variety of its contents and its effectiveness, while making the case for values which it thought should be left intact, at persuading even the most hidebound of readers when it believed other views should be heard. One of the most moving instances is the front page of the issue of 13 August 1914, immediately after the outbreak of the First World War. It was more or less obligatory that the paper would publish a poem by the Laureate, Robert Bridges. "Thou Careless, Awake!" spoke bloodthirstily of the cleansing power of suffering and ended with the words "ENGLAND STANDS FOR HONOUR / GOD DEFEND THE RIGHT!" But the rest of the page was filled by an article by the Fabian Times staff member Arthur Clutton-Brock, headed "The Two Kinds of Courage", which acted as a commentary on Bridges' lines in calling for another sort of courage, that of maintaining "a contempt, partly moral and partly intellectual, for national vendettas and all the false romanticism that springs from them".
The First Contributors
The main task of our index of TLS contributors, 1902-74, is to fill in the largest gap left by the public record: the names of reviewers and, since far from all of them are, or ever were, well known, whatever basic biographical information about them we have been able to find. These details can be searched in a variety of ways. Most people will simply want to know who reviewed specific books and authors, or what a particular author contributed to the TLS at a given point in a career or throughout a whole lifetime. But beyond that, the index answers, and leads to, still other questions, including ones about the literary establishment. Users can call up information, for example, on contributors' specialisms, gender, educational background, profession and publications. They can learn, so far as we have been able to find these or other facts, what other journals reviewers worked for, and through this, something about the informal networks which influenced the reception of books. They can also find out who was related to whom.
Although (or perhaps partly because) TLS contributors appeared anonymously, Bruce Richmond and his colleagues took great care not only in selecting them but in getting to know them: inviting them to the office, keeping in touch with them by letter, suggesting topics on which they might write. Next to none of the editorial correspondence of the time has survived. Richmond notoriously drafted his replies to contributors on their original letters, which he threw into the wastepaper basket when the fair copy was done. But there is plenty of evidence of a degree of personal attention to regular reviewers, which is the more impressive given how many wrote for the paper and the volume of material they supplied. The first 1,000 issues alone contain 23,346 reviews and articles by 1,036 separate authors, and 3,761 letters by a further 1,596. Keeping pace editorially wasn't easy, least of all during the First World War, in which a tenth of the paper's contributors fought (some of them having previously served in the South African War) and several died. Among these was a redoubtable New Zealander, Noel Ross, who volunteered at the outbreak of war, was wounded and, though declared unfit for further service, concealed his medical records in order to continue fighting until he died of war-related typhoid in 1917, just before what was to have been his wedding day. Ross wrote half a dozen pieces for the TLS about Gallipoli and the Somme, but for obvious reasons few other serving soldiers were also reviewers. 200 contributors appeared in the TLS for the first time in 1914, and the number of newcomers, among them, despite his claim that he was being ostracised by London editors, Ezra Pound, remained high throughout the war.
It is well known that such authors as Richard Aldington, T.S. Eliot, John Middleton Murry, the Humphry Wards and Leonard and Virginia Woolf wrote for the journal in the early years, but users of the electronic archive will also find that the best-selling novelist Marie Belloc Lowndes reviewed many hundreds of books in this period, Edmund Gosse 63 and Edith Somerville 17. The other half of Somerville and Ross, Violet Martin, also contributed, as did John Buchan (principally on South Africa), John Galsworthy, George Gissing, H. Rider Haggard, A.P. Herbert, Aldous Huxley, Henry James, Andrew Lang (who reviewed a surprising range of books including Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles and stories by Mark Twain and Bret Harte), Arthur Quiller-Couch, G.W. Russell ("Æ"), Logan Pearsall Smith, Edward Thomas, and Edith Wharton. One of the recent discoveries which will catch readers' attention is a hitherto unknown review by Virginia Woolf (then still Virginia Stephen) of a 1907 book on the orient by Charlotte Lorrimer. The piece has been described by Hermione Lee as shedding light on the development of Woolf's thinking in the period between her travels in Greece and Turkey at the end of 1906 and the inception of her first novel, The Voyage Out.
Of course, as we have seen, it is not only in a narrow sense of "literature" that the TLS is the leading literary journal of the 20th century. It has always dealt with anything that books themselves deal with. The first 1,000 issues included pieces by the pioneering geneticist William Bateson and the Nobel Prize-winner Ronald Ross, who discovered the cause of malaria. There were reviews by the Everest explorer Colonel C.G. Bruce and the composer Sir Charles Stanford; by William Temple, later Archbishop of Canterbury, on a book about miracles; and Robert Baden-Powell, on one about pig-sticking. The actor Ernest Thesiger was among the paper's contributors, as were the architect of the Bank of England and the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police. Some pieces on African languages were contributed by Alice Werner, a self-taught specialist who later gained a chair at London University. Rollo Appleyard, an engineer who invented the rubber-cored golf ball, wrote about calculating machines and radio. Town planning and the countryside were the topics of an early 20th-century campaigner for rights of way and the preservation of open spaces, Sir Robert Hunter. Meanwhile, one of the main threats to the countryside, "automobilism", was the subject of Archibald Weir, who combined pig-breeding with writing books on philosophy and proselytising for the motor car in the TLS (he was one of the founder members of the Royal Automobile Club).
Children's books were also reviewed, though in this category as in others the paper's judgement was not entirely infallible. The Wind in The Willows fell for review to E. V. Lucas, a frequent contributor and, with his interest in rural life, one who must have seemed a safe pair of hands on this occasion. Lucas had admired Kenneth Grahame's earlier books but was now at a loss: "'The chief character is a mole,' Lucas puzzled, 'whom the reader plumps upon on the first page whitewashing his house. Here is an initial nut to crack; a mole whitewashing. No doubt moles like their abodes to be clean; but whitewashing? Are we very stupid, or is this joke really inferior?'" Lucas had similar difficulties with most of the cast, not least Mr Toad, who "becomes a rabid motorist". He concluded in baffled exasperation that despite some vivid passages, The Wind in the Willows was "neither amusing nor convincing" and "as a contribution to natural history the work is negligible".
As well as tracing the subjects on which individual contributors wrote, users of the Historical Archive can explore the social groupings to which they belonged. Few will be surprised to learn that of 1,036 contributors in these early years, the number of women (76) was exceeded by the number of clergymen (81) and almost matched by those of men educated at a single Oxford college, Balliol (67). But while women constituted only 7% of the reviewers, they were responsible for over 12% of the books reviewed. The notion that academics were not prominent in literary life early in the century has to be qualified: they were the largest single professional category, almost a third, among reviewers in the first 1,000 issues. The other main occupations followed by reviewers, in descending numerical order, were journalism; the civil service and diplomacy; museum curatorship (especially at the British Museum) and librarianship; imaginative authorship (novels, poetry and plays); exploration; the law; the armed forces; school teaching (in no case at a state school); and parliamentary politics. A significant number were or became social campaigners, among them Norman Bentwich, who worked on behalf of Jewish rights; Cornelia Sorabji, who, though a woman and an Asian, succeeded in being called to the bar and subsequently fought for the legal rights of women behind the purdah; and Brinsley Richards, an activist against child labour. Then there were sportsmen and scientists, musicians and archaeologists, and a vast array of specialists who wrote just a single piece: on British violins, on medieval popes, or on the history of the pointer dog.
Sixty-five contributors also wrote for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Then as later, there is an immense spread between the one-off experts and those who wrote scores, sometimes hundreds, of TLS pieces. Some seemed willing to write on almost anything; others to write any amount. Thomas Humphry Ward reviewed 441 books in this period, Walter de la Mare 450 and E.E. Mavrogordato around 600, but few came near Harold Child, assistant editor of the Burlington Magazine and later theatre critic of the Observer, who had reviewed more than 1,500 books by 1921, an average of 1.5 per issue, and was still going strong in the 1940s. And if literary historians will learn more than was previously known about the range of topics covered by individual men and women of letters in this period, there is another absorbing by-way in the number of reviewers who were related to each other: not only Andrew and Leonora Lang, the Humphry Wards and the Woolfs but almost 30 other teams of husband and wife, siblings, parents and children, including a good proportion of the tribe of the first Baron Aberdare: his son, one of his daughters, three of his sons-in-law and one of his grandsons, who was Bruce Richmond.
The 1920s and 30s
The economic slump that followed the First World War had its effects both on the Times Literary Supplement and on the rest of the publishing world. Books with titles like Britain's Economic Plight, England's Crisis and Facts and Figures about the Crisis poured in for review throughout the 1920s and 30s, as did those which offered one or other of the extreme political solutions which were being tried out in Europe in those years. Meanwhile, the depression had a direct impact on the TLS's sales, which by the early 1920s had almost halved by comparison with their highest wartime level of over 40,000.
The owner of The Times, Lord Northcliffe, had never been enthusiastic about what he saw as the excessively arty and intellectual Supplement and in 1922 he decided that the 20-year-old experiment should end. On 30 March, the TLS was to carry an announcement saying that it would cease publication two weeks later. The story goes that, whether by chance or skilful under-management, it was noticed at a late stage that not every department had received this instruction. By the time the paper was going to press, various people had gone home and it was impossible to confirm the announcement's authority, so it was prudently pulled out. Northcliffe had other preoccupations and was ill, the stay of execution continued and in August he died. The TLS survived him, and Bruce Richmond remained as editor for a further 15 years.
The editorial challenge, as for any journal that hopes to survive beyond a decade or two, was to build on the paper's strengths, bringing in new writers without losing the best of the original ones and responding constructively to cultural change while maintaining what were seen as indispensable values. Of course, many of the books reviewed in the TLS, then as now, were in one way or another historical. In particular, editions and studies of writers of the past represented a central aspect of the paper's coverage. But Richmond and his staff also had to take decisions about books on pressing contemporary political and social issues, and about the work of new writers in a period when literary modernism reached its peak and younger authors with different concerns began to dominate the publishers' lists. Forty years later, it was said of the New Statesman that it was radical in politics but conservative in its view of literature. Broadly speaking, the opposite was true of the TLS in the 1920s and 30s.
Over 100,000 books were reviewed in those decades, whether fully or in short notices, and more than 900 of the reviewers had not written for the paper earlier. While we have been able to provide biographical information about most of the contributors, some remain no more than names and we would be glad to hear from anyone who can tell us about them. As with the first decades, the introductory comments in the accompanying sections are intended to help users find their bearings, and to suggest possible lines of enquiry.
New Contributors 1920-1939
Among the most prolific of those who first began writing for the TLS in this period was Marjorie Grant Cook, who reviewed more than 1,200 books in the 1920s and 30s, including work by many of the leading women writers of the day both in Britain and the USA. Cook was an early advocate of Willa Cather, wrote discriminatingly about the first novels of Rosamond Lehmann, and also reviewed books by Radclyffe Hall, Storm Jameson, Naomi Mitchison, Vita Sackville-West, Edith Wharton and Rebecca West. Her tastes were catholic: she also covered the work of popular authors such as Richmal Crompton and May Sinclair, and was the person who introduced Tolkien's The Hobbit - "one long enchantment" - to readers of the TLS.
The work of other influential critics of new writing, among them Edgell Rickword and Alex Glendinning, and the important political contributions of E.H. Carr, H.M. Stannard and Geoffrey West, are discussed in the separate sections on literary and political coverage. Other very frequent reviewers included the poets Edmund Blunden and Austin Clarke, the novelists Charles Morgan and Angela Thirkell, the historian Denis Brogan and the economist Douglas Jay. More than 1,100 books were reviewed in this period by the assistant editor and subsequently editor of the TLS, D.L. Murray. His wife, Leonora Eyles, was also a contributor, as was her son-in-law, Mario Praz.
Twenty-two of the books on the First World War published in the period were reviewed by Archibald (later Field-Marshall Lord) Wavell. The traveller Cicely Fox Smith wrote often on the sea, whaling and kindred topics. Among other specialist reviewers was the fishing champion William Radcliffe, whose 1921 book Fishing from the Earliest Times prompted one of the longest correspondences in the TLS's history. Some books of Russian poetry, especially by Anna Akhmatova and Alexander Blok, were reviewed by Prince Dmitri Svyatopolk-Mirsky, who died in prison in Siberia in 1939. New contributors also included the anthropologist Sir James Frazer; the travel writer Peter Fleming; the poet Ivor Gurney, who wrote lucidly on Cotswold dramas for the TLS before his breakdown; Margaret Cole, the Fabian and co-author with her husband G. D. H. Cole of detective stories; the naval adventure author 'Taffrail' (Commander Dorling); Margery Perham, a distinguished scholar of race relations in the last years of the British Empire; Dilys Powell, who was to become film critic of the Sunday Times; C.K. Scott-Moncrieff, the authorised translator of Proust and Pirandello; the military historian Basil Liddell-Hart; the landscape gardener Brenda Colvin; the historian A.L. Rowse; the surgeon and bibliographer Geoffrey Keynes; and a host of literary historians, critics and essayists. The bibliographer Stanley Morison, who was to be editor of the TLS for a brief spell in the 1940s, first contributed in 1931; Storm Jameson, who was to be a key influence during the Second World War, in 1938. Occasional or single pieces were written by Kenneth Clark (on Michelangelo), Edward Gordon Craig (including one on Inigo Jones), C.S. Forester, E.M. Forster (on Jane Austen's letters), C.S. Lewis, G.E. Moore, J.B. Priestley, John Rothenstein, Vita Sackville-West, George Saintsbury, Dorothy L. Sayers, Freya Stark and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Among the more unexpected items was Stephen Spender's first contribution to the TLS: a one-page article published in October 1938, calling for an increase in anonymous reviewing. We don't know whether it was at the request of Spender, who was not famous for authorial reticence, or as a gentle editorial joke at his expense, that the piece was both signed with his name and illustrated by a handsome portrait of him by Henry Moore.
CITATION: McVea, Deborah and Treglown, Jeremy: "The First 1,000 Issues, 1902-1921." Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive. Cengage Learning, 2012