“Night and Day”– A Londoner’s “New Yorker”

Literary critic and journalist Terry Teachout has written an article in the Wall Street Journal about the short-lived magazine Night and Day. This is entitled “The Magazine Shirley Temple Shut Down”. According to Teachout:

The New Yorker has been around so long that it is surprising how few imitators it has spawned. Moreover, none of them were commercially successful, and only one is still known, if only to literary connoisseurs: Night and Day, a weekly that sought to transplant the sophisticated style and design of the New Yorker to England between the wars. While it was published for only a short time, putting out its inaugural issue in July of 1937 and shutting down six months later, Night and Day made a impression that has yet to fade…. The regular contributors included, among others, Evelyn Waugh, who reviewed books; Graham Greene, the co-editor, who doubled as film critic; and… Anthony Powell, John Betjeman, Elizabeth Bowen, Alistair Cooke, Christopher Isherwood, Constant Lambert, Malcolm Muggeridge and Herbert Read. All were mainly out to amuse, though Night and Day was not above publishing more serious fare. For the most part, however, it was, like the New Yorker in the ’20s and ’30s, a chiefly comic magazine. Therein lay its appeal: At a time when England was looking nervously at the totalitarian monsters who were swallowing up Europe, Night and Day gave its subscribers something to smile about….

Waugh was offered the job of drama critic by Graham Greene, the magazine’s literary editor, but preferred to write a book review column. He contributed weekly book reviews between July and December 1937 and earned 8 guineas per week (including the resale of review copies). Among the books he reviewed were such classics as David Jones’ In Parenthesis, Edith Sitwell’s I Live Under a Black Sun (her first novel), George Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest and Aldous Huxley’s essay collection Ends and Means, all still in print. These reviews (as well as some others from the magazine) are collected in Waugh’s Essays, Articles and Reviews.

The magazine was struggling financially after its introductory period but the final blow came when Graham Greene was accused by 20th Century Fox of allegedly libelling Shirley Temple in his review of her film Wee Willie Winkie. That caused some outlets to refuse distribution and the magazine’s backers failed to come up with sufficient funds to continue. The libel case was settled for £3500 in March 1938 but by then the magazine had already shut down.

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