Wartime TLS

Gale Primary Sources has posted an article about how the TLS managed to thrive in the wartime period 1939-1945 while many other literary publications struggled or died. The article seems to be an extract from a longer work about TLS during the days of anonymous reviewing 1902-1974. It is written by Deborah McVea and Jeremy Treglown (a previous editor) and opens with this:

Perhaps The Times Literary Supplement should have been renamed Survival, the title of the fictional wartime literary magazine in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of
Honour trilogy. The outbreak of war helped the previously struggling journal in various ways. Paper shortages necessitated restrictions in the size of daily newspapers, forcing them to reduce space for book reviews and to turn away a proportion of their advertising. Publishers consequently bought more space in the Supplement. Meanwhile, literature in general found a growing market among a population forced to sit around in barracks and air-raid shelters, often with little to do but read books and magazines. In these circumstances, D.L. Murray’s more populist editorial approach began to pay off, bringing the paper a new audience. Meanwhile, some smaller literary periodicals which had previously represented competition, if only at the margins, closed down under the various pressures of the time: among them
the Bookman, the London Mercury, T.S. Eliot’s Criterion, and Geoffrey Grigson’s New Verse.

The authors might have mentioned another possible title for the wartime TLS that was also suggested by Waugh. This was ‘Duration’ which would have been a literary journal edited and contributed to by Waugh and a group of his friends. But the project was called off after they learned about Cyril Connolly’s plans for Horizon. The journal “Survival” and its editor  Everard Spruce mentioned in Sword of Honour were parodies of Horizon and Connolly.

Among the examples of TLS wartime reviewing, the article includes a quote from the review of Waugh’s Put Out More Flags (1942). This was in the “orotund” style of an elderly but frequent reviewer identified as E E Mavrogordato:

“The period of which [Waugh] is writing is that of the present war; the people are rogues or inept – people such as in the years after the last war were drawn by authors dubbed young intellectuals, to the weakening, as some think, of the nation’s faith in itself and with general disruptive effects from which its enemies are now profiting. In fact, in its rendering of those to whom the nation has to look for orders and guidance this book would be mischievous, but that it is unlikely to impress readers whose value to the community would be reduced by accepting its implications.”

The authors describe this review as an “echo of the First World War” and point out that it was “consistent with a more subtly conformist approach in reviews of political books, especially those on foreign policy” where adjustments were made after 1941, for example, with regard to books about the Soviet Union.

The article closes with this:

Most historians of modern British literature still write as if the only wartime British literary journals were Cyril Connolly’s Horizon and John Lehmann’s New Writing. D.L. Murray’s TLS deserves a place in the story. Murray had spent a quarter of a century on the staff. […] But great institutions are more than the sum of their members and in the post- war years the TLS was to enter another ambitious new phase.

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