From the late nineteenth century onwards, the ‘little magazine’ became a preferred format for many literary and artistic groups, whose proponents were keen to spread the word and disseminate their new and often radical ideas to a wider public. Manifestos were occasionally printed in the popular press, but the publication of a magazine provided the perfect vehicle for declarations of intent with the added bonus of complete editorial control.
Often short-lived, the periodical format lent itself to experimentation. From the civic idealism of Patrick Geddes in The Evergreen, and the studied decadence of The Yellow Book under Aubrey Beardsley’s guidance, to the bombast of Percy Wyndham Lewis’s Blast, and the decidedly apolitical but nonetheless principled stance of Myfanwy Evans in Axis or Cyril Connolly’s Horizon, the publication of magazines in Britain from the 1890s to the 1940s saw a great many titles come and go. The Evergreen ran to four issues from 1895 to 1897, Beardsley’s influence is seen in the first five of the thirteen volumes of The Yellow Book, only two issues of Blast were ever published in 1914 and 1915, Axis managed eight issues between 1935 and 1937, and Horizon comes in at a wildly successful 121 issues over its ten year run from 1940 to 1950.
While these are only a few examples of the titles on display, it is clear that the content and aim of each magazine was influenced in the main by the individual personalities of its founders and/or editors. The message can be subtle or explicit, but there is always a message.