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Ludgate Monthly, The

Entry updated 5 April 2016. Tagged: Publication.

UK general-interest magazine which ran for 118 issues from May 1891 to February 1901 when it merged with The Universal Magazine. It went through a succession of publishers and editors, none of whom seemed to know what to do with it, though it was at its best when it became a companion to Black and White from November 1895 to March 1898 and was edited by James Nicol Dunn and then Henry D Lowry. Its first editor was Philip May, not the same as the noted artist and cartoonist Phil May, but an elderly man who made the early issues rather languid and retrospective. The literary critic D F Hannigan contributed "The Extraordinary Case of Mr Ebenstal" (August 1891), about a man who discovers his wife is of serpentine origin, and "Old Doctor Rutherford" (October 1891), a story of Immortality. For its second year The Ludgate produced a special Christmas annual, The Woeful Story of Mr Wobbley, Comedian (1892 chap) by Henry Herman, not always bound into the half-yearly volume. This is a light-hearted novella of a man rendered invisible (see Invisibility) as part of an experiment and the comic results.

The Ludgate is sometimes treated as an imitation of The Strand Magazine, especially as it was the first such new popular magazine to appear after The Strand's success. In fact the early issues are nothing like The Strand, harking back to older, more sedate days. But from November 1893 the magazine had a facelift and became The Ludgate Illustrated Magazine and, with a change of publisher in May 1894 The Ludgate certainly did follow in The Strand's wake, but favoured an excess of photographic features. One feature, "The Fiction of the Future" (September 1896) by Stanhope W Sprigg, was not about futuristic fiction but about a new wave of writers, including H G Wells and Eden Phillpotts. The same issue carried a humorous story by Phillpotts, "The Muggsen Expedition" (September 1896) about a Balloon flight to the North Pole.

It was not until the arrival of H D Lowry in 1897 that The Ludgate, as it was now simply called, returned to the power of the word and featured several unusual stories. "The Tragedy of the Wedding" (October 1898) by Stanley Percival is somewhat in imitation of Trilby (1894) by George du Maurier involving the unscrupulous use of hypnotism (see Hypnosis). The magazine also published some of the earliest stories by Cyril Ranger Gull who, in collaboration with Reginald Bacchus (1865-1938), produced a series of weird stories, starting with "The Dragon of St Paul's" (April 1899), in which a frozen prehistoric flying monster (see Dinosaurs) is revived and terrorizes London. It was followed by a spoof Invention story, "The Adventure of the Whistling Omelette" (May 1899) and the series ended with an atmospheric and unexplained story of a Robot chess-player, "The Automaton" (January 1900).

The Ludgate Weekly was a spinoff magazine which ran from 5 March to 1 October 1892 only. Copies of this are now very rare. Arthur Conan Doyle had a story in its first issue, "The Great Brown-Pericord Motor" (5 March 1892).

An uneven magazine, The Ludgate is frequently overlooked and remembered – if at all – for publishing what was long believed to be the first known story by Rafael Sabatini, "The Red Mask" (December 1898); but hidden amongst its occasional drabness and extreme flamboyance are some fascinating stories of exploration and innovation. [MA]

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