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Pall Mall Magazine

Entry updated 9 April 2015. Tagged: Publication.


UK general interest magazine owned (until 1912) by William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919), published monthly from May 1893 to December 1912 by George Routledge, and from January 1913 to August 1914 by Iliffe & Sons. It was acquired by William Randolph Hearst's National Magazine Company and saw one more issue in September 1914 before being merged with Nash's Magazine as Nash's and Pall Mall Magazine. Though it retained Pall Mall's volume numbering the magazine was generally regarded as Nash's and remained so until its demise in September 1937 except for a brief period when Pall Mall Magazine reappeared from May 1927 to September 1929. The original run lasted for 257 issues and the revival for 29 issues. It was edited by Lord Frederick Hamilton from May 1893 to December 1900 (jointly with Douglas Straight until August 1896), then by George R Halkett until June 1905, Charles Morley until December 1912 and Hubert Fitchew until September 1914. The revival was edited by Ivor Nicholson.

Although it emerged in the wake of The Strand Magazine, the Pall Mall was not an imitation and not really a popular fiction magazine. Astor was a connoisseur of art and literature and wanted a literary magazine that considered the whole range of artistic and human endeavour. It also dabbled in the interest in decadence and published illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley, Vera Christie, Laurence Housman and Abbey Alston. Such fiction that it ran that was not either historical or exotic tended to be supernatural, a particular interest of Astor's; it published several of his weird tales, plus early work by Algernon Blackwood, M R James and M P Shiel, though its most notorious fiction from this period is the Vampire story "The Kiss of Judas" (July 1893) by Julian Osgood Field (1852-1925) as "X. L.". Occasional tales of scientific speculation appeared, usually by way of Humour, two of these considering the potential of Evolution: "A Darwinian Schooner" (August 1893) by W L Alden and "Personal Experiences in Monkey Language" (August 1894) by Bill Nye (1850-1896), both of which depict a higher order of ape (see Apes as Human). Of more value was a series of illustrations by F T Jane, "Guesses at Futurity" (October 1894-May 1895), which portrayed home life, Cities, fashion and lunar mining in the year 2000.

Towards the end of the 1890s, with the dawn of a new century and with scientific achievements abounding, Pall Mall showed more interest in the potential of science. It serialized A Story of the Days to Come (June-October 1899; 1976) by H G Wells, featured articles on the submarine, polar exploration and "Signalling to Mars" (March 1901) by Sir Robert Ball (1840-1913), though the Astronomer-Royal thought it not worth the effort. The new editor, George R Halkett, and even more so Charles Morley, encouraged such stories. H G Wells scored again with The War in the Air (January-December 1908; 1908), devastatingly illustrated by A C Michael. This in turn inspired others to contribute future war stories such as "The Frozen Death" (February 1909) by Donovan Bayley (1881-1939), "The Man Who Stopped the War" (June 1909) by Patrick Vaux (1872-?   ), which appeared in the same issue as a feature about the new zeppelin Airships, and "The War Hawks" (September 1909) by Ernest Bramah, in which a new breed of heroic aviators set out to destroy the German airfleet. None of this fiction, alas, did anything to stop World War One.

One different story was "The Vision of Mars" (October 1910) by Frederick Graves in which a scientist builds a powerful new telescope with which to study Mars: whatever he sees evidently causes him to die of shock.

After it merged with Nash's, Pall Mall carried little that would qualify as science fiction and instead, through the 1920s, cultivated a significant female readership. There are occasional items of interest. Lord Dunsany appeared with a couple of his Jorkens stories plus the rather strange "The Electric King" (April 1931; August 1930 Harper's), where a man who made a fortune from electricity uses his giant dynamos to turn a prayer wheel at ultra-high speed for his own salvation. Of more significance is The Dream (October 1923-May 1924; 1924) by H G Wells, where a man in the fortieth century experiences life in the twentieth. Also of interest, in the following decade, were reworkings of three of Wells's early works: "Things to Come" (October 1935), the screenplay for the film adaptation Things to Come (1935); the first publication of the film treatment of "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" (January 1936), and "The New Faust" (December 1936) a new story based on "The Story of the Late Mr Elvesham" and developed into a film script.

Pall Mall, and even more so Nash's, was one of Britain's highest paying monthly magazines and regarded its market as being amongst the upper classes in society and business, so for it to run anything that would now be defined as science fiction, but was then really viewed as prophetic fiction, gave the genre both a cachet and a stamp of approval. [MA]

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