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The Magazines

Ian Hamilton edited four magazines throughout his career: The Scorpion, Tomorrow, The Review, and The New Review. He later considered The Scorpion and Tomorrow his apprenticeship as an editor, but these early attempts nonetheless reveal a serious regard for literary quality that would come to define the more developed efforts of The Review and The New Review. (Note: Click on the cover images below to view each issue cover with accompanying index of contents for Tomorrow, The Review and The New Review).


The Scorpion (1955)

Scorpion, edited by Ian Hamilton
'[The Scorpion] was pretty tame stuff. I put a certain amount of bile into the editorials, but they didn't really connect with the rest - which consisted of the usual morose adolescent parables and things like that. The first issue had a foreword by John Wain, the novelist, who had just appeared then and was very famous. I wrote to him to ask if there was some message he could send to youthful aspirants and he did. It was rather good, about half a page, which ended: 'and, if all this fails, back to the drawing-board!' - a phrase I didn't know then. The second issue again showed this wish to connect with the London literary world. I sent a questionnaire to various luminaries asking if there was advice that they would wish to give to young authors at the beginning of their literary careers. [...] There would be some names that would not be recognised now; figures like Louis Golding who was popular in that day. I just picked them out of some magazine or book. So about half of this combative magazine, this Scorpion, was filled with these platitudes from London literary figures.' (Ian Hamilton in Conversation with Dan Jacobson)


Tomorrow (1959-1960)

Tomorrow, edited by Ian Hamilton
Click Cover to View
Complete Index
'I'd enjoyed bringing out The Scorpion and had always remembered it. Then I met a Sri Lankan, Susil Pieris, who was very keen and I think he coedited the first two issues of Tomorrow. Then he got fed up or drifted away. It began, however, with my feeling that I wanted to start a magazine.

'For its fourth issue I'd written to Pinter. He had just become prominent then, but I'd learned about him earlier, when I was in Germany. Another of my jobs there had been to work on this radio show, and one of the things I did for it was write a report on a local drama festival. There was a play in the festival by a person I'd read about in the Sunday papers. The Room, it was called, and it was by Harold Pinter. It had had a good review from Harold Hobson in the Sunday Times, but rather dismissive reviews by other people. Anyway I was intrigued by this play, and liked it best of all those put on during the festival - and said so in my radio report. But I'd left the proceedings early in order to write the piece; I hadn't stayed to hear the commanding officer of the Second Tactical Air Force, who was giving the prize to some Somerset Maugham thing, denounce this incomprehensible piece of garbage by someone called H. Pinters, saying how he just couldn't understand how anybody in their right mind could have put it on. The next day my piece was broadcast on the radio, praising that very play. My immediate superior, who was the information officer, got hauled up by the commanding officer and told to discipline me. What I had done was "tantamount to disobeying an order" '. (Ian Hamilton in Conversation with Dan Jacobson)


The Review (1962-1972)

The Review, edited by Ian Hamilton / Click Cover to View  Complete Index
Click Cover to View
Complete Index
'The Review was started to cope with the aftermath of this magazine called Tomorrow, the one that published the Pinter play. The tendency for me was to start another magazine in order to reassure the printer that I hadn't really gone out of business, that he would be paid eventually. OK, the magazine I handed to him (the Review, No. 1) had another title and two years had passed since the last time I'd given him anything to print (i.e. Tomorrow, No. 4), but he agreed to do it. He was still hoping to get paid for the Tomorrow work - and was paid for it, in the end.

'We had a committee consisting of John Fuller, Francis Hope, Martin Dodsworth, Colin Falck, Michael Fried and Gabriel Pearson. We never had meetings or anything like that. There was a lot of correspondence, because John went to Buffalo for a year. So he wrote to me a lot from there. And Michael and Colin had already left Oxford and gone off to London, where they shared a flat. Michael, a young American poet, was a big influence on me at that time. Very few members of the committee were around in Oxford, although the thing was based in Oxford'. (Ian Hamilton in Conversation with Dan Jacobson)


The New Review (1974-1979)

The New Review, edited by Ian Hamilton / Click Cover to View Complete Index
Click Cover to View
Complete Index
'In some way I wanted something larger than a little magazine. As it happened, the Arts Council had kept aside some money for this counter-Encounter, not a great deal, but it was just lying there. Charles Osborne, who was literature director of the Council at that point, saw no reason why, if I reinvented the Review as a new monthly magazine, that money - I think about 20,000 - couldn't go to launch one issue of it. And that's how the New Review began. A year later, in April 1974, it appeared, coinciding happily with nationwide labour troubles and Edward Heath's three-day week; and of course it was large and plush - and expensive to buy. I wanted something that looked good. I think now it stands up pretty well in terms of its appearance.

'We didn't know it was going to be such a minority magazine when we started it. I'd looked at a lot of magazines in America. They have a thriving magazine culture there. We don't. But I didn't see why we shouldn't. I made the mistake of getting a proper professional designer who had lots of expressive ideas and I was too keen on using pictures. Looking back, I think I should probably have done it differently, but I didn't, so there it was. And it still looks pretty okay to me and has some really quite good stuff in it. Anyway it did come under a lot of fire on all the waste-of-public-money issues - which was bollocks, because public money paid only for about half of any single issue. The Arts Council never did pay for the New Review. In fact, the whole connection with the Council was a bit of a burden, because of the way they doled it out. You were always having to go and see them to ask for some public money to pay for the last issue, so that you could do the next one. The grant for issue three had to go on issue two. But the money problem was extreme; it was the Review times ten. I was the manager of this magazine and I discovered I didn't know how to run a business. I thought I did. Looking back, that side of it was a complete shambles'. (Ian Hamilton in Conversation with Dan Jacobson)


All quotes are excerpted from Ian Hamilton in Conversation with Dan Jacobson. London: Between the Lines, 2002.

Last update: 9 June 2012
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