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ALAN CASH - web pages
C. B. Purdom
Author: C. B. Purdom (editor 1929-1932)
First published: 1929 by J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.
Format: Magazine 12½" by 10"
with 32 pages
|(click image to enlarge)|
Everyman was created by publisher J. M. Dent in October 1912 under the editorship of Charles Sarolea. Publication was stopped sometime during the War. The magazine was relaunched in 1929 by Hugh Dent. The first of the new issue (featured here) came out on 31st January under C. B. Purdom, who was appointed manager and editor by Dent. Purdom had resigned as Finance Director of Welwyn Garden City Ltd in 1928.
The relaunched magazine did not make money. After 3½ years, in July 1932, ownership was transferred from Hugh Dent to Sir Robert Donald. Purdom continued as editor but resigned later that year after a disagreement with Sir Robert over political content. Donald died in January 1933 and the paper was acquired by Angus Watson, who installed Francis Yeats-Brown as editor. In August 1933 Dent reacquired the rights, but the publication was discontinued, and it was incorporated into Dent's existing quarterly magazine Bookmark which ran until 1938.
I have reproduced at the bottom a section of Purdom's 1951 autobiography Life Over Again in which he talks at length about his time as editor of Everyman (scroll down for this).
Extract from C. B. Purdom's 1951 autobiography Life Over Again from chapter 4, 'Journalism and Authorship'.
When I left Welwyn* in 1928, Hugh Dent, head of the publishing firm, whom I had known for many years, asked me if I would be interested in managing the weekly literary paper, Everyman, which he intended to republish. The paper had originally appeared in October 1912, with Dr. Charles Sarolea as editor, and was an immediate and indeed remarkable success. I had been a contributor from an early number. Unfortunately Sarolea, who edited the paper from Edinburgh, quarrelled with J. M. Dent, and in September 1914 took it over, but he was defeated by the war, and it expired. Hugh Dent, who wanted to restart it, was hesitating because nobody on the staff of his publishing house had the necessary time to look after it, so he thought of me. I was then considering an invitation to be managing director of an important industrial firm, but Dent's proposal interested me much more, and although financially it was less favourable than the industrial appointment, I accepted it. I became editor as well as manager of Everyman at a salary of £1,000 a year.
I knew nothing about national newspapers, neither did Dent. He thought a paper bearing the name of his great Everyman's Library was certain to catch on. Everything was left to me, and I got to work at once, spending three months in preparatory work, so that the first number appeared on 31st January 1929. Though the trade had asked for something like 100,000 copies, orders quickly fell off, and the net sales were not much over 19,000 a week. Though not a bad first result, to Dent and me it spelled failure, for we knew no better, and had expected twice as good a reception. In a few weeks the £6,000 he had set aside had gone, and Dent had to decide what to do. He made up his mind to go on; for he loved the paper, and did not wish to admit defeat. He believed that success could be attained. I, too, never accepting failure in anything until it overwhelms me, was ready to do my utmost, for I believed we deserved to succeed.
Yes, we deserved success; but we had to buy experience. We should have taken a year for preparation, and much more preliminary work was required on the selling side, for it was on sales that we failed. At that date the popular press, apart from the political organs, was represented by Tit-Bits and similar weeklies, and the literary press by John o' London. We did not compete with them, but aimed at a rather more serious-minded public, interested in literature and the arts and in the ideas of the day. At the popular price of twopence Everyman was on the level of the sixpenny weeklies without solemnity. In those days a circulation of rather more than 20,000 could keep a sixpenny going. Everyman needed at least 40,000. We were a long way from it, but for nearly four years we set out to reach the figure.
I had everything to learn. In the field of national weekly journalism there is vast experience, of which I knew nothing. Nowhere, however, did I find help. There were those who offered it, but I found they were usually after the paper for themselves. I discussed circulation with some of the most successful newspaper managers, and discovered that mostly they thought a different sort of paper would succeed. The one really helpful manager said that if he could diagnose what was wrong with Everyman he would be on the way to a fortune, for Fleet Street was full of unsuccessful papers, with which experienced publishers did not know what to do. The only way, he said, is to try one thing after another; you must mix the salad differently until you get it right; if you do that and can hold on, you will succeed. It was valuable advice.
Although, as I say, I knew nothing of national journalism, when I took to Speaight's, the printers, the first number for press, the composing-room manager made Tch, Tch noises that caused me sharply to look at him. What's the matter ? I asked. Well, he replied, if we had the make-up of our papers handed to us in this way I can't tell you what we should save, or our customers either. I was surprised, for I was prepared to hear him tell me where I had gone wrong.
The real test of editorship is in make-up. Though the great papers have make-up men, no editor fulfils his task unless he supervises the make-up of every page as well as his paper as a whole. Bad editorship can always be detected, for make-up gives it away. I paid attention to every page in every number. My assistants were allowed the utmost freedom, but I related everything to the whole. It was not merely a matter of the make-up of a page, but of the balance of pages at an opening, and of each issue as a unit. Neither was it simply a matter of appearance, but of contents.
Typography and style received the minutest attention. I consulted R. P. Gossop, and his advice could not have been bettered. The feature of modern make-up is that the bottom of a page is not the place for oddments, but is given as much attention as the top. We never used small items to fill up, but the page had to be made to balance, and articles were never run over to back pages. The formula was to maintain the essential structure yet to keep everything fresh and flexible. We used Goudy bold for headings. Dent wanted the band of his friend, W. H. Caffyn, who had done the original title-pages and decoration for Everyman's Library, to be in the paper, so that he was commissioned to design title, ornamental rules, and emblems. These were used for the first six months, but afterwards were discontinued as they gave heaviness to the page, but the idea was good. In a short time I evolved a definition of style for the guidance of printers and staff, which I reproduce on pages 140 and 141.
Asterisks for dividing paragraphs, three in number, centred.
Points not used to conclude titles, cross-heads, shoulder heads, sub-headings, captions, or signatures at end of articles or letters.
Rules not to be used to separate articles, etc.
Captions for Short Story not to exceed one column in width.
Pseudonyms in text have quotes; not italics. Pseudonyms, when used as signatures to articles, not to have quotes or italics.
Answers to Correspondents to run straight on from initials or inquirers, whether address is given or not, e.g.:
H. L. (Birmingham). - You should not go.
Money as £10. 10. 0.
The completed make-up for each forthcoming issue was settled on Monday morning, when the advertisement manager was required to submit his space bookings. At first the paper was completed for press and sent to bed on Friday, printed on Monday, and published on Thursday. This was Dent's arrangement made to suit the printers, but I chafed against it, and at last got press day moved to Monday, which was still too far from publication day. Speaights were admirable printers, and I had much respect for them, as I have for all printers as craftsmen.
Everyman's first number had among its contributors Eden Phillpotts, Siegfried Sassoon, A. E. Coppard, Charles Morgan, and Eric Blom. I was delighted with Charles Morgan's articles, which continued weekly for six months, under the pseudonym Gabriel Hythioday; they consisted of Letters to Utopia, from the England of to-day, intended to exhibit an uncommon view of an un-Utopian world. I had asked Bernard Shaw for a contribution, but he said we could not pay the four hundred guineas he would want, but one day he would do something (he never did). He agreed to sit for a portrait by Edmund J. Sullivan, which appeared on the cover, and allowed Sullivan to draw him while he was working.
Drawings of authors were a feature of the front page of each issue. Powys Evans did six, and though they were not liked at the time, he was a superb draughtsman when the subject interested him. In addition to Sullivan's four portraits Joseph Simpson, Caffyn, and others contributed in the first six months. Looking at these pictures to-day they are a fine collection. Other artists who did special illustrations were Douglas Percy Bliss, John Farleigh, Charles Ginner, John Hargrave, C. Walter Hodges, and F. G. Lodge, for we had two original drawings in each issue.
We published sixty-five original poems in the first twenty-six numbers, and to look out for new poets was one of our special aims. Difficult as we found our task we never lowered our standard, but raised it, seeking for writing inspired by imagination. The most conscientious attention was given to reviewing, which was amazingly difficult to get well done. Though we set out to notice every book sent in, apart from mere rubbish, it became next to impossible, for the number of books published was so great, but I did not give up the aim, and we covered everything of value, which meant many brief reviews. To get a short review competently done I found to require a specialized technique, which I had to master myself. Until I found by experience what reviewers were capable of, I wasted much time discovering that I was often unable to use what they wrote, and had to substitute something else. Often they did not read the book, and thought it sufficient to pick up a sentence or two from the jacket. If they were able to write at length they all too frequently gave their own opinions of the author, his subject, or something else, and the book got short shrift. I should say there is nothing lower in competence or mere honesty than the art of reviewing: I suspected that at least some reviewers were more interested in what the books would fetch at the dealers' than in anything else. The outcome was that apart from the work of a few who could be trusted, reviews were written in the office. It was a serious burden. As our reviewers were instructed to say what they thought we sometimes got into trouble, as for instance over an exposure of an American autobiography, Child of the Deep, which we were the first paper in this country to announce to be a hoax; what we said was not based on the earlier American attacks, of which we then knew nothing, but was entirely the result of reading the text.
At the start I devoted myself to book reviewing, drama, and editorial notes, and through the latter established personal relations with readers. The response to the paper was remarkable, and we were flooded with letters thanking us for the paper's personal tone. They came mostly from young people, which indicated that we ought to cultivate circulation among those just leaving school, students at universities, teachers, young professional men, and others, which we did. It was hard to get at them, but we succeeded gradually. Letters of appreciation continued to pour in.
So did contributions, for we received hundreds of manuscripts weekly. We tried to give them attention, even to write letters of advice and encouragement, and for a time I had two people doing nothing else, but the effort had to be reduced, though never entirely given up. Few of these contributions were of value, but here and there something useful was discovered. Space was always allowed for anything unexpected, which did not always turn up.
An editor's main task is to discover, even to invent, contributors. The great majority of writers who contributed to Everyman were those I went after, for my search was unceasing. There were others who, themselves or by their agents, did not leave me alone, and I had many proposals, most of which were turned down, including offers from those who have since become famous, which suggests that I made mistakes. If I were to attempt to comment on the contributors to the paper I should fill this book, for we had everybody whose work we thought of unusual merit, who was willing to write, and did not dictate too large a fee, such as Hilaire Belloc, who demanded 2s. 6d. a word, and Arnold Bennett, who asked the same, both of whom we did without. However, among regular contributors were Dr. Harry Roberts (Neil Lyons's sixpenny doctor), who did a weekly health article, Hugh Walpole, who was a source of constant encouragement, Naomi Royde Smith, who restarted her Westminster Gazette literary competitions, E. F. Bozman, who contributed an admirable light feature, John Grierson, the best film critic of the day, Liam O'Flaherty, Hugh de Selincourt, H. E. Bates, Richard Aldington, Herbert E. Palmer, Wyndham Lewis, and, among dozens more, S. G. Hobson, guild socialist, whom I was glad to reintroduce to journalism. We did not accept anything a commissioned writer chose to send in, even when he was well known. On one occasion an article in a series by a famous economist had to be cut in proof to fit the page, and my assistant groaning said it did not seem to matter where it was cut. So I took over the job, read it from the beginning, and, cutting out unnecessary sentences, found at the end that I had less than half a column instead of the three required. I asked the writer to call and see me. I showed him the result. His answer was that he had been asked for something explanatory and not too difficult. But the series came to an end. When Raymond Gram Swing was in charge of the Philadelphia Public Ledger's office in London he regularly contributed poems, but nothing else, for his contract would not allow it.
A most difficult task was to find a writer to comment on political and social affairs; the article opened the paper under the heading, History in the Making. Having started with C. Delisle Burns, when he had to go to Canada S. K. Ratcliffe rook it over, but he thought history to be too serious, and altered the page while he did it to Everyman at Large. In the course of time we had R. C. K. Ensor, Clifford Sharp, and others, but excellent as some of this work was I was never pleased. I thought myself unable to tackle it; but at last, spurred by the need for economy as much as for what would do the paper justice, I made the attempt, and found it could be done; moreover, I liked it, and discovered a flair for such writing. In it I had the help of Hugh Quigley, who provided matter for many pungent notes; the paper was given a tang, which was liked, shown in a steadily increasing circulation.
I was always in search of a cartoonist, but not until Thomas Derrick was introduced to me by R. P. Gossop did I find one. Derrick was a draughtsman of unrivalled skill, and had good humorous ideas; unfortunately he seemed too limited by his distributist theories, with the result that he could not produce a new idea each week. He had to come to me for inspiration, but, though I had plenty of ideas, a cartoonist not self-moved cannot do himself justice. This is what happened to Derrick. He did a large number of cartoons, many of the utmost brilliance, but some with the uncertainty of point that cartooning should never have. His work in Everyman attracted the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, and he was asked to visit the editor of the Sunday Express, who offered him a contract. But, said Derrick, I am drawing for Everyman. That doesn't matter, said John Gordon, we have no objection to your going on with that, But, went on Derrick, I don't think I like your paper. That is all right, said Gordon, we don't like it ourselves, all we want is that you should contribute a cartoon; the subject left entirely to you, only, of course, be respectful to the British Empire, the old man's pet. Well, said Derrick, no doubt to Gordon's surprise, I must think about it. So he came to me to tell the story, very perplexed, and I advised him to sign. Yes, that 's what Gordon kept saying to me, he remarked, Sign the contract, it's here. Do so, I said; but you'll have to have two ideas a week. That's the trouble, sighed Derrick. He signed, but the job did not last, for, alas, the ideas would not come.
When Will Dyson returned from Australia in 1931 I got him to give me seven etchings to reproduce as a Christmas supplement. This was a magnificent contribution, and Dyson afterwards did a weekly cartoon until the Daily Herald took him away; but his work there was not up to his own highest standard; in fact his heart was not in newspaper cartoons, but in more serious work, as his etchings disclosed.
The Christmas number to which I referred was a sumptuous production for sixpence. It had a cover in seven colours by young C. Walter Hodges, a self-portrait by Dyson, drawings by Eric Fraser and others, and the contributors included J. C. Squire (as he then was), Wyndham Lewis, H. E. Bates, A. Neil Lyons, William Gerhardi, Lion Feuchtwanger, Hugh de Selincourt, John Drinkwater, John Grierson, V. Sackville-West, and Frank Rutter. The leading feature was Squire's parodies. As he had made his name as a parodist in his youth I asked him if he felt disposed to give attention to the work of the leading literary figures of the day. He agreed and we arranged dates. This was six months in advance; a few weeks before the time of delivery I found no progress had been made. However the printing of the cover was put in hand, announcing J. C. Squire's Charade, introducing Walter de la Mare, Edgar Wallace, John Galsworthy, Aldous Huxley, G. K. Chesterton, and J. B. Priestley, but still nothing came. Then he disappeared from London, and no one knew whither he had gone. Press day grew nearer and nearer, with not a word from Squire, and Eric Fraser, who was to do the drawings, stood by hopeless; so I split up the victims among the staff, with the intention of doing them ourselves; then Squire was located by Louise Morgan, and his contribution was extracted at the last second. In it he introduced in addition to those mentioned Bernard Shaw, John Masefield, Hilaire Belloc, Max Beerbohm, and Philip Guedalla, but left out Priestley. It took the form of a conversation, devised, he wrote at the end: to get me out of an awkward situation.
In every respect it was a tour de force by a man of outstanding gifts, one of the great men of letters of his day. I thought it an honour to have it, despite the anxiety he gave us.
That, however, is not the whole story of this supplement. William Gerhardi had contracted to provide a Christmas article, and his name was on the cover already printed when he telephoned to say that he had influenza, and could not do it. I sent a message via his secretary that we must have the article, and if he could not produce it we would write it ourselves under his name. He said he did not care, so F. L. Stevens, one of my associate editors, wrote the article, which Gerhardi approved. A fortnight after publication he sent in an account for his fee !
I had some able people on my staff, among them F. L. Stevens, just mentioned, who had a turn for comic writing; the too-versatile H. L. Morrow; W. Palmer, who had a graceful style, and wide knowledge, which enabled him to contribute an unusual cookery feature; Louise Morgan, who made a name out of interviews in a series, How Authors Write; and George Wright. My outstanding associate was Max Plowman, who joined the paper at the start, and at no time have I worked with any one I liked more. He devoted himself mainly to the flood of contributors and wrote many helpful letters to them, but he was over-conscientious, and the work got him down. He did one or two editorials, as I admired his work more than my own, but on the whole his influence was negative, and, constantly urging me to do what I knew to be mistaken, he puzzled me. When I asked D. H. Lawrence for an article, which he produced in a few weeks, Plowman said it could not be printed without being cut in a family newspaper - these were his queer words. After a painful argument, for he was obdurate, we compromised on a few small cuts. The article, The Risen Lord, appears in the volume Assorted Articles (1930), and is characteristic of Lawrence at his best. I was so delighted that I sent him £20, the largest sum paid for any contribution to the paper. This attitude of mind in Plowman distressed me, but he suffered from resentment against the world, because of the loss of his son from diphtheria, the result, he considered, of medical neglect. He wrote an article on doctors into which he poured some of his feeling. Of the doctor he said:
But he was so hurt, that, while loving others and essentially of a gentle nature, he had to hurt something, and so (I thought) he hurt the paper. He all but broke down, and had to leave.
For nearly four years I had a journalistic task in Everyman the memory of which is one of my greatest pleasures. There were worries all the time, for from week to week I did not know whether Dent would say stop, for he was losing money steadily through the too-slowly-rising circulation. Indeed on one occasion he made me give notice to the printer; but we went on.
There were people in the background who wanted the paper. For a time Dent listened to Angus Watson, who was anxious to get it, but, though he praised me to the skies, Dent said No, to my great satisfaction. Then Sir Robert Donald appeared, and his appeals made progress with Dent, who said that he had to find so much fresh capital for book publishing that he was bound to consider Donald's proposal. Donald praised the paper and my editorship without reserve, also the economical way in which it was managed. But you want £20,000 to develop it, he said to me. This money he said he could find, and Dent let him have the paper.
This broke an association that was the pleasantest of my life, for Hugh Dent was the most generous and loyal employer any man ever had, and a friend who gave me the utmost understanding. He never interfered in the conduct of the paper, and, though he was free in his criticisms, he left me to do as I pleased. It was impossible to imagine better conditions under which to work, though, as I say, I was never sure of the financial situation. He had allocated far too little capital for an enterprise that, do what one would, swallowed money. Had he started with £50,000, which was the amount required, or had we handled its publication in an entirely different way, which is what I now think should have been attempted, the result might have been different. With adequate capital a much more assured approach could have been made to the paper's problems, but the real trouble was that I came into it at too late a stage. Had I been in the talks at the start, or had the paper been my own idea, it would have had another history. The paper was not a mere literary organ, for its aim, declared in the first number and maintained throughout my editorship, was to view literature and the arts in constant touch with life. Thus there was nothing quite like it among the periodicals of the day. Though I was whole-hearted in the enterprise, and gave myself to it without reserve, I was not easy, for when it began I did not know why I was doing it. I said so to W. G. Taylor, who has listened to many of my problems; his answer was, It is for your own self-expression. For once he was wrong. I needed a cause, for I was not satisfied with mere self-expression, which I regarded as irrelevant. What I had to express was not myself, but something else, and that something I had not discovered in my self-announced aims. But it came to me in the end, and the paper became my cause: I am sure that brought about the rising circulation. But it was too late. Dent had made up his mind, and his colleagues in the publishing house were only too glad that he had done so.
Everyman was thereupon transferred to Sir Robert Donald. He was well known in the newspaper world. Very amiable, and until he got possession all sweetness, on the day he took over his tone changed. I had tea with him at the Reform Club that day, and to my astonishment he opened by saying that the cost of the paper must be drastically reduced. Hitherto, he had declared, more than once, he did not know how I was able to produce the paper so cheaply and so well; had he, his soft voice had gone on, such an editor for his other papers he would be well off. Now his tone altered. All contributors must be given notice, he could introduce more popular ones at lower fees; what did I pay for poetry of which I published quite a lot? Any thing up to two guineas, I said. Oh, from now on, he declared, in the voice that grated harshly in my ears, pay nothing, for poets are only too glad to get published. He would not listen to my protests; but I told him there were a lot of poems in hand, for which I would have to pay. We must get down to putting the paper on a proper basis, were his final words.
I was highly displeased; but after that declaration of policy he left me alone, except for a few articles he landed upon me and some political notes, many of which I did not publish, writing to him that I thought there was something wrong with them, for they were strongly pro-MacDonald and anti-every one else. He found no fault with me, even for this; but introduced a man, who, like a representative of the police, sat in the office, and who, he said, was to pass all pages. This the man did, without interfering with me, however, except that he watched.
It became clear that Donald intended to run the paper in the personal interests of Ramsay MacDonald, the Prime Minister, head of the National Government, though he publicly and privately denied it. Everyman will remain largely a literary journal, he blandly said, it will not be political. But the political bias was unmistakable. He went away for a holiday, and insisted on his return that I should go too, for I had not had a holiday since the paper started. When I returned, he said, I have decided to take charge of the first four pages (which dealt with politics in general); you can have the rest of the paper, and do what you please with it. To this I would not agree. But he would not budge, and I told him I would resign. He got agitated and suggested that I should go away and think the matter over. I have nothing to think about, I said, I do not agree with your policy or your methods. He was angry, for I was then of use to him, being known as a non-party editor and not specially friendly to MacDonald.
Donald had always been a close personal friend of the Prime Minister. When he was editor of the Daily Chronicle, before the first war, MacDonald was one of his chief leader writers. It was suggested to me that there was some connection between his move and Everyman's rather well-informed criticism of the National Government. Donald was said to have affiliations with the Daily Mail Trust, particularly with Lord Rothermere, whose representative on the Anglo-Foreign Newspapers he had been, and when in 1931 the Rothermere interests withdrew from that group he had resigned. He had written a book on Hungary, presumably for a fairly considerable fee, in support of Rothermere's policy. Before and immediately after the first war he worked closely with Lloyd George. His knighthood was a Lloyd George contribution, but he was at this date not thought to have any connection with Lloyd George.
His position in the journalistic world was not particularly high, so I learned, and certain writers viewed him with suspicion. He had been accused of acting as a propagandist for the German Government in its negotiations with Poland and also with this country.
It seemed to me that he had very little money, for he started paying himself a salary of £500 a year as soon as he got the paper, and it was obvious that he was acting for a third party. If this were so, it followed that he intended to change the character of Everyman and to destroy its independence, and if that were so, I thought, Dent had probably been content with too little, had he agreed to the sale at all, which I doubt. I was deeply distressed at the outcome, and felt that Dent had made a miscalculation. Had he been content to wait a little longer success would have come, for the circulation was rising 29,000 without any expenditure to support it. However, this was the end.
Donald did not get the money he expected, and carried on the paper as I had left it, though its life oozed away and its personality wilted. Then suddenly, in January 1933, he died. He had not completed the purchase, but one of the mysterious friends found the money, and the paper was sold to the waiting Angus Watson, who established it in the Spectator office, and gave it to Francis Yeats-Brown to edit, who brought it out as the first Fascist organ ever to appear in this country. Its circulation fell to nothing. Why this Fascist episode should have happened is a mystery, for the nonconformist Angus Watson (afterwards Sir) was not Fascist; but Yeats-Brown lasted only seven weeks, after which Watson hastily disposed of the paper to a Dutchman, who carried it on until August when it died. I reckon that three times as much as Dent spent on the paper from January 1929 to July 1932 was lost between July 1932 and August 1933.
The day Donald died S. G. Hobson called on me to ask if anything could be done about Everyman. Donald had obviously not raised the money he needed, and the paper might be expected to come back into Dent's hands. He, Hobson, knew some people who might be interested, so he introduced me to Miss Winifred Gordon Fraser of the New Europe Group. I had known of this body without paying attention to it, and discovered that its ideas were in harmony with those I had been putting forward in Everyman. Yes, they had all been great admirers of Everyman, she said. Also they wanted a paper. They had the money, and thought the time was right to start.
I was excited at this news, and immediately saw Hugh Dent. He, too, was pleased, saying nothing would give him greater pleasure than for me to find somebody to finance the paper. He thought it likely the paper would return to him, and he would help in every possible way. So I arranged an interview with him, Miss Fraser, and her friends. To my amazement there attended at this interview more than twenty people, who sat in Hugh Dent's room with nothing to say. Literally they had nothing to say, though I cannot suppose that Miss Fraser said nothing, but I do not remember a word. The only utterance I recall was a remark from someone that they had no money. Dent was astounded, and broke up the conference, bidding them all farewell, afterwards saying, Purdom, have nothing to do with them. I was disconcerted.
Anyhow, Donald's friends settled with Dent.