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This report is taken from PN Review 169, Volume 32 Number 5, May - June 2006.

The Gingko in the Garden Neil Powell

It was John Lehmann who in 1954 awoke The London Magazine 'after its beauty-sleep of exactly a century and a quarter', as his editorial successor, Alan Ross, so gracefully put it. Lehmann was in a curious way the victim of his own success: had he not previously edited the forty numbers of Penguin New Writing - the most influential and widely-read English literary journal of the twentieth century - the achievements of his London Magazine would have been more conspicuous. His eighty-six issues introduced a number of gifted young writers (anyone seeking out early, uncollected Thom Gunn, to take one striking example, should start there) as well as establishing a recognisable LM style which Ross, despite his many changes, would gratefully inherit. But by 1961 Lehmann was tired of editing; and the restrained, classical design of his magazine, which now looks rather elegant, must have seemed tired too.

Almost all literary magazines of substance or longevity need a fairy godfather: sometimes these useful spirits are institutional - such as the Arts Council or, in the case of Encounter, the CIA - and sometimes they are corporate. Lehmann had for a while been backed by Cecil King's Daily Mirror, but Ross's London Magazine was possibly the only such publication ever to have been founded on chocolate. As Ross explained (or, more accurately, in his deft and tactful way left it ...


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