Friday, 26 August 2016

Raymond Sheppard and Young Elizabethan magazine (Part One)


Young Elizabethan November 1954 Cover by John Verney
Robert Kirkpatrick, on Steve Holland's blog wrote
In January 1948 the publishers Collins launched Collins Magazine for Boys and Girls, a firmly respectable middle-class monthly (initially only available on subscription) which emphasised the value of reading, and which, for much of its run, attracted some of the best children’s writers of the time. In April 1950 its title changed to Collins Magazine, and in April 1953 its title changed again to Collins Young Elizabethan, in a nod to the accession of Queen Elizabeth II. In late 1954, with its circulation dropping, it was bought by John Grigg (the editor of The National Review and later Baron Altrincham [who owned Periodical Publishers]), who immediately installed Kaye Webb as editor. One of her first tasks was to recruit her husband Ronald Searle as an illustrator, and to commission a new series of Molesworth pieces from Geoffrey Willans. 
This chequered history is an indication of how children's magazine publishing was in the UK. In So Much To Tell: The biography of Kaye Webb, Valerie Grove tells how "The Young Elizabethan office consisted of two attic rooms at 2, Breams Buildings, off Chancery Lane, a Dickensian ambience. Writers came puffing up the winding staircase to deliver their copy". Pamela Whitlock had the task of editing the first issue from an idea (in 1944) by Noel Streatfeild (p.10 YE January 1958).

"Parents, Godparents, and fond relations trying to think of a really good children's magazine, order Young Elizabethan, 2s. each month, 26s. a year from all good newsagents and bookstalls or Dept. "A", 2, Breams Buildings, London E.C.4." ran the advert in the Times small ads, featured on the front page (Tuesday, Nov 16, 1954 p.1). It had members and held parties at which Webb would appear and mix well with middle class kids. One account of the parties tells how girls outnumbered boys three to one! The Times (1 January 1955 p.10) has a statement that "a party for the magazine's club members had been held at "Over-Seas House"" with a play performed by members, an appearance by the cast of Salad Days, and also Coco the Clown from Bertram Mills Circus. In attendance were among others Miss Noel Streatfeild, Miss Joyce Grenfell, Miss Pat Smythe, and Mr Ronald Searle.

If Noel Streatfeild recommended a book in the magazine, publishers were very keen to use that. Hamish Hamilton published The Noble Hawks by Ursula Moray Williams which appeared in a block advert with "A book of rare distinction" - Noel Streatfield. The Young Elizabethan Book of the Month."  Ian Serraillier's The Silver Sword was adapted by the BBC Schools Broadcast division when it became Book of the Month in the magazine

Kaye Webb, famously wife of Ronald Searle, became editor from 1955 to 1961. She was born in 1914 and married Ronald Searle on his return from being held captive in Changi Jail, Singapore. Their married life together during the 50s were mentioned in many papers and magazines, and despite having twins (1948) Searle walked out of the marriage in 1961. Searle, of course, was famous for his creation "St. Trinians", but his illustrations appeared a lot in the magazine and he illustrated Nigel Molesworth (a disreputable schoolboy) created by Geoffrey Willans in 1955.

April 1955 cover by - check the signature on the note!
Sir John Verney's obituary, in the Times (5 February 1993, p.17) mentions "he provided eagerly awaited cover pictures for the children's monthly YE which he also edited for a time in the late 1950s" - see the above image at the top of this article.

Besides illustrators such as Searle, and Verney, Edward Ardizzone did many internal illustrations for articles and stories.
Advert appearing December 1953
When Kaye Webb resigned John Grigg (according to Valerie Grove), wrote to her "You have turned this mag from an incipient wreck into a highly successful paper on the up and up, in the short space of three years - and despite having to deal with a thoroughly tiresome proprietor". She went on to manage a very fondly-remembered Puffin Post magazine. The magazine changed its title from volume 11, no. 5 (May 1958) to Elizabetan until it finished its run in volume 26, no. 6 (June 1973).

The magazine is described as being the
"last of the British high-quality children’s periodicals, [which] contained stories and features by leading children’s authors and illustrators of the day: the good reputation of the magazine continued even into the 1980s, outlasting the magazine itself which folded in 1973".  Humphrey Carpenter and Mari Prichard, The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) p. 585
July 1955 Cover by Verney

NEXT: Raymond Sheppard's illustrations in Young Elizabethan

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