*Times Literary Supplement
Times Literary Supplement
British periodical, 1902–
Originally a weekly section of the Times newspaper, the Times Literary Supplement has gradually become one of the most popular and respected critical voices in the English-reading world. Its prototype, a penny periodical called the Literary Times, appeared in 1863 and ran for 11 numbers from 14 March to 23 May. Later, in 1897, as the Times found it hard to review a satisfying number of books, a new and entirely separate journal, Literature, was created. It lasted only four and a half years, barely managing to take the pressure off the daily newspaper. Eventually, the first issue of the TLS appeared on 17 January 1902 and was presented as an occasional supplement when Parliament was sitting and political news took up most of the newspaper’s pages. It would “appear as often as may be necessary in order to keep abreast with the more important publications of the day.”
The first issue consisted of eight pages. Mostly devoted to literary reviews, it also contained pieces on science, art, drama, music, and chess, as well as separate listings of forthcoming and recently published books. Soon after the creation of the supplement, its first editor, Sir James Thursfield (1902.), was replaced by Bruce Richmond (1902–38), who during his long tenure gave the TLS many of its distinctive traits and helped it evolve from its initially uncertain state. Although Parliament adjourned for Whitsuntide on 16
May 1902, the supplement went on and, over the years, it grew steadily in size, becoming a separate publication on 12 March 1914. Richmond favored anonymity of reviewers, which was to remain one of the peculiar and most debated traits of the TLS, and he attracted authoritative contributors, often assigning them specific fields and topics. In its early days, the periodical owed much of its steady success and reputation to Richmond’s choice of reviewers, including Arthur Clutton-Brock, A.T.QuillerCouch, and Andrew Lang, and foremost literary figures such as Henry Rider Haggard, Henry James, Edith Wharton, George Gissing, and Austin Dobson. Publication was not interrupted by the outbreak of World War I in 1914. On the contrary, during wartime, the TLS grew in length and gave more prominence to some of its distinctive features: the presence of original poetry, the letters to the editor, and a more extensive book list at the back.
In the 1920s the TLS became established as an authoritative critical organ, also thanks to the new reviewers contacted by Richmond. Virginia Woolf had first been invited to write a piece in 1905 and became a regular contributor from 1908 onward. Between then and her death in 1941 she wrote more than 220 articles, many of which were reprinted in her later collections of essays such as Granite and Rainbow (1958). At about the same time, Richmond contacted T.S.Eliot, securing him as the reviewer for studies of Renaissance drama and 17thcentury poetry from 1919 to 1935. Many of Eliot’s famous essays originally appeared as lead-reviews in the TLS, such as “Ben Jonson” (13 November 1919), “Andrew Marvell” (31 March 1921), and “The Metaphysical Poets” (20 October 1921). Other famous contributors from this period include Herbert Read, Richard Aldington, George Trevelyan, Edmund Blunden, and John Middleton Murry.
In 1922, possibly considering the profits of the TLS too small, Lord Northcliffe, the owner of the Times, decided that the number for 13 April would be the last. However, the periodical continued to appear regularly, for this order had not reached all the departments concerned, while in August the same year Lord Northcliffe became ill and died. Nonetheless, publication was temporarily interrupted during the general strike of 1926, with another minor interruption occurring during the great freeze-up of Winter 1947. By the time Bruce Richmond retired in 1938, the TLS had reached its own specific identity. From its uncertain beginnings it had grown into a highly respected, weekly journal of criticism, devoted to the discussion of books of different subjects, although literature still prevailed, and also including shorter reviews, critical essays, a section of letters, and extensive book listings. Richmond was replaced by David L.Murray (1938– 45) who started a largely unsuccessful campaign of modernization in order to increase the readership. The front page was given up to an illustration and the long essay was moved to the middle. After some internal troubles, Murray left, his place being taken by Stanley Morison (1945–48), who threw out many of the new features and reinstated the long front-page essay. Morison’s editorship marked a new increase in circulation figures, a development partly the result of the paper-rationing policy adopted during World War II: whereas many daily newspapers abandoned their pages on book reviews because of paper shortage, the TLS remained the only medium providing an adequate coverage of books in this period.
In 1948 Morison was replaced by Alan Pryce-Jones (1948–59), whose task would be to guide the paper through the extended postwar period. In particular, he introduced new contributors such as Anthony Powell, who became fiction editor, and increased the presence of original poetry, while also starting the practice of special issues on a selected topic. His editorship was followed by those of Arthur Crook (1959–74) and John Gross (1974–81). On 7 June 1974 the practice of anonymous reviewing was abolished. Between December 1978 and November 1979 the TLS stopped publication during the one-year closure of Times Newspapers and, after the acquisition of the group by Rupert Murdoch’s News International plc in 1981, the paper’s archives became open to the public.
In recent times, during the editorships of Jeremy Treglown (1982–90) and Ferdinand Mount (1991–), publishing goals have varied little from those of Richmond’s days. The TLS continues to aim at a broad audience of well-informed, general readers whose numbers have swelled, especially in the United States. From its beginnings the TLS has covered books about art and architecture, literature both in English and in foreign languages, literary criticism and theory, music, history and anthropology, politics, women’s studies, economics, and reference books. Recent changes in editorial policy include more frequent coverage of politics and the arts and an increase in the number of long essays. At present the TLS reviews around 2000 books and the listings include some 6000 titles a year, thus remaining unique in its attempt to cover the whole publishing waterfront. Other important prerogatives include the fact that it is a weekly publication, whereas its most respectable competitors, the New York Review of Books and the London
Review of Books, appear slightly less than fortnightly and mainly concentrate on modern literature and political issues. Circulation figures of the TLS have always oscillated between 20,000 and 45,000, settling halfway between these extremes in the mid–1980s.
As a “journal of record,” the TLS has influenced other literary journals, most notably T.S.Eliot’s Criterion and, more recently, the New Review, Quarto, and the London Review of Books. Despite its authority, it has attracted criticism mainly aimed at its policy of anonymity and its failure to review important texts such as D.H.Lawrence’s The Rainbow in 1916 and James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922. Over the years, the TLS has also been accused of anti-Americanism, of upholding liberal-humanist tenets based on “civilized judgment” and “civilized man,” and of repressing freedoms of sexual behavior and expression. Nonetheless, the history of the TLS has been largely characterized by independence of opinion, and its pages have hosted a varied spectrum of critical and political voices. The success and authority enjoyed by the TLS result from its meeting comprehensively the demands of the critic, the scholar, and the general reader, and as such it holds a special place among reviewing periodicals in the English-speaking world.
Bateson, F.W., “Organs of Critical Opinion: IV. The Times Literary Supplement,” Essays in Criticism 7 (1957):349–62
Bradshaw, David, “Lonely Royalists: T.S.Eliot and Sir Robert Filmer,” Review of English Studies 46 (1995):375–79
Eliot, T.S., “Bruce Lyttelton Richmond,” Titnes Literary Supplement, 13 January 1961:17
Graham, Walter, English Literary Periodicals, New York: Nelson, 1930
Grigg, John, The History of the Times, vol. 6: The Thomson Years, 1966–1981, London: Times Books, 1994
Gross, John, “Naming Names,” Times Literary Supplement, 7 June 1974:610
Gross, John, “The TLS and the Modern Movement,” in The Modern Movement: A TLS Companion, edited by Gross, London: Harvill, and Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992: xi–xxiii
Kirkpatrick, B.J., “Virginia Woolf: Unrecorded Times Literary Supplement Reviews,” Modern Fiction Studies 38 (1992): 279–301
McDonald, Iverach, The History of the Times, vol. 5, London: Times Books, 1984
“The Times Literary Supplement: A Record of Its Beginnings,” Times Literary Supplement, 18 January 1952:33–39
Treglown, Jeremy, “Literary History and the Lit. Supp.,” Yearbook of English Studies 16 (1986):132–49
Wood, Adolf, “A Paper and Its Editors,” Times Literary Supplement, 17 January 1992:14–15
Yearbook of English Studies literary periodicals issue, edited by C. J.Rawson, 16 (1986)
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