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September 2019



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Children who loved reading: Collins Magazine

I’ve enjoyed looking at the magazines I bought yesterday at the book fair but I’m now more confused than I was before about the history of this literary magazine for children. I’d always thought that the magazine started as Collins Magazine for Boys & Girls (you will often see this advertised on the dustwrapper flap of older Collins books, including the Seagull library), then became The Young Elizabethan before changing its name again to simply Elizabethan, which was how I knew it when I was at school. But some of these issues from 1948 and 1949 have prices in cents on the front and, mysteriously, two quite different issues are both marked ‘Number One’. Reading the editorials, I find that the first Collins Magazine was published in Canada. UK children could subscribe but it wasn’t easy so a new magazine was launched, called simply Collins. That makes five different titles for one magazine. I now go on at length so here’s the cut

Each issue contained a long serial, usually pre-book publication; short stories (Eve Garnett was a regular contributor); factual and ‘how to’ articles (‘The Test Pilot’, ‘’Preparing your cycle’); competitions; book reviews; readers’ letters, stories, poems and drawings. It’s interesting to speculate just who the readers were. Young people who liked reading, obviously, and pretty intelligent ones, whose families were not short of money.

The letters are interesting because Collins were not at all shy of printing highly critical comments demanding more variety, less about sport, more about sport, less of a particular writer. Here are some typical extracts:
‘I think you should make the puzzles harder. I can do them much too easily.’
‘Could you please put a bit more about electrical work and a little less about horses’
‘May I join X in protesting against your new comic-strip?’
Some readers seem to have lived a life straight out of a children’s adventure story from the 1940s: ‘I am a doctor’s daughter, and we – mummy, daddy, Pat (my brother), me, and Jane (my sister) live in … Haverfordwest. …A little river runs at the back of our garden … We have two boats, a red and green canoe called “Mars” belonging to Pat and a Pram (a rowing boat with a flat bow) called “Minnie Ha Ha” belonging to the family.’
Another girl writes that she has 300 books, all catalogued, with a copy of Collins on the table for friends to read. She loans her books to friends for fourteen days only and fines them for late returns.

Advertisements were kept to the minimum, restricted to the back and front of the magazine. Even so, they were not popular with all readers: ‘Readers are always being rude about your advertisements so I would like to say that we like them. Oxo and Tootals are interesting to read. My father saw the Minicine advertised in the December number and got one for us.’ Would Daddy have bought them a gun? Harrods often took a full colour page but most of the advertisements are for bicycles, fountain pens, postage stamps, sweets and, of course books. Reflecting the educational aspect of the magazine, ICI had a regular full page with an account of the life of a famous scientist, such as Joseph Priestley.

For lovers of children’s literature the chief interest of the magazines is of course the (quite natural, given the publisher) obsession with books and reading. It’s rather a thrill to read about the first book by Elinor Lyn (sic), Hilary’s Island and the latest books by now collectable authors. The Midnight Horse by Monica Edwards, The Sign of the Alpine Rose by Malcolm Saville, Olivia Fitz Roy’s The House in the Hills and A Dream of Sadler’s Wells by Lorna Hill are just some of the books which feature. Noel Streatfeild was a great favourite and two of her titles, The Painted Garden and The Bell Family were serialized in the magazine before being published as books. Streatfeild contributed to the magazine into the ‘60s, when she edited the books pages. Interestingly, the magazine used specially commissioned illustrations for the magazine which are different from those in the books. For instance, Nibs by Grace James has pictures by Richard Kennedy instead of by Mary Gardiner and both Streatfeilds were illustrated by Marcia Lane Foster, who was a very regular contributor.

I didn’t realize that at one time the magazine was edited by Pamela Whitlock, co-author of The Far-Distant Oxus. After resigning from the post, she wrote wonderful articles about books, describing not just the latest publications but books she loved and thought the readers would enjoy, too. Another key figure on the production team was John Verney. At that time he had not even written his books about the Callendar family but produced the lively covers and many other illustrations. These magazines are very much part of the post-war world. A regular competition offered the winner ‘a food parcel from Canada every month for a year!’ Hard times and rather earnest ones but obviously full of innocent fun, too.


It sounds fascinating, I think I'm going to start looking out for some copies. I'm particularly intrigued by the Lorna Hill story, I don't think Collins published any of her books - weren't the Sadler's Wells books Evans?
weren't the Sadler's Wells books Evans?

Yes and Malcolm Saville was published by Newnes and Grace James by Muller. So it was far from being just an in-house publicity magazine. It was all rather idealistic, I think.
Gosh, the copyright must have been a nightmare! I'm intrigued by the whole thing. If I remember I'll ask Clarissa what she knows about it next time I see her, although it was probably a bit before her time.
Young Elizabethan ... wasn't molesworth serialised in that?
Yes, I believe so but before my time and after the time of these copies I've been reading.



Yes, it certainly was! 'Young Elizabethan' was the only light reading available in my school library and provided my first introduction to the joys of Molesworth.

Re: Molesworth

I believe before that he appeared in Punch.


Young Elizabethan and Lorna Hill ballet books

I also read The Young Elizabethan and now have managed to locate three copies. I also loved the Lorna Hill ballet books and have managed to complete my collection of hard back novels (by Evans) all except the final two, but these have been published by Girls Gone By Publishers. There is an excellent book called Journey to the Hidden Kingdoms by Jim Mackenzie, in which there is a lot of information about the places in which Lorna Hill set some of her stories in Northumberland.

Re: Young Elizabethan and Lorna Hill ballet books

Obviously kindred spirits! I am lucky enough to have all the Wells books in hardback but I've sold my copies of the Little Dancer series as I don't like those so much. I know about Jim's book but haven't read it.


Re: Young Elizabethan and Lorna Hill ballet books

I confess it's me, again, Margaret Powling, who left the Lorna Hill comments (and I had Young Elizabethan magazine in the 1950s ... my parents had a newsagent's shop; I was brought up on the smell of newsprint!) but I've not yet sussed how to leave my name. I suppose I have to log on or something. I like the look of your blog, but it looks complicated, signing up ... but I may have a go. If I leave comments I will leave my name in the comment from now on!

Re: Young Elizabethan and Lorna Hill ballet books

You can have a free account with LJ and you don't even have to post anything. Dove Grey has done this. You could then add me to your list of friends and you would automatically see all my posts. I've tried Googling 'Open a Livejournal account' but it just sends me to my own page, so I can't find the link for you.


Re: Young Elizabethan and Lorna Hill ballet books

I think I have a Google account but whenever I've tried to post comments on various blogs which are operated via Google, Google never accepts my password or user name. I've changed these, but to no avail, so anything with Google, well, I just don't want to know, it's too much like hard work (either that or I'm totally incompetent!)

Re: Young Elizabethan and Lorna Hill ballet books

Hello again, LiveJournal is not a Google site. I've had exactly the same problem as you with Google blogs. I set up the account, then found it wouldn't accept me, so I couldn't comment. Some Blogspot accounts have a 'use your LJ/Typepad name' feature, so those I can comment on. I've never had this trouble with Typepad, though I do get irritated by having to type out code letters every time. As you see, this is not a problem with LJ: visitors welcome as long as the blogger accepts their comments. Another LJ advantage is the ability to edit & even delete comments you've made. Can be a face saver!


Young Elizabethan

A fascinating post - I used to read Young Elizabethan in the late 50's, early 60s and formed a taste for literary magazines which I have to this day. I now read Grant and Slightly Foxed among others, which both have some of the qualities of YE - but for adults!

Tom www.acommonreader.org.uk

Re: Young Elizabethan

Thank you, Tom! Late fities/early sixties was my era for reading Elizabethan, too. In the past I subscribed to Granta and to the Poetry Society magazine but gave them up. So many people recommend Slightly Foxed that I might give it a go.


Re: Young Elizabethan

Hi My Dad used to buy these for me in South Africa. I adored the magazine.I won several competitions in 1961 and 1962 for poetry and stories I wrote.Any idea where I can source copies please ?

I can be contacted at acd@transman.co.za

Thank you !

Re: Young Elizabethan

Congrats on your prizes!

I've seen a lot of copies offered on ebay.
You might try a letter to a local newspaper asking if anyone has copies?

PS here’s an example I just found.

Edited at 2014-04-14 08:26 am (UTC)