The earliest reference to television in literature

Sent in by loyal jotter RR. Interestingly we recently catalogued a literary magazine edited by Lawrence Durrell 'International Post' (1939) -- it had a TV critic and was full of promise but went to just one highly elusive issue. Our copy sold immediately at a substantial premium.

One strong contender ( I would welcome more examples from readers) must be this poem which appeared in Poems (1936) by Michael Roberts. We don’t have a date for this composition, but it was doubtless written when very short experimental broadcasts using the Baird process were being made late each evening from Alexander Palace during the period 1933- 36.My Christmas 1934 issue of The Radio Times lists these in the radio section. They consisted mainly of a series of dances performed by an elegant lady who was obliged to wear a special designed TV- friendly costume that emphasized stripes and zig-zags. There were also vocal recitals and other simple performances that would easily fit into the twenty minute slot.

When, in 1936, the largely unsuccessful and decidedly clunky, Baird method was replaced by the electronic EMI-Marconi process, a greater flexibility in programming was possible. The time allocated to television was greatly extended and in the three years in which it operated, television gave broadcasters like John Betjeman, John Piper and Geoffrey Grigson, opportunities to become well known to an albeit ( the broadcasts only  reached London and parts of the Home Counties) limited audience.

Alas, all this growing potential came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the Second World War. [RR]

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