Another Idler

Most literary people when they think of past magazines called The Idler would cite Samuel Johnson’s famous miscellany and Jerome K Jerome’s humorous organ of the1890s. Today’s Idler is edited by the anti-corporatist and ukelele enthusiast Tom Hodgkinson, author of How to be Free. But there was another Idler, which is, as yet, unknown to Wikipedia, and indeed has a very, very low online profile.

This Idler, a tabloid format miscellany printed on newsprint, edited by Sci-Fi writer James Parkhill-Rathbone, and published by ‘Editorial Associates’, existed for a short time around 1966 and then folded. Published quarterly from the editor’s home, the Old Crown, Wheatley, a former coaching inn, it called itself an ‘entertainment’, which is about right, since most of the articles are middlebrow excursive essays on a variety of literary and art-related topics with decorations by classic illustrators such as Pennell, and Charles Brock and contemporary artists, including Edward Ardizonne. Much of the material reflects the tastes of its  middle-class and middlebrow editor, who after working in publishing and as an editorial assistant for Science Fantasy, settled down to a life as a writer of pretty conventional science fiction. What makes him a little unusual among the Sci-Fi community is the informed passion for art and architecture, which emerges from much of his work for the Idler.

It is no surprise, for instance, that the middle-of-the road travel writings of Cyril Upton, author of a slim volume entitled The Perfumed Pen (1937) and Musings in Provence and Beyond (1955) comprise much of the Idler content. Nor that the work of another Sci-Fi writer, the much younger and more talented Josephine Saxton, who enjoyed gardening and shared Parkhill-Rathbone’s love of old houses, also appeared. Interestingly, given that both made their names in science fiction, and indeed Saxton’s ‘ feminist’ Sci-Fi was later to earn her the label of being a ‘ true original’, no material of that kind can be detected in any of the issues of The Idler that we have examined.

The souped-up Robert Lynd and E.V.Lucas-style musings and a few reprinted extracts from classic authors and some living ones don’t make for exciting reading, but the Idler did publish extracts from novels by William Gerhardie and a few more academic pieces, notably some perceptive art criticism by the twenty-eight year old Marina Vaizey. Her lengthy, perceptive, exegesis of Ardizonne’s work stands out boldly from the Sunday supplement content of one issue, as does her description of a visit to the V & A. in another.  [RMH]

6 thoughts on “Another Idler

  1. Paul Fraser

    Interesting post. I was intrigued by your comment about the editor going on to write science fiction as I cannot find any books (other than two early efforts) listed. Do you have any more information on this?
    Paul Fraser

    1. R.M.Healey

      Sorry, but I struggled to discover anything about the so called Parkhill- Rathbone apart from what I included in my Jot. In fact, I was so underwhelmed by The Idler that I couldn’t even recall writing this particular Jot. It seems to me that The Idler will always go down as the magazine that carried the early work of Ms Vaizey.

  2. Jot 101 Post author

    Will pass this on to RMH and ask him what SF did Parkhill Rathbone write. He seems to have been more an editor and also writer on the subject. N (Jotmeister)

  3. Pingback: Science Fantasy #66, July-August 1964 | SF MAGAZINES

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