For Love or Money: Popular 1920s Artists Stories in The Royal and The Strand

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


This chapter seeks to explore a critically-neglected field within both modern periodical studies and short fiction studies: the standard illustrated popular magazine. Despite their huge popularity and their emphasis on short fiction, magazines like The Royal, The London, Lloyd’s, Pearson’s and the Windsor remain understudied, especially in the interwar period. To date, modern periodical studies has been dominated by a focus on ‘little’ or modernist magazines, largely from the 1900s or 1910s (Blast, Rhythm, Little Review); in the interwar period, recent studies have focused on feminist or women’s magazines (Time and Tide, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping), leaving this huge field largely untapped. With their broad and mixed readership, large circulations, middlebrow fiction and lack of well-known contributors, ‘storytellers’ appear not to be deemed worthy of sustained critical attention.

This essay will make a passionate case for the study of standard illustrated popular magazines, arguing that these magazines help to provide a fuller perspective of the interwar publishing industry, showing us what most people actually read. Such magazines are, I argue, the perfect genre for exploring how advertising, audience expectations and each publication’s brand identity influenced the form and content of short fiction published within their pages. With so many titles operating in a similar market, each magazine needed to identify a precise audience and tailor the magazine’s design, fiction and non-fiction offerings to specifically appeal to them. By combining close readings of short fiction with explorations of what Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker have called a magazine’s ‘periodical codes’, it is possible to examine how individual pieces of short fiction operated within a magazine’s whole, contributing to (and sometimes undermining) a magazine’s ideology.

In order to so, I will explore a particular subgenre of short fiction popular during the early 1920s: the artist story. These stories, written by popular authors including Christine Castle, Robert Magill, Morley Roberts and Jean Fraser, all feature artists as their protagonists, but their fate differs widely. In ‘Brown of Boomoonoomana’ (The Strand), the artist is a hapless figure of fun, whereas the artist in ‘The Woman who Lost Her Wedding Ring’ (The London) is a romantic hero; in The Royal, a succession of artist stories argue that the artistic temperament is acceptable only if tempered by the influence of a practical and pragmatic woman. By reading these stories in their original context, I consider the extent to which these stories were shaped both by the magazine’s intended readership and the publication’s wider stance on art, as indicated by their use of advertisements, accompanying non-fiction pieces and the aesthetic styles employed.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Modern Short Story and Magazine Culture, 1880-1950
EditorsElke D'hoker, Chris Mourant
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2021


  • standard illustrated popular magazines, short fiction, artist stories, The Strand, The Royal, interwar, magazines