Published as a hardcover magazine from September 1958 through July 1977, Horizon articles discussed the past, present and future of the fine arts, architecture, music, liberal arts, and culture– including contemporary American culture. It was first published bi-monthly, and later changed to four issues per yearly volume. In 1977 it switched to soft-cover which because of low quality paper and print, was negatively received by readers. Under new publishers, the soft-cover lasted 11 years.
I picked up a box full at a Friends of Library sale years ago. It was either free or $10, can’t remember. Along the way I’ve added to the collection and now have 47 ranging from Volume I, Number 3 (January, 1959) through the final volume. So more than enough to keep us out of trouble for quite some time!
My plan is to look at one issue per week, and post the cover art and table of contents. In completely arbitrary fashion, I’ll choose one article and to chat about. Take a look at the list of contributors. It’s not going to be easy! Plimpton interviewing Hemingway is interesting. But who can resist P.G. Wodehouse?
The Wodehouse world is well portrayed by Brockbank in this Punch cartoon of 1951. Here we see a noble, gouty lord and his coroneted lady entertaining the vicar at tea with the usual supporting cast: butler, maid, bagpiper, guardsman, chimney sweep, and a hunt in full cry. The young master in Eton garb rolls his hoop in the path of his grouse-shooting sister. War has intruded only slightly, in a Battle of Britain box score on one pillar and a remembrance from Adolf Hitler at lower left, happily converted to a flower holder. This cartoon was presented by Punch as the Americans’ “Mistaken View of the British.” Certainly the American view of England between the wars owed a good deal to Mr. Wodehouse’s novels.Horizon, Vol. I Num. 3, page 57
In “MY WORLD and what happened to it,” by P.G. Wodehouse sets out to explain what happened to the “drones” or “knuts” of the past. He characterizes these young men as “genial and good-tempered friends of the world.” The knut was a “humble, kindly soul who knew he was a silly ass but hoped you didn’t mind.” He says, “you might disapprove of him for not being a world’s worker, but you could not help but be fond of him.” Unlike these days [writing in 1959] “when everybody hates everybody else… the Edwardian knut was never an angry young man.”
But what became of the knut?
Wodehouse posits two causes for his decline. First, “hard times hit younger sons.” And this is where the article becomes classic Wodehouse. The Earl begats an heir. “So far so good!” But then along comes a second son, Algy. Because the Earl reasons that he can’t let Algy starve, he “forked out” an allowance. “And so there came into being a group of ornamental young men who the ravens fed…. Then the economic factor reared its ugly head [and] the Earl found himself doing some constructive thinking.”
“Dash it all,” he said to his Countess as they sat one night trying to balance the budget. “Why can’t I?”
“Why can’t you what?” said she.
“Let Algy starve.”
“You mean our son, the Hon. Algernon Blair Trefusis ffinch-ffinch?”
“That’s right. He’s getting into my ribs to the tune of a cool thousand quid a year because I felt I couldn’t let him starve. The point I’m making is, why not let the young blighter starve?”
“It’s a thought,” the Countess agreed. “Yes, a very good scheme. We all eat too much these days, anyway.”
And so it came to pass that the Algys of the world had to get jobs.
The second cause follows from the first. After some charming exposition on what “spats” or “spatterdashes” were–“made of white cloth and buttoned around the ankles partly to prevent the socks from getting dashes with spatter but principally because they lent a sort of gay diablerie to the wearer’s appearance”–Wodehouse reasons that “if you cut off a fellow’s allowance, he cannot afford spats, and without spats he is a spent force.”
There’s more about the country houses into which “my little world overflowed” but you get the idea of what happened to Wodehouse’s World. He see signs of hope for its return, though. “To take but one instance, the butler is creeping back.”