Introducing Horizon: A Magazine of the Arts

Portrait of a Young Girl, Petrus Christus c. 1470

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.”

“Algy who?”

“Our Algy.”

“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.”

13 thoughts on “Introducing Horizon: A Magazine of the Arts”

  1. Thanks Marica! I am going to be poring over the contents of the wayback link and the few copies that are fully digitized on the Internet Archive. This is going to be fascinating reading and discussion. I can’t wait to see more and am looking forward to your next Horizon post on Gauguin and also the four classes of Americans. It sounds pretty fabulous!

    Regarding the Wodehouse in this issue, I can’t help but feel that it relates to a similar sentiment of what our own culture is going through at this very moment. The shifting sands, where traditions of the past fall out of fashion, and are condemned, and we are wistful for those civilized times of ages past.

    1. The like button has disappeared.

      You are right. One of the discussions at another blog today concerns just that. How one dresses in public and such. Even the youngest commenters would like to see a return to something beyond holey jeans and ragged t-shirts. It is somewhat comforting to know that these things cycle through.

      Glad you could get to the link. I haven’t checked in a couple of years but when I have, used Horizons were stupidly expensive on line. Local bookstore has dozens but again, priced out of range if I wanted to fill in gaps in my collection. But the thing is, they don’t sell any! One day I may see how many from their offerings I need and just say I’ll take them off their hands do a buck a piece! What’s to loose?

      That’s interesting. I’m on my phone and it wants my name and email! I’ll prob have to approve my own comment!

      1. I just found a bunch on Etsy and I purchased the same volume that you featured here for $13.89 (including sales tax but w/free shipping). I wonder what the original selling price was at the time of publication.

        Your post prompted discussion with my husband last night, who is a middle school art teacher. He has a subscription to Scholastic art magazine for his classroom and it is such a stark comparison. Horizon was likely geared toward an adult audience, but I bet children of the 50’s would have been capable of reading and comprehending it. Today’s public school students can barely read two paragraphs of the most basic drivel. They simply don’t have the attention span. We have so much rebuilding to do.

        1. Jane. I must warn you. Be careful if what you say that will flip my proud Grammy switch! Which you have just done!! Grandson is 6. He’s been read to since before he was born. He is reading Narnia by himself. And what’s more, he is now able to point out typos and small grammatical mistakes when he reads. He reads poetry. He is currently into chemistry. The librarians let him go behind the desk.

          Yes. He’s a smart kid. But all he’s really doing is living up to his potential because his family encourages it. Age appropriateness aside, there’s nothing anyone thinks he’s too young to understand.

          It saddens me that all children, from the moment they come into this world aren’t encouraged to achieve their potential. You know I read a lot of stuff on children’s book, education history. This used to be the prevailing attitude. Expose them to things, help develop interests, etc. I think that’s why homeschool, and the even cooler no school movements are rising. Parents see that schools and teachers (your husband excepted, mine too!) are squelching kids’ potential. They never knew how smart their kids were until they stopped going to school.

          /end Grammy stuff
          /end rant!

          1. Marica, I couldn’t agree with you more. Homeschooling is the answer and I do believe that these kids have unlimited potential, it is just not being unlocked. I blame the teacher’s unions and school counselors. They handcuff teachers and prohibit them from being able to teach to student’s potential and inspire them with engaging material. Everything is geared toward testing and data collection (and increasingly social and political indoctrination). Their data collected thus far should tell them that their policies are a complete failure. The counselors are glorified drug pushers. The instant they receive a report that a child is falling behind or having difficulty paying attention, they start pushing meds. Most of these kids are in an altered state. It is criminal what is happening in public schools.

            I do have great hope for the homeschooling movement. I listen to a literary podcast and they often talk of homeschooling and the incredibly inspiring and challenging work that kids are tackling (often self-motivated!). It sounds like your grandson is already way ahead of the rest, no doubt because he has some pretty great parents and grandparents. I hope more parents take control and start pulling their kids out of public school.

            1. When you turn around and look back, the whole concept of public school is stupid and while probably well intentioned (debatable) to begin with was bound to lose its way. One of the women poets from the Daily Reading last week was “homeschooled” by her father. Mid-1800s I think. It was said she knew more of English literature than anyone at the time. Not sure how I feel about boarding schools. But the idea that somehow mankind failed to thrive and survive until kids started going to school is ridiculous. Further cordoning them off into separate rooms by age/grade exaggerated the problem.

              On a brighter note. As I sure you know, we in Mississippi can’t read. Some years ago someone got serious about this problem and changed the way reading was taught in the state. They went back to teaching kids to sound words out. You’ll never guess what happened.

        2. In the Army there was a monthly maintenance publication (1980s) for vehicles, weapons etc. It was like a comic book with (remember Gallant and Goofus characters from Highlight magazine?) juvenile characters dealing with problems. It use to puzzle me, and annoy me, as to why the government provided such drivel for adults. Then I read somewhere that the military wrote publications to a 6th grade reading level. Sometimes I think excelling in reading, and probably other subjects, puts a person in an awkward position in society. Never quite fitting in and having to resort to Old Books on line to find people with similar interests.

            1. 👍 Can use thumbs up for now? Gotta agree with John. It’s nice to hang out with you and Jane et al. Thanks for your work here and at Gab Old Books.

            2. That was from my phone. Now I’m lost trying to use my kindle. Took me several minutes to get to “reply”. Lol. Now I’m fumbling around.on 2 devices at once. Another fine mess you’ve gotten me into, Marica. And everything is running low on power.

  2. Jane, regarding your comments elsewhere–the Wayback Machine has a digital TOC, including cover art and caption for same. https://web.archive.org/web/20120222101655/http://prestwidge.com/horizon/mtoc.htm#X2

    I clipped the pages many years ago. Screen shots of each issue’s TOC are what I am posting. Let me know if you want them all and can’t get them. I can turn the file into a pdf and send it to you.

    I think Horizon is fascinating–with so many concentric circles of fascination. There are the articles, commentary, and art themselves. These lead me to wonder, why is this topic featured in 19xx? Sometimes there’s a clue as to what the “sophisticated” are thinking about in accompanying articles. Then there’s the writing, which is very good. The humor of the time…. Then we can step back and do a spot of presentism. Look how silly this looks from 2022!

    Next week’s focus is on the South Seas, highlighting Gauguin. I’ll feature The Natural History of the Mermaid. But there’s a great 2-page photo spread, “Man and Class on the American Grid that I’ll post separately. It’s hilarious. Four classes of Americans: Masses, Pretensions to Class, Up from the Mass, and Genuine Class, each with depictions of stereotypic representations across several categories. For example, Novels go from Peyton Place to Some Game Running, To Huck Finn, and finally for the Genuines, The Old Man and the Sea. Chairs are a hoot. Barcalounger through Butterfly.

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