Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sir George Newnes, Bart.(1851-1910) Pt. II

The Captain

By E. M. Sanchez Saavedra

In 1899, George Newnes made his first foray into the upscale juvenile market with The Captain, a slick periodical aimed at public school boys. The magazine's mix of factual and fictional pieces emphasized the imperialist ideals articulated in Henry Newbolt’s (1862-1938) famous poem Vitae Lampada.

There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night

Ten to make and the match to win

A bumping pitch and a blinding light,

An hour to play, and the last man in.

And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat.

Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,

But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote:

"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

The sand of the desert is sodden red -

Red with the wreck of a square that broke;

The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,

And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.

The river of death has brimmed its banks,

And England's far, and Honour a name,

But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks -

"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

This is the word that year by year,

While in her place the school is set,

Every one of her sons must hear,

And none that hears it dare forget.

This they all with a joyful mind

Bear through life like a torch in flame,

And falling fling to the host behind -

"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

The roster of contributors to The Captain, edited by R. S. Warren Bell, was instantly familiar to readers of the venerable Boys Own Paper: George Manville Fenn, Dr. Gordon Stables, C.B. Fry, the Rev. A.N. Malan, Ascott R. Hope, Louis Wain and others, later to be joined by P. G. Wodehouse, Percy F. Westerman and Harold Avery.

Typical articles and stories included “The King’s Red Coat,” “The Pirate Chung-Li-Sen,” “The Contents of Your Cricket Bag,” “When I Was a Boy” (by various notables, such as G.A. Henty, the publisher George Newnes, etc.), “What I Think of Girls,” “How Not to Treat Your Sister” and “Fags and Fagging.” The term “Fag” was not then a homophobic slur, but referred to the public school custom of making younger students perform menial tasks for older pupils. Designed to teach humility and industry, this practice was often grossly abused and added to the miseries of boarding school life. At any rate, the magazine’s editor referred to himself as “The Old Fag.”

In keeping with its title, the magazine emphasized team sports and featured photographs of school captains and winning teams. The champion cricketers W.G. Grace and K.S. Ranjitsinhji (“Ranji”) and bodybuilder Eugene Sandow were prominently featured in the first volume, with words of advice for up and coming sportsmen. The Captain was published into the 1920s. The latest volume I have seen is XLVIII for 1923.

Read Part I HERE

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