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The Emergence of the Press Baron as Literary Villain in English Letters 1900 – 1939

Lonsdale, S. (2013). The Emergence of the Press Baron as Literary Villain in English Letters 1900 – 1939. Literature and History, 22(2), pp. 20-35. doi: 10.7227/LH.22.2.2


The figure of the journalist has long been a familiar character in British literature. Dallas Liddle and Matthew Rubery chart the critical preoccupation of Victorian writers with journalists and the press, particularly after 1855 when the abolition of Stamp Duty caused a rapid increase in the volume of newspapers and periodicals in the literary marketplace. For a brief period in the early twentieth century, a positive image of the modern news reporter emerged portrayed by practising or former journalists on the new mass circulation dailies eager to promote their trade . Scholars have examined inter-war writers’ attitudes to the popular press in some detail, particularly those of modernists including T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. Scholars of the ‘middlebrow’ have now begun to analyse previously overlooked inter-war writers’ attitudes to the popular press. Often prolific contributors to newspapers these writers had a more intimate and direct relationship with the press than more economically independent ‘highbrow’ writers. The fictional portrayal of the ‘press baron’ in the early twentieth century has however escaped detailed study, despite his being such a potent, feared and hated figure . Keith Williams examines W. H .Auden and Christopher Isherwood’s portrayal of newspaper proprietor Lord Stagmantle in their collaborative play Ascent of F6 (1936), although more from the point of view of his threat to leftwing politics than to the artist and language . Matthew Kibble examines Ezra Pound’s portrayal of ‘the news owners,….s/the anonymous/…….ffe…[Northcliffe]’ in his Hell Canto XV, however a comprehensive survey of literary representations of the press baron figure from the early years of the popular daily press has not so far been undertaken.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Published by the Manchester University Press
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
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