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The Magnet (vol. 1, issue 1) - front cover

The Magnet was a weekly boys' story paper published by the Amalgamated Press. It ran from 1908 to 1940, publishing a total of 1683 issues. Each issue contained a long school story about the boys of Greyfriars School, a fictional public school located somewhere in Kent, and were written under the pen-name of Frank Richards. The vast majority of the stories were written by author Charles Hamilton, although substitute writers were sometimes used. The most famous Greyfriars character was Billy Bunter, of the Remove. Most issues of The Magnet also included a shorter serial story (a variety of detective, scouting, and adventure yarns were featured), and many issues also included a newspaper ostensibly produced by the characters themselves and called the Greyfriars Herald. These parts of the paper were not written by Charles Hamilton.

It was created by Amalgamated Press staff editor Percy Griffiths, building on the success of the earlier boys' paper, The Gem. The early years saw the creation of nearly all of the characters who would populate Greyfriars for the remainder of its history. The covers were printed on red paper until 1915, when they changed to blue and white, as red dye was unavailable due to the war. This era saw a profusion of stories written by authors other than Hamilton, one of whom was the editor John Nix Pentelow, the only substitute writer whose work was given preference over that of Hamilton. Wartime paper shortages reduced the length of each weekly issue.

Blue and Orange covers were introduced in 1922, and a growing proportion of stories were written by Hamilton, as he came to see The Magnet as the main focus of his attention. The idea of a series of several linked stories appearing in consecutive issues started to dominate and become the key ingredient of this period, allowing increased complexity of plotting and stimulating finer writing. Most of the best remembered stories appeared in this period, including the Courtfield Cracksman, Methuselah, Lancaster, and Brander rebellion series, as well as several ambitious travel series to far away places such as India, China, South Seas, Egypt and East Africa, which its readers would never see, and most of which Hamilton himself never saw either.

The covers changed to salmon pink in 1937, and long serials continued, albeit often recycling the plots of earlier years. A decline in circulation, coupled with paper shortages, meant that The Magnet could not survive the Second World War. The final issue was the opening story in a new series; at least four other issues are known to have been already completed, but these were never published, and are now presumed lost.

EditorsEdit

  • Percy Griffiths – 1908–1911. Nicknamed 'Pushful Percy' owing to his dynamic character. He left Amalgamated Press suddenly in 1911 and nothing is known of his subsequent history.
  • Herbert Allen Hinton – 1911–1916. A military man who left to take up a wartime commission.
  • John Nix Pentelow - 1916–1919. A cricket authority and writer who took over when many of the editorial staff were occupied with the war. He contributed many stories himself on the pretext of a shortage in supply from Charles Hamilton and other writers. His writing is remembered for one story when an established character, Courtney of the Sixth Form, was killed off.
  • Charles Maurice Down – 1919–1940. A former public schoolboy, who conceived the idea of the very popular Holiday Annual. Probably the editor with whom Charles Hamilton got along the best. The author in fact stated that many attributes of Mr Down could be discerned in the schoolboy character Arthur Augustus D'arcy, found in the other companion paper—the Gem story-paper. "Gussy" the character in question had a kind-heart, and was known for his sartorial elegance and many positive traits.

IllustratorsEdit

A large part of the appeal of The Magnet lay in the illustrations, which reinforced the olde worlde charm of the school (a picture being worth a thousand words), of which there would typically be five per issue as well as the cover.

  • Hutton Mitchell – 1908. Produced the original drawings of Billy Bunter. His characters tended to be more prominent with the background detail kept to a minimum. He had a clear-cut style.
  • Arthur H. Clarke – 1908–1911. The second Magnet artist. Some consider his depiction of the school masters a bit grim-looking and Victorian in appearance, and there was generally much of a sameness about his characters. However his work was well up to standard. Arthur Clarke died suddenly in 1911, though it is unlikely that he did so while actually illustrating a Greyfriars scene as has been claimed in some reference works.
  • C. H. Chapman – 1911–1940. First gave Bunter check trousers. In the beginning he was told to emulate the style of Arthur H. Clarke, but then came into his own during the early 1920s. Carried on illustrating Greyfriars stories after The Magnet closed.
  • Leonard Shields – 1926–1940. From his inception in the India series of 1926, and throughout the remainder of The Magnet (sharing some drawings with CH Chapman), illustrated some very fine drawings including very many covers.

ReferencesEdit

Online referenceEdit

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