Tit-Bits

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Tit-Bits from all the interesting Books, Periodicals, and Newspapers of the World, more commonly known as Tit-Bits, was a British weekly magazine founded by an early father of popular journalism George Newnes on 22 October 1881.[1] It came as a direct response to the Elementary Education Act 1870 which made education compulsory for children and hence produced a new young generation able to read.[2] The magazine's headquarters moved from Manchester to London[3] where it paved the way for popular journalism — most significantly, the Daily Mail was founded by Alfred Harmsworth, a contributor to Tit-Bits, and the Daily Express was launched by Arthur Pearson, who worked at Tit-Bits for five years after winning a competition to get a job on the magazine.[4]

From the outset, the magazine was a mass-circulation commercial publication on cheap newsprint which soon reached sales of between 400,000 and 600,000. Like a mini-encyclopedia it presented a diverse range of tit-bits of information in an easy-to-read format, with the emphasis on human interest stories concentrating on drama and sensation.[5] It also featured short stories and full-length fiction, including works by authors such as Rider Haggard and Isaac Asimov, plus three very early stories by Christopher Priest.

The first humorous article by P. G. Wodehouse, "Men Who Missed Their Own Weddings", appeared in Tit-Bits in November 1900.[6] During the first world war Ivor Novello won a Titbits competition to write a song soldiers could sing at the front: he penned Keep the Home Fires Burning.[7]

Pin-ups appeared on the magazine's covers from 1939 and by 1955 circulation peaked at 1,150,000. On 18 July 1984,[7] under its last editor Paul Hopkins, Tit-Bits was selling only 170,000 copies and was taken over by Associated Newspapers' Weekend. At the time, the Financial Times described Titbits as “the 103-year-old progenitor of Britain's popular press”[7] (Tit-Bits lost the hyphen from its masthead at the beginning of 1973). Weekend itself closed in 1989.

Cultural influence[edit]

In All Things Considered by G. K. Chesterton, the author contrasts Tit-Bits with the Times, saying: "Let any honest reader... ask himself whether he would really rather be asked in the next two hours to write the front page of The Times, which is full of long leading articles, or the front page of Tit-Bits, which is full of short jokes." Reference to the magazine is also made in James Joyce's Ulysses,[8] George Orwell's Animal Farm, James Hilton's Lost Horizon, Virginia Woolf's Moments of Being, H. G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon and AJ Cronin's The Stars Look Down. It has been also mentioned in Stanley Houghton's play The Dear Departed. Wells also mentioned it in his book Experiment in Autobiography. The magazine is burlesqued as "Chit Chat" in George Gissing's New Grub Street. In the closing scene of the film Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), the protagonist Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) is approached by a journalist (Arthur Lowe) from Tit-Bits.

The magazine name survived as a glossy adult monthly Titbits International.

References[edit]

Endnotes
  1. ^ Bridget Griffen-Foley (2004). "From Tit-Bits to Big Brother: a century of audience participation in the media" (PDF). Media Culture and Society. 26 (4). Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  2. ^ "The 1870 Education Act". Parliament UK, Retrieved 21 Jan, 2017.
  3. ^ Howard Cox; Simon Mowatt (2003). "Technology, Organisation and Innovation: The Historical Development of the UK Magazine Industry" (Research paper). Auckland University of Technology. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  4. ^ Friederichs, Hulda (1911). George Newnes. London: Hodder & Stoughton (1911) Kessinger Publishing (2008). ISBN 978-0-548-88777-6.  (republished 2008)
  5. ^ Martin Conboy Journalism: A Critical History
  6. ^ From the chronology maintained by the Russian Wodehouse Society
  7. ^ a b c "Tit-Bits/Titbits". Magforum. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  8. ^ "In the tabledrawer he found an old number of Titbits." Calypso episode of Ulysses by James Joyce.