The other John Bulls

by Tony Quinn

Horatio Bottomley

First issue of Arthur William À Beckett's John Bull magazine in 1903

Other publishers had used John Bull – a name that had personified the typical Englishman since the 1660s – before Horatio Bottomley. There was a John Bull newspaper published in London, from 1820 to at least 1869; The Northern John Bull; or, The Newcastle Pocket Magazine, published in Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1829; The Theatrical John Bull in Birmingham from 1824; and John Bull's Magazine, Conducted by his Son, John, in London from 1882. Then, Arthur William À Beckett brought out his John Bull in 1903 – dated April 1 – having been forced to resign as deputy editor of Punch the year before.

The titlepiece inside for the first issue was by W. Reynolds. It shows a fabulous cast of contributors: A.W. carries a bull on his back ahead of: A.P. Graves (Irish writer, assistant editor of Punch and inspector of schools); caricaturist Max Beerbohm; cartoonist Harry Furniss; lyricist and writer Adrian Ross; Louis Wain – renowned for his anthropomorphised cats; Cyril Pearson as a sphinx; Percy Fremlin; adventure writer Sir Gilbert Parker; Sir William Robinson; and the Welsh poet Sir Lewis Morris.

A.W. died in 1909, but John Bull appears to have predeceased him, with the British Library holding just one volume, with the final issue dated 25 June 1903.

After his release from prison, Bottomley tried to launch another magazine, John Blunt, in 1928. Many of the staff had worked for Bottomley on John Bull. The last weekly issue was dated 14 September 1929, when it became a monthly, but does not seem to have survived the year.

Horatio Bottomley

Masthead for the first issue of Horatio Bottomley's John Blunt magazine, dated 16 June 1928