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Evenings in Printing House Square
Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (1865-1922), was a powerful publishing magnate, who resuscitated unprofitable newspapers by making them popular to a mass market. He developed Amalgamated Press, the largest publishing empire in the world at the time, which included, among others: the Evening News (acquired 1894), the Daily Mail (founded 1896), the Daily Mirror (founded 1903), the Observer (acquired 1905), The Times and The Sunday Times (both acquired 1908). The present caricature refers to that latest acquisition.
Harmsworth had a good working relationship with Max Beerbohm, providing articles and caricatures for his publications. In December 1896, Beerbohm had taken up the invitation of Harmsworth to write a regular column for the newly-founded Daily Mail, on any subject that he wished. The results had, what one biographer of Beerbohm has called, ‘the kind of smart-alecky hook that Harmsworth liked’ (N John Hall, Max Beerbohm: A Kind of Life, London: Yale University Press, 2002, pages 50-51).
Following Harmsworth’s acquisition of the magazine, Vanity Fair, eight years later, in 1904, Beerbohm contributed eight caricatures. Appearing between 1905 and 1909, they were initially signed with the pseudonyms, Ruth and Bilbo, Harmsworth thinking ‘it would be commercially better that people should wonder who the cartoonist was who drew so like [Beerbohm]’ (quoted in N John Hall, 1997, page 98). However, while admiring them, he ‘hesitated to publish them … because he thought them libellous’
(N John Hall, 2002, page 232).
In Autumn 1906, Harmsworth discovered that Beerbohm had never been to Italy, so suggested that he visit the country and write a series of travel articles for that newspaper. The trip changed the course of his life, as he became determined to live in Italy and, in 1910, did so, settling at Rapallo with his new wife, Florence.