Life and Letters Today

Other names: 

Life and Letters (1928-35, 1946-50)

Life and Letters and the London Mercury and Bookman (1945-6)

Date began: 
01 Jun 1928
Precise date began unknown: 
Date ended: 
01 Jun 1950
Precise date ended unknown: 

Life & Letters Today was a monthly literary review magazine which published short fiction, essays on cultural issues, and book reviews. Several well known British literary figures, including D. H. Lawrence, Dylan Thomas and Julian Symons, contributed to the magazine. Mulk Raj Anand was a regular contributor of both fiction and reviews, and the work of several other South Asian writers based in Britain was also occasionally featured. There were three issues dedicated to Indian writing and featuring a range of short fiction and essays by writers such as Narayana Menon, S. Menon Marath, Iqbal Singh and the Ceylonese J. Vijaya-Tunga, as well as reviews of their work.

Key Individuals' Details: 

Editors: Desmond McCarthy (1928-34), Hamish Miles (1934), R. Ellis Roberts (1934-55), Robert Herring (1935-50).


Contributors: K. Ahmad Abbas, Mulk Raj Anand, George Barker, Nancy Cunard, Cedric Dover, Julian Huxley, D. H. Lawrence, Jack Lindsay, Sarkis Megherian, Narayana Menon, S. Menon Marath, Ajit Mookerjee, Sean O’Casey, B. Rajan, S. Rajandram, S. Raja Ratnam, Keidrych Rhys, Dorothy M. Richardson, Iqbal Singh, Osbert Sitwell, Stevie Smith, Stephen Spender, Alagu Subramaniam, Julian Symons, Dylan Thomas, Fred Urquhart, J. Vijaya-Tunga, Vernon Watkins, Francis Watson.

Books Reviewed Include: 

Abbas, K. Ahmad, Rice. Reviewed by Oswell Blakeston.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Coolie. Reviewed by Ronald Dewsbury.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Two Leaves and a Bud. Reviewed by Stephen Spender.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Indian Fairy Tales. Reviewed by Lorna Lewis.

Bhushan, V. N. (ed.), The Peacock Lute: Anthology of Poems in English by Indian Writers. Reviewed by S. Menon Marath.

Blom, Eric, Some Great Composers. Reviewed by Narayana Menon.

Ch’ien, Hsiao, The Spinners of Silk. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Desani, G. V., All About Mr Hatterr. Reviewed by Fred Urquhart.

Dover, Cedric, Half-Caste. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Flaubert, Gustave, Letters (selected by Richard Rumbold). Reviewed by S. Menon Marath.

Green, Henry, Loving. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Lawrence, T. E., Oriental Assembly. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Menon, Narayana, The Development of William Butler Yeats. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Motwani, Kewal, India: A Synthesis of Cultures. Reviewed by S. Menon Marath.

Nehru, Jawaharlal, Autobiography. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Palme Dutt, R., India Today.

Poems from Iqbal, trans. by V. G. Kiernan. Reviewed by Jack Lindsay.

Rajan, B. (ed.), The Novelist as Thinker. reviewed by Hugo Manning.

Rajan B. (ed.), T. S. Eliot: A Study of his Writing. Reviewed by George Barker.

Sampson, William, Fireman Flower. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Saroyan, William, Razzle-Dazzle. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Shelvankar, K. S., The Problem of India. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Silone, Ignazio, The Seed Beneath the Snow. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Tagore, Rabindranath, Caramel Doll.

Wernher, Hilda and Singh, Huthi, The Land and the Well.

Woolf, Virginia, The Death of a Moth. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.


Life and Letters Today 21.20 (April 1939), pp. 3-4


This issue includes work by South Asian writers including Iqbal Singh, Alagu Subramaniam and J. Vijaya-Tunga.


INDIAN WRITERS IN ENGLAND: Addressing members of the Indian Progressive Writers' Association at the Indian Students' Union on 19th March, Randall Swingler remarked that Indian writers faced a peculiar difficulty in this country – if they wrote well they were rejected by publishers on the ground that they wrote too well. Their success was taken as a slight to British superiority…Indian writers, like most foreign writers in England, found themselves unappreciated by publishers and literary folk in England.


This Indian edition of Life and Letters Today, as well as the two subsequent Indian issues, highlights a degree of success on the part of South Asians in infiltrating an established 'mainstream' British cultural product. The comments above from the editorial of the magazine suggest its awareness and sympathy with the marginalization of Indian writers in Britain. That said, contributions to the magazine by South Asians comprise, for the most part (and with some notable exceptions), short fiction located almost uniquely in India/Ceylon rather than in Britain, and short prose on Indian history/culture, often positioning their authors as cultural informers primarily.

Archive source: 

Life & Letters Today, P.P.5939.bgf, British Library, St Pancras