You are here:   Reputations >  Overrated > Mary-Kay Wilmers
Mary-Kay Wilmers
January/February 2010


For Clive James, the London Review of Books is "the house magazine of the [British] intellectual elite". With a circulation now approaching 50,000, the fortnightly boasts that is the most important literary journal, not only in Britain but in Europe. It easily outstrips its closest rival, the Times Literary Supplement, though it still only has about half the readership of its original model, the New York Review of Books. Last October, the LRB celebrated its 30th anniversary, apparently in robust health. With a circulation of this size, it should at least be breaking even.

Yet the LRB has always received an Arts Council grant, now around £21,000 per annum. No other comparable literary magazine has enjoyed such long-term, inflation-proof, no-strings subsidy from the taxpayer. The Arts Council offers no justification. It merely states that the money is used to pay contributors. Perhaps the Commons Public Accounts Committee will inquire into how the taxpayer benefits from singling out the LRB for preferential treatment.

The magazine's accounts, as submitted to Companies House, do not include a profit and loss account, but they do reveal that the LRB has to service a debt of more than £23 million, paying interest at a rate of eight per cent, and rising by £3 million a year. It is a reasonable inference that the £23 million debt represents loans, plus compound interest, accumulated over 30 years during which the magazine has come under the control of one person, an Anglo-American heiress. Editor, proprietor and creditor: Mary-Kay Wilmers virtually is the LRB

When the LRB was launched in 1979, inspired by a piece by Frank Kermode, its editor was Karl Miller, who combined the post with his duties as Northcliffe Professor of English at University College, London, and worked tirelessly to attract distinguished critics. Mary-Kay Wilmers — first deputy, later co-editor — was then married to Stephen Frears and close to Alan Bennett, who had introduced them. There is a certain irony in the fact that, as the magazine became increasingly dependent on the Wilmers fortune during the Thatcher-Reagan boom years, it flourished by feeding the British intelligentsia's anti-Thatcherite fury. Friction between the fashionable crowd that surrounded Mary-Kay and the fastidious intellectuals around Karl was inevitable, and could have only one outcome: Miller departed in 1992, leaving Wilmers in sole charge. Since then, the LRB has grown steadily more politicised, its tone shriller, its coterie more exclusive. 

View Full Article
Occam's Razor
March 23rd, 2010
1:03 AM
National Socialism. A redundancy, I suppose, because one cannot be socialist without the Nation. Still, National Socialism. The LRB. Kissing cousins, I suppose, as both are of the Left, and both have Jew-bashing as a major point of their philosophies.

January 22nd, 2010
12:01 PM
Israel bashing seems to have become de-rigeur amongst lefties. For an interesting response see Robin Shepherd's 'A state beyond the pale' for which he was hounded out of Chatham House (but then lefties have never cared too much about either truth or objectivity...

David Thompson
January 21st, 2010
8:01 AM
More on the LRB’s bizarro politics here. The enthusiasm for Hizballah’s “uncompromising programme” and “intelligent” use of car bombs is a thing to behold.

January 16th, 2010
3:01 PM
Such a bitter, bitter man. Writing for a bitter internet magazine. Snooping around Companies House or getting your Tory pals to remove the paltry grant will not have a deleterious impact on the LRB or Ms Wilmers. Keep scribbling in your cyber journal.

December 22nd, 2009
12:12 PM
Nice idea taking down one of the Sacred Cows (no pun intended) of the liberal left.

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.