The first issue of the Lone Hand was published in May 1907. Designed to cover the Australian material that the Bulletin had to 'pass over', it was initially edited by J. F. Archibald and Frank Fox. The format was based primarily on England's Strand magazine, but Archibald's insistence on the brevity and clarity he had demanded for the Bulletin ensured that the style of fiction differed considerably from the English model.
The editors favoured stories and articles that explored democratic themes or the ideology of mateship in Australian and Pacific settings. The White Australia policy promoted by the Bulletin also found expression in the pages of the Lone Hand.
The Lone Hand printed the work of some of the best-known writers of the time. Contributors included Roderic Quinn, Edward Dyson, Henry Lawson, Victor Daley, Hugh McCrae and Dowell O'Reilly. While the short story dominated fiction, a number of novels were serialised, including Steele Rudd's The Old Homestead and Louis Stone's Betty Wayside. In addition, many of the country's finest artists were commissioned to contribute drawings. The most prolific were Will Dyson, Norman Lindsay, Lionel Lindsay, Percy Lindsay, David Low and Douglas Souter.
In the early years of the Lone Hand, contributions from readers were encouraged and cash prizes were offered for fiction, poetry and photography. Aiming at 'typographical perfection', the magazine also offered prizes to readers who found the greatest number of errors in articles and advertisements. The editors communicated with readers and hopeful contributors in columns called the 'The Editor's Uneasy Chair' and 'To Would-Be Contributors'.
The first issues of the Lone Hand were very successful, achieving high circulation. But by 1909, the circulation had dropped significantly and, in turn, advertising revenues suffered. Fox was replaced by Arthur Adams in May 1909 and the magazine underwent immediate changes to format. Adams dropped many of the editorial columns (eventually replacing one with a women's section) and instituted a lighter tone. These changes increased circulation and doubled the number of advertisements in twelve months. But the Lone Hand found it hard to compete with overseas periodicals and other widely circulated Australian magazines such as the Australian, Melbourne Punch and the Sydney Mail. The price was reduced to sixpence during 1910, but by the end of 1911 circulation had again dropped.
Bertram Stevens was appointed editor in January 1912. During his term the magazine increased in size and women's issues became more prominent. But the magazine suffered from a shortage of new writers, making it difficult to maintain a substantial level of original work. In 1914 the Lone Hand was forced to operate as an independent venture when the Bulletin withdrew its support. Stevens managed to continue without this support despite the pressure of war-time paper shortages and weakening circulation. By 1917 the magazine consisted of much reprinted material. David McKee Wright and Zora Cross provided most of the original work under their own names and other pseudonyms. Stevens left much of the work to Cross who introduced several new topical sections. Then, in February 1919, the magazine was reformatted under the influence of new proprietors, possibly with a plan for quick resale. More colourful with fine white paper and original and reprinted work from well-known writers, the magazine achieved a substantial increase in circulation.
Stevens handed over the editorship to Walter Jago in July 1919. During his term, Jago increased the magazine content, but the text was much smaller and crammed into a layout similar to that of a newspaper. Jago complained that the magazine was not being displayed by booksellers. When the price of the magazine rose to nine pence, circulation dropped to unmanageable levels and the Lone Hand was unable to continue. In the final issue of the Lone Hand, published in February 1921, Jago blamed the shift in cultural consumption, writing in a mock obituary, 'The Lone Hand dies in the fourteenth year of its existence, slaughtered on the altar of Charlie Chaplinism.'
'Comparing nineteenth-century British and Australian Anglo-Saxonist literature enables a “decentered” exploration of Anglo-Saxonism’s intersections with national, imperial, and colonial discourses, challenging assumptions that this discourse was an uncritical vehicle of English nationalism and British manifest destiny. Far from reflecting a stable imperial center, evocations of “ancient Englishness” in British literature were polyvalent and self-contesting, while in Australian literature they offered a response to colonization and emerging knowledge about the vast age of Indigenous Australian cultures.' (Authors abstract)
'This book is an exploration of popular late nineteenth-century texts that show Australia - along with Africa, India and the Pacific Islands - to be a preferred site of imperial adventure. Focusing on the period from the advent of the new imperialism in the 1870s to the outbreak of World War I, Robert Dixon looks at a selection of British and Australian writers. Their books, he argues, offer insights into the construction of empire, masculinity, race, and Australian nationhood and identity. Writing the Colonial Adventure shows that the genre of adventure/romance was highly popular throughout this period. The book examines the variety of themes within their narrative form that captured many aspects of imperial ideology. In considering the broader ramifications of these works, Professor Dixon develops an original approach to popular fiction, both for its own sake and as a mode of cultural history.' (Introduction)
'Ambrose Pratt's novel, The Big Five (1911), was one of several 'invasion' narratives written by contributors to The Lone Hand. It begins at the 'centre' of Australian civility by invoking the discourse of mateship.
'Having fallen on hard times, a gang of mates known as the Big Five come together for a last drink at the Australia Hotel in Sydney when Sir Philip Trevor invites them to form an expedition to Arnhem Land. This trope is conventional in imperialist romance, recalling the meeting of Allan Quartermain, Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good in King Solomon's Mines (1886). The expedition will rejuvenate a threatened masculinity, saving the Big Five from the unmanly fate of stewing in a city office.'
Source: Lawson, Alan and Chris Tiffin. De-Scribing Empire: Post-Colonialism and Textuality. Routledge, 1994. p. 135.