Working with records he discovered himself, Willis (English/College of William and Mary) constructs a comprehensive and methodical history of Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press and of its literary and intellectual significance. From its founding with a recreational handpress in 1917 to Virginia's suicide in 1941, the Hogarth Press produced--in pamphlets, series, or in volumes with artistic illustrations and unusual bindings--474 titles constituting a history of modern letters, including poetry, fiction, history, social and political commentary, and a library of psychoanalytic writing. Though demanding, ""the dear old Press,"" as Virginia called it, was for her ""life on tap""--a source of energy, therapy, and creative freedom, a freedom she extended by publishing works by her friends in the Bloomsbury group and by their friends: Vita Sackville-West, Katherine Mansfield, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Robert Graves, Stephen Spender, C. Day Lewis, Christopher Isherwood, Laura Riding, and John Crowe Ransom, to name a few. Between the wars, the Woolfs helped to disseminate European culture with translations, some by Virginia herself, of Rilke, Chekhov, Tolstoy, Gorki, Dostoyevsky, and, of course--in the International Psychoanalytic Library--Freud and his followers. Politically, the publishers gave voice to women and to such liberal political writers as H.G. Wells and John Maynard Keynes. In an age when major commercial publishers complained of a decline in readership and increase in costs of production, the Woolfs, through their personal supervision, devoted assistants, cautious selection (they rejected Ulysses), and good business sense, produced bestsellers while their own creative lives flourished. Always a part of their domestic lives, the press survived the Blitz, economic depression, Virginia's mental collapses, political unrest, and the various demands of temperamental authors. Lucid, unbiased, tactful, Willis offers fresh perspective on English cultural life between the wars--and insight into the perennial lure of the printing press for creative writers.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992
Page Count: 469
Publisher: Univ. Press of Virginia
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992
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