THROWN TO THE WOOLFS: Leonard and Virginia Woolf and the Hogarth Press by John Lebmann

THROWN TO THE WOOLFS: Leonard and Virginia Woolf and the Hogarth Press

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KIRKUS REVIEW

British publisher-poet-critic Lehmann has already written of his association with the legendary Hogarth Press in his now-out-of-print autobiography (In My Own Time, 1969)--but ""New thoughts, new insights, new material, have all made me feel that the tale can and should be retold."" And, even if Lehmann's primary motivation is really the desire to have the last word on his tiffs with Hogarth co-founder Leonard Woolf (who attacked Lehmann in the posthumous last volume of his autobiography), there is indeed enough Woolf charisma and 1930s literary history here to sustain this brief, chipper memoir. Fresh out of Cambridge in 1931, Lehmann, though fairly warned by Lytton Strachey and others, became the newest in a line of overworked ""manager-victims' at the Hogarth Press--where galley proofs were provided as toilet paper, where parsimonious Leonard demanded exact punctuality, where Virginia would waft down from the Woolf lodgings upstairs to help wrap parcels. But even Lehmann's adoration for VW--who also read manuscripts and relaxed by setting type--could not keep him satisfied with a dog's-body position: Leonard was possessive about the Press (""as if it were the child their marriage had never produced"") and didn't sufficiently appreciate Lehmann's success in attracting young writers, like Christopher Isherwood. So off Lehmann went to literary Vienna--also finding, like Isherwood in Berlin, freer homosexual contacts--and returned to the Press, now as partner, only when he needed a base for his New Writing collections of poetry and prose. But, though wartime crises (paper shortage, the bombing of the Press) and Virginia's suicide brought Lehmann and Leonard together for a spell, the feuding returned, worse than ever, mostly over Leonard's objections to New Writing, Sartre, Bellow, etc.--and ""the trouble was that this time there was no judge. Virginia was dead."" So: quarrels and a split--which, according to Lehmann (contra Leonard) was caused by author-policy friction, plus Leonard's refusal to consider turning the Press into more than ""a Basement industry."" Whose version is right? It couldn't matter less. But, with disarming glimpses of not only the Woolfs but also Auden, Spender, William Plomer, and Henry Green, this is a moderately refreshing ripple in the vast sea of Bloomsbury-and-after print.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1979
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston