The Hogarth Press, founded and operated by Virginia Woolf, 40, and her husband Leonard, 41, has just published its first full-length work, 290 pages, 60,000 words, Virginia’s third novel, Jacob’s Room.
Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf
In its past five years, the Press has successfully produced and marketed collections of short stories, poetry and smaller works. Until now, Virginia’s novels have been published by her stepbrother, Gerald Duckworth, 51, so they had to get his permission to break the contract. Good riddance.
With a cover by Virginia’s sister, painter Vanessa Bell, 43, the Woolfs are pleased with the finished product. Virginia’s American publisher, Donald Brace, 40, is eager to bring it out there, telling Virginia how much he admires her work. This has at least made her feel, as she writes in her diary, that the novel “cannot be wholly frigid fireworks.”
Advance copies have been sent to their Bloomsbury friends, who tell her it is her best work. Essayist Lytton Strachey, 42, is the first to mention the main character’s similarities to Virginia and Vanessa’s brother, Thoby Stephen, who died 16 years ago from typhoid at the age of 26. Lytton writes to Virginia,
How you manage to leave out everything that’s dreary, and yet retain enough string for your pearls I can hardly understand.”
Lytton Strachey’s signed copy of Jacob’s Room
Virginia is thinking sales might hit 800 copies by June. When they get to 650 they’ll order a second edition. About 30 of the thousand or so they’ve printed have sold before publication day, today.
The Woolfs are counting on the success of Jacob’s Room to help their fledgling publishing company. They’ve hung on so far, but they feel as though Leonard’s assistant, Ralph Partridge, 28, is holding them back. He and Leonard fight constantly, and Ralph has screwed up some of the promotion for previous books. They’ve met a few young people recently who might be better at the role but haven’t chucked Partridge out yet.
They’re hoping for good reviews in major publications. Virginia is most concerned about The Times Literary Supplement, as she writes in her diary,
not that it will be the most intelligent, but it will be the most read & I can’t bear people to see me downed in public.”
Virginia has already begun her next novel, concurrently with writing essays to be published as The Common Reader. She noted a few weeks ago that her short story, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street,” has “branched into a book.” She hasn’t decided on a title yet, but she is working out passages and making detailed notes in a journal labeled, “Book of scraps of J’s R. & first version of The Hours,” some in brief lines down the side of the page.
completely separately…some sort of fusion…”The Prime Minister”…must converge upon the party at the end…ushers in a host of others…much in relief…interludes of thought, or reflection, or short digressions…related, logically, to the rest?…all compact, yet not jerked…At Home: or The Party…the 10th of June or whatever I call it…& I adumbrate here a study of insanity & suicide: the world seen by the sane & the insane side by side—something like that…Septimus Smith? is that a good name…a possible revision of this book: Suppose it to be connected in this way:
Sanity and insanity.
Mrs. D. seeing the truth. S. S. seeing the insane truth…
The contrast must be arranged…
The pace is to be given by the gradual increase of S’s
Insanity. On the one side; by the approach of the party on the other.
The design is extremely complicated…
All to take place in one day?”
Virginia Woolf’s manuscript
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early next year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, and about The Literary 1920s in Paris and New York City at the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.