Course:ENGL419/Books/The Edwardians

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Original Dust Cover for The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West (1930)

Introduction to Rebecca Sheppard's Wikipedia Page for English 419A

This is my final project for English 419A. From the start, I intended to research a book published by Virginia and Leonard Woolf at the Hogarth Press. Initially, I planned to focus on Virginia Woolf's Monday or Tuesday (1921), an early Hogarth Press publication that was considered an aesthetic failure to the inexperienced publishers. Although certainly Woolf's short story collection would have provided me with a great deal to write about, by sheer luck I happened across a holograph letter from Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West, written upon completion of the latter's novel−The Edwardians−in the Norman Colbeck fonds.

After recovering from my excitement of actually holding in my hands something penned in ink by Virginia Woolf, I read the note:

Virginia Woolf's note to Vita Sackville-West upon contemplation of her novel, The Edwardians
[COLBECK COLLECTION BOX 4, FOND 29 (Vita Sackville-West File)]

[TRANSCRIPT: 52 Tavistock Square, W.C.1 A complete success. Will make our fortunes. I was almost sick reading the early chapter[s], − so vivd are they. What about tea Monday? many things to discuss − details to go into. I read it straight thought without stopping. V.]

Nigel Nicolson − Dedication to The Edwardians: COLBECK COLLECTION: PR 10. V2 S2 1930 E3

My discoveries did not stop here. A note on the file alerted me that Nigel Nicolson wrote a dedication on Vita Sackville-West's novel in the Colbeck Collection at UBC, The Edwardians. Nicolson's note links the two collection items together.

[TRANSCRIPT: I am happy to add to this copy a letter written in March 1930 by the publisher (Virginia Woolf) to my mother (the author) on first reading the original manuscript.]

Although it is no secret that UBC Special Collections and Rare Books holds a holograph letter by Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West (her lover), that links to the latter's novel, my wish is to underline this connection. My intent, as well, is to highlight the library's considerable Hogarth Press holdings. I am certain there are other Woolfians who will be as thrilled as I am to find first edition works by the little press of Virginia and Leonard Woolf right here at the University of British Columbia.

To view my wiki page on The Hogarth Press please go here.

TLS Advertisement of The Edwardians (1930)

About The Edwardians

"I'm going to write it this summer and make my fortune. Such a joke it will be, and I hope everybody will be seriously annoyed" (qtd. in Raitt 102), wrote Vita Sackville-West in 1929. There is no evidence of anyone being "annoyed"; however, the novel was a great success. The Edwardians was the Hogarth Press's best seller in terms of initial sales. After large first print (18,000 copies), Leonard wrote to the printer requesting a second printing: "the matter is very urgent as the book is selling at the rate of nearly 1000 a day" (qtd. in Barkway 240). Although Virginia Woolf−despite the claims of her holograph letter that I have included on this page−did not think highly of the novel, she did appreciate the profits: "We are very prosperous. On making up half yearly accounts, we find that we each get £425: & next year is sure, owing to the gigantic sale of The Edwardians [sic]--it verges on the 20,000. And it is not a very good book" (Diary 3 305-6).

For a detailed plot summary, and a fuller description about the themes, influences, and critical reception, please go here.

Vita Sackville-West [1892-1962]

Portrait of Vita Sackville-West in her twenties by William Strang, 1918.

Brief Biography

Victoria Mary Sackville-West (Vita) was born on 9 March 1892, at Knole, Kent, an only child of Victoria and Lionel (Lady and Lord Sackville). At the death of her father, Lionel, in 1928, the considerable family estate (365 rooms, 52 staircases, and 7 courtyards) was inherited by Sackville-West's uncle−the primogeniture laws at the time forbad women to inherit. Sackville-West, who began writing as a child, was prolific as an author publishing four collections of poetry, twelve novels, four long poems, three collections of short stories, two travel books, and six biographies. Pollack Library has a complete bibliography of her works: Bibliography of Vita Sackville-West by Pollak Library As well as these, she edited Lady Anne Clifford's diary, wrote a history of her family and of Knole, translated Rilke, and wrote for the National Trust. "Her interests were eclectic, and she was a highly regarded and popular writer (The Land won the Hawthordnden Prize in 1927, and The Edwardians was a best seller). As far as the literary establishment of her day was concerned, she was far better established and more widely respected as an author than Virginia Woolf" (Raitt 171).

Sackville-West married Harold Nicolson, a young diplomat, in 1913, and had two sons (Ben and Nigel). Although her marriage with Harold managed to survive until her death in 1962, Sackville-West had many lesbian relationships−including, notably, Virginia Woolf, whom she met in 1922.

Hermione Lee writes: "For a reclusive person who disliked vulgarity and 'la populace,' Vita Sackville-West has been extremely exposed, both in her life-time (a contested inheritance, a trial, a scandalous lesbian liaison) and after it. Nigel Nicolson's decision in 1973 to publish his mother's secret manuscript of her affair with Violet Trefusis, followed by a television series, books and plays on Vita and Virginia, and a film of Orlando, have made Vita's story better known, now, than her works [...] Few people now read The Edwardians or The Land, compared with the number who visit Sissinghurst and Knole, or who watched Portrait of a Marriage or Orlando" (487).

For seventeen years, Virginia and Leonard's Hogarth Press was the sole publisher of Vita Sackville-West's works in Great Britain, publishing sixteen works from Seducers in Ecuador (1924) to Selected Poems (1941) (Barkway 234).

UBC RBSC Holdings of Vita Sackville-West's Published by Hogarth Press

Passenger to Teheran (1926)

The Edwardians (1930)

All Passion Spent (1931)

Sissinghurst (1931)

Collected Poems 1933

Solitude: A Poem (1938)

Norman Colbeck and The Norman Colbeck Collection of Nineteenth Century and Edwardian Poetry and Belles Lettres at RBSC UBC

Norman Colbeck was born in London, England. On leaving school he worked for three years as a clerk with the Orient Steam Navigation Company in London. In 1923, after a brief period of self-education, chiefly at the British Museum, he was hired to manage the Rare Book Room of Foyles bookshop in Charring Cross Road. In 1927 he launched his own bookshop, later relocating his home and business to Bournemouth. Colbeck moved to Vancouver in 1967 when the University of British Columbia Library acquired his collection of books and manuscripts. He catalogued that collection, an activity which culminated in the publication of A bookmans catalogue: the Norman Colbeck collection of nineteenth-century and Edwardian poetry and belles-lettres in the Special Collections of the University of British Columbia in 1987. Colbeck became a Canadian citizen in 1976 and in 1987 UBC awarded him the degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causae) in recognition of his contribution to education and scholarship. - Quoted from RBSC Archives - For a description of the entire collection go here

Colbeck, Norman, Tirthankar Bose, and William E. Fredeman. A Bookman's Catalogue: The Norman Colbeck Collection of Nineteenth-Century and Edwardian Poetry and BELLES LETTRES in the Special Collections of the University of British Columbia. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987.

Works Cited

Barkway, Stephen. "'Oh Lord what it is to publish a best seller': The Woolf's Professional Relationship with Via Sackville-West." Leonard and Virginia Woolf, The Hogarth Press and the Networks of Modernism. Ed. Helen Southworth. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010.

Colbeck, Norman, Tirthankar Bose, and William E. Fredeman. A Bookman's Catalogue: The Norman Colbeck Collection of Nineteenth-Century and Edwardian Poetry and BELLES LETTRES in the Special Collections of the University of British Columbia. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987.

Lee, Hermione. Virginia Woolf. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1997. Print.

Raitt, Suzanne. Vita and Virginia: The Work and Friendship of V. Sackville-West, and Virginia Woolf. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Print.

Reid, Panthea. Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

Rosenbaum, S P. Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press. Austin, Tex: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin, 1995. Print.

Southworth, Helen. Leonard and Virginia Woolf, the Hogarth Press and the Networks of Modernism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. Print.

Svendsen, Jessica. "Hogarth Press." The Modernism Lab at Yale University. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.

"The Hogarth Press." Times Literary Supplement (London, England) 29 May 1930: 457. Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive, 1902-2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.

Willis, J. H. Jr. Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers: The Hogarth Press, 1917-41. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992. Print.

Woolf, Leonard. Beginning Again: An Autobiography of the Years 1911 to 1918. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964. Print.

Woolf, Virginia. The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Volume Two, 1920-1924. Eds. Anne O. Bell, and Andrew McNeillie. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. Print.

Woolf, Virginia. The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume Three. Eds. Anne O. Bell, and Andrew McNeillie. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1981. Print.

Woolf, Virginia. The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume Two, 1912-1922. Eds. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976. Print.