On October 13th 1928 John O’London’s Weekly published a feature in which several well-known publishers revealed the books they had most enjoyed publishing. Though spokesmen for Blackwood’s, Duckworth and Methuen (E. V. Lucas, no less) were reluctant to divulge their choices, a number of other publishers were quite happy to do so. Here is a selection of the publishers that nominated a book or books:-
‘Having been an admirer of the ideas of Samuel Butler, and having read him a great deal, it was, of course, extremely satisfactory to be able to take over Mr Fifield’s business and by doing so become the publisher of Samuel Butler….to get, later, Col Lawrence’s Revolt in the Desert was, perhaps, a bit of a ‘scoop’
H. Grubb (Putnams)
‘…I am sure Major Putnam would agree with me that an author whose books we have been very proud to publish was Washington Irving. My own particular section among his writings would be ‘The Sketch Book’, which, of course, will last while literature remains…’
Harold Shaylor (Brentano’s)
‘….occasionally there arrives a book the publishing of which becomes even more interesting than usual. Such a one was ‘ But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes ‘. Miss Anita Loos’s MS had been anxiously awaited for many months, and it finally arrived. The reading of the proofs was somewhat hampered by the gusts of laughter that continually floated through the office! Nevertheless, thousands of copies were with the booksellers on publication day.’
Charles Boon ( Mills and Boon)
‘…I think that perhaps Jack London’s ‘The Valley of the Moon’ is our choice, for it has many times been described as one of our finest real love- stories ever written.’
‘Though I have been actively associated with publishing businesses for seven or eight years, the book which I have most liked to publish is , strange to say, one I have just published, Edmond Fleg’s ‘The Life of Moses’ . So beautiful is it in its nobility of conception and large simplicity that it seems to me to stand quite apart from even the lest ephemeral literature of today, and to belong to the very small company of genuinely great books.’
Mr Eveleigh Nash.
‘Rachel Marr’ by Morley Roberts, which I published because I considered it at the time (1903) to be one of the greatest stories, told in the grand manner, that I had ever read. After a quarter of a century I hold the same opinion, but I now go farther and state that I think it is the greatest novel published during the last twenty-five years. W. H. Hudson and George Gissing wrote letters I have seen in which they described ‘Rachel Marr’ as a great novel. And I can remember the pleasure I felt when I heard the opinion of these masters of prose. Lesser men are held in higher esteem than Mr Roberts, but at his best he towers above them all’.
Mr Fred Rymer ( Sampson Low) .
‘Of the many, many books that I have handled during the forty-four years I have been associated with our old-established publishing house ( founded AD 1787) the one that has given me the greatest delight in piloting to success is ‘ The Broad Highway ‘ by Jeffery Farnol.
I knew the MS had been considered and declined by three important American publishing houses, but when it came into my hands I was not surprised, for I realized how intensely English it was.
Another reason why the MS interested me was that for some reason I had been looking forward with regret to 1911, and to the expiry of the copyright of ‘Lorna Doone’, the monopoly of which my firm had enjoyed for just about forty-one years, and we had been hoping for something to take its place. Strangely enough, the MS of ‘ The Broad Highway’ was introduced to me in the early summer of 1910 by a great lover and student of Blackmore’s masterpiece, the same to whom ‘The Broad Highway’ is dedicate by the author.
I need hardly say that I am proud of Jeffery Farnol and his works.
Mr Thornton Butterworth.
‘I have no hesitation in naming the book which I have had the most satisfaction in publishing —‘The World Crisis ‘by the Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill. Consider the immense importance of the subject—the causes, conduct and consequences of the most tremendous war in history. Consider, too, the unique position of the author in relation to that event. Lastly, look at his brilliant literary gifts, of which this book is a conspicuous monument. Would not any publisher be proud to have such a book on his list?
Mr Philip Allan.
‘The books I have most liked to publish are those which bear the imprint of my form. My favourite authors are those who have allowed me to publish their books. But I also take off my hat to the shade of Baron Philipp von Neumann, who died in 1850, leaving a manuscript diary which Providence guided to Quality House. For it is not every publisher who gets the chance of putting his imprint on a social history of the first importance and social interest.
It should be noted that when Eveleigh Nash contends that Morley Roberts’ Rachel Marr’ was the best novel published ‘during the last twenty-five years’ ( ie between 1903 and 1928), we are inclined to compare it with some of these novels, which include Joyce’s Ulysses, Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, D.H.Lawrence’s Women in Love and The Rainbow, Forster’s Howards’s End, A Room with a View, and A Passage to India, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse and Ford Madox Ford’s A Good Soldier.
Still, I bet Morley Roberts was pleased…