virginia woolf, writing, and painting

517d7ba0-285c-11e4_1089269hRuth Scurr at the Times Literary Supplement:

Critical to the development of Woolf’s writing was the freedom of the Hogarth Press, which she and Leonard began in 1917 after buying a hand-press for £19 5s 6d on Farringdon Street. Woolf’s first two novels, The Voyage Out (1915), and Night and Day (1919), were published by her half-brother Gerald Duckworth’s company. The editions look sombre and conventional, a world away from Jacob’s Room(1922), which the Hogarth Press produced with a bright, bold cover designed by Vanessa Bell. Spalding describes this novel with almost no plot and a central character defined by his absence as “sprightly word painting”. After reading Woolf’s story “The Mark on the Wall”, which formed half of the Hogarth Press’s first publication Two Stories (1917), Roger Fry told her, “You’re the only one now Henry James has gone who uses language as a medium of art, who makes the very texture of the words have a meaning and a quality really almost apart from what you are talking about”.

In 1918, the Hogarth Press was asked to consider Ulysses for publication. The Woolfs explained the technical impossibility: “at our rate of progress a book of 300 pages would take at least two years to produce . . . . We very much regret this as it is our aim to produce writing of merit which the ordinary publisher refuses”. Joyce’s novel was eventually published by Shakespeare and Company, Paris, in 1922. Seeing a first edition of Ulysses alongside a selection of Hogarth Press books – Katherine Mansfield’s Prelude (1917), Hope Mirrlees’s Paris (1920), T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1923) – brings the press’s physical limitations and unbounded literary ambition into sharp focus.

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