For some months now, at our regular get-togethers, the five of us have been sitting round the table, chewing our pens and agonizing over the question: Is it time to put the price of Slightly Foxed up? We’ve held it for nearly five years – since we started in fact – and during that time the cost of postage has risen four times and the price of paper has risen twice, not to mention all the usual running costs of the office. (Even Pugwash’s running costs have risen steeply as he’s a very wobbly old dog now, rather like Thurber’s dog Muggs, who would wander unnervingly about ‘like Hamlet following his father’s ghost’.) Needless to say, we’ve done everything we can to keep costs down – including no staff pay-rises – but those who advise us on our finances have been murmuring with ever-growing insistence about the need to increase our price and urging us to do so.
And yet, and yet, even without George Soros to tell us, we know that these are testing times, and that for a good many people Slightly Foxed comes just within the bounds of affordability. So we’ve decided to hold the price for now and think about it again in the New Year. When we do it won’t be a major increase. But we thought we’d sound a warning that it’s in the air and hope it won’t be too deterring when it comes. You could say, perhaps, that in tough times there’s nothing more necessary or consoling than a good read . . .
And speaking of tough times, we were depressed to read this week of the possible closure of Butler and Tanner, the largest colour printing firm in the UK. Many of those working in publishing over the past few decades will remember the experience of going down to Butler and Tanner’s premises in Frome, near Bath, to see a book they’ve been working on come off the presses. The company prints around 30 million books a year, and if it closes that business will inevitably go overseas. We feel extremely fortunate in our own splendid printers Smith Settle up in Yorkshire – a very different kind of firm, but one which is helping keep the tradition of fine English printing and bookbinding alive.
But to turn to something more cheerful – Slightly Foxed Editions are going great guns and our latest, available with this issue, is V. S. Pritchett’s wonderful memoir of his childhood and youth, A Cab at the Door. ‘VSP’, as his friends called him, grew up in the shadow of a father whom his own son Oliver describes on p. 23 as very like Dickens’s Mr Micawber – expansive, extravagant, insanely optimistic, always certain that ‘something would turn up’. Usually it didn’t – hence the ‘cab at the door’, waiting to bear the family quietly away from another clutch of creditors. It is also a vivid evocation of London during the First World War and contains a hilarious description of Pritchett Senior’s conversion to Christian Science, with its American leader Mrs Mary Baker Eddy – known to VSP’s resentful mother as ‘that woman’. It’s astonishing that such a memoir has been allowed to go out of print, and we hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we have.