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Richard Kennedy, A Boy at the Hogarth Press | Orlando is selling like hot cakes

A Boy at the Hogarth Press | Orlando is selling like hot cakes


The leaves are starting to pile up in the Square. Pinker scurries about in them. Maynard Keynes and Lopokova are being blown along – a vast ship accompanied by a trim little tug.

LW showed me how to light my pipe facing the wind.

The lights go on early in the office. There is much talk of Mrs W’s new book, Orlando, and plenty of tension.

Richard Kennedy, A Boy at the Hogarth Press | Pinker the Tug


LW came down with one of the new copies of Orlando just back from the binders. It’s got a picture of Victoria Sackville-West on the cover. I managed to get hold of it in my lunch hour. It is supposed to be a biography of Mrs Nicolson: she begins as a boy in Elizabethan times and changes into a woman while living through the centuries. I think I’m going to like it much more than To the Lighthouse, which is a good thing because it’s embarrassing to like someone and not admire their work.


All hands to the pumps with Orlando. Mrs W, Ma Cartwright, Miss Belcher and I all lined up at the packing bench and slashed away with our butcher’s knives in order to send out review copies of Orlando. I took them to the Post Office in relays. Mrs W is a pretty fast worker considering she’s not a professional like Miss Belcher and myself.

Orlando is selling like hot cakes. LW is terrified we will run out of stock and it’s my job to keep count of the packages that have come from the binders. I count them several times a day, but there are always fewer than I expect.

Several people have called to congratulate Mrs W: Desmond MacCarthy and the Nicolsons, and old Herbert Palmer, but he only wanted a copy of his Villon. His nose looks very blue. Miss B gave him a cup of tea.

Mrs W has bought a very smart winter outfit: long Russianstyle black Cossack coat with astrakhan Russian hat – all much admired by Miss B. Gordon & Gotch Export came round after the office was closed. Miss B and Ma Cartwright had left and I was working in the print room. He hammered on the door and demanded 200 copies of Orlando. That left only eight packages.

LW was out. I shall have to tell him first thing on Monday and he’ll certainly have kittens, as there’s bound to be a big run at the beginning of the week after our advertisement in the Observer.

As I was leaving, a large rat ran across the floor of the office towards Mrs W’s studio. Ma Cartwright will be horrified when I tell her.


Still very cold and a hard frost. Ma Cartwright arrived very late carrying a lot of shopping in her arms. She had some difficulty descending the area steps. LW was in great spirits and asked me if I could get hold of some skates and suggested going skating in Richmond Park. I took this to mean that I had the morning off. Despite black looks from Ma Cartwright and Miss Belcher I went out in search of skates and eventually obtained some at a greengrocers in Marchmont Street, very inefficient wooden ones that strapped on to one’s feet.

Richard Kennedy, A Boy at the Hogarth Press | Publisher on Skates

After lunch we set out for Richmond in the Singer. Pinker had to come with us which proved to be a mistake. LW had some skates with curly ends. I asked him if they were racing skates. He said he didn’t know, but he had had them since he was a boy.

Practically the whole of London was on the ice. I met my cousin, who is a medical student, showing off to a dark-haired girl in a white sweater. There was a stall selling oranges and other stalls selling hot pies. It was just like the wonderful scene in Orlando when the Thames is frozen over.

Of course Pinker rushed after LW barking and went slithering about all over the ice. In the end we had to take it in turns to guard Pinker while the other skated. When the sun started to sink we climbed back into the car, lighted our pipes and drove to LW’s brother’s house in East Sheen.


When I told LW that I was going to Mrs Anrep’s party, he said, ‘I suppose she’s taking advantage of Roger Fry being in Manchester.’ I asked him if I should wear my dinner jacket (which I had only just got – it belonged to my uncle). He said he did not think so.

I was a bit embarrassed when Mrs Anrep pressed me to say what I thought about Mrs W’s books. I know I was expected, as the new young man at the Hogarth Press, to say something brilliant for the benefit of the group that had collected round us. The truth was that I had only really read Orlando, Mrs Dalloway and The Common Reader. The other books I had found rather heavy going and had skimmed through.

I said I didn’t think she created characters as well as a writer like Turgenev. I could see this didn’t go down at all well and felt rather like Peter denying Christ.

I met a chap called Birrell who said he had also worked for the Hogarth Press and was I a ‘factotum’. I said I supposed I was. ‘More totem than fact, I should imagine,’ he said. He asked me if LW still made the staff use proofs in the WC. I said ‘Good Lord, no!’ But as a matter of fact, Miss B has had an awful job getting him to let the office join the clean towel service.

Rachel MacCarthy was there. She is the most beautiful girl with a smooth glossy head like a seagull. She was wearing a dark green frock with small flowers on it that came up to the neck, and black stockings.

As usual she was surrounded by a crowd of young men.

Someone said she was a frightfully stupid girl and would never get anywhere with her acting. This made me feel extremely sympathetic towards her, though I felt the remark was prompted by sour grapes. She seemed to me a lot more intelligent than the other girls there.

There was another young man there called Raymond Mortimer about whom everyone was talking. Apart from being a contributor to The Nation, he was doing a terrific line with Sylva Norman who is one of our authors.

Mrs W wrote a blurb for her novel about Spain. It looks so easy when she does it – she just jotted it down on a piece of typing paper: ‘Miss Norman’s novel is a delightful mixture of fad and fantasy’ etc.* I had spent hours trying to make something out of what was on the leaflet.

I talked to Tomlin, a sculptor, about an exhibition of drawings by Gaudier-Brzeska I had seen at Bumpus. I have been practising this type of drawing and am going to the zoo on Saturday to do some.

Someone brought Count Potocki,† who was wearing his red cassock. He caused quite a stir. Somehow I don’t think he was invited.

I have seen him before – only the other day, near Victoria. He looks such a strange figure, striding along the foggy streets, like a ghost from the middle ages.

*Sylva Norman (b. Manchester 1901). The Hogarth Press published her book Nature has no Tune.

†Count Potocki claimed to be the rightful King of Poland. He was aided by LW in his defence against publishing obscene poetry.

Richard Kennedy, A Boy at the Hogarth Press & A Parcel of Time © The Estate of Olive M. Kennedy, 1972 and 1977

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