Publishing Lives

Episodes

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0105 LASTGeoffrey Faber2013100420140806
20170407 (BBC7)
20170408 (BBC7)

Geoffrey Faber was a brilliant middleman. He sought out the best new poetry and prose. And he hired a young American banker named T.S. Eliot - not just a poet of genius, but also a gifted publisher. Together, Eliot and Faber built one of the most influential literary lists of the twentieth century.

Faber was a classical scholar, a fellow of All Souls and a member of the Yorkshire brewing family Strong and Co. In 1924, bored with beer, he went into partnership with an Oxford friend, Maurice Gwyer, as a publisher. Gwyer already specialised in medical books and journals, but Faber had other ideas. Within five years he turned a company that published 'The Nursing Mirror' and the 'Hospital Newsletter' into one that hosted Siegfried Sassoon, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot.

He championed the notion that Faber and Faber had a responsibility to the world to preserve the best in literature and encouraged enterprises that were not always commercial. Yet it was show business that saved the company when T.S. Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats' became a hit musical.

In a landscape increasingly dominated by giant media empires, Faber and Faber remains one of the last great independent publishing houses in the UK. As the digital revolution shakes traditional publishing to its foundations, the firm is exploring new ways of presenting its authors, including Eliot, for a new generation of readers.

Robert meets Geoffrey's grandson Toby Faber, and literary and publishing experts, to explore Geoffrey Faber's life and the future of publishing in Britain.

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

was a brilliant middleman. He sought out the best new poetry and prose. And he hired a young American banker named T.S. Eliot - not just a poet of genius, but also a gifted publisher. Together, Eliot and Faber built one of the most influential literary lists of the twentieth century.

Robert McCrum explores the publishing life of Geoffrey Faber.

0205 LASTCarmen Callil2014031420140903

Robert McCrum explores the stories of five great British publishers.

Carmen Callil set out to change the world with her pioneering feminist publishing house, Virago Press. Arriving in London from Australia in 1960, she started as a "publicity girl", then one of the few publishing jobs available to women who did not want to be secretaries.

In 1973 she founded Virago Press to "publish books by women which celebrated women's lives, and which would, by so doing, spread the message of women's liberation to the whole population". Virago's first publication was Fenwomen: A Portrait of Women in an English Village by Mary Chamberlain. This oral history set out as Virago meant to go on, giving voice to previously silent women.

Despite some criticism from the established literary world, Virago quickly became a success. In 1978, Carmen launched the hugely influential Modern Classics series, with their distinctive green spines, celebrating and reviving the work of hundreds of often neglected female writers. Since then, the Modern Classics series has become Virago's hallmark.

Carmen left Virago to run Chatto in the 80s, and retired from publishing in 1994. The company she founded over 40 years ago has evolved and changed, yet the founding principles remain the same, to publish the best of women's writing and to celebrate women's lives thorough literature. Since 1973, women have made a significant contribution to literature, as bestsellers, as Booker Prize winners and as readers shaping the modern book trade.

Featuring Carmen Callil, Ursula Owen and Lennie Goodings.

Producer: Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway Production production for BBC Radio 4.