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Lehmann, John (1907-1987)  
 
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Lehmann worked long office hours at the Press in basement rooms that were "cold and draughty and ramshackle"; his own office, as he described it in his memoir The Whispering Gallery, "was a small back room that had once been a pantry and cupboard room."

Although he was only an apprentice manager, Lehmann had ambitions for the Press, and for himself as well. Consequently, he often clashed with the Woolfs over publishing decisions. As Virginia Woolf noted in her diary: "[Lehmann] craves influence and authority, to publish the books of his friends."

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Lehmann, on the other hand, believed that "both of the Woolfs, but in particular Leonard, had an emotional attitude toward the Press; as if it were the child their marriage had never produced."

He was successful, however, in persuading the Woolfs to publish Christopher Isherwood's second novel, The Memorial, in 1932, as well as the influential collection New Signatures that same year, with contributions by W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Cecil Day Lewis, Julian Bell, and Lehmann himself.

Yet, antagonisms continued to grow between Lehmann and Leonard Woolf, and two years after joining the Press Lehmann resigned.

He spent the next several years traveling through the capitals of Central Europe. According to a recent biographer, it was during this period that Lehmann enjoyed liaisons with several male prostitutes to whom Isherwood introduced him in the bars of Berlin.

Lehmann eventually returned to England, and in 1936 established the groundbreaking periodical New Writing, the first issue of which contained a "Manifesto" that stated in part that the publication would be "devoted to imaginative writing, mainly of young writers," and that it would aim at "providing an outlet for those prose [and poetry] writers . . . whose work is too unorthodox in length or style to be suitable for the established monthly and quarterly magazines."

New Writing, which Lehmann edited from 1936 to 1946, featured works from several of the New Signatures contributors, as well as from acquaintances such as George Orwell, V.S. Pritchett, and E.M. Forster, and international writers including Boris Pasternak, Bertolt Brecht, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Several issues featured self-contained sections that would eventually comprise parts of Isherwood's novel Goodbye to Berlin.

In the autumn of 1938 Lehmann reconciled with the Woolfs. He agreed to buy out Virginia Woolf's share of the Hogarth Press, which he rejoined as managing director and a full partner.

However, in 1946, following increasingly caustic disagreements and an unsuccessful bid to buy Leonard Woolf's half of the Hogarth Press, Lehmann again left and founded his own publishing house, John Lehmann, Ltd. He published poetry, plays, and novels by authors previously featured in his periodicals, as well as new discoveries such as the poets Thom Gunn and Laurence "Laurie" Lee, and the American writers Saul Bellow, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, and Paul Bowles.

In 1946 Lehmann also embarked on a long-lasting although largely-platonic relationship with the Lithuania-born ballet dancer Alexis Rassine (1919-1992). The two men lived together until Lehmann's death in 1987.

Lehmann also began editing the monthly Penguin New Writing series in 1946, with a mission similar to his previous periodical, of publishing fresh, original voices in poetry and prose. It was enormously popular among the British general public and one of the few successful wartime literary periodicals.

He continued as editor of the series of paperbacks until the publication closed, with its fiftieth issue, in 1950.

His own publishing achievements came to an abrupt end in 1952 when Purnell & Sons, the large printing company that John Lehmann, Ltd. worked with, and which was "used to quick success and big profits," according to Lehmann, terminated their agreement.

With the demise of his publishing house, Lehmann next turned to re-launching the esteemed publication The London Magazine in 1954. Welcoming the publication under Lehmann's editorship, the poet T.S. Eliot declared it "the magazine which will boldly assume the existence of a public interested in serious literature."

Lehmann's astonishingly productive and successful career as an editor and publisher effectively ended when he left The London Magazine in 1961. He gave an account of those earlier days in three volumes of memoirs: The Whispering Gallery (1955); I Am My Brother (1960); and The Ample Proposition (1966). As the critic A.T. Tolley notes: "They are among the outstanding literary autobiographies of the century, evoking and recording in intimate detail British literary life from 1930 to 1960."

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