"WHAT WERE YOU BEFORE THE WAR?"
(YORKE, Henry) GREEN, Henry. Caught. London: Hogarth, 1943. Octavo, original red cloth, original dust jacket. $1200.
First edition of the mercurial English writer's fourth novel, "a virtual life feed" of London as England and the world erupted in WWII, published by the Woolfs' Hogarth Press, in original dust jacket designed by respected artist Leonard Rosoman.
Henry Green, the pseudonym of Henry Yorke, was born into wealth but worked most of his life for the family manufacturing firm. In 1938, with England and the world edging toward war, Green joined London's Auxiliary Fire Service. He reassured a friend by noting, "'It will make a good book one day." That day soon came. During the early years of WWII… Green remained in London, responding to air raids, frequenting jazz clubs, falling serially in love, socializing with other firemen—and writing one of his best novels, the charged, ornate, and wrenching Caught (1943), which amounted to a virtual live feed… In Caught, a character thinks that war 'is sex,' but the novel shows that to Green war was life, only more so" (New Yorker).
The first of his pivotal WWII novels, Caught led the way for Loving (1945) and Back (1946). It continues Green's deft skewering of British social classes with his "almost Shakespearean talent for inventive spoken poetry… Green sees how the war is disturbing and confusing a still-fiercely hierarchical society" (James Wood). The novel also pursues "the exploration of sexuality begun in Party Going (1939) with the difference that the danger and excitement of the war has the effect of cutting through some of the manipulative and game-like maneuvering that characterizes sexuality in the earlier book" (Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature I:464). Above all "Caught manages the improbable feat of being both a harrowing war story of London during the Blitz and a sharply observed comedy about social class. Green was a silver-spoon aristocrat, but his ear for common speech was as keen as Dickens'" (New York Times Book Review). First issue: "First published 1943" on copyright page with no statement of printings. With printed slip "Recommended by the Book Society" affixed to dust jacket front flap. Without "Colonial Cloth" inkstamp found on copies Hogarth Press shipped outside England. Leonard Woolf, concerned about public reaction to the book with Britain under attack, reportedly censored aspects of the novel when Hogarth released it in 1943. Dust jacket illustration by renowned British artist Leonard Rosoman who, like Green, served in London's Auxiliary Fire Service on the homefront. Rosoman survived the war to become a highly respected painter, "but it was as an illustrator that he found his true vocation" (Guardian). See Connolly, Modern Movement 59. Contemporary owner signature inscribed the year of publication: "30 June 43 Oxford."
Book fine; light edge-wear, mild soiling to near-fine dust jacket.