Common Reader

Siegfried SASSOON   |   Virginia WOOLF

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(SASSOON, Siegfried) WOOLF, Virginia. The Common Reader. London: Hogarth Press, 1925. Octavo, original half gray cloth, pictorial paper boards designed by Vanessa Bell. $3800.

First edition of Virginia Woolf's popular and influential collection of essays, one of only 1250 printed at the Hogarth Press founded and run by Woolf and her husband Leonard, inscribed by the renowned English soldier, poet, and writer Siegfried Sassoon and signed by him with his characteristic monogram on the half title, incorporating the title into the inscription, crossing out the word "The" and replacing it with "Un": "To an Uncommon Reader (Miss Schuster) from [Sassoon's monogram]. June 28, 1925."

The Common Reader was conceived as a collection of informal essays designed to introduce good literature to members of the wider public or, to use the label she borrowed from Samuel Johnson, the "common readers." The Observer praised it, noting that "few books can show a deeper enjoyment, a wider range, or a finer critical intelligence." In fact, it was so successful that "in refashioning the informal, critical essay to her own unique perspective, [Woolf] had taught a new generation how to read, how to become uncommon readers" (Willis 114). Includes Woolf's essays on Jane Austen, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, George Eliot, Joseph Conrad, modern fiction, modern essays, "The Russian Point of View," "On Not Knowing Greek," and many others.

Siegfried Sassoon met Virginia and Leonard Woolf on January 13, 1924—not long before presenting this volume—an event that he recorded in his diary. "A quiet day, which ended noisily (most of the noise was made by myself talking about myself to Virginia and Leonard Woolf). I have wanted to meet V.W. since last April, when I read Jacob's Room at Garsington. But I felt that the Woolfs belong to a rarefied intellectual atmosphere in which I should be ill at ease. I went to Paradise Road, Richmond, this evening, intending to be discreet and observantly detached. But the evening was a gossipy affair, very pleasant and unconstrained. V.W. drew me out adroitly, and I became garrulous. (Did I bore them once or twice?)… They agreed with me about the modern vulgarisation of fine literature by the commercialism of publishers; and urged me to publish a book with the Hogarth Press. I dallied with the idea of a small volume of 'scraps of prose', vaguely visualising selections from my journal, which I feel now to be quite impracticable" (Stape, J.H., ed., Virginia Woolf: Interviews and Recollections). Without scarce original dust jacket. Kirkpatrick A8a. The recipient, Miss Schuster, is very likely Adela Schuster, sister of Frank (Frankie) Schuster, a patron of the arts and benefactor to many, as was Adela. In 1924, aware that Sassoon was suffering from depression, Frank Schuster presented him with his first car and also allowed Sassoon to use his country retreat, the Hut, at Bray-on-Thames.

A few faint spots to title page, text clean. Light soiling and edge-wear to binding. A very good copy with a nice literary association.

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