And what an exciting batch of titles it is. I'm thrilled that we'll be publishing books by two of my absolute favorite authors:
One is an old favorite, the discovery of whom via Persephone Books nearly a decade ago helped to direct me to the focus of this blog. The other is a more recent discovery, the kind of glorious find that keeps me blogging and sifting and sneezing my way through dusty, mildewy old books to unearth more forgotten treasures.
The first author was a bestseller in her day, and her gradual rediscovery over the course of the past decade has been a bright spot in the often bleak landscape of contemporary publishing. The other is about as utterly forgotten as one could imagine—even her nearest heirs had no idea she had published novels!
But enough teasing.
The first author, as some of you may have guessed already, is none other than D. E. STEVENSON, whose marvelous Miss Buncle's Book is one of my 10 favorite books of all time. The Miss Buncle series has been reprinted by both Persephone in the UK and Sourcebooks in the US, with other DES titles available in various formats from several publishers.
But then there's that other series for which Stevenson is best known—the funny, sweet, and lightly autobiographical Mrs Tim series, comprised of Mrs Tim of the Regiment, Mrs Tim Carries On, Mrs Tim Gets a Job, and Mrs Tim Flies Home. These are books to have with you on a desert island. Or on vacation. Or perhaps on vacation to a desert island. They can be read time and again without any diminishing of their pleasure. My bias is in favor of the wartime Mrs Tim Carries On, but in truth I adore them all.
Some of you will know already that Bloomsbury reprinted the first volume, Mrs Tim of the Regiment, several years ago, and that title is still in print. But inexplicably they never proceeded with the other three books, which have become more and more difficult to find and are sometimes prohibitively expensive if you can find them. But no more! All three will be released by Dean Street Press in January of 2019.
But that's not all for the DESsies among you. We'll also be reprinting another profoundly underrated Stevenson novel from the World War II years. 1942's Spring Magic is a cheerful, funny, sweet romance set primarily in an idyllic coastal village in Scotland. I read it for the first time early this year, on the recommendation of resident DES expert Jerri Chase, and it now ranks just behind the Miss Buncle and Mrs Tim books among my all-time favorite Stevenson titles.
And finally, for DES collectors and purists, perhaps the most exciting news is that we'll be reprinting (for the first time in more than 80 years!) the complete first edition text of Smouldering Fire, the Stevenson novel that has probably been more abused and mistreated by publishers than any other. It was first published in the UK in 1935 and in the US in 1938. Until now, however, those were the only complete editions of the book. All later reprints, both hardcover and paperback, have been heavily abridged, with entire chapters as well as occasional passages throughout the novel cut from the text. Ugh, why do publishers do such things? DESsies have bemoaned this problem for decades, but for our new edition, we have followed the text of the first U.K. edition, so will attempt to put to rights the indignities the book has been submitted to!
And a big additional thanks to Jerri for actually lending her impossibly rare copy of the UK first edition of Smouldering Fire for us to work from (not to mention her copy of the US first edition of Spring Magic), as well as scanning some of the wonderful dustjackets from her copies, which I'm using in this post. I'm happy to say that both of Jerri's books have made their way safely home again after their vacation in San Francisco. Thank you again for your generosity, Jerri, and your infinite knowledge of DES, upon which I've relied a great deal in the past few months.
That makes five D. E. Stevenson titles in all. Which leaves four more coming attractions...
It's not surprising that many of the books I choose to reprint have appeared in my "Furrowed Middlebrow Dozen" posts from past years, but it's always satisfying to see a title move from being a favorite new read of the year to being back in print (most of my favorite reads being, as you well know, out of print). The brilliant ELIZABETH ELIOT ranked at #4 in 2016's year-end list with her final novel, Cecil. (As it happens, we've already reprinted #1 and #7 from that year…) I devoted two whole posts that year to my obsessive reading of Eliot (see here and here), and am now delighted that we're reprinting four of her inimitable novels—Alice (1949), Henry (1950), Mrs Martell (1953), and the aforementioned Cecil (1962).
I was recently looking back at all four of these delightful novels, and was nearly swept into re-reading them, despite all the other books (and a number of other things) awaiting my attention. Lady Eliot forms a sharp contrast with D. E. Stevenson, and perhaps has more in common with the gleeful morbidity of Barbara Comyns than the comforting wit and wisdom of DES. One of my tasks when we're preparing these books for publication is to draft the cover descriptions, and I always like to open with a short, attention-grabbing quotation from each novel. While attempting to decide on these from an array of funny, dark, and quirky possibilities, I came across this passage from Henry which seemed to capture the quintessentially off-balance nature of Eliot's heroines:
'The trouble with you, Anne, is that you're always imagining things.' Who had said that? Probably mother. Or the governess before she left to get married. How disagreeable, and it was all the fault of the sub-conscious. … Why didn't the sub-conscious ever turn up things like: 'Anne, how beautiful you are looking today.' Or even: 'That's a good girl finishing up all your dinner.'
There are shades of other authors in Eliot's work, but ultimately she is entirely her own unique and brilliant creation.
So there, those are our nine new titles. We're hard at work finalizing covers at the moment (with some lovely cover images, if I do say so myself), and I should be able to preview those for you in the next two or three weeks. I'm so happy to be able to finally announce these, and hope you'll be looking forward to reading them!