A Boy at the Hogarth Press by Richard Kennedy

A Boy at the Hogarth Press

Richard Kennedy came from Carbis Bay, just a few miles from my home. It’s a small, sleepy Cornish town with a lovely sandy beach. I recall being taken there as a child on annual Sunday School treats when the highlight of the day was a bottle of lemonade and a saffron bun after happy hours playing in the sea and on the golden sands.

But Richard was sent away to school. A very good school – Malborough – and no doubt his family had great ambitions for him.

Unfortunately though, Richard was not a success at school and at the age of sixteen he was back in Carbis Bay with not a qualification to his name. He was happy to be back, but he wasn’t to stay long. His Uncle George spoke to a friend and Richard found himself off to London to be employed as an office boy.

Uncle George’s friend was Leonard Woolf, and so Richard found himself at the Hogarth Press. And so we see the Bloomsbury Group through the eyes of a gauche sixteen-year old boy.

Richard made the tea, printed book-jackets on the treadle press, helped with type setting and packed and depatched books. Eventually he was even sent ot Scotland to sell books. He was just the boy in the office though, so nobody took much notice of him. But he watched them!

Leonard Woolf took an interest in the boy’s future and encouraged Richard to learn bookkeeping. He kept a close eye on the petty cash and office expenses too. Virginia Woolf was a more distant figure, but a dab hand at packaging books when called upon. Other notable figures passed by, but Richard gives them and his less distinguished colleagues and friends just the same attention.

After a year though, it’s all over – Richard is sacked for cutting paper the wrong size.

But the details that he does remember from his short employment allow him to not only give clear and charming account, but also to pepper his story with simple and striking line drawings.

A lovely little book!

4 responses

  1. I like the way you told this story. How nice to have someone in a nearby town as a writer. Too bad he didn’t get to stay there very much.

  2. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: May 30, 2009 at Semicolon

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