WOOLF’S LAST NOVEL, FROM THE LIBRARY OF JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES’ NEPHEW AND GODSON
WOOLF, Virginia. The Years. London: R. & R. Clark, Ltd for the Hogarth Press, 1937.
Octavo (180 x 120mm), pp. [4 (half-title, other titles by Woolf, title, imprint)], 469, [3 (blank)]. Press-device after Vanessa Bell on title. (Short, clean tear on T8.) Original green cloth, spine lettered in gilt, cream dustwrapper printed in black and brown with design by Vanessa Bell. (Extremities lightly rubbed, spine slightly leant, dustwrapper darkened on spine, lightly marked, some tears, laid down onto paper without loss.) A very good, clean copy in the dustwrapper. Provenance: W. Heffer & Sons Ltd, Cambridge (bookseller’s ticket on upper pastedown) – Stephen John Keynes OBE, FLS (1927-2017; note ‘1st Edition’ in pencil on front free endpaper).
First edition. The Years was the last of Woolf’s novels to be published during her lifetime and tells the story of the Pargiter family over the course of 50 years, from the 1880s onwards. Woolf had begun work on the novel (provisionally titled The Pargiters) in 1932 and the first draft was completed in September 1934. The first draft of some 900 pages of manuscript was extensively revised and heavily cut over the following years, and passed through eight different titles before Woolf settled on The Years; as she wrote in her diary on 15 September 1935, ‘that name is fixed; dropped like a billiard ball into a pocket’ (Diary, IV, p. 342). Although the scope and depth of the cuts and revisions, and the long period of gestation they caused, reflect to some extent the doubts that both Virginia and Leonard Woolf felt about the work’s literary merit, the edition of 18,142 copies published on 15 March 1937 was the largest of any of her works: ‘[The Years’] commercial success completely overshadowed Virginia’s other novels. It sold over 13,000 copies in the first six months […]. In America, Harcourt Brace printed 10,000 copies for the first edition and quickly reprinted, as The Years sold over 30,000 copies in six months’ (J.H. Willis, Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers: The Hogarth Press 1917-1941(Charlottesville, VA, 1992), p. 290).
This copy is from the library of the bibliophile Stephen Keynes, the son of the distinguished surgeon, bibliographer, and bibliophile Sir Geoffrey Keynes (1887-1982) and the nephew and godson of John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes (1883-1946). Both Geoffrey and Maynard Keynes were friends of the Woolfs, and both lived at 38 Brunswick Square, the large Bloomsbury town house which was leased by Maynard Keynes and became the home of Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant, Adrian Stephen, Leonard Woolf, and other members of the Bloomsbury Group at various times between 1912 and 1915.
Kirkpatrick and Clarke, Woolf, A22a; Woolmer, The Hogarth Press, 423.
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