John Lehmann

Last updated

Rudolf John Frederick Lehmann (2 June 1907 7 April 1987) was an English poet and man of letters. [1] He founded the periodicals New Writing [2] [3] and The London Magazine , and the publishing house of John Lehmann Limited.


John Lehmann (seated) with sister Rosamond Lehmann and Lytton Strachey Rosamond Lehmann with her brother John and Lytton Strachey.jpg
John Lehmann (seated) with sister Rosamond Lehmann and Lytton Strachey


Born in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, the fourth child of journalist Rudolph Lehmann, and brother of Helen Lehmann, novelist Rosamond Lehmann and actress Beatrix Lehmann, he was educated at Eton and read English at Trinity College, Cambridge. He considered his time at both as "lost years". [4] At Trinity, Lehmann had a passionate relationship with Virginia Woolf's nephew, Quentin Bell. [5]

After a period as a journalist in Vienna, he returned to England to found the popular periodical New Writing (193640) in book format. [6] This literary magazine sought to break down social barriers and published works by working-class authors as well as educated middle-class writers and poets. [7] It proved a great influence on literature of the period and an outlet for writers such as Christopher Isherwood, W. H. Auden, [6] Edward Upward and miner-author B. L. Coombes. [7] Lehmann included many of these authors in his anthology Poems for Spain which he edited with Stephen Spender. With the onset of the Second World War and paper rationing, New Writing's future was uncertain and so Lehmann wrote New Writing in Europe for Pelican Books, one of the first critical summaries of the writers of the 1930s in which he championed the authors who had been the stars of New Writing—Auden and Spender—and also his close friend Tom Wintringham and Wintringham's ally, the emerging George Orwell. Wintringham reintroduced Lehmann to Allen Lane of Penguin Books, who secured paper for The Penguin New Writing a monthly book-magazine, this time in paperback. The first issue featured Orwell's essay "Shooting an Elephant". Occasional hardback editions combined with the magazine Daylight appeared sporadically, but it was as Penguin New Writing that the magazine survived until 1950.

He joined Leonard and Virginia Woolf as managing director of Hogarth Press between 1938 and 1946. He then established his own publishing company, John Lehmann Limited, with his novelist sister Rosamond Lehmann (who had a nine-year affair with one of Lehmann's contributing poets, Cecil Day-Lewis). They published new works by authors such as Sartre, Kazantzakis and Stendhal, and discovered talents like Thom Gunn and Laurie Lee. He also published the first two books by the cookery writer Elizabeth David, A Book of Mediterranean Food and French Country Cooking . He published two of Denton Welch's posthumous works: A Voice Through a Cloud (for which he supplied the title) (1950) and A Last Sheaf (1951). This publishing house published book series including the Chiltern Library [8] , the Holiday Library [9] and the Modern European Library. It operated from 194653. [10]

In 1954 he founded The London Magazine , remaining as editor until 1961, following which he was a frequent lecturer and completed his three-volume autobiography, Whispering Gallery (1955), I Am My Brother (1960) and The Ample Proposition (1966). In The Purely Pagan Sense (1976) is an autobiographical record of his homosexual life in England and pre-war Germany, discreetly written in the form of a novel. He also wrote the biographies Edith Sitwell (1952), Virginia Woolf and her World (1975), Thrown to the Woolfs (1978) and Rupert Brooke (1980).

In 1965 he published Christ the Hunter, a spiritual/autobiographical prose poem which had been broadcast in 1964 on the BBC Third Programme, In 1974 Lehmann published a book of poems, The Reader at Night, hand-printed on handmade paper and hand-bound in an edition of 250 signed copies (Toronto, Basilike, 1974). An essay by Paul Davies about the creation of this book is included in Professor A.T. Tolley's collection, John Lehmann: a Tribute (Ottawa; Carleton University Press, 1987), which also includes pieces by Roy Fuller, Thom Gunn, Charles Osborne, Christopher Levenson, Jeremy Reed, George Woodcock, and others. [11]

Lehmann died in London.

Poets in Poems from New Writing 19361946 (1946)

See also

Related Research Articles

Cecil Day-Lewis Irish-born English poet, Poet Laureate, and also mystery writer

Cecil Day-Lewis, often writing as C. Day-Lewis, was an Anglo-Irish poet and the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1968 until his death in 1972. He also wrote mystery stories under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake.

John Ashbery poet from the United States of America

John Lawrence Ashbery was an American poet and art critic.

Hogarth Press British publishing house founded in 1917 by Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf

The Hogarth Press was a British publishing house founded in 1917 by Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf. It was named after their house in Richmond, in which they began hand-printing books.

Michael Roberts, originally named William Edward Roberts, was an English poet, writer, critic and broadcaster, who made his living as a teacher.

Louis MacNeice poet

Frederick Louis MacNeice was an Irish poet and playwright from Northern Ireland, and a member of the Auden Group, which also included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis. MacNeice's body of work was widely appreciated by the public during his lifetime, due in part to his relaxed but socially and emotionally aware style. Never as overtly or simplistically political as some of his contemporaries, he expressed a humane opposition to totalitarianism as well as an acute awareness of his roots.

Geoffrey Grigson British poet, writer, critic and naturalist

Geoffrey Edward Harvey Grigson was a British poet, writer, editor, critic, exhibition curator, anthologist and naturalist. In the 1930s he was editor of the influential magazine New Verse, and went on to produce 13 collections of his own poetry, as well as compiling numerous anthologies, among many published works on subjects including art, travel and the countryside. Grigson exhibited in the London International Surrealist Exhibition at New Burlington Galleries in 1936, and in 1946 co-founded the Institute of Contemporary Arts. His autobiography The Crest on the Silver was published in 1950. At various times he was involved in teaching, journalism and broadcasting. Fiercely combative, he made many literary enemies.

R. C. Lehmann British politician

Rudolph Chambers "R.C." Lehmann was an English writer and Liberal Party politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1906 to 1910. As a writer he was best known for three decades in which he was a major contributor to Punch as well as founding editor of Granta magazine.

William Plomer South African-British writer

William Charles Franklyn Plomer was a South African and British author, known as a novelist, poet and literary editor. He also wrote a series of librettos for Benjamin Britten. He wrote some of his poetry under the pseudonym Robert Pagan.

Edward Upward British writer

Edward Falaise Upward, FRSL was a British novelist and short story writer who, prior to his death, was believed to be the UK's oldest living author. Initially gaining recognition amongst the Auden Group as a highly imaginative surrealist writer, in the 1930s he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, after which his writing shifted towards Marxist realism. His literary career spanned over eighty years.

The Listener was a weekly magazine established by the BBC in January 1929 which ceased publication in 1991. The entire digitised archive was made available for purchase online to libraries, educational and research institutions in 2011.

P. J. Kavanagh British poet and actor

P.J. Kavanagh FRSL was an English poet, lecturer, actor, broadcaster and columnist. His father was the ITMA scriptwriter Ted Kavanagh.

Rosamond Lehmann English writer

Rosamond Nina Lehmann was an English novelist and translator. Her first novel, Dusty Answer (1927), was a succès de scandale; she subsequently became established in the literary world and intimate with members of the Bloomsbury set. Her novel The Ballad and the Source received particular critical acclaim, and her books The Echoing Grove and The Weather in the Streets were filmed, one version in 1983 with Michael York and Joanna Lumley which was the second time the BBC had filmed that book, but this version also included sections of Invitation to the Waltz.

Stephen Spender English poet and man of letters

Sir Stephen Harold Spender was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the United States Library of Congress in 1965.

The Criterion was a British literary magazine published from October 1922 to January 1939. The Criterion was, for most of its run, a quarterly journal, although for a period in 1927–28 it was published monthly. It was created by the poet, dramatist, and literary critic T. S. Eliot who served as its editor for its entire run.

John Hampson (novelist) English novelist

John Frederick Norman Hampson Simpson, who wrote as John Hampson, was an English novelist. Best known for his 1931 novel Saturday Night at the Greyhound – an unexpected success for the Hogarth Press – he was a member of the Birmingham Group of working class authors, which included Walter Allen, Leslie Halward, Walter Brierley and Peter Chamberlain. His elder brother was a motorcycle racer, Jimmy Simpson.

<i>Nimbus</i> (literary magazine) literary magazine

Nimbus, "A Magazine of Literature, the Arts, and New Ideas", was a literary magazine co-founded in London in 1951 by Martin Green and Tristram Hull.

Olivia is the only novel by Dorothy Bussy ; it was published in 1949 by Hogarth Press, the publishing house founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Bussy wrote it in French and signed her work with the pseudonym "Olivia." "Olivia" had been the name of one of Dorothy's sisters who died in infancy. The book was translated into English and then retranslated back into French. Bussy dedicated it "to the very dear memory of Virginia W."

New Writing was a popular literary periodical in book format founded in 1936 by John Lehmann and committed to anti-fascism.

John Clive Hall was an English poet and editor.

<i>A Letter to a Young Poet</i> letter by Virginia Woolf

A Letter to a Young Poet was an epistolary letter by Virginia Woolf, written in 1932 to John Lehman, laying out her views on modern poetry.


  1. "John Lehmann | British poet". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  2. New Writing 1938 Edition (reprinted by Ayer Co.)
  3. John Lehmann at Ayer Company Publishers Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Wright, p. 39.
  5. "Book review: An Eton schoolboy thrown to the Woolfs". The Independent. 20 December 1998. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  6. 1 2 "John Lehmann" Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  7. 1 2 Jones, Bill; Williams, Chris (1999). B. L. Coombes . University of Wales Press. ISBN   9780708315620.
  8. Chiltern Library, Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  9. Holiday Library, Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  10. Encyclopædia Britannica online, s.v. John Lehmann
  11. Tolley 1987.


  • Tolley, A. T., ed. (1987). John Lehmann: A Tribute. MQUP. ISBN   978-0-7735-9592-7.
  • Adrian Wright, John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure (1998)
  • Gale Literary Databases,"(Rudolph) John (Frederick) Lehmann,"
  • David Hughes. "Lehmann, (Rudolph) John Frederick (1907-1987),"
  • Petra Rau, University of Portsmouth. "John Lehmann." The Literary Encyclopedia. 21 Mar. 2002. The Literary Dictionary Company.