Authored By: Lise Jaillant
Edited By: Nicola Wilson
Chatto & Windus has its origins in the Victorian era. The founder of the firm, John Camden Hotten, opened his own bookshop at 151b Piccadilly in 1855. He started publishing books in the 1860s and acquired a reputation for dishonest business transactions. For example, Algernon Charles Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads (1866) sold well, but Hotten paid the author little if any of the profits.
When Hotten died in 1873, the publications manager Andrew Chatto bought the firm from Hotten’s widow. W. E. Windus, a poet, became a partner in the business. Unlike Hotten, Chatto “was careful to make clear sales contracts with his authors, to pay them their share of profits from their works, and to protect them to the extent that he could from piracies” (Schneller). The firm published Mark Twain, Wilkie Collins, and, for a brief period, H. G. Wells. From 1902 to 1907, the then little-known Arnold Bennett delivered one or two novels a year to the firm. W. E. Windus and Andrew Chatto died in 1910 and 1913 respectively.
During the 1920s and 1930s Chatto & Windus was managed by Charles Prentice, Harold Raymond and Ian Parsons. Frank Swinnerton, a novelist and critic, served as literary adviser. Among the authors “discovered” by Swinnerton was Aldous Huxley, whose collection of short stories Limbo became a bestseller in 1920. Among the many Huxley titles subsequently published by the firm were Antic Hay (1923), Point Counter Point (1928), Brave New World (1932) and Eyeless in Gaza (1936).
Wyndham Lewis joined the Chatto & Windus list in 1926, with The Art of Being Ruled. This was the start of a long collaboration with Charles Prentice. Time and Western Man, his most important non-fictional work, and The Wild Body, a collection of stories, appeared in 1927. The following year, Prentice offered to reprint Tarr in the new Phoenix Library, a series of reprints sold for three shillings and six pence.
As a latecomer in the field of 3/6 quality series, Chatto & Windus had to create a list significantly different from its competitors (including the Travellers’ Library published by Jonathan Cape). One way of doing that was to include daring books that would be talked about. The series was described as an “aristocrat among pocket libraries”: “Its very format exhales the spirit which animates its editors in their selective pursuit. Aldous Huxley, Lytton Strachey, J. B. S. Haldane, Roger Fry - the PHOENIX LIBRARY is noted for its lively presentation of the modern attitude to life. Many of its books have created (and still create) world-wide discussions and acrid controversy” (Phoenix Book Co. Catalogue).
Richard Aldington’s Death of a Hero was another controversial book reprinted in the Phoenix Library. First published in 1929, the book was based on the author’s bitter experience of the First World War. Chatto & Windus continued to issue Aldington’s work in the 1930s, including The Colonel's Daughter (1931), All Men Are Enemies (1933), and Women Must Work (1934).
The firm also published most of the work of T. F. Powys, starting with his collection of stories The Left Leg (1923). Many Powys titles also appeared in the Phoenix Library: Mr Weston's Good Wine, House with the Echo, Mr Tasker's Gods and No Painted Plumage (a new edition of Fables). American fiction also appeared on the Chatto & Windus list – for example with the work of William Faulkner (starting with the publication of Soldiers’ Pay in 1930).
In 1946, the Hogarth Press founded by Virginia and Leonard Woolf became a subsidiary of Chatto & Windus, and in 1969 Chatto & Windus merged with Jonathan Cape. Chatto & Windus continued to publish independently until 1987, when it was acquired by Random House. Today, the Chatto & Windus imprint is still used for literary fiction, non-fiction, and translations.
Archives and Papers
Archives of Chatto & Windus Ltd, University of Reading