Emanuel Haldeman-Julius : Pocket Series and the Little Blue Books

Resources for Collectors: Author Profile of John Cowper Powys

Haldeman-Julius.org would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Jacqueline Peltier, hostess of Un Site Powys and representative for the Powys Society in France, for contributing the following article to our site. All credit, rights and copyright belong to her, save for those attributed to Stephen Powys Marks. Merci Jacqueline! Nous vous sommes extrêmement reconnaissants.

By Jacqueline Peltier

Portrait of John Cowper Powys, courtesy Jacqueline Peltier. John Cowper Powys, one of the most profound and original English writers of the 20th century, was born in 1872 and, with his ten siblings, benefited from a mid-Victorian vicarage childhood, among a wealthy upper-class family which counted among their ancestors two poets, John Donne and William Cowper. He was at school at Sherborne, then at Corpus Christi, Cambridge and after a few years giving lessons of English literature in girls' schools and touring England for the University Extension as lecturer, he finally fled the conventionalities of his class and time, as well as an unhappy marriage, and in 1908 left for the United States. He remained until 1934 when he decided to come back to England (and later Wales). He was an itinerant lecturer, first for ASEUT1, then under the management of his friend Geoffrey Arnold Shaw (1884-1937)2, who was, as he writes, "the most perfect stage-manager that I could have invented in my wildest fancies"3, "my unique circus-manager"4. These thirty years in America were fruitful for his career and his development as a writer. He was a very successful lecturer, and toured "all but two states", as well as Canada. In 1930, Powys put an end to his exhausting lecture tours and, retiring to upper New York State, took the courageous decision to live by his books alone. Thus started a life of deprivation and hardship, but which saw the publication of Wolf Solent (1929), A Glastonbury Romance (1932), Weymouth Sands and Autobiography (1934). At the time we are considering here, that is to say the period starting just before WWI, Arnold Shaw had just hit upon a new scheme, to become a publisher, and he was indeed to publish a great number of books by John Cowper Powys. The first of these, which Powys had had in mind as a response to the pro-German propaganda of Professor Münsterberg at Harvard, was The War and Culture, which Powys wrote in one month and which was published towards the end of 1914. In a four-page advertising brochure, Powys stated his reasons for writing such a book:

"I have written this as a reply to Professor Münsterberg, because the professor's remarks have seemed to me deliberately designed to mislead public opinion in America about the issues at stake and deliberately designed to prevent a clear understanding of the real trend of modern German culture (...)"

A few months afterwards, in 1915, Arnold Shaw published Visions and Revisions, a collection of essays based on Powys's lectures, as well as his first novel Wood and Stone. In 1916 came another batch of important books, still under the imprint of Arnold Shaw, including One Hundred Best Books (reprinted as Little Blue Book #435), Rodmoor his second novel, and a second volume of essays, Suspended Judgments, Essays on Books and Sensations (G. Arnold Shaw 1916). This last book was the source for the Little Blue Books 448-453, which would be published in the twenties.

Interestingly enough, the fate of quite a few people was determined by their encounter with Emanuel Haldeman-Julius: John Cowper and his brother Llewelyn, but also Will and Ariel Durant, as well as Simon & Schuster. There is also an added curiousity in the fact that Phyllis Playter who was to be John Cowper's companion from 1923 onward, lived in Kansas with her parents, had taken a job with the Haldeman-Julius Company of Girard, Kansas, in November 1922, not long after she had first met JCP (1921). One of her first tasks was to proof-read some of his work, for Haldeman-Julius was serialising John's One Hundred Best Books for a weekly paper.

"However, I hear from Phyllis [Playter] that her boss at Great Kansas, where she has a job of editing and proof-reading, has just been printing the whole of 100 B[est] Books in his weekly - I suppose 'The Appeal to Reason', for the chap's name is Manuel Haldeman Julius, the fellow who advertises so his little 10 per cent editions of standard authors. He must have had some deal with your good Simon.

But it is a queer irony that Phyllis should suddenly find herself quite by accident proof-reading her admirer's worst work! and the printing presses of the plant working over-time on Doctor Powys."5

Ariel Durant in A Dual Autobiography reveals how when she was living in Greenwich Village before she became Will Durant's wife, she had met Emanuel Julius,

"at the time an impoverished, ambitious, book-loving youth (...) He went west and married Marcet Haldeman, added her name and income to his, and set up at Girard, Kansas, a publishing firm which almost educated the United States with fragile but handy 'Little Blue Books' at five cents a copy."6

Ariel later had the opportunity to mention Will's lectures to Haldeman-Julius. He attended one, and once he was back in Girard, sent Will Durant a cheque for $150 to secure his lecture on Plato, which was published in 1922 as a Little Blue Book #1597. It would also lead to the phenomenal success of The Story of Philosophy, because of Haldeman-Julius recommending the very young publishers Dick Simon & Max Schuster, for his coming book. They were also to become JCP's publishers in the United States.

It is difficult to know how Haldeman-Julius came to publish John Cowper Powys's essays. Will Durant and JCP were close friends. It may have been due to their friendship, or to Arnold Shaw's great sense of enterprise, that John Cowper had ten of his essays reprinted as Little Blue Books, and Llewelyn two, between 1923 and 1926.

Bibliographies of Little Blue Books

For what follows, I am much indebted to Stephen Powys Marks's long article in the Powys Society Newsletter 23 (November 1994) on the Little Blue Books, giving an exhaustive list of Powys books published by Haldeman-Julius, with their respective numbers:

John Cowper Powys

Llewelyn Powys

Phyllis Playter

In his remarkable and informed study, Stephen Powys Marks writes:

"Altogether I have seen fifty-nine copies of these books, many of them, of course, duplicates, but there are various little, and not-so-little, differences between copies which are worth noting, namely covers of different colours, change in the size of the volume number on the front cover, different names for the series, even on one volume, and, most conspicuously, the introduction of a more striking title for two of them, allied with a more eye-catching colour. Some of these differences can show the chronological order of the copies of a book. Unfortunately, however, the date of printing is never changed from that in the original version in the series (although occasionally it is simply omitted), so that from internal evidence, we cannot tell when changes were made."

And he adds:

"It appears that the Little Blue Books were normally reprints of work already published. The essays in volumes 448-453 were first published in Suspended Judgments, Essays on Books and Sensations (G. Arnold Shaw, 1916), and in One Hundred Best Books, also published by Shaw, appeared in the same year. The essays in Llewelyn Powys's two books first appeared, according to acknowledgments, in The Art Review, Arts and Decorations, The Freeman, The Double-Dealer, The New York Times, and The Dial. Paul Roberts has pointed out that most of the essays in 1264 had already been printed in the Haldeman-Julius Quarterly."

For more information on Little Blue Book authors, and biographic data on specific writers/contributors, please see our article Torch Bearers in the War on Ignorance!.

Source Citations & Footnotes
1Aseut: American Society for the Extension of University Teaching
2For a detailed description of his life, see The Ideal Ringmaster, "a Biographical Sketch of G. Arnold Shaw", by Paul Roberts, The Powys Society Publications, 1996.
3Autobiography, Macdonald, 1967, p.440
4Ibid., p.448-9
5Letters to His Brother Llewelyn, vol. I (Village Press, London, 1975). Written from Hotel Victoria, San Francisco, California, Tuesday 3 December 1922.
6Will & Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, Simon & Schuster, 1977, p.95
7The covers of 3 of the 11 Little Blue Books based on Will Durant's lectures are reproduced in A Dual Autobiography between p.93 & p.94