Hope Mirrlees is easily the most mysterious of the great twentieth century fantasists.She wrote one important work of modern fantasy, Lud-in-the-Mist, and then abruptly fell into silence. Her single professionally published poem was only the fifth work put out by Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press, and is considered by critics to be a significant and possibly even important modernist work. But, despite her long and enduring friendship with T. S. Eliot, she never followed it up. She was a fringe member of the twentieth century’s single most prestigious literary sorority, the Bloomsbury Group, and yet by 1970 she was almost completely forgotten. There are no biographies of her, few pictures, and personal information is dauntingly difficult to find. The mists of time have closed around her.
Still, traces remain. With patience, it is possible to gather together these widely-scattered references to Mirrlees, and so assemble a rough sketch of her life and achievements.
Let this slim book serve as a beginning.
And, anticipating your question . . .
Why is this book coming out in an edition of two hundred? Because, while New York publishers have big corporations, warehouses full of books, night watchmen, and the like, small press publishers are often one-man operations and very frequently run out of the publisher's home. So the small edition allows Henry Wessells (who's not even trying to make a living out of Temporary Culture) to get about his living room without having to clamber over cartons of unsold books.
I dropped by the headquarters of a growing small press once just before it became big enough to justify the purchase of a separate building for the books and office and it was not a pretty sight.
Oh, and what the heck . . .
I have a small anecdote about Ian Fleming that I uncovered in the course of my researches but which I didn't include in the book because it had nothing to do with Mirrlees herself. So I'll share it with you tomorrow.