Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane

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Viking, 2005 - Publishers and publishing - 484 pages
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A stocky, dapper Bristolian who left school at the age of sixteen and went on to found Penguin Books, Allen Lane was the greatest publisher of the twentieth century and a major influence on the cultural and political life of post-war Britain. He revolutionized our reading habits by his insistence that the best writing in the world should be made available for the price of a packet of cigarettes. Decked out in their livery of orange and white, the first Penguins were published in the summer of 1935 and were followed in due course by Pelicans, Puffins and Penguin Classics." "Though never a bookish man himself, Lane was adept at sensing the spirit of the age and always ready to follow his hunches: he commissioned Nikolaus Pevsner to write the Buildings of England, persuaded Kenneth Clark to mastermind the Penguin Modern Painters, and gave his backing to John Lehmann's Penguin New Writing, arguably the finest literary magazine of its times. He risked prosecution by publishing James Joyce's Ulysses for the first time in this country, and a quarter of a century later he appeared at the Old Bailey to defend Penguin's publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover, thereby anticipating the liberal reforms of the 1960s." "But his influence stretched far beyond the world of publishing: his pre-war Penguin Specials alerted the British public to the threat of Nazism; the books he published during the war helped to ensure a Labour victory in 1945; and Penguin itself came to be seen as a benign monopoly, akin to the BBC or the National Health Service." "By the end of his career, publishing was changing too fast for his liking, and his last years were blighted by illness and his battle with the mercurial Tony Godwin, brought to its climax when Lane set fire to the stock of a book he detested. Lane combined ruthlessness with affability, courage with moral cowardice, loyalty with unpredictability. Few publishers are remembered after their lifetimes: Allen Lane is a rare exception to the rule."--Book jacket.

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User Review  - the.ken.petersen - LibraryThing

Almost all readers must have a soft spot for Penguin Books. This is the story of Allen Lane, the founder and driving force of Penguin. It is written in a believable and pleasantly un-fawning manner ... Read full review


Prologue I
Bristol Days
Life with Uncle John

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About the author (2005)

Jeremy Morley Lewis was born in Salisbury, England on March 15, 1942. He read history at Trinity College, Dublin and received a master's degree in European studies from the University of Sussex. He worked for several publishing houses including William Collins, Oxford University Press, and Chatto and Windus. He also worked on literary magazines including the Literary Review and The Oldie. He wrote three autobiographical books entitled Playing for Time, Kindred Spirits: Adrift in Literary London, and Grub Street Irregular: Scenes from Literary Life. His other books included Cyril Connolly: A Life, Tobias Smollett, Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane, Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family, and David Astor. He died on April 10, 2017 at the age of 75.

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