Fabled & Fabulous
Faber & Faber Diary
On the Occasion of Faber & Faber's 80th Anniversary
"Geoffrey Faber himself was a scholar-poet whose collected poems the firm published as The Buried Stream in 1941 (his posthumous Twelve Years was issued privately, so is and yet isn’t a Faber poetry book). His greatest piece of fabrefication, though, was the appointment of another scholar-poet as a Director of the firm at the very beginning, in 1925, and of course it was on and around T. S. Eliot that the whole enterprise turned. His Poems 1909-1925 appears to have been the first poetry book from Faber & Gwyer (as the firm was first named), and over the next 40 years he nominally wrote or contributed to 55 other Faber books—and still they come and are to come. Yet his contribution was greater even than that, for he gave Faber its extraordinary gravitational pull—securing not only Ezra Pound, Herbert Read, Louis MacNeice, and Edwin Muir, then Marianne Moore, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Sylvia Plath, but also James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, so that Faber became the British vortex of modern writing. Other lists, such as Penguin, may have bought in more than 11 Nobel prize-holders, but has any other house found and nurtured so many future winners?
"Eliot’s hovering presence set a tone, audible in the factual, unenthusiastic blurbs he wrote for his poets, and in the announcement of his 1936 Collected Poems: “It is a chronic malady that Mr. Eliot’s poems are dissipated through numerous emaciated tomes, and that some have not yet been clothed with the respectability of cloth bindings . . . To our occasional nagging, Mr. Eliot has invariably replied that if he did not have to read so many manuscripts he would have more time for writing poetry.” The comedy is wry because the charge is true—he would have had more time—and the blankness of “Mr. Eliot, who needs no introduction, made a personality cult out of the impersonal poet. How unpleasant to meet Mr. Eliot, and how every young writer longed to. "