Letter from Leonard Woolf to William Plomer (28/04/1925)





William Plomer Esq 


28 April, 1925


Dear Mr Plomer,


My wife *1 has now read “Turbott Wolfe” and agrees with me about it. I must apologise once more for the delay in our coming to a decision. We should like to publish the book this autumn, and will put it in hand at once if you agree to our terms. I have had the terms embodied at once in a draft agreement, in order to save time, and if you agree to them, will you sign them and return to me and I will then let you have one copy back signed by us. You will see that I propose giving you 33 1/3 % of the profits. The fact is that, much as I like the book, I doubt its being popular and I think it highly probable that we shall lose over it. Under those circumstances I do not think that we can offer you a royalty, but are prepared to give you one-third of any profits that there may be.


There is however one other thing. I am still rather worried by the question of identity of characters with real people. If there is any character which can be even remotely identified with a real person in S. [South] Africa, both you and we will be liable to cc to a libel action, and heavy damages might be given against us. According to the contract usual in publishing you are bound to make good to us any loss which we may sustain from such an action, but we should be personally responsible to the plaintiff in such an action and should have to recover again from you -- which, I understand, would not be possible. You will excuse my plain speaking, but we are not wealthy people, and heavy damages might be a most serious thing for us. I do therefore most earnestly ask you to consider this very carefully, and, if you think that there is a remote possibility of identification in any case, that you will make alterations in the MS [Manuscript]. The delay in returning the MS would be unfortunate, but I assure you that a libel action of this kind might be disastrous, and that it is essential to make it impossible. Remember that the mere fact that you have changed





the names of real places and persons is not an answer in a libel action. Any incident in the life of a character which is identical with that of a real person is sufficient to identify the character with that person -- also any personal characteristic.


Again it will presumably be published under your own name, so that any incidents which actually happened in the vicinity where you live and which were transferred to any character in your book would be held to identify characters with real persons living in your vicinity.


Yours sincerely | Leonard Woolf [signature]


Will you be very disappointed if we do not reproduce the drawings? We do not think that they are really suitable to a book of this kind and they add materially to the expense.



* Endnotes


1. Virginia Woolf

Source: MS 2750/351/5

Image Rights Holder: Estate of William Plomer

Letter from Leonard Woolf to William Plomer (28/04/1925)



University of Reading, Special Collections

Archival Folder:

Leonard writes to say that both he and Virginia would like to publish the book in the Autumn. Woolf informs that he is sending a draft agreement and also notifies Plomer of the commission he will receive. Woolf doubts the popularity of the book and therefore only offers a share of the profits without royalty payments. Woolf reiterates his concerns over liability regarding libel action in case any of the characters are identified as real people, he urges Plomer to consider this matter carefully and to think about making changes to the manuscript. Woolf also explains what constitutes a libel case. He iterates that The Hogarth Press is not in a position of wealth and thus unable to sustain heavy losses. Woolf finishes the letter asking not to reproduce drawings previously sent by Plomer as they are not suitable and would add to the expense of creating the book.


Typescript letter signed by Woolf