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January 04 , 2008

An Occupation for Gentlemen


At a cocktail party in the 1950s, a businessman said to Frederic Warburg, “You seem to know a lot about publishing. Now tell me, is it a business or an occupation for gentlemen?” This memoir seeks to answer that question. Written in 1959, An Occupation for Gentlemen covers the author’s life until 1939; its sequel, All Authors are Equal, recounts Warburg’s life at the helm of Secker & Warburg until he retired from publishing in 1971.

In this first volume, Warburg recounts his school years at Westminster boys’ preparatory school, at Oxford’s Christ Church, and his apprenticeship at Routledge & Sons, which dismissed him because he insisted that the firm should publish fiction in addition to academic books. In 1936, with financial help from his aunt Agnes, Warburg and a partner purchased the publishing firm of Martin Secker. Renamed Secker & Warburg, it became known as anti-fascist and anti-communist, publishing André Gide's Back from the USSR and George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. From then on Secker & Warburg published all of Orwell's books and Orwell and Warburg became intimate friends.

“An engaging autobiography... Mr. Warburg writes with a nice light touch and with considerable charm and humor. His remarks about publishing are interesting and pointed.” — Orville Prescott, The New York Times

“An entertaining and instructive book about two deep and ancient mysteries, human character and the trade of publishing.” — Jacques Barzun

“Fredric Warburg’s autobiography is... wonderfully engaging. Mr. Warburg is that rarity among publishers. He writes extremely well.” — Moss Hart

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