Jeremy Lewis

Not the Men They Were

Publishers were still newsworthy when I started work in the publicity department of Collins in the late 1960s. Boldly sporting open-necked shirts and corduroy jackets, the two ‘whizz luds’ of the day, Tom Maschler and Tony Godwin, were the subjects of admiring profiles in the colour magazines, while the doings of George Weidenfeld and André Deutsch occupied a comparable number of column inches; Allen Lane’s death in 1970 was front- page news, and not only in the broadsheets; and although the denizens of Bloomsbury and Covent Garden never took themselves as seriously as their equivalents in New York, ‘Billy’ Collins, Hamish Hamilton, ‘Jock’ Murray, ‘Fred’ Warburg and the rest – almost all of them men, keen lunchers at the Garrick or the Savile, and invariably clad in heavy tweeds or chalk-striped suits – were looked up to as gentlemanly tradesmen, possessed of a certain gravitas in the social as well as the literary world.

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