Publishers, like farmers, are notorious grumblers, forever forecasting doom and despair and the imminent collapse of the world as they have known it. Despite affectations of donnish absent-mindedness and gentlemanly amateurism, they are also, more often than not, shrewd and hard-headed businessmen, adept at pulling strings in high places. All these qualities were much in evidence during the War, when publishers found themselves in the half-enviable, half-hopeless position of being unable to meet a seemingly insatiable demand for books.
The war was both frightening and boring, for civilians as well as soldiers, and books offered an obvious means of escape. In its early months at least, theatres, cinemas, art galleries and other places of public entertainment were closed; people tended to stay at home during the blackout; civilians on