MANNING, Frederic]

The Middle Parts of Fortune

Published: London: The Piazza Press Issued to subscribers by Peter Davies

Date: 1929

first edition, limited to 520 copies 2 vols. 8vo. [8], 226; [4], 227-453, [3 (blank)]pp. on hand-made paper, original brown buckram, spines with a gilt title panel, top edges gilt, other edges untrimmed, marbled endapers, dark maroon ribbon page markers, closed marginal tear (no loss) in one leaf in vol.2 repaired with archival tissue, couple of trivial (splash?) marks on spine of vol.1, else a nice copy. Preserved in a brown cloth slipcase.

This is no. 252 of 520 numbered copies.

This first anonymous and unexpurgated edition was issued to subscribers only in 520 numbered copies, this being no.252. Manning (1882 – 1935), Australian poet and novelist, was born into a large Irish Catholic family in Sydney. After emigrating to England in 1903 he published several books which marked him as an up-and-coming writer. Despite a very delicate constitution on the outbreak of World War I he managed to enlist as a private, service no. 19022, in the King's Shropshire Light Infantry and was sent to France in 1916 where he experiences trench life, saw action in the Battle of the Somme and was promoted to lance-corporal. In May 1917 he was recalled for further training and posted to Ireland with a commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Regiment. "The life of an officer did not agree with him; he seems not to have integrated particularly well and he drank excessively, getting into trouble with his superiors. His inebriation was put down to neurasthenia, but Manning resigned his commission on 28 February 1918. .... As the 1920s progressed and confidence started to return, the artistic community was increasingly looking back at the war. The demand for written material started to grow. ... Davies urged Manning to use his undoubted talent in conjunction with his intense wartime experiences to write a novel. In an effort to capture the moment, Manning had to work rapidly, with little opportunity for second drafts and revisions. The result was The Middle Parts of Fortune, published anonymously by Peter Davies and the Piazza Press ..... The book is an account in the vernacular of the lives of ordinary soldiers. The central character named Bourne is the filter through which Manning's own experiences are transposed into the lives of a group of men whose own personal qualities interact in response to conflict and comradeship. Bourne is an enigmatic, detached character (a self-portrait of the author) who leaves each of the protagonists alone with their own detachment, privy to their own thoughts. An expurgated version was published by Davies in 1930 under the title Her Privates We" [Wikipedia]. That 1930 edition, also anonymous, was credited to "Private 19022". Manning was first credited with authorship by name posthumously in 1943, but the original text was published widely only in 1977. The book was widely regarded as one of the very finest novels based upon the experiences of warfare. Arnold Bennett, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound (who cited Manning as a literary mentor) and T. E. Lawrence were amongst those praising it. It was in Hemingway's words "The finest and noblest book of men in war that I have ever read. I read it once each year to remember how things really were so that I will never lie to myself nor to anyone else about them" and T. E. Lawrence (a post war friend of Manning) said of it "No praise could be too sheer for this book .... it justifies every heat of praise".


Offered by P & B Rowan