A book cover with a pattern of green and red diamonds titled Paris by Hope Mirrlees

Paris: A Poem

Transcript below

Francesca Wade: So Paris is a book that’s been getting a lot more attention recently. It was pretty much lost after the Hogarth Press published it and has really been kind of picked up much more recently. The scholar Sandy Palmer has done a lot of work to kind of bring Hope Mirrlees back into recognition, and Paris is really her masterpiece. I think it was written the same or slightly earlier than The Waste Land, and T.S. Eliot definitely read it. And it’s one day in Paris. It’s the sort of sights and sounds of the city. The delegates from Versailles are just arriving, and it’s the sort of clash of conversation and street noise and adverts and brands on the underground and all around, and the ghosts of Père Lachaise, and it’s this sort of kind of hymn to the city and to walking around a city, and a modern city in particular, kind of on the cusp of a future.

Brandon Taylor: Wow, it’s like a modernist pop art in a way, in literary form.

Francesca Wade: Yeah, kind of collage. And Woolf herself hand-set this and made so many mistakes that she had to correct it by hand on all, I think, 175 copies, which… I’m not sure she was a great typesetter. Though, to be fair, this is a particularly complex typographical poem.

Brandon Taylor: Also imagining that this idea, of course, everyone’s like, oh yes, Virginia Woolf and Leonard Woolf had a press, but to think about that means that Virginia Woolf was typesetting and doing the sort of dexterous, manual work of making a book real.

Francesca Wade: Yeah, and it’s laborious. It’s so beautifully designed, this book, as well, and so tiny. You see it, and so rare as well—there’s not many copies around.

Brandon Taylor: Wow. And it seems so contemporary, but also, I mean, the fact of Hogarth Press being so crucial to the dissemination of modernist literature for, you know, cracking open this project of changing the face of literature one book at a time—like there’s something so, I don’t know, utopic about it.

Francesca Wade: Yeah, yeah.

End of Transcript