Flush: A Biography. 

London, Hogarth Press, 1933. 

8vo, pp. 163, [1 (blank)], with photographic frontispiece and 9 halftone plates, including 4 line drawings by Vanessa Bell; half-title and final blank foxed, but a good copy; in publisher’s buff cloth, spine lettered in gilt, wanting dust-jacket; boards sunned with a few marks, a few small dampstains to spine, corners very lightly bumped; booklabel ‘Betty E. Sanger’ to front free endpaper.


US $183€169

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First edition, first impression, of Woolf’s delightful biographical sketch of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, Flush, with drawings by Vanessa Bell. 

In 1933, following the emotionally exhausting publication of The Waves (1931), Woolf wrote to Lady Ottoline Morrell: ‘I was so tired … that I lay in the garden and read the Browning love letters, and the figure of their dog made me laugh so I couldn’t resist making him a Life’ (pp. 161-2).  That Life was to become Flush, Woolf’s masterful exploration of class, gender, and the sensuous imagination through the eyes of Browning’s canine companion.  Pioneering in both form and treatment of its subject, this novel ‘stand[s] as a testimony to the lives that have never been narrated, the inscrutable and therefore unrepresentable, the discarded and therefore wasted’ (Caughie, p. 61). 

Flush was published in an edition of 12,680 copies on 5 October 1933, and reprinted in a second impression of 3,000 copies later in the month.  It enjoyed great popularity and sold nearly 14,400 copies in the first six months.  Alongside four drawings by Vanessa Bell, five half-tone plates reproduce images of Flush’s birthplace, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, and Miss Mitford.  The frontispiece depicts ‘Pinka’, Woolf’s cocker spaniel, who was given to her by Vita Sackville-West in 1926. 

Kirkpatrick A19a; Woolmer, Hogarth Press, 334; see The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Volume Four, 1929-1931 (ed. Nicholson & Trautmann, 1980) and Caughie, ‘Flush and the Literary Canon: Oh where oh where has that little dog gone?’ in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 10 (1991), pp. 47-66. 

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