Walter Greenwood’s Dust-Wrappers and Covers 1933 to the present

I’m always pleased to buy a book with a well-designed, intriguing and/or visually–pleasing dust-wrapper or cover – whether contemporary or older. The design always gives one possible response to the story within the book – and when you first see or buy the book, this is your first clue about what is within (later you can decide if you agree it ‘captures’ the book). Of course, the cover is a highly-selective introduction to the book,  since the artist or illustrator can usually only use one image (or so) to represent the whole narrative, often by selecting what she/ he feels is a key scene or moment or an image with metaphorical resonances.  For older books, the dust-wrapper or cover does also give the reader / viewer a possible insight (as do newspaper reviews from the time) into how a contemporary –  usually a visually-talented one – envisaged this book on behalf of the reading, book-borrowing and book-buying public (and his/her commissioning publisher) . In this article, I would like to explore how illustrators saw Walter Greenwood’s work from the beginning of his writing career until its end. Each of his books and their covers will have a section devoted to it. For some of his books, there were relatively few editions, or, anyway, relatively few different cover designs, while for his first novel at least, Love on the Dole, there have of course been quite a number of different visual (or anyway design) responses, mediating the text for its readers over the years.

Section 1.1: Love on the Dole: Jonathan Cape’s editions, 1933 to 1983

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The first dust-wrapper design in 1933 was certainly a striking one – using a restricted colour-range of just black and red against the cream background for both the title text and the images, thus strongly integrating word and image in the design, and giving them a joint impact. The somewhat abstract representation of the chimneys and the works’ buildings (in which they are rendered as an assembly of simple vertical and horizontal geometric shapes rather than with any detail which might disrupt their clean lines) immediately seizes the visual attention. In the upper right-hand space not occupied by the chimneys there is room for the text, ‘Love on the Dole’, with the two most dramatic and meaningful words emphasised in red. This red font is echoed in the sub-title: ‘a Tale of Two Cities’, set into a large red C shape or partly-open circle. This element has always seemed to me the least easily readable part of this design. This is partly because it looks at first as if it is part of the text (a large letter C  – and it does echo the upper case C of two cities), but this is not really the case and therefore it must be read rather as part of the cover’s set of images. What though does it represent? I think it may suggest either a magnifying –glass or a section into the works, where we will be able to zoom in on the lives of those who work there. The association of this cover with Greenwood’s novel was strengthened by the fact that a version of it (retaining the chimneys and buildings, but not the red open circle, and adding another higher element to the building, as well as red windows) was also used for the posters and programmes of the London production of the play at the Garrick Theatre, which ran for  three-hundred- and –ninety-one performances in 1935-6, and made the reputation of Wendy Hiller , who played Sally Hardcastle.

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Though I very much like this cover design it its own right, I have some doubts about how well it does represent the novel’s world – which is surely, during periods of unemployment anyway, more one of left-over nineteenth-century deprivation and slums in Salford, rather than of modernist / art-deco design. Indeed, it might also be added that Greenwood’s writing too is largely unaffected by modernism – preferring a style with considerable continuities with the Victorian novel, if introducing new kinds of content and new working-class voices. However, it may be that the designer was responding to one particular scene in the novel, when the young and naive Harry Hardcastle (desperate to be taken on as an apprentice at Marlowe’s wonderful engineering works) sees the works’ chimneys as indeed a futurist vision: ‘a double row of six smaller chimneys thrust up their steel muzzles like cannon trained on air raiders. Tongues of flame shot up, fiery sprites, kicking their flaming skirts about for a second then diving again as instantly as they appeared’ (p.20, Penguin edition). However, this is not a vision which proves reliable, since apprenticeship completed, he of course joins the dole queue rather then becoming an engineer who is creating a new world.

 

The designer of the cover has not previously been identified, but is in fact, on strong stylistic grounds among others, J. Z. Atkinson, who designed the dust-wrapper for Greenwood’s next two novels as well – and luckily signed the third design, that for Standing Room Only (1936). Atkinson had also designed some posters for London transport  (see poster number 50 here 100 London Underground Posters) and later designed a number of dust-wrappers for Collins Crime Club thrillers, including several by Agatha Christie in the nineteen-forties (see below and also Atkinson Crime covers. Though Atkinson expanded his colour-palate somewhat for these later covers, he always had a preference for a distinctive modernist design (and often for continuing to foreground black text and coloured images against a cream ground). It may be that in his Love on the Dole cover Atkinson is perhaps sustaining his own brand of cover design as much as wholly trying to catch the wider themes of the novel. Few subsequent cover-designers for Love on the Dole achieved such a memorable visual design, but they did perhaps often respond more closely and straightforwardly to the novel’s themes.

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After the first edition and four subsequent impressions, Cape, realising that they had a best-seller, turned their attention to cheaper editions in their Florin Books series to maximise the readership and sales. The Love on the Dole dust-wrapper for this edition (March 1935 and three more reprints the same year, then two further reprints in 1936 and 1937) therefore lacked any specific individual design, since its Florin series cover signalled value for money and an already famous work, rather then the novel’s themes (which the publisher could now rely on as being widely known). When Cape reprinted the Florin edition in March 1945 they abandoned the Florin series cover and relied on the fame of the title and author name alone on an exceptionally plain cover to sell the book.

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Cape kept Greenwood’s novel in print for many years, with further reprintings  in 1947 and 1948, and a new edition in 1966, reprinted in 1969 and 1973, but they never returned to Atkinson’s cover design (perhaps its visual style spoke too much of the nineteen-thirties – if not necessarily of Greenwood’s nineteen-thirties) . The 1966 edition did have a new (unsigned) and quite imaginative pictorial dust-wrapper, depicting the soles of four very worn shoes (a male and female pair) in light blue against a white background, with wear also indicated by white colouring . These presumably represent both the fruitless tramping round to find a job and the absolute inability to replace worn out garments, as indicators of the novel protagonists’ and this past age’s poverty. The inside of the jacket explains that:

This new re-dressed edition of Love on the Dole has been prepared not only to fulfil a continuing demand from the older generation, but also to appeal to younger readers for whom the dark days of the early thirties in industrial Britain are merely part of textbook history.

Despite this relegation at that time of unemployment to history, the ‘re-dressed’ cover design presumably was partly intended to give the novel a more modern appeal – as no doubt was the choice of a modern font for the title.

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However, the shoes image did not continue to appeal past the seventies, and when Cape  printed its fiftieth anniversary hardback edition (also its last edition) in 1983, they relied again solely on the author-name and title (though they kept a version of the 1966 font, though now in red rather than black). The text on the inner flap of the dust-wrapper was, however, updated in line with the recurrence of large- scale employment in British history: ‘Love on the Dole presents a devastating picture of unemployment, as it was in 1933 and with obvious stinging relevance to the situation in Britain today’.

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None of the paper- back editions by other publishers felt they could rely on title and  author name alone and, as we shall see, they all used pictorial material of one kind or another to attract readers and introduce the novel.

1.2 Paperback Covers of Love on the Dole.

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The longest-lived UK paperback edition of Love on the Dole was first published by Penguin in 1969, and they chose as the cover a detail from a 1919 Labour Party election poster, which featured a dejected-looking working-class man, and a working-class woman dressed in a shawl  and holding a baby, with  a pit-head distantly visible in the background. The drab brown- grey- black colour-palate underlines the misery of the scene.  The image is from a poster which appears in some websites under the name of the artist Gerald Spencer Pryse (1882-1956), who worked on a number of posters for the Labour party after WW1. The image has the words ‘ Today – Unemployed’ under the two figures, but I think was in fact a diptych with another image of a British soldier in a trench which bore the matching words at the bottom ‘Yesterday the Trenches’ (I have found no image of the whole poster, nor any very authoritative accounts of Pryse’s career, but see the following web-sites for the two disjoined halves of the poster: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/cgodfree/gerald-spencer-pryse/; https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/5343454_321-gerald-spencer-pryse-1881-1957-reproduction-set). Though pre-Depression, the image was thus highly suitable in a general way to the  themes and politics of Greenwood’s novel, and might also perhaps be interpreted more specifically by the reader as applying to the situation of  Harry and Helen, whose child is born into poverty (though the two figures seem older than the two characters). The image was in fact used by Penguin in three slightly different covers since Love on the Dole was published first as a Penguin Modern Classic, with the image against a black background, and then in the subsequent redesign of that series with the same image against a white back-ground. Finally, Greenwood’s novel was published as a Twentieth-Century Classic with the image enlarged to fill the whole of the front cover and with the title now super-imposed in white in a box  at the bottom (see image above). The  Twentieth Century Classics version was kept in print until the 1990s, when it was replaced by the Vintage Books edition of 1993.  Gerald Spencer Pryse’s (uncredited) image therefore mediated Love on the Dole for readers for two decades, and in my view did so effectively.

 

However, there were also two slightly earlier and less long-lived UK paperback editions. The first was published by Four Square Books in 1958, also with a commissioned cover image designed by a British artist, Edward Mortelmans (1915-2008) who signed his cover. Mortelmans drew a large number of striking covers for Four Square Books (as with the case of  Pryse, I have found little in conventional authorities about his work, but there is a Flickr group which is seeking to reconstruct his whole oeuvre of books designs – see https://www.flickr.com/groups/1192178@N25/ ). Mortelmans’ illustration  shows Sally Hardcastle leading Larry Meath away from the anti-Means Test demonstration after the police have charged the marchers and he has been injured. The image is probably influenced by the 1941 film of Love on the Dole, since it echoes its scene where the mounted police charge into the crowd – the matching scene in the novel involves only police on foot. The background features a whole landscape of industrial chimneys, but notably smokier and more realistic ones than those of the 1933 dust-wrapper (see above) – and also uniquely adds a gasometer. The decision to place Sally and Larry in the foreground of this scene might suggest to the reader that their romantic relationship (admittedly against a political background) is the key theme of the novel (an interpretation which has worried some critics – see the relevant discussion of the play version in Chapter 2 of my book). It seems to me an image which does grab the reader’s attention and communicates something of what the title Love on the Dole might suggest – but I worry slightly that Larry is clearly walking-wounded, given that in fact his next destination is the Esperance Infirmary – where he quickly dies of his injuries.

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The second UK paperback was published by Consul Book in 1965 and again featured a specially painted image – this time unsigned.  Again, this image seems influenced by the film version of Love on the Dole. The pictured scene shows Larry and Sally during part of their ramble on the moors with the Labour Party Club (though they have clearly found some solitude at this point). They  have escaped from the industrial pollution of Hanky Park – but it is still highly visible, with its smoking chimney and its mill buildings looking like a carefully more realist re-drawing of J.Z. Atkinson’s stylisation of 1933. In fact, this scene does not take place in this way in the novel – Sally gives a general retrospective description to her mother of how much she has enjoyed the ramble, but it is not directly described and nor are Larry and Sally’s thoughts as they look down on what they have temporarily escaped from. However, the play does add this scene and the film follows in this respect, and indeed this image actually  echoes the way in which the scene is composed in the film, thus showing a specific interaction between Sally and Larry which does not occur in the novel at all. I still think it is an effective cover – though it may reproduce the Four Square Book  edition’s implication that the romance comes first in the novel and the industrial / political background second.

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In 1993 Love in the Dole appeared in a new Vintage imprint (established by Random House which by then owned Penguin too)  under which the novel has continued  in print till the present. However, in that period Vintage have used three different cover designs.

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The first was designed by Kelvin Bowers and drew on photography by Niall O’Leary and Michael Wildsmith. The design is clearly based on real (and distressed) objects of wood and metal, though these have been assembled into  a whole which is more abstract than literal.  I read the wooden elements as furniture or perhaps more specifically a bed (given the castor at the base) and then the rusted wrought iron may also be part of a bedstead, while the metal object in the upper part of the wooden frame looks to be a crudely- designed candle-holder. The background of chipped and dirty green and white tiles may represent a kitchen wall or a floor. This all makes a broad reference to themes in Love on the Dole (the need for ordinary  personal lives and  feelings, but the poor conditions in which these must take place). The one remaining element in the design is also an ordinary house-hold object, but personalises the more generic objects, and also may make a more specific reference to the story of Hanky Park. This last object is, of course,  a photo in a cheap, but slightly fancy frame – and the image of a couple photographed with a cardboard moon might suggest a set-piece holiday photo, capturing the one sea-side holiday away from Hanky Park which Harry Hardcastle and Helen Hawkins take on the winnings from Harry’s successful bet with Sam Grundy (though it may also suggest the single holiday in their lives which Mr and Mrs Hardcastle took as their honey-moon). Holidays (or their lack) are mentioned perhaps surprisingly often in Love on the Dole so the one more personal house-hold object in the design has rich resonances with the novel.

However, that cover was replaced by one which similarly signalled a bleak environment, but drew also on a different aspect of the novel, and was more minimal.

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The photograph of a plain brown brick-wall background speaks in a restrained yet eloquent way of the urban uniformity of Hanky Park, and the novel’s title shown as a (rather too well-inscribed?) graffito is appropriate to that deprived world. But the chalked message also picks up Larry Meath’s lunch-break efforts with chalk to explain to his work-mates at Marlowe’s how capital and labour work – and may also imply what the novel itself does, that the words ‘love on the dole’ are also a political message – a clue to how the system reproduces itself by leaving Hanky Park’s people no alternatives. One curious design decision is to omit ‘Walter’ from the author’s name and to instead  link author and imprint: ‘Vintage Greenwood’.

 

This cover was in turn replaced by the current design (the novel now being a ‘Vintage Classic’):

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This chooses a more literal design, based on a period photograph of a street like those in which the novel’s characters live. The photograph shows a street which serves as a communal space, a place to play, live and socialise, and shows lots of children, some women  and  a number of (unemployed?) men. The novel itself refers to Harry and his mates once they are out of work having no choice (having no money), but to spend all day on street-corners, so the image picks up that motif. However, I worry that the image is a bit too positive for Greenwood’s novel: it shows a positive sense of community – and that has some place in the novel – but it seems a bit light on what were the real miseries of the unemployment which made impossible much of the affordable leisure and community which were to an extent accessible when working-people  were in work.

1.3 Overseas Covers

Greenwood’s work was translated at various dates. Love on the Dole appeared in Czech  and Hebrew editions in the nineteen-thirties and in a Russian translation, perhaps in the nineteen-forties (my information on this edition is quite incomplete). The first German translation appeared in 1983. I currently only have images of the Czech and German cover designs, which should certainly take their places here.

 

The Czech translation of Greenwood’s novel was published in 1937 by dp (Družstevní práce) in Prague (translation by Gerta Schiffová), with a dust-wrapper design by the Czech avant-garde artist Toyen (1902 – 1980: see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyen).  Since Greenwood was rarely asociated with modernism (the first British dust-wrapper of Love on the Dole being a notable exception), this seems an unlikely choice.  But while Toyen’s paintings were often highly surrealist, some of her book covers including that for Love on the Dole used the new technique of photomontage in an overall  less surreal way (see Art Institute of Chicago virtual exhibition on the Czech Avant-Garde Book: http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/Ryerson-2014/Czech-Avant-Garde-Book/8) – though surrealism often saw itself as socially as well as artistically radical so there is a match in that respect.

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The photographic image of a man is placed slightly to the right-of-centre of the cover, with his cap, waist-coat and short-sleeves (he holds his jacket, perhaps after a hard day’s work) presumably signalling his status as a working-man. His posture is striking as he looks up towards the black mass of the buildings which tower over him and the landscape –  the buildings contrast in mode with the photographic realist actuality of the figure, since they are clearly lacking any realist detail and are made up of black cut-outs. The sky and ground are also not photographic, and these contrasts between figure and ground imply his domination by the inhuman and impersonal industrial cityscape. Indeed, the image is positively dystopian, if not quite in the futurist style of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). The image seems  superbly to  convey a high-level theme of the novel – the alienation of the working people of Hanky Park by the industrial system, though it perhaps does not capture the idea within the novel that, mainly knowing nothing else,  the working people might feel even then content if only that system worked well enough to maintain their lives at pre-Depression levels.

 

The German edition (translated by Elga Abramowitz in 1983 –  Love on the Dole probably had little chance of a German translation in 1933), was published fifty years after the British edition, and made a design choice which one might well have expected from at least one UK edition: it used an L.S. Lowry painting, Coming from the Mill (1930).

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This is of course highly appropriate in terms of date and subject and because Lowry is one of Salford’s other celebrated artists (he and Greenwood do not seem to have met, but there is some correspondence in the Walter Greenwood Collection at the University of Salford archives dating to 1960 in which Lowry and his agent reply to a request from Greenwood to use a Lowry painting as part of the  scenery design for a play – see item WGC/2/9 at the Walter Greenwood Collection ). This cover design is clearly a quite literal one in that it refers to the work / works which are the key to any prospect of happiness in Hanky Park, and uses Lowry’s depiction of the poorly-dressed and hunched-over workers, male and female,  who seem cold, judging form their postures and from the men whose hands are mainly in their pockets (it might seem a prosperous scene were it not for this suggestion that the workers are tired and cold and want to be back at home as soon as they can walk there). It perhaps has some resemblances to Toyen’s cover in showing the human figures dwarfed by the industrial lansdscape, but here that is a communal and collective experience whereas in the Toyen design an individual worker is seen almost cowering beneath the more abstract buildings.   The whole painting and some comments of Lowry about it can be see on The Lowry Gallery web-site: Lowry’s Works.

1.4. A Mysterious Cover!

There is on Amazon Books UK an image of one further Love on the Dole cover design (but the edition itself is not in stock). I have never seen this design anywhere else. The Product information say that the publisher is Jonathan Cape in 1956, but the cover does not look at all like a Cape design. If anyone has a copy or any further information about this edition please do contact me! Meanwhile here is the image (apologies for the quality which result from the above story – one day I hope to replace it with a better image):

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The mystery apart, this is an interesting design – the only one which chooses to show Sally Hardcastle not with Larry Meath, but with Sam Grundy the bookie, for that surely is who this middle-aged corpulent man with a comb-over wearing a waist-coat and smoking a cigarette while leering at Sally is. The background is a street in Hanky Park at night, of course, but I am unsure what the expression on Sally’s face signifies – perhaps it tries to catch her thinking about the awful choice she has to make which is no real choice: to let her family continue to subsist on inadequate dole payments or to become Sam Grundy’s mistress.

To be Continued. 2.1: His Worship the Mayor (1934)