English Novelists Series

Home and Van Thal (London, UK)
Series dates: 1947-1949
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

Allan Swallow (Denver, US)
Series dates: 1947-1950
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

Oxford University Press (New York, US)
Series dates: 1951
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

Arthur Barker (London, UK)
Series dates: 1950-1954
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

Roy Publishers (New York, US)
Series dates: 1951-1954
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

A series of 27 brief literary critiques and biographies of English novelists initiated in 1947 by the publisher Home and Van Thal and published in the U.S. by publisher Alan Swallow. The series shifted to the UK publisher Arthur Barker in 1950, and in 1951 Roy Publishers of New York took over publishing the series in the U.S. One volume was published in the US by the Oxford University Press. The last volume in the series was published in 1954. The titles in the English Novelists Series were not previously published, so technically it is not a reprint series.

The English Novelists Series was originally published by Home and Van Thal (London), which was established while Herbert Van Thal was the manager of publisher Arthur Baker, also in London. Alan Swallow published the series in the US. Home and Van Thal was absorbed into Arthur Baker around 1952, and the series continues with the Baker imprint. The series shifted to Roy Publications in the US starting in 1951.

Home and Van Thal emerged as one of the post-WW2 “mushroom” publishers (which sprang up quickly after the War), around 1945. The firm consisted of Herbert van Thal, Margaret Douglas-Home, and Gwylim Fielden Hughes. Van Thal seemed to come from money, and Douglas-Home was part of the aristocratic Stewart family. Van Thal managed publisher Arthur Barker before, during, and after Home and Van Thal’s existence as a publisher (see below). Publications cease around 1952. Van Thal later became the general editor of the Doughty Library series.

Arthur Barker, who originally worked for Heinemann, founded his publishing firm in 1932. Barker published authors such as Robert Graves, E.F. Benson, Dashiell Hammett, and Alexander Woollcott. In the late 1930s, Barker was unable to deliver a Margery Sharp novel on time, and the firm soon was insolvent and was eventually liquidated around the time WW2 started. Barker ended up in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and returned to the UK in poor health. He incorporated Arthur Barker, Ltd in 1946, and put Herbert van Thal in charge of the firm. The new Barker firm was located at the offices of printer Morrison and Gibb which soon acquired the firm. In the early 1950s Home and Van Thal was absorbed into Barker, Ltd and the entire enterprise was managed by Van Thal. The firm was sold to George Weidenfield in 1959, and Arthur Barker Ltd served as an imprint of Weidenfeld and Nicolson. (source) In 1991 the imprint ended when Weidenfeld & Nicolson was incorporated into Orion. (source)

Alan Swallow was a poet, professor, and publisher associated with The Swallow Press, (Denver and Chicago), Alan Swallow, Publisher (Baton Rouge, Albuquerque, Gunnison [Co.] and Denver) and was director of the University of Denver Press. Swallow published 18 English Novelist Series titles in the US from 1947-1950. Roy Publications (of which I can find no background information) published the final 8 series titles from 1951-1954.

Advertisement (below, top left) for the first title in the English Novelists Series, Times Literary Supplement (February 15, 1947). Advertisement (below, top right) lists six titles in the series (Times Literary Supplement, February 21, 1948). The last volume was advertised (below, bottom) in the Times Literary Supplement on February 26, 1954.

There are 27 titles in all in the English Novelists Series. Other titles were announced but not published. Reprints appear through 1978, often by library reprint publishers.

  • 11 published by Home and Van Thal (UK)
  • 18 published by Alan Swallow (US)
  • 16 published by Arthur Barker (UK)
  • 1 published by Oxford University Press (US)
  • 8 published by Roy Publications (US)

1947 (published by Home and Van Thal)
The Brontes, by Phyllis Bentley (Swallow 1947)
Samuel Butler and The Way of All Flesh, by George Douglas Howard Cole (Swallow 1948)
Robert Louis Stevenson, by Lettice Cooper (Swallow 1947)
Henry Fielding, by Elizabeth Jenkins (Swallow 1948)

1948 (published by Home and Van Thal)
Arnold Bennett, by Walter Allen (Swallow 1949)
Bulwer-Lytton, by The Earl of Lytton (Swallow 1948)
Samuel Butler and The Way of All Flesh, by George Douglas Howard Cole (Swallow 1948)
Rudyard Kipling, by Rupert Croft-Cooke (Swallow 1948)
Sir Walter Scott, by Una Pope-Hennessy (Swallow 1949)

1949 (published by Home and Van Thal)
Anthony Trollope, by Beatrice Curtis Brown (Swallow 1950)
Mrs. Gaskell, by Yvonne Ffrench (Swallow 1949)

1950 (published by Arthur Barker)
George Borrow, by Martin Armstrong (Swallow 1950)
Anthony Trollope, by Beatrice Curtis Brown (Swallow 1950)
Thomas Hardy, by Desmond Hawkins (Swallow 1950)
Jane Austen, by Margaret Kennedy (Swallow 1950)
Mrs. Ewing, Mrs. Molesworth, and Mrs. Hodgson Burnett, by Marghanita Laski (Oxford University Press, New York, US, 1951)
Maria Edgeworth, by Percy Howard Newby (Swallow 1950)
H.G. Wells, by Norman Nicholson (Swallow 1950)
D.H. Lawrence, by Anthony West (Swallow 1950)

1951 (published by Arthur Barker)
Barrie and the Kailyard School, by George Blake (Roy 1951)
Ronald Firbank, by Jocelyn Brooke (Roy 1951)
Sheridan le Fanu, by Nelson Browne (Roy 1951)
Charles Dickens, by Julian Symons (Roy 1951, Swallow 1951, 1961, Barker in 1966, 1969)

1952 (published by Arthur Barker)
Wilkie Collins, by Robert Ashley (Roy 1952)
Henry James, by Michael Swan (Roy 1952)

1953 (published by Arthur Barker)
Thomas Love Peacock, by Olwen Ward Campbell (Roy 1953)

1954 (published by Arthur Barker)
George Eliot, by Robert Speaight (Roy 1954)

Morrison and Gibb Ltd (London) appear as the publisher of two series titles (Samuel Butler and Maria Edgeworth) in some WorldCat entries. Printer Morrison and Gibb owned the Arthur Barker firm.

A review of 19 titles in the English Novelists Series published by Swallow and Roy in the US was published in The Saturday Review, February 28, 1953, under the title “The Fullblood Ancestry” by Harvey Curtis Webster, p. 16-17.

Ghost Titles: The jacket (below, not in my collection) of the first title published in the series, The Brontes, by Phyllis Bentley (1947) includes, on the jacket back, a list of many planned titles in the series, 32 in all. Nearly a dozen were never issued in the series.

This 1947 copy of Bulwer-Lytton was written by The Earl of Lytton, K.G. Jackets are common to the series with slight variations for the US published titles. The series name is indicated on the bottom of the jacket cover. Praise for the initial titles in the series (published by Home & van Thal) is compiled on the front jacket flap. No publisher is indicated on the jacket spine.


The series reviews continue on the rear jacket flap. Previously published titles, with forthcoming titles, are included on the back of the jacket.


Red cloth bindings with black lettering and very basic design. Arthur Baker is noted on the base of the book spine.


The series name is on the half-title page.


The title page which, oddly, indicates no publisher. It’s possible the Home & van Thal imprint was removed but the Arthur Baker imprint not added to the title page.


The copyright page indicates “First published 1948.” “Printed in Great Britain” is stamped below the date.


The U.S. editions of The English Novelists Series varied in their jacket and book design from the UK editions, but the text block of the book itself was printed in the UK and is the same as the UK editions (except for the different publisher imprint). A copy of Mrs. Gaskell by Yvonne French published by Alan Swallow in the US in 1947 below sports a different jacket design and price ($2.00).

The binding, in green cloth, has a flat spine with no type identifying the book. A gold box encloses the book’s subject/title, below it the author’s name.

The half-title page (same as the UK edition):

The title page swaps out the UK publisher and adds the Swallow imprint.

“Printed in Great Britain. All Rights Reserved. Printed by Morrison and Gibb Ltd., London and Edinburgh. Bound in the Franklin Bindery, Chicago.” Thus the text block was printed in the UK and the book bound in Chicago.