Fredric Warburg

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Fredric John Warburg
Fredric warburg.jpg
Born (1898-11-27)27 November 1898
London, England
Died 25 May 1981(1981-05-25) (aged 82)
London, England
Occupation Publisher; author

Fredric John Warburg (27 November 1898 – 25 May 1981) was an English publisher best known for his association with the British author George Orwell. During a career spanning a large part of the 20th century and ending in 1971, Warburg published Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) as well as Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and works by other leading figures such as Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka. Other notable publications include the controversial The Third Eye by Lobsang Rampa in 1956, Pierre Boulle's classic The Bridge over the River Kwai, Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, and William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960).


Warburg was born on 27 November 1898, to John Cimon Warburg (1867, London - 1931, London) (a photographer) and Violet Amalia (1868 - ) (née Sichel), both of Jewish descent. John Cimon was the oldest son of Fredric Elias Warburg (1832, Gothenburg, Sweden - 1899, London) and Emma (1844–1925) (née Raphael).

At the age of 9 Fredric Warburg was sent to Wilkinson's boys' preparatory school and then later won a scholarship to attend the prestigious Westminster School. He was to describe his first two years there as 'among the most hateful of my life'.[1] Whilst he excelled academically, as a Jew he often felt an outsider and he was to find refuge and solace in his love of books.

In summer 1917 Warburg was commissioned to serve as an officer in the Royal Artillery and was stationed in the Ypres area until the end of the war. After demobilization, Warburg was to read chemistry at Christ Church, Oxford, but later switched to classics and philosophy, proceeding to become an MA in 1922. That same year he was to start his publishing life as an apprentice at the publishing firm of Routledge & Sons Ltd.

Warburg's first marriage (5 July 1922), to May Nellie Holt (born May 1902), was to produce three sons, David (born in 1923); Hew Francis (born 8 April 1925, died 10 April 1983) and Jeremy Fredric (born 14 October 1928, died 9 June 1986), but ended in divorce in 1932. A year later, on 21 January 1933, Warburg married the painter and designer Pamela Bryer (née de Bayou, widowed) (born in 1905) and they were to have a son who died of a brain haemorrhage within twenty-four hours of birth on 13 March 1933.

During World War II, Warburg served as a corporal in the Home Guard, in the same section where Orwell held the rank of sergeant. Fredric Warburg died of heart failure at University College Hospital, London, on 25 May 1981 at the age of 82.


Upon his appointment as an apprentice at the firm of Routledge & Sons Ltd, Warburg found himself under the tutelage of William Swan Stallybrass, a man he regarded as 'the greatest scholar-publisher of his day'.[2] Stallybrass died in 1931 and Warburg was to become increasingly dissatisfied with his post at Routledge, leading to his eventual dismissal from the company in 1935. Later that same year, he and Roger Senhouse purchased the publishing firm of Martin Secker (that was in receivership) and renamed it as Secker and Warburg.

The firm became renowned for its political stance, being both anti-fascist and anti-communist (at least communism in its Soviet incarnation), a position that put them at loggerheads with many intellectuals of the time. Among the books published by Warburg were C. L. R. James's World Revolution, Reg Groves's We Shall Rise Again, Boris Souvarine's Stalin, and André Gide's Back from the USSR.[3] When George Orwell parted company with Victor Gollancz over publication of The Road to Wigan Pier, it was to Secker and Warburg that he took his next book Homage to Catalonia. Thereafter they were to publish all of Orwell's work, with author and publisher becoming intimate friends. It was Warburg who, in 1940, and as publisher of both authors, introduced Orwell to T. R. Fyvel, and between the three of them, they planned the creation of Searchlight Books.[4]

With its financial position devastated by paper shortages during and after the war, Secker and Warburg was forced to join the Heinemann group of publishers in 1951. During the 1950s and 1960s Secker and Warburg were to publish the works of, amongst others, Simone de Beauvoir, Colette, Alberto Moravia, Günter Grass, Angus Wilson, Melvyn Bragg and Julian Gloag. In 1961 Warburg was made a director of the Heinemann group, a post he retained until his retirement in 1971. He also published two volumes of autobiography: An Occupation for Gentlemen (1959) and All Authors are Equal (1973).


In 1952 Warburg became a member of the committee of the Society for Cultural Freedom (S.C.F.), an organisation established to 'promote Western culture and defend it against the communist culture of the East'.[5] The S.C.F. were to produce a cultural magazine, Encounter, which was later to receive sustained criticism when it emerged that much of the money used to produce the magazine came directly from the CIA.

More controversy was to follow in 1954 when Warburg was prosecuted for publishing the supposedly obscene book The Philanderer by Stanley Kauffmann.[6] Although offered the chance to plead guilty and escape with a minimal fine, Warburg opted for the much riskier option of a public trial by jury at the Old Bailey. This decision was vindicated when he was unanimously acquitted by the jury. The presiding judge's (Sir Wintringham Stable's) summing up was added as an appendix in later editions of The Philanderer and also published separately by Secker and Warburg, and in paperback by Penguin Books, 1957.


Books written by Fredric Warburg[edit]

  • 1959: An Occupation for Gentlemen. London: Hutchinson
  • 1973: All Authors are Equal. London: Hutchinson

Publications relating to Fredric Warburg[edit]

  • 1954: The Summing-up by Mr Justice Stable in Regina v. Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., Fredric J. Warburg, The Camelot Press Ltd ("The Philanderer" Case) at the Central Criminal Court July 2, 1954


  1. ^ Warburg, F. (1959) An Occupation for Gentlemen. London: Hutchinson; p. 30
  2. ^ Warburg, F. (1959) An Occupation for Gentlemen. London: Hutchinson, p. 121
  3. ^ Newsinger, John "Orwell and the Spanish Revolution", in: International Socialism Journal; Issue 62 Spring 1994
  4. ^ Rodden, John (2007) The Cambridge Companion to George Orwell, p. 94. Cambridge University Press At Google Books. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  5. ^ Warburg, F. (1973) All Authors are Equal. London: Hutchinson, p. 154
  6. ^ The New York Times - Obituaries

External links[edit]