Michael Sadleir

Michael Sadleir (25 December 1888 – 13 December 1957[2]), born Michael Thomas Harvey Sadler, was a British publisher, novelist, book collector, and bibliographer.

Michael Sadleir
BornMichael Thomas Harvey Sadler
(1888-12-25)25 December 1888
Oxford, England
Died13 December 1957(1957-12-13) (aged 68)
The London Clinic, London, England[1]
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Period20th century
SpouseEdith "Betty" Tupper-Carey (1914–his death)
ChildrenAnn Penelope Hornby (née Sadler)
Michael Thomas Carey Sadler
Richard Ferribee Sadler
ParentsSir Michael Ernest Sadler (father)
RelativesMary Ann Harvey (mother)


Bookplate of Michael Sadleir
Michael Sadleir's grave and memorial at Bisley Burial Ground, Bisley, Gloucestershire, England

Michael Sadleir was born in Oxford, England, the son of Sir Michael Ernest Sadler and Mary Ann Harvey.[3] He adopted the older variant of his surname to differentiate himself from his father, a historian, educationist, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds.[4][5] Sadleir was educated at Rugby School and was a contemporary of Rupert Brooke, with whom he was romantically involved, and Geoffrey Keynes.[6] He then attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he read history and won the 1912 Stanhope essay prize on the political career of Richard Brinsley Sheridan.[7] Before the First World War, Sadleir and his father were keen collectors of art,[8] and purchased works by young English artists such as Stanley Spencer and Mark Gertler.[9][10] They were amongst the first collectors (and certainly the first English collectors) of the paintings of the Russian-born German Expressionist artist Wassily Kandinsky.[11][12] In 1913, both Sadleir and his father travelled to Germany to meet Kandinsky in Munich.[13] This visit led to Sadleir translating into English Kandinsky's seminal written work on expressionism, Concerning the Spiritual in Art in 1914. This was one of the first coherent arguments for abstract art in the English language and the translation by Sadleir was seen as both crucial to understanding Kandinsky's theories about abstract art and as a key text in the history of modernism.[14] Extracts from it were published in the Vorticist literary magazine BLAST in 1914,[15] and it remained one of the most influential art texts of the first decades of the twentieth century.[16]

Sadleir began to work for the publishing firm of Constable & Co. in 1912, becoming a director in 1920,[17] and chairman in 1954.[citation needed] In 1920 as editor of Bliss and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield for Constable he insisted on censoring sections of her short story Je ne parle pas français which show the cynical attitudes to love and sex of the narrator. Her husband John Middleton Murry persuaded Sadlier to reduce the cuts slightly (Murry and Sadleir had founded the avant-garde quarterly Rhythm in 1912).[18]

After the end of World War I, he served as a British delegate to the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, and worked at the secretariat of the newly formed League of Nations.[17] As a literary historian, he specialised in 19th century English fiction, notably the work of Anthony Trollope. Together with Ian Fleming and others, Sadleir was a director and contributor to The Book Handbook, later renamed The Book Collector, published by Queen Anne Press. He also conducted research on Gothic fiction and discovered rare original editions of the Northanger Horrid Novels mentioned in the novel Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Beforehand, some of these books, with their lurid titles, were thought to be figments of Austen's imagination.[19] Sadleir and Montague Summers demonstrated that they did really exist. In 1937, he was the Sandars Reader in Bibliography at Cambridge University, on the subject of the "Bibliographical Aspects of the Victorian Novel".[20] He was President of the Bibliographical Society from 1944 to 1946.[21]

Sadleir's best known novel was Fanny by Gaslight (1940), a fictional exploration of prostitution in Victorian London. It was adapted under that name as a 1944 film. The 1947 novel Forlorn Sunset further explored the characters of the Victorian London underworld. His writings also include a biography of his father, published in 1949, and a privately published memoir of one of his sons, who was killed in World War II.

The remarkable collection of Victorian fiction compiled by Sadleir, now at the UCLA Department of Special Collections, is the subject of a catalogue published in 1951. His collection of Gothic fiction is at the University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Sadleir lived at Througham Court, Bisley, in Gloucestershire, a fine Jacobean farmhouse altered for him by the architect Norman Jewson, c. 1929.[22] He sold Througham Court in 1949[23][24] and moved to Willow Farm, Oakley Green, in Berkshire.[2]


Michael Sadleir book sticker
  • Excursions in Victorian Bibliography (London: Chaundy & Cox, 1922)
  • Desolate Splendour (1923)
  • The Noblest Frailty (1925)
  • Trollope: A Commentary (1927)
  • Trollope: A Bibliography (1928)
  • Evolution of Publishers' Binding Styles (1930)
  • Bulwer: A Panorama (1931)
  • Authors and Publishers: A Study in Mutual Esteem (1932)
  • Blessington D'Orsay: A Masquerade (1933)
  • Archdeacon Francis Wrangham (1937)
  • These Foolish Things (1937)
  • Collecting "Yellowbacks", (London: Constable & Co., 1938) (Aspects of Book-Collecting series).
  • Fanny by Gaslight (London: Constable & Co., 1940)
  • Things Past (1944)
  • Forlorn Sunset (1947)
  • XIX Century Fiction: A Bibliographical Record (Constable & Co. and University of California Press, 1951)
  • The Sadleir Library (1955)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sadler, Michael (3 June 1958). "Probate Record". probatesearch.service.gov.uk. p. 4. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Derek Hudson, 'Sadleir, Michael Thomas Harvey (1888–1957)', rev. Sayoni Basu, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 (subscriber access only)". Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  3. ^ Michael Sadleir Papers, 1797–1958, unc.edu. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Monopolising the Kicks", Yorkshire Evening Post, 6 April 1923, p. 8. British Newspaper Archive. Retrieved 24 February 2020. (subscription required)
  5. ^ Stokes, Roy (1980). Michael Sadleir, 1888-1957 (loan required). Internet Archive. Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press. p. 4.
  6. ^ Brooke, Rupert; Strachey, James (1998). Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke and James Strachey, 1905-1914. Yale University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-300-07004-0.
  7. ^ Sadleir, Michael; Sheridan, Elizabeth Ann (1912). The political career of Richard Brinsley Sheridan: the Stanhope essay for 1912 : followed by some hitherto unpublished letters of Mrs. Sheridan. Oxford; London: B.H. Blackwell ; Simpkin, Marshall & Co. OCLC 1358737.
  8. ^ Piper, John; Ernest Brown & Phillips (1944). Catalogue of an exhibition of selected paintings, drawings and sculpture from the collection of the late Sir Michael Sadler ...: [exhibition] Ernest Brown & Phillips Ltd., the Leicester Galleries ... London, Jan.-Feb., 1944. London: The Gallery. ISBN 9781406731255. OCLC 80686873.
  9. ^ Tate. "'The Roundabout', Sir Stanley Spencer, 1923". Tate. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  10. ^ Tate. "'The Artist's Mother', Mark Gertler, 1911". Tate. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  11. ^ Glew, Adrian (1997). "'Blue Spiritual Sounds': Kandinsky and the Sadlers, 1911-16". The Burlington Magazine. 139 (1134): 600–615. ISSN 0007-6287. JSTOR 887464. (subscription required)
  12. ^ "Bonhams : FRANZ MARC (1880-1916) Pferd (Executed in 1912)". www.bonhams.com. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  13. ^ Tom Steele, Alfred Orage and the Leeds Arts Club (1893–1923) (Aldershot, Ashgate 1990) p. 179.
  14. ^ Tate. "Important Kandinsky letters and poems fully published in English for the first time – Press Release". Tate. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  15. ^ "BLAST no. 1, the Vorticist magazine". The British Library. pp. 143–144. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  16. ^ Tate. "Every work of art is the child of its time, often it is the mother of our emotions": Kandinsky – Tate Etc". Tate. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  17. ^ a b "The Times Digital Archive - Mr. Michael Sadleir". go.gale.com. 16 December 1957. p. 10. Retrieved 24 February 2020. (subscription required)
  18. ^ Alpers (editor), Antony (1984). The Stories of Katherine Mansfield. Auckland: Oxford University Press. pp. 551, 560. ISBN 0-19-558113-X.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Sadleir, Michael (1927). A Footnote to Jane Austen. Oxford: OUP.
  20. ^ Waldoch, Laura (18 December 2014). "List of Sandars Readers and lecture subjects". www.lib.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  21. ^ The Bibliographical Society – Past Presidents Archived 4 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine, bibsoc.org.uk (archived webpage). Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  22. ^ "Lower Througham Farm, Througham (Bisley)" (1930) [Extracts from a conveyance]. Bruton Knowles and Co of Gloucester, estate agents, surveyors and auctioneers, Series: Estate agency files, c.1870-1980s. Clarence Row, Alvin Street, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England: Gloucestershire Archives, Gloucestershire County Council.
  23. ^ "Bisley: Manors and other estates | British History Online". www.british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  24. ^ Sadleir, M (1949). Berkshire Telephone Directory, Maidenhead Exchange. BT Archives, Third Floor, Holborn Telephone Exchange, 268-270 High Holborn, London: BT PLC. p. 117.CS1 maint: location (link)

External linksEdit

Library collectionsEdit

Online editionsEdit