Jennifer Elliott will always rue the day she didn't have that martini with E.B. White. Showing up to work for White as "Sunday" help at his North Brooklin, Maine, farm in the early 1980s, Tilbury was too timid to accept his offer of a drink -- either shaken or stirred.
But as publisher of Tilbury House Publishers (located in Gardiner, Maine), however, Elliott didn't hesitate at the chance to reprint White's 1942 collection of essays, One Man's Meat, which HarperCollins was letting go after 55 years in print.
The deal came about thanks to White's son J l White, a contributor to Wooden Boat magazine who is working on essays about Maine maritime life for Tilbury, who alerted Elliott to the title going o.p. He helped arranged rights for the $14.95 trade paperback reprint, which Elliott releases with a 3000-copy first printing this month. New to this edition is a foreword by White stepson Roger Angell, an editor at the New Yorker (the new foreword is scheduled to appear in the New York Times Book Review August 3), and a new cover, featuring Jill Krementz's photo of White (who died in 1985) at a plain-board writing table beside an open window of his boathouse.
The collection contains mostly columns written for Harper's Magazine beginning when White and his wife, Katharine, a New Yorker editor, left Manhattan for Maine in 1938.
One Man's Meat first appeared in 1942 and sold about 12,000 copies before an enlarged edition with 10 additional essays appeared two years later, selling 20,000 copies. In 1945, an Armed Services Edition of 150,000 copies was distributed, as well as 50,000 copies each in French and German editions. In recent years, it has sold 2000 copies annually.
Angell writes of White in the foreword: "I think One Man's Meat was the making of him as a writer" by freeing him of deadlines and the "quaintsy first-person plural form of the New Yorker's 'Notes and Comments' page."