The Blagger's Guide To: Virago

All you need to know about the hottest literary topic of the week

The publisher Virago is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with a free ebook containing 40 pieces of writing by 40 of its authors, all inspired by the number 40.

“Sometimes we publish to entertain, sometimes we publish to give readers the sheer pleasure of beautiful writing,” the publisher tells the Blagger, “sometimes we publish to change the world.” This particular publication is intended as “a thank-you to everyone who has been part of the Virago family over the years”.

Writers whose work appears in the collection include: Maya Angelou, Lisa Appignanesi, Margaret Atwood, Joan Bakewell, Nina Bawden, Susie Boyt, Stella Duffy, Victoria Glendinning, Linda Grant, Claire Messud, Kate Mosse, Chioma Okereke, Frances Osborne, Michele Roberts, Tracey Thorn, Sandi Toksvig, Sarah Waters and Naomi Wolf. The pieces include poetry, short stories, essays, fragments of autobiography, fables and lists.

Virago’s official birthday was 5 July 1973. Its first board meeting was held on 21 June and included Carmen Callil, Rosie Boycott, and Marsha Rowe. Virago was to be “the first mass-market publisher for 52 per cent of the population – women. An exciting new imprint for both sexes in a changing world.” Its aims were, and still are: to put women centre stage; to explore the untold stories of their lives and histories; to break the silence around many women’s experiences; to publish breathtaking new fiction, alongside a rich list of rediscovered classics; and above all to champion women’s talent. 

According to the Chambers Dictionary, a virago is: “A violent or bad-tempered woman; a heroic or man-like woman; an amazon”.

Virago’s first book, Fenwomen by Mary Chamberlain, was published in association with Quartet Books in 1973.

Virago Modern Classics launched in 1978 with  Frost in May by Antonia White. The imprint is dedicated to rediscovering and republishing lost literary gems including, recently, Mary McCarthy’s The Group – a satire about eight college graduates in 1930s Manhattan.

In 1979, Virago published Angela Carter’s first non-fiction book, The Sadeian Woman, and in 1984 the first UK edition of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

By its 20th birthday in 1993, with Harriet Spicer as MD and Lennie Goodings as publisher, Virago’s list had grown from 11 books to nearly 100 and its staff from three to 19. In 1995, the company was sold to Little, Brown.

In 2000, Margaret Atwood won the Man Booker Prize for the Virago-published The Blind Assassin.

By its 30th birthday, Virago had a phenomenon on its hands in the form of Sarah Waters, whose Tipping the Velvet it published in 1997. By 2013, Waters had been shortlisted for the Orange and Man Booker prizes for Fingersmith and won The South Bank Show Award for Literature. In 2004, three of the six Orange shortlisted titles were published by Virago: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire and Gillian Slovo’s The Ice Road.

Virago is 40: A Celebration is available in different formats through Amazon, Apple, and all other ebook retailers allowing free downloads.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones