Letter: Male readership for Virago's offerings

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The Independent Online
Sir: Natasha Walter says in her article on the 20th birthday of the Virago Press ('Still maligned, still loved, still needed'; Weekend Books, 19 June) that 'few literate women don't have any dark-green spines on their shelves'.

Or men, for that matter; for surely it isn't true that Virago books sell 'mainly to women readers, not across the board', or that it has only now published its first book by a man (George Meredith's Diana of the Crossways was reprinted long ago). Men read women, just as women read men, not because of their sex, but because of their writing.

And is it true that women writers form a 'lost canon' which 'we once didn't even know we had', or that women writers still get a bad deal? From Jane Austen, George Sand, the Bronte sisters, Mary Gaskell, George Eliot, Margaret Oliphant, Mrs Humphrey Ward, Virginia Woolf, Winifred Holtby and Naomi Mitchison to Marguerite Yourcenar, Brigid Brophy, May Sarton, Margaret Atwood, Fay Weldon, Margaret Drabble, A. S. Byatt, Mary Wesley, Jeanette Winterson and Lucy Ellmann - women writers have been out there in front for two centuries. All honour to Virago for publishing or republishing some of them, but remember what happens to honourable men.

Yours faithfully,


London, N1

20 June