There are three books with the title In Love and War. Alex Preston wrote one published by Faber & Faber in 2014 which is the story of Esmond Lowndes, the son of prominent British fascists, who is sent to Florence to broadcast from Mussolini’s Italy and ends up as a hero of the Italian resistance.
Esmond’s brother Rudyard writes another book with the same title, a war memoir published by Faber & Faber in 1956. Preston’s book finishes with an extract of this book that describes how Rudyard visits his brother’s grave after arriving in Florence with advancing British troops.
The third book with the same title is written by Esmond himself. It is a fictionalised version of the life of T. E. Hulme who perished in the 1914-1918 war, but this one is not published by Faber & Faber in spite of early enthusiasm.
Preston’s book contains a letter to Esmond in September 1938 in which Richard de la Mare is most encouraging.
I should think there’s a good chance that we’d be interested in publishing. It won’t hinder things that your father’s name, and your own work on the wireless confer on you a certain celebrity. We won’t make you rich, but Faber & Faber is a fine publishing house and we’d be very happy to have you on board.
By February 1939, though, the political landscape has changed, and de la Mare enlists the support of Tom Eliot to find fault with the newly revised manuscript. The rejection letter is specific on the change of heart towards the politics of the author and his father.
There’s also the problem of a certain resistance within some parts of the company to publish an author so closely associated in many minds with the Fascists. Things have changed in the national atmosphere since I first read In Love and War. Since we became aware of the horrors executed by the National Socialists, the bloodiness of Mussolini’s regime (so wonderfully set out in Ignazio Silone’s Fontamara – have you read it?), it feels like a madness to publish a novel which – if we look behind the curtain of the fiction – is the elevation of a Fascist (or proto-Fascist) to a position of Mythic heroism.
Even the greatest publishing companies can change their mind about publishing, and sometimes there will be political reasons. Should Esmond’s book have been published? We’ll never know, because like many such manuscripts written by young men and rejected by prestigious publishers, it is eventually burnt.
Alex Preston, In Love and War, 2014