Ernest Edward Wishart (1902 – 1987)

Wishart Tree WIS0108

Born: 11 August 1902 – Dulwich, London
Died: 16 Sep 1987 – Binstead, Sussex

Son of Sir Sidney Wishart (1854–1935), a successful insurance broker and the Sheriff of the City of London, Ernest Edward Wishart was educated at Rugby School, and in 1920 went up to Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge. It seems that no one who knew him had a bad word to say about him. He was a gentleman, in the true sense of the word: courteous, honourable, modest and kind. He was extremely generous, and he did not keep a tally of his good deeds. An expert botanist and ornithologist, he was an early conservationist. He was cultivated, eccentric and very widely read. When he made friends he tended to keep them for life. At university he became friends with Douglas Garman. Who took him In the summer of 1925 to meet his family. This included his fourteen-year-old sister, Lorna Garman. According to Cressida Connolly: “Ahead of her years, and wild, she seduced the much older Wishart in a hayrick.” After leaving university Wishart established a new publishing house, Wishart & Company. Lorna married (1927, Kensington) Wishart at the age of sixteen and went to live in the family house at Marsh Farm, Binsted. Wishart merged his company with the publishing house of Martin Lawrence in 1935. Moving to Red Lion Square, Lawrence and Wishart became the press of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The company concentrated on publishing books on economics, working-class history and the classics of Marxism. In December 1937 Lawrence and Wishart joined Victor Gollancz in launching another journal, the Modern Quarterly. It later became known as the Marxist Quarterly. During the Second World War Wishart joined forces with the Institute of Marxism-Leninism and Progress Publishers in Moscow, to publish the definitive English-language edition of the complete works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Wishart retired from the business in the 1950s and spent his time managing Marsh Farm, Binsted, and pursuing his interest in architecture and local history. He also became patron of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Following his death The Times newspaper published the following:

Obituary of Mr E. E. Wishart.

Mr E E Wishart, who died on September 16, at the age of 85, was a publisher who was widely known in the 1930s for his avante-garde and left-wing pre-occupations.

Ernest Edward Wishart was born on August 11, 1902, he only son of Colonel Sir Sydney Wishart. He was educated at Rugby and at Gonville and Caius, Cambridge, where he read history and law. In view of the fact that his father was both Sheriff and one of HM Lieutanants for the City of London, his career then took a surprising turn.

Soon after coming down from Cambridge he founded, with his friend Douglas German (whose sister he was later to marry), the publishing house of Wishart and Co. Among the first books to appear where Nancy Cunard’s pioneering anthology Negro and Geoffrey Gorer’s The Revolutionary Ideas of the Marquis de Sade, with an introduction by Wishart’s friend, JBS Haldane.

Wishart and Co also published a quarterly review The Calander of Modern Letters, edited by Edgell Rickword, which ran from 1925 to 1927 and whose contributors included the youthful Roy Campbell. E. M. Forster, Robert Graves, Aldous Huxley, D. H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Peter Quennell and Bertrand Russell.

Like many of his generation at Cambridge, Wishart developed Marxist sympathies and later, though adamantly refusing to join the Communist Party (‘ideas interest me; parties do not’), he took over the firm of Martin Lawrence.

As Lawrence and Wishart he released literature of an increasingly political nature, including the complete works of Lenin, Marx, Engels and Stalin (the last, particularly, he came to regret deeply). Lawrence and Wishart took over from Hogarth Press John Lehmann’s New Writing.

With the outbreak of the Second World War Wishart’s interest in publishing waned. He put his London house at the disposal of the Czech government in exile and settled permanently on his estate in Sussex where he managed his several farms.

Wishart was a private, modest man, whose chief hobbies were ornithology, architecture and local history, upon which subjects he was exceptionally well informed. An early patron of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (A. R. Powys had advised him on the extension of his Tudor manor house), he gave an impressive mediaeval round house to Edward James’s Museum of Agricultural Architecture at neighbouring West Dean.

He married, in 1927, Lorna Garman, youngest sister of Mrs Roy Campbell and Lady (Jacob) Epstein. She survives him with two sons and a daughter.