IN 1929, a privately printed, limited edition of 520 copies of a book called In the Middle Parts of Fortune appeared in England. Instead of the author's signature, it bore just a number - 19022. The author was Frederic Manning, a poet-turned-infantryman (19022 was his army number) who poured his bitter World War I experiences into a book.The language was so coarse for its day that Manning never sought to make his book public. Yet it was circulated, and praised by T.E. Lawrence ("no praise can be too sheer for this book . . . it justifies every heat of praise. Its virtues will be recognized more and more as time goes on") and Ernest Hemingway ("It is the finest and noblest book of men in war that I have ever read. I read it over once each year to remember how things really were so that I will never lie to myself nor to anyone else about them"). Ezra Pound called the book "the mallow juice of life." In 1930 Peter Davies Co., London publishers, brought it out under the title Her Privates We . Gone was the barracks language; the book was completely expurgated. Even so, Frederic Manning's name was steadfastly withheld from the public until 1946, 11 years after his death.
But times changed and with them mores, and Manning's book has come into its own at last. Not only has Peter Davies Co. finally restored the language of In the Middle Parts of Fortune , but St. Martin's Press will bring it out this fall dropping the "In" from the title) in this country, with the Hemingway quote on the cocover. One more nail in the coffin of bowdlerism.