Although he personally wrote two books of note on upland game hunting and edited two more, Eugene Virginius Connett (1891–1969) made far more lasting and important contributions to the literature of field sports through his work as a publisher. His imprint The Derrydale Press, founded in 1926, remained active until 1941. Then, having somehow managed to weather the economic woes of the Great Depression, Derrydale faced setbacks due to the pressing demands of war—fine paper of the type he used in his books became almost impossible to obtain—and ceased operation just as the United States entered World War II. For the course of a decade and a half as scion of The Derrydale Press, though, Connett published splendid books and built an extraordinary stable of writers. His endeavor resulted in the finest concentration of literature the sporting world has known.
Connett was born on March 8, 1891, in South Orange, New Jersey, with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. He attended elite St. Paul’s School for boys and enrolled at Princeton University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1912. He initially managed the family’s hat-manufacturing business, but after service in World War I, he shed the lucrative but restrictive manacles of business for matters closer to his heart. Harkening back to the joys he had derived from sport (notably, fly fishing and wingshooting) in his youth, he sold the family business. Then for a year he did little but travel, hunt and fish, and contemplate the future. At the end of that period, with help from a friend, noted antiquarian bookseller Ernest Gee, he launched The Derrydale Press.
At that point, Connett had already written a number of articles for leading outdoor magazines and was the author of a well-received book, Wing Shooting and Angling (1922). Once Derrydale was up and running, its early imprints focused on sporting history and works for the horses-and-hounds set. The appearance of Connett’s own Feathered Game (1929) signaled a new direction. Henceforth, works on upland sport would figure prominently among Derrydale books.
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