Charles Lahr

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Charles Lahr (1885–1971), born Carl Lahr, was a German-born anarchist, London bookseller and publisher.

Lahr was born at Bad Nauheim in the Rhineland, the eldest of 15 children in a farming family. He left Germany in 1905 to avoid military service and went to England.

In London he encountered the anarchist Guy Aldred (1886–1963), while working as a baker.[1] He was soon (1907) under police observation.[2] He joined the Industrial Workers of the World in 1914; at that time he had a bookshop in Hammersmith.

In 1915 he was interned for four year as an enemy alien in Alexandra Palace. In 1920-21 he was briefly a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. His interest in politics led him to befriend many left-wing thinkers, several of whom went on to establish important left-wing groups in the UK. In 1921 he took over the Progressive Bookshop, in Red Lion Street, Holborn. From there he would branch out into publishing, and establish many literary friendships (including H. E. Bates, Rhys Davies, T. F. Powys) and D. H. Lawrence. At one point when Lahr was in financial difficulties his writer friends gathered a collection of stories together and published these as Charles Wain (1933).

He married in 1922 Esther Argeband,[3] (at that time Archer), whom he had met at the Charlotte Street Socialist Club, of a British Jewish family (Lahr was not Jewish). They were close friends of William Roberts, the artist, and his wife, and William's portrait of Esther is in the Tate Gallery.

From 1925 to 1927 Lahr published The New Coterie literary and artistic magazine. In 1931 he founded the Blue Moon Press, a small press amongst the books he published was the first edition of a small book of poems by D. H. Lawrence called Pansies.

In subsequent misfortunes Lahr was convicted in 1935 on a charge of receiving stolen books, and was sentenced to 6 months in prison.[4] In a short story from Something Short and Sweet (published 1937), H. E. Bates describes the court case with Lahr called "Oscar" in the story. The bookshop was bombed in 1941. He moved its premises several times in London.

He died in London in 1971. His funeral was attended by many representatives from left wing groups in the UK.

There is substantial further information on Lahr in a book authored by his daughter Sheila. This is called Yealm and can be read in its entirety on the Militant Esthetix website, run by Lahr's granddaughter Esther Leslie.

Lahr's papers are held by the University of London.


  1. ^ Lahr, Charles, 1885-1971 |
  2. ^ William J. Fishman, East End Jewish Radicals 1875-1914 (2004), p. 271.
  3. ^ Sharman Kadish, Bolsheviks and British Jews (1992), p. 235.
  4. ^ AIM25: Senate House Library, University of London: Lahr, Charles

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