TENNYSON, Alfred, Lord (1809-1892). The Charge of the Light Brigade. [No imprint]: 8 August 1855.
Foolscap 4° (259 x 194mm). 4 pages, the last blank. Drophead title. (Slight tears along old fold mark, some marginal soiling.) Red morocco by Riviere, spine with longitudinal gilt lettering between two raised bands, gilt inner dentelles (spine and corners a little rubbed and chipped). Provenance: 'Major M-Crea from A. Tennyson' (presentation inscription on first leaf, possibly to Major Michael M'Creagh) -- William K. Bixby, St. Louis (inscription on front free endpaper) -- Roderick Terry (bookplate, sold American Art Association/Anderson Galleries, 3 May 1934, lot 334) -- Frank J. Hogan (bookplate, sold Parke-Bernet, 25 April 1945, lot 718) -- Marjorie Wiggin Prescott (pencil attribution) -- Sold Christie's New York, 6 February 1981, lot 311, and Sotheby's New York, 17 May 1984, lot 686.
PRESENTATION COPY OF THE RARE QUARTO EDITION. What is probably Tennyson's best known poem first appeared in The Examiner (9 December, 1854) and then in Maud and Other Poems (July, 1855), where the stanzas were numbered. Copies of Maud exist with extensive corrections to 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' in Tennyson's hand, and the present publication, where the stanzas are unnumbered, can be regarded as the first appearance of his final version, only a single emendation being subsequently made. In a printed note at the end, the poet explains that, having 'heard that the brave soldiers of Sebastopol ... have a liking for my ballad ..., I have ordered a thousand copies of it to be printed for them'. As is clear from a letter he wrote to John Forster in August 1855, he was anxious to prevent any printing from his less preferred Maude version from reaching the soldiers first. Major Michael M'Creagh, the possible recipient of this copy, joined the 4th dragoon guards in 1844, and fought at Balaklava, Inkerman and Sebastopol. Surviving copies are understandably few. Only four examples of the separately-published poem, including the present copy, have appeared at auction since 1887. No others were presentation copies. Wise Tennyson 82.
The poem is accompanied by 3 autograph letters to 'Dear Anthony' signed 'CAW', an officer in the Crimea, the earliest dated Oct 26-27-28 1854, 8p., including a pen-and-ink drawing of the English and French positions at Balaklava and a full report of the dispute between Lord Cardigan and Captain Nolan, which had led to the 'most plucky and valorous charge, and left on the field 400 of his men and 530 horses' the day previously; the 2 other letters dated 15 April and 22 June, 1855. With a further signed letter from Lord Cardigan to an unnamed correspondent, dated 13 April, 1855, 3p. with integral blank, declining to comment on 'the charge of the Light Cavalry at Balaklava' and suggesting he look in the newspapers instead. The collection contained in a custom-made, morocco-backed cloth box. (5)