BECKETT, Samuel (1906-1989). Whoroscope. Paris: The Hours Press, 1930.
8o. Original printed red wrappers, stapled as issued (minor dust soiling to covers, some minor rust stains from staples). Provenance: Harry Sinclair (presentation inscription on limitation page).
FIRST EDITION OF BECKETT'S FIRST BOOK, LIMITED ISSUE, one of 300 numbered copies (100 signed), this copy out of series. PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY BECKETT on the limitation page: "For Harry Sinclair - Samuel Beckett July 1930." With one correction by Beckett on page 2.
In 1904 Beckett's maternal aunt Cissie, ignoring her family's strong objections, married William "Boss" Sinclair, a half-Jewish Dublin antiques dealer who was in business with his twin brother, Harry. The Sinclairs were artistic and idiosyncratic, especially by repressed contemporary Dublin standards. Not deterred by his family's distaste for the Sinclairs, Beckett spent a great deal of time with Harry and Boss and they influenced him enormously. "It was an introduction to a new world for Samuel Beckett, one that he had not begun to imagine even in the confusion and clutter of his rooms at Trinity or on his own in France and Italy... the Sinclair household was his first sustained experience with persons to whom a life of the mind was more important than physical comfort and respectability..." (Samuel Beckett: A Biography, by Deirdre Bair, New York, 1978 page 61).
In 1937 Beckett created a serious rift with his mother when he testified for Harry Sinclair in Sinclair's libel case against Oliver St. John Gogarty, Sinclair claimed that two villainous characters in Gogarty's novel As I was Walking Down Sackville Street, twin Jewish antique dealers with a predilection for little girls, were indentifiably and falsely modeled on the Sinclair brothers. During the cross examination, Gogarty's lawyers attempted to paint Beckett as a pornographer, inquiring whether he had really written a book "By the title of Horoscope with the letter 'W'prefixed" (Bair, page 268). The smear did not take: Gogarty was found guilty of libel, and departed Ireland for the United States shortly after the verdict.
At the age of 24, Beckett composed Whoroscope very quickly and entered it in a competition judged by Nancy Cunard (whose Hours Press printed this edition) and Richard Aldington for the best poem on the subject of Time. Beckett based the poem on Adrien Baillet's late 17th-century life of Descartes. Beckett won the prize, dazzling Cunard and Aldington with his technique. Similar themes are expressed throughout Beckett's work, all of immense density and challenge, leading to his Nobel Prize in literature in 1969. Federman & Fletcher 5.