11 October 2002
ELIOT, Thomas Stearns (1888-1965). Prufrock and Other Observations. London: The Egoist Ltd., 1917.
8o. (Faint offsetting from tape on first and last leaves.) Original printed wrappers (spine slightly soiled and worn, covers lightly soiled). Provenance: Rev. William J. Gormley (presentation inscription).
FIRST EDITION OF ELIOT'S FIRST BOOK, ONE OF THE MASTERPIECES OF MODERNIST VERSE. PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY ELIOT TO REV. GORMLEY on the title: "Inscribed for the Rev. William J. Gormley, C.M. by T.S. Eliot 13.vi.57." Gormley was an American priest who from the 1940s through 1960s formed an extensive collection of books by Catholic writers, including Joyce, Greene, Waugh, Eliot and Spark. Gormley regularly bought books through Marguerite Cohn of the House of Books in New York. She secured the inscription for Gormley on this copy on Eliot's 1957 tour of the States. PRESENTATION COPIES OF PRUFROCK ARE UNCOMMON, with only five recored by American Book Prices Current in the last thirty years, and no contemporary presentationsb have appeared during the same period.
Prufrock reached publication principally through the efforts of Ezra Pound. After the manuscript had been rejected by several London publishers, Pound approached Harriet Shaw Weaver and offered to raise the money for printing himself. Eliot later recollected that "Pound had chosen and arranged the poems for Prufrock and Other Observations; in fact affirmed--explicitly--that he owed 'everything' to Pound" (Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era, p.551). The work, published in an edition of 500 copies, was actually met with some indifference, though Eliot's peers immediately saw the importance of the work. Here was "something quite new in English verse and far beyond the capacity of Laforgue who is given credit for influencing him," notes Cyril Connolly. Connolly, The Modern Movement 30. Gallup A1; Hayward 331.
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