FAULKNER, William (1897-1962). The Marble Faun. Boston: Four Seas Company, 1924.
8o. Original green paper boards, printed paper label on cover (spine lacking, as often); IN THE VERY RARE PRINTED DUST JACKET (few small tears at ends of spine panel, few pale stains). Provenance: MURRAY AND MAUD FAULKNER, his parents (presentation inscription); Dean Faulkner Wells, niece of William Faulkner (ALS to Roger Rechler laid-in testifying to the book's provenance).
THE DEDICATION COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF FAULKNER'S FIRST BOOK, INSCRIBED BY FAULKNER TO HIS MOTHER AND FATHER on the front free endpaper: "To Dad and Mother. Xmas 1924 William Faulkner." (Faulkner in fact dedicated the book "To My Mother" only.)
Faulkner's family life could be called difficult at best. His biographer, Frederick R. Karl, described Faulkner's relationship with his father as "complex, hostile, reconciliatory, and lacking in mutual understanding," even though the son made "an effort to meet Murray on his own ground, which was the family institution of heavy drinking." In nearly all things, Faulkner sided most with his mother, preferring her sense of culture and discipline. Karl, though, notes the high stakes of his relationship with his mother: "As the son upon whom Maud doted, the eldest and potentially the most talented, Faulkner had to live up to her high expectations. This was a mother whose power over the son preempted the hold of the father. He was his mother's son rather than his father's, and, therefore, a cross-sexual linkage was established. Maud Faulkner's intense devotion to her son--and their similiarities in size and tastes--made it difficult or impossible for Faulkner to separate himself from her. What she expected of him was what he must become" (Karl, William Faulkner: American Writer, London, 1989, p.19).
Four Seas agreed to issue Faulkner's collection of poems in 1923, provided he pay for the manufacturing costs (their standard arrangement). They offered him a royalty arrangement, but Faulkner declined to proceed, at the time not having enough money to carry the costs. Within six months, though, he'd received the encouragement and finanical support of Phil Stone and the twenty-seven year old Faulkner contracted for the printing of 500 copies of The Marble Faun. The book sold poorly and quickly was remaindered. No records survive detailing the number of copies Four Seas actually sold prior to disposing the stock on the remainder market, but an early estimate suggested 100 copies. William Boozer, in William Faulkner's First Book: The Marble Faun (Memphis, 1975), specifically located 56 copies. He considered the existence of other floating copies for a total of near 70, and has since found more, but his total is still short of the 100 copies initially assumed.
Though not often associated with poetry, Faulkner in fact considered it his first passion. As late as 1957, seven years after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, he confessed to a University of Virginia audience, "I wanted to be a poet, and I think of myself now as a failed poet. Not as a novelist but as a failed poet who had to take what he could do." FAULKNER PRESENTATIONS ARE NOTORIOUSLY SCARCE. COPIES INSCRIBED TO FAMILY MEMBERS ONLY VERY SELDOMLY APPEAR ON THE MARKET. Massey 743; Peterson A1.1.