HENRY AUSTIN DOBSON (1840-1921) was a prolific and popular poet and essayist with a particular interest in the art and manners of 18th century England and France.
This lot comprises Dobson's own copies of his works, with additions from the collections of his son, Alban Dobson (1885-1962), and his grandson, Christopher Dobson (1916-2005). It includes over 200 printed volumes, many bearing Dobson's bookplate and/or book label, as well as a significant amount of manuscript material, including letters to and from the author, albums of cuttings and illustrations, original artwork by illustrators with whom Dobson collaborated, and photographs and artifacts belonging to the poet and his family. Many of the printed volumes include extensive annotations by Dobson and/or Alban/Christopher Dobson. The whole is a fascinating and comprehensive archive offering valuable insights into late Victorian literary life, and into the publishing practices of the day.
The collection includes:
(i) A landscape-format album (173 x 125mm; morocco-backed cloth boards) of Dobson's youthful sketches, including a fine wash self-portrait dated April 8th '63, pencil portraits of various relatives, and ornamental designs and lettering. Dobson was a gifted draughtsman and this album dates from the early 1860s, when he was studying art in South Kensington.
(ii) A bound album of Dobson's contributions to Saint Paul's magazine (various issues: March 1868-September 1873), including wrappers; the rare pamphlet 'The Drama of the Doctor's Window: A Brief Statement Concerning that Poem Since Its Appearance in 'St. Paul's Magazine' (8°; without wrappers); and various offprints and ephemera relating to the publication of Dobson's first book of verse, Vignettes in Rhyme. Dobson first came to the public's attention through his contributions to Saint Paul's magazine, and he dedicated Vignettes in Rhyme to the its editor, Anthony Trollope.
(iii) DOBSON, Austin. Vignettes in Verse. London: Henry S. King, 1873. 8°. Pebbled cloth. The page proofs for Dobson's first collection of verse, retitled for publication Vignettes in Rhyme, with extensive annotations by the author.
(iv) HORATIUS FLACCUS, Quintus. Poemata omnia. [Venice: Aldine Press, November 1519]. 8°. Woodcut device on title (lacks blank A8 and all after l5, i.e. contains only the text of Horace, repaired worming in blank lower margins of first gathering, a little spotting and waterstaining). Polished calf gilt by F. & T. Aitken, gilt edges, green morocco labels on spine (a trifle rubbed). Presented to Austin Dobson by ANDREW LANG, inscribed on an endpaper 'Austin Dobson from A.L. 1879'. Adams H864; Renouard 88.10.
HORATIUS FLACCUS, Quintus. [Carmina], edited by Daniel Heinsius. Leiden: Elzevir, 1629. Part I (of 3) only, 12°. Engraved title (a short copy affecting a few headlines and text at foremargins at the end, a few stains). 18th-century red morocco gilt, gilt edges (slightly worn). As above, but with inscription 'To Austin Dobson. The Bard was short to outward view,/And "short", - to match -, this copy too,/But, being Horace, still he's dear,/And still, - though cropped -, an Elzevir! A. Lang'. Willems 314.
(v) DOBSON, Austin. Vignettes in Rhyme and Other Verses. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1880. -- At the Sign of the Lyre. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1885. Both 4° (179 x 125mm). Uniformly bound in dark brown morocco by Zaehnsdorf.
(vi) DOBSON, Austin. The Sun Dial: A Poem. New York: Dodd Mead & Company, 1890. 4° (296 x 217mm), with ten full-page plates and other illustrations by George Wharton Edwards. Full vellum gilt. NUMBER 49 OF 50 COPIES ON JAPAN PAPER.
(vii) DOBSON, Austin. William Hogarth. London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, 1891. 4° (255 x 192mm), vellum-backed boards. LARGE PAPER COPY, number 5 of 150 copies, signed by the author. With copies of the 1891 trade edition, the 1898 Kegan, Paul, Trench & Co edition and the 1907 Heinemann enlarged edition (all worn and marked with loose pages), all heavily annotated by Dobson. The Part I section title of the 1898 edition carries the words: 'To Messrs Heinemann, This corrected 'copy' must be carefully preserved, as it will be required in the event of any reissue of the book in this form. Austin Dobson, 8.iv.1902'. The 1907 edition contains inserted letters to Dobson from Sydney C. Cockerell of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Sidney Colvin of the British Museum and Charles Holroyd of the National Gallery, amongst others.
(viii) DOBSON, Austin. The Ballad of Beau Brocade and Other Poems of the XVIII Century. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co, 1892. 4° (246 x 175mm), two engraved titles and 50 illustrations by Hugh Thomson. Publisher's cloth. LARGE PAPER COPY, number 1 of 450 copies SIGNED BY HUGH THOMSON, with three extra plates inserted, and an illustrated ALs from Thomson to Dobson, dated February 1915. With a small selection of ephemera relating to Thomson, including his Times obituary (10 May 1920) which notes Dobson's description of him as 'the Charles Lamb of illustration'.
(ix) DOBSON, Austin. Eighteenth Century Vignettes. London: Chatto & Windus, 1892. 4° (240 x 192mm), with seven contemporary portraits. Vellum-backed boards. LARGE PAPER COPY, number 17 of 250 copies. EDMUND GOSSE'S COPY, inscribed by Dobson 'to Edmund Gosse Nov.'92', and with the text of Dobson's poem to Gosse, 'Stanzas written in Dejection at Whitehall', in the author's hand, dated 'Nov.92', on the verso of the dedication page. -- Eighteenth Century Vignettes: Second Series. London: Chatto & Windus, 1894. As above, but number 1 of 200 copies, signed 'Chatto & Windus' and inscribed on the front blank, 'Austin Dobson Esq, with the homage of his admiring publisher, Andrew Chatto. Oct 1st.1894.'
With three ALs from Edmund Gosse to Austin Dobson, with draft replies, and one to Alban Dobson (Feb.19.1922), discussing Civil Service appointments and the sale of Austin Dobson's books. In a letter to Austin Dobson dated 27.7.17, Gosse laments that he cannot secure a Civil Service position for the illustrator, Hugh Thomson: 'Under the last administration, I could have brought some honourable relief to Thomson at once; but I have no influence with Downing Street at present at all, and from what others tell me I gather that art and letters are looked upon as useless commodities'; and in a letter marked 'Strictly confidential' and dated June 9 1916, Gosse warns Dobson against inscribing books for the bibliophile and biographer, Clement Shorter: 'It is not from friendliness, nor even from admiration, that Shorter is doing this. It is purely for money.' ('I have long had no illusions as to the commercial aspect of autographed books,' replies Dobson.)
(x) DOBSON, Austin. Proverbs in Porcelain. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co, 1893. 4° (248 x 175mm), with engraved title, frontispiece and 23 plates by BERNARD PARTRIDGE, publisher's cloth. LARGE PAPER COPY, number 48 of 250 copies. With Partridge's original sketch for the illustration facing p.82, 'Babette! I say! Babette!--Babette!' (pen-and-ink on card, 281 x 178mm); the preparatory sketches for 'And noone dreams -- of Perfidy' (detail; facing p.28) and 'But we -- we are not always gay' (facing p.90), the latter with a sketch, 'Railway Station, Llandudno, from 2: Neville Crescent: Nov.13.1888', on the verso; the poem, 'Epilogue', in Dobson's hand facing p.93; and with two ALs from Bernard Partridge (December 1892, May 1893).
(xi) DOBSON, Austin. A Paladin of Philanthropy and Other Papers. London: Chatto & Windus, 1899. 4° (188 x 125mm), engraved frontispiece (three versions). Full morocco binding. UNIQUE COPY, with a verse inscription to the collection's dedicatee, Edmund Gosse, and a tipped-in ALs from Dobson dated '13.ii.'14'. Gosse has added the note: 'This copy is unique. It was the first which came from the press, and it contains, besides the frontispiece in three states, a plan of Whitehall which is different from that found in the published edition. E.G.' The title essay begins: 'In February 1785, when the books of the 'late learned Samuel Johnson, Esq; LL.D. Deceased,' were being sold by Mr. Christie at his Great Room in Pall Mall ...'
(xii) GOLDSMITH, Oliver (1730-74). Poetical Works, edited by Austin Dobson. London, etc: Henry Frowde, 1906. 8° (186 x 122mm), portrait, various illustrations. Modern half vellum. WITH THOMAS STOTHARD RA'S ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATION for 'Edwin and Angela: A Ballad' (pen-and-wash; 89 x 67mm) from the 1805 Edinburgh edition of Goldsmith's Poems, given to Austin Dobson by Frederick Locker.
(xiii) A quantity of ALs to Austin and Alban Dobson, many inserted into books, and including three buckram-bound albums of letters to Alban Dobson from THOMAS HARDY (1; with envelope), Henry Newbolt (2), T.J. Wise (1), A.C. Benson (1) and Hugh Walpole (1), amongst others.
The letter from Thomas Hardy is dated '14 Jan: 1927' and grants permission to Alban Dobson to reprint letters sent by Hardy to his father, 'though I fear they were mostly unimportant notes, in spite of my having known him a good many years. As we used to meet at the Athenaeum writing was not required.'
Included in one of the albums is a receipt for Alban Dobson's 1905 membership of the London County Cricket Club, signed by W.G. GRACE (1848-1915).
(xiv) A box containing 25 glass photographic portrait negatives (106 x 81mm) of Austin Dobson and his family, including a charming image (slight discolouration and spotting; with a developed print) of Dobson in his study looking at a book.
(xv) Three printing blocks for Austin Dobson's celebrated bookplate
showing a seated man in 18th-century costume reading a letter, engraved by J.D. Cooper from a drawing by E.A. Abbey and dated March 1883; and the blocks for two other Austin Dobson bookplates.
Henry Austin Dobson was born in Plymouth, the son of a civil engineer. He was of part French descent and was educated at the Gymnasse, Strasbourg, as well as the Beaumaris Grammar School, Anglesey. In 1856 he joined the Board of Trade, and for the next 45 years -- like his friend, Edmund Gosse (1849-1928) -- he pursued a joint career as a civil servant and a man of letters. He discovered his facility early: 'The student of [his work],' noted the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 'will be struck at once by the fact that it contains nothing immature: there are no juvenilia to criticize or excuse.' As a poet, Dobson's main achievement was the successful introduction into English literature of such French verse forms as the triolet, rondel and villanelle; as a prose writer, a wider appreciation of such 18th-century figures as Hogarth, Fielding and Horace Walpole through biographies which were both scholarly and accessible. He established a late-Victorian vogue for Georgian subjects, assisted by his collaboration with sympathetic illustrators such as Hugh Thomson (1860-1920), Bernard Partridge (1861-1945) and the American, Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911). This collection reflects a distinctive career marked by early and enduring success, and by long and happy collaboration with a wide circle of literary and artistic figures.