Lot 185
  • 185

Wilde, Oscar

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Wilde, Oscar
  • The Sphinx. London: Elkin Matthews and John Lane at the Sign of the Bodley Head, 1894
  • Paper
small 4to (219 x 172mm.), FIRST EDITION, ONE OF 200 COPIES, PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED TO EUGENE LEE-HAMILTON ("Eugene Lee-Hamilton | from his | friend the author. | in memory of | one delightful | afternoon and | many delightful | sonnets. | June | 94") on the half-title, printed in green, red and black, illustrations by Charles Ricketts throughout, full vellum gilt with design Ricketts, collector's chemise and morocco backed folding box by the Chelsea Bindery, one spot of soiling on upper board, some light spotting


Mason 361

Catalogue Note

A RARE INSCRIBED PRESENTATION COPY OF WILDE'S THE SPHINX. Apparently owing to the cost of the book, which retailed at 2 guineas, Wilde received only a limited number of copies and so presentation copies such as this example are rarely seen. The Sphinx was published in early June 1894 in a run of only 200 copies. Ricketts considered it the designs for the illustrations and for the binding amongst his best illustrative work.

A few months before publication, Wilde had called on Eugene Lee-Hamilton at his home in Florence, where Wilde was surreptitiously visiting Lord Alfred Douglas. Lee-Hamilton (1845-1907) was a former British diplomat who had turned poet when severe illness left him almost paralysed and consigned to his bed for the best part of twenty years. Living in Florence, he was cared for by his mother and his half-sister, Violet Paget (who wrote under the pseudonym Vernon Lee).

Despite his indisposition, Lee-Hamilton remained a lively conversationalist, and welcomed guests including Edith Wharton, Paul Bourget and Henry James to his rooms. Apparently on the invitation of Mary Smith Costelloe, Wilde called on the family on 19th May 1894 and "talked like an angel, and they all fell in love with him, even Vernon Lee..." (see Ellman, Oscar Wilde (1987), p.395n).