- ink and paper
Small 8vo. Publisher's black flexible cloth, stamped in gilt; gentle wear to extremities. In a quarter-morocco slipcase.
A rare presentation copy of the boni & liveright waste land: "Inscribed to John Cournos by T.S. Eliot 24.ii.33." On that date—February 24, 1933—Eliot delivered a lecture at Yale on “English Poets as Letter Writers” which Cournos presumably attended. Cournos, a Russian-born American writer, was a member of H.D.’s circle. His affair with Dorothy Sayers in the early 1920s inspired a central portion of her novel Strong Poison. Cournos docketed this volume in the month of publication: “John Cournos to himself N.Y. Dec 1922.” The small sticker of New York’s Gotham Book Mart with their first, 47th Street address suggests this is where he procured the copy.
As first published in The Criterion and The Dial, Eliot’s landmark poem did not include the “Notes” printed in this and subsequent editions. In the mid-fifties Eliot recalled, “I had at first intended only to put down all the references for my quotations, with a view to spiking the guns of critics of my earlier poems who had accused me of plagiarism. Then, when it came to print The Waste Land as a little book—for the poem on its first appearance in The Dial and in The Criterion had no notes whatever—it was discovered that the poem was inconveniently short, so I set to work to expand the notes, in order to provide a few more pages of printed matter, with the result that they became the remarkable exposition of bogus scholarship that is still on view today.” (quoted in Gallup p. 30)
Like many towering modernist works, The Waste Land had a hard birth. Eliot completed The Waste Land during a three-month convalescence following a nervous breakdown. He sent the unwieldy manuscript to Ezra Pound for vetting, and received an edited text cut nearly in half. Eliot was justifiably proud with the result and was eager to get the poem into print. He communicated immediately with Scofield Thayer (owner of The Dial), who shocked Eliot by offering to pay him $150.00 for a work that had taken a full year to compose. Eliot’s disappointment was compounded when he soon learned that Thayer had recently paid George Moore $300.00 for a short story. A bitter dispute ensued, which was only resolved through the diplomatic magic of art patron John Quinn, who took it upon himself to arrange a book publication of the poem for Eliot. It was agreed, to Eliot’s benefit and satisfaction, that The Dial would publish the poem, buy 350 copies of the book soon to be published by Boni & Liveright, and name Eliot the recipient of the first annual Dial Award of $2,000.00. Only two more would be awarded—to Moore in 1923 and E.E. Cummings in 1924. However, by the time The Dial had set the poem in type, Eliot had launched his own literary journal, The Criterion, funded by Lady Rothermere, wife of an English press baron. Eliot printed The Waste Land in the inaugural issue. (See following lot)