- ink and paper
8vo.; title page unopened. Publisher's blue paper-covered boards; minor scuffing with light edgewear, lower joint a little rubbed, title label and spine a bit faded. In a quarter-morocco slipcase.
Inscribed to Eliot’s patroness, Lady Mary Lilian Rothermere: "For Viscountess Rothermere with the homage of the author. T.S. Eliot / 9.x.23." With Eliot’s autograph corrections to pages 7, 9 and 29. A perfect association copy: through her funding of Eliot’s magazine, The Criterion, Rothermere made possible Eliot’s publication of The Waste Land as he envisioned it.
Eliot wrote the first draft of The Waste Land during a three-month convalescence following a nervous break-down. After sending the manuscript to Ezra Pound (to whom he ultimately dedicated the volume) for vetting, and, remarkably, allowing the elimination of as many lines as would eventually make up the finished work, he was justifiably proud and 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 only $150 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 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 $2000. 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.
This particular edition of The Waste Land, published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, who had published Eliot’s earlier work in Poems (1919), had a special significance for them. In his history/bibliography of the Hogarth Press, Donald Rhein quotes Leonard’s feelings written in Beginning Again:
“As an amateur printer and also the publisher of what I was printing, I found it impossible not to attend to the sense and usually after setting a line and then seeing it appear again as I took it off the machine, I got terribly irritated by it. But I never tired and still do not tire of those lines which were a new note in poetry…(and sounded with even greater depth and volume in the next work of this which we published, the poem which had greatest influence upon English poetry, indeed upon English literature, than any other in the 20th century: The Waste Land." (p. 22)
Rhein reports that although The Waste Land had already come out in Eliot’s The Criterion as well as in The Dial in the States, “for Eliot and the English public, it was a special event when the Woolfs finally brought out their edition in 1923…Publishing The Waste Land increased the Woolfs’ prestige and that of the Press enormously. It also encouraged Eliot, who was still working at Lloyd’s bank, to keep writing.” (p. 24)