BURKE, Thomas.

Limehouse Nights:

Tales of Chinatown.

London: Grant Richards Limited, 1916 Stock Code: 136021
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"A work of high literary art [that] became a classic overnight"

First edition, first impression, presentation copy from the author to the publisher, inscribed on the front free endpaper, "To Grant Richards, novelist and patron of letters. Thomas Burke". Examples in the jacket are rare and we have been unable to trace another inscribed copy.

Queen's Quorum describes Limehouse Nights, a collection of 14 short stories, as "a work of high literary art that became a classic overnight"; for Grant Richards it was "a critical and financial success despite... risqué allusions" (ODNB). These "risqué allusions" are remarked on by Paul Newland in his study The Cultural Construction of London's East End: "Burke's Limehouse tales also echo the 'Yellow Peril' discourse of the fin de siecle. They re-engage with anxieties concerning urban degeneration, immorality, imperial decline, miscegenation and the increased political and sexual freedom of women. A number of commentators found Burke's tales brutally realistic, sexually explicit and dangerously immoral. But others found his work poetically charged, and argued that it featured wonderful descriptive passages that appealed to all the senses" (pp. 111-12).

Grant Richards himself gives an engaging account of Burke delivering "a sheaf of typewritten manuscript" to his office and at home asking his wife to read one of the stories: "when she was so engaged she was usually deaf to interruption. But - but she was crying. Tears were coursing down her cheeks... When she had finished she turned to me: ' - one of the saddest and most beautiful tales I've ever read. If the others are like it you've got one of the books of your life'... both of us, before we did close up for the night, decided that Limehouse Nights was the real stuff".

Burke's inscription to his publisher somewhat fawningly addresses him as a novelist and patron of letters; Grant Richards's first novel, Caviare, was published in 1912, and he had written another seven novels by 1935, though he remains best known for his publications of the work of others, notably G. B. Shaw's Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, A. E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad, and James Joyce's Dubliners.

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Octavo. Original terracotta cloth, titles in brown to spine and front board. With dust jacket. Housed in a dark blue quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Jacket sunned at spine and flap folds, some nicks, chips and tears, spine of binding a little cocked and just lightly rumpled, top edge dusty, touch of foxing to endpapers. A very good copy, tight and sharp-cornered.


Gawsworth, Ten Contemporaries II, p. 70; Queen's Quorum 58; see also Paul Newland, The Cultural Construction of London's East End: Urban Iconography, Modernity and the Spatialisation of Englishness, Rodopi (2008); Grant Richards, Author Hunting by an Old


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