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132221
[LEWIS, C. S.] HAMILTON, Clive.

Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics....

In three parts: I. The Prison House. II. Hesitation. III. The Escape.

Availability: In stock

Published: London William Heinemann, 1919

Stock Code: 132221

£12,500
OR On display in 100 Fulham Road

Notes

First edition, first impression, of C. S. Lewis's rare first book, a collection of war poetry with a Miltonic twist. This poetry collection, published when Lewis was only 20 years old, was inspired by his experiences in the trenches, but made complex by a superstructure of Christian faith with which the shocked, imaginative young poet was evidently struggling. The trenches themselves figure but occasionally (one nocturne, in which the poet attempts to imagine the moonlit trenches at night as beautiful, concludes movingly: "What call have I to dream of anything? / I am a wolf. Back to the world again, / And speech of fellow-brutes that once were men / Our throats can bark for slaughter: cannot sing."), but it is in a broader and deeper sense that the war became for Lewis a fruitful ground in which to explore his faith. Certainly the dramatis personae of Christian/Miltonic discourse (a wrathful tyrant God, the deceitful and dangerous spectre of Satan, a beastly race of Men, the green Edenic fields of England left behind - and questionably returned to) then took on a darkly threatening and immediate aspect for Lewis during and after this modern Armageddon. As Lewis himself explained in a letter to his friend Arthur Greeves, on hearing that Heinemann were going to publish the collection: "it... is mainly strung round the idea... that nature is wholly diabolical and malevolent and that God, if he exists, is outside of and in opposition to the cosmic arrangements" - a world-view perhaps germane to life in the trenches.
Another aspect of this intriguing production must bear a mention: it is not entirely puerile to note of the title, "Spirits in Bondage", that Lewis, as a young man, entertained a practising interest in sexual sadism (he sometimes signed his letters "Philomastix", 'whip-lover', and called the enjoyment of sexual sadism "the most manly kind of feeling"), and that these instincts bled into his religious beliefs, appreciating the Passion of Christ in a somewhat similar way (he later echoed himself in calling Christianity "the most manly kind of religion").
Contemporary reviews, though favourable, were few, and the book did not sell well; after a few years Heinemann destroyed most of the unsold copies, and the book is thus of legendary rarity today. This rare survival also contains within it an intriguing Heinemann "List of Poetry" advertisement catalogue bound in at the rear, putting Lewis in context among the great "Soldier Poets", his contemporaries. The poets advertised are given small biographies, critical receptions and extracts from their poems. Lewis is introduced as: "Lieut. G. S. Lewis, who is 20 years of age, was at Malvern College when the war broke out. In 1916 he took a classical scholarship at University College, Oxford, and a year later received his commission in the Somerset Light Infantry. He was wounded in front of Lillers in April, 1918". Evidently he was then hovering indecisively between pseudonyms, with Clive Hamilton (his mother's maiden name) on the spine and title page, and George S. Lewis (he disliked Clive) here in the advertisements.
Auction records show only two other copies having appeared, one of which was defective.

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Description

Small octavo. Original blue cloth, spine lettered in gilt.

Illustrations

12pp publisher's advertisements bound in at the rear (with a title page illustrated by William Nicholson).

Condition

Ownership signature to front free endpaper in ink: "Mildred Wilson Xmas 1921"; old bookseller's price of 40 pence to front pastedown in pencil. Spine and extremities darkened, minor wear around extremities, a few instances of faint foxing. A very good copy.

Delivery

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