The Cocktail Party.
A Comedy.Faber and Faber Ltd, London , 1950 Stock Code: 124275
NotesFirst edition, first impression, a major association copy, presented by Eliot to Ezra Pound, with his affectionate inscription, "Ez from O. Possum, 6.iii.50" to the front free endpaper, dated three days before publication.
Eliot owed an eternal debt of gratitude to Pound - "il miglior fabbro" - for his editorial shaping of The Waste Land. At the time of this inscription Pound was still being held in St Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington DC, working on the Cantos and his translations of Sophocles. In the judgement of his lover Olga Rudge he still harboured "bats in the belfry". What Pound's sentiments must have been on receipt of this play can only be guessed at, but Rudge, who attended a matinee of The Cocktail Party in London, wrote to Pound urging him to "encourage His friend, the Possum, who does love Him, she feels it.'"
In July 1946 Eliot had visited Pound at St Elizabeth's, considering his situation "very grim", and petitioned for him to be moved to better quarters. Subsequently, Eliot sought to help Pound, notably by having Faber & Faber publish the UK edition of the Pisan Cantos in 1949, and also by manoeuvring to have Pound awarded the inaugural Bollingen Prize, outraging the sensitivities of many in Cold War America that an incarcerated fascist sympathiser could be granted thousands of dollars by the Library of Congress.
This presentation copy could have been sent to St Elizabeth's either via Rudge or the post. From the provenance of the book, we know that it was passed by Pound (though without inscription) to Eileen Lane Kinney. Kinney was a member of the inner circle of modernist artists and writers based in Paris in the 1920s and 30s. She had been Brancusi's lover before returning to America just as the Second World War loomed. She settled in Washington DC and worked on a number of translations of political studies from French into English. When in 1946 Pound was moved to St Elizabeth's, she spared little time in contacting him and arranging visits. Pound inscribed a copy of his Pisan Cantos to her in 1958, just before his departure for Italy, and we suspect that this remarkable Eliot presentation may also have been given to her at this time.
Octavo. Original green cloth, titles to spine gilt. With the dust jacket. Housed in red quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.
Spine a little cocked, minor fading to cloth along edges of boards, an excellent copy in a very good jacket, tanned to spine panel, lightly nicked at the extremities with a small closed tear at top of front joint and a small chip from the top of front panel just affecting titles.
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