The Love-Lyrics and Songs of Proteus.Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1892 Stock Code: 144728
Inscribed by Blunt to his lover Mary SingletonFirst Kelmscott edition, one of only 300 copies, presentation copy, pseudonymously inscribed by Blunt to his sometime lover Mary Singleton on the front free endpaper, "Violet Fane from Proteus April 29 1892". Singleton was notably the subject of Sonnet LV "St. Valentine's Day" on page 162 of this work. A beautiful copy with a fittingly romantic association.
Mary Singleton née Lamb (1843-1905) gained widespread attention with her collection of love poetry From Dawn to Noon in 1872. The collection was published under the pseudonym of Violet Fane, a romantic heroine of Benjamin Disraeli's Vivian Grey (1826). She swiftly established herself in London literary society becoming friends with Robert Browning, Algernon Swinburne, and Oscar Wilde, who affectionately called her a woman "who is a poem and a poet in one" (Orlando). She had a prolific output, publishing five collections of poetry, a verse novel, a drama, three prose novels, a volume of essays and stories, and a translation, as well as numerous periodical publications. She was especially known for her satirical writings, many poking fun at the British upper class (of which she was a well-established member) or at her own occasionally tangled love life.
In the early 1870s she began a long-lasting romantic affair with the diplomat Philip Currie, a cousin of Blunt's, whom she would marry after the death of her first husband Henry Sydenham Singleton in 1893. She did little to conceal this affair and assumed the role of hostess to foreign dignitaries placed under Currie's care throughout their relationship. In 1880, however, Singleton began a liaison with Blunt himself, "her combination of wit and emotion sparking off in Wilfrid a new electric storm of poetry" (Longford, p. 161). Although their romantic tryst did not last long the two remained friends and Blunt recalled that many of his early sonnets were addressed to her.
The Love-Lyrics and Songs of Proteus was issued on 27 February 1892 making this one of the earliest known inscribed copies: the only earlier copies that can be traced are those inscribed to Frederick Locker-Lampson on 22 April and Jane Morris on 26 April. This is the only Kelmscott book with the decorated initials printed in red, done at the special request of Blunt.
Small quarto. Original stiff vellum by J. and J. Leighton of London, yapp edges, spine lettered in gilt, edges uncut, silk ties detached but retaining three of the original four. Housed in a custom green morocco solander box with Kelmscott Press device to front panel in gilt with red and white onlay.
Woodcut border to opening text page, 6- and 10-line initials by Hooper after Morris; shoulder titles, initials, stanza and sonnet numbers, and some lines printed in red, all printed in Golden type.
Very faint soiling to vellum as often, vellum remaining unbowed and square, minor rippling to endpapers, short cracks to paper at turn-ins, very light toning to book block edges, a beautiful copy in near-fine condition.
Franklin, p. 200; Elizabeth Longford, A Pilgrimage of Passion (1979); Peterson A3; Ransom, Kelmscott 3.
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