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130067 130067_1 130067_2 130067_3
(YEATS, W. B.)

The Second Book of the Rhymers' Club.

Availability: In stock

Published: London Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1894

Stock Code: 130067

OR On display in 43 Dover Street


First edition, presentation copy, with a lengthy inscription by Yeats (as both editor and contributor) to his close friend and literary collaborator Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932) on the front free endpaper, opposite her bookplate: "This book was the last act of the Rhymers Club - no there was a dinner afterwards - we got many applications from people, who wanted to be members one from a deaf & dumb man. I think it was the fear of another book brought the club to an end. The members who wrote the worst wanted another book greatly. WBY 1901".
Lady Augusta Gregory was the chatelaine of Coole Park, cofounder of the Abbey Theatre, key figure in the Irish Literary Revival, and the mother of Major Robert Gregory (about whose death in 1918 Yeats wrote one of his most quoted short poems, "An Irish Airman Foresees his Death"). Lady Gregory first met Yeats in 1896, and they were soon engaged in joint folktale-collecting tours in the summer of 1897 and beyond (which would be worked into the enlarged edition of Celtic Twilight, 1902). Foster well describes the nature and significance of Yeats and Gregory's friendship: "She brought him far more than the background of 'order and labour' which he craved, and against which much of his finest work would be written. For Gregory's part... the friendship with the dazzling young poet developed into a literary and theatrical collaboration, and launched her on a career of playwriting and theatrical management which put her at the centre of the developing cultural renaissance in Dublin" (R. F. Foster, writing in ODNB).
The Rhymers' Club was founded by W. B. Yeats in 1890 as an informal poetry society that met at the Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street (where Samuel Johnson, in an earlier age, also used to drink). The group published their first volume of poetry in 1892, with this, their second volume (including contributions by Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Ernest Rhys, Arthur Symons, Richard le Gallienne, and others) published in an edition of 500 copies a couple of years after. In Lady Gregory's copy of the First Book of the Rhymers' Club (1892), Yeats had inscribed, "This little book was put together at my suggestion. I suggested it because I wanted to have copies of Dowson's poems. He had read them aloud to us at the Cheshire Cheese." It was, however, in this Second Book that Dowson's best known poem appears - "Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynara", a definitive piece of "1890s" decadent verse, with its famous refrain, "I have been true to you Cynara, in my fashion".
Provenance: Lady Augusta Gregory, by descent to Major R. G. Gregory, sold at his sale of Lady Augusta Gregory's library at Sotheby's on 24 July 1979, lot 420, where it was purchased by Bernard Quaritch, thereafter entering the library of J. O. Edwards, with his ticket to rear pastedown, and then of the book collectors Simon Nowell-Smith and his wife Judith Nowell-Smith, with their labels to front pastedown, sold by Bertram Rota, catalogue 300, "The Simon Nowell-Smith Collection", 2002, item 812, subsequently entered into a Sotheby's auction, 10 July 2018, lot 244.

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Small octavo. Original brown cloth, spine lettered in gilt. Housed in a custom red cloth folding chemise within red quarter morocco slipcase, spine lettered in gilt, red cloth sides.


Slight marking to rear cover, first gathering standing slightly proud, else a very good copy.


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