The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems.London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1889 Stock Code: 140222
NotesFirst edition, first issue, a major literary association copy, inscribed by Yeats on the front free endpaper, "To the poet of the North Countrie, Joseph Skipsey, with the author's kind regards". In addition, Yeats has made minor corrections to the text on four pages. The inscription shows Yeats's admiration for the Newcastle pitman poet, whom he honours in the manner of a maker of the old minstrel ballads.
Joseph Skipsey (1832-1903) had been orphaned during a bitter strike and sent down the pits at the age of seven. Self-educated, he moved between the world of the collieries and fitful employment in the literary world, where various patrons impressed by his poetic output tried to find him a suitable post. In 1889, the presumed year of this presentation, "a glittering company, including Burne-Jones, Browning, Tennyson, William Morris, and Lord Leighton", sponsored Skipsey to become custodian of Shakespeare's house at Stratford upon Avon. But "Skipsey, deeply knowledgeable about Shakespeare's works, could not endure being 'a common showman' of counterfeit relics to troupes of tourists (Bradley) and he returned to the Northumberland pits in 1891" (ODNB).
An unpublished letter from Yeats to Skipsey is discussed in an article for Literature & History by Gordon Tait of the University of Hull. Tait argues that "in Skipsey, Yeats found an English equivalent to the Irish peasant poet, a figure whose life and poetry was central to Yeats's vision of Ireland and of his nation's literary revival", and contending that, "following the discovery of the letter from Yeats, Skipsey's poetry and influence should be considered outside the bounds of the Pre-Raphaelite clique within which he is usually located" (2016, Vol. 25(2), pp. 134-49).
Presentation copies of this landmark Yeats volume are of the utmost scarcity: the only other recorded at auction in the last 30 years was a copy of the second issue inscribed to Maude Gonne, selling for 57,600 in 2018.
Octavo. Original blue cloth, titles to spine and front board gilt, black coated endpapers. House in a blue quarter morocco slipcase.
Short tear to fore edge of the front free endpaper, corners bumped but an excellent copy.
Hayward 295; Wade 2.
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