03 January 2007

A Question of Upbringing. Anthony Powell.

Another old Etonian, our third on this list. The portrait of Powell is from the Wallace Collection (many thanks) a great and good place to browse in the Harley Street / Baker Street area. In their splendid late 18th century townhouse they put on a Powell exhibition in 2006 complete with Burra paintings, Misha Black d/ws and AP letters, manuscripts and his writing desk. This desk was childish in size indicating that Powell was unexpectedly short -- probably about the same height as Brad Pitt or Mick Jagger. Another trivial connection is his gothic American character Russell Gwinnett featured in the late volumes - a direct descendent of Button Gwinnet - whose signature we illustrated here last week.

Anthony Powell. A QUESTION OF UPBRINGING.Heinemann, London 1951.

Current Prices
$950-$1400 / £500-£750

The first and probably the most valuable book in Powell's 12 volume 'A Dance to the Music of Time'- his masterly 'roman fleuve' in the wake of Proust. Set at an unnamed public school (based on Eton) and featuring Nicholas Jenkins, the narrator and his chums Stringham and Templer. It also introduces the key figure in the series Widmerpool - a classic type. The sort of guy you knew when young and regarded as something of a bore and an embarrassment but who rises in the world, way past you, sometimes to great office or great wealth. An unstoppable, slightly grotesque figure possessed of immense willpower and a teflon coated resilience. Said to have been based on a mixture of men including the Lord Chancellor Sir Reginald Manningham Buller (known at the Bar as 'Bullying Manner.') Widmerpudlian is the adjective. Widmerpool , by the way, is a village near Nottingham.
Powell is our own Proust and is considered by some, including not a few French intellos, to have surpassed him. Powell has written about Proust including a good piece on Proust as soldier. Another influence,discernible in his matchless prose style, is Robert Burton and his 'Anatomy of Melancholy.' The title of a an earlier work 'Afternoon Men' came from him.

VALUE? Hard to find a decent jacketed copy for much less than £700. Slightly fragile jacket. The next two (both with titles taken from the City) 'A Buyer's Market' and 'The Acceptance World' are hard to find in good state for less than £500. Decent sets in jacket can go for over £3K, a set with every one inscribed to Denis Wheatley made £10K in 2002. It should be noted that Wheatley's library was invariably in fab condition. Powell is likely to be on the move with a large and well heeled customer base, esp in America. Sets used to make less than £300 in the 1980s. At that time a dealer tried to establish 'points' on some in the series, based on the weave of cloth of the book. He had examined early presentation copies to determine precedence. No one was the slightest bit interested.

Want level 15-25 Quite High

1 comment:

sawymath said...

i have two sets of all twelve all first editions in dust wrappers in good conditition. what would they be worth to sell?