28 May 2007

Lytton Strachey and friends. Euphrosyne. A Collection of Verse. 1905

Anonymous. [Lytton Strachey, Saxon Sydney - Turner, Clive Bell, Walter Lamb and Leonard Woolf & others.] EUPHROSYNE. A COLLECTION OF VERSE. Elijah Johnson, Cambridge 1905.

Current Selling Prices
£1500 / $3000

Large 8vo. 90 pages. Ur Bloomsbury. Poetry in a ninetyish style with an interesting long poem ‘At the Other Bar’ about a a disappointed drunk and other poems on 'Dreamland', 'Water Spirits' 'The Trinity Ball' 'Andromeda' etc., The poem 'The Cat' is known to be by Strachey as are a few others, the poem 'Song' by Lamb is addressed to a Duchess. A collection of verse and translations from French published in the summer of 1905 - as Quentin Bell says in his biography of Virginia Woolf '...they seldom alluded (to it) in later life so that the book would have been forgotten if Virginia had not managed to keep its memory green...Virginia laughed at it and began a scathing essay upon it and its contributors...' Indeed she used the name 'Euphrosyne' for a ship in her first novel "The Voyage Out.' In her unfinished May 1906 essay on the book and the Cambridge set behind it she wrote '...some few songs and sonnets were graciously issued to the public some little time ago, carelessly, as though the Beast could hardly appreciate such fare, even when simplified and purified to suit his coarse but innocent palate...it was melodious ...but when taxed with their melancholy the poets confessed that such sadness had never been known & marked the last and lowest tide of decadence.'

In our last copy a pencilled note by a bookseller stated the book came from the collection of Raymond Mortimer and Francis Birrell - the only other time I have seen this book was in the collection of Dadie Rylands. Although VW mocked the writers for their 'overweening seriousness' this is a fascinating piece showing the very earliest manifestation of the Bloomsbury set as a coherent group. It is a book unlikely to surface outside of Bloomsbury writers collections and is decidedly scarce.

I heard of a third copy going through CSK at the sale of the library of Lytton Strachey’s sometime lover Roger Senhouse (1899-1970) who was a translator of Colette and a partner in the publishing business Secker and Warburg. Interestingly that was a famously botched sale from the 'chinless' of Christies-- almost all the books were in tea chests and contained incredible Bloomsbury rariana, signed Virginias, Hogarth & Omega Press, scarce Continental presses and a batch of presentation George Orwells. A lot of the books went for very little and ended up with the celebrated and unlettered bookseller George Jefferys, who knocked them out on the pavement at Farringdon Road - pretty much as you see in our signature photo top corner of this web page. A friend who got a few chests was surprised when Cyril Connolly turned up at his premises (with entourage) wanting to buy from the collection. 35 years later you still see Senhouse books with his small neat pencilled ownership signature. He had the admirable habit of compiling indexes in books where the dastardly publisher had been too lazy to include one. Non fiction books without indexes are like a bicycle without wheels. Simile needs work, but an indexless work is abhorrent, horrific and unforgivable.

The photo above shows the beautiful Emma Thompson and Jonathan Pryce in 'Carrington' the best of Bloomsbury movies (most are poor vide 'The Hours') - Pryce was an exceptional Strachey and Rufus Sewell a fiery Mark Gertler. Sample from the script - Gertler is pissed that Carrington is in love with Strachey:
Mark Gertler: Haven't you any self-respect?
Dora Carrington: Not much.
Mark Gertler: But he's a disgusting pervert!
Dora Carrington: You always have to put up with something.

VALUE? I have had 2 copies in 30 years both from old Bloomsbury types. In a list of Leonard and Virginia Woolf's own library (4000 books at Washington State) it is noted they had 2 copies, seemingly both bound up by Virginia. The book is preceded in the Lytton Strachey canon by Prolusiones Academicae (1902?) which is hideously scarce and probably slight. 'Euphrosyne' is a true sleeper and I feel bad about awakening it, my excuse is that it is too uncommon to have any real currency, also there are other Bloomsbury sleepers of greater value that can remain, for the moment, sound asleep.[ W/Q * ]

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