22 March 2008

Sheila Cousins. To Beg I Am Ashamed, 1938.

Sheila Cousins. ( Ronald Matthews.) TO BEG I AM ASHAMED. Routledge, London, 1938.

Current Selling Prices
$500-$4000 /£250-£2000


I catalogued a copy recently thus: 8vo. pp 283. Billed as the 'autobiography of a London prostitute.' Publication was stopped in England due to the sexual subject matter (most copies were seized and only a few are known to have survived). Writing of the Obelisk Press Paris edition Neil Pearson in his authoritatative bibliography dismisses the idea that Greene (a close friend of Ronald Matthews) co-wrote this. It is likely that he may have contributed a few passages, and elsewhere (Mockler) it is suggested that he may have looked it over and suggested improvements. Certainly he hung out in seedy parts of London with Matthews and went on pub crawls with him. Matthew chronicles his time with GG in his 1957 oeuvre 'Mon Ami Graham Greene.' Grey cloth very slight soiled, neat name on front endpaper, some sensationalist newscuttings pasted neatly to endpapers about the 1953 reprint- 'ITS STILL A BAD BOOK' - Daily Mirror and the article by Keith Waterhose -'what a shame that her book, crawling back out of the sewers today has not been forgotten.' £750

Neil Pearson's definitive statement " 'To Beg I am Ashamed' was not written by Graham Greene....as far as I am aware that sentence has never appeared in the catalogues of auction houses or book dealers..." has slightly put the kibosh on selling this book. Thanks Neil. However our price compares favourably with an unjacketed copy on ABE at £4995 (you give the guy 5 grand he gives you a fiver change-- I can't see it happening) and another at a 'dream on' price of £7950 in a decent jacket, described thus:
'...This book does not exist - officially! Graham Greene co-authored it with Ronald Matthews. It was to quote Ahearn "Effectively suppressed in England". Greene admitted "knowing the ghost responsible", the book was submitted by Greene's agents at the time (Pearn, Pollinger & Highman). Apart from the Greene flashes which occur throughout - a key clue to the true identity lies in two of "Cousin's" characters being named Graham and Matthew! There was quite a rage about Greene's head at the time - he wisely took himself away from England and spent it in Mexico, thus avoiding a libel action (Shirley Temple) and the storm raging about this book...'
Interestingly the dealer (in South Africa, home of many overpriced mod firsts) generously adds 'Courier Service only for this item. Post will need supplement.' For a book that is said to be very scarce there are too many about, there are 6 on the web right now where it is variously described as 'genuinely rare' or as an 'excessively scarce book.' Our own 'only a few were known to survive' is looking somewhat questionable and may need toning down if any more come to roost.

VALUE? In a jacket a four figure sum is still possible for the Routledge edition. The US first (Vanguard 1938) goes for about £300 in a jacket and the first Obelisk editon (Paris 1938) in yellow 'heavy paper wrappers with fold-over flaps' about £200 for a sharp example. The above press cuttings refer to the Richards Press, London 1953 re-issue which is worth about 40 quid. Last word with Neil Pearson who states '...Greene helped his friend by chipping in with a telling descriptive phrase here and there--phrases he would later quote approvingly when he contrived to review the book...' On the subject of reviews it is odd to see Keith Waterhouse (author of the grubby 'Jubb') taking the moral high ground in these clippings. I guess this sort of prurient outrage played well in the tabloids in the 1950s, just as it does now.

OUTLOOK. Somewaht choppy, probably less than brilliant, although it will always feature as Greene apocrypha and any true GG completist will have to have it and the obsessive completist will need all three editions and will also have to hunt down the elusive first Indian edition published in 1940 by Kitabistan in Allahabad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for all this. I should say that JUBB is not a 'grubby' book, but the character Jubb a voyeur is. Still odd to see Waterhouse on this tack.