28 March 2009

Philip Larkin, The Less Deceived 1955

Philip Larkin. THE LESS DECEIVED. (Hessle, East Yorkshire: Marvell Press) 1955.

Current Selling Prices
$500-$1100 /£350-£750

One of the great Brit poets, probably the finest since Auden. His early works are much collected and can reach 4 figure prices. He is outpaced in fame and value by Heaney and even Hughes, in my opinion lesser poets, but should hold his own way into the 22nd century, if man is till alive. We just sold a copy on Ebay and Tom, our noted cataloguer, described it thus (it is a book with 'points'):-
This is the all-box-ticking first edition, first impression, first state of Philip Larkin’s breakthrough volume of verse. Having abandoned the juvenile and derivative lyricism of his early book The North Ship (Fortune Press, 1945) only to find the first fruits of his mature style routinely rejected by publishers, Larkin at last found a champion in the enterprising Yorkshireman George Hartley, whose Marvell Press in 1955 published twenty-nine poems including some of Larkin’s best and best-remembered work. ‘At Grass’, ‘Church Going’, ‘Lines on a Young Lady’s Photograph Album’, ‘Toads’ are all here. Hartley printed 700 copies but began by binding only 300: this is one of those ‘first state’ survivors, answering the following called-for points
Flat, rather than rounded, spine
Misprint of ‘floor’ for ‘sea’ in the first line of ‘Absences’
Dustwrapper with price of 6s and rear printed in black only
Printed list of subscribers on the (unnumbered) pages 44 & 45
Overall, the book and its wrapper are in very pleasing condition: not price-clipped, not inscribed, not nicked or chipped. There is some very faint browning to the endpapers; some very faint fading to the dustwrapper’s spine and rear upper panel; and the spine’s ends are just a little bumped.
It made a satisfactory $610 (about £460). Russell in his firsts guide 2008/9 rates a fine one at £750 and it can achieve that with a following wind but you can't count on it. His 'XX Poems' published in Belfast in 1951 can make £2000 and is rare--he posted copies to England but put the wrong stamp on and some reviewers refused to pay the extra postage so some copies of the pamphlet were destroyed.

Larkin's famous line 'Books are a load of crap' often occurs to me on house calls where the book collecton is lousy or worse. Might adapt it as a codeword for a house full of doggish books -- a Larkin. Larkin was a sort of punk avant le lettre immediately before 'Books are a load of crap' he suggests 'Get stewed...' echoed in Rotten's exhortation 'Get pissed, destroy...' Certainly there is an over reverence for books, often among those who read little. It is common especially in country bookshops for dim shoppers to drift in and remark 'I love books ...aren't these wonderful. I have never seen so many... etc.' Usually they leave fairly smartly buying nothing. Books per se are not wonderful; think of a large collection of Naziana books or collections of other poisonous ideologies (or a shelf of skin disease atlases.) Mawkish reverence for books is rife on the internet--see Library Thing or Shelfari for the sentimentalisation of books and book collecting, and all that bollocks about a 'gentle madness.'

According to John Betjeman the first punk was the 1890s poet Theodore Wratislaw--something to do with his desire to shock and upset the bougeoisie. His verse has overtly gay tones and is collected as such. However I once cleared a house in Earls Court where the old party there told me his father had known Wratislaw and the pale poet had even attended a soiree at that very house. On being given a drink he had asked his host to introduce him to 'the woman with the large breasts' causing some raised highbrows among assembled decadents, especially when he left with her. That was a house call that was most definitely not a 'Larkin' -- alot of Smithers, some Carrington erotica, a decent 'Silverpoints' and even a copy of the rare 90s drug novel published by Henry 'The Tide Ebbs out to the Night'* by Hugh Langley- a book I have more than one customer for...

* Catalogued thus by us back in 2000 (last copy seen):- Highly uncommon decadent novel in the form of a journal and letters, showing an infatuation with French Symbolism. There are descriptions of decadent London rooms and a good deal of drug-taking including kif, ‘hasheesh’ and morphine to which the chief character becomes addicted, when his love affair with a young woman goes awry. The number of decadent English novels of this period is very small: this books appears unrecorded by any of the 90s bibliographies and, although highly accomplished, seems to have attracted very little notice in its day.


Anonymous said...

Fasscinatin'. I have never heard of Wratislaw--should I have? And is he valuable?

Anonymous said...

"the rare 90s drug novel published by Henry 'The Tide Ebbs out to the Night'* by Hugh Langley"

Typo here? This is only ref on the net and it sounds an interesting book.

Bookride said...

Thanks--You are right it is actually called "The Tides Ebb Out to the Night" and if you put that in Google you get 3 hits--WorldCat showing only 2 holdings--Kent State and Cambridge University UK, the London Library catalogue (I guess they have one) and Amazon which notes ---"Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock." My guess is once in a decade--It is a howling rare book! N

Anonymous said...

"I guess they have one"

In 1914 they did...
Not now

Anonymous said...

I can think of earlier punks -- Rake Rochester, Ducasse (Lautreamont) Meister Eckhart had a punkish side and not forgetting Catullus and also various poets of the Greek Anthology...

tonimoroni said...

'XX Poems' was on via bookfinder.com for £3k. It was William van O'Connor's own copy if memory serves.