Twenty-One Poems Written By Lionel Johnson Selected By William Butler Yeats
by Johnson, Lionel ; [William Butler Yeats]
Portland, Maine: Thomas B Mosher. Very Good-. 1908. Hardcover. 53 pages; Publisher's binding: cream-colored boards printed in black and red. Title page in red and black with Thomas Bird Mosher's anchor and dolphin device in red. Boards a bit toned, with light rubbing to the corners and edges and a faint area of browning to the area of the printed title on the front cover. Colophon at rear states: "One Hundred Copies of this book printed on Japan vellum and the type distributed." This copy is hand numbered in ink: #45. Mosher also issued an edition of 950 copies on Van Gelder paper in the same year. (Those are in darker boards, and the spine and title on the front cover in that edition were printed on slips of paper and mounted). This nicely preserved copy has the bookplate of a young Yeats collector - Ruth Frances Keeler, who has also signed this copy in faint ink at the top edge of the front paste-down endpaper with the date "1912" -- just about her handsome bookplate. Her bookplate has a woodcut depiction of a grove of trees, surrounded by a (near) quote from Yeats' early play 'The Land of Heart's Desire:' " For we are only true to the far lights We follow singing, over valley and hill" The bookplate text makes this "... singing over vale and hill." I think this was most likely an adaptation to fit the available space. (In Yeats' play, the lines were spoken by the fairy child to Maire Bruin: "But I can lead you, newly-married bride, Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise...) Mosher published an edition of 'The Land of Heart's Desire' in 1903, and also published the text in the ninth volume of "The Bibelot" in that same year. Lionel Johnson, the poet, died young in London in 1902. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1891, about the same time that he introduced his cousin Lord Alfred Douglas to his friend Oscar Wilde. He would have known both Wilde and William Butler Yeats from the Rhymer's Club (co-founded by Yeats in 1890). Yeats's selection from the late Lionel Johnson's work includes the 1893 poem which some consider Johnson's masterpiece, "The Dark Angel." In addition to the twenty one poems promised by the title page, Thomas Mosher added another seven he selected from Lionel Johnson's work, as he explains in a prefatory leaf. So this is not just a reprinting of the first edition of 220 copies, printed and published by E.C. Yeats at the Dun Emer Press [after 1907, called the Cuala Press], Dundrum, All Hallow's Eve, 1904. . (Inventory #: 39272)
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