EXTREMELY RARE PRESENTATION COPY Of OSCAR WILDE’S RAVENNA, HIS FIRST WORK, INSCRIBED BY HIMWILDE, Oscar. Ravenna. Newdigate Prize Poem… Recited in the Theatre, Oxford, June 26, 1878 by Oscar Wilde, Magdalen College.
Oxford: Thomas Shrimpton and Son, 1878. Octavo, original olive paper wrappers, 16 pp; housed in a custom slipcase and chemise. $22,000.Rare first edition, presentation copy, of Oscar Wilde’s first book, one of only 168 copies published, inscribed by Wilde across the front wrapper: “E.B. Benson with best wishes from the author.”Wilde wrote “Ravenna” while a student at Oxford and submitted it anonymously to compete for the Newdigate Prize. “In ‘Ravenna’ the young man recalls his journey there the year before, and muses elegiacally upon its fallen greatness. Collapse was always one of Wilde’s themes… The poem is a clever hodgepodge of personal reminiscence, topographical description, political and literary history. It contains apostrophes to Dante and Byron… As to Ravenna, the city is alternately regarded as doomed and evergreen, and the poet, to finish it off, promises inconclusively to love it forever” (Ellmann, 91). Wilde’s winning of the Newdigate Prize for the poem was one of his great triumphs at Oxford, and his public reading “was listened to with rapt attention and frequently applauded.” Although Wilde politely listened to the recommendations the Professor of Poetry made toward improvement of this poem after its receipt of the prize, he ignored them and had the poem printed entirely unchanged.
Mason 301. This copy was once owned by Julia Constance Fletcher, who wrote under the name “George Fleming,” and to whom Wilde dedicated “Ravenna.”Occasional light scattered foxing to interior, with foxing to wrappers and title page. One inch-closed tear to wrapper spine foot. A near-fine copy of a scarce publication, most rare with Wilde’s presentation inscription.