Twenty-five Poems


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THOMAS, Dylan. Twenty-five Poems. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, (1936). Octavo, original gray paper boards, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box.

First edition, first printing, presentation copy of Dylan Thomas' second book of poetry, inscribed to prominent literary figure and United States Poet Laureate Stephen Spender: "Stephen Spender. Dylan Thomas."

This first printing of 730 copies of Twenty-five Poems received mixed reviews. But then Edith Sitwell reviewed the book for the Sunday Times. "Her review of November 15 was packed with phrases to delight a publisher—'The work of this very young man (he is 22 years of age) is on a huge scale, both in theme and structurally… nothing short of magnificent… I could not name one poet of this, the youngest generation, who shows so great a promise, and even so great an achievement'… No doubt as a result of Edith Sitwell's enthusiasm, Twenty-five Poems was reprinted the following month; the total number of copies in print was then probably 1500. This compared favorably with most poets of the day. Dylan Thomas was finding a wider public" (Ferris, 145-6). "It is Thomas's rhetoric and romanticism that appeal so widely to the non-specialist reader, and his more accessible poems are widely anthologized. His position in the English tradition seems secure; Donne, Blake, and Yeats are among the precursors cited" (DNB). In addition to "And Death Shall Have No Dominion," Twenty-five Poems includes five poems not previously published in periodicals: "The seed-at-zero," "Shall gods be said to thump the clouds," "Here in this spring," "Out of the sighs," and "Now." Maud, 4. This copy is inscribed by Dylan Thomas to poet Stephen Spender and bears Spender's bookplate. Both Thomas and Spender accomplished their best (and most famous) work during the 1930s. However, Spender—who was five years older—had achieved success slightly before Thomas, allowing him to start a fund to support the struggling 19-year-old. In an interview in The Paris Review, Spender spoke at length about how he was moved to invite Thomas to London (and pay his fare) after reading a "marvelous" poem in the Reynolds News. Thomas arrived nervous and somewhat cowed by city life, yet ended up staying and making his mark with works like Twenty-Five Poems. On the other hand, by the 1930s, Spender already boasted critical support as the author of the well-received Twenty Poems (1930). He had secured a spot within prestigious literary circles, befriending Virginia Woolf, W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Lady Ottoline Morrell, W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, C. Day Lewis and Louis MacNeice. Unlike Dylan Thomas, who was more firmly inclined toward poetry and BBC radio stories, Spender went on to become a well-known literary critic, editor, and author. His autobiography, "World Within World is recognised as one of the most illuminating literary autobiographies to come out of the 1930s and 1940s" (Stephen Spender Trust). Spender and Thomas failed to maintain a close friendship after the 1930s as Spender was frustrated with Thomas' alcoholism and related money difficulties. Nevertheless, Spender recalled that "right at the end of his life, Dylan wrote me a letter saying he'd never forgotten that I was the first poet of my generation who met him. He was thanking me for some review I'd written—this was the most appreciative review he'd had in his life" (The Paris Review). Spender ultimately outlived Thomas by 40 years, fulfilling his initial promise by accepting American teaching appointments, devoting himself to fighting censorship, and even becoming the United States Poet Laureate.

Book near-fine, with occasional speckles of foxing, mainly to preliminary and concluding pages. Dust jacket near-fine, with a few faint stains to rear panel and only minor rubbing and toning to extremities. A lovely inscribed copy with exceptional provenance.

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