“WE COME LIKE KITTENS AND LIKE CATS WE GO”: THE RUBAIYAT OF A PERSIAN KITTEN, INSCRIBED BY MARK TWAIN TO HIS DAUGHTER
HERFORD, Oliver. The Rubaiyat of a Persian Kitten. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1904. Small octavo, original printed gray boards rebacked, original spine laid down. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. $16,500.
First edition, presentation copy from Mark Twain to his daughter, boldly inscribed by Twain on the front pastedown, “Clara Clemens from one of her principal friends—her father.”
Herford's playful satire of the The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, beautifully illustrated by him, follows the adventures of a Persian kitten in search of milk who encounters a series of calamities ("And that Inverted Bowl of Skyblue Delf/ That helpless lies upon the Pantry Shelf—/ Lift not your eyes to It for help, for It/ Is quite as empty as you are yourself"). Herford, English-born cartoonist, illustrator, poet, author and wit, was a regular contributor to such magazines as Harper's Weekly and Punch. He evidently was acquainted with Twain, as he had given a copy of his first book, Artful Anticks, to the family and had inscribed it to Twain or perhaps to Clara "in memory of Dec. 25th 1901" and in it drew a small picture of a cat, which he identified as "not a good cat but my own." 1904, the year in which the Rubaiyat of a Persian Kitten appeared, was a difficult one for the Clemens family. Livy, who had never fully recovered from the tragic death of daughter Susy in 1897 of meningitis, died after a long illness in June. Clara attempted to run the household and to "fulfill her mother's role while her father still grieved his favorite daughter's loss and openly claimed to hate the human race after the loss of his wife" (Trombly). Subsequently, the 30-year-old Clara had a nervous breakdown and had to be sequestered in a sanitarium for over a year. During her convalescence, Twain was not allowed much access to his daughter, with whom he had had a close but stormy relationship. It is possible that Twain gave this volume to Clara during this period, as there is recorded another copy of the same title that he also gave her in 1904, inscribing it "Clara—from Bambino, 1904." With 35 full-page illustrations by the author on the rectos opposite the text on the versos.
Interior fine. Expertly rebacked, with half of original spine laid down, with some loss of text. A wonderful association copy.