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ID: 2528

Category: First Edition

London Faber and Faber. 1967.


First edition; 8vo; original boards and dust jacket. Inscribed by the author to Henry Williamson, three days before publication, 'To Henry / always with thanks / "We that are young / Shall never see so much nor live so long" / Only an owl knows the worth of an owl / from Ted / 15th May 1967'. 'He was three things to me', wrote Hughes in his memorial address for Williamson, 'First one, then two, and finally, late in his life, three.' It began with 'Tarka the Otter'. 'I was about eleven years old when I found it, and for the next year I read little else. I count it one of the great pieces of good fortune in my life. It entered into me and gave shape and words to my world, as no book ever has done since. I recognised even then, I suppose, that it is something of a holy book, a soul-book, written with the life blood of an unusual poet. What spellbound me, as I read, was a sensation I have never felt so acutely in any other book. I can only call it the feeling of actuality. The icy feeling of the moment of reality. On every page of 'Tarka' was some phrase, some event, some glimpse, that made the hair move on my head with that feeling. In the confrontation of creature and creature, of creature and object, of creature and fate - he made me feel the pathos of actuality in the natural world. 'Tarka' put my life under an enchantment that lasted for years, and that gradually crystallised into an ambition to write for myself, and to fasten that strange feeling, that eerie sense of the moment of reality, in my own sentences.' 'The second Henry I encountered later in a book entitled 'Patriot's Progress.' A novel closely drawn from Williamson's own experiences of the First World War, Hughes admired the quality of its writing, regarding it as 'one of the very best records of trench warfare'. The final Henry was the man himself, whom Hughes got to know when he was a little over thirty, and Williamson was in his sixties. 'Still spellbound by his magical book, albeit quite unconsciously, I had found myself living where I still live, on Tarka's river, the Taw, in the middle of Devon, and pretty soon I made contact with Henry.' For several years they met quite often. Despite 'terrible arguments about his politics', Hughes admired the untamed essence of Williamson's character. 'The tremendous energy that had driven him through all those long books was still there, at any moment of the day, a torrent of surprises. His demon had a black side, which gave him his bad hours, but that was the powerhouse of his writing, it connected him to the dark world of the elements. It was what pulsed through the best of his writing, and it was genuinely him, and it was beautiful. And for that, I, for one, loved him'. Hughes' full-page inscription is expressive of indebtedness and warm respect. The middle section quotes the final lines of 'King Lear' and is followed by Hughes' reference to a bird for whom Williamson felt a close affinity, often signing his name with an accompanying drawing of an owl, a pictorial device that he also employed on the binding or final page of his published books A very good copy with light offsetting to free end papers, in a very good dust jacket, which is slightly dust soiled on the rear panel, and with two short tears at head of spine.

Price £2000.00

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