ELIOT (T.S.) Journey of the Magi

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Lot 624
ELIOT (T.S.)
Journey of the Magi

Sold for £ 4,320 (US$ 5,283) inc. premium
ELIOT (T.S.)
Journey of the Magi, first edition, inscribed pre-publication by the author to his first godson: "for Thomas Erle Faber./ from/ T.S. Eliot/ 17.8.27", with autograph envelope ("Master Thomas Erle Faber/ Chawleigh Rectory/ Eggesford Station/ N. Devon", inscribed by Geoffrey Faber "Tom's Godfather's Xmas Poem autographed (E.E.F. to keep))", stamped and postmarked 17/18 August 1927, publisher's yellow wrappers bearing a design by E. McKnight Kauffer, fine copy [Gallup A9a], 8vo, Faber & Faber, Ariel Poem No. 8, 1927

Footnotes

  • An exceptionally resonant association copy: Tom Faber, son of the publisher, was born on 25 April 1927 and christened on 27 July, dates which straddled Eliot's own reception into the Church on 29th June. The original commission for a Christmas poem - which became the 'Journey of the Magi' - had come from Geoffrey Faber, the child's father. It was this commission that freed Eliot from a longstanding creative block: "Eliot had been attempting to break the writing 'block' which he suffered after the composition of The Hollow Men [1925] by exercising his faculties in a conscious and painstaking manner...His 'block' was not successfully lifted, in fact, until in this year [1927] Geoffrey Faber asked him to write one in a series of 'Ariel' poems - single poems published as illustrated pamphlets for Christmas. It was the first poem written since his student days on an ostensibly religious subject, and its theme was 'Journey of the Magi'" (Peter Ackroyd, T.S. Eliot, 1984, pp.163-4). It is surely not too fanciful to imagine that it was the gift of a godchild to Eliot, combining with his own reception into the Church, that inspired him to write a poem on the Magi's gift to the Christ Child. Faber was to describe Tom's christening in his diary for 27 July 1927: "Eliot came up afterwards, & Thomas Erle was duly baptized by the Vicar Carnegie, in the Parish Church, present Godfather T.S. Eliot, & godmother Frances Duke, the other godfather Eric Beckett being in Geneva. Afterwards a (to me) rather tedious Christening party" (diary in private possession). The poem was officially published on 25 August, eight days after Eliot inscribed this copy to his godchild. Later, it was to be a recording of this poem that inspired Eliot's future second wife to seek out its author and find employment at Faber's.

    Tom Faber (1927-2004), the recipient, was to be the principal dedicatee of Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (see the letters to him and dedication copy below). Afterwards he enjoyed a distinguished career as a physicist, first at Trinity College, Cambridge, and then for fifty years at Corpus Christi. Like his father, who combined his publishing job with the bursarship of All Souls, he served with distinction as college treasurer. In parallel he was chairman of the Geoffrey Faber Holding Company and the only representative of the family on the board of Faber and Faber.
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