London: Faber and Faber, 1929. Small octavo (7 3/4 inches tall). Original decorated paper boards, blue top edge, uncut, original decorated dust wrapper. Faint tanning and offsetting to endpapers, gentle bumping to lower corners, dust wrapper toned and entirely split at spine. A near-fine copy. Item #1488
"MY PURPOSE HAS BEEN TO PERSUADE THE READER FIRST OF THE IMPORTANCE OF DANTE AS A MASTER—I MAY EVEN SAY 'THE' MASTER"
First trade edition of T.S. Eliot’s "readings" of Dante, with front board and the scarce original dust wrapper decorated and signed in the plate by Rex Whistler. A handsome copy.
Published in the aftermath of his June 1927 entrance into the Church of England, Eliot's essay is described as a "personal account" rather than an academic study: "What I have written is, as I promised, not an 'introduction' to the study but a brief account of my own introduction to it." The book appears as a Modernist's embrace of Tradition but Eliot's devotion to Dante points to his deeper Classicist sympathies: "I should not trust the opinion of anyone who pretended to judge modern verse without knowing Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare." Consists of a short Preface and three sections: I. A Reading of the Inferno, II. A Reading of the Purgatorio and the Paradiso. III. A Reading of the Vita Nuova. Throughout the essay, Eliot's admiration for Dante is plain: "my purpose has been to persuade the reader first of the importance of Dante as a master—I may even say THE master."
Eliot joined Faber as an editor in 1925 and he was an active presence at the firm for the next four decades. Eliot's contribution was part of Faber’s "The Poets on the Poets" series, the second title following Vita Sackville West’s Andrew Marvell (the back panel of the wrapper promises forthcoming editions on Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Coleridge). With Eliot's Dedication to Charles Maurras, the French nationalist and founder of Action Francaise. "In the March 1913 edition of the Nouvelle Revue Francaise Eliot saw Maurras described as the embodiment of a traditionalist trinity: 'classique, catholique, monarchique.' It captured his imagination to such an extent that fifteen years later Eliot would describe himself as a classicist, royalist and Anglo-Catholic." (Joseph Pearce). Faber also issued a signed limited edition of 125 copies in the same year. Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief.