New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1943. Octavo (8 3/4 inches tall), original black cloth, original dust jacket. Very slight wear to edges, corners and spine ends of bright price-clipped dust jacket. A near-fine copy. Item #989
"SO, WHILE THE LIGHT FAILS / ON A WINTER'S AFTERNOON, IN A SECLUDED CHAPEL / HISTORY IS NOW AND ENGLAND" First edition, second (and best) impression, of the first collected edition of T.S. Eliot's cycle of four poems. Eliot became an Anglican in 1927, and after the publication of Ash Wednesday in 1930, he became known for his increasingly overt religious views, famously describing himself as "Classical in literature, Royalist in politics, Anglo-Catholic in religion." First published separately as Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding, and issued together by Faber and Faber in colored wrappers. The first impression of 4165 copies was poorly printed (apparently because of unskilled wartime labor) and 3777 copies were destroyed with the remainder issued as review copies.
Four Quartets finds Eliot arguably at the height of his powers, and he was an influential conservative voice in the secularized and industrialized mid-century world: "Not to the statistician, then, but to the poet, do many conservatives turn for insight. If there has been a principled conservative thinker in the twentieth century it is T.S. Eliot, whose age this is in humane letters. Eliot's whole endeavor was to point a way out of the Waste Land toward order in the soul and in society" (Russell Kirk). Second impression: one of 3500 copies printed in May 1943, in a second-issue dust jacket (with six books listed on the rear panel rather than the nine that appeared on the first impression) designed by E. McKnight Kauffer. The first British edition appeared a year later in 1944. Kirk. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, Connolly. One Hundred Modern Books 92, Gallup. T.S. Eliot: A Bibliography, A44.