First edition, first printing. Doubly inscribed presentation copy from the author and Malcolm Muggeridge to Gilbert Harding. Original blue cloth with pale yellow paper label printed in black to the upper board, in dustwrapper. A very good copy, the binding square and firm, the contents bright clean throughout and without previous owner's inscriptions or stamps. There is a tiny stain (3 x 3 mm) to the fore-edge of the page block. Complete with the lightly toned and soiled dustwrapper, a little rubbed to spine tips and extremities. There is a 1.5 cm closed tear (with associated crease) to the upper edge of the front panel and a few surface scratches and scuffs. Not price-clipped and correctly priced (9s. 6d. net) to the front flap. An intriguing association copy.
Inscribed in blue ink by the journalist and author, Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) "To Gilbert [Harding] affectionately, / in memory of a very / pleasant T.V. occasion. Malcolm Muggeridge, / Xmas 1954." Beneath this, Betjeman has added in black ink "& inscribed for the dear old / thing by the Editor's / employees John Betjeman, Sean o'bitjeman, Iain MacBetjem- / an, Evan ap etjeman, Jan / Tubitjeman, Ewan Quitjeman / (Max) Celtic Nationalists Ltd". Gilbert Harding (1907-1960) is probably best known for his radio and television work at the BBC: Chairman of the 'Brains Trust', Question Master of 'Twenty Questions', and Quiz Master of the 'Round Britain Quiz'. The BBC online archive ('genome project') fails to pinpoint the particular T. V. occasion to which Muggeridge refers, but one assumes that they were often bumping into each other in the corridors at the BBC. Muggeridge and Betjeman both worked for the 'Evening Standard' during the 1930s, and would remain friends. Between 1953 and 1957, Muggeridge was editor of 'Punch' magazine. Introducing his diary entries for these years, he wrote that the "only qualification I had for editing a humorous magazine was a great love of laughter [...]. Otherwise, I was quite at sea, and continued so to be throughout my editorship, even though I inveigled on to my staff old friends like Anthony Powell, Christopher Hollis and John Betjeman." (Harding was also a contributor to 'Punch' during this period.) Following Muggeridge's departure from 'Punch', Betjeman wrote to thank him "for being so kind an editor to so sparse a contributor as I am", and "to say how sorry I am you've given up being editor — not that I blame you. But without you how will Christopher [Hollis] and Tony [Powell] and I be able to get along?" Muggeridge chose 'A Few Late Crysanthemums', one of Betjeman's finest, and saddest, books, as his book of the year in the Boxing Day 1954 edition of 'The Sunday Times'. 6151 copies of the first impression were printed. [Peterson A21a; 'Like It Was: The Diaries of Malcolm Muggeridge', (1982); Richard Ingrams, 'Muggeridge: The Biography', (1995)]
Stock code: 19584
London: John Murray.