First edition, first printing. Rupert Brooke's copy with his bold, flourishing pencil signature to the front endpaper, printed bookplate to the front pastedown, pencil marginalia in Greek to the front pastedown, verso of half-title, and p.81, and manuscript postcard loosely laid in between pp.114-115. Publisher's original light brown cloth with titles in gilt and dark brown to the upper board and spine. Top edge gilt, fore-edge untrimmed. Title page in red and black, decorative initials in red. A very good copy, the binding square and firm with a little cracking between the half-title and title page and some darkening and minor marking to the spine. The contents with a small contemporary bookseller's label to the front and rear pastedowns, a little toning and spotting to the preliminary pages and toning to pp.114-115 where the postcard has laid are otherwise in good order and clean throughout. The postcard itself, with a printed Edward VII halfpenny stamp to the reverse, has a little loss to the left-hand side and upper-left corner, not affecting the manuscript inscription. Contained in a handsome quarter light-brown chieftan over cream cloth solander box by Asprey, which is in fine condition.
The first edition of Edward Carpenter's edited collection of poetry celebrating male friendship and homosexual love, named for Iolaus, the charioteer and male lover of Hercules. Including Carpenter's own commentary, it explores the nature of loving male relationships from the ancient world to modern times, featuring excerpts from Ovid, Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley, and Whitman, amongst others. Carpenter (1844-1929), a leading English socialist, poet, philosopher and advocate for animal rights, vegetarianism and 'the simple life', was a key writer and activist in the struggle for gay rights. Through both his published writings and his private correspondence and friendship he became a central figure for many of those in the early twentieth century, of both genders, who were seeking to understand and express their sexuality in the context of frequent societal, and sometimes personal, repression. The present volume, owned by the war poet Rupert Brooke (1887-1915), was a typical publication by Carpenter, arguing for the acceptance of homosexuality through the words of literary masterpieces from across the centuries. Notably, Brooke's Cambridge-based friendship circle, dubbed by Virginia Woolf the 'Neo-Pagans' for their belief in 'simple life' ideas, had, similarly to D.H. Lawrence and E.M. Forster, been significantly influenced by the ideas that Carpenter had popularised. Moreover, Brooke, like Lawrence, was bisexual and, following relationships with both women and men, had struggled to come to terms with this, ultimately leading to an emotional crisis in 1912 that precipitated the end of his long relationship with Katherine Laird Cox. In the present volume, imbued with Carpenter's philosophy and composed of centuries of verse eulogising intense, sometimes erotic, male friendships, it is possible that Brooke was not only surveying the poetry it contained but also seeking a more personal form of understanding. It certainly seems that this was a volume that Brooke acquired at a key moment in his life, as implied by his pencil annotation on p.81, adding a further stanza to an extract from the Greek poet Theocritus, who Brooke had discovered at the age of 18, shortly before entering Cambridge, and who quickly became a particular favourite, as he conveyed in a 1905 letter to St. John Lucas: "Theocritus I adore. The hour a week which is reserved for Theocritus almost compensates to me for all the interminable dullness of Demosthenes + the grammar on other days. And that is very high praise. I have never read Theocritus before. I am wildly madly enchanted by him". The present work would have certainly formed part of his enthusiastic studies. An evocative volume from Brooke's own library. The postcard, inscribed in pencil in Brooke's hand, reads: "Surrey / I seem to be very hard up. / So you can pay me the / rest as soon as you get / it." (See: Delany, Paul, "The Neo-Pagans: Rupert Brooke and the Ordeal of Youth" (1987); Copley, Antony, "A Spirtual Bloomsbury" (2006), p.94: Rowbotham, Sheila, "Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love" (2008).
Stock code: 17991