Arnold's Debut, Inscribed

Alaric at Rome. A Prize Poem, Recited in Rugby School, June XII, MDCCCXL.

Rugby: Combe and Crossley, 1840.

Price: $60,000.00

About the item

First edition. 8vo. Arnold's Debut, Inscribed. Publisher's printed pink wrappers. Faint vertical crease at center, light edgewear. In custom red morocco pull-off case. Ashley I, p. 8: "holds a high place in the rank of modern poetical rarities"; Hayward 255; Smart, p. 1. Provenance: Dr. J.B. Clemens of New Jersey (two typed letters to Clemens, as prospective purchaser of the book, from Luthur S. Livingston of Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, dated 17 August and 7 September, 1905, loosely inserted); sold Parke-Bernet, New York, 8 January 1945, lot 57 for $400; exhibited: Grolier Club (1950s exhibition card describing it as "the only presentation copy known"); sold, Halsted B. Vander Poel (Christie's, London March 3, 2004, lot 127).

Item #305338

The first edition of Matthew Arnold's first work, his Rugby School prize poem on the conquest of Rome by the Visigoth Alaric I in 410 AD. Unusual for a prize poem, the work was published anonymously and was not identified as Arnold's until Edmund Gosse made the attribution in 1888. One of the rarest literary debuts, of which Wise noted "Alaric at Rome holds a high place in the rank of modern poetical rarities." This copy inscribed on the front wrapper, "E. Armitage Esqr. from the Author." The recipient, Edward Armitage, was a fellow pupil at Rugby. Arnold had entered Rugby in 1837, where his father was headmaster. The only other copy known to bear an inscription by Arnold ("Miss Ward, 1840") is at the Morgan Library.
It is difficult to take an accurate census of copies, as Wise muddied the waters with his facsimile — which he later passed off as genuine. OCLC locates 15 copies and ABPC lists two copies — one in 1979 at Christie's London, and the present copy.