London: privately printed [at the Chiswick Press, for Arthur L. Humphreys], 1895.
First edition, one of 50 copies. , 98,  pp. 1 vols. 4to. One of 50 copies, with an ALS of Haldane to Robert Ross. Full morocco in arts & crafts style for Hatchard's, ruled in gilt, with leafy cornerpieces to inner borders, upper cover and spine titled in gilt, a.e.g. Small split at front joint, otherwise fine. Mason 367. Item #314621
One of only 50 copies of the first edition in book form, in a choice binding, and with a pair of LETTERS of RICHARD BURDON HALDANE and PRIME MINISTER ARTHUR BALFOUR to ROBERT ROSS, thanking him for the gift of a copy of the book.
Haldane (1856-1928) was the Liberal MP who, as a member of a committee on prison reform, visited Wilde in Pentonville prison in June 1895 and arranged for him to receive books during his incarceration. He maintained that "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" was written partly at the impetus of his suggestion, an assertion he repeats in this remarkable letter to Ross, whose friendship famously helped sustain Wilde during his incarceration, and who later became his literary executor and posthumous publisher. Dated 30 June 1912, Haldane's letter, headed Private, reads, “Dear Mr. Ross, Thank you for your gift of 'The Soul of Man.' It brings vividly back to me the remarkable man who wrote it, & his great gift. I recall ... the final talk I had with him while he was still in Wandsworth prison & in great anguish. The 'Ballad of Reading Gaol' followed, & I sometimes think he wrote it, partly at least in fulfilment of a promise to me that he would turn his bitter experience to the account of his art, & to write something larger in its outlook than before. You have been very loyal to his memory...."
This copy also retains a letter signed of Arthur Balfour (1848-1930), who served as Prime Minister 1902-1905. He was Leader of the House of Commons at the time of Wilde's trial and he remarked, on reviewing the details of Wilde's failed libel case, that Wilde was "certain to be condemned" (Pearce p 328). His letter, dated June 26, 1912 and marked "Dictated" (but signed by Balfour), thanks Ross for the the copy of Wilde's Essay, and remarks, "I had not previously read it."
This copy is bound in the arts & crafts style for Hatchard's Bookstore, which was managed by Arthur L. Humphreys, Wilde’s friend and the publisher of this edition. A new edition of The Soul of Man Under Socialism, with a preface by Robert Ross, appeared in 1912, also published by Humphreys; no doubt the letters refer to copies of this edition sent to the men by Ross. Wilde's seminal essay in social criticism has been called "perhaps the most memorable and certainly the most aesthetic statement of anarchist theory in the English language" (ODNB). It was originally published in the Fortnightly Review in February 1891 under its full title, "The Soul of Man Under Socialism."
A REMARKABLE ASSOCIATION COPY.
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