London: Chapman & Hall, Ltd., 1922. First Edition. Hardcover. Duodecimo size, 93 pp., with original dust jacket. Near fine / very good. Item #33330817
John Helston (1877-?) is now an almost-forgotten poet, whose talent was "discovered" by Lady Margaret Sackville, a poet and cousin to Vita Sackville-West. What little we know of him is gleaned from a New York Times article published March 2, 1913. "Once Engineer, Now Poet" tells the story of Helston's early life: employed by an eletrical engineering firm at the age of fifteen, from there he worked with the railroads for three years, this followed by a work as a clerk in a furniture warehouse, then a toolmaker in a sword factory; several other odd jobs followed, with Helston seemingly finding no place to which he could settle.
Upon sending some of his verse to Lade Sackville, she encouraged him, and one of his poems was published in "The English Review", the poem entitled "Aphrodite at Leatherhead". A volume of verse, "Aphrodite, and Other Poems" was published in 1913, followed in 1914 by a novel, "Thracian Sea", another volume of poems in 1920, "Lyric Earth", with this work, "Broken Shade", being published in 1922.
The memories of The Great War (WWI) were still fresh in everyone's mind, the War having ended just a few years prior; the author dedicated this book "To Maurice Reed, dead in the war, this book is inscribed in remembrance....". While perhaps not technically "war poetry" there are several poems included which reflect on the war, such as "In Camp": "I, and oaths, and my rough mates, / We fill the tent with noise, / A dozen of us, reprobates - / With finer, strange alloys / When the moon comes o'er the hill / And looks on our mystery / And the bugle bids us be / Asleep or lying still...On its back, upon the ground, / Our wheel of life lies there... / The great wheel of the world goes round: / Reveille climbs the morning air."
While a few of Mr. Helston's volumes are currently available on the online marketplace, we see no other copies of this work currently listed.
___DESCRIPTION: Bound in full green cloth over boards, white paper spine label with black lettering, top edge stained green; duodecimo size (7 5/8" by 5 1/8"), pagination: [1-8] 9-93. With the original dust jacket with the price of "5/- net" on the spine, the jacket being of light brown paper, a simple ruled border and black lettering on the front panel, black lettering on the spine, the rear panel and both flaps blank.
___CONDITION: Volume near fine, with clean boards, straight corners with a bare hint of rubbing, the spine label clean and bright, a strong, square text block with solid hinges, the interior is clean and bright, the sole prior owner marking we see a number (private library number?) in black ink at the top fore-edge corner of the front free pastedown; a hint of bumping to the head and tail of the spine, the stain on the top edge somewhat faded, else fine. The unclipped dust jacket very good overall, clean and with minimal edgewear to the panels and flaps; the paper being somewhat brittle there are chips at the head and tail of the spine (with a small amount of loss of text), the spine is sunned, and both panels are beginning to detach from the spine, a prior owner having put old cello tape on the verso along one such split.
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