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Book Description


Octavo (213 x 139mm), pp. 259, [1 (blank)]. Title-page with wood-engraved vignette after Hans Alexander Mueller printed in green. (Marginal paper-flaw on half-title, a few unobtrusive light marks.) Original terracotta cloth, printed paper spine-label, cream endpapers, top edges stained dark blue, dustwrapper designed by Arnold Bank and repeating Mueller’s vignette on the upper panel, not price-clipped. (Very slightly faded on spine, dustwrapper faded on spine and adjacent area of upper panel, light spotting on lower flap extending onto fore-edges, slightly rubbed and creased at edges.) A very good, fresh copy.

Provenance: Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, Heytesbury House, Wiltshire (1886-1967; by descent to his son:) – George Thorneycroft Sassoon (1936-2006; by descent to his widow:) – Alison Sassoon.
Dealer Notes
First American edition. The first volume of Sassoon’s autobiographical trilogy was The Old Century and Seven More Years, which was published in 1938 and was followed three years later by The Weald of Youth, which Sassoon began in earnest during the first weeks of World War II. Progress, however, slowed and then ceased as the difficulties of wartime life and his deteriorating relationship with his wife Hester increased, and it was only in January 1941 that Sassoon returned to his manuscript, which was eventually completed on Easter Sunday, 4 April 1942 (14 years to the day since he had finished Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, the first volume of his trilogy of fictionalised autobiography). The text was sent to Max Beerbohm – who had corrected The Old Century and Seven More Years, which was dedicated to him in gratitude for his work – and, after the carefully-scrutinised text had eventually been received from Beerbohm, The Weald of Youth was published on 15 October 1942.

The Weald of Youth takes its title from Sassoon’s poem ‘Heart and Soul’, which was collected in Rhymed Ruminations (1939), and recounts the author’s life from 1909 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. ‘Written “with immense difficulty”, [...] the book is only slightly less lyrical in atmosphere than The Old Century, although it describes some of the most difficult years of its author’s life. [...] In fact, even when the trenches are just across its borders, The Weald of Youth is another utopia, an escape from marital darkness, horror at another war and a sense of declining interest in its author and his poetry. This is true even at its end when, in exquisitely modulated nostalgia and honeyed melancholy, Sassoon writes of a last peacetime bicycle trip across the weald with what seems to be a restrained joy not only in possible sacrifice but also in a sure and simple future – very different to his own realities in the early 1940s’ (M. Egremont, Siegfried Sassoon: A Biography (London, 2005), pp. 426-427).

The Weald of Youth was first published by Faber and Faber at London in an edition of 10,000 copies, illustrated with a portrait frontispiece of the author and a title-vignette after Reynolds Stone which was repeated on the dustwrapper. This first American edition was published in New York the following week on 23 October 1942 in a smaller edition of 2,500 copies, which did not include the frontispiece portrait, but did have a new title-vignette by the German-American wood-engraver and book-illustrator Hans Alexander Mueller (1888-1962), which is repeated on the dustwrapper (Mueller would also provide a title-vignette for the American edition of The Old Century, the final volume in the trilogy). While the British first edition was printed on thin ‘War Economy’ paper and produced under wartime conditions, the American edition is printed on good-quality stock and produced to a discernibly higher standard. Although not marked as such, this copy is from the library of Siegfried Sassoon (who was probably sent it by the publisher in fulfilment of contractual obligations), and it was inherited by his son George Sassoon.

Farmer, Siegfried Sassoon: A Memorial Exhibition, 126; Keynes, Sassoon, A49b.
Author SASSOON, Siegfried Loraine
Date 1942
Publisher New York: The Vail-Baillou Press for The Viking Press

Price: £125.00

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