Wednesday, October 19, 2016

273. A Dedication Copy of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray

In 1932, Elkin Mathews Ltd., London, published catalogue Forty-Two, Books of the "Nineties". Included were six books by the Victorian author Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1845-1907).
Eugene Lee-Hamilton as an invalid (1889)

For twenty years, Lee-Hamilton led the life of an invalid, after he suddenly lost the use of his legs in 1873. He was nursed by his mother, but from time to time his half-sister Violet Paget (the writer Vernon Lee) also looked after him. Gradually, some improvements in his situation were noted, but a complete recovery occurred only after his mother had died.

He alluded to this recovery in a letter to Oscar Wilde included in the catalogue that was published by Elkin Mathews in 1932. A copy of Sonnets of the Wingless Hours (1894) was inscribed "To the author of Salomé, a little tribute of admiration. Florence. May '94'. This was before his complete recovery in 1896.

This copy came from the collection of A.J.A. Symons, an ardent collector of the 'nineties'. Inserted in it was a letter from Lee-Hamilton to Oscar Wilde, in which he gave some details of 'his miraculous recovery and thanking Wilde for a gift of The Sphinx upon which he makes detailed observations’. No letters from Oscar Wilde to Lee-Hamilton seem to have survived.

The copy of The Sphinx is now offered for sale. Sotheby's is selling The Library of an English Bibliophile and in Part VI of these sales (scheduled for 20 October) lot no. 185 describes the copy that Oscar Wilde had sent to him. The dedication reads:

Eugene Lee-Hamilton | from his | friend the author. | in memory of | one delightful | afternoon and | many delightful | sonnets. | June | 94

Sotheby's estimates that this copy will fetch £20.000-£30.000.

Dedication by Oscar Wilde to Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1894)
Note, 30 October 2016:
The book fetched £37.500.