Dublin: Maunsel & Co., Ltd., 1909. First edition. Hardcover. This is the first edition of the author’s first book of poems, signed and dated contemporary to publication by the author. Stephens signed “James Stephens | April 1910” on the upper front free endpaper recto. This is the only mark found within the book, which is in very good minus overall condition. The binding of quarter brown cloth over tan, paper-covered boards is square and tight, though with shelf wear to extremities, light overall soiling, and a semicircular sticker affixed to the lower spine featuring a hand-inked “E22”. The contents are clean and show no spotting. The edges, including the untrimmed fore and bottom edges, show only age-toning. Transfer browning, ostensibly from the pastedown glue, affects the title page and final free endpaper.
Stephens (1880?- 1950) began to contribute stores to the journal United Irishman (later Sinn Fein) in 1905, “at first anonymously and generally without payment” before becoming a regular contributor from 1907. This led to Stephens’s discovery by George William Russell (the “AE” to whom this volume is dedicated) and gave Stephens “access to Dublin literary circles". “His early work – his first book of poems, Insurrections, appeared in 1909 – is heavily influenced by the theosophical interpretation of life as formed by the struggle and reconciliation of opposites and by the Blakean exaltation of energy and freedom over law and moralism.”
Stephens went on to write half a dozen novels and a dozen volumes of poetry, as well as several plays, short stories, retellings of Irish folktales, an historical account of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, and a biographic portrait of the founder of Sinn Fein. In 1925 Stephens relocated to London, reflecting “disillusionment with the political and literary scene in post-civil war Ireland.” In England, he moved in British literary circles and struck up a friendship with James Joyce “who in 1927 left instructions that if he died before finishing Finnegans Wake Stephens was to complete it.” Stephens also became a BBC broadcaster. Though Stephens declared himself an Englishman in 1940 in protest at Irish neutrality in the Second World War, he visited Dublin in 1947 to receive a Doctor in Letters from Trinity College, Dublin. (Dictionary of Irish Biography). Item #007472