Atalanta in Calydon: A Tragedy

SWINBURNE, Algernon Charles. Atalanta in Calydon: A Tragedy.

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One of just 258 copies

SWINBURNE, Algernon Charles. Atalanta in Calydon: A Tragedy. Upper Mall, Hammersmith, Middlesex: Printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, 1894.

Large 8vo (8 1/2" x 11 1/2"), original limp vellum with brown cloth ties, title in gilt direct to spine; printed on handmade paper, with Greek letters designed by Selwyn Image for Messrs. Macmillan & Co.; woodcut title with full woodcut page-border, numerous woodcut initials within the text; pp. [xiv], 81, [xiii]; one pair of ties missing, with slight darkening to spine; upper cover beginning to splay a touch; internally a beautifully clean copy, just the odd spot. A near fine example, scarce in the original binding. Provenance: with the previous Ex Libris of Margaret and John Streeter to p.1.
One of only 250 copies on paper, from a total edition of 258. Printed in Troy type in black and red, argument and speakers in margins in Chaucer type; the only Kelmscott book with Greek uncial type, designed by Selwyn Image.
Atalanta in Calydon was Swinburne's attempt to marry traditional Greek tragedy with a modern, Victorian style. Originally published in 1865, it was to become one of his more famous works, and was based upon the remnants of a lost play by Euripides - the Meleager fragment. The sentiment behind the tragedy was a somber one. Swinburne had, a few years previously, lost his sister Edith, and twelve months later was struggling with the additional grief of losing his friend and idol, the poet Walter Savage Landor, to whom this volume is dedicated. In a letter to Lady Treveleyan, composed shortly before the 1865 publication, he wrote: "In spite of the funereal circumstances which I suspect have a little deepened the natural colours of Greek fatalism here and there, so as to have already incurred a charge of ‘rebellious antagonism’ and such like things, I never enjoyed anything more in my life than the composition of this poem...I think it is pure Greek, and the first poem of the sort in modern times."
Morris and Swinburne were close contemporaries, meeting at Oxford University during the 1850s. This Kelmscott edition sold out within a few weeks of publication.
In Swinburne as Poet, T. S. Eliot writes of Atalanta: "it is effective because it appears to be a tremendous statement, like statements made in our dreams."

"Before the beginning of years
There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
Grief, with a glass that ran;
Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
Summer, with flowers that fell;
Remembrance fallen from heaven,
And madness risen from hell."

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