To Delay is Not Necessarily Bad

As written to a fellow serious collector, here’s a little inside information on something I’ve known about for at least eight years now. Years ago dear F. H. got my address and sent me a quote on these items after he bought a Mosher Rubaiyat from me–at 20% off which was never reciprocated–and pumped me for information on another Mosher Rubaiyat which he considered buying from another book dealer. This has been a long time in coming and it’s been listed on the Internet lo all these years, but because fate’s light had favorably shown upon me, I have decided to take the plunge. The dealer described the books:

LYTTELTON, Lucy. LYRICAL POEMS. Portland, Maine: Thomas B. Mosher, 1912. FIRST AND ONLY EDITION. 12mo. viii, 51, [1]pp. + colophon page in red and black. Title-page, paper cover and spine labels in red and black. Original gray boards stained, soiled and slightly worn. Top spine slightly defective. Lacks 11-1/8″ of bottom spine tip. Top and bottom of front board starting to separate from book. Spine darkened. Paper spine label rubbed. Light foxing on endpapers and on some pages in text. Front blank flyleaf coming loose, o/w contents very good and tight. On p.[v] the author has written in a delicate hand: “To C.F.G.M.” [her husband; see below] and has changed three lines of the untitled poem, also in her hand. She has also changed some additional lines throughout some remaining poems. On p.8, she has crossed out the last printed stanza, and written below a new stanza. Several poem titles have been crossed out and new titles supplied by her. On p.[52], she has written a sixteen-line [four-quatrain] poem “East London 1912”, which does not appear in this volume as a printed poem, and probably is its first appearance anywhere. ONE OF 950 COPIES ON VAN GELDER PAPER. *** Hatch 564. Bishop 225. Lyric Garland Series -25. The volume contains 32 titled poems, plus one untitled poem on p.[v]. She was introduced to Mosher through her friend, Katherine [Tynan] Hinkson. Mosher paid Lyttleton $25 to publish the book in America. *** AUTHOR’S FIRST BOOK WITH DEDICATION TO HER HUSBAND, ADDITIONS, CORRECTIONS AND MANUSCRIPT POEM IN HER HAND. ***


MASTERMAN, Lucy. POEMS BY LUCY MASTERMAN. London: John Lane The Bodley Head, New York: John Lane Company, Toronto: Bell & Cockburn, 1913. FIRST EDITION. 16mo [172x110mm]. vii, [i], 62, [1]pp. Original quarter gray-green cloth and light gray boards, paper spine and cover labels slightly stained, soiled and rubbed. Minor foxing on and staining on few pages. Endpapers slightly browned, o/w contents very good, clean and tight. 1912 owner ink inscription on half-title. New paper spine and cover labels tipped in at end. Lyttleton’s ink corrections and handwritten poem “East London 1912” which appear in the Mosher Press book have been incorporated into the printed text of her “Poems”, although the poems are in different order than in the first book.


Note: Lucy Blanche Lyttleton Masterman was the eldest daughter of Sir Neville Gerald Lyttleton 1845-1931, English General. In 1908, she married Charles F. G. Masterman, 1874-1927, English General. About the two generals, see DNB.

Actually there were several reasons beyond just having the necessary funds to purchase these two books. First, I distinctly remembered reading a letter at Harvard where Katherine Tynan Hinkson tells Mosher about her friend, Lucy Masterman, and how he might do well to publish her poetry. Of course as we now know he took her advice and brought out Lucy’s Lyrical Poems in 1912 under the name Lucy Lyttelton. There was only one printing of that Mosher book. Then in 1913, just one year after the appearance of Mosher’s edition of Lyrical Poems, a good publisher friend of Mosher’s, the extra-ordinary fin de siècle publisher, John Lane, brought out a 1913 expanded and somewhat rearranged edition only this was under the name Lucy Masterman. I’ve often wondered how Mosher felt about this and whether or not he gave his consent. I’ve never found any mention that he did, but then again things may have been discussed between the two publishers; however, I seem to think that there wasn’t such an agreement and John Lane managed to get around the copyright question by publishing his edition under her married name, Lucy Masterman.

Over the years I’ve searched for a copy of the John Lane edition but to no avail. I also mentioned this very set of items for sale to scholar of Victorian and early 1900s English literature and he too thought it very curious but like other scholars in the field he knew little about such cases where one book is picked up in short order from another publisher and changed enough to bring out a new edition, perhaps over the previous publisher’s objections which come to naught because of technicalities in the copyright law. It’s also seemingly another instance where, roughly speaking, Mosher himself was pirated and this on his own home turf! I was anxious to see if the John Lane edition has in it any mention of the Mosher edition. Of course I also very much like the fact that this purchase includes the very Mosher book that Lucy Blanche Lyttleton Masterman edited with her own hand, and wrote out the poems to her husband also in her own hand.

Additionally, since seeing the new book The Traffic in Poems–Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange with Adela Pinch’s well presented chapter on “Transatlantic Modern Love” in which she recalls just how helpful the Mosher collection was to her scholarly investigations, I just couldn’t bear the thought of letting the Lyttleton books fade into the sunset. The Mosher collection deserved such obscure things, and although I’ve always been put off by the price, I decided that if anything was to happen, now would have to be the time. So I just made the purchase and waited for the books to arrive from California from the bookdealer who is now apparently very old by the sound of his voice and inability to hear well. Now or never. I waited years. I tried to buy it twice before but at 20% off but it was “no go.” He hung on to it for all these years. Nobody else had any interest whatsoever, and the books themselves are in less than desired condition, but they are what they are and I am what I am, and the collection deserves this kind of material for posterity.

The condition sounded hideous to me, and most folk who know me know just how important condition is for me, but important association trumps condition almost every time. This one just took quite a bit longer to decide upon. I even had previously rationalized that after all the two volumes really belonged somehow post-Mosher, i.e., it was something that happened after the Mosher publication and belonged more so to the John Lane imprint and John Lane story than it did to Mosher, but that was completely wrongheaded in that what it really begs is the description of the relationship between the two publishers and how they bandied about Miss Lucy for their own publishing efforts.

I shared this story with a fellow collector who responded that he very much liked it, and that in his estimation these are “splendid–and necessary additions to the Mosher collection.” Furthermore, he suggested that the “mass of bibliophiles” are “immune to the charms of the obscure, the interesting, and the truly important” further reminiscing that anyone with money can buy a high spot, but it takes someone who is familiar with building an in-depth collection to understand this set of items and its importance to future scholars. He also added that in a strange sort of way, such dealers like F. H. are like personal safe-deposit repositories for us, holding on to certain items until we can get the funds to buy them. In this strange sort of way they do us a service.

In response I said that it actually may have been been longer, but it’s at least eight years since this story began. Somewhere I have the original correspondence from the California dealer, in fact, I cited it to him alongside one of my attempts to acquire the books. He wasn’t impressed with my knowledge of how long he had it, nor was he willing to budge one inch in price until the last time when I telephoned and he finally offered to sell it less 10%. Come to think of it, that IS a long time and perhaps I was wishing somebody would put me out of my misery by ordering it out from under me. It never happened, so every time I did a Mosher search hunting by highest price first, up popped that Lyttelton / Masterman stuff when I hit the $—- mark. Sometimes I’d grumble, sometimes I’d dismiss it outright, other times I pondered the possibility of acquiring it, then I’d cut again noting the ridiculous price only to have it reappear time and again whilst I wondered if anybody else saw it much less cared. I’d say to myself, “you know, that should be in the Mosher collection,” but I’d soon be on my way to another acquisition which I reasoned was far better. Still, it remained, and I remembered, and both played upon one another until the times were just right and then I bought it and now its here. The two little volumes are now safely in the shelf, and they are everything I had hoped they’d be. Did John Lane mention anything about getting Mosher’s permission? Not even a whisper or a hint. Lane states at the end of the book:

Certain of these poems appeared originally in the Spectator, the Westminster Gazette, and the Nation. My thanks are due to the editors of these papers for their kind permission to reprint them.

How’s that for outmaneuvering Mosher and in America at that!

Philip R. Bishop
Feb. 15, 2008 / revised June 30, 2008


This article is Copyright © by Philip R. Bishop. Permission to reproduce the above article has been granted by Gordon Pfeiffer, president of the Delaware Bibliophiles and editor of that organization’s newsletter, Endpapers, in which the article appeared in the September 2008 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.