[Tennyson's masterpiece -- fine] London: Edward Moxon, 1850. Original blind-stamped purple-brown cloth.
First Edition -- of what is "widely considered to be one of the greatest poems of the 19th century" [Oxford p. 607]. As indicated on the dedication (but not title) page, this volume is in memory of "A.H.H." -- Arthur Henry Hallam, who had been Tennyson's closest friend and supporter (as well as Tennyson's sister's fiancé). The four years' association with Hallam at Cambridge (1829-1833) was probably the closest emotional attachment of Tennyson's life; when Hallam suddenly died of a cerebral hæmorrhage in 1833, Tennyson was plunged into years of despair.
The publication of this requiem, seventeen years later, though anonymous, was immensely successful (going through five editions in the first two years), and earned Tennyson a considerable advancement in reputation (including Queen Victoria's offer of the poet laureateship, vacant since the death of Wordsworth). This elegy was written in four-line ABBA stanzas of iambic tetrameter -- a form that ever since has often been referred to as "In Memoriam stanzas." The most famous stanza is the concluding one of Canto XXVII (here on page 44):
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
This copy has no preliminary ad catalogue (no priority). It is a remarkably fine copy of this landmark work, virtually free of wear, and though the spine is "toned," it does not have the usual fading. Although 5,000 copies were printed, we seldom see the first edition of IN MEMORIAM in this condition today. Hayward 246 (chosen for a 1948 London exhibition as one of the greatest examples of English Poetry "from Chaucer to the Present Day"); Wise 37; Colbeck p. 836 (copy with no ads). Housed in a custom clamshell case.
[Note: Thomas J. Wise cited two "issue points" (on pages 2 and 198) in his 1908 bibliography, repeated verbatim in his Ashley Library catalogue; more recent scholars, such as Simon Nowell-Smith in 1960, have asserted that there is no "second issue." It is quite possible that Wise made this up, perhaps in preparation for one of his notorious forgeries. Colbeck (in 1987) said "The present cataloguer affirms that if he were to be shown a copy of a second state of First Edition of this book, he would immediately institute a scientific examination as to its composition, for the purpose of detecting forgery."]
Provenance: the front free endpaper bears the signature "T.W. Hinchliff | June 1850 [the month of publication]". Thomas Woodbine Hinchliff (1825-1882) was an 1849 graduate of Trinity College at Cambridge -- the college both of Tennyson and of Hallam; he then continued his education at Cambridge and was called to the bar, but instead (beginning in 1854) took off in a whole different direction -- mountaineering and travel-writing, especially in the Alps and in the Andes, with (among others) Leslie Stephen; he was a founding member of, and later president of, The Alpine Club. Item #14352