Wat Tyler. A dramatic poem …

London, Sherwood, Neeley and Jones, 1817.

8vo, pp. xi, [1], 70, with a half-title; a very good copy, uncut, in polished calf by Rivière; ownership inscription to half-title of the reformist politician Sir Benjamin Hobhouse (father of Byron’s friend John Cam Hobhouse); booklabel of Viscount Monsell (Conservative chief whip).


US $523€443

Add to basket Make an enquiry

Added to your basket:
Wat Tyler. A dramatic poem …

Checkout now

First edition of Southey’s republican verse drama, written at Oxford in three days in 1794. The manuscript had been left with Thomas Spence in prison for possible publication, but Spence had misgivings. Many years later ‘a mischievous publisher obtained a copy … and printed it. The publication was enormously successful, and was acutely embarrassing to a poet laureate, although he defended himself forcefully’, arguing ‘that his basic convictions had never changed’ (ODNB).

Southey failed to obtain a Chancery objection to stop publication, on the reactionary decision of Lord Eldon that ‘as it was a mischievous work and contrary to the public welfare, there could be no property in it’, and since therefore Southey could not establish the text as his ‘property’ he might not enjoin its circulation and sale: ‘a person cannot recover in damages for a work which is in its nature calculated to do an injury to the public’. Piracy then followed piracy (although the replacement, in the second issue of this edition, of the quotations from Southey by quotations from Shakespeare may result from the Chancery judgement), and Southey was led to believe (incredibly) that sixty thousand unauthorized copies were eventually sold. The first issue of the first edition, with mocking quotations from Southey himself on the title-page, is however comparatively rare.

Tinker 1963; Simmons, Southey, pp. 158-161.

You may also be interested in...

CARROLL, Lewis [i.e. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson].

The hunting of the Snark. An agony in eight fits ... with nine illustrations by Henry Holiday.

First edition of this characteristically dark nonsense poem, dedicated to Gertrude Chataway, Carroll’s dearest child friend after Alice. The Easter greeting was inserted into every copy of the first edition after printing at Carroll’s own expense.

Read more


Amor á la creacion. Poesia dedicada á la Sociedad Madrileña Protectora de los Animales y de las Plantas. Leida el 25 de Mayo de 1879 en la exposicion de flores y aves por la eminente actriz Carolina Civili.

Very rare survival: a poem in twenty-four stanzas each of five lines devoted to the celebration of animals and plants, dedicated to the Madrid Society for the protection of nature, and publicly read by the actress Carolina Civili on the occasion of the May 1879 exhibition of plants and birds. This copy was inscribed by the author, a prominent essayist and publicist, for a young Francisco Javier Ugarte Pagés, whose commitment to public life would come to full fruition within the government of Maria Cristina.

Read more