Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ralph Chubb: A Fable of Love and War

Ralph Chubb was a peculiar character, never quite a part of the Victorian/Edwardian group of writers sometimes called Uranians, he saw himself as something of a cross between William Blake and William Morris I think and spent a lifetime essentially self-publishing a range of poems, illustrated by himself and printed by hand.
In the past I have had to steer clear of Chubb simply because his books are now simply out of my price range but I was delighted the other day to find this on Ebay at a very reasonable price. From the dodgy, grainy picture and two line description I had no idea that it came with it's original plain paper jacket (which I'm guessing is pretty scarce now) and inside that the binding of this copy is in fine condition. The paper has a little foxing here and there but it's still a very nice copy. There is something very rough and ready about Chubb's printing, as there often is about people's first excursions into printing (this is a reasonably early book) and it looks to me as if the printer was using second-hand type (again quite common in small presses since an entire new fount can be very expensive) which has suffered some damage. Nonetheless it's a charming little thing.
The story, such as it is, consists of a rather homoerotic dialogue between a sixteen year old boy and a man in his forties, both of whom are soldiers. Despite the fact that the two full size wood cuts depict ancient warfare, the text is about modern warfare with guns, a warfare which Chubb had ample experience of from 1914-18. The younger soldier positively throws himself at the older who gently rebuffs him in a stern, mentorish kind of way and then goes off to die. The boy, in mourning, is seduced by a young woman, they conceive a child, and she is then able to continue the race of England's young manhood. The poem is really a setting of the scene for the more involved mystico-poetic excursions of later Chubb.
For all its faults, there is something rather satisfying about this book.

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