Friday, October 02, 2009

Sholto O. G. Douglas

Ungodly Jingles
by Sholto O. G. Douglas
Elkin Matthews, London, 1923.
This is a first edition, recently acquired, of a rather odd book which consists mainly of atheist verse. As you might imagine, this particular niche in the poetry world doesn't necessarily draw the nimblest of wordsmiths and I think it's fair to say that Douglas's title aptly sums up the verse in a slightly unwitting way. Douglas was one of Rolfe's collaborators and, among other things, it was Douglas's translations of the Greek Anthology which Rolfe took and 'worked over' into The Songs of Meleagre. Douglas is immortalised in Rolfe's novel Nicholas Crabbe and for a time their relationship was creative and intense: until the inevitable falling out. Only one of these poems, a paeon to the beauty of youth titled, 'Virginity' might be said to be verging on the Uranian but I enjoy having these items anyway which relate to Rolfe more tangentially.
I was particularly pleased with this copy not only because I bought it for less than half its lowest price on Abebooks, not just because the condition is impeccable but mainly because it has a nice piece of bookish ephemera laid in: a letter from A W Evans, one of the Elkin Matthews's directors presenting the book to the American critic William Archer and on Elkin Matthews headed paper.

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