Patrick Pollak

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[STEPHEN, John Kenneth] J. K. S.
Lapsus Calami.

Description:
pp. viii, 88. Original blue cloth with slightly chipped paper spine label, spine ends a bit worn and corners slightly bumped, inscribed 'Phyllis Lowry from the author' and with a two verse, 16 line poem signed 'Jem', Eton. June 2.1891. on the verso of the front free end-paper PLUS a slip of paper folded and loose with a variant of that poem, both addressed to Phyllis, the one on the slip addressed 'To P.L. aged 4½., and signed '(J.K.S. May 1891 Novi Lapsus)'. On the reverse of the slip is the inscription 'The best possible good wishes for your welfare + happiness come with this, as they did with the little rose. P'. The added paper slip is folded, torn and foxed.

*JOHN KENNETH STEPHEN (25 February 1859 3 February 1892), poet, and tutor to Prince Albert Victor, eldest son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. He was first cousin to Virginia Woolf. He was known to family and close friends as 'Jem', as signed in the ms. poem above, and as comically referred in the dedicatory poem in this book - Apud Jemabad. He was educated at Eton and subsequently at King's College, Cambridge, where, in 1880, he was President of the Cambridge Union Society. In 1883 he became tutor to Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, and was made a Fellow of King's College in 1885. Following a severe head injury in an accident in the winter of 1886/1887 which may have exacerbated the bi-polar disorder from which he suffered [as did Virginia Woolf], Stephen was eventually committed to St Andrew's Hospital, a mental asylum in Northampton. It was in this same asylum, then Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, that John Clare spent the last few years of his life, dying there in 1864. In January 1892, Stephen heard that his erstwhile pupil, the 28-year-old Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, a man destined to one day be King, had died of pneumonia at Sandringham, after contracting influenza. On hearing the news, Stephen refused to eat, and died twenty days later, aged 32. His cause of death, according to the death certificate, was mania. The recipient of this book, Phyllis Lowry, does not appear in the records consulted and I presume that the paper slip with the presentation inscription signed 'P' is from her. The two variant poems although both signed by Stephen, are in slightly different hands but this could be explained by the use of different pens. There is nothing to suggest that they are not genuine - were they written whilst he was in the asylum ? They do include a slightly macabre few lines - '..... And you, a maid divinely fair, The cynosure of every eye, Have fixed the wandering minds of men, And peopled scores of youthful hearses, .....' - the variant poem has changed the last line to 'And found a fare for scores of hearses....'.

Macmillan and Bowes. Cambridge.

Date Published: 1891. Reprinted from standing type with slight alterations, May 1891. [April 1891 first].

Stock No. 62196

Price: 300.00

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