Willa Cather's First Book, Inscribed by Her Dear Friend and Muse, Isabelle McClungWilla Cather. April Twilights. Poems by Willa Sibert Cather. Boston: Richard G. Badger, The Gorham Press, 1903.
First edition of Willa Cather's first book. Small octavo (7.5 x 5.1875 inches; 190 x 132 mm.). 52, [4, blank] pages. Title-page printed in green and black.
Original drab boards with cream-colored paper label on front cover printed in orange and black and cream-colored paper spine label printed in black. Light rubbing to extremities, spine ends lightly bumped, spine label browned and slightly chipped, not affecting any text. Small piece torn from lower corner of rear free endpaper (the piece is still present and affixed to the rear pastedown). Lower edge of title and following leaf slightly abraded where they were at one time adhered to the front board, lower edge of final blank leaf slightly abraded where it was at one time adhered to the rear board. Small piece torn from upper blank corner of pages 9/10 and 11/12, not affecting text. A very good copy. Protected in a light brown cloth chemise and quarter brown morocco slipcase.
Presentation copy, inscribed on the front free endpaper: "To Mrs. Wilson Kuhn / with happy memories of / the S.S. Zeeland and / Paris. / Isabelle McClung- / 1906."
The dear friend to whom Willa Cather dedicated The Troll Garden and The Song of the Lark, Isabelle McClung (1877-1938) "was also the prototype for at least two of Cather's characters, Marjorie Parmenter in 'Double Birthday' and Winifred Alexander in Alexander's Bridge. Born on November 4, 1877, at Old Allegheny, now a part of Pittsburgh, Isabelle attended Pittsburgh public schools and a boarding school in Utica, New York. She revolted against the conservative, rigid, uprightness of her father's Scotch Presbyterianism and turned to the arts. She preferred the society of actors, singers, and writers to the society in which she was supposed to move as the judge's daughter. When Willa Cather went to see Lizzie Hudson Collier, the actress, in her dressing room in 1901, she met Isabelle, a tall, handsome young woman who had come to congratulate Collier. The two young women struck up a friendship that lasted a lifetime. Isabelle was not artistically gifted, but she genuinely appreciated real artistic accomplishment. She invited Cather, who was then working in Pittsburgh, to move into the McClung home (at 1180 Murray Hill)...A study was made for Cather on the top floor of the house, and there she wrote most of the stories in The Troll Garden and probably some of the poems in April Twilights as well" (A Reader's Companion to the Fiction of Willa Cather).
"Badger's Gorham Press was a vanity press. The author contributed a substantial part of the cost for publication.... In 1908, Willa Cather bought the remainder of the first edition and destroyed it. She permitted Knopf to publish a new edition in 1923 after removing 13 poems from the original contents and adding 12 new ones" (Crane).
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