Waugh’s Proof Copy of Black Mischief To Be Sold at Bonhams

Evelyn Waugh’s annotated proof copy of a special limited edition of his 1932 novel Black Mischief, including an original hand drawn illustration by the author, is to be sold at Bonhams sale of Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs in London on 19 March.

Estimated at £8,000-10,000, it is part of a fine collection of signed and dedicated first editions of Waugh’s works given by the writer to his lifelong friends—David and Tamara Talbot Rice. The pen and ink drawing, depicting a gramophone and a copy of The Times, was used as the tailpiece to the novel which was the first to be produced in two ‘first editions’, one for general sale and one special edition of 250.  This was a practice Waugh adopted for all his subsequent works.

Waugh supplied the illustrations for many of his early novels.  He had been a keen draughtsman since his schooldays and, after leaving Oxford without taking his degree, had studied briefly at Heatherly Art College—a path later followed by Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited.  

Writing in Bonhams Magazine, Evelyn Waugh’s grandson, Alexander Waugh, tells of Waugh’s friendship at Oxford in the early 1920s with David Talbot Rice, an Old Etonian archeology student and fellow member of the notorious Hypocrites Club whose scandalous and unruly behavior prompted the university authorities to ban it. (A pdf of Alexander Waugh’s article is available on request).  Waugh was also friends with Tamara Abelson, the exiled daughter of a senior official at the Tsar’s Treasury in St Petersburg, and it was through him that Tamara and David Rice Talbot met, fell in love and eventually married in 1927. Waugh was later to write in his 1964 autobiography, A Little Learning: “There was David Talbot-Rice, who seemed to live a life of carefree pleasure but was secretly studious, so that he is now full of academic honours. He alone (with the exception of Edward Longford...) courted an undergraduette, the clever Russian who became his wife.”

Other Waugh books in the sale include an inscribed copy of his first prose book, P.R.B. An Essay on the Pre-Raphaelites—one of 50 copies printed privately by his close friend at Oxford, Alistair Graham—and a first edition, author’s presentation copy, of Helena, the novel he considered his most successful, inscribed: “For David, worthy kinsman of this excellent woman, from Evelyn.”

For further information and images call Andrew Currie on +44 (0)207 468 5871, or email andrew.currie@bonhams.com or press@bonhams.com.

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