London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1889. Item #03814
"My Prison Has Its Pleasures…"
Beautifully Bound by Captain C.E. Gladstone
GLADSTONE, Captain C.E., binder. BLUNT, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. In Vinculis. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1889.
First edition, Large Paper copy limited to fifty copies signed by the printer of the Chiswick Press, Charles Whittingham, of which this is No. 13.
Octavo ( 7 13/16 x 4 15/16 inches; 198 x 127 mm.). , viii, [1, contents], [1, blank], -63, [1, imprint] pp. Etched portrait frontispiece.
Bound by Captain Gladstone ca. 1900 (stamp-signed "C.E.G." on front turn-in) in full green crushed levant morocco, covers richly hand-tooled in gilt with an all-over vine and leaf design. Smooth spine with similar gilt tooling and lettering, gilt ruled board-edges, wide and elaborate gilt vine and leaf design turn-ins, pink watered silk liners and end-leaves, top edge gilt. Spine faded otherwise a very fine example of a 'signed' Captain C.E. Gladstone binding.
In the 1880s, the book's publisher (Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.) developed "a solid reputation in London for serious literature, especially poetry, for religious books and for science" (Howsam 26).
To understand the context from which In Vinculis [Sonnets written in an Irish Prison] was written, a brief summary of the current political climate of Victorian Britain in the 1880s is required. The formal beginnings of the Irish "Home Rule" movement in support of domestic political autonomy started with the creation of the Irish Home Government Association by Isaac Butt, an Irish MP at Westminster, in 1870. In 1873 the group was re-branded as the Home Rule League. In 1880, the growth of the "Home Rule" movement was becoming a significant political force within the British Parliament. The Liberals under William Ewart Gladstone were the ruling party for much of the decade, but the party had to walk a fine line between implementing liberal political reforms (such as the Married Women's Property Act in 1882 that gave married women the same rights over their property as unmarried women, and the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act in 1883 that attempted to limit bribery and intimidation in elections and allow poorer candidates to run) and appealing to the conservative elements within the party that were essential to maintaining rule. The number of Irish MPs within the Home Rule League grew to the point that in 1885 under new leader Charles Stewart Parnell, they held the balance of power within subsequent minority governments (a short-lived Conservative minority in 1885, followed by a Liberal minority in 1886). Failure of Gladstone's first Home Rule bill in 1886 led to the Liberal's defeat as a contingent of Liberal MPs opposed to Home Rule broke away from the party (forming the Liberal Unionist Party) and supported the Conservatives.
Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922) was a poet, hedonist, diplomat, Middle Eastern traveler, Arabian horse breeder, political activist, and notorious lover. As a poet Blunt is known best for his love sonnets (initially published under the pseudonym "Proteus"), which described his amorous encounters with more explicit detail than was typical for the Victorian period. He also became politically active during the second half of his life, staunchly anti-imperialistic and supportive of political independence for nations still under the colonization of the British Empire, including Egypt, India, and Ireland. His support of the Irish nationalists in their quest for "Home Rule" (self-governance for domestic issues while remaining part of the United Kingdom) led to his incarceration by the British parliament's Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1888, setting the stage for writing his prison sonnet sequence, In Vinculis.
Captain Charles Elsden Gladstone, RN, (1855.1919). Very little is known about Captain Gladstone other than he was born in Salford, Lancashire and lived in London, Hertfordshire and then Broadstairs in Kent. According to the 1891 census of England & Wales his occupation was listed as "Commander Royal Navy" and then in 1901 as "Commander of H.M.S. Eagle". We believe that he, like the Irish finisher Sir Edward Sullivan (who signed his books "E.S. Aurifex"), had his books bound by a local bookbinder - possibly John Smith of Maidstone, and then did the hand-tooling (finishing) himself. Apparently he was also a talented photographer - there are mentions of him in The British Journal of Photography (1889), the Journal of the Microscopic Society (1893) and he was an officer of the Lantern Society from 1890-93. His bindings with their very distinctive decorations are very often, but not always, signed in gilt "C.E.G." on the front turn-in.