London: Faber and Faber, 1936. First edition. 239 pp. Original purple cloth, spine lettered in gilt, with the dust jacket. Top edge stained purple. Slight rubbing to head and tail of spine, old stain to lower edge of front board with minor stain continuing to lower center of first several leaves. A bit of sunning to the top of the front board. Spine gilt bright. The jacket has some browning and old stain marks to the verso, minor wear and browning to the top edge, with professional reinforcement to the verso of the top edge. A very well-presented copy of a very scarce book, not often seen in collectible condition. Barnes' major work, a landmark in twentieth century literature. Shari Benstock noted, "it is not a minor Modernist masterpiece, a shadow to Joyce's Ulysses, but a singular undertaking that addresses woman's place in the patriarchal construct." T.S. Eliot, who accepted the book for publication at Faber at the behest of Barnes' friend Emily Holmes Coleman, wrote of it, "What I would leave the reader prepared to find is the great achievement of a style, the beauty of phrasing, the brilliance of wit and characterisation, and a quality of horror and doom very nearly related to that of Elizabethan tragedy."
This copy bears the ownership inscription of Eugene Walter, described by Pat Conroy as a "southern writer of dazzling gifts. He possessed an uncanny ability to make the English language dance the flamenco across the page. He loved great humor, clowns, monkeys, food, and bourbon, in no particular order. He acted in Fellini movies, wrote screenplays, poems, cookbooks, translations, novels, and short stories of rare but complete genius." Walter lived in Paris in the 1950s and was a co-founder of The Paris Review, likely when he acquired this copy, with his inscription undated but listing his Paris address on the Rue de Tournon.
In his memoir Milking the Moon, Walter describes how he lived near Barnes in Greenwich Village when she lived on Patchin Place. "I used to see her in the early morning in her dressing gown and curlers at the same bakery I went to. We went to get these coffee rolls they made... she'd become rather a recluse except for running to that corner bakery to get those sticky buns every morning... I never had a conversation with her. We had a kind of 'good morning,' 'good morning' relationship."
Walter also devotes a paragraph to Nightwood. "When everybody was writing WPA novels- sharecroppers and drunks in New York City- she published this nineteenth-century novel. Nightwood. It's about this heroine who can't decide whether she's totally female or a daughter of Sappho.... it's a great novel. And nobody was prepared for it. This last-gasp Victorian with modern frankness." Messerli 6. Item #1881