EWART, Gavin. Capital Letters. Oxford: Sycamore Press, 1983.

Octavo (208 x 140mm), pp. [7], [1 (blank)]. Type-ornament tailpieces. Original blue wrappers, title and ornamental device printed in maroon on upper wrapper, sewn with red thread as issued. (Extremities lightly rubbed, bumped, and faded.) A very good copy.

First edition, limited to 400 copies. Gavin Ewart (1916-1995) was educated at Wellington College and Christ’s College, Cambridge, and found his poetic voice as a young man. ‘First published at the precocious age of 17 [in Geoffrey Grigson’s New Verse], Ewart had a poetry book, Poems and Songs (1939), to his credit by the time he was 23. Ewart was influenced early on by T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Ronald Bottrall, and later by W.H. Auden’. After the interruption of World War II, during which he served in North Africa and Italy, Ewart ‘ pursued a different path, becoming first an assistant in the book review department of the British Council and then an advertising copywriter for 18 years. He did not pursue his old vocation until, as he wrote, “Alan Ross, editor of London Magazine, encouraged me to begin writing poetry again in 1959”’ (Poetry Foundation website), and he became a full-time writer in 1971, remaining a prolific and acclaimed poet until his death. 

Capital Letters, one of Ewart’s later works, takes the form of an arch and satiric exchange of letters between the sophisticated Flétrie and her ‘clod-hopping, bog-trotting little cousin’ Félicité. It was printed in a limited edition by the Sycamore Press, which had been established by the poet John Fuller in 1968 and published the works of established figures such as W.H. Auden, Philip Larkin, Thom Gunn, and Peter Porter, while also providing a platform for a generation of talented younger poets.

Roberts, John Fuller & the Sycamore Press, A16.


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