Italian Prospect: Six Poems


Limited edition of poems by Anne Ridler, Faber & Faber Reader and Editor, and TS Eliot’s assistant.


Oxford: Printed by Vivian Ridler at the Perpetua Press, 1976. Limited edition, No. 42 of 75 copies. First Edition thus. Medium quarto, ten leaves plus fold-in soft cover, printed in black with red fleurons on hand-made paper, purple paper wrappers just a little faded, cover title label in black and red.

Condition: Very good to near fine.

The English poet Anne Ridler (1912-2001) was born into a literary family. Both of her parents were writers and her uncle, Sir Humphrey Milford, was publisher to the University of Oxford and head of OUPs London operations (1913-1945), where he edited prominent poets and poetry anthologies and made OUP a major world publisher of noteworthy books. Anne Ridler was an editor, playwright, for many years a meticulous reader of manuscripts for Faber & Faber, and a critic, librettist, translator and biographer. She produced well-regarded librettos of operas by Monteverdi, Cavalli and Mozart, and wrote 17 volumes of poems and verse-plays from 1939 to 2004, mostly published by Faber and Oxford University Press.

Anne Ridler (née Bradby) suffered illnesses in childhood and adolescence and not having studied Latin at school—a Degree prerequisite—took a Diploma in Journalism at Kings College, London, in 1932. Her family connections allowed her to mix easily with writers, including WH Auden, Dylan Thomas and Lascelles Abercrombie, and also with Lawrence Durrell with whom she watched Marx Brothers films. Anne Ridler joined Faber & Faber in 1934. While working with TS Eliot at Faber (1935-1940), where she read manuscripts and assisted Eliot with editing the literary journal The Criterion, Anne Bradby met the typographer Vivian Ridler (designer of the Bible used at the Queen’s Coronation and later Printer to the University of Oxford, 1958-1978), whom she married in 1938. Vivian printed his wife’s first book, Poems, for the Oxford University Press in 1939. Eliot encouraged Anne’s early writing and, as Faber’s Poetry Editor, published a substantial volume of her poems in 1941. The same year Anne Ridler selected A Little Book of Modern Verse (Faber) with TS Eliot. She also compiled Shakespeare criticism for OUP.

Anne Ridler’s fame as a poet was especially high in the 1940s, and the six poems of the Perpetua Press’s Italian Prospect were first published in 1951 and 1959. During the 1960s she was the only woman member of the literature panel overseeing the New English Bible (Old Testament). Ridler’s poetic reputation was revived with the publication of her Collected Poems in 1994. Her poems attend to cadence and musicality, combining elements of Christian faith and doubt, and Elizabethan elegance and modern scepticism; at times they are also tender and erotic. In 1988 she received the Cholmondeley Award for poetry. As a review of Anne’s Memoirs (Vivian Ridler’s Perpetua Press, 2004) was being read to Vivian he fell seriously ill and prayers were said for him at the University church. On his recovery, aged 91, his daughter mentioned that Church intercessions had ceased. ‘Ah,’ he drily observed, ‘I’m out of intensive prayer, am I?’