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Look Back in Anger Signed association copy John Osborne first edition 1957

Look Back in Anger Signed association copy John Osborne first edition 1957



Look Back in Anger

London: Faber and Faber, 1957


8vo., brown cloth with titles in gilt to spine; in the unclipped black and white dust jacket (10s 6d net) with a wraparound image from the play; pp. [viii], 9-96; a very good copy, the cloth a little worn all over and sunned along spine; endpapers with some browning but for the most part clean; the jacket sunned along spine with some creasing; small closed tear (threatening to chip), discretely reinforced internally with archival tape. Provenance: Book-plate of Neville Blond tipped into front paste-down (affixed by way of the upper edge). 


First edition, inscribed by the playwright: “To Neville Blond/ a small memento/ of the early days/ of our adventures/ together - John Osborne/” Followed by the signature of George Devine, the Theatre’s artistic director. Dated in the year of publication ‘18 Jan 57.’ An incredible association copy. 


In 1951 Neville Blond, who was a highly decorated and active participant in both World Wars, had resigned from his position as chairman of his textile business to focus on his commitment to the English Stage Company. Newly-founded, Blond’s influence and financial experience made him an ideal candidate for the role, and in 1954 he was appointed, retaining the position for the remainder of his life. He quickly set about acquiring the Royal Court Theatre, and just a few years later, on the 8th May 1956, Look Back in Anger premiered at the new location: a bold move, being only the third to be produced under the artistic direction of George Devine. 


George Devine (1910-1966) was keen to discover ‘hard-hitting, uncompromising writers’ and in January 1956 he placed an advertisement in The Stage calling for submissions. He certainly found his goal in Osborne. The play had already been rejected by Laurence Olivier and many others, and initially opened to empty seats and poor reviews, but through sheer grit and determination it became the cornerstone for a shift in theatre away from the social and political orthodoxy of the day. At a time in which theatre was considered to be safe and overtly commercial in its output, Osborne’s depiction of political energy and post-war concerns provoked strong reactions from critics. Indeed, the press release which depicted Osborne as an ‘Angry Young Man’ went on to define the movement as a whole, extended to a whole generation of young writers who viewed the upper classes - and in particular the political institutions at the time - with wariness and disdain. The protagonist, Jimmy Porter, along with his upper-to-middle class wife Alison, were both loosely modelled on Osborne’s own failing relationship with his wife Pamela, and their life in cramped digs in Derby. 


Look Back in Anger is considered to be one of the first examples of Kitchen Sink dramas, and achieved great commercial success, travelling to the West End, Broadway, and even Moscow. It is certainly the play which rocketed Osborne to fame, and transformed him from a struggling Playwright into an award-winning and famous personality, winning him the Evening Standard Drama Award for the most promising playwright in 1956. 


Perhaps the best and most accurate portrayal of Look Back in Anger, though, comes from Alan Sillitoe, who wrote that Osborne "didn't contribute to British theatre, he set off a landmine and blew most of it up". The play was later adapted into a film starring Richard Burton. 

A wonderful copy for any collector of works in the Angry Young Men movement.

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