[The Abdication Crisis, 1936: Sir Osbert Sitwell.] Mimeographed copy, marked ‘Private’, of the unexpurgated version of the satirical poem ‘RAT WEEK. / by Osbert Sitwell’, the cause of a legal action with ‘Cavalcade’.

The Abdication Crisis, 1936: Sir Osbert Sitwell [Sir Francis Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell, 5th Baronet] (1892-1969) [King Edward VIII and Mrs Wallis Simpson; Abdication, 1936; Cavalcade]
Publication details: 
Undated, but circa 1936. On paper watermarked 'BELFAST BOND / MADE IN CANADA'.
SKU: 25914

See Sitwell’s entry in the Oxford DNB. In his 1999 biography Philip Ziegler describes how the ‘doggerel polemic Rat Week’ ‘excoriated’ the supporters of the Edward VII and Mrs Simpson: ‘Osbert realised that this diatribe, if published, might land him in a flurry of libel actions, but he could not resist having a few copies made and distributed to his closer cronies; Mrs. Greville, Lady Aberconway, Lady Cholmondeley and Philip Frere among them. They showed it to their closer friends, copies were made, word of it passed around, soon it was known to everyone who was anyone in London.’ Sitwell himself has described how it spread ‘with the force and urgency of an eighteenth-century ballad: little did I know that it had multiplied and taken to itself wings, that it was being declaimed in drawing-rooms and saloon-bars and the public rooms of hotels, and that strangers were handing garbled versions of it to one another, later to be read aloud in crowded omnibuses or over the subterranean roar of the tube-trains. No contemporary work of which I am cognisant ever obtained a similar immediate popular response.’ When the editor of the magazine ‘Cavalcade’ published an expurgated version, Sitwell sued for breach of copyright. After some litigation the magazine settled out of court for £500. Mimeograph typescript. 3pp, 4to. Fifty-six irregular lines of rhymed verse, in six stanzas. Paginated. On three loose leaves. In good condition, lightly aged and worn. Folded twice. Underlined at top right of first page: ‘Private.’ Considering the mimeographed nature of the document, the typewriting style, the watermark, and not least the word ‘Private’, there is every indication that the present item is one of the ‘few copies’ Sitwell had made. Begins: ‘Where are the friends of yesterday | That fawned on Him, | That flattered Her? | Where are the friends of yesterday, | Submitting to His every whim, | Offering praise of Her as myrrh | to Him?’ Individuals whose names were suppressed in the ‘Cavalcade’ version are ‘sweet Maid Mendl’, ‘Colefax - in her iron cage / of curls’ and John McMullen. There are also references to ‘Balmoral’s Coburg Towers’, ‘dear Fort Belvedere’ and ‘the Ritz Bar’. Published (Penguin) 1986 (described by dealteers as First Edition).