London: Besant & Company, 1936. Small octavo, original black textured cloth lettered in gilt, top edge stained black, original unclipped grey typographic dust jacket. Opening letter from Paul Valéry to translator Merton Gould (in French); translator's note and author's introduction (in English). Tiny chips to ends of dust jacket spine.
First English edition of the first four parts of French poet Paul Valéry's Teste cycle: “An Evening with Monsieur Teste," “Letter from a Friend," “Letter from Madame Emilie Teste," and “Extracts from the Log Book of Monsieur Teste," first published in French between 1896 and 1925. In the 1920s, Ronald Davis published English translations of these pieces in Paris: this Merton Gould translation was the first issued in England. Valéry would return to the symbolic figure of Edmond Teste, a reclusive stockbroker of unlimited intellectual capacity, throughout his career: “What had he done with his own self? How did he look in his own eyes? . . . He was so true, so new; so innocent of all dupery and all showplay; so hard." Valéry's unfolding narrative experiment, an exploration of the possibilities and limits of the self, became a touchstone for modernists on both sides of the Atlantic. A near-fine copy.