SYMONDS, John. The Great Beast. The Life of Aleister Crowley [with] Id., The King of the Shadow Realm

London, Rider and Company, 1951; London, Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd, 1989.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. 316, ill.. AUTHOR’S PRESENTATION COPY inscribed on verso of front flyleaf: “For Michael Hamburger, / the fruit of our many discussions, from / John. Oct 26, ‘51”. Bound in blue cloth, gilt title to spine. Original dust jacket overall in good condition: edges, hinges lightly rubbed and worn, just a few little marginal tears.

This is the first of four biographical books by John Symonds (1914-2006) on the notorious English occultist Aleister Crowley: the man who inspired the Beatles, the beat generation and fostered Western magic and Eastern esotericism. It was Symonds who introduced readers to ‘The Great Beast’. The writer met Crowley shortly before he died and was named his literary executor. He was fascinated, yet quite critical of his subject, leading Crowley’s personal secretary Israel Regardie to label him ‘that most hostile biographer’. The present work has an inscribed dedication to Michael Hamburger OBE (1924-2007), a noted British translator, poet, critic, memoirist and academic of German literature. The two friends visited Crowley when he was at Netherwood in Hastings, as another Symonds inscription testifies to. Our copy of his The King of the Shadow Realm bears the following dedication to Hamburger: “Michael / in memory of our visit to the Beast 666 / John / September 1989”.