Hard Cover. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1937. First Edition. Very Good.
First edition, with publisher's code F-M. Publisher's three-quarter black cloth over dark gray-blue paper-covered boards, white paper spine label lettered in black. A very good copy with some light toning to extremities and text block edges, wear to spine label. Conversation at Midnight is a work of dramatic verse that falls somewhere in the space between a narrative poem and a theatrical drama. The text features the conversations of seven distinguished men who are having after-dinner discussions in a comfortable dining room in New York City. Although the text uses only a minimal amount of descriptive narrative, Millay structured Conversations at Midnight to "create the illusion of actual conversation, which often abruptly abandons one topic to take up another," and encourages her readers to think of the work as "dialogue throughout." Notably, Millay's working manuscript for Conversation at Midnight was destroyed in a fire at the Palms Hotel on Sanibel Island, Florida, in 1936. In her foreword, Millay elaborates on the incident: "I begat at once, of course, when I saw that there was no hope of saving my manuscript, to try to remember the lost poems." While she was able to recall some verses from memory verbatim and a handful of others from a previous publication in Harper's Magazine in 1935, Millay explains that essentially "no line of the book existed anywhere except in my memory, if indeed there" and left her "handicapped by the strain" of the pressure to recall her lost verse.