The Whirligig by Morris Cox, A 10,000 word History


by Bradford Haas

The name of Morris Cox (1903-1998), where it is known, is synonymous with the Gogmagog Private Press. The colorful, quirky productions issued from it are among the most original and forward-looking private press books (or what, given the personal vision and solitary effort, we would now call ‘artist’s books’) of the second half of the 20th century. Cox is not known primarily as a poet, even tho the Gogmagog Press was conceived initially as a vehicle to see his poetic works into print. Preceding the Gogmagog books, THE WHIRLIGIG AND OTHER POEMS was a commercially produced collection of Cox’s poetry published by Routledge and Kegan Paul in 1954. Unlike the Gogmagog Press books, there is nothing intrinsically valuable about THE WHIRLIGIG: it does not use rare papers, it does not include unique prints, nor was it printed, bound and cased by hand. It is simply an obscure book of poems which failed to stimulate much interest. As such it was a dead end for Cox. And a new beginning. It is part of Gogmagog lore that the press was founded in 1957 due in large part to the commercial failure of THE WHIRLIGIG and the lack of subsequent outlets for his literary work. While this does place the book in a certain position of ignominious importance, it does not adequately indicate how central THE WHIRLIGIG is, in so many ways, to the corpus of Morris Cox. Its importance both in and beyond this context can only be assessed after a thorough introduction to the book, its makeup, its publication history, the reasons for its failure and subsequent ramifications. If ultimately THE WHIRLIGIG is deemed to be a minor work, the ramifications of its publication and failure should be significant enough to ensure it against complete oblivion. Its failure, ironically, has secured its place in the future.

Since this is likely a work that few readers have encountered, it will be propitious to supply a description of the book and its contents. The book is a standard octavo, in red cloth with silver lettering. The two color dustwrapper (prone to fading and discoloration at the spine) has an energetic design by Cox vaguely suggesting a whirligig or carrousel, printed in blue on a pink background with white highlights. It is eighty-eight pages in length, with five chronologically arranged sections and four pages of notes at the end. The sections of the book are as follows:

Section 1: Nature as She Sings (1934-37; 7 poems)

Section 2: The Football Match (1938; a single 18 page poem)

Section 3: The Whirligig (1939; a sequence of 10 poems)

Section 4: Rags, Bones and Bodies (1940; 15 poems with diverse
               subjects and forms)

Section 5: Silver Bells and Cockle Shells (1945; a sequence of
               24 poems)

It is quite a scarce book. A year after its publication in April of 1954 Routledge sent a report to Cox; 126 copies of the book were accounted for: 79 sold, and the rest given away (presumably to family and friends, reviewers, and libraries). At a later date Cox was given additional copies, perhaps those lingering in the Routledge warehouse. In 1970 he reissued these 35 copies of the 1954 sheets in a new binding and with an original frontispiece under the title EARLY SELECTED POEMS. At the time of writing this (Feb 2007) OCLC records 35 copies of THE WHIRLIGIG in public institutions, which leaves a maximum of 91 copies of the original 1954 issue somewhere in the public domain. This makes it as scarce as some of the Gogmagog Press books, which were never printed in editions greater than 100. Beyond this, since it is not a private press book, it has not crossed the radars of most collectors of Cox. Despite this, there are a few copies of this book for sale on the internet, with prices ranging from about $240.00 to over $800.00. These prices are in line with those asked for Gogmagog books, and yet THE WHIRLIGIG is not, as mentioned above, a private press book. It has no inherent value, and its price is based on the fact its author produced other books which are considered works of art. Some may question the pertinence of ‘monetary value’ when discussing literature. While obviously not the ideal criteria for evaluation, the monetary value of a book often corresponds - as it does in other areas of the arts (for better or worse) - to some level of recognition of the work in question. Perhaps by the end of this investigation there will be at least partial justification for seeing THE WHIRLIGIG as valuable in its own right.

    To this point knowledge about the inception and reception of THE WHIRLIGIG has been most accessible in GOGMAGOG: MORRIS COX & THE GOGMAGOG PRESS (1991), a tribute to Cox with contributions by David Chambers, Alan Tucker, and Colin Franklin, along with a selection of Cox’s poetry, correspondence, and prefaces to Gogmagog Press books. Each of the contributors comments more or less on the situation surrounding THE WHIRLIGIG, David Chambers in his Preface and “Morris Cox: Printer”; Alan Tucker in his contribution “Morris Cox: Poet & Novelist”; and Colin Franklin in “Collecting Morris Cox”. For the current investigation it is important to be familiar with these remarks on THE WHIRLIGIG, for while providing valuable and largely insightful information, they also introduce certain assumptions that need to be revisited and potentially adjusted to reflect new insights divulged by primary documentation. Chambers, in the Preface and in his piece on Morris Cox as a printer, does not go into great detail concerning THE WHIRLIGIG:

(from the Preface:) “[…Cox] was much encouraged by the publication of stories and poems in World Review in the early fifties, and a collection of poems by Routledge in 1954. That this means of publication did not continue was a matter of much desperation to him, and in 1957 he decided to print and publish on his own account”. (GMG 9-10)

(from “Morris Cox: Printer:) “[…] after the war [he] had had a selection of his poems published by Routledge, and poetry and prose included in World Review. But Routledge could not be persuaded to publish any more, World Review was wound up, and in despair of other publishers, Cox decided to print for himself.” (GMG 11)

These two short references – a mere page apart - set the tone for subsequent remarks on THE WHIRLIGIG: it did not fare well, and this fact, along with the folding of World Review, caused ‘desperation’ and ‘despair’ in Cox to the point that he decided to print his own works. As the book Chambers is contributing to is dedicated to the celebration of the Gogmagog Press, the failure of commercial publication is the raison d’etre of all that follows. Oddly, Chambers does not mention THE WHIRLIGIG by name, only as a ‘selection’ or ‘collection’ published by Routledge. Of further interest are the terms ‘selection’ and ‘collection’. At first glance these may not seem contradictory – both serving a similar purpose in their individual contexts. For the moment we will put these terms aside, but keep them in mind.

    Tucker’s piece on Cox as poet and novelist must be the first such investigation on record. The task Tucker faced (the task all of the contributors faced) was to present evaluations on works that the general public had never seen. This was difficult enough for the Gogmagog Press books themselves, but some collectors had seen these, and they had been displayed publicly at various exhibitions. Much of the poetry and prose, however, had never reached an audience of more than a handful of people (for example, Cox issued works such as his novels and THE COMPLETE POEMS 1921-1971 in editions of 5 copies). As such, Tucker is introducing and evaluating simultaneously. Generally his insight into Cox and his work becomes ever clearer as a reader is able to interact with the texts he discusses. This I say in preface to his remarks on THE WHIRLIGIG, which are uncharacteristically problematic:

There is THE WHIRLIGIG, the Routledge collection which was more or less ignored when it was published and has been forgotten since. […] That the Gogmagog Press came into existence and flourished is mainly due to the disappointing reception of the THE WHIRLIGIG. It is beside the point that it would probably have failed anyway – most poetry books do - because the book is a mistake. The poet was offered publication of a slim volume in the aftermath of the Second World War. He was fifty-one in the year of publication. The publishers did exactly what I am loathe to do now for this volume (and refuse to do – there are other ways) and what editors almost invariably ask poets to do, casting through years of work to compile an acceptable appetizer, an interesting selection, an example from different decades and styles and achievements, something for everyone. (GMG 38)
Tucker’s comments amplify and expand on those by Chambers, and there is nothing at this point which would cause a reader to question any of the assertions. In fact, Tucker corresponded with Cox for several decades on literary matters, and one would assume – quite rightly – that Tucker’s information (as well as Chambers’) was acquired directly from Cox. But Chambers’ and Tucker’s statements are derived after the fact, as neither would come into contact with Cox until several years after the publication of THE WHIRLIGIG. To demonstrate the synchronicity of sentiment, consider the following fragment of a 1975 letter from Cox to the collector Corrie Guyt (also in GOGMAGOG) that illustrates how Cox himself characterized the events:
[…] it wasn’t until 1952 that a magazine [World Review] began to take me up. Then Routledge and Kegan Paul (with Colin Franklin one of the Directors) published a selection of my early poems – THE WHIRLIGIG. I began to feel that at last my luck was changing. Then immediately, without warning, World Review went out of circulation. This was a great blow since I couldn’t find anything else to take its place. It was then that I decided to start printing myself. (GMG 81)
This, no doubt, is similar to the accounts Cox gave to Chambers and Tucker, as evidenced by the substance and tone of their own statements in GOGMAGOG (tho we may recognize here that Chambers repeats Cox’s tone and information more directly, while Tucker’s own voice and interpretation is more apparent). A few features of Cox’s own account are notable: he places an emphasis on the failure of World Review, to the extent that we would not be mistaken, reading the above, in the assumption that World Review went out of business after THE WHIRLIGIG was published, when in fact it ceased to exist a year beforehand, in the spring of 1953 – a small point, but one that signals that we should scrutinize Cox’s own facts carefully. Also, he refers to THE WHIRLIGIG as a ‘selection of my early poems’. We should remember that Cox reissued THE WHIRLIGIG sheets in 1970 – through Alan Tucker’s bookshop – under the title SELECTED EARLY POEMS. This title sums up the view Cox held of the group of poems by 1970, and this comes through in the comments of Chambers and Tucker, as well as in Cox’s 1975 letter to Corrie Guyt.

    We will revisit the previous comments (Tucker’s particularly), but it will be helpful to do so in light of Colin Franklin’s account of the publication of the book. Franklin is pivotal to this history, as he played an important role in the publication of THE WHIRLIGIG as a director at Routledge and Kegan Paul:

[…] Herbert Read strolled into my room at Routledge and Kegan Paul with a typescript of poems, unusually long and clean, in a new red cover, called WHIRLIGIG: ‘I wonder what you will think of these’ he said, leafing through. It struck me as extremely good, especially a long football poem. As nobody quite trusted anyone else in committee, off it went for outside opinion to another poet, Alex Comfort – why to him I cannot now recall, for others more obvious were closer to us; perhaps because Herbert detected a note of anarchy in Morris Cox and judged Comfort would report sympathetically. We accepted the book. In that phase of apprenticeship, in charge of jackets and publicity, I brought our reader into the blurb with the rather mendacious phrase ‘Alex Comfort has written’, as if quoting from some published essay, ‘This book has almost all the qualities, even in its faults, which have been missing from English poetry since the war’. I can’t guess now what on earth Comfort was meaning, if you begin analyzing that sentence. What were the qualities lacking in 1953, that were present in say 1938? And why ‘almost all the qualities’, as if among five qualities he were restoring four? But all honor to him, because fortified by his report we published THE WHIRLIGIG AND OTHER POEMS in 1954. […]

    WHIRLIGIG appeared, failed, was overlooked, the usual story, all part of our day’s work, a well designed volume, eighty-eight pages. Either we cut it down, or the clean typescript was wide spaced. Sean Jennett used to come in a couple of days each week, designing our books with a sure eye; this open, simple title-page was certainly Sean’s. Morris prepared his own jacket, a characteristically explosive affair in dark blue and pink. No doubt he was allowed two colours because we got the design free.

    Other typescripts followed naturally, for nothing so stimulates as a book accepted. Publishers remain the only patrons. Each seemed to me excellent, and was in turn refused. […] WHIRLIGIG and its author sank without a trace. (GMG 106-7)

Thus far, this the most detailed account of the book’s publication, and rightly so, given Franklin’s personal involvement: unlike the Chambers and Tucker accounts, his displays first-hand knowledge. Franklin’s version, in different language, confirms Tucker’s notion that THE WHIRLIGIG failed, as most poetry books do: the book “appeared, failed, was overlooked, the usual story, all part of our days work…” While agreeing on this point, others seem more at variance. Tucker characterizes the book as a ‘mistake’, seeing that Cox was older than the average poet being offered a first publication. It seems unlikely that Franklin would describe the publication of this group of poems that he found ‘extremely good’ as a ‘mistake’. Tucker also states that Cox “was offered publication of a slim volume”, and that the editors at RKP did “what editors almost invariably ask poets to do, casting through years of work to compile an acceptable appetizer, an interesting selection, an example from different decades and styles and achievements, something for everyone”. Franklin, on the other hand, describes the initial typescript submitted by Cox as “unusually long and clean”. There is not evidence here to say that Tucker is wrong in his statement, as later on Franklin does say rather enigmatically, “Either we cut it down, or the clean typescript was wide spaced”. To consider this issue further, we can recall the words first found in the two excerpts by Chambers: ‘selection’ and ‘collection’. It is not worth pounding the subtleties of difference between these two words (I can recall, after all, a long argument with a lecturer over my choice to vary diction in an essay by using the terms ‘agenda’ and ‘itinerary’ interchangeably…). Let us at least say this: a collection of poetry tends to be a unit of some sort. A selection of poetry tends to be a sampler. It is true that some poets have put together artfully constructed volumes of ‘selected poems’. The question is whether the “unusually long and clean” typescript Cox turned in was a selection to begin with, or whether it was a collection acting as a unified whole. Beyond this, to what extent was the typescript reproduced in the book. While Franklin’s account is quiet on this issue, Tucker states explicitly that the book is a selection in the strict sense. We should recall that while Tucker was not an associate of Cox in 1954 when THE WHIRLIGIG was published, Tucker’s bookshop distributed the reissued copies that Cox titled EARLY SELECTED POEMS. Tucker, with this later primary knowledge, is certainly not out of bounds considering it a ‘sampler’. To this point, GOGMAGOG has not only provided introductory material, but through small discrepancies has suggested several important issues, outlined above, regarding the publication and make-up of the book. To gain a fuller and more accurate account of THE WHIRLIGIG’s history we now need to look at other primary sources regarding the book’s inception, sources not available to Chambers, Tucker, and even Franklin when writing for GOGMAGOG. Through this new evidence it should be clear that the book, while technically speaking a ‘selection’, did originate from a collection that Cox felt represented a whole. Furthermore, the published book maintains the bulk, and therefore much of the intent, of the original typescript. Along the way we will find some other bits of information that will amend small factual inaccuracies in Franklin’s own account, showing that his involvement served to shape the volume to an even greater extent than he suggests in GOGMAGOG.

    There are two main primary sources introduced here. First is A LITERARY CHECKLIST 1913-1957, an annotated typescript by Cox dating to the mid to late 1980s. This important document is full of useful information, but it does introduce (as one often finds in Cox’s documents) small discrepancies. Perhaps even more important is Cox’s file of correspondence from 1933-1962, largely concerned with attempts to have his work published, including THE WHIRLIGIG correspondence between Cox and Franklin, then acting as a director for Routledge & Kegan Paul (Franklin’s copies of the correspondence would have been in the RKP files, and not with Franklin subsequent to his leaving the firm). The file of correspondence and the LITERARY CHECK-LIST, while not answering all questions, certainly push our understanding much further.

    Cox’s literary activities in the 1930s are somewhat clouded, not least by Cox himself. From the LITERARY CHECK-LIST we know that he attended and most likely performed during readings at the Poetry Bookshop and the Theosophical Society in London. Wyn Cresswell, who would ultimately become Wyn Cox in 1940, often read at these events, and worked as Alida Monroe’s secretary at one point. The LITERARY CHECK-LIST is sprinkled with notable names from the period, such as T.S. Eliot, Edith Sitwell, W.B. Yeats, and W.H. Auden. There is no suggestion that Cox became connected with these poets in any intimate sense, but clearly he was around such figures - perhaps some day we will know more about this period of Cox’s activity. According to Alan Tucker, Cox tended to downplay the connections with these famous poets, wanting to allow his work to speak for itself, and to not participate in the cult of biography.

    Aside from the scant references to poetry readings and events from the 1930s, we know something else of importance. In 1934, the LITERARY CHECK-LIST informs us, Cox wrote his ‘first truly inspired poetry’ (LC 4) which took the form of sound and rhythm experiments inspired by nature (some of these form part 1 of THE WHIRLIGIG). By 1937/8 he moved towards a series of poems which investigated the remnants of primitive ritual in current cultural events, including “Mummers’ Fool” (1937), “The Football Match” (1938), and “The Whirligig” (1939).

    Like most authors, Cox regularly submitted manuscripts to publishers for consideration. This often led to disappointment, and before WWII there were few if any takers. As new works were conceived they would be sent off for consideration, as, for example, was the case with “The Football Match” which was submitted to Faber as a stand-alone work in 1938. Cox had built up a substantial amount of poetry by the start of the war, but had placed none of it. When the war came everything, including his efforts to publish, came to a halt. According to Cox, “During these war years I did practically no art and just wrote a few poems”. (GMG 81) This statement from Cox’s 1975 letter to Corrie Guyt might give the wrong impression, as the LITERARY CHECK-LIST shows that Cox produced more than ‘a few poems’ from 1940-1945:

1940 Rags, Bones and Bodies [section 4 of THE WHIRLIGIG] written.
                   fifteen titles
            Began first draft of War in a Cock’s Egg
1941 Plotted Yule Gammon [mid-length poem] which had been
                   simmering for some time
1942 (in odd moments at the C[ivil] D[efense] Depot, between raids
                   and general duties began:)
            Silver Bells & Cockle Shells (poems in counteraction to war
                   miseries) [section 5 of THE WHIRLIGIG]
            Elaborate diary of the War abandoned.
1943 Completed Silver Bells & Cockle Shells (24 poems)
1944 Notes for poems, stories occasioned by the War, mainly
            Efforts to resuscitate painting.
1945   End of War
            Completed War in a Cock’s Egg (long poem) [294 line poem]
            (LC 6-7)
    After the war Cox, filled with renewed energy, entered into a prolific period, creating a great number of paintings and prints. He also worked on several major prose works, but did not spend as much time composing poetry. In 1946-47, however, he submitted a typescript to at least two publishers, Jonathan Cape and the Grey Walls Press, titled POEMS 1934-1941. Nothing came of this, but the letter from Wrey Gardiner at Grey Walls stated that, “One of our directors was enthusiastic about the poems. Readers’ reports, however, were unfavourable on the whole […]” There are no further records of submission for this collection until 24 February 1953 when it was sent to Hamish Hamilton for consideration:
Dear Sirs,

I would be grateful for your consideration of the MS. herewith – RED EXERCISE BOOK (POEMS.)

Only a very few of the poems have ever been submitted to periodicals. Two have so far appeared in World Review. Several Editors have written to say they are interested. One Publisher, to whom a selection was sent a few years ago, admitted to being ‘enthusiastic,’ although his Readers were apparently less so.

The present MS. has never before been submitted in its present form. It has been thoroughly revised with the average intelligent poetry reader in mind who might, it is hoped, give it sufficient support to justify publication.

The usual rejection letter followed on the 2nd of March. Two days later Cox sent an almost identical submission letter with RED EXERCISE BOOK to Routledge and Kegan Paul. The odd title of the manuscript should remind us of Colin Franklin’s GOGMAGOG account of THE WHIRLIGIG, in which Herbert Read comes into his office with the typescript in a red binding, “called WHIRLIGIG”. Apparently here is a small discrepancy regarding the title, which we will deal with shortly.

    A reply did not come at once, but on April 16, 1954 Cox received a response from Colin Franklin:

I have been much interested in your collection of poems. As you are well aware, it is not easy to consider poems for publication at the moment, but I have a first suggestion I would like to put to you, and if you could call here one afternoon next week, we might have a word about it. I shall keep your MS here for the moment and hope to see you.
Since the war Cox had been reticent to meet potential publishers in person, as he thought they would immediately lose interest upon seeing this ‘new’ voice was not really new at all, but belonging to a middle-aged man. This had been the case with Desmond Fitzgerald, the editor of World Review, who had requested to meet with Cox a couple of years earlier. He had been surprised at Cox’s age, but Cox eventually found in him a very sympathetic publisher. Still, the initial reaction to his age strengthened his reluctance to meet in person.

    Despite this reticence, the initial meeting with Franklin must have gone quite well, as Cox followed it up with a letter detailing some of his prose projects that Franklin had expressed interest in. There is also the first reference to John Wain as a potential reader to further evaluate Cox’s poems for RKP – something Franklin must have mentioned during the initial conversation. We don’t know, unfortunately, what Wain reported to the publisher (Franklin, in GOGMAGOG, states Alex Comfort gave a report), but after a few more letters concerning various prose works, Franklin wrote to Cox on 14 August 1953:

    We have now carefully considered your volume of poems and would like to make an offer to publish a considerable portion of them.

    Our suggestion is that we might have a volume that includes a few poems from Part I; the whole of “The Football Match”; “Whirligig”; “Rags, Bones and Bodies”; “Silver Bells and Cockle Shells”. This would make quite a good sized book, and I feel we should leave out the introduction which rather falls short of the standard the poems set.

The final proposed selection of poems was sent to Cox on the 24th of August. Of the entire typescript that had been submitted, there were fairly substantial cuts to the first section (there were six poems listed for inclusion in the initial proposal, but another short one – “Mouse” – was added later). In addition to this, the mid-length poem “Yule Gammon” from 1941 was cut completely. Cox was given the opportunity to comment on this selection:
    I have little comment to make, since you are including four of the Parts entire, and I assume you have good reasons for limiting Part (1) to six poems only and excluding Yule Gammon.

    The poems now in Part (1) were originally intended solely for reading aloud and had no literary pretentions [sic] at all. As such they have often been read and have started interesting discussions. Although I have since reworked these ‘for the eye,’ no doubt their impact is still less effective coming silently from the page: and if cuts were to be made at all, you were probably right in making them here. Naturally, I would like to have included one or two more and perhaps the ones you have chosen are not necessarily quite the best, but they are agreeably varied and should serve the purpose of the selection.

Cox, after waiting so long for publication, was clearly willing to work with the publisher, and was able to recognize the fortune of having so much of the original submission included in the final selection. After agreeing to the make-up of the book, Franklin sent another note:
We are not very happy about RED EXERCISE BOOK for a title for the Poems, and we propose instead WHIRLIGIG. This gives scope for a rather pleasant jacket, which you might take a hand in designing.
The origin of the book’s title becomes clear: it was derived from the sequence of poems in Section 3 of the book, chosen by the publisher to make it more commercially appealing (RED EXERCISE BOOK is, admittedly, the least provocative of titles, totally uncharacteristic of Cox). Cox responded, “I agree that WHIRLIGIG is a better title for the Poems than RED EXERCISE BOOK and that it offers scope for an attractive jacket”. Franklin was aware that Cox was a visual artist in addition to being a writer. Cox was eager to take on the jacket design, as this would mean something other than the regular typographical designs common to many productions of the period. Franklin outlined the practical concerns stating, “We would like to have a lot of colours and gaiety in it, but if you could put some sense of this into the design and restrict yourself to one colour or two at the most, that would, I think, be more appropriate; because the price of the book may be affected if we are too extravagant. I suggest that a good and gay design in one coloured ink on coloured paper could be very effective”. The design was to be made by Cox, and this would then be made into a line block used for printing. In sending the rough design Cox hoped that it would be suitable: “Perhaps you would agree that whilst aiming at a ‘whirligig’ atmosphere we should avoid (in fairness to the rest of the poems) being too specific in regard to the mechanics of the fairground”. Additionally Cox suggested that a second block for a background colour could add depth, and this he offered to cut with his own hands, having a lot of experience in block making. Franklin generally approved of the design, and especially appreciated the “Victorian ‘fairground’ lettering!” The design was sent back twice, however, to make some of the letters more readable. Cox’s idea for a second block (and hence a second colour) was accepted since there would be no additional cost for the making of the block itself. In this sense Franklin remembered correctly when he stated later, “no doubt he was allowed two colours since we got the design free”. (GMG 6)

    By October 1953 the project seemed well in hand. The selection of poems was agreed upon, Cox’s design for the jacket was underway, a jacket blurb was in the works, and what remained was the mechanics of proofing, correcting, and printing. On the 23rd of October, however, Cox received the following letter from Franklin:

We have now had a specimen page and a printer’s cast-off for your book, and we find it is rather too long in its present form. We ought to cut away sixteen pages, and I write to ask which poems you think should be cut if we are able to do this. I am sorry that it is necessary, but we do not want to publish the book at more than a certain price, and I doubt whether it is to your advantage, in any case, to have too big a collection of poems published at first. I shall be glad to hear from you about this, as soon as you have given some thought to it.
Within three days Cox supplied a strong response:
I am sorry that a question of costs has called for further cuts in ‘WHIRLIGIG.’ The poems came to you in the first instance quite designedly as a fairly large collection, since it seemed to me that being in series, with several long poems, and by their very nature, they would make a better impact that way. After careful consideration I feel that to remove up to sixteen or more short poems generally, one long poem or a whole series in order to bring about the considerable reduction of sixteen pages, is to defeat the ends for which this MS was submitted. I cannot agree that in my case there would be any ‘advantage’ in a smaller first collection.
       Surely, in these days of public apathy towards poetry, we need to hit really hard, both in our work and in its presentation? What possible advantage can there be in a reduction of strength and an impoverished, almost apologetic approach? We have seen so many slim volumes of poetry, almost literally without ‘spines,’ merely glanced at and thrown aside, difficult to find on the shelves and largely forgotten.
       You have shown a degree of confidence in my work which I greatly appreciate. I realise only too well the publishing risk entailed and that you have to fix a suitable price for the book and consider your costs and estimated sales accordingly. I respect the business side of this perhaps least profitable branch of publishing gambles. But my quibble is on artistic grounds. Because I regard this book of poems as being an organic whole, and because, if it is further broken up, it will destroy not only the unity of itself but of others I have planned to follow it, your request for a curtailment can only rouse in me serious misgivings, quite unlike the confidence I felt at the time of our agreement. Like the poet’s wailing for Witherington in the ballad,

        ‘…in the doleful dumps,
     For when his leggs were smitten off
        He fought upon his stumps.’

I should myself feel handicapped quite that much!

       But seriously, please do not think me unco-operative. Could we not hope for a more satisfactory outcome?

In the face of a difficult situation, between artistic integrity and the business of publishing cost effective books, all credit is due to Colin Franklin and the directors of RKP for sending the following compromise to Cox on the 5th of November: “I can quite see your point about the harm which might be done by cutting your volume even further. The solution we are attempting is to run on the poems instead of having a new poem to each page”. When looking at a copy of THE WHIRLIGIG, it becomes apparent to the informed eye that the generally elegant typesetting does miss that luxury of starting each poem on a new page, the run-on method usually reserved for ‘budget’ books, the standard of which the firm of Routledge and Kegan Paul did not typically produce.

    The remainder of the publishing process went normally, and the book was eventually published in April (the cruellest month) of 1954. As mentioned previously, in the first year only 79 copies were sold. Cox continued to submit manuscripts to RKP, and each time he received personal commendations from Franklin, but official rejections from the firm. In May of 1956 Cox submitted another, smaller collection of verse, “containing some developments I hope will be of interest”. He further stated, “I had rather felt that I might be imposing on you a little in the present instance. If, however, you could put me wise to practical considerations and favour me with your personal reactions, I would be most grateful”. Franklin’s response, as most of his letters, seems personal and hopeful, while still imparting the news of further rejection:

I am afraid I must return to you this collection of poems, though I have enjoyed reading them and find them original and clear. Sir Herbert Read liked them too, and I find it encouraging that you continue to follow your line. It is disappointing to have to give you this answer which must be based chiefly on the commercial failure of the last book. I hope it will not discourage you from continuing and I hope that you will let me see your work from time to time as you complete it.
There would be one or two more submissions to RKP through Colin Franklin, but nothing would come of them despite Franklin’s personal sentiment that they represented a unique and fascinating talent. Cox would likewise have no luck elsewhere. Attempting to follow up the publication of THE WHIRLIGIG he worked through a literary agent who failed to place any of his writings. By 1957, after attempting to promote a selection of his short fiction titled THE DEVIL’S CHIMNEY, Cox hit a personal wall:
The Devil’s Chimney (stories) rejected all round.

Total disgust with publishers.
Resolve not to trouble them any more

          but to print my own work in my own way. (LC 9)

With the publication history in hand, we can delve into several pertinent questions: 1) It is clear that the typescript of RED EXERCISE BOOK was seen by Cox as representing an ‘organic whole’. We also know that the majority of the typescript was included in THE WHIRLIGIG with some notable exceptions. To view the ‘organic whole’ we need to ascertain the contents of the typescript. What was included? 2) It might be to convenient to say that most poetry books fail. Were there other factors involved in the book’s commercial failure? 3) Beyond this, in what ways did this failure affect Cox’s career?

    From the correspondence between Cox and Franklin we know that two sections of the typescript were affected by editorial decisions. A number of poems from Section 1: ‘Nature as She Sings’ (1934-37) were omitted, as was ‘Yule Gammon’ (1941) apparently a section unto itself. This would suggest the original typescript contained six, rather than five, sections with ‘Yule Gammon’ inserted between ‘Rags, Bones and Bodies’ (1940) and ‘Silver Bells and Cockle Shells’ (1945). It is more difficult to reconstruct the contents of ‘Nature as She Sings’. The correspondence makes clear what is used in the section, but does not, unfortunately, detail what is left out. While it is impossible to know the original contents of the section without seeing the original submission, we are able to make reasonable assumptions based on subsequent publications and documents. The LITERARY CHECK-LIST has the following entry for 1937:

Poetry (‘Sound & Rhythm’) complete including:
          Mummers’ Fool (long poem in progress) (LC 5)
‘Sound & Rhythm’ is an earlier name for what would become ‘Nature as She Sings’, Section 1 of THE WHIRLIGIG. Cox clearly felt that this was a ‘complete’ unit of experimentation that developed and perhaps exhausted a certain way of approaching poetry. Cox, it will be remembered, did not feel that the editors at RKP had necessarily chosen the best examples for Section 1. Several of the more innovative examples were published by the Gogmagog Press in 9 POEMS FROM NATURE (1959). Two other Gogmagog books contain works possibly intended for Section 1 including MUMMERS’ FOOL (1965) and THE FOUR ELEMENTS (1970/1987). When compiling his COMPLETE POEMS 1921-1971 (1984), Cox restored poems cut from THE WHIRLIGIG and combined these with the poems from ‘Nature as She Sings’ in a section simply titled ‘Poems 1934-37’, which in effect restored the original intent of Section 1 as it appeared in the RED EXERCISE BOOK typescript (it is interesting to note, however, that MUMMERS’ FOOL was revised in 1955 to such an extent that Cox decided to place it later in the chronological order). In COMPLETE POEMS ‘Yule Gammon’ was also reinstated to its place between ‘Rags, Bones and Bodies’ and ‘Silver Bells and Cockle Shells’. If we are interested in recognizing and eventually assessing the ‘organic whole’ of RED EXERCISE BOOK/THE WHIRLIGIG, we now have a fairly good notion of the contents of the collection as first submitted by Cox:
Section 1: ‘Nature as She Sings’ (1934-37). Potentially 15-20 sound poems (counting sequences like ‘Mummers’ Fool’ as one poem)

Section 2: ‘The Football Match’ (1938). A single 18 page poem.

Section 3: ‘The Whirligig’ (1939). A sequence of 10 poems.

Section 4: ‘Rags, Bones and Bodies’ (1940) 15 diverse and experimental poems.

Section 5: ‘Yule Gammon’ (1941). A single mid-length poem.

Section 6: ‘Silver Bells and Cockle Shells’ (1945 – tho the LITERARY CHECK-LIST claims these were written 1942-43). A sequence of 24 poems.

Even without a good working knowledge of the published book, one can see that the collection Cox intended in RED EXERCISE BOOK would create a different experience for the reader. Considering the published version, Tucker writes, “The solid bulk of the book from pages 9 to 43 is taken up by two long poems which are, or were then, very difficult to read, the idiom and treatment were so totally unfamiliar. Either side of these ‘scripted’ dialogue poems there are excellent short poems but the reader has already lost his nerve and his faith”. (GMG 38) The two ‘long poems’ referred to by Tucker are ‘The Football Match’ and the sequence ‘The Whirligig’. The short poems which come before these two sections are the seven poems of ‘Nature as She Sings’. A couple of these are charming, reminding one in some loose sense of Blake’s SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE (take ‘Little Bond Song’, for instance), and there is at least one grand example, ‘Agelong Night’, which illustrates the full sonority Cox can achieve in these sound experiments. Section 1, however, does seem rather slight, and finding one’s self in the midst of ‘The Football Match’ and ‘The Whirligig’, it is easy to sense just what Tucker means. The poems are so unlike the vast majority of conventional post-war verse that we might not have that spark of recognition that readers must have in order to connect with works of art. Faced with this new work, which is really conditioned by much older concepts and forms, we might become bogged down before reaching ‘Rags, Bones and Bodies’. If Section 1 were longer, if it contained 15 or 20 poems, then perhaps the reader would begin to come to grips with Cox’s voice before encountering a longer poem like ‘The Football Match’. Beyond this, if we reinsert ‘Yule Gammon’ after ‘Rags, Bones and Bodies’, we see a pattern emerging. Consider the make-up of the first three sections:
Section 1: individual (experimental) poems;

Section 2: a long poem (based on ritual);

Section 3: a sequence of poems (concerning two simple figures
              who try to commune with Heaven by attending a fair).

Now look at the final three sections:
Section 4: individual (again experimental) poems,

Section 5: a long poem (again based on ritual);

Section 6: a sequence of poems (a rural cycle spoken from a
              woman’s viewpoint concerning life, love, and relation
              to nature).

The emergent symmetry is hard to ignore. It is interesting to note that Cox considered the collection an ‘organic whole’, as the poems are in chronological order, yet the ordering above suggests a construction that might appear to be artificially imposed. This would not surprise Cox in the least, an artist who attempted to allow order to emerge through constant experiment and through a congress with nature. A full reading of THE WHIRLGIG and related poems will need to take place at a future date, and hopefully – as I suggest at the end of this essay - by the time it is complete more readers will have had the chance encounter the book. In the meantime we need to consider the reasons for the book’s failure, and the subsequent ramifications.

    There are many factors that may lead to the commercial failure of a book, and so to pair these down to any one or two reasons seems reductive. It is too pat to say THE WHIRLIGIG failed because “most poetry books do”, however true this statement is in recognizing the simple fact that poetry is rarely big business. The sorry position of poetry in modern society is only one factor, to which we must attach the reality that there are many bad books of verse which deserve obscurity. These generalities aside, we can see in the particulars of THE WHIRLIGIG certain circumstances that seem to have doomed the collection from the start – perhaps not the ‘mistake’ Alan Tucker makes it out to be, but a literary work out of its time.

    All literary works are products of their age, and the poems in THE WHIRLIGIG are no exception. We have already noted several times that the poems included in the book are dated 1934-1945. As such, by the time the book is published in 1954, the work included is already ten to twenty years old. Cox was unable to find publishing outlets for his poetry in the 1930s and 1940s since he was writing in a mode against the grain of poetic trends of the time, and by the 1950s poetry had developed conventions that further removed him from a central position. Cox himself realized what had happened:

Those years before the War were very difficult. I wrote several novels and a lot of poetry, but could not place any of it. I painted pictures but rarely sold one. Even prints were difficult to sell. Often I had to fall back on posters, showcards, bookjackets, and children’s stories with illustrations; but this work was hard to get and poorly paid.

    Then came the War and this cut six years from my life. I lived in one of the most bombed parts of London and joined the Civil Defence [sic] Light Rescue Service, Specialising in first-aid. We had a busy time! […] During these war years I did practically no art and just wrote a few poems. Towards the end it was like trying to live under continuous bombardment. It left me somewhat dazed and I have never quite got over it!

    Then in 1945 I tried to start all over again. I began sending my poems and stories around the editors and publishers; I tried various art galleries and exhibited now and then. But I now found myself competing in a very different market from that before the War. Young men were coming up – not in ones and twos but what seemed to be hundreds! On the other hand established authors and painters were given preference, and since I was neither established nor young I was in danger of falling between the cracks! […] it wasn’t until 1952 that a magazine [World Review] began to take me up. (GMG 81)

After struggling through the 1930s, when Cox was producing radical work, he missed opportunities that might have arisen in normal peace-time conditions in the early 1940s. The war came at the worst time for Cox, as it ran through the years when most artists reach their maturity (he was 36 when the war started, and 42 by the time it ended). He lost pivotal time to write, to develop, and to promote his work. By the end of the war he needed to ‘start all over’, but found himself in danger of ‘falling between the cracks’, being neither an established member of the previous generation, or a member of the new generation. How, then, did he manage to be published at all?

    To consider this situation more thoroughly, let us remember a few names mentioned in the publishing history of THE WHIRLIGIG. Herbert Read brought the poems to Colin Franklin’s attention, Alex Comfort wrote the jacket blurb, Sean Jennett likely designed the book, and at some point John Wain read the book, or was slated to do so (whether or not he did is still unknown). Herbert Read, the famous critic and reasonably respected poet, published his first book of verse in 1919, placing him with the modernist generation. Alex Comfort and Sean Jennett (a poet as well as a book printer and designer) are in the anthologies associated with the neo-romanticism of the New Apocalyptics in the 1940s. John Wain is connected more with The Movement, a group which first received its moniker in 1954. Herbert Read, the modernist, found Cox’s poems interesting, as something different, but that appealed to his taste. Comfort, in his jacket blurb, states, “This book has almost all the qualities, even in its faults, which have been missing from English poetry since the war”. Comfort, a poet seventeen years Cox’s junior, sees the poems as representing a previous type of poetry. This is all the more interesting, as by 1954 Comfort and his ilk were already past their prime, and being outmoded by poets like John Wain and his Movement cohorts. If Comfort found older qualities in Cox’s poems, then what would John Wain have found? Most likely that they were doubly out of date, and hence doubly out of fashion. Ironically, the qualities of THE WHIRLIGIG – the modernist ‘distance’ (typical of Cox), the interest in myth and folk-surrealism, archaisms and primitivist forms such as parallelism and emotive utterance – would be revived by a poet often associated with The Movement, Ted Hughes. CROW (1970) controversially exploded the ideals espoused by The Movement and popularized many of the attributes found in Cox’s poetry from thirty years earlier.

    While THE WHIRLIGIG was Cox’s first real opportunity to showcase his work, 1954 was an inopportune time to reveal literary experiments from the 1930s and early 1940s. All one needs to do is to take any poem from THE WHIRLIGIG and compare it to a Philip Larkin poem, and the hopelessness of the situation becomes all too apparent. It could be surmised that while THE WHIRLIGIG was published against all odds to begin with, it would have been virtually impossible to publish after the dramatic shift in English poetry circa 1954 (as indeed was the case with Cox’s further submissions). The stars, it seems, were aligned to allow THE WHIRLIGIG into print, but also aligned to ensure its failure.

    The mention, yet again, of THE WHIRLIGIG’s failure brings us to the last part of this investigation, in which we look at the multiple ramifications of the history outlined above. First, and most obvious, is the founding of the Gogmagog Press. Disillusioned with commercial publishing Cox decided to print his work himself, beginning in 1957 with YULE GAMMON, one of the poems which had been excluded from THE WHIRLIGIG. Over the next twenty-six years Cox created thirty-five books and portfolios of such originality that they evoke comparisons to William Blake. When he became too old to work his presses, he produced forty more volumes of work in the series called the Gogmagog Photocopy Library. We can view the Gogmagog publications in two ways: firstly, as remarkable works of art, both reinterpretations of older work and new work stimulated by printing and book-making innovations discovered along the way. Secondly, we can see the whole endeavor as a survivalist tactic. As Cox wrote to Franklin when sending a copy of YULE GAMMON as a Christmas present in 1956:

This has been a truly desperate year for me, but I have shown my defiance partly in undertaking the work of which I am sending you a copy herewith. I hope you won’t be too critical! I am only too aware of the shortcomings, but these (if I am forced to continue with this sort of thing) I shall master in time. I chose this poem for the experiment partly because I feel it can never be popular. It is, however, one of the most truly inspirational things I have ever done. In severely limiting the edition, I am not only admitting to having exhausted all the materials I could afford, but taking at their word those editors and publishers who seem to think that my work can have only very restricted appeal.
The small edition, according to Cox, is due in part to practical economic limitations as well as a pragmatic view of limitations of audience. But beyond this, having put his work into the form of private press books, Cox not only creates memorable and definitive objects for readers to encounter, but he also embodies the texts in a form so precious that the texts – despite themselves, perhaps – are preserved because of the material aspects prized by collectors. Alan Tucker posited something to this effect: “If only THE WHIRLIGIG had been a success we might have seen three or four volumes in the dreaded Chatto Living Poets or, imagine it, Carcanet editions. We needn’t let our minds dwell on the unlikely […]” (GMG 41) Yes, unlikely indeed, but IF other collections had been published by Chatto or Carcanet, and these met similar reactions from the reading public – what then? The books would not have been be cared for, the texts would have remained obscure. As it is, the texts are still obscure, but the unique qualities of the Gogmagog books have called our attention to them, and furthermore (as Alan Tucker illustrates in GOGMAGOG) they add to the meaning of the texts through their production and presentation.

    Two Gogmagog books, previously mentioned, spring to mind as perfect examples of this: 9 POEMS FROM NATURE (1959) and MUMMERS’ FOOL (1965). Colin Franklin has written of 9 POEMS, “Perhaps his masterpiece, in the balance of poem and illustration, not merely visual but as a poet and artist. All three possibilities are present, word and sound and image. […] It was right to leave these out of the Routledge volume (they date from 1937) if only because they need this mingling of word and form”. (GMG 125) This is a fascinating statement, in that it adequately reveals how these poems, having been excluded from THE WHIRLIGIG, are elevated to an holistic merging of word and image, something that would not have occurred if they had been included as Cox had intended. Interestingly, Franklin in his manuscript draft of his note wrote, ‘He was right to leave these out’ (my emphasis), meaning that Franklin assumed, in hindsight, that Cox had decided to cut them, when we now know it was the choice of the editors at RKP – looking at 9 POEMS FROM NATURE we should thank them for the decision! In his note on MUMMERS’ FOOL, Franklin calls it, “a work of visual poetry, mixing experiments which have preceded it of line, image, colour, and texture”. (GMG 135) The note further elucidates the subject matter, and how the images and the moods created through the printing and binding meld together into a single integrated object. The odd man out here is YULE GAMMON (1957), the first of the excluded texts to be printed. As an experiment it leaves something to be desired, charming in its own right, but not to the standard of his later books – the printing of the text in particular is lacking in technical expertise. While it does contain a strong colour linocut frontispiece (and in some copies a second excellent linocut, illustrated in GOGMAGOG) it does not exhibit the interaction of image and text that is so appealing in 9 POEMS and MUMMERS’ FOOL. Nonetheless, all three books give creative treatment to the texts not equaled in the commercial printing of THE WHIRLIGIG. One might think that Cox would commit a reformatting of the poems in THE WHIRLIGIG, but in actuality Cox never re-set the poems, and used the poems as presented in the book when reproducing them later in his career. It seems that having them professionally formatted and set was good enough for survival. None of the Gogmagog books mentioned above had large editions: there were 20 copies of YULE GAMMON, 35 copies of 9 POEMS, and 60 copies of MUMMERS’ FOOL. Ironically, it is quite possible that these books, despite their small editions, have been seen by more people than the commercially published WHIRLIGIG.

    Small editions (if only initially, as with Blake) intimate small audiences. Gogmagog books are often referenced more than they are known – something that will hopefully change with new technology allowing access to more electronic facsimiles in the future. The books have managed, however, to find an essential audience, with Colin Franklin there from the start. Throughout this piece it will have been obvious that Franklin was much involved with Morris Cox and his career. Franklin, as mentioned previously, is the only contributor to GOGMAGOG who knew Cox previous to the founding of the press, since he was the point man for THE WHIRLIGIG publication in 1953-54. Although he was part of a board of directors which made editorial decisions concerning the book, the letters between Franklin and Cox often include statements and sentiments that show a more personal interest. Take, for example, this letter from Franklin on 8th March 1954, responding Cox’s novel, THE EXCURSION, which he had sent for consideration:

This is just to tell you that over the weekend my wife and I have both much enjoyed your EXCURSION. This does not mean that my colleagues will enjoy it, or that we shall be able to publish it, but I said I would tell you my own reaction.
It is clear from this and other letters, as well as from Franklin’s later comments in GOGMAGOG, that he was truly interested in the work Cox produced. For this reason, Franklin was among the recipients of YULE GAMMON in December 1956:
I think this is a charmingly produced book and I am so glad you have done it. I am delighted to have it, and should like to give away a copy for a Christmas present, so may I send you a cheque for another copy if you have enough?

    This frontispiece also makes me feel that I should like to come down one day to see some of your pictures, and I wonder if it would somehow be possible to discover some interest for them, even if it has been difficult to get publishers to accept your writings.

This was a shift that proved to be important. Franklin had seen examples of Cox’s artwork before, but in this letter he is so obviously impressed with the colour linocut frontispiece in YULE GAMMON that he wants to see other examples of Cox’s visual art. Over time Franklin would amass the single most comprehensive collection of Morris Cox materials, including the only complete set of Gogmagog Press and Gogmagog Photocopy Library books (there was only one copy of Cox’s last book, A FORM OF LIGHT (1991), and this went to Franklin). But Franklin was not only a great collector of Cox; in the mid 1970s he encouraged Cox to publish a book of his blind drawings, for which Franklin wrote the introduction. In the mid 1980s, when Cox had no more room in his small, cramped apartment, Franklin stored hundreds of paintings for him. When Cox expressed a need for a photocopier around this same time, they made an arrangement whereby Franklin supplied him with a suitable machine – primitive by today’s standards, but a very expensive piece of equipment in the mid 1980s. Cox used the machine to produce the 40 volumes of the Gogmagog Photocopy Library. In addition to his written contribution to GOGMAGOG, Franklin also covered the expense of the colour illustrations for the volume, without which it would be impossible to gain any sense of the books it describes. Finally, as a collector and bookseller who has written books on the private press movement, Franklin has promoted Cox, introducing his work to librarians and collectors. To one collector he wrote Cox “was the Blake in my life”. (Bromer [32])

    There are three other notable advocates of Cox who became familiar with him through the Gogmagog books: the aforementioned Alan Tucker and David Chambers, as well as Roderick Cave. Cave wrote Cox in 1958 as part of his duties in editing the periodical THE PRIVATE LIBRARY, the organ of The Private Libraries Association (otherwise known as the PLA). He was so pleasantly surprised at the idiosyncratic book he received in reply that he began a correspondence that lasted several years. Eventually Cox would procure a quantity of Cave’s ‘Calypso’ fleuron, which was used to dramatic effect in the border decorations of the Gogmagog publication A MEDIAEVAL DREAM BOOK (1963) and on the title page and in the prospectus for THE WARRIOR AND THE MAIDEN (1968). Cave has discussed Cox and his methods in lectures, books and articles. In a 1991 review of GOGMAGOG he wrote, “Morris Cox has been perhaps the most important, and certainly the most original private printer in Britain in the past forty years […]” (Cave 195)

    David Chambers also came into contact with Cox through the PLA, commencing a correspondence in 1960. Chambers, like Franklin, would become a collector and champion for Cox’s work. He acted as the general editor for the GOGMAGOG volume, published by the PLA in 1991. His description of Cox’s printing techniques and his bibliography of Gogmagog books (with commentary by Franklin) are indispensable.

    Alan Tucker discovered Cox through Gogmagog Press books shown to him at Alan Hancock’s bookshop in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in the early 1960s. Tucker, himself a poet and amateur printer, was immediately drawn to the originality, wit and freshness of the books, and was soon engaged in a long correspondence with Cox over literary matters. In the late 1960s, Tucker and Cox, along with Brian Morse and T.R. Glover, started the little magazine FORMAT, which ran for nine issues. More a group anthology than a magazine, it served as a ‘clearing house’ for new work by the four men. It is still an important source for poems by Cox, which can be very hard to come by otherwise (as mentioned before, the COMPLETE POEMS was photocopied in an edition of 5 copies). FORMAT was issued through Tucker’s bookshop, as was, it should be remembered, the reissue of THE WHIRLIGIG under the title EARLY SELECTED POEMS (1970). Perhaps most valuable has been Tucker’s astute comments on Cox’s literary work, which are the building blocks for future readings of the poems.

    It should be glaringly clear that the individuals discussed above would not have become involved with Cox if he had not produced the Gogmagog books. I include Franklin in this, for while he was interested in Cox’s writing as early as 1953, it was only when he received YULE GAMMON that the potential for collecting Cox’s work became apparent. The Gogmagog books were the key for Cox’s career, but they would not have come about if THE WHIRLIGIG had been a commercial success. This brings us to the conclusion, the most ironic point of all: THE WHIRLIGIG has survived, and is being discussed now, because it failed: its failure caused Cox to start the Gogmagog Press; the Gogmagog Press books earned a small but important audience; in this audience were people like Franklin, Tucker, Chambers and Cave, who promoted the work of Cox through lectures and writings, including the GOGMAGOG volume. When they expressed an interest in his work, Cox was happy to supply copies of THE WHIRLIGIG to them. These copies were shelved with the carefully kept collections of Gogmagog books, and have been preserved and shared accordingly.

    My own introduction to Cox’s work was through the GOGMAGOG volume, which I encountered by chance. Interested by what I found there I contacted Alan Tucker, who brought THE WHIRLIGIG to my attention several years ago when he sent a spare copy to me as a Christmas present. I recognize that Tucker would not have had a copy if he had not been introduced to the Gogmagog books in the early 1960s, and again (sensing the cyclical motion of a carnival ride) the Gogmagog books would not have come into existence without the failure of THE WHIRLIGIG. We get off the ride, feeling rather dizzy, and find ourselves back where we started, only now we know a great deal about an obscure book. The importance of THE WHIRLIGIG in relation to the career of Cox has been established; the next step will be to take the information collected here, and to use it as a backdrop against which the book can be read and assessed. Indeed, it is with chagrin that I look over the preceding pages and notice there is not one quotation from THE WHIRLIGIG. Hopefully, however, those who have persisted with me to this point will find their appetites whetted, and will search out Cox’s poetry in libraries and online.


Bromer Booksellers. CATALOGUE 124. Boston: Bromer Booksellers, c. 2006.

Cave, Roderick. ‘Morris Cox and Gogmagog’. MATRIX 12. Herefordshire: Whittington Press, 1992.

Chambers, David, ed. GOGMAGOG: MORRIS COX & THE GOGMAGOG PRESS. Pinner: Private Libraries Association, 1991.

Cox, Morris. 9 POEMS FROM NATURE. London: Gogmagog Press, 1959.

--. BLIND DRAWINGS. Introduction by Colin Franklin. London: Gogmagog Press, 1978.

--. THE COMPLETE POEMS 1921-1971. London: Gogmagog Photocopy Library, 1984.

--. Correspondence 1933-1962. Folder of unpublished letters and notes largely regarding literary submissions and publications, with carbons of Cox’s letters and originals from publishers and other correspondents.

--. “A Literary Check-List 1913-1957”. n.d. photocopy of typescript, c.1980s.

--. MUMMERS’ FOOL. London: Gogmagog Press, 1965. Presented as a
‘virtual facsimile’ in FlashPoint 6.

--. SELECTED EARLY POEMS. A reissue of THE WHIRLIGIG. London: Morris Cox, 1970. (Issued through Alan and Joan Tucker’s bookshop, Stroud, Gloucestershire).

--. WAR IN A COCK’S EGG. London: Gogmagog Press, 1960.

--. THE WHIRLIGIG. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954.

--. YULE GAMMON. London: Morris Cox, 1957. Reprinted in FlashPoint 7.

Franklin, Colin. Draft manuscript of notes on Gogmagog Press books, c.1983.

Additional Selections of Morris Cox's painting, poetry, and virtual facsimiles
can be found in FlashPoint issues 7, 8, & 9:

Paintings & Prints

Poetry & Prose

Virtual Facsimiles

Yule Gammon

9 Poems From Nature

a history of  Morris Cox's "The Whirligig"