The Complete Poems of Robert Service.

John F. Kennedy's copy of the Complete Poems of Robert Service; from his library with his ownership signature

The Complete Poems of Robert Service.

SERVICE, Robert. [John F. Kennedy].

Item Number: 133049

New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1941.

John F. Kennedy’s copy of the poems of Robert Service with his ownership signature. Octavo, original cloth with gilt titles to the spine and front panel. Signed by Kennedy on the front free endpaper and with two of his library stamps. An important volume from the library of young John F. Kennedy, with an early signature likely signed close to the time the volume was published in 1941 and preceding Kennedy’s heroic service in World War II. Three poems are dog-eared or pencil checked within the volume including Grin, p. 53; The Woman and the Angel, p. 104-106; and The Ballad of the Brand, p. 56. The heroic and romantic symbolism of Service’s poetry with its recurring themes of bravery in the face of hardships surely resonated with Kennedy who had planned to attend Yale Law School at the age of 25 but canceled when American entry into World War II seemed imminent. After attending the Naval Reserve Officer Training School at Northwestern University in Chicago, his first assignment was commanding patrol torpedo boat PT-101 beginning in December of 1942. Based on Tulagi Island in the Solomons, the boat was attacked by a Japanese destroyer on the night August 1, 1942, and Kennedy heroically saved several members of his crew and facilitated their rescue after 7 days of attempting to survive and swimming between two remote islands. In very good condition with the acetate attached. Books from Kennedy’s formative years are scarce.

British-Canadian poet Robert Service was the most commercially successful poet at the turn of the 20th century. Nicknamed "the Canadian Kipling", Service referred to his work as verse, rather than poetry. "Verse, not poetry, is what I was after .. something the man in the street would take notice of and the sweet old lady would paste in her album; something the schoolboy would spout and the fellow in the pub would quote. Yet I never wrote to please anyone but myself; it just happened. I belonged to the simple folks whom I liked to please." His best-known ballads include Ballads of a Cheechako, Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, and Songs for my Supper.

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